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Up on the Catwalk

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a story about Italy's attempts to ban too-thin models from Milan's fashion events:

"We believe we can favor models with a sunny, Mediterranean image, not fragile young women," Mr. Boselli [the head of the National Chamber for Italian Fashion, an industry group] said in an interview. "Optimistic-looking models are in line with Italian fashion."
This group has no actual authority and is reacting preemptively to the recent death of model Ana Carolina Reston from anorexia, so some cynicism as to what difference this will make in the long run may be warranted -- industry groups don't exactly have much incentive to enforce their voluntary guidelines; usually these announcements are meant to generate news stories (like this one) and disseminate the vague idea that the industry cares and is in the process of changing for the better. Whether or not anything actually changes will probably be determined by whether or not the sort of people who buy expensive clothes and send fashion ideas trickling down the trend chain hold them accountable. The article concludes with some taste-makers from American fashion magazines saying reasonable things.
If the movement does gather momentum, it could change the ways fashion houses design the clothes and looks that define their image world-wide. Some experts say it would actually bring looks more in line with what women associate with real, glamorous lifestyles. "I don't think that the public at large takes that many cues these days from the world of high fashion," says Sally Singer, fashion news and features editor at Vogue. "They're looking at celebrities and Hollywood -- what's cool for the public is filtered more through the celebrity lens these days. People buy fashion off the backs of famous people wearing them, not what a 14-year-old Eastern European model is wearing." Tom Julian, senior vice president and director of trends at McCann Erickson, says it does "add fuel to the fire" that Italy is drafting this charter. "If discussion of this topic continues in a global sense, it will challenge the American marketplace to rethink this -- we could see a visual shift from perfect models and aspirational lifestyles to more reality-based imaging," he says.

That would be nice, but let's face it, fashion is not about "reality-based" anything. And if you remove aspiration from the fashion industry, nothing would be left -- the whole industry revolves around manufacturing aspiration and distinction. Otherwise we'd all be wearing sensible shoes and comfortable, loose-fitting garments. Fashion is primarily a vehicle for vicarious fantasy, for aspirational daydreams about leisure, impracticality, luxury, and indulgence. It's about impossibility, and right now thin models connote that (at the ultimate price of their own health) the way fat models probably connoted an impossible plentitude to Rubens's patrons. The discussion going on is likely a distraction, while business in fashionland will go on as usual. It seems that post-production techniques can be used on photos to make them evoke the impossible without anyone having to starve themselves; but using women with actually impossible physiques is where the industry embraces an ethos of authenticity to underwrite the frivolity of the rest of the enterprise. The models suffer to provide that germ of reality upon which the rest of us can build the fantasies.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

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Mixing some bland "alternate" and "film" versions of Whitney Houston's six songs included on The Bodyguard with exemplary live cuts, this latest posthumous collection for the singer focuses on pleasing hardcore fans and virtually no one else.

No matter how much it gets talked about, dissected, dismissed, or lionized, it's still damn near impossible to oversell the impact of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

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