Sunday, November 16, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Restaurant Ethics

Several guidelines for restaurant-going:

(1) Always take the less advantageous chair (i.e. the one with the worse view, back to heavy traffic, etc.).

(2) Ask the person you're with whether they're ready to order before proceeding to order yourself.

(3) Interrupt your conversation when the server approaches your table.

(4) Thank the server for everything, including water refills.

(5) Never ask for a different table once you're already seated.

(6) Wait until after you've ordered to use the bathroom.

(7) Never ask what someone at another table is eating.

(8) Order a coffee for dessert at the very least, so your companion feels comfortable getting something if they're so inclined.

(9) Never leave a restaurant once you've already been seated.

(10) If you're paying for another person, never suggest that they get the cheapest thing on the menu.

(11) Assume that you're splitting the bill, unless otherwise discussed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Theory #5: Max Weber

"The powerful personality does not manifest itself by trying to give everything a 'personal touch' at every possible opportunity.  The generation which is now growing up should, above all, again become used to the thought that 'being a personality' is something that cannot be deliberately striven for and that there is only one way by which it can (perhaps!) be achieved: namely, the whole-hearted devotion to a "task" whatever it (and its derivative 'demands of the hour') may be.  It is poor taste to mix personal questions with specialized factual analyses."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #7:Be More Like John Wayne

Hip-slung belts, especially when colorful or gaudy are totally tasteful.  Strap one on.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Consumer Frenzy #2: Objets

I recently stumbled across the website for Objets Plus New York, which offers at discreetly unspecified prices, an enchanting collection of antique furnishings.

An unusual globe iron fixture with cut out scalloped shapes suspended from 4 iron rods, with 5 arms plus a center light,as is, Continental mid 20th century, wired for electricity

A highly unusual rusted Art Deco period iron stand on 4 legs, Continental

A Dutch Baroque period walnut and mahogany deux corps cabinet, with diamond pattern veneer, serpentine commode base with 3 drawers (with one hidden drawer below) and upper 2 door cabinet with an open pediment top, mid 18th century

A Napoleon III period low chair, round back and round seat, gilt and polychrome decoration on a black background, scalloped apron, antique upholstery, Continental, c.1880, as is

Fabric Necklaces

Danny Mansmith textile necklace.

Ruff from an Elizabethan costume designed by William Ivey Long.

Make a textile necklace from vintage upholstery fabric.  The simpler your design, the better, though consider adding texture with seams or embedded wires, as in the Elizabethan ruff.  

Monday, September 15, 2008


As someone who wears dresses and skirts most days, this arbiter of taste would like to weigh in on the comments characterizable by the phrase "Oh, I love to see a girl in a dress."

It's tasteless. I'd love to see you in a dress, Buddy.

I'm looking fine today because I want to, not because I want you to be pleased by my conformist femininity.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #7: Cite the Economy

Blame "the recession economy" for all poor fashion, relationship problems, and purchasing mistakes.

It's the new "mercury in retrograde."

Unsolicited Advice #6: Internet Stalking

While tempting, ultimately unavoidable, and rewarding, stalking new lovers on the internet is totally tasteless.

Never admit to having done it.  This exercise in post-hoc self control is especially important since you inevitably find that their prose styling is profoundly disappointing.  It's better to pretend not to know.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tasteless Flaunting

Bumper stickers are at very best minimally tasteless. But the perfusion of round, bubble lettered, grotesquely-cute-figured bumper stickers proclaiming that "Life is good" fulfill every criterion of tastelessness we know.

While we certainly condone flaunting curvaceous earlobes, flouncy hips, and delicate ankles, we do not condone flaunting privilege. The issue here is similar to the distinction in tastefulness between costume jewelry (eminently tasteful) and gaudy displays of precious gems (horribly tasteless). If you have the strange fortune to live in the most-consuming country in the world and drive an SUV (or wear t-shirts, or do anything really), for golly's sake don't proclaim in stupid bubble letters that "Life is good."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Theory #4: Aguste Comte

From The Positive Method and Its Application to Social Phenomena: "... respect for our ancestors is the basis of a sound social order."  He also pretty much thinks that revolution is the result of increasing specialization in the absence of religious communion.

Your grandmother wanted you to have good manners.  So unless you want to destroy the social order, you'd better demonstrate your respect for her by figuring out which forks to use when and how to write a thank you card.  This blog can help.

If you are one of those kids who wants to set the social order asunder and you're not content with using the fish fork for your salad or skipping church to get really good at algebraic topology, please contact the editorial staff of this blog immediately.  We've got advice.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #6: Prerequisites for Party Attendance

Never arrive at a party without a gift.  My mother, a woman of little planning and huge generosity, regularly picks up stones from the driveway on her way to a gathering.  Gifts of stone, plant, or pastry are especially welcome.  Call them hostess gifts even if the recipient is male. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #5: Get Gussied Up and Go to the Beach

That's right, fair readers, we're recommending that you look past the nylon-strapped sandals in your closet and pull out some fabulous cowboy boots. Resist the temptation to wear anything with an elastic waist on your next trip to the place where waves crash against the sand. Instead layer on the pencil skirts, sequin-embroidered tops, and sweet floral scarves. Don't forget to wear plenty of large baubles. Just leave any truly precious jewels at home. Get out to the back of the food coop and find one of those wooden pear boxes to keep your at-home stash of jewels and treasures in one place, safe from the waves' vicious thievery.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Theory #3: Archibald Alison

From "Associationism and Taste Theory in Archibald Alison's Essays" by Steven A. Jauss:

Some earlier taste theorists had appealed to associationist psychology, but they did so primarily to help explain away the obvious diversity of responses to almost any object of taste: private emotional associations with an object, they suggested, often corrupt the process by which individuals arrive at judgements of beauty, thereby giving rise to the apparent diversity of tastes [. . . .] Alison, however, dramatically expands the role of that psychology in taste theory by arguing that genuine aesthetic experience (the "emotion of taste") just is the experience of a special sort of "train" of emotional associations with an object.

Children Prepare for Their Divergent Destinies

I like the microcosmic effect of a doll's house or architectural model displayed as wall or coffee table decoration.

Panorama Doll House

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Theory #2: The Problem of Taste

The Problem of Taste

From the "Problem of Taste" at the Pinocchio Theory blog:

When we are free only as consumers, the market replaces all other forms of contestation and valuation. Conflicts that might have been resolved at other times through violence and coercion, or consensus and negotiation, or voting, or other political processes, are now adjudicated entirely through cost-benefit analysis and the mechanism of prices. This also means that the only form of judgment is aesthetic judgment.

Unsolicited Advice #4: Introduce Yourself if Your Host Fails to Do So.

Joining this blog's editorial staff represents the consummation of a lifelong dream.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #3: Hypothetical Walls

Frame vintage wallpaper samples in repainted thrift store frames.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Consumer Frenzy #1: Mid Century Modern Jewelry

After over a year, the ornate botanical motifs of these art nouveau-inspired earrings have grown a bit tired. Wood Cut-Out Earrings from South Street Designs on etsy, $20

Deco Drop Earrings from le train bleu, $88

Modern mid century jewelry, with its abstract geometric shapes and textural emphasis, is sadly underrepresented on the streets of Portland, a problem which I for one will do my part to correct. Check out the collection at 20th Obsession, which is impressive, though pricey. For more affordable wares, look to Recyklotron.

Chrome Mobile Earrings from Recyklotron, $20

Sterling Oval Modernist Earrings by Polly Stehman, circa 1960 from 20th Obsession, $225

Sterling Abstract Cast Earrings, circa 1960's from 20th Obsession, $150

Coro Necklace from Recyklotron, $30

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Theory #1: Bourdieu

"Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed." (from 'Distinction' by Pierre Bourdieu)

Unsolicited Advice #2: Wear Vintage Hair Combs

Vogue magazine cover from 1923

Trends #3: Nouveau Decau

Speaking of art deco, this 1920's woven silk furnishing fabric (available through Kathleen Taylor) is lovely:

As is this 1970's art deco inspired upholstery fabric:

Unfortunately, the recent resurgence of deco style fabrics has been less successful, as exemplified by these dumpy maternity shirts from Anthropologie.

Compare with this dress by Natalia Goncharova from 1924.

Trends #2: For The Birds

This feathery friend, which can be found on etsy, is merely the foreflier of a flock as vast as that which menaces the characters in Hitchock's The Birds. Why are birds, particularly those of the quasi-biblical swallow varitety featured in this necklace (from Sabine Cayet Tucci of Pudding), so ubiquitous?

This highly stylized little charm is one of many manifestations of a general return to the aesthetics of art deco.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unsolicited Advice #1: Wear Adjacent Colors

Disregard the disembodied voices warning you away from wearing more than one shade of a color. These bracelets' adjacent colors (kelly green, pea green, and olive) and contrasting materials (plastic, Bakelite, and wood) make them an appealing, if slightly unnerving, trio.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Trends #1: Hideous hybrids

The above featured abomination, hybrid offspring of ballet slipper and Converse tennis shoe, is characterized by playful canvas prints, toes "dipped" in rubber, and unconventional fastening devices. This cheeky shoe dares you to call it ugly. I accept the dare.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Can insensate life forms really be held accountable for their tastefulness?

The answer is yes. This specimen of Philodendron scadens, also known as "Sweetheart Plant" or "Parlor Ivy" is an especially egregious offender. Seduced by the facility with which Philodendron scadens can be grown from cutting, many an unsuspecting home decorator is victimized by this cliched citizen of the vegetable kingdom. Other unfortunate choices include the Asparagus fern, Dumb cane, Peace lily, Schefflera, Ficus benjamina, Spider plant, and Table fern.