Programming and sewing

As someone who has been sewing since the age of 10 (that’s 20+ years) and programming Java since the mid-1990’s (yes I am old!), I am constantly amused at how similar the two activities are. In both practices, you are basically taking things apart and putting things together. Most people can envision how this works in sewing, but trust me, it’s not much different in programming. You put together smaller objects, like you would put together the pieces of a garment, and then you sew the objects together into a larger program. In sewing you finish off the edges so that things won’t unravel. In programming we do this by declaring final classes and static variables. In both you pick apart threads and you join threads together, which is never fun. OK the threads are already woven in sewing, but you still pick them apart sometimes. In both activities you have to patch things occasionally. In both we use patterns. These patterns are templates of how to do things to make something useful, and if the patterns are good, we use them again and again.

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A Wedding Gown pattern from the 1940s, from Vintage Patterns Dazespast Blog.

Finally, sometimes our sewing creations are a joy to create and turn out wonderful and useful, and sometimes they turn into a lumpy ugly mess that we spend lots of time reworking until we finally throw them away.

Can you think of other ways that programming and sewing are similar?

Guys in Eyeliner

I know that guys are breaking the gender rules of fashion a lot lately. They are shaving their chests, legs, wearing spandex pants, and plucking their eyebrows. I know all this because I work with the 25 year old set. But they missed the one thing that makes guys so cute – eyeliner!

Eyeliner was huge in the 80s, for women and men. I remember being really bad at it! I never got the hang of liquid eyeliner, so I tried with a pencil and just smudged it. But eyeliner was something that could make or break your goth look, or “death rock” as we referred to it in the 80s.

Think Robert Smith in “Let’s Go to Bed” or any other video that the Cure made. I think Robert Smith slept in his eyeliner!

And the adorable and witty Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh. Now he can do no wrong, so any amount of makeup would probably look good on him, but eyeliner suits him perfectly

There are many more who look great in eyeliner. Such as Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. Eyeliner? Well maybe he just looks like he’s wearing it, becuase his eyes are so beautiful!

And how about Prince? Now that man could wear some eyeliner! Eyes you could get lost in.


I guess that is why he made them into the Purple Rain poster, complete with the eyeliner. But maybe that’s a woman’s eyes. At any rate, it’s great eyeliner!

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rCvAIa8R2kA/TlEbyZllKNI/AAAAAAAAG0A/QreMJIwMERY/s1600/prince-pruple-rain-poster-postcard-front.png

So kids, that just goes to show, eyeliner looks great on anyone, at anytime. Now go practice!

I Was Waiting on a Moment

Does pop music need to go along with memories in your life? There is a lot of good pop music  – Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Flaming Lips, the list goes on, which I got into late and does not accompany any memories from my own life. I enjoy it just as music, for its own sake. It does not remind me of any lost lovers, or first time experiences, or nights out with my friends. It does not even remind me of some ground breaking new music genre discovery, because music genres have splintered so much or I don’t pay attention to them now.

Then there is the pop music that triggers those memories, like “She Sells Sanctuary” by the Cult. That reminds me of being in high school in Southern California, and going to the Scream and looking for the underground L.A. of Bret Easton Ellis, though we lived in working class Long Beach. Or Japan, “Obscure Alternatives”, which reminds me of 9th grade and played it on my headphones constantly, because I had discovered glam rock. Or “Los Angeles” by X, that reminds me of going to Melrose and the whole feeling of Melrose, L.A. sun beating down, bright pavement, kids in 50s dresses with red lipstick and driving old cars.  And not every song reminds me a new music discovery. There is “If There is Something” by Roxy Music, and I had just met this guy. We had been out all day and had gone back to his place. I was about to leave, because I didn’t feel anything for him. But then he put on this song and started kissing me and everything changed. We ended up being together for the next year.

And then there is Nick Cave. Nick has been with me for years. When I was 14 and my best friend gave me the “Mutiny” album by the Birthday Party, watching Wim Wenders films like the breathtaking “Wings of Desire” and being taken in by those scenes of Berlin and Nick Cave in the cavernous club while Solveig Dommartin danced in a dreamlike state and the dark carnival music. Or the other songs that went along with films, not really real experiences, but very powerful images that made a big impression when I was young, like  “Cat People” by David Bowie or “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and The Hunger and those great scenes with Bowie and Deneuve roaming after dark with sunglasses on, in search of blood.

I would love for Radiohead to be part of my identity and have that power over me, but the truth is that I feel like an outsider looking in with them. I know it had something to do with the 90s, and early 2000s, and penetrating dark traumatic feelings, and sex and sadness. It’s the kind of thing that I might have had experiences to, had I been born later. But to me it’s just good music.

Why do songs sound better when you have a memory to go with them? It’s not that they sound better, they just sound deeper. You did something to them, or they changed you at a time when you were young. They might have made you what you are. I think that a lot of people can’t imagine music without these associations, and that is why they stop listening to new music after their 20s, when they stop trying new things as much. But for us lifelong music fans, we just have to accept that as we get older the music will not be as personal. That doesn’t mean it won’t change us at all. Maybe music changes us even as we get older, and our life experiences are not so dramatic, but we don’t see those changes until later. I’d like to think that in 20 years I will realize that Radiohead really did become part of me, even in my 40s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeUJQvR7T0E

I Hate NJ

Update 2018 – I don’t hate New Jersey anymore. Actually I haven’t hated it in a long time, and the accent has grown on me too. I was grumpy the day I wrote this post, fighting with my boyfriend or something (but I still think most Springsteen songs sound like a truck commercial)

I’m in a very negative and honest mood today. The truth is – I hate NJ. I have been living here for the last 10 years. When I came here, I thought it was New England. I had lived in Boston for 3 years and liked it there. but I quickly learned that this is not Boston.

Why do I detest NJ?

Weather. It’s either freezing, like this winter which has been endless, or in the summer it’s a sticky swamp. There are a few pretty seasons in between, and the leaves do get pretty in the fall, but it never lasts long enough.

Another lovely day in Edison, NJ
Another lovely day in Edison, NJ

People – Sorry. I hate you guys! People here have the worst accents. It’s nasal and harsh. I hope never to get one. Men and women around my age segregate themselves, according to ancient Turkish law or something. The women sit around and talk about cooking. Men talk about sports. Young men talk about trucks or games. Bruce Springsteen is a safe musical conversation choice for everyone. NJ people are just rednecks who do not live in the country.

The problem with the people of NJ is that they think these are great topics.

What do I want to talk about? How about video art? How about the books of Milan Kundera, or the music of Joy Division, or Radiohead, or Amanda Palmer? How about old buildings? How about the movies of David Lynch?

At least in other places that were dirty and industrial, such as the Soviet Union, or North of England, or Detroit, people hated it there and that led to interesting movements in art or something. Here in NJ people mostly just live with it and go to the mall, or Florida, so nothing interesting comes of it and nothing changes.

Potholes – The NJ Department of Transportation estimated 300,000 potholes that need to be repaired after the endless winter of 2014-2015. They are still there, and they are ruining my car.

Surroundings – There is nothing worse than NJ in the winter. Did I mention winter? First of all, NJ has bad planning. Anyone can just build anything anywhere. So they put businesses in houses and houses in businesses. Then there are power lines snaking in and out of everything. Then most of Central NJ is paved over and full of traffic, oil and litter that people throw from their cars. The combination of disentegrating houses, torn up sidewalks, dirty snow and litter all over the place makes winter into a fossil fuel mess, so I usually just stay indoors.

I wish I could give this a happy ending or at least make it a learning experience. The only thing i would say is – what if I liked everything all the time, and everything was happy, all the time. Yeah, that would be hell, too.

The Other Princess Cornflakes

Recently, I learned about the other Princess Cornflakes. It is an independent French film, an “extra-large fashion comedy” by and. You can see it here. I just watched it and from what I can tell, it’s a parody of girls aspirations to be beautiful and perfect models when they grow up, sort of a mini-Jane Campion. It’s creative and features special-effects scenes worthy of 50’s pulp fiction such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I enjoyed Princess Cornflakes very much and I’m proud to share a name with this production.

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Princess Cornflakes, the film by Antoine Asseraf René Habermacher
the American classic film. 5/10 stars on imdb!

Operative Special Agent Me

My boyfriend and I both like the author Chuck Palahniuk. Well, my boyfriend likes Chuck better than me, but I like him too and we both refer to him as “Chuck Whatshisname”.

Chuck follows in the great tradition of writers such as Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe, and chronicles the extremes and excesses of American society in a genre called “transgressive fiction“. For example, Chuck’s book “Choke” tells the story of Victor Mancini, a recovering sex addict who pretends to choke on food in restaurants to con money out of people.. “Snuff” is about an aging porn star who choses to do the largest gangbang ever filmed. It’s a short book but is based abstractly on the story of Annabelle Chong, a feminist porn star who really did set out to make the world’s biggest gangbang.

I like Chuck’s books as they break through all taboos. They put everything out there. In our world where everything is available, but we are still expected to behave with Victorian decorum at times, Chuck’s characters are very refreshing. In Choke, for example, Victor logs on to a web site where a naked fat man is having monkeys stuff chestnuts up his ass, for all to see on the Internet. This monkey-stuffing man, who dispenses with all the layers of socially expected behavior, and clothing, and dignity, is totally liberated. I love this quote from Choke:

No matter what else you came up against, if you could smile and laugh while a monkey did you with chestnuts in a dank concrete basement while somebody took pictures, well, any other situation would be a piece of cake.

Currently I am enjoying Chuck’s Pygmy. Pygmy is about a group of Chinese exchange students who are actually highly trained special agents, come to America to live with host families, impregnate (or become impregnated by) Americans, and bring our society to it’s knees. It also involves a Midwestern host family where the mom is addicted to sex toys and steals all the batteries from her kids. The book is written in Chuck’s own invented pidgin Chinese.

The dialect reminds me of the broken English that you sometimes read on Programmer Forums. It can be hard to understand at times, but if you stick with it it’s hilarious. For example, Pygmy is describing the aisles at Wal-Mart:

Location former chew gum, chocolate snack, salted chips of potato, current now occupy with cylinder white paraffin encase burning string, many tiny single fire. Location former bright-color breakfast objects boasting most taste, most little price, recent best vitamins, current now feature bunches severed genitals of rose plants, vagina and penis of daisy and carnation plants, flaunted color and scent of many inviting plant sex life organs.

Or here Pygmy describes American pop music:

Useless American poetry and music no celebrate sacrifice lifetime to preserve state. No herald shining future of bright nuclear weapon, abundant wheat, and shining factory. No, instead most American song only empower to enjoy premature actions necessary for reproduction, grant permission commingle egg and seed among random partner occupying padded rear bench automobile.

I have no idea how Pygmy will take over the world. Well, actually I do, but I won’t spoil that for you my highly esteemed honorable blog reader of much fertile egg or seed.

Time out of Mind

Recently, on a music discussion group, we started discussing the similarities of Roxy Music’s Avalon and Steely Dan’s Gaucho. Both were made in the early 80’s and both albums have an extremely smooth sound characterized by lots of saxophone.  And both albums are great for driving along the coast and pretending you are a yuppie, talking on a huge cellphone and driving a BMW. Love it or hate it, saxophones are the sound of the 80’s. Why is that? Is the sax some bygone urban yuppie dream of cool? Or was there something more to it?

Maybe it is because the slow laziness of the sax is the ultimate antithesis of the pastiched high-speed computer-generated beat culture of today. To me the slowness of the sax represents the ultimate luxury. I once read a quote about “true luxury” being “an abundance of both time and space.”
I don’t think that even very many rich people have an abundance of time these days, or space. But those are things you can create for yourself. The sound of the saxophone seems to create extra time where there is none. I guess that is what they call relaxing.

Anyway I love the sax for it’s nostalgic feel. It’s the ultimate nostalgia. In the 80s the sax was evoking the 40s. Now it is just evocative of a time no longer present.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJPUut_jWk4

Misfits? Guess again!

People often wonder why I was an art historian, and why I took Visual Culture classes. There is nothing
lucrative that you can do with art history. And visual culture must be the silliest subject in the world. I mean all you are doing is looking at pictures, right?*

Yes, I know, your 5-year-old can look at pictures*. But that doesn’t make him a cultural critic. That doesn’t give him an understanding of the language of the visual world (visual semiotics and semantics) and the ability to analyze the power of images over popular culture. That is what we do in art history.Madame_X_(Madame_Pierre_Gautreau),_John_Singer_Sargent,_1884_(unfree_frame_crop)

This might not seem so interesting or useful. I mean they are just harmless pictures, right? Why would anyone want to criticize pictures? Well, some pictures, like children’s illustrations, or paintings, are fairly harmless. But the majority of pictures that we see every day are not art or illustration. Most of the images we see today are advertising, and I believe advertising must be criticized and historicized. That doesn’t mean that we have to think ads are “bad”. But we should see ads for what they are, an attempt to sell us something in a very seductive way. Sometimes ads are cool. But they aren’t art.

I was recently thinking about those great 1990’s ads for Guess jeans (Georges Marciano). They were so beautiful. They looked like dramatic films stills and they featured top models like Claudia Schiffer or Anna Nicole Smith. They usually had a very “American” feeling to them, like something from a western. But others were very European like an old Italian realist movie. They felt gritty and cinematic.adv_4540

It occurred to me that a major influence on the 1990’s Guess ads was John Houston’s 1961 film, The Misfits. You know the one with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. If you don’t know it you should see it. It’s set in the American desert and tells the story of a divorcée and some struggling cowboys in Nevada still trying to live the frontier life in the 1960’s, but probably well on their way to just becoming trailer trash on the outskirts of Las Vegas in a world where global distribution and spreading suburbanism was killing the frontier. It’s a study of the end the cowboy persona and the American idea of “freedom” that came with it.

misfits

The Misfits and those Guess ads have so much in common. Passionate love, beautiful dumb people, and a gritty, black-and-white environment. But I would say that the Misfits is art and the Guess ads are not. John Huston, filmmaker of the Misfits, wanted to say something about how the frontier no longer fits daily life. Like an advertiser, he used beauty to make his message attractive and seductive. But his message was so much more thought provoking than the Guess message, which is simply “buy jeans”. But I don’t think much more of an argument needs to be made for these differences.

guess_2But lots of people who grew up on the Guess ads (like me) stop there and see the ads as iconic. The ads do have the feeling of the film, but they are derivative. They only communicate how the film looked, and not Huston’s overall message. To get to the message, you have to think harder and find the thing in history that influences the ads. But in our visual world where new images are constantly replacing old ones, we are not conditioned to look up the older things. We are so caught up in watching the ever-changing slide show of new images, some of which make us forget the past, but many of which, like the Guess ads, evoke it. These “throwback” images represent consumer culture’s obsession with nostagia that post modernists like Fredrick Jameson referred to as the “historical amnesia”.

And it’s cool. After all, we don’t want to overanalyze and over think things. And yet, sometimes being constantly entertained gets old. We start to wonder if we are making our own choices any more. That is why I personally love old images and old things. I love to see what people watched on TV in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I love to see the products they bought, the brochures they looked it, their flowery kitchen wallpaper, their speech and lack of clever irony. I even love more recent old things, like techno from the 1990’s. I think it’s important to try to remember or research how people behaved in other eras. And I’m not just talking about cool hot rods and rockabilly music or raves and pacifiers. I’m talking about the boring everyday aspects of a past era. How they might only have had one telephone in the house, or a girl might only have had two dresses because clothes were made in America, the little forgotten details.

The misfits 2So overall, art history is good and useful. We see lots of images – art primarily. We see how they have been received through history. An understanding of these older images serves as a triggers for memory when we are looking around our highly mediated environment, so that we can demystify popular advertising images and understand where they came from, and we don’t get too swept up in the seduction of novelty, like hapless cowboys trying to live in a romantic past that doesn’t really exist.

* Here is the rest of my diatribe about your five year old. It felt like I was getting off-topic so I made it a footnote: Your dear child CAN make something that looks like a Rauschenberg, or a Jackson Pollack (more likely a Pollack. Rauschenbergs were really complicated multi-media collages and most 5-year-olds couldn’t do the nailing or sawing involved). What your 5-year-old cannot do is make them at the right historical moment. Your kid doesn’t understand the evolution of painting over hundreds of years, and the “art rules” that were in place up until the 50’s that caused manipulating paint in a seemingly haphazard way to be so revolutionary. Sorry. Your 5-year old is not avant-garde.

A California Day

I grew up in Los Angeles, but have been away for almost 20 years now. I left around 1995. When east coast friends describe the city, their descriptions couldn’t seem more different from the L.A. I know and remember.  I could never put my finger on why, until now.

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January in New Jersey

When East Coast people describe L.A., they talk about a place that is bright and sunny. The air is warm and beachy, and there are surfers and mellow people everywhere! I can understand why that would be the appeal today, on a January morning in New Jersey as I look out my window at the snow and grey skies, or if I get out on the road with all the uptight drivers, trying  to run errands in a few hours without sliding off the icy shoulder of the road or losing our tires to potholes.

But when I was growing up in L.A., I had to find my own dream, and it was not the sunny beaches and bright colors that people from the East Coast remember.

Of course you know before even reading this what I was  like, right? I was that freaky girl with black clothes and black hair. Well, actually I usually had a shock of bleached white hair, or magenta. Long bangs covering my face, and a The Cure blasting out of my walkman or “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”. That was me!

But it got even better than that. I was more than your average garden variety death rock chick, and this can only be understood by the fact that I grew up  in Los Angeles during the 80’s. While everyone else was aerobicizing, driving convertibles, and being happy, I was looking for a darker setting. I wanted to ride subways like Berlin street kids in “Christian F”, I wanted to walk up dark stairways to old apartment buildings where people did socially unacceptable things. I wanted a seedy city, and I cultivated that everywhere I could while surrounded by blonde people in pastel clothing eating Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt (well ok I admit I liked Penguin’s too, a little).

I was not only into goth music and dark clothes, but i wanted to find the real dark L.A., the noir city. I had never even seen a Raymond Chandler or a David Lynch film. I just had an idea that there was an old, gothic city beyond all of the happy bright beaches, and I was intent on finding it.

Luckily, I grew up in Long Beach, a working class beach town with an industrial harbor. It wasn’t preppy like yacht-rock Newport Beach. It was an old downtown with  crumbling buildings and bars and tattoo parlors where sailors used to hang out. This made it interesting. I loved to walk around downtown Long Beach with my best friend Raina. We explored, smoking clove cigarettes and searching the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store for the perfect 50’s cocktail dress, psychedelic pants, or goth rosary to wear around our necks when we went to Disneyland. We would go to Zed Records and buy punk buttons  or the occasional record (but mostly just buttons as we were more into fashion when it came down to it).

Even the bus ride to Raina’s house was fascinating in the mid 80’s.  There was a mysterious bar called “The Bistro” on 7th street. It was all boarded up. Boarded-up buildings  have always beckoned me. I have been known to take detours with my kids onto streets where I know there are rows of condemned houses. “WTF, mom?” complains my son, who is sure I am wasting his time. When I peeked into the windows of The Bistro, there were manneqins, which made it even more perfect, a Twilight Zone fantasy. (This turned out to be Faye’s Bistro, which made a huge comeback in the 90’s with their cheap pitchers and pool tables for 20-ish grunge crowd. I spent many a drunken night there, but that’s another post).

My “ultimate L.A. photo” – James Dean, Mickey, and the Hollywood sign!

As I got older Long Beach became too small. As Orange County seemed to have no places dark and shadowy enough to feed my sick fantasies for bad vibrations, my attentions turned to Hollywood. Hollywood was my sleazy city, a glam fantasy, a dream come true. Every weekend my friends and I drove around Hollywood listening to David Bowie and Japan’s Adolescnt Sex (a great, underrated album if you like 70’s glam), drinking and trying to get into clubs like the Glam Slam on Sunset Blvd where pale guys with long black hair listened to the Cult or T-Rex. Hip stores on Melrose were much cooler then, when everyone had pointy boots and a cigarette, spiked hair and a lounge lizard style. And all the better if we got to an underground club in downtown L.A., such as the Fetish or the Scream. Downtown was the ultimate long-forgotten city, all warehouses and underground clubs in those warehouses.* It was abandoned and blank, and could be New York or Tokyo or Berlin, depending on where you wound up. Looking back at it now, with the distance of 20 years, the bright pavement and lack of trees just reminds me of Repo Man.

Any old building appealed to me. In college I lived above a Jewish deli on Pico Blvd. What was I looking for? I don’t know, probably a Ragtime feeling of New York streets with people selling fruit and immigrants and cobblestones and opium dens and drug addicts in every dark alley. What I got was probably the least appropriate residence in L.A. when the Northridge earthquake hit in 1994 and chunks of plaster fell on my head and the bricks separated. Clearly, brick buildings were not intended for LA. I’m probably only alive thanks to my landlady’s wise choice to retrofit the building with steel pipes before I moved in.

Once, after a night of clubbing, I got the chance to make my own personal “escape” up a hidden staircase late one night, a la a Raymond Chandler film. The entire story is strictly confidential but involves breaking into the kitchen of the club and consuming large amounts of cheap red wine.  Eventually, even I got enough of darkness, started bicycling, quit smoking, and even hung out in daylight hours occasionally or gasp! at the beach in sunglasses, hippie skirts and Birkenstocks.

Years later, in Boston, I was talking with an English friend who summed it up perfectly. “It was always dark and grey in England. I loved the Beach Boys and dreamed of being a surfer out in California.” he said. “Wow,” I said, “I grew up in L.A. and was always trying to stay out of the sun. I lived for the grey days that reminded me of England and chances to go to San Francisco and wear coats or ride the subway”. To this day I always try to take the subway in New York – it’s still a thrill!

East coast people look at L.A. like they look at Florida, a place to enjoy the sun, wear a bathing suit, go hiking or to the beach. And that’s fine. I understand and I even like the sun too, like, once a year. But for me the best part of L.A. will always be its sense of mystery, that noir feeling between the hazy sunshine and and palm trees and bright pavement when you spot that weird little apartment over the storefront, where the drug addicts lived and you wonder who else has lived there over time.

*On a side note, downtown L.A. has had many bizarre restaurants.  As a teen my mom took me to Gorky’s, where art students hung out and ate knish’s, and I thought was so New York. Whenever I am in L.A. now I try to make a special trip to Philippe’s, a 100 year old vintage restaurant which serves “french dip” sandwiches. It looks like the 40s at Philippe’s with Venetian blinds, long benches, sawdust floors and cheap coffee with apple pie for dessert. It is the ultimate noir diner. You can sit in small individual rooms where I like to think Philip Marlowe sat alone pensively plotting his case as the late afternoon L.A. sunlight streamed in through the slats in the blinds.

Dorothy Vallens, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

firewalkWhen I was a child I had a special connection to certain interiors. I would imagine a world within the walls or in the far corner of the room, the odd places where nobody looked. I loved interior spaces that were small and irregular, high up, or just weird. My parents used to go to a thrift store in Long Beach, California, which I remember quite well. They had furniture arranged up on some old scaffolding (at least that’s how it seems in my foggy memory of my experiences at age 5). For some reason I always wanted to climb and explore around there, with the old things it seemed like a different world. That memory still gives me a very nostalgic feeling.

Another weird interior was the doll museum in the back of Dooley’s Hardware store in Long Beach, CA. It had old porcelain toys and dolls in glass cases and seemed like it was a secret place. I would spend hours there. At Christmas they would decorate it and it seemed so magical and perfect.

Of course I loved the doll house which my mother made for me. It was an imperfect, homemade little space full of old-fashioned Victorian furniture which I collected for years – a coal-burning stove, velvet sofas, a tiffany lamp, a little toilet with brass pipes and a lion claw’s bathtub. It was my perfect, miniature little world which was nothing like the Southern California ranch that I grew up in. I can relate to that episode of the Twilight Zone where the man falls in love with a dollhouse doll who comes to life for him at night.

blue_velvet_apartment
Apartment in Blue Velvet by David Lynch

David Lynch seems to understand the hidden psychological power of interiors and furniture. He understands how rooms come to life and hold secrets. I love Dorothy Vallen’s apartment  in Blue Velvet.
The exterior is run-down and seedy. It’s a big building in a small town (another obsession of mine) and I read that it was built in the 1930’s by an architect who was inspired by buildings he saw in New York City. It’s in a neighborhood that seems abandoned except for underworld gangsters who make unwanted visits in the middle of the night. The interior walls are deep 1930’s mauve with rounded beige furniture and elegant plants in shiny brass planters. There, in the shadowy “noir-ish” 1930’s elegance, lives Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) a woman who holds a secret that two teenagers feel compelled to discover. The velvety furniture cast a rich loungy hush over the entire room and seem to keep her secret with her.

Nightclub in Blue Velvet by David Lynch

Dorothy Vallens never seems to leave this apartment, except at night, when she goes to a place that is equally weird and shadowy, a mysterious old theater with red velvet curtains where she sings her famous performance of “Blue Velvet”. It seems blurry like it is 3 AM or a dream and she is lit by blue light as she sings. In that scene Jeffrey and Sandy (Kyle MacLaughlin and Laura Dern) sit watching her, transfixed and transported out of their familiar daytime world of school and bright sunny small-town life. Jeffrey stares at Dorothy as Sandy watches him, jealously aware that this older woman’s sexual power is taking possession over her teenage boyfriend. The old decaying theater is a symbol of jealousy and secrets and night-time visits.

Laura Palmer's bedroom in Twin Peaks by David Lynch
Laura Palmer’s bedroom in Twin Peaks by David Lynch

The bedroom where Laura Palmer lived is another example of Lynch’s powerful interiors. Laura Palmer is the beautiful high school prom queen who is murdered in the beginning of the Twin Peaks series. She lives in a cute little house in a small town in Washington. Her bedroom is bright and tidy, a portal between childhood and womanhood with the frilly bedspread and doll collection, (including a clown doll that makes it all the more disturbing). Because the sexually precocious Laura is dead already in the movie, and kept her experiences secret to the grave, her bedroom becomes an ironic shrine, a child’s room inhabited by a teen who would never reach womanhood, but in many ways already had.

I love old rooms of any sort. I love velvet furniture, old peeling wallpaper, old pianos, and crumbling theaters with velvet curtains. I don’t like to update the places where I live. In my den is the original wood-paneling from the 1970s. The decor is kind of Brady Bunch – bright colors and thrift store art. If I ever get more money perhaps I will replace it with 1930’s club furniture. But more likely I will have to wait until I find a perfect untouched old brick apartment with a fire escape in a forgotten town somewhere in America.