Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back from London/Off to Glasgow

I just returned from a couple of days with the glamorous, talented and wonderful Jenny at the Palace of Solitude--and what a palace it is. After meeting in Highgate Monday night, we chatted our way back to the PoS and then met up last night with a group of friends from University, some of whom I hadn't seen in more years than I want to calculate. All of them were as wonderful now as then--it's just incredible that so much time passed and yet it was as though it was yesterday that we were hanging out in Whitstable, Canterbury and Herne Bay. Jenny brought along some amazing photos, including the one of me with a tray on my head, another with Paul wearing a Tippex moustache and goatee and one where I'm wearing large toy sunglasses and have some kind of spoon in my mouth. Lots of party pix, some graduation pictures that I've never seen (for some reason, Dad didn't bring a camera or may have taken photos he didn't develop). There was even one of my friend Bruce and I in our gowns--alas, that would be the last time I saw him but I hear he's doing well.

I went to the Imperial War Museum yesterday and it deserves a separate post. If you are ever in London, go. There's a WW I trench, complete with sounds and smells, an entire 1940-1 house, an amazing evacuation exhibit (my Mum was evacuated as a baby in the latter round of evacuations during the Blitz), a blitz exhibit where you go into an air raid shelter during an attack (again sounds and smells are reconstructed). Plus the three Holocaust floors are both informative and moving. Plus the WWI exhibits put that battle in the clearest historical context I've seen (confession--one chapter in my book is on WWI). Plus the gardens are beautiful. And it is all free, except for special exhibits. I was there for over three hours and could have seen more. I also found great granddad's name in the computer database listing the Blitz dead which was important to me--and to my Dad.

I'm off to my conference tomorrow, so I'm typing in corrections now, working on my Powerpoint slides and generally wondering where the time has gone--and where the summer has gone. We're nearly half way through already.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I'm going to the V&A and Imperial War Museums tomorrow. I was looking at the exhibits (and the exhibit shops) and found this at the V&A. I may not be buying dresses this month, but this little cotton number for £75 in an art nouveau fabric demonstrates just one of many reasons why the V&A is so amazing--and possibly my favourite museum in the world. Free admission, great exhibits, great collections et al don't hurt.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Birthday Present

I woke up this morning, another year older, alas, but with a nice surprise. Not a cup of coffee in bed from Mum and Dad (that's customary when I'm home), but an email from my pilates pal Nelson letting me know that NY State had approved gay marriage.

 It's one of my pet causes and I just hope the remaining 44 states recognize gay marriage soon--and offer full marriage rights to gay couples. It's a really good reason to celebrate, especially with this being gay pride weekend.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Itty Bitty Kitties

I recently added another favorite blog to the blogroll--the itty bitty kitty committee. It's the site of some of the world's sweetest kitten photos, but it's also a great cause. All the kittens are fostered (and lovingly cared for by the resident cat, Charlene Butterbean) and most are very young orphaned litters. They are currently having a fund raiser for cats and dogs in the Tacoma, WA area. Today's funds are going to senior cats who are close to my own heart as I am the mum to a teenage kitten. If you can go over to and donate just a small sum, it would be for a great cause.

As for my trip, I'm home with my parents and working on this paper still. Today was a touch warmer so I'm in a summer dress (Philip Lim, purple silk) and green Hue tights. It's now dinner then back to work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lovely Day

I can't quite believe day 2 is already over--it's not just that the time has gone so quickly already but that time itself seems to have moved differently. Have I been here two days or three or just one? All I know is that it has been lovely.

Today was a quintessentially English day. Sue and I planned to get out early and be at a National Trust house by 11 (we didn't quite make it on time as we were chatting in her kitchen). As we got there, it started to rain--but this was typical English rain in the grounds of a typical English country house/stately home so it didn't really bother me. Instead, the idea of being a little damp, pottering through lime groves and walled gardens, looking at beds of hollyhocks, delphiniums and lupins, matching the names with the hens (Madame Poulet, Mildred and the girls) and then warming up in the cafe with home made soup (using ingredients from the organic walled garden) all just seemed perfect. So that's what we did. I took photos too but as my cord is in Queens, I just pulled a few from the internet that missed that lovely drizzle against which the variety of greens just look their greenest. I'll post my photos next month.

Here's the outside of the house and the lake:

After lunch, we went around the house itself--it's not as large as it looks above as it is a pretty shallow building (much of the Tudor original was demolished in the 17th century when the horribly inappropriate portico was added). There were a fair number of rooms to see, a chapel, an oak gallery and there's apparently a hidden chamber that isn't accessible. The National Trust volunteers were as sweet and helpful as ever, with one woman telling us about the 1520s nobility whose heralds and emblems filled the oak gallery, while another man showed us Regency menswear--embroidered waistcoats, frock coats and a full suit.

We just finished the house in time to drive back for the school run. And then it was, in quick succession, dinner, reading, a little television and now bed.

Off to my parents' house tomorrow. Time is certainly flying.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


After a super-early start yesterday, I actually made it to bed around midnight BST and pretty much adjusted myself to the time difference. I got to the airport in plenty of time to do my manual check in--which turned out to be about 30 seconds at a kiosk (swipe passport, enter last name, ticket prints out). So early was I that an hour and a half before boarding I started wondering why the check in crew hadn't arrived until I remembered my flight was at 9.35 not 8.35 am. By this point, I'd read one magazine already.

So now I am home--or rather with dear friends. It's always nice to be at this stage in the trip where everything lies ahead, even as I realize in the blink of an eye I'll be back. With this in mind, I savoured walking off the plane, the long walk to immigration, the quick scan of my passport and the familiar path down to customs. Even jetlag is acceptable when you know it is part of the hallmark of being home and having all those days in front of you.

I am currently staying with some of my dearest friends. We're going into Farnham soon--my first real trip out of their house since I've been back. The morning was spent talking. Two meals, one night, one morning down already. Time will certainly fly--that I know.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I am leaving for England tomorrow morning so I made sure I was on the computer bright and early to select my seat and check in, something that should be very simple. Only it wasn't. I got as far as pressing check in and kept getting error messages about my itinerary not being supported. So, I called American Airlines (I'm actually flying BA on an AA plane), who transferred me three times--the first person was an idiot and clearly wanted to get me off the phone and put me through to international who were as confused as I was. Then I finally spoke to someone who seemed to have some knowledge who said they couldn't help because it was a BA ticket. I then called BA who couldn't help because it is an American flight.

If the airlines want to run code shares their computers should be fully coordinated so you can check in via the airline that sold you your ticket (in my case, BA). If there are problems, you should be able to talk directly to an IT representative. Fares are at an all time high and I now have to get up even earlier tomorrow to check in at the airport. I have wasted 2 hours this morning and not been able to go to pilates and feel my blood pressure rising. I didn't pay over $1,000 for this ticket to be treated this way--with fares so crazily high, the least they can do is treat people as though they value them. I know it isn't a new observation but the airlines treat their customers like scum and certainly if there was a good alternative out there I'd take it. BA used to be so great--the only good things about them now are their fabulous cabin crew (who they continue to screw over), their good flight times (morning flights to the UK) and the fact that they are somewhat better than the terrible American carriers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


When I write, there is an early point where it all flows nicely, followed by a stage of despair and struggle as I juggle too many ideas while thinking that I may also be short of material (this is particularly acute when dealing with archival material and lost films). Then there is the problem of reading back what I've written and wondering if it makes any sense. I don't think I'm alone in feeling stuck, useless and a failure when I hit this mark--and we all do. I think it's why people get blocked and give up.

Fortunately, today I just moved through this impasse that's been afflicting me this last couple of days. With the voice of reason (my mother?) in my head, I just moved through it slowly. It was like swimming in molasses--painfully slow and at times seemingly an exercise in futility. But the pages grew, even if in forms I wasn't entirely sure would work.

Reading my work back today some doesn't make sense, some parts need to be moved, cut, condensed, clarified, but there is, finally, a shape emerging. The next part won't all be fun but some of it will and now I am energized to finish this on Friday if possible. I even think there is not just a paper there (as well as a conference paper--or maybe two papers) but some material that is central to the book and its overall argument.

An Observation

One of my current research projects involves fashion blogs (although I'm focusing strictly on the well known varieties like Style Rookie, The Man Repeller, Chic Muse, the Glamourai, Sea of Shoes). I'm discussing them in the ridiculously ambitious conference paper I'm writing right now (and presenting all too soon), in an essay I'm writing for a fashion and media anthology and as part of the conclusion to my femininity book. All well and good--the field is pretty open, and I hope I can be one of those to help conceptualize its terms, particularly vis-a-vis femininity.

But it is challenging spending mornings/afternoons/evenings reading and writing about fashion blogs when you've vowed off clothes spending (albeit not accessories--as I said, I need those sandals but not yet and not at that price). I know that most of the bloggers mentioned above are either rich or so well known that they don't have to spend much of their own money on clothing, but seeing so many outfits not only exposes me to unknown designers, it also makes me think about the sheer joy of acquiring and owning so many clothes. I think this excess is part of the appeal of shopping, blogs and fashion more generally--simply the changes, the variety, the promised mutability of the body engages something that seems to be central to at least a form of femininity that I identify with. When I was a little girl, a friend of my mother's gave me a doll and a huge box of clothing that her daughter had grown out of. It wasn't Barbie but a younger doll. It wasn't that I was so struck by one dress or even the doll--it was the mound of possibilities. And I remember the thrills of dressing, undressing, combining and recombining outfits.

This change, variety and play echoes both the fun of dress-up day (which I remember so vividly from my first year at school) and the fashion blogs themselves. I'm a horrible fashion blogger--I veer away from the topic (am I even a fashion blogger if I write about film, food, everyday life and the weather?), I don't take enough photos and when I do, I forget to post them. But part of that is time. I'm not 15, 19, 22. I have, in short, responsibilities.

I also have something else that most of these bloggers don't have. Thighs. Looking at their long thin legs in minis, skinny jeans, tulip skirts, bandage dresses, leggings and shorts makes me wish I had the power (I don't even think its willpower at this point) to exercise and diet my body into these shapes.

Before I go back to work, I want to note that I have been a good girl. I may have looked up a few items but I am not spending. After all, a one-size fits all dress that looks good on a size 2 waif of 21 is hardly going to look so flattering on my older and thicker frame, although I wish I didn't have to type those last words.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


There have been very few dresses this season that appeal to me so I've been trying to shop my closet. After all, there are much coveted Mayle, Lyell, Rachel Comey, Thakoon and other dresses to wear, so I'm not going to spend for the sake of it. Although there are a couple of dresses I like, if I miss them it won't be a big deal. I am also spending much of my time writing (conference paper, articles, book proposal for books #2 and #3), so I really shouldn't be looking at online boutiques.

So, I'm challenging myself not to buy any dresses for a month (that's July 14). While the weather has been steamy, it doesn't look like it will heat up again before I go to England--and the forecast there isn't for unbearable heat.

I do, however, need sandals. My two pairs of basic everyday flats have worn through the soles and I am not sure if they are worth repairing. I'm hoping my Madewell sandals will be a good replacement but right now, I have a blister from wearing them yesterday and I'm hoping they will break in nicely. But I need something a little more dressy and have my eye on a Rachel Comey pair. They have to go on further markdown, however. With shoes that are not useful for everyday wear, I can't justify a major investment.

Much of this is about discipline. I intend to try to work for 2 hours most days when I'm home (although the conference and a few other days will not permit it), and go to a local zumba class. I want to manage my time better and accomplish my goals of a second book contract and five published articles by the end of next semester--and hopefully a couple of book chapters too. If I can finish the second book by the end of next summer, I'll be pretty happy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Food Day

Yesterday, Evan and I planned a Queens food walking tour to celebrate both our birthdays (his two weeks ago, mine in two weeks time). Given the wet and cold weather, the walking part was somehow curtailed but the eating remained. After my pilates and zumba classes (and a necessary shower) we headed out to Flushing to eat at Golden Palace, a Dongbei restaurant with ravishing food. I had my favorites (the dry sauteed green beans and the sauteed potatoes with garlic and green peppers--a dish that looks like a plate of spaghetti but is ridiculously tasty), Evan ordered an amazing shredded tofu dish with hot peppers and cilantro that looked like cold noodles and we split them, sharing an eggplant dish with friends that was not as spicy as the waitress claimed but was nonetheless delicious. I really had to restrain myself from eating more as I knew I'd never eat my dinner.

Given that this was indeed food day, it was surprisingly apt that our interim entertainment involved feeding small pieces of red velvet cake to Blue. Ashley had bought some deserts and Blue went crazy--unlike most cats, he is not lactose intolerant (in common with my last blue cat, Lupin), and he craves buttery cake. It's probably not the best thing for him to eat but we're responsible cat owners and only feed him high grade wet food (Wellness, grain free formulas like chicken or turkey), so the odd naughty treat is allowed. The other food-related fun came from watching Epic Meal Time videos on youtube (again, thanks to Ashley and Sam), which was pretty appropriate and fit in with the theme of the day.

Then we headed off to Sripraphai, my second favorite Thai, ate too much, and came back for mango margaritas (effectively alcohol-free for me)--made with fresh Haitian mangos courtesy of Alyssa, and pastries from Cannelle, courtesy of Evan. Queens is renowned for its great ethnic food, particularly Asian food, which happens to be my favorite. But while sticky rice and mango may be sublime and coconut pudding very tasty, I like my deserts Western and my savory food Eastern (except my bread which must be European). You don't really think of Queens for great pastries so when Evan told me about Cannelle I was very curious--it's this amazing French patisserie in a strip mall 15 minutes walk away run by the former pastry chef at the Waldorf Astoria. It lived up to its hype--I cut the 10 assorted pastries into 1/4s and 1/3s and can only say that it might be the best bakery in NYC. I particularly liked a yellow dome that turned out to be a mango/kiwi mousse pastry and a chocolate ganache desert, while Ben and Divya raved about a crunchy praline cream puff. Suffice to say, there were no leftovers. Here are four of the varieties we ate and loved.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

100 Degrees

It's only early June and we've had no spring. It's been cold, then a teaser of a 70 degree day, then bam it's 80s and humid. I thought that was bad but today was 93 and tomorrow is supposed to be 100. I know blogging about the weather is something only cranky old people do but I have work to do and the cats have already melted into the floor. It's too early for it to be 100 degrees, that's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This afternoon, I met up with two friends. First I had tea with Anna, which was so lovely. We chatted under some trees, discussed our work and lives and then all too soon, she had to get back to her errands. Then I walked over to Tisch where I met Cindy, who is briefly back in NYC for work. I was super excited to see her and think I may have talked to her too much and walked her feet off, given that she is still jet-lagged and working hard, despite her exhaustion. She got to see my office, we wandered around Soho and had dinner in Whole Foods, and the weather was lovely and mild. It was, indeed, a lovely break from writing and research. Cindy looked really beautiful and it was just wonderful to spend some time together.

Monday, June 6, 2011

1911 in 2011

Right now, it seems like I'm living more in the 1910s than 2010s. I don't mean this in any socio-political or economic sense, but rather a very specific cultural one.

I've spent the last week reading fan magazines from 1914-17--namely Motion Picture Magazine, Motion Picture Classic and Photoplay. Google digitized them, and the volumes are mainly from Stanford University's library, and are somewhat complete--fortunately I've read the complete 1917 Photoplay two years ago on paper via the amazing folks at Bobst's interlibrary loan as some key articles are missing. I should stress that this is research for the paper I'm currently writing--and against a really crazy deadline--so I'm trying to immerse myself in work. But some parts of it are a lot of fun.

Overall, I think the Classic is my favorite but I would subscribe to all three if they were still around--and still printing stories about Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, Valeska Suratt, Olga Petrova, Marguerite Snow, Anita Stewart, Violet Mersereau, the Gishes, the Talmadges, Anna Little, Ella Hall, Edith Storey, Beverley Bayne, Blanche Sweet, Carlyle Blackwell, Francis X. Bushman, J. Warren Kerrigan, Earle Williams, Harold Lockwood, Creighton Hale, Wallace Reid and many, many more. Indeed, I get the jokes, the puns, the references in ways I probably don't with some contemporary media.

In grad school, one of my (very) illustrious professors once admitted that he dated a check 1909. He didn't say when he made this error but my guess is in the 1980s, given his publications and research history. I've not gone that far, but I don't write that many checks these days. This is one of the strange little side effects of researching and writing history.

On Saturday, I went a little further back from my sweet spot of the mid-late 1910s. The Museum of the Moving Image is running the first of a series dedicated to New York filmmaking 100 years ago and I caught the first day's program. It will be three or four years or so before they hit the period I've been researching and I'm eagerly waiting to see what will be screened (hoping for interesting and more representative finds not the obvious choices of Chaplin and Birth of a Nation)

Ynes Seabury (little girl) in A Miser's Heart (Biograph, 1911)

Ironically this look back was something I shared in tandem with so many of the 1915-7 fan magazines, which recurrently look back to the (then) recent past and discuss the rapid changes in filmmaking and stardom. With Ashley and Candace, I watched two programs, interspersed with a walk around the museum (highlights included a working Vitaphone projector, complete with sound-on-disc records, a wall of fan magazines, reconstructions of the Roxy which is now, alas, a TGI Fridays in Times Square, and lots of posters, bulletins and other ephemera). My sense that I was truly living in 1916 was further reinforced by posters for a Carlyle Blackwell and Edith Clayton film, a Mutual-Reliance poster and photographs of Norma Talmadge and other circa 1915 stars. Norma also appeared in Vitagraph's star-packed A Tale of Two Cities which also featured Lillian Walker, Mabel Normand, Florence Turner, Maurice Costello, John Bunny, Ralph Ince, Julia Swayne Gordon, Anita Stewart, Edith Storey, Earle Williams--yes, practically every star on Vitagraph's roster at any time before 1917.

A Tale of Two Cities (Vitagraph, 1911)--Norma Talmadge visible in background.

As these were films made before players were credited (at least on the films themselves), and the original titles were lost in any event, it's not always possible to reconstruct the cast (and I noticed a few errors in player identification in the films we saw). But with the aid of my immersion in this period, I was able to recognize some actors, something that was easier with the ones I've seen on screen before.

Marguerite Snow

But others I'd never seen before other than on microfilm and the printed page. While her role in the Thanhouser film, Little Old New York was relatively short and undemanding, Marguerite Snow was a revelation and I'm going to look out for more of her work, if it still exists--she's pretty and elegant in fan magazines and portraits but tough, worldly wise and vital on screen, not to mention even more beautiful than in her still photos. The Griffith film, The Miser's Heart featured some unrecognizable actors--apart from Bobby Harron in a bit role, I didn't recognize any of them, but evidently a burglar was played by Lionel Barrymore--a point of contention among our group as the figure looked more like Ford Sterling or even a skinner Fred Mace. The child stars in all these films were stunning and unsentimental--Marie Eline I immediately recognized from The Cry of the Children, but Ynez Seabury was new to me. We decided she may be the most adorable child ever--even as a quick calculation demonstrated she had to be at least 104.

Florence La Badie

One of the Griffith films--Bobby the Coward--featured a strikingly beautiful and charismatic actress--a dark-skinned, dark-eyed and very self-possessed young woman. As Griffith is renowned for his fondness for delicate blondes, I was even more struck by her beauty and manner. I was even more surprised that she was an actress I'd liked from her stills and her slightly later work--Florence La Badie. One of the very first film stars to die at the height of her fame in 1917, in suspicious circumstances after a car crash--La Badie is an actress who interests me for her character--strong opposition to WW I, interest in mesmerism, active, adventurous and apparently a really nice person--and about whom I'd like to write an essay some day (if it wasn't for the fact that the resources are pretty limited). So it was pretty nice to see her charisma in this early example of her work--and to encounter her in a Griffith film when she is so different from his usual ingenues was also pretty interesting.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rachel Comey dress for sale

I'm selling my Rachel Comey dress, pictured below (photos from, size L. I haven't worn it--every time I put it on I realized it just didn't fit my body or lifestyle. Beautiful silk fabric and amazing sleeves, leather belt comes with dress. Asking $150 obo--if interested, email me at moya[dot]luckett[at]gmail[dot]com. I will also try to post more pictures of the dress soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mayle for Sale

I've decided to part with my Sylvestre re-edition as I have never worn it, other than to take pictures for this blog. I don't wear silk dresses in hot weather and I haven't worn this one on cooler days--and I've had the dress hanging in my closet for two years. It is a lovely dress and should go to a good home. Here are some pictures--I will post more soon. It is a size 6 and should fit a 4-8 because of the cut. I also have the original tag--this is a limited edition (number 4 of 5 dresses made).

 If you are interested, please email me at moya[dot]luckett[at]gmail[dot]com. I will be posting a few more dresses from Mayle, Rachel Comey and others very soon.

Here, in the meantime, are some photos--more pictures of this dress to follow.

Summer Clothing Dilemmas

As I mentioned, I've put on the weight I lost but it is distributed slightly differently. As a result, some clothes fit, some don't, and I can even get into a few items that were previously too tight. I'm on a vow of austerity anyway (too many other expenses, including lots of travel required for research and work) so I'm looking to see what works, what doesn't and what I should sell.

As I feared and predicted, the weather suddenly went from chilly to hot and humid. As this happened, I realized (as I do every summer) that a good deal of my pretty dresses simply don't work for NYC's climate--anything silk sticks to you as soon as the heat and humidity rise in tandem, anything with straps rather than covered shoulders causes my fair skin to burn, and realistically, the best dresses for this weather and my complexion have a slight sleeve. As a result, I've decided to sell a few of the sun dresses I haven't worn (or wore once) that don't do double duty as fall/spring items because they aren't warm enough for me. I'll be selling my madcap print Sylvestre reedition, much as it makes me sad, because I just don't wear it. It's a 6 and I'll post pictures soon. I'm also parting with the blue silk gingham Rachel Comey dress I bought last year because, again, it doesn't work for my body or this climate.

Despite my austerity pledge, I think I'm going to have to get those Madewell sandals I pictured a while back. My stalwart summer flats have been flipping back at the front, which I thought was a problem with cobblestoned streets, but it turns out I've worn through the soles so badly that I think they may be entirely beyond repair. For $50 two years ago (I got two pairs), they've done well---they were by Devotte and came from the now closed permanent sample sale store, Inventory.

But I am looking for a couple of cotton dresses--loose, drapey, with some coverage at the neck and shoulders. The best ones I've seen have been over $200 (the Ernie dresses that Cheryl blogged about are great) but I really don't want to spend that much, especially as I have so many clothes and am trying to be good and even downsize. It's not just the money, it's the principle of the matter--the need to discipline myself and live within the resources, including the space, that I have.

Every summer I wonder the same thing--why so few cotton and linen dresses given the reality of humidity for most of us in the Eastern half of the US? I know cotton prices have gone up but this isn't a new thing (the prices for Mayle's Elvira dress suggest I'm not alone in wanting a cotton dress for the heat and this dress sold out in the stores without going on sale). And also, why so few dresses that cover the chest--the shoulder strap thing asks for sunburn and when combined with cheap synthetics or even silk makes for a pretty sweaty and uncomfortable summer day. If we lived in 70-80 degree low humidity days, these would work, but that's not the climate for most of the US in June-August.

If anybody has any suggestions for reasonably priced cotton dresses, please let me know.