Friday, July 20, 2012

Project Runway Season 10: Designer Notes

We're back with a new season of Project Runway! Can any of this season's designers compete with the awesomeness that was Anya? Nope -- let's get that out of the way right now. But still, it looks like they'll have their own charms, and with one episode down I already feel comfortable giving my assessment of all 16 to the world.

Beatrice: She's already gone, so we'll make this quick. Did I think her clothes were worse than Lantie's? No. But when you're in the bottom two in the first challenge and basically admitted you're a one-trick pony, you can't expect the judges to keep you around. She did have a dazzling smile though.

Alicia: The dreads meant that Jill and I immediately starting calling her "New McKell" (what, you don't remember the first designer eliminated from PR two seasons ago? What kind of fan are you?). So far, though, she's pretty awesome: I loved her hoodie garb (it was like Little Red Riding Hood meets Assassin's Creed), and the companion piece was pretty sweet too -- wearable, yet just off-kilter enough to feel unique. I really think she deserved Top 3, to be honest. I don't know if there are many lesbian designers (the glut of gay male designers made me think yes, but upon further reflection I have no idea), but she's pretty rockin'.

Andrea: I kind of wish she was judged this week so she and Patricia Field could have a throaty New York-accented conversation. Unfortunately, if she had been up there it would have been in the bottom three. The first dress was nice enough, if a little house-maidy, but the second one made her model look like a pregnant cupcake. I feel like I've seen that exact cut before, which makes me wonder if that style is a deliberate choice -- like we're in some bizarro fashion world where the goal is to make your model look shorter and fatter. I hope it's a fluke -- I like the saucy old folk, and she's a professor so, you know, solidarity.

Buffi: "Tacky." "The good kind of tacky?" "No, just the regular kind." Actually, both of these outfits seemed to lie just on the right side of too much. I could deal with less shiny scrunchy black on the first, and the top of the second looks like it emerged from the bottom of my dresser drawer after having been balled up for three months, but it really wasn't that bad. I'm not optimistic though.

Christopher: That gown was legitimately gorgeous. Seriously, it was probably the single best piece of the entire show. I'm a little put off by the placement of the leg slit, but that hardly mars a beautiful effort. I was so impressed by the gown, in fact, that I'm totally cool with Christopher winning even in spite of his Vegas-hooker-cocktail-waitress second look.

Dmitry: Dmitry is the one who was a ballet dancer in Belarus, but who claimed that didn't influence his style anymore, right? Because that glittery first dress looks exactly how I'd expect an eastern European ballet dancer to design a gown. The second look is okay, though the skin-baring panel in the middle reads less "ooh, sexy flash of skin" and more "someone slashed off the bottom of my top."

Elena: Both of her outfits looked like Stasi uniforms, circa 2056. Which I would have thought I'd have liked more, to be perfectly honest. I'm taking a wait and see attitude -- militaristic chic can be pretty awesome, but right now it's a bit too heavy on the Frau Farbissina side of things.

Fabio: Ombre! Pretty frickin' awesome! Becky said the line, but I'm pretty sure Victor used that exact color scheme. But I liked Victor's looks, and these were both pretty solid. Wyatt Cenac wants his beard back, though.

Gunnar: Gunnar Deathrage! Coolest name ever! I remembered him from last season, simply because the name was so sweet. So I'm thrilled he's back -- except that he appears to be this season's reincarnation of Joshua. Boo. He also is physically indistinguishable from Christopher, which will get tiresome quite quickly. Clothes-wise, both pieces were pretty good, except that the yellow base/black stripe theme makes both girls (but especially the first) look like they're going to a Halloween party as a slutty taxi cab.

Kooan: So I'm conflicted about him being in the bottom three this time around. His clothes are genuinely weird, but that's what he's going for. He is going for "Hello Kitty running from Godzilla," right? The judges seem to have preemptively decided that he's repetitive and one-note, and while technically I agree with Heidi that they can't say that off of literally one challenge, secretly (well, secret's out I guess) I think they're almost certainly right. But maybe he'll surprise us when he's tasked with making something elegant. Maybe.

Lantie: The actual worst of the worst last night. The first dress looked like a repurposed wedding gown -- which was an interesting PR challenge, but not anything that should be done voluntarily. The second piece had that fugly front panel that looked like it was glued on. And I'm not convinced she has any stylistic vision. I'm dubious she's got much longevity on this show.

Melissa: There might be a cast member named Buffi, but she's the one who looks like Sarah Michelle Geller. It's difficult to go too far wrong with an all-black palette (and I enjoyed watching her race to the only part of Mood which looks like a Brooks Brothers annex), but neither of her two looks blew me away or anything. I don't even think either were super-wearable. In any event, if she doesn't show some color, stat, she'll pretty quickly wear out her welcome.

Nathan: Nathan's story about reconnecting with his dad over Project Runway was super cute. His dresses were perfectly pretty, though a little simple -- and the knot on the green one was a little too crotch-centric for my tastes. Middle of the pack right now.

Raul: Raul's first look is pretty awesome if I can look past construction issues and the fact that there is literally no context it can be worn other than "I've just been laid off from my law firm so seducing my boss is now-or-never." The second one is a stiff, feathery mess. He also seemed to struggle badly with his time, which is always a bad sign.

Sonja: Sonja currently stands out for that ghastly shade of lipstick she had on. Her first look was very strong except for the way it opened in the middle (she might have had a skin-colored shirt under there -- I couldn't tell -- but either way it looked ridiculous). The second look was super-chic and elegant. Definite potential.

Ven: I can totally see and appreciate the superb technical skill that went into this. That being said, I have no idea where anyone could wear that flower-outfit. The second piece, on the other hand, was perfectly made and chic and wearable -- that's the one that popped for me to be honest. He's got an eye and he knows how to make clothes, and that's a powerful combination.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Deep Thoughts By Tablet Mag

It takes a lot to unite John Podhoertz and MJ Rosenberg, Commentary and The Nation, all on one issue. But Anna Breslaw's sick attack on Holocaust survivors in Tablet Mag has managed to bring pretty much everyone together in entirely justified condemnation of both Breslaw for writing the piece, and Tablet for publishing it.

I don't really have anything to add to the piece itself, but I did want to remark a bit on Tablet's explanation for the article. They've published two so far -- neither by Breslaw, who is laying low -- and neither is what it should be: a sincere, unadulterated apology. Rather, they seem to be taking the tack of saying that while they don't agree with Breslaw, they view her article as "a means of honestly processing the complicated, damning, and even self-indicting impulses for Jews who are now generations removed from the Shoah." As Adam Chandler concluded:
I say this not to endorse what Ms. Breslaw has written, but to endorse these self-investigations, even if they turn up feelings — in us, in family, in the broader Jewish community — that at first (or may always) seem ugly or coarse. What’s underneath is the try, which for many is difficult enough.

The idea here seems to be that Breslaw isn't just some smarmy contrarian bomb-thrower. Rather, hers was an honest look at a tough issue, and even if it touched a few raw nerves (hell, even if her conclusions are undeniably offensive), shouldn't we encourage such difficult introspection?

Here's the thing, though. It is entirely possible for someone to have thought long, and hard, and deeply, about a difficult subject -- and still produce conclusions that are unworthy of publication. Conclusions that are foolish and ignorant and hurtful and demonstrate an impoverished moral compass. It's an editor's job to spot that -- an editor who is bedazzled because an author "thought really hard" about what she was saying is an editor who needs to find a new job.

Indeed, it's almost more indicting of Breslaw if it wasn't simply a misbegotten attempt at being provocative. At least then it might be nothing but a performance. But if we're to take her editors seriously -- that Breslaw was baring a window into the deepest recesses of her soul -- well, then we've revealed that her soul is blackened and diseased.

But the point is that Tablet seems fixated on the notion that any thought is worthy of publication so long as it's honestly attained. This is the hallmark of sloppy editing, and it manages to reflect even more poorly on the magazine and its direction than the original decision to publish Breslaw's article. Introspection is a valuable thing, and it should be encouraged. But it does not follow that all products of sincere introspection are valuable. Tablet needs to understand the difference if it's going to avoid mistakes like these in the future -- or indeed, recognize it made a mistake at all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Multiple Israelis Killed in Bulgaria Terror Attack

A terrorist attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria has killed at least seven people. The attack came on the twenty-year anniversary of 1992 car bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 (a distinct event from the 1994 bombing by Iranian-backed terrorists of a Argentine JCC that killed 87). Details remain sketchy as to who is responsible, though early witnesses say it appeared to be a suicide bomb attack.

Obviously my prayers are with the victims, and I hope the perpetrators and any organizations which supported them are found and brought to justice.

UPDATE: Israel is now pointing fingers at Iran, noting that it has been implicated in a string of near-miss attacks on Israelis over the preceding months.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Ha'aretz has a fascinating profile/interview piece up on Zahava Gal-On, leader of Meretz (for those of you who don't know, Meretz is Israel's left-wing Zionist party). It's really a great read (also, listening to her eviscerate the repulsive Michael Ben-Ari alone would be worth it).