Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Ranch: Alexa

When my six year old cousin waltzed in wearing a Hello Kitty sweatshirt and purple skinny jeans, all my longings for my lost childhood returned.

No sane adult would dare to wear that HK sweatshirt and those rainbow knee-high converse. 

But, when you're six, you can rock it.

You also just get to play all day, with the big kids.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dress well, test well: Zach Santonil

I apologize for not posting more recently. University life has a tendency to explode during the months of November and December.

Today, I ran into Zach, triumphant from his first exam. He still had his Spanish textbooks in hand and looked the part of a victorious Charles Ryder, having emerged from weeks with his books to rejoin his dear friends.

Now to find Sebastian Flyte on campus.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cistercian Abbey

The picture of Texas Autumn: bare arms, bare legs, dead grass.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Haggar: Thomas

Thomas has the stylish academic down to an art. The pairing of a tweed jacket with a sweater vest, shirt and tie is classic.

But, he brightens what could easily become dour and stodgy by means of a yellow vest and a plaid shirt.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sign of the Times

As I was walking over to the Meyerson yesterday, I couldn't help being bowled over by the irony of this sign.

 A sign about enhancing the human experience, plastered onto a chain link fence, surrounded by cement and sky-scrapers--this is Dallas at its finest. Maybe if we say it enough, we'll start to believe the human experience is actually being enhanced! And, if we believe it hard enough, maybe it'll be true!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oak Lawn Coffee: Jane Ziolkowski

Coffee shops are one of those bizarre places that bridge the gap between the public and private. Because they are often furnished in a more comfortable way than a restaurant or a library, we tend to treat them as if they were a home. Yet, they are a public space. Another curious aspect of the coffee shop is that often the don't-ask-don't-tell deadpan expression of city living is abandoned. For once, it's okay to strike up a conversation with a stranger. You can high-five the barista. No big deal. 

This, I think, contributes to their appeal. It's as if we're rediscovering the agora

Oak Lawn has an especially nice atmosphere. I've never met so many friendly and kind employees as I have there: they seem to be universally interested in other people (and not just the cute customers). And, the whole shop is flooded with natural light which gives it a peaceful and relaxed feel.

The space is for the people, not the people for the space. This idea, I think, should also be reflected in fashion. Our clothes should point to our person; they should outline more vividly who we are (while hiding what communal living demands be hid). That's why dressing yourself is so tricky; it's like conversation or writing. You want to portray who you are, but it would be imprudent to go about publicizing the interior of your soul to the whole world.

My friend, Jane, for instance, has a talent for understatement. She is confident in simplicity, a virtue so often overlooked (especially by me). Her dark and unassuming outfit acts a frame for her beauty, directing attention to her face and hair rather than drawing attention to itself. 

You're not so distracted by what she's wearing that you forget about the person beneath.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Direction Home

Lately, I've been finding that the song 'Down in the Valley'  by the Head and the Heart just keeps going through my head. 

Now, you might be wondering why that matters. 'Very good, Rebekah,' you say, 'I'm glad you have a penchant for neo-folk. That's just another artificial aspect of our society that you continually bemoan.'

Well, yes, legitimate point. But, the yearning at the heart of this music, and even the artificiality of its generation both point to an ever increasing problem in our society.

We are a culture completely devoid of expectations placed upon us from the outside.

In 'Down in the Valley,' the singer comments how he wishes he were 'a slave to an age-old trade.' There is something comforting and beautiful in continuing in a tradition, even if it means renouncing choice.

And, that is precisely the point. Most of us, from the beginning of the age of reason, have been told we could be whatever we want to be. We were read books about how we could be astronauts or the president. We watched movies in which characters struggled to break free from the restrictive shackles of 'traditional' societies.

And, as a result, we are actually left with nothing to start from. No guidance. No tradition. Just fairytale goals that leave us terrified of 'settling.'

Consequently, we are also incapable of really sinking our teeth into any enterprise. Divorce rates are higher than ever. Many view serious relationships as a hindrance to their careers or to their traveling or to their 'finding themsleves.'

As a society, we have collectively thrown our traditions to the wind. We view taking care of our aging parents as an imposition. Children just get in the way of pursuing our personal goals. Living near our families might inhibit our opportunities. 

We have thrown away our homes.

And, consequently, we find ourselves further and further away from each other, speeding apart. We keep repeating that we are autonomous, that we don't need other people, that living our dreams will make us happy. 

But, it doesn't.

And, thus, we are left homeless in the midst of our luxury.

In The Brothers Karamazov, the Elder Zosima comments:

The world has proclaimed freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs: only slavery and suicide! For the world says, 'You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them'--this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom. But what comes of the right to increase one's needs? For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; for the poor, envy and murder.... 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Carpenter Hall: Olivia Cole

When I see Olivia in this outfit, I imagine her smugly walking through the streets of an unknown city, coat pulled tight around her body, heedless of the scruffy-looking locals watching her with suspicion. 

But, instead of kicking down the door of a sketchy little joint on a side street and demanding justice, she sweetly steps into a tea shop off of Main and orders a cup of Earl Grey.

Ladylike, but in control.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Dallas

I saw this on WALKABLE Dallas-Fort Worth and was excited about the idea: 

Thank you, googlemaps. The arrow is pointing to IH 345.
 Let's rip out IH 345, which divides Downtown from Deep Ellum and reinstate the traditional urban grid. The movement points out that the purpose of transportation is bringing people and goods together, not driving them apart. And, a gigantic highway through town drives people apart, literally. 
Big D, in the fifties.

Would this be better than building more parks over highways? Yes, yes it would.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


So the other night, I decided it would be a good idea to remove my scarf from my neck and put it on my head.  This, I subsequently realized, was an excellent decision. I also baked a pumpkin pie and drank pumpkin beer, both of which were also good decisions (don't worry, I wasn't drinking alone).

Emma S. goes Emma Peel with her neon cheetah-print dress and bright pink turban.

Wrapping one's head (I hesitate to say, 'wearing a turban,' because I might be accused of 'cultural appropriation,' even though wearing some sort of scarf around one's head is a fairly universal custom that has been practiced by both men and women all over the globe. I could keep going about this... but whatever) needs to make a comeback.

It's freakishly comfortable and just weird enough to turn heads.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Tallest Man on Earth

If you spend much time around me, you've probably realized that I am obsessed with The Tallest Man on Earth right now. Kristian Matsson has a delightfully raspy voice and a skillful hand at the guitar.

Although he's from Sweden, he writes in English. But, he writes well. Matsson's brand of neo-folk is not the trite, not-quite-Biblical nonsense that Mumford and Sons has been churning out. It is delicate, understated, and beautiful; it does not require overly dramatic banjo bridges to get its point across.

Indeed, Matsson conveys an immense soul all by his lonesome. Just one man and a guitar.

Oh, and did I mention? He rides horses.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bob Dylan: musical fashion icon

Earlier I wrote a post about William Faulkner as a fashion icon for UD men. Well, this post is a continuation in that theme. 

 There is another and notable brand of man at this school. This kind does not model himself off of pipe-smoking Southern gentlemen. Rather, he takes as his icon Bob Dylan.

Disheveled shirts, old blue jeans, a cigarette, and expressive eyebrows, these are his accoutrements of choice.

Chances are, he will also adorn himself with a guitar, or maybe a mandolin. He is known to skip class on occasion, generally for the purposes of playing music. He may be mistaken for a hobo.

I'm sure you can think of some names.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Carpenter Hall: Dr. Grewal

We all know Dr. Grewal is one of the best-dressed faculty members at this school.

I love how she combines school-girlishness (the oxfords, knee-highs, floral buttons on her sweater) with subdued elegance.

She's just too cute. And she knows Greek.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Mall near Braniff

He looks so picturesque there with hat and book.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Backward Dallas

Today, Claire S. and I skipped over to Uptown for a coffee, studying, and an impromptu architectural excursion. Uptown is a very strange area: on one block, you have adorable little bungalows, shaded by spreading pecans and oaks. 

And, the next block, you're dwarfed by the inhuman scale of the high rises.

Claire bemoans the loss of human scale.
But, this really is no surprise for Dallas' brand of urbanism. The city is obsessed with the big and the flashy. Think of the Stanley Korshak, just a few blocks away. 

Photo cred Claire S.
Or 'Monument Valley' over in the Arts District (Larry Speck gives it that title on his blog here, which Claire S. referred me to). But, Dallas' charm does not lie in its magnificent, if not ridiculous shopping malls, and its monumental theaters by I.M. Pei and other famous architects. 

Photo cred Claire S.
Rather, it lies in the care and attention its residents take to make it a beautiful place. Take the above door (just the door, all by its lonesome) for instance. It was made by a craftsman, not an architect. But, it brings to its home all the elegance and charm that the Winspear Opera House decidedly lacks. While the Opera is loud (pun intended) and ostentatious (it glows red, for crying out loud), there is nothing that denotes real craftsmanship in its construction. It is yet another gigantic monstrosity, constructed over its iron skeleton.

But, the houses, on the other hand, are filled with personal details. Claire and I were especially impressed by this red-brick Queen Anne. It's nice how the house is built up from the street level, thereby establishing a sense of liminality. It is in a separate sphere from the banal goings-on of the street.

The porch is another delightful feature of the house. Front porches so often become absurd and useless features that are meant to establish a sense of old-school charm but that really just waste space. But this porch, however, is clearly beloved and used. The potted plants and the outdoor furniture suggest the care and concern the residents have for their home. 

Moreover, it's wide enough that it can comfortably hold chairs, and people can actually turn their seats towards each other. Rather than serving as an awkward perch from which to survey passing promenaders, this porch is a place that can foster conversation and camaraderie.

I think what is most charming about this house is that it looks like a home. The house itself is beautiful, but it's the attention to detail that really makes it. The owners painted the porch and the window-trim blue, thereby adding coherence and contrast.

They allowed vines to grow up on their walls and to break the otherwise jarring expanse of red.

They have a cat who sits picturesquely in their windows. In short, they have a home.

There were other charming houses in Uptown. But, they lacked the familiarity and personality of the red Queen Anne. Many (like the one pictured above) had been turned into law offices or doctor's offices or psychoanalyst's offices.

And, although it's nice that they're being preserved by their respective office-keepers, it's tragic that their yards are empty of children, their windows devoid of cats, their porches unused.

Somehow, the takeover of the office is the most heinous and abusive defamation of old houses. Shops, at least, and restaurants still hum with human interactions and provide a venue for interpersonal exchange. But, the office sterilizes an environment. You may haphazardly walk into a shop or greet your neighbor from the street, but you will not haphazardly walk into a law firm.

That said, some of the residents of Uptown are still doing their best to keep their streets charming. And, that is all one can do. Creating a beautiful environment does not require building newer and more impressive buildings or imitating (might I say, bastardizing?) the grandiose style of some bygone era. Rather, it requires humanizing the inhuman, personalizing the impersonal, and creating a space in which it is clear that individuals live. 

As JPII would say, it's the personalist principle. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Texas is not DFW

I went home last weekend, because, well, let's face it, the DFW area can be a little depressing. Unless you like vast expanses of cement and traffic noise, living here may not be optimal for you. But, Texas is not just the DFW area. 

A few miles from my home; photo cred goes to Mark Spearman.
Much of Texas is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Though people often bemoan the brutal flatness of the landscape, the above image is a reminder of how even that flatness serves as a conduit for beauty. The expanse of the Texan sky is truly without peer.

And, what is the purpose of saying this? Am I just trying to defend my home from the yankee critics? No. The answer lies in the surprise of the thing: one learns not to expect beauty from the barren, toasted dirt of Texas. But, beauty has a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. When the sweltering sun has baked you. When the grass is dead in the pasture. Then, of a sudden, a ray of light gapes through a distant thunderhead, and the heavens pour forth upon the land. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

But really, UD...

As I wandered into work this morning, I was greeted by a forlorn Dr. Maurer. 'Have you seen what they're doing to the trees?' I hadn't, so he said, 'Well, go downstairs and see' as he marched off. And, this is what I saw. 

Around the oaks, the only adornments of sinking Carpenter, lay piles of oaken branches. 

And more piles. And more. 

And, all I could think was, 'Why, UD, why?'

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Capp Bar: Celia

I love the way Celia combined a mustard pencil skirt with a royal blue polka-dot blouse. This is possibly one of the prettiest color combinations of all time. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

William Faulker: literary fashion icon

If you've spent any time at this school, you've probably realized that the men like to grow mustaches (or beards) and smoke pipes.

It makes them feel something like William Faulkner. That's nice. He was manly and wrote books about killing bears. Very cool. He also wore tweed. Also cool.

But, as the French say, l'habit ne fait le moine. A dashing mustache and pipe may not make you Faulkner (though it might help), but a well-fitted jacket and tie will make you look good.