Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Serial: Captain America #5

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I have noticed something about the Muslim ladies in Boston. One is that they can walk around downtown without being honked at by rednecks. This reinforces my feeling that I have moved to the correct part of the country. I used to wear a scarf wrapped like a hijab in Flagstaff to keep the snow off of my hair, and I got a billion times more asshole attention on the street than I ever did when wearing a micro-mini sundress.

Two, they somehow manage to find clothing that fits them properly. I am awash in a sea of people who have no idea how anything is supposed to fit and guess with questionable success, and yet the ladies in headscarves are wearing pants that do not drag on the ground, and shirts whose shoulder seams sit correctly, that don't end three inches too early when you happen to have boobs.

I figured out through experimentation that it is culturally acceptable to tell them you like their hijab -- they take it about like 'I like your hat' -- but I never have asked any of them where they shop for clothing. I figured the internets would provide, and indeed they have. A lot of them are just ordinary retailers that sell shirts with longer hems and pants with reasonable rises, but there are a few couture sites out there as well.

One of the ones that caught my eye is Inayah. Their prices are quite reasonable, even on worldwide shipping, and while some of their dresses would be overwhelming on someone not used to such voluminous garments, some of them are flat out gorgeous. Their lookbook is absolutely stunning. I'm someone who routinely wears outfits that have to be taped directly to my boobs for legal reasons, and I'd love to have one of their Reena evening gowns.

The Muslim fashion world seems to be one of the few places where you can always find wide-leg work trousers and palazzo pants. I like low-rise jeans as much as the next girl, but there's a lot to be said for the classics. Inayah also carry a lot of outerwear, so if you're one of those people who likes floor-length kimono cardigans and understated dusters, they've got a lot.

Monday, March 23, 2015

You all may have noticed that I am a sucker for police procedurals on TV. They're basically the only thing I care enough to watch all the way through. Jazmin and I are watching Cold Case -- to be strictly accurate, I'm watching Cold Case, she's sitting here tolerating my terrible taste in television and remarking occasionally on the music choices.

I refuse to feel bad for digging up this series online. The gimmick is that the flashbacks of what happened during all of the cold cases they work on are presented in period-accurate fashion. Cases in the 1970s are rusty red, mimicking the bias of television cameras of the day. Cases from the 1950s are shot to look like film, some pieces like 16mm home movies. One case from the mid-1980s has chroma separation errors, as if shot on a primitive camcorder. A much more recent case has flashbacks that reek of crap cell phone video. The costumes are accurate. The settings are beautiful. The dialogue is surprisingly accurate.

And all of the music is Top 40 hits from the appropriate year, which is why this thing is never, ever going to get a full legal DVD release. Music clearances would be astronomical. It's the same problem Daria had, except that it would work even less well to replace the music with pastiche covers, because the lyrics are quite often a commentary on the case at hand.

Jazmin is laughing at me, because the case on at the moment is from 1995, and I know all the words. I think she was somewhere in early grade school at the time. I was fourteen, and pop music had just about started to sink in. I wasn't a hundred percent into the grunge scene; I was a wee bit too young to care when Kurt Cobain died, and I have always been about zero percent in favor of that one particular style of alterna-grunge that involves wailing the entire song flat. Never been a fan of Alanis Morisette, or Sheryl Crow.

So far they've played Sophie B Hawkins, "As I Lay Me Down To Sleep"


...which sounds like nothing else on the album, nor anything else she's ever done, which kinda explains why I've never heard of her again.

And a couple of Hootie & The Blowfish songs:



They missed out on a few other things that were incessantly on the radio that year,


What things have gotten stuck in your head beyond all attempts to dislodge?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Well, that was over quickly. I got to my first trial day as a magician's assistant and discovered that he thought he was going to start my training by locking me into a cabinet I'd never seen before and letting me find my own way out (no), and that he thought that not only was he allowed to paw me whenever he wanted without my leave, but that it was necessary for a working relationships (hell no).

So, no, I do not work for a magician now. At least not that one.

On the other hand, I did confirm that my working knowledge of stage magic is still fine. He sent me off to watch David Copperfield's "Origami" trick, which I'd never seen before, and tell him how it worked. Evidently he was amazed at how simple it was when he saw the plans for it, once upon a time. It didn't look that complicated to me in the first place. Anyone else has a guess, feel free to leave it in the comments. The YouTube resolution is crap and doesn't help, but you can figure it out without HDTV.

(I signed a three-sentence NDA to get into his workshop in the first place that was so vague as to be legally unenforceable, but I'm a sport and I won't tell you how any of his stuff worked; on the other hand, I signed no such thing for David Copperfield, or anyone else on TV, so have at. If you want to work them out the same way I did, I got my initial education in serious stage magic from the Big Secrets series of books by William Poundstone, when I was a wee nipper rummaging through my parents' bookshelves for summer reading. I've read a lot of things since then, but Poundstone provides a surprisingly good, if also very snarky, rundown of the basic principles of illusion in the chapters on famous magicians.)

Mr. Magician seems to have made the decision that I worked for him and was going to listen to him the second he got me on the phone. He was surprised and displeased when I crossed my arms and refused to get into the goddamn trunk. The other assistant assured me that it was simple to figure out once you were inside -- which I knew; none of these things are complex to operate, because you have to be able to do it very quickly in order to make the trick look smooth on stage -- but fuck if I was going to set a precedent like that. He kept trying to explain his point of view. I told him I was well aware of his point of view, but that his options were to tell me how it worked before I got in, to send me home and let me figure it out on my own time, or to hire someone else.

I let him talk at me for another hour or so -- he was paying me for my time, to his credit -- but resolutely stayed out of the trunk. It crossed my mind to wonder how many girls would have caved just to make him stop rambling. I recognized that if he wanted me to start that quickly, he obviously needed an assistant way more than I needed another job, but I don't know if everyone else notices things like that.

(Also, for the record, the second anyone says the words 'I don't want you to feel pressured' to me in a conflict like this, the first thing I think is 'horsefeathers'. If you don't want me to feel pressured, you'll either concede on the spot or table it and talk about something else. He was trying to make me make a decision right that moment, and he was trying to make me fear that if I didn't agree to what he wanted I'd lose the job/the money/his approval. Fuck that.)

I also recognize that I have the advantage of being Very Very Scary. I try to come off as friendly and easy-going and reasonable, because mostly I am, but I'm also aware that even when I succeed at that, people detect an undercurrent of formidable that I couldn't do anything about even if I wanted to. When I put my foot down, people generally notice that, whatever one of my talents or qualities they're trying to get access to, I have enough of it that I always have the option of walking away and using it on behalf of someone else.

They are under the impression that there tends to be a line for this sort of thing, and they are generally correct. Don't think for a second I don't understand why I've been allowed to grow such colossal bunny ears, or why nobody has made any serious efforts to lop them off. A large part of it is that I don't use the weirdness punitively -- I'm not House, thanks -- but it helps when the trade-off for 'does not do mornings' is 'turns in brilliant work via email at 3am'.

Sometimes they try to play chicken on the basis of finances. That used to work, but when I moved across the country I decided that I would rather starve than take a job that destroyed my mental or physical health. You won't give me paying work unless I put up with this thing that will make me miserable and land me in the ER again? Okay, hire someone else.

Unfortunately, this kind of exploitation is rampant in the entertainment industry. One of the reasons I didn't do much commercial work out west is that the two major markets there are Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and if you want to be treated with basic human respect even when you're low man on the totem pole, those are not the places you go. I still don't have an exclusive agent, because I will not work unless I retain the right to walk away from anyone who thinks their money buys them the right to treat me badly.
I appear to have a new job. Or, at least, a trial period at a new job. One of my friends mentioned that she knew a magician looking for a new assistant, oh hey you're a dancer do you fit the height restrictions? Yeah, sure, that sounds pretty cool. I'll give it a shot, let's set up a phone call and see what happens.

Next thing I know, I'm hired. Sight unseen. I had to send photos after the interview; he'd somehow got the idea that I was a blonde.

People keep doing that. Booking me for jobs -- including performance gigs and public-facing reception positions -- without ever seeing me in person. This weirds me out to no end. What the hell do I sound like over the phone that fills people with this bizarre confidence that I am clearly well-qualified for whatever work they want me to do, even though they have never met me before and have never seen me do any of the things they're asking? I could look like a shar-pei and trip over my own feet on a constant basis, for all they know. The only thing you can determine over the phone is that I don't have a lisp.

This particular magician does a lot of shows for the armed forces. He mentioned performing for Navy SEALs. Is this intimidating? Jazmin seemed to think so. Didn't occur to me until she said that. I also went and stripped for something like a thousand people at Hynes this past NYE without batting an eyelash. The intimidatingness detector in my brain is utterly broken and has been for a long time; I have no idea if he mentioned SEALs as an enticement or as a warning.

All I need is a law degree, I thought, and I really will be running the Wright Anything Agency.

Several other things occurred to me in quick succession after that.

  1. I am not qualified to run the Wright Anything Agency.
  2. Technically, Phoenix Wright isn't really qualified to run the Wright Anything Agency.
  3. Phoenix is a fictional character, and fictional people do not check references.
  4. It is becoming apparent that real people do not go around checking references, either. Real people, for some reason, believe things said to them on the phone.
Lesson learned: The way you become a consultant is by printing up a bunch of business cards that say you are a consultant, and telling people to call you when they have a problem that needs solving. Evidently this also works for modeling, hooping, burlesque, writing, acting, MUAH, and costume design. 

Second lesson learned: There is no such thing as useless information. I am pretty sure one of the reasons I was hired was that I correctly observed that the height restrictions I was given fit the standard plans for cabinet illusions like The Zig-Zag Woman and The Woman Without A Middle. I didn't think being obsessed with stage magic when I was a kid was ever going to amount to anything, especially since it's been decades since I've bothered practicing with cards or cups and balls, but I obviously underestimated how strange my life was going to get.

(Terrible corollary:
  1. Can I take the bar exam in the state of Massachusetts without sitting through law school first?
I have no idea, and am I resisting the urge to spend time looking it up.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Okay, so, I'm not dead. I've just been extraordinarily busy lately.

I've just finished costuming for the Post-Meridian Radio Players spring production. I know that 'costuming for radio' sounds like the kind of job they give you when they like you but are afraid you'll hurt yourself running out to get a bucket of prop wash and a box of grid squares, but I promise you, it's for real. I'm particularly proud of the costumes for The Mysterious Traveler, starring Austen Wright as The Woman, Michael Lin as The Gentleman, and Joev Dubach as The Thief, with Dave Baker and Naomi Hinchen on Foley. The Woman's costume was one of the few custom pieces in the show, for reasons that will be obvious if you are local enough to come see it in action. The hat has a matching decoration on the side facing away from camera, because anyone in a piece involving a theft by the gentilhomme cambrioleur Arsène Lupin must, by definition, look well put-together.

Not visible are The Gentleman's cuffs, upon which are some glittery faux-cufflinks, as he is referred to several times in the script as 'the toff', and he needed to look the part; and not caught properly by the camera are The Woman's full bustle, which matches the skirt, and the fact that her collar brooch has a center of pearls and cut-glass beads. Austen is also an incredibly good sport when I bring up things like corsetry, and teaching her fellow actors how to lace her into it when I'm not around.

Also my doing -- although mostly by arranging to borrow things from cast members, other volunteers, and the MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players -- were the costumes for The Scarlet Pimpernel. With a cast of thousands (well, a dozen, close enough for our purposes) including Justus Perry as Sir Percy Blakeney and Kristen Heider as Marguerite, Eric Cheung as Andrew Ffoulkes, Jackie Freyman as Suzanne, Martha Putnam-Sites as Chauvelin, Jeremy Holstein as Desgas, and Tom Champion, Lucas Commons-Miller, Jessica Conger, Lori-Anne Cohen, and Catherine Bromberg as everyone else in the damn novel, Not very visible in this photo are all the ribbon widgets I made for them: revolutionary cockades as required, and pimpernels for Sir Percy and the Foley team. Marguerite is also wearing a daisy clipped into her hair, because this group approves of terrible puns.

I dug up a pair of silk handkerchiefs for Sir Percy and the Prince of Wales to flap foppishly at one another in the scene where Percy regales the crowd with some doggerel about the Pimpernel. Lucas dubbed it their "battle of (t)wits". It is like watching Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent play dueling drolleries with Hedonismbot. I am proud of having helped contribute that little bit of absurdity to the world.

They asked me to handle wardrobe in the first place because last summer, when I played the murder victim in their Sherlock Holmes piece, I did not go out to Goodwill and come back with a vaguely adequate dress. I turned up in a ruffled blouse, waist cincher, crinoline, long skirt with polonaise, velvet jacket, and prairie boots. All of which I either already owned or ran up out of discount fabric in a couple of days. The polonaise even had pockets in it, so I wouldn't go completely insane or misplace my phone and lip balm and spare bobby pins and whatnot.

When I am tasked with costuming, I do not fuck around.

I seem to be developing a reputation for this sort of thing. I dug up two completely different flapper costumes for Speakeasy Circus -- and a cocktail dress for the time I turned up as a regular patron -- without much trouble. I had to by a $10 cloche for one of them, but other than that I owned all the pieces already. I jammed the cloche, and the Clara Bow skirt and drop-waist sweater, onto Jazmin for the time I roped her into volunteering with me, too. I think I have managed, for a year and a half now, to turn up to assorted shows and events without ever repeating a dress.

My clothing rack is a sight, especially since Suki paid me for a photoshoot in what turned out to be, when unpacked, an entire sofa full of formal gowns. (They compress well. There is a lot of tulle involved.) My only concern is that I don't want to be too known for dressing people, or no one will ever bother to cast me in anything again.