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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 758 and Two Sides

I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.

But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.

That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.

If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.

I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.

It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.

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Aesthetics Travel

Day 750 and Interstitial

If you have ever stayed in an airport hotel or a particularly standardized corporate hotel, you’ve encountered the grand global homogeneity of acceptable hospitality.

Airwave bedroom at a Marriot in Prague

This aesthetic owes a debt to Silicon Valley and the way we’ve sanded off peculiar edges and smoothed over individual characters to make the real world’s brand book as consistent as our virtual ones. It’s called Airwave.

If you enjoyed the silky sameness of a WeWork or a perfect Airbnb or the reclaimed wood counter at a third wave coffee shop in Prague or Frankfurt, you’ve enjoyed Airwave.

If you travel enough, you find the aesthetics comforting eventually. As if your entire palette or taste profile was subtly sifted into the window of preferences set by an art director at an advertising agency in Brooklyn or Amsterdam.

Soothing sameness

Sure you seek out newness and novelty, but also you are glad for the suite at the just nice enough Marriot which delivers you a club sandwich with a request to room service. Remember when Jonny Mnemonic screamed for room service? If you are of a certain age I bet you do.

Ah the height of luxury for a data currier criminal of cyberpunk legend is now the expected outcome for the rootless cosmopolitans. Who is to stay which of us as a worse dystopia?

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Aesthetics Media

Day 748 and Molly Millions

I’ve been rewatching the excellent Amazon adaption of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. I’ve said if before but no single artist has had a bigger impact on my aesthetics than him. As the father of cyberpunk, his impact looms large over the computing industry.

Molly Millions is a cyborg in William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy which includes the famous Neuromancer. A dark brunette, she has mirror shade eyes and razors under her nails. Molly is first introduced in the shorty story Johnny Mnemonic which became a Hollywood thriller with the same title. In the movie, Molly is renamed as Jane but is fundamentally the same character.

The cover of William Gibson’s Neuromancer with Molly Millions.

In Johnny Mnemonic we have an entirely new aesthetic for Molly Millions as Jane. The brooding inaccessible brunette is replaced with a curly haired blonde played by Dina Mayer.

Dina Mayer as Jane in cyberpunk style.
On the far left, a strong jawed and sharp featured Jane in a cyberpunk bar
Dina Mayer as Jane

I personally loved Dina Mayer’s energy in Johnny Mnemonic. She brought a kind of girl next door folksiness that brought a lot of humanity to the problems of being a cyborg. She was light where technology dictate a darker aesthetic. Cyberpunk needed a Betty. I assume some of this is related to the creative direction of photographer (of Men in Suits fame) Robert Longo but it could have easily been Dina Mayer’s rising star in Hollywood. I hadn’t thought much beyond it until I watched the Peripheral.

But now all I can see in the Peripheral is how much Flynn Fisher (as played by Chloe Grace Moretz) looks like Dina Mayer’s Jane. In my fantasy, it’s like I’m seeing the first woman Willian Gibson ever loved. It almost makes a romantic of me imagining a world where a curly haired blonde mattered to him. But the essence shared by Moretz and Mayer is hard to deny.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

I see a lot of little similarities between the two actresses but it’s ultimately the affect. The bold lip and the harsh pulled back hair is contrasted in softer moments with wild curly halos and warm inviting features. Flynn is a southern girl. I’ve got no idea if Jane had a heritage. But now I’ll always wonder why the dark mirror shaded women of Neuromancer became a blonde.

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Aesthetics Travel

Day 743 and Wandering

I took some time to go wandering today. I’ve been in Prague for six days but it’s been such a mess I haven’t actually felt like I’ve been in the city.

I like to get to know cities by walking. If I’ve only been in a cab or an Uber I don’t have a sense of place. I need to walk to feel like I’ve landed in a place. While I love a good resort destination now and again, I find it hard to feel grounded without being able to roam.

I wonder if being raised in a small town affected this at all. I wasn’t really a suburban kid. We had suburbs in my town but you still went to a downtown core where kids would walk from the library to the high school to the pedestrian mall. Walking was entertainment for my teenage years.

Now as an adult I find nothing more liberating than just walking for as long as you can. Being wedded to a destination or a GPS mapped route feels too much like having to do something or be somewhere. But wandering around with no place to be tastes like freedom. You are still in charge of your own life if you can go for a long walk with no purpose.

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Aesthetics Culture

Day 723 and Season’s Eatings

Maybe it’s because we’ve had to do so much packing and unpacking this year, but we didn’t bother with getting our Christmas decorations out of the boxes in the barn. We didn’t dig out the Menorah for Chanukah either. Seasonal decoration just didn’t seem like a fun use of limited energy and focus. We’d already spent enough of it on simply furnishing the house.

We aren’t entirely without the spirit of the season. We’ve got a beautiful large pine next to the house. Alex recruited a friend to put lights on it and it’s served beautifully as our Christmas tree. It’s quite magnificent in the morning light in particular. The dawn on the morning of the solstice bathed it in blue light.

Our Christmas Tree lit up by white lights

Equally we didn’t entirely ignore Chanukah. One of our favorite jokes is a simple guide to Jewish holidays is as follows; they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat. So rather than prayers and candles we made latkes on the first night.

Latkes and applesauce

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Stockings aren’t hung. But as has been our tradition as a couple, we will be preparing a Feast of the Seven Fishes. Neither one of us is Catholic but we’ve taken to a seafood feast on Christmas Eve as being sacrosanct.

Despite being in Montana we have acquired a variety of seafood including a lobster tail, mussels, clams, cod, and shrimp. We will have cioppino and lobster fra diavolo. We get to the full seven with the help of Goldfish crackers and Swedish fish.

Lobster fra diavolo

Tomorrow will involve lamb chops which seems like a very fine Christmas Day feast. I’m sure we will prepare it while listening to Dr. Demento’s Christmas Album. And yes we will be watching Die Hard. Which we should technically be watching tonight but whatever. I’m not entirely sure how we will manage Chinese takeout tomorrow, an absolutely crucial meal in a Jewish-Calvinist household. There are surely Chinese restaurants in Bozeman but we’ve not bothered to find them thus far. In in a pinch we’ve got frozen dumplings in the chest freezer.

With all of these season’s eatings (the proper grammar I’m riffing on is season’s greetings) it’s no wonder I’ve traditionally done a fast between Boxing Day and Epiphany. I’ve not yet decided if I’ll do it this year as it can be a bit intense. I like to start the year with a 10 day water fast but it’s not feasible sometimes. But I’m putting it out into the universe to see what comes back.

That I’ve got the incredible good fortune of enjoying exceptional food and also the capacity for extended fasts is very much a gift. I hope you have the good fortune to chose nourishment that brings you joy this season.

Categories
Aesthetics Startups

Day 714 and Cosmetic Organization

I used to be the CEO of a cosmetics company called Stowaway. We were a direct to consumer brand that manufactured and retailed our own line of travel sized makeup. Alas I got too sick to work and we sold the company to a private equity holding firm who shuttered it during the pandemic. I’m “shocked” that travel sized red lipstick wasn’t popular during two years of masking and lockdown.

I don’t particularly want to work in cosmetics again, even though I have arguably priceless experience that could be put to good use helping other brands. Startups are are traumatic and it’s not unusual for founders to find it challenging to work in spaces they know well. You don’t want to undermine the enthusiasm of founders. Also you’ve probably taken enough risks for a lifetime in a given space to never want to touch it again even if you made money.

But I do still enjoy being a consumer of cosmetics. I’ve got what might be the most comprehensive library of travel sized makeup in existence. I moved all of it up to Montana this year where it lives in a modestly organized vanity. For some reason I decided do a little reorganization of it today.

A very messy cosmetics vanity littered with makeup bags, travel sized packaging and a Sephora advent calendar.

Instead of finding a new schema for where I plan to keep all my products, I made it much worse. I let myself get a little bit of tunnel vision and instead of playing around for half an hour I spent an ungodly amount of time making it much worse. I’ve got drawers that are bursting with tiny mascaras, tiny lipsticks, tiny eye shadow palettes and thousands of other items.

I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. I did some comparisons of packaging and formulations and found that I was still quite pleased with what we had built. Many new brands have emerged since then but the promise of a minimalist purse friendly brand remains elusive. I see all the ways I failed but I also saw all the ways in which our team succeeded. And it was nice to feel like perhaps I’d learned something. But now I’ve got to clean it all up before my husband steps on an eyeliner.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 708 and Early Bird Special

Somehow we missed lunch today. A busy morning involving a drive into town to meet a new doctor had some second order effects. All our meetings got pushed back. I agreed to a media interview over the typically blocked lunch hour that Alex and I share. One thing led to another.

We just ate lunch at 4pm. Which I think is basically an early bird special. And frankly I’m ready to go straight to bed after that meal. Alex made a bacon & scallion macaroni and cheese that hit my empty stomach with an intense urge to engage in rest and digest.

My circadian rhythm has up up before down and ready to sleep as soon as the sun is down vibe these days. Which in Montana as we near the solstice is 4:40pm. The setting sun is sending down tendrils of orange and pink light through the clouds as the wind in the valley pushes a light snow flurry out to the west. It’s majestic as fuck.

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Aesthetics

Day 705 and Impressed

I haven’t bought a new handbag for nearly a decade. While I like fashion I have never been a hardcore accessories person. One generally been of the mind that those are anchor pieces that you keep for years and years. I didn’t see much point in acquiring trends as it just seemed so expensive. I buy more for longevity.

The last handbag I bought was a camel Masur Gavriel bag. I think it was sometime in 2013 but it may have been earlier. I found a photograph dating it no later than 2014 but I can’t be sure. I’d seen a small piece of press about it as it being a kind of super minimalist brand by these two bicoastal pretty girls. I loved the clean look of the tote with a long full leather panel and a bright yellow sunny interior. I found a boutique that stocked it in Los Angeles. I think I paid less than $300 for it.

I’d talked it up to a girlfriend in finance and she bought one. She then talked it up to her friend who happened to be Lauren Santo Domingo and then next thing I knew the nag was absolutely everywhere. It subsequently raided a large private equity round. It’s brand book became so popular a fast casual yuppie food brand called Digg Inn ripped them off. The brand was a genuine hit.

Being ahead on a handbag like that is the fashion equivalent of being in the best series A round in Silicon Valley as the new angel investor. It means a lot but only after it’s been proven out to the IPO. I haven’t felt that kind of kinship with a brand in a while. And certainly not with a handbag. The high conviction I had with Mansur Gavriel should have made me pursue the two designers as I just knew in my gut this bag was fucking it. Really the one that got away for me.

So I am excited that I got a new handbag today. The first one I have purchased since my Mansur camel tote. I’ve literally not purchased a single handbag in that entire time though I did buy a backpack and a suitcase.

I saw this across it across a bunch of fashion blogs over the year. It has hit a lot of mainstream fashion news. So fashionistas are definitely well and truly ahead of me. I am not a market editor or an influencer being sold by fifteen different publicity firms. Though I’d absolutely like to be. There was absolutely a time when I was very much in the scene but let’s be real now I’m an eccentric investor in Montana. I’m cool just in a different way.

Polène Numero Uno Mini in Black Lizard with dust bag.

The bag is called Numero Uno Mini from a French label called Polène. It’s a clean bag. But it’s got a little personality in it’s shape. There were smooth calfskin options but I’d been searching for a modestly dressier bag that would be a bit of a statement for day but also formal enough it could accompany a cocktail dress or make due at a wedding. It works up until you need a clutch because it’s a gala or an awards ceremony.

Polène Numero Uno Mini in Black Lizard with dust bag.

I feel like it’s a bit louder than the bag it’s replacing which was a black calfskin envelope clutch with a gold chain that is bought from Barney’s. I’d got it on sale for like $150 bucks as well it was a house brand I guess. But it was just so damn versatile I used the fuck out of it. I haven’t seen it since we moved to Montana and I’m a bit concerned it’s gone for good. So perhaps this new Mini will find a home in my routine.

I’m very impressed by its quality. The stitching is tight and lean. The hardware is bright and sturdy. The logo is very discretely etched into corners of the hardware and on the feet of the bag. Which is just a nice touch at a $350 price point. Recently it’s felt like everything is a bit shittier and more expensive. So it’s a joy to get something that feels like a great value and genuinely nice. I hadn’t made some dirty compromises with a direct to consumer business. So yeah I’m impressed with a handbag.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 701 and Frozen Goods

My Black Friday purchases are slowly making their way from warehouses in Denver or St Louis or other parts unknown to me in Montana. When I placed the orders I was so excited for the good deals.

But instead I’m just finding new disappointments. Four out of six items I ordered from Splendid will have to be returned. A pair of pants from Lunya is simply made for someone taller than me. And the remaining pieces of the order from Nadaam still hasn’t shipped yet. I hope my new negligees from Skims don’t disappoint as my track record on soft goods isn’t looking so great. Failures all around.

I’ve also had a few issues with trying to order cosmetics. I do a big order with Briogeo once a year. It’s in transit during a very chilly day. It was 10 degrees when I woke up. And I’ll admit I’m concerned about receiving a complete frozen bottle of shampoo. And it is expensive shampoo too.

We’ve had this issue before. Ipsy and Allure monthly boxes show up half frozen in the mailbox for a day. A Sephora order went straight to our mailbox where it sat for two hours before I got the alert it has arrived. It was cold but not fully frozen. I am afraid to look up how much efficacy is lost if retinol is frozen. What about vitamin C? How bad is it to freeze your cosmetics?

Because we live out on country roads and outside the town limits, we find our packages are often delivered by men in pickup trucks doing piece work contracts. They are nice folks but there isn’t much they can do about an expensive skin cream freezing solid in their open pickup truck bed. I would try to buy things in person but we don’t have a Sephora here so that catalog order life remains how people get stuff in rural America.

I used to have concerns about melting cosmetics when I was in Colorado. So perhaps freezing is an improvement. But I’m definitely wondering if we will need climate controlled options for certain kinds of deliveries in future for items that need a moderate temperature band. It could be a brand issue to have your product not work because the chemical bonds got wrecked by extreme weather. And we are all about to get more extreme weather as a normal feature of daily life.

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Aesthetics

Day 694 and Buy Everything Day

When I was a hippie kid growing up in Colorado I was a fervent believer in a “holiday” called Buy Nothing Day. It was a campaign heavily promoted by a magazine called Adbusters which saw itself a culture jamming organization.

It felt cool and hip and maybe even a bit new to protest excess consumption in the era when globalization hadn’t yet experienced the bitch slap that are the last twenty years of history not actually ending. Teenagers are obviously a bit prone to over simplifying the world and I was no exception.

Now as a jaded veteran of the retail and luxury wars, I think it was the height of white girl naïveté that not shopping one day of the year meant shit. Now I pile all of my shopping into Black Friday. Instead of it being “Buy Nothing Day” it has become “Buy Everything Day” for me. I know how much brands are riding on my choosing to spend and I hold out the bulk of my shopping to extract maximum value.

I bought 2 tee shirts, one cardigan, 3 cashmere sweaters, one pair of silk pants, one cotton robe, 2 slips, 2 bras, and 3 pairs of tights. I bought a jumbo size shampoo and conditioner as well as travel sets. I also bought a luxury face cream, highlighter and other sundry cosmetics even though most of the cosmetics I prefer aren’t even on sale today. We also bought 4 scented candles for the house. Alex bought a pair of Chelsea boots, a new gun safe and a hunting jacket. In other words, we shopped till we dropped. We went full American on the day.

We’d hoped to buy new dishes and a few pieces of furniture as this has also been the year of outfitting the house but alas we just couldn’t figure out enough deals ahead of time. Black Friday is often a mess of confusing offers and marketing bullshit. It’s been made dramatically worse by the wave of direct to consumer brands who claim to give you better deals but often do little more than obfuscate where you are getting ripped off. It’s lowering trust by insisting that you are getting something better when you know you are not.

It’s with that knowledge in mind that I’ve come to terms with the reality of American consumption. I’ve come full circle on Buy Nothing Day. I recognize that shopping is the full contact sport that drives everything else around us. And so long as I’m embedded in that system it serves little purpose to be obstinate or contrary. But equally it serves no purpose to be taken advantage of by these brands either. Getting a deal is a very American kind of battle I’d rather win. As of yet there is no option to remain off the battlefield. But one day it may be gone for good. Until then I’ll buy my cashmere in discount.