Monday, May 30, 2011

"whimsical toilet paper holder with man riding unicycle"

One of the most entertaining things about blogging is looking at the “stats.” In the case of Marguerite-aville, the vast majority of visitors are purely accidental tourists. People from, say, Turkmenistan or Brazil, sucked in by a misdirected Internet search for photos of J. Lo’s derriere, or, more disturbingly, a naked Sponge Bob (no, seriously – see below). I especially love the lists of search terms have led poor, unsuspecting perverts to this blog. Below are but a few examples.

-- whimsical toilet paper holder with man riding unicycle
-- forklift caterpillar eh malfunction
-- had a rent stabilized apartment
-- nuclear waste not healthy
-- dr puffer bong
-- pauly d no hair gel
-- sponge bob no pants

Some of these at lease remotely relate to posts I’ve written. There was one about Sponge Bob, but he (thankfully) kept his pants on. For others, I have absolutely no idea how the key words could’ve triggered a search-engine hit. For instance, I’ve never, ever written anything about malfunctioning forklifts. Or even normally-functioning forklifts.   

By design, this blog doesn’t have any specific focus. But it seems fair to say that the very OPPOSITE of its focus would have to be … malfunctioning forklifts. Similarly, I have no recollection of ever writing a post about whimsical toilet paper holders, sans or avec unicycles. Which makes me a bit sad. Blogs with posts about whimsical toilet paper holders are inherently better than blogs without them.

Each of the above search terms offers a fragment of a view into the lives and longings of a few random strangers. The enjoyment I get from these lists makes me think of Proust, who famously loved to read train schedules in bed. He would imagine the people getting on and off at each stop, and their motives for taking the train from, say, Limoges to Marseilles.  Before nodding off to sleep, he liked to contemplate the passengers motives and trajectories, both on the train and in life. Were they travelling to see a lover? To go to the funeral of an emotionally distant, but beloved father? To get some sun to soothe a nasty case of syphilis?

Like good ol’ Marcel, I like to think about the person, somewhere on this wide green earth, who has a whimsical toilet-paper-dispenser-shaped hole in his or her life. A gift for a unicycle- and/or toilet-paper-loving aunt? Is the need for “whimsy” compensating for some recent, tragic loss? Is there a middle-aged husband, somewhere, who will think the man on the unicycle is mocking his failure to get that promotion at work, and his rapidly receding hairline?  

I’ve never been a fan of the word “whimsical.”  It’s a kissing cousin of my second-least favorite word, “humorous.”  In general, so-called “humorous” people or things aim to be “amusing” -- i.e., “funny,” but in a way that won’t actually make you laugh. Inspire a polite and/or nervous giggle, maybe, but nothing so déclassé as an actual laugh.  (Unless, of course, “humorous” is a misspelling of a bone someone broke while slipping on a banana peel.)  Self-described “humorous” people use words like “whimsical.” They also tend to use words like “utilize” when they could just as easily say “use.” But that’s another issue altogether.

I started to wonder about the fantastical man-on-unicycle toilet paper holder. Like the person misdirected to this blog, I couldn’t find it. But I did come across an undiscovered world of novelty toilet paper dispensers. (More things that will inspire great Ph.D. topics for anthropologists of the future.) 

For instance, there’s a whole range of toilet paper dispensers featuring butlers holding their noses...


Or humiliated maids covering their eyes...
 Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the butler is an anthropomorphic frog in a bowler hat...
Someone, somewhere had to have a production meeting about this…
Unfortunately, these are things you can’t un-see. So, for all you mis-directed readers, I apologize.

How do you say “I’m sorry” in Turkmenistan?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Girl in the Hoodz

As I write this, I’m at my parents’ house, in my old bedroom. We moved to this house when I was in high school, which I’ll eternally associate with this room. Thankfully, it looks nothing like it did in the days when my friend Mollie and I spent many an hour in here, trying to bootleg Smiths and They Might Be Giants cassettes by holding a tape recorder in front of a stereo. (Hey, at least it wasn’t an 8-Track.)

In the back of the closet are my last remaining clothes from high school. Not long ago, my mom went on a cleaning spree and, with my full permission, threw out most of my old clothes that had lingered over the years. But now I wish she hadn’t. The “90’s look” seems to inexplicably be back in style. Even for the 90s, though, I wore some truly awful crap. If I hadn’t gone to a public high school for socially handicapped “academically accelerated” kids, I’m sure I would’ve been beaten up every single day because of my misguided sartorial choices.

Looking back on it, I probably should’ve been. Nobody should be allowed to wear Laura Ashley dresses with tennis shoes and homemade earrings made out of (not-small) plastic toy dinosaurs.

It may not come as a surprise that I rode to school in a short bus.

That’s not a joke. At least, I rode one briefly in the 9th grade, before I started begging my parents to give me a ride. See, I went to a “magnet” school, which was pretty far from my house. In the morning, we’d be bussed to the local high school, then catch a re-purposed handi-bus that would take us to Stanton College Preparatory School

In Florida, so-called “gifted” (i.e., can figure out a Butterfly Ballot) kids are legally classified as Special Education students. Maybe for this reason, the school always seemed a bit like an asylum.

On the outside, at least, Stanton could’ve easily been mistaken for a medium-security prison. The campus was surrounded by a large barbed-wire fence, designed not so much to keep us in, as to keep the neighborhood crack dealers out. But unless said dealers had offered, say, a magical Invincibility Potion that would allow a Level-30 Wizard defeat a rowdy Dwarf Cleric, their sales pitches would’ve fallen on deaf ears.

As much as I hated high school, I don’t remember hating -- or even particularly disliking -- a single person. In later years, I’ve realized that this is a rare and lucky thing. Having gone to “normal” public schools in 7th and 8th Grade, I still hold a mild grudge against some of the bitchy girls who were inexplicably mean to dorks like me. (Okay, it wasn’t so inexplicable, given the way I dressed, but it was still mean.) 

Going to a school like Stanton is a mixed bag. On one hand, it left me with a profound intellectual inferiority complex (let’s hear it for those of us in the bottom 10% of our graduating class, woo hoo!). But having never suffered the slings and arrows of peers who relentlessly made fun of oddballs, I came out of it rather fearless when it comes to clothing choices -- no matter how  inappropriate, or ill-advised.

For instance, a few years back, I went through a phase where everything I owned seemed to have a hood. This might’ve included things like bathing suits, and pantyhose.

Here's an example:
A thing I have worn often, to places that were *in public.*
I found this in the sale bin at the boutique of an independent designer in the East Village. There was originally a matching skirt, which got so much wear that eventually, it made my ass look like it was badly in need of a reupholstering job. I thought it was very cool at the time. In retrospect, the look was less Boho chic and more “Tess of the D’Ubervilles meets your grandmother’s rec room sofa, circa 1975.”  In other words, take the two least-sexy things you can think of, and put a hood on ‘em. 

Here’s another one:
LL Cool J, eat your heart out...
Unlike the plaid number, at least I never wore this one to work. Still, I wore it out. A lot. Paul once said I looked like the bastard child of Grace Jones and Darth Maul in this top. I was undeterred.

I blame Stanton. Had I gone to a normal high school, I might’ve known that this was not intended as a compliment.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Dirtiest Little Secret....

For years, I’ve struggled with self-loathing over this fact, but I'm going to admit it. I love Martha Stewart.

Sometimes, I actually buy and read her magazine. But I always feel the need to hide it, as if it were some especially weird porn (which, let’s face it, it kind of is). Maybe the masochist in all of us loves to fantasize about all those decoupage centerpieces we know we’ll never actually make?

I feel about Martha Stewart the way I used to feel about Glamour and Cosmo, and any other mags that promised “Thin Thighs by Next Thursday!” or “The Hidden Secret to Being LESS GROSS Than You Already Are!”  As far as I can tell, these magazines are masterminded by Gitmo prisoner-intimidation specialists. The editors somehow know how to make even the most mentally healthy women (and who are they, exactly??) feel just awful about their appearance. That way, said women will run out and buy more makeup, or Sketchers ShapeUps (which I talked about here), or land-based missiles, or whatever else the advertisers happen to be hawking.

After many years as a closeted “women’s lifestyle & entertainment mag” addict, I finally decided to break the cycle and stop buying those diabolically absorbing, yet mind-numbing publications. That’s around the time I started secretly sneaking Martha Stewart Living into the shopping cart. I often feel the need to cover it with less embarrassing items, such as a giant box of Depends or a gallon-sized tub of Preparation-H cream.

I turned to Martha Stewart because self-esteem, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In the way that fashion mags point out all the ways you don’t look good enough, Martha tactfully sheds light on all your failings as a home decorator, chef, and human being.

At a certain point in our lives, we may come to accept our thighs and our hair-frizz levels and our “skillz” in the boudoir. There may even have been a full week or so, probably around your 30th birthday, when you feel pretty darn good about yourself. That’s when you’ll suddenly look around your house or apartment in horror, and realize, “there are no pin cushions shaped like tomatoes in my home!”

You’ll suddenly feel the need to carve and shellac your own napkin rings made out of driftwood you collected on the beach. Before, your napkins may have gone unrestrained. Like Adam and Eve after the fall, you now know that your table napkins are nude. But don’t worry. Saint Martha will show you The Way.

Yes, she’ll show you how to make those tomato-shaped pin cushions, or bunny fold your napkins for Easter, and/or when you have a bunch of Playboy Playmates over for dinner. 

Party favors, a.k.a. "symptoms"
Unlike myself, my mother is one of those people who can and actually does the kind of stuff that you read about/see/hear via Martha. For instance, for an upcoming DAR meeting, she made flower-topped cylindrical candy-holders as favors for each of the expected guests. These are made out of cut-up paper towel rolls, which are then wrapped in tissue paper and somehow fashioned to look like flowers.

Somehow, this gene missed me entirely. I’m more likely to pilot the first manned mission to Mars than to ever successfully fashion a flower out of decorative pastel tissue paper and a toilet paper roll. It’s not that I’m opposed to the concept, I’m just mentally incapable of executing such a project. I’d rather write an essay about the cosmic and temporal symbolism of tissue-paper flowers in our briefly fleeting lives. Admittedly, it is harder to wrap miniature chocolates in a maudlin essay, but, hey.

“At my funeral, there better be good favors,” Mom once said, joking-but-not-joking, in her South Carolina drawl (for you Yankees: think, Dixie Carter from Designing Women). “I want ‘em wrapped in black tissue paper, sealed with a frowny-face sticker.”

I think this might actually be stipulated in her will. 

In the meantime, I’m encouraging my mother to eat well, and exercise. I have no idea how I’d make all those favors by myself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tweeting With the Stars

Okay, I promise. Tomorrow, I’ll get back to blogging about my hooded cape that looks like a sofa cushion from a Midwestern rec room in 1979. But in light of recent World Events, I feel the need to break the fourth wall and have a serious pow-wow with my readers. (Yes, both of you.)
I just want to say, thank God. The long, national nightmare is finally over. For a while, it seemed like the insanity would go on forever. But the Royal Wedding is finally behind us. Boy, do those Brits ever wear some funny hats!  
Oh, and the Osama Bin Laden thing.
I think most rational people would agree that he was a pretty awful person, and the world is well rid of him. We get it. We’re all on the same page. What’s amazing to me are the endless media round-ups of Twitter posts by so-called “celebrities” reacting to the news. Several websites have posted exhaustive lists of Tweets on the subject by the stars of various reality shows.

For the most part, these are people who are famous for being famous and/or "skanky,” which has emerged as the defining talent of the early 21st Century. We're talking about "stars" who have no last names, just knicknames that appear in quotes after their first names. Like Mike "The Situation" from The Jersey Shore.
My favorite of these articles has to be: The Dancing with the Stars Cast Reacts to Osama Bin Laden’s Death. (No, seriously – go ahead and click. I dare you.)
Fine, I’ll save you the trouble. They all had the radical opinion that it was a good thing! Sometimes even working in a plug for their shows. For instance, from Tango-Dancer-For-Hire @LouisVanAmstel: I know DWTS is tomorrow but what a great moment 4 the US right now.” (OMG, Louis. U R 2 kewl! *As if* anything’s more important than washed up celebrities attempting a chainé turn!!) And in other news, the reality stars also think puppies and kittens are good. And some – some! – are bold enough to assert that Hitler and cancer are both bad.
But, seriously. What did we think these people were going to add to the conversation?  And why, oh, why do we care??
Ambassador Snooki
Don’t get me wrong. I like stupid reality shows as much as the next person. Especially The Jersey Shore. Those kids have their areas of expertise, such as applying self-tanning lotion and/or hair gel, and hooking up with “Butter Faces.” But asking their opinions on the significance of Osama bin Laden’s death is like asking Henry Kissinger what he thinks of the footwork on latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. Or asking Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice to go do tequilla body shots at Señor Frog’s in Cabo San Lucas. (Secretaries of State Gone Wild! Woo-hooo!)   
I’m just sayin’. Drs. Albright, Rice, and Kissinger don’t go down to where the kids from The Jersey Shore work, and… well, not-work. Why shouldn’t they expect the same consideration from the stars of moronic reality shows?
One website noted that The Jersey Shore cast had some surprisingly intelligent(i.e., correctly spelled) comments about the whole thing. For a second, I had to wonder. Would Snooki have some salient observations about the geopolitical significance of extra-judicial killings and/or the potential impact on already-fraught U.S.-Pakistani relations?
I won’t keep you in suspense – she didn’t.  Nor did Pauly (the one who always wears a helmet made of a dead porcupine covered in shellac). He tooted tweeted: @DJPaulyD: “Ooooh Yeah Bin Laden Dead Yeahhh !!!!!”
You tell 'em, Pauly!
Meanwhile, the unpaid intern of Vinny’s PR person Vinny (“the smart one”) waxed philosophical about Social Media. "I don't know what is more historic, the fact that Osama is dead or the fact that our first reaction is to talk about it on Twitter,” he observed.

Because, you know, Twitter has only been around for, what, four or five years? It’s not like it recently played a role in overthrowing a dictator, or anything! The Vin-ster went on to say that he would tell his eventual children that he tweeted the news. To which said children will reply, “What the eff does ‘tweeted’ mean? You mean you, like, farted?” 

Then they’ll go back to applying hair gel.

But it should come as no surprise that the cast of The Jersey Shore would have some very cogent insights on global issues. After all, Mike “The Situation” was short-listed to head up the Council on Foreign Relations. (He was even going to take over the conveniently-named CNN talk show, The Situation Room.) In fact, the Cast Members’ most recent “summer job” was going to be working in the nuclear proliferation department of the U.N. Kinda like when they had to work in that ice cream parlor in Miami? (Oh, how I hate that I know that!!) And Snooki was recently tapped to be a Goodwill Ambassador to impoverished countries that lack an adequate supply of self-tanning lotion.

Looking at all the celebrity Twats Twits Tweets, one of the few that made an interesting point was Simon Pegg (from Shaun of the Dead & the new Star Trek movie), who noted, "There's a slight sense in the more sensationalist media that the world just completed a particularly tricky video game."

Everyone else seems to think the death of Bin Laden is essentially the third-act conclusion to an early Technicolor film. A staggering percentage of the Celebrity Tweets made reference to the “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” song from The Wizard of Oz. As if the bad guys are just magical villains who will go away when a farmhouse falls on top of them in the feverish dream of a girl from Kansas. Killing Osama Bin Laden may be a victory, but it’s not like we’re all going to go back to the Halcyon days of taking more than one ounce of conditioner in our carry-on luggage.

In all likelihood, the death of Osama Bin Laden will impact the global terror infrastructure about as much as the Canadian government would be affected if someone were to off Queen Elizabeth (don’t do that, please). As the Sovereign Monarch, she’s technically Canada's Head of State (as I half-assedly discussed here). But in the years since the Crown first established the colony, the Canadians have gone on to create a vast network of Terror Cells (also known as “Provinces”) that function quite independently of the Royal figurehead.

But in HollyTweet, we can at least pretend. Much in the way that we pretend that the fights and romances on The Jersey Shore are in no way contrived. We cling to the belief that reality shows are unvarnished representations of people’s lives.

And when you wake up, you’ll be back in Kansas in your nice, warm bed.