You are currently browsing the archive for the Culture category.

Too far away from the previous weekend to warrant proper revelry, not close enough to the next weekend to justify celebrating post-actual holiday, Thursday Halloweens are the most neglected Halloweens. Do your small part to help by wearing costume no matter what your day entails. And with this handy last minute guide, there’s no excuse not to dress up for the office, school, or whatever cramped underlit area you while away your days in.


The Monolith from ’2001: A Space Odyssey’



What you’ll need:

Large cardboard box (check IKEA or any place that sells refrigerators or flat-pack furniture)

Matte black spray paint

Black pantyhose

Glue gun/stapler

Duct tape

Random takeout containers &/or soda caps, or foam balls

Portable music device & portable speakers

1. Accept this will be a physically awkward costume. You will not be able to sit or walk very easily, but it will be worth it for the sheer weirdness of having a giant alien monolith in the middle of a party. Or room. Or daycare center.

2. Try on the box. Mark your eye level. Cut off the flaps by your feet.

3. Cut a small rectangular slit out at eye level. You can do the same on the box sides as well, if you care about peripheral vision. I don’t. Cut out a rectangle or two near the top of the box, either at the very top or on the sides (this is for the sound to come through).

4. Cut two thick strips from the bottom cardboard flaps – these will be your internal hand holds. Glue or staple the top part of the strip to the side wall, and repeat on the bottom, leaving room for your hand to grip the rest of the strip between.

5. Spray paint the box a fine matte black, including inside the eyeholes.

You won’t be able to spray-paint it the mattest black of the actual monolith though – turns out our blackest blacks are classified by the government! No joke – the U.S. Air Force pays good money to companies who can come up with ever-blacker blacks, as a paint that would prevent visibility either through radar or visual spectrum would be VERY USEFUL to use on satellites and plane underbellies that one might want to go undetected.

6. Cut out bits of the pantyhose larger than the eyehole and other holes cut. You may need more than one layer. Stretch and glue/staple the pantyhose to the INSIDE of the box.

7. Put ‘Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra‘ and ‘Atmospheres’ on your music device. I recommend taping the speakers near your speaker-holes using duct-tape, but if another configuration works for you, go for it.

8. Tah-dah! You’re ready to join the party! Get your pal to go as the Star Child or Dave for a couples costume, or if you have kids, get them to dress up as little apes. For extra fun, read this extensive theory on the Monolith as Movie Screen and the enlightenment of the viewer/Dave.


Talking Head



What you’ll need:

Cardboard box big enough to fit around your head

spray paint (likely black, or purple if you want a Simpsons TV)


Coat hanger/wire

Moderate drawing skills/printer

Glue gun/tape


1. Cut a hole at the bottom of the box big enough to squeeze your head through, but not so big it wobbles all around. If necessary cut bigger and once the box is on tape the hole smaller.

2. Draw a TV on the front of the box (either old-style with the knobs on the side and rounded corners, or ultra-sleek and modern with just a thin border and the name brand at the bottom. If the latter, make sure your box is ‘widescreen format’ (16:9) instead of traditional 3:4 ratio.

Here’s a nice vector image of the Simpsons’ tv to give you an idea of what you’re going for:


3. Cut out the ‘screen’ portion of your TV.

4. Spray paint the set the color of your choice.

5. Draw in any details. Use whatever vaguely dome-like objects at hand (half a tennis ball, take out container, cat food can) and glue it to the top of your TV. Glue smaller objects on the side (liter soda caps, buttons, whatever)

6. Depending on what kind of TV show you’re going for, draw or print out a picture to go behind your head. Action sequence, car chase, news outlet – might I recommend finding a dangerous situation (like a car burning, a bank robbery in progress) and going as local Tri-State news anchor and trouble magnet Ti-Hua Chang?

7. Unbend the wire and re-bend into classic rabbit ears (or skip this step if you’ve gone for the heartless modern variant).

8. Dress to match your chosen genre, and pop on your TV head.


Ralph Wiggum as Idahotumblr_lcj55pVdCk1qztjn5o1_500

What you’ll need:

Collared blue shirt

Matching pants

Piece of paper



I am not even going to dignify this with instructions, as it is truly the lazy man’s costume. If you happen to have foamcore about (or just an old mattress pad), you could just as easily whip up Lisa’s ‘Floreda’ costume.


Tags: , ,

ephemera banner fan 2

This October, I’m proud to present the latest entry in the EPHEMERA screenings: SAFETY FIRST!   Featuring safety and instructional videos from the 1930s to the early 2000s, SAFETY FIRST is what happens when a pile of vitally important and boring information has to be shown to an audience who doesn’t want to hear it. There’s a few general approaches, including The Paternal Condescender, The Shock and Awe (aka The GoreFest or ‘You’ll Poke Your Eye Out’), and The America’s Funniest Home Videos, but today I’ll focus on The Goofus And Gallant.

(Oh, and if you’d like to see more stills from all the films, I’ve also created a Pinterest board where you can see all the shining weirdness of these ephemeral films for yourself.)

Goofus and Gallant films feature a ‘Gallant’ – a Johnny Do-Right who follows all the rules to a T and is rewarded with health and prosperity. He’s often accompanied by a Goofus, some slacker who heightens Gallant’s proper example with his oafish slacking and blatant disregard for the rules. If he gets injured (usually he just comes perilously close), the violence is cartoonish and silly. Sometimes the relationship is supernatural, with Gallant being a guardian angel-type who must continually rescue the dimwitted Goofus from certain harm.


First we have ‘Domestic Disturbance’, a training film for officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. In this case, the Gallants are in active danger from the Goofuses, and following the rules becomes doubly important as everyone’s safety is in the hands of the Gallants. The film acknowledges officers’ reluctance to respond to such calls – as one office says ‘at least with a standoff you know the situation…domestic disturbances are unpredictable’. ‘Domestic Disturbances’ was filmed in 1970s Minnesota, making for an unfortunate overlay of awkward clothing and accent distracting from the serious matter at hand.

personal space

Domestic Disturbance  calm direct


‘Safety: In Danger, Out of Doors’  was also obviously filmed in the 70s and features Guardiana, a crossing-guard-turned-superhero. Guardiana must rescue the stupid children around her from danger, but not before lengthy voiceovers pointing out every stupid step they’re taking towards getting themselves killed.


guardiana 1


‘Christmas Tree Harvest Safety’ (2002) seems to be made for a multilingual audience. Voices are dimly heard and mostly hidden behind loud ‘ding ding ding!’ noises when something’s done right, or a car-alarm when something’s done wrong. The Goofus of this film is a lanky white guy who takes every possible opportunity to chop his leg off with a chainsaw, and the Gallant, a middle-aged Hispanic man, is the one pointing and gesturing the proper steps to take. I’m going to say the film’s continuous use of The Mexican Hat Dance whenever the Gallant points out correct action is probably racist.

Christmas tree safety


‘Hazards In Motion’ (2001) features an actual guardian angel, helping the film’s Goofus avoid certain death at the hands of mining equipment and his own blind confidence.

Hazards In Motion white overalls


‘Hospital Safety’ is mostly neutral, showing people repeating actions done wrong immediately (except for the one time that guy caught everything on fire).

Hospital Safety lift

Hospital Safety  body lift


‘Hands In Motion’ is 90% a Shock-And-Awe film, avoiding gore by using an adorable abstract hand cutout to show the many, many, many ways you can mangle your fingers. Here we see a Gallant of a glamour shot – proper glove-wearing for handling molten metals.

On Every Hand power glove


From ‘Days of Our Years’, the most depressing and moralizing of the films (available as an MST3K short which helps it go down a bit easier), we see the RIGHT way to approach someone wielding a giant torch: using ‘gentle touch’. Of course the protagonist was too excited to do that and got blinded before he ever saw his first child, but that’s just the way this movie rolls.

RR sparks

RR gentle touch


‘Stairwell Safety’ takes a look inside the mind of the modern secretary pool. Featuring a bee woman instructing fellow ‘drones’ on how to not get killed on the stairs, the inspiration for this likely came from a whimsical Hallmark calendar sitting on someone’s desk.

Stairwell Safety attention

Stairwell Safety seriously


I just included this image because office dress code is ok with ‘Big Dog’ t-shirts.

Stairwell Safety bee lady

Oh, ‘Will You Be Here Tomorrow’. You are the violentest, most over-the-top safety film I have ever seen. Here is one of the brief moments in this short film where someone is not actively losing a fake limb and spattering blood everywhere.

Will You Be Here voice of experience


The protagonist of ‘A Safe Day’ achieves a full 1000 days of safety, because he makes it his business to be safe. He’s the ultimate Gallant example, carefully thinking through every action and stopping potential injuries before they happen. Goofuses and their horrible manglings are bloodlessly shown through double exposure.

A Safe Day smiley

A Safe Day common sense

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ow ow ow ow ow
Ow ow ow OW ow ow ow
ow OW ow OW ow

Tags: , ,

Handsome Is coat

Stuck on a 5-hour bicoastal plane ride, I indulged in something unavailable to me here in NYC – watching TV. Laziness and the switch to digital has cut me off from ‘normal’ TV watching, in that without a converter box the only input I get is from whatever Netflix decides to stream. This eliminates a good part of the ‘normal TV’ watching experience, including exposure to reality shows, local news, and especially commercials. I was annoyed to see commercials targeting young people heading back to school, attempting to convince them they required a wardrobe overhaul to appear sophisticated and cool in the eyes of their peers. The commercials assume these children have autonomy over their clothing at a younger age, that there is spare income to spend on a new wardrobe, and that new outfits will somehow circumvent the cruel stratifying and sorting the first few weeks of school bring, forget sever the baggage of past years.

Of course, every magazine currently touting the ‘hot new trends’ of fall is doing the same thing to an older crowd. As a brisk tonic to pages and pages of ‘what’s in and what’s out!’ for the brief window of three months before the entire merry-go-round starts up again for a new season, I highly recommend reading Elizabeth Hawes’ Fashion Is Spinach. Written in 1938, the young designer’s tale of making it in the fashion industry is a delicious tell-all told with the dry wit of Dorothy Parker. Her opinions on the state of ‘fast fashion’ and the difference between ‘fashion’ and ‘style holds as true today as ever.

Moonstone dress

Elizabeth Hawes’ first foray into fashion was as New York Times’ Paris fashion correspondent, under the pen name ‘Parasite’. She was later one of the first designers to establish a made-to-order boutique in New York, instead of Paris, and with a combination of business acumen and creativity it survived the Great Depression. Her aim was to promote a uniquely American fashion style and teach women to wear what suited them and their life, instead of trying to emulate ‘Parisian Glamour’. She successfully promoted her ready-to-wear items through the 30s and 40s, and in the spirit of comfort and practicality debuted a colorful line of men’s clothing in 1937. During the war years she published a book on women in the workplace called Why Women Cry, and remained vocal about women’s equality and rights for the rest of her life. She was raked over the coals during the McCarthy years for her outspoken support of unions and feminism, and for a time lived in the Virgin Islands where she penned Anything But Love: A Complete Digest of the Rules for Feminine Behavior from Birth to Death; Given out in Print, on Film, and Over the Air; Seen, Listened to Monthly by Some 340,000,000 American Women  an early critique of media representation of women. She wrote a sequel to Fashion Is Spinach called It’s Still Spinach  in 1954, and passed away in NYC’s Hotel Chelsea in 1971.


It Is My Own Invitation Dress

I’ve excerpted some of my favorite quotes from Fashion Is Spinach below – the full text is available on the Internet Archive to download or read in whatever format suits you best.

On travel and education:

“After having my appendix out that summer, 1922, I went back (to Vassar) for sophomore year and discovered economics…Senior year I spent four long months in the library reading every word ever spoken or written by Ramsay MacDonald and rewrote it all into a thesis on which I did not one ray of individual thinking—but I got an A.”

“I was not seasick and learned to do my first drinking on that voyage [to France]. I had three hundred dollars and a diamond ring. It had been one of my grandmother’s earrings. The family had it set and said I could always pawn it to get home. I still have it.”    (Note: SO BALLER)

“Cheap American food was disheartening, but there wasn’t much time for eating it anyway. Bathtub gin after French wine was fortunately disagreeable enough to my palate to save me a good many headaches.”

The Tarts dress

On the fashion industry overall:

“The proudly American clothing boast is that all American women can have beautiful clothes. It goes along with the other legends such as that all boys can get to be President, all children get a good education, and everyone in the United States has “an American standard of living”.

“The passion which has been created for being chic leads to almost any thing, probably including murder.”

“Style doesn’t change every month or year. It only changes as often as there is a real change in the point of view and the lives of the people for whom it is produced.”

“One big difference between a specialty shop and a department store is that the former has carpets on the floor and the latter has none.”

“Being chic was not only created “on the Continent” but it fundamentally can only flourish in that unhurried atmosphere. It takes a background of leisured people with secure bankrolls who don’t have or want to worry about what’s going on at the office, to produce chic and keep it alive. It takes large houses, in town and in country, with plenty of servants who run everything smoothly, without requiring too many orders.”

“I’ve seen some quite good designers come and go because they couldn’t scream loud enough to attract attention, and had no money to pay someone else to do it for them.”

Evening Dress

On Fashion vs. Style:

“Fashion is a mystery because it’s something which developed with no relation to the public taste or need. Sometimes, if it is highly enough promoted, a fashion gets by for a short time. Sometimes a fashion turns out to be amusing, like tying a handkerchief around your head instead of wearing a hat. That, in fact, threatens to become a style. It is so simple and practical.”

“We have an assortment of stylish women and girls in America and are developing more…They are perfectly sure of themselves and their positions, their clothes and their friends. They are not often photographed or written about.”

“[the fashionable woman] is a large part of the middle class with some money to spend on clothes, and most of the nouveau riche with plenty of money to throw around. She tries to be chic and misses. Nobody ever told her about style. She’s fashionable, God help her.”

Tags: , , ,

Searching for ‘cat restraint’ on Google Image Search is almost as fun as searching for ‘kitty sweater’ on Ravelry – a bounty of ridiculous imagery is your reward. Aside from pages of cats looking like stills from ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ I also came across these hideous cat bags:

If you’re going to have a giant cat-face bag, why go with ‘frightened’ and ‘annoyed’ instead of ‘cute’?

Harness imprisoning them, all that they see, absolute horror…they cannot meow, they cannot scratch, trapped in a hood, leather their holding cell….




Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.01.48 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.02.09 PM
<Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.12.47 PM



cat mesh   8x8 close up


Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 12.30.25 PM

I’m naming my next cat Free Shipping USA.





This is a still from a well-meaning veterinary training video on how to properly handle feral cats brought in for check-ups and shots. I say well-meaning because the technique could best be described as ‘towel dump, scoop and grab’.



This is a fake cat, right? Like, a cat dummy, not a real, living cat?




If searching ‘cat restraint’ loses its charm, might I also suggest ‘cat bath sack’?





Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.14.54 PM




One more ‘Metallica’s ‘One’ video’ gif for the road.

Tags: , , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »