Advice: Tiny Home, Big Problem

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I think I am in over my head and I am not sure what to do.  I have been married for 8 years and have two children, ages 6 and 2.  My husband and I have always been environmentally and socially conscious, and recently decided to try “simple living”.  Against the cautions of some of our family members, we decided to downsize from a 2500 sq ft suburban home to a 650 sq ft “tiny house” that we had custom built for our family.   It is super cute and we were pretty mindful in our planning, carefully considering what we thought we could live with. But now that we have been living in it for a month, I hate it!  There is no room to do anything!  I feel like I am constantly tripping over stuff, there is NO privacy, and I feel terribly confined.  I am often grumpy and find myself snapping at my husband and kids over the smallest things.  I feel this way now, in the summer, when we have been able to spend lots of time outside…how am I ever going to get through a winter like this?    I had NO idea that I would find this so difficult.  While I am struggling with our new home, my husband seems to think it’s all great.  He is constantly sharing the “joys of simple living” with everyone we meet.  We have invested a lot of time and money in this “new way of life”, and I feel like a schmuck for wanting to bail on it so soon.  I don’t want to let my husband down, nor do I really want to hear “I told you so’s” from our families.   But really….I feel like I am going to go insane if we don’t do something different soon. I don’t know what to do.

-Missing My Space

Dear Missing Your Space,

P: Ah, my dear, I’m sure you thought the honeymoon would last a little longer… This is/was a huge undertaking, and however carefully you plan about the space, I’m not sure there’s any way you can plan about the realities of so much less space. This is something you need to learn to live with, something that will take discipline to make work for you.

I suspect that anyone can learn to thrive in a smaller space although not everyone will choose to. But it’s only in the last couple generations that most people had large spaces to live in. We’ve developed notions of privacy and privilege that go along with that space.

B: Americans like space. We’ve been culturally ingrained with romantic ideals of wide open spaces and big skies. Large cars. Ample personal space. Certainly, most of us don’t even consider what it would be like to live in the stackable apartments they have in Japan. I have a friend who is planning a move into a tiny house with her husband, this very spring. She said, “Space is difficult. I think it is both the most overrated and underrated commodity we have.”

I get that you’re environmentally conscious and want to reduce your carbon footprint. And I’m glad that you care enough about the state of our planet to want to pass that caring on to your children. But you  made a tremendous leap into a new extreme, and now, it seems like you’ve found yourself stuck. We presume you can’t move back to your old home, or that moving at all isn’t really an option you’ll willingly entertain. Now what?

P: The tiny house movement is new, so I looked around the interwebs for discussion boards concerning the transition to a small home, and couldn’t really find anything. As I looked I realized, oh, right, people live in apartments with their families that are this small and manage not to ruin their lives or their children. I suspect you need to change the rules — and it make take some time to figure out what the new normal for simple living is. It may take some iterations before you finally settle on what works for everyone. Because of course it doesn’t work if everyone else is happy and you aren’t.

B: My initial instinct is to remind you to take a breath, take a walk outside for five minutes–alone, of course!–and calm down. You’ve only been in that house for a month, and you may be going through growing…shrinking?…pangs. You’ve lost roughly 75% of your former living space, so you need to allow for an adjustment period. It’s a different way to live. Energy gathers in a home differently in a space that small, especially when there are four people contributing to it. One toy left in the middle of the living room floor creates a sense of clutter, one heap of socks looks like a mountain of laundry. It’s entirely possible that once you adapt–once your vision adjusts to your new surroundings, once you learn how to manage your family’s presences, once you create house rules that reflect where you live now–you’ll breathe a little easier.

But the important thing to remember in all this is that you aren’t managing that household alone. You have a husband with you, a life partner, who should ostensibly help you with how your home flows. He may be telling everyone how much he loves tiny-house living. Have you ever told him how YOU feel?

P: Your discomfort is the whole family’s problem. And they need to recognize that. ‘Cause as the T-shirt says, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

How do you blend privacy, play, work, studies and remember, romance!

B: It’s all well and good that your husband is busily extolling the virtues of tiny living, and I understand that his apparent enthusiasm would dampen your desire to tell him how unhappy you are in your new home. How can you tell him you’re unhappy with something in which he’s clearly delighted? What you need to bear in mind is, this is your life. This isn’t some temporary inconvenience, like getting a new roof put on or having every window in the house replaced. Tiny house living may have been an idealized projection of your vis a vis green-living, Little House on the Prairie-esque romantic notion, but the functional part of you that dislikes your living situation is your real self. It’s uncomfortable to realize your ideal and your real selves are in conflict, but you need to honor who you are and what you want. It’s time for you to take what you have and make the best of it.

P: Idealism is amazing. But reality takes getting used to. You are not practiced at this. Some of the family living skills you had from living in your house that was 4x your beautiful, new, little one will not transfer to living in a much smaller space.

So do some good research and then some thinking. Plan as carefully for your day-to-day family life as you did for space. Could you have done this before? Sure! Did you? No. So what? Now’s the time to look at things. Talk about it. Start a blog about it. 

B: Talk to your husband about how you feel, and tell him you want to institute some changes as to  how you all operate in your new space. You may want to institute new clutter rules, which could make a difference as to how you perceive the open space you have. You may want to try and institute a quiet time, to mellow out the collective energy in your smaller space.

P: In small space you have to work as a unit. Individualism takes a back seat to the family, although everyone needs to be acknowledged. The balance of privilege and family priorities needs to be built to fit the home you have. Teach your kids to be productive members of the family. Make them responsible for chores and living skills. They’ll still be kids, but we need to learn to be aware of others; it’s not inborn.

I remember that growing up, we all used to sit in the living room and read quietly. TV was a communal activity. Pretty much everyone watched. If we didn’t have TV we wanted to see, we played games. We had a big house, but we did things together in the evenings. And we learned to like quiet activities. Turn off the noise; if there’s music on, consider sitting and listening to it. Or make it a treat that gets turned up to dance music when there are chores to be done.

Remember, you are creative, you figured out what to do with stuff, now you have to build a family that fits in your little home.

We forget that we can go out in the winter as well. It’s not as easy if we’re in the country as it might be in the city, but kids used to spend hours playing outside in all kinds of weather. Time outside in fresh air makes you lots less rammy. Build a play house, hang a swing. Learn to snow shoe or ice skate or cross country ski. Do it with the kids. You’ll feel better too.

B: I’d advise that you and your husband set a deadline for you to see how you feel after new house rules and activities and spatial negotiations are implemented. If, at the end of it, you still think you need more space, then give yourself the respect you deserve and act on that. Build on an extension to the house. Or put up a she-shed. If you end up expanding your living space yet again, remember, there are ways to be environmentally mindful without confining your living space to 650 square feet. Create a personal food garden. Keep bees. Create a protected wildlife space on your property; there are ways to do that even if you live in town. Look into solar paneling and ease your burden on the national power grid. You don’t have to upheave your life–again–in order to change it. You just need to be respectful and honest toward everything you already have.

P: You’ve got this. You just need to reconsider what works. And if in a couple years, yep, keep trying, it doesn’t work, then find something that’ll make mama happy. But no sense leaving before you’ve really done your homework.

Et voila!

Et voila!

The “Home Sweet Home”:

  • 60 ml vodka
  • 140 ml lemonade
  • spearmint sprig
  • dash of orange bitters
  • lemon peel

Put sprig in glass. Fill with ice, top with vodka and lemonade. Stir. Top with bitters, garnish with lemon peel. Kick back and relax!

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

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The ’80s Pin Project: So Much Sexy

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

Oh, the crosses one must bear.

Today’s random-pick-a-pin-out-of-the-box generator bemoans the difficulties of trying to cart around a burdensome amount of sexy.

Bow-chicka-wow wow.

Bow-chicka-wow wow.

You know, the funny thing is, I never really felt this way about myself, especially not when I was busy wearing pins. This would have made its way onto my jacket/purse/being in my late teens or maaaaaaybe early 20s (though, really, smart money says this was on me in my teenager-hood). During that time, I was plagued by vicious attacks of non-confidence. I felt chubby. I felt insecure. I felt like I needed external validation regarding my feminine pulchritude. (And don’t let my mother try and tell you any different!) Oy. If only I knew then what I know now.

I generally lean toward the practice of “fake it ’til you make it”; it’s what I did when I went to college (no, really, I am smart and belong here! That’s what I said, until I finally believed it). Thus it makes sense to me that I would have purchased something declaring my abundance of sexy, and worn it with a shirt that let me show off my breasts like they were trophies. It’s what happens when we begin to recognize our sexual power. And have breasts.

Now, I’m just pissed that I bought something that promotes such bad grammar and graphic design. Was that ellipsis really necessary? Right after the comma like that? Especially since the copy space couldn’t accommodate the third period in the ellipsis? And oh my word, what is up with the ridiculous porn font on the word “Sexy”? Ai, me! What was I thinking?

Clearly, in those days, my sense of taste was only in my mouth. Hooray for adulthood!

Mark my words, children: some day, you’ll get to a point where sexiness isn’t a top priority. Not that it won’t be nice, on those days when you’re feeling like you are on time and ready to rock. But in general, the day-to-day burden of sexy will be gone from your shoulders. And what a blessed relief that day will be.

What’s That Thing On Her Head?

I know, I know. I like to start the week off with a recipe, but I don’t have one. Mea culpa. I plan on getting into the kitchen later to do some cooking so I can share it all with you, but it was a weird weekend and when I did cook, I didn’t have the luxury of time to take photographs. Which is a little bit of a drag, but, silver lining! I’ll be forced to make yummy food all over again.

In the meantime, I want to present you with….this ad. I have carried this ad with me for years, it’s survived two moves, through Texas and back east to my little home in central PA. After a decade of puzzlement, of staring at this ad and shaking my head, I confess I am no closer to comprehension than I was ten years ago. I’ve spent more time trying to understand the mindset of the advertising agency that gave this the green light, than I have most pieces of abstract art. I still have no idea what this ad is getting at. Ok ok ok, here. Feast your eyes. (Identifying details removed. Mostly. :))

Hey...what's that thing on her head?

Hey…what’s that thing on her head?

In case you’re staring at this ad in stricken disbelief–which is totally understandable–I will explain. This is an ad for stores that sell jewelry. A jewelry mall, if you will. Glamorous, high-end jewelry, not the “Buy three pairs of earrings, get the fourth free” kind that I usually buy. And the model, in her LBD and thick golden rope of a necklace, is wearing a cat on her head. A cat. On her head. Here’s a closeup.

Shmexy.

Shmexy. Hey, wait. Is that terror I see lurking in her eyes?

Indeed, this is certainly all I’ve imagined and more. I know that when I think about which lovely lady ought to get the fancy jewelry, it’s almost always the one wearing an animal on her head. 

Only opposite. “Give in to the luxury”, the ad says. But how does wearing a cat on one’s head indicate “luxury”? Or something that should be given in to? I fight the urge to accessorize with my cat every day, and I feel like I’m a better person for it. Because if she were wearing pajamas–and you know I’m right here, people–she would be a crazy cat lady. This should be instant birth control. Instead, this ad was meant to create allure.

Herein lies my befuddlement. I don’t understand. I mean, if I want to buy shoes I don’t look for someone with an egret perched on her head so I can think, “Oh, wow, that must be a great shoe store I can’t wait to shop there.” Maybe I just don’t grok high-end jewelry in this way, but…why is this lady wearing a cat on her head? And what does that say about…oh, good Lord, about any and everything that’s weird about the advertising business?

Please, internets, if you can explain, I would be most grateful.

Bad Fashion Ideas: Peebles. All of it.

Normally, when I do these Bad Fashion posts I don’t focus on one store. Largely because I start in the mall and work my way around, but also because the concentration of terrible clothing per one store simply isn’t that great. Usually. Sure, there’s plenty of “Oh, hell no!” fashion, and even more “Bwa ha ha ha no” choices, out there. But to find shirt after shirt, terror after terror, in one place? It doesn’t happen that often.

Until last night.

George and I decided we needed a quiet, uneventful evening out, so we went to a local Italian place for some dinner and afterwards, stopped at this…store. Peebles. Yes, Peebles. Just like the pet store in Magilla Gorilla. It’s apparently in 40 states and has something like 900 stores, so this store is out there, quietly exuding its fashion menace upon an unsuspecting populace. The store near us has been open for about a year now and I hadn’t ever managed to make it in, until a heavy Italian dinner made me want to sort of putter around and walk a little of it off.

It must have been instinct that kept me out of there. Because once I walked in…oh, the horror, the horror…

OH MY GOD MY EYES! IT BURNS, IT BURNS..!!!

OH MY GOD MY EYES! IT BURNS, IT BURNS..!!!

As many of you are well aware, I have a particular disdain for embellished sweatshirts. I don’t like ones that have seasonal, “charming” decals because these shirts make a sad, tired statement about the wearer. If you’re wearing a poorly designed sweater with school houses or snowmen appliqued on it, you’re telling the world that you’re willing to look unattractive so long as you can project a dash of whimsy. Why do that to yourself?

Oooh, seasonal applique AND an attached double-collar? Quelle tragique!

Oooh, depressing seasonal applique AND an attached double-collar? Quelle tragique!

Please note: this little beauty is a heavy-knit cardigan, in dull winter sky gray. Festooned with…what I first thought were quilted Stars of David but au contraire! They are little ersatz snowflakes. On a gunmetal grey sweatshirt cardigan. With a dusty plum double-layered crew collar. Nothing says Seasonal Affective Disorder” like a shirt that emulates that depressive syndrome. Kill me now.

Though I suppose you could try and cheer yourself up with a shirt that looks like it was ripped from the reject pile at Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light’s failed projects studio.

Ahh, so serene. Who doesn't want a carriage riding across her belly?

Ahh, so serene. Who doesn’t want a sleigh riding across her belly?

Shapeless? Check. Weirdly designed? Check. Touch of the ever-present whimsy? Check. This shirt has everything that I can’t stand. However, I must reiterate (largely because they had an enormous collection of bizarrely bedazzled wear)…I haaaaaate sweatshirts that are spangled. Why? Because it’s a goddamned sweatshirt. For sweating in. Sparkles, on the other hand, were not made for sweat. They’re present in our lives to add a little glitz, a little glamour. Bespangling a sweatshirt, well…

Who's a fancy lady at the gym?

Who’s a fancy lady at the gym?

It’s kind of like gilding the turd, isn’t it? And at $44, it’s not like it’s a cheap turd either.

The common theme that ran through most of the Peebles clothing was “boxy”. Everything was shaped like a box, like a square, without a curve in sight. It was kind of like shopping for a Volvo.

crazy-people-volvo

From the movie “Crazy People”. The fake ads were the best part of this movie. Image from blogcabins.blogspot.com

I mean, come on. I could chart Cartesian coordinates on these clothes.

Data points, anyone?

Data points, anyone?

How about a snappy vest? A well-tailored vest can keep everything nicely contained, provide a finishing statement to a casual outfit, and maybe even accentuate a lady’s waist.

Unless, of course, you’re this corduroy monstrosity, whose side pockets are designed to draw your eyes laterally. Who wants to look wider? No curves here, please.

I could have forgiven the corduroy if the cut was more flattering. Alas...

I could have forgiven the corduroy if the cut was more flattering. Alas…

And then there’s…well…let the picture speak for itself (at first)…

*yawn*

*yawn*

I don’t have a problem with a basic cable knit sweater, though I’ve seen them cut to look ever-so-slightly less like a shipping box and more like an actual article of clothing. I do object to this dull clay color (bad on almost everyone) and…if you only take one piece of advice from this blog, take this one…

…repeat after me…

FRONT PATCH POCKETS ARE ALWAYS WRONG. Always. But they’re particularly extra-wrong on knits, where they easily get stretched and misshapen. So, not only do you look wider than you might want, thanks to this sweater’s overall shapelessness, but it won’t take long before you’ll be irreversibly lumpy in the front from the stretched out pockets. If you need to tote things with you at all times, then 1) wear bottoms with side pockets or 2) carry a purse. There are solutions, people. Patch pockets are not a good one.

The unsexy box look wasn’t confined to tops, either. It made its presence known in dresses. I walked through row after row of shapeless dresses, sweater dresses that looked like a designer simply elongated the cable knit above (I thought sweater dresses were, by definition, supposed to be kind of slinky?) and evoked from me, at best, a disdainful curled lip. Nearly all of the dresses were terrible. Here are my two favorites.

First, this little maroon number was made of a super-thick, cottony, knitty, quilty fabric. It struck me as less of a dress and more like a moving pad you can get from U-Haul, to protect furniture from banging together in the back of a moving van.

I don't know whether to wear this or wrap a lamp in it.

I don’t know whether to wear this or wrap a lamp in it.

And then there’s…oh, dear God. What.

So this blue dress. This. This blue dress. Sometimes, we come across clothes that are perfectly adequate for covering our nakedness, keeping us warm in the winter, and keeping us out of jail due to indecent exposure. They also say unto the world that the wearer has nothing left to live for, except sucking oxygen and converting food to fertilizer. This blue dress? Is one of those items.

I can't go on, I'll go on.

I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Do note: the shift dress part of the dress is attached, so it looks like a two-piece and yet is only one. It is as shapeless as it gets. This is an article of clothing designed to keep us out of jail and still gainfully employed, and entirely forgettable. If you’re looking for a promotion? Increased responsibility on the job? Any semblance of joy? Then avoid this outfit at all costs.

It’s not just the embellished sweatshirts or the boxy knits where Peebles design fails. It’s also in their more “fun” clothing.

This is all one shirt. ONE.

This is all one shirt. ONE.

They don’t even provide a fake collar at the top to complete the layered look. Guys, come on. Who gave this the green light?

Or this one, that looks like the worst of Mrs. Roper‘s wardrobe mated with a lace factory to create this lacy, yet shapeless, overdone…here, see for yourselves.

mrs roper

No.

For those of us who didn’t have to endure the era of Three’s Company, here is Mrs. Roper, for visual reference.

Hot cha cha! Image from merciblahblah.com

Hot cha cha! Image from merciblahblah.com

There was one shirt there I actually kind of liked. An open-weave sweater with a cowl neck and short sleeves, designed to be layered with a long-sleeved tee or some kind of camisole. It had the potential to be super-cute, and if the wall trimmers had done their job correctly, there would have been an entire, layered, salable outfit on the wall that customers could look at and think, “That. I want that.” Instead, they put it on a mannequin, unlayered. So what the customer gets is a bit of an artificial peep show.

Nice nipples.

Nice would-be nipples.

Seriously, people? The objective is to display things as they’d be worn, and unless you’re selling exclusively to the Sweater-Wearing Nipple Club, this is a lost opportunity. People like things staged for them. They like houses they’re checking out to look like someone lives there, they like to buy art in frames, and they like to be told what shirt can be layered with what other shirt. Because it’s easier that way. People have lives and kids and work and spouses that make them think. Buying clothes? Retailer, please. Put together that attractive package for the customer and send them on their happily coordinated way. Don’t make them think about what they’ll need to make their wardrobe nip-free.

But you know, I really should consider the store about which I was talking. Because oh, the horror, the horror (part 2). Front and center, right along the main aisle, right in the middle of everything, stood…

You sick bastards.

You sick bastards.

The polyester velour track suit. While I think the purple one with the cascading pearls is special indeed, I am overwhelmed by the ruched red number on the left. Part window drapery, part Sgt. Pepper’s, this beast is the sort of thing that haunts my retro nightmares. Peebles buyers, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I need to go lie down now.

Remember: Just because it’s in a store, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Just because someone designed it, doesn’t mean they know better. Define your own style, don’t let style (negatively, in most of these examples) define you. I’m just here to help.

XOXO

Flea Market Find: The Story of Cane Sugar

…which sounds like it could be a porno, but it isn’t.  Instead, it’s a pamphlet that is–best as I can figure–printed before 1941, when the Pennsylvania Sugar Company was taken over by the National Sugar Refining Company. I’m only guessing that because there’s nary a hint of anything about National Sugar on the pamphlet, and why wouldn’t a parent company promote itself?

It's like a map. Did they give these out at gas stations?

It’s like a map. Did they give these out at gas stations? And what are those guys sitting on the boxes of sugar supposed to be?  Elves? Railway workers? I honestly can’t tell. Front and back covers.

As a side note, I *love* all the doodles on the cover. I used to do much the same thing when I was a kid; I’d write on anything and everything. I even remember writing on a bottle of baby powder, though I don’t remember why I needed to claim that as my own. Please note that in the bottom left corner, in the space surrounding the teacher in the blue dress, some imp wrote: Miss Wangor, The Old Crab. (At least, I think it says crab. Any and all other guesses welcome.) And I digress.

I came across this bizarrely charming little pamphlet while crawling among the racks at the much-beloved Street of Shops. The pamphlet is an anomaly of sorts, a throwback to an earlier time, when…

…ummm…

I actually don’t understand what this is. Not that I don’t understand what a pamphlet is, I just don’t understand why/where/how/the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania Sugar Co. printing up pamphlets to be distributed…where?

See what I mean?

But the fact is, I don’t really care why they made it, I just care that they did. These sorts of “modern miracles” economic history printings really speak to the idea of some kind of grandiose dreams of expansionism and empire. Anyway. Getting to it…

Why don't they finish the instructions for chocolate cake???

Why don’t they finish the instructions for chocolate cake??? HOW WILL I EVER MAKE THIS CORRECTLY?

The above image with its disappointing cake recipe was found on the inside pages, when you open it like a book. And then it folds out, first into a tri-fold that I have more-or-less stitched back together for you.

Sugar Cane trifold

Come visit the enticing world of sugar harvesting.

I love that the artwork is all scrolling and pirate-y and a completely romanticized glossing of the sugar industry, largely harvested thanks to slave labor or poverty-level wage earners. The industry saw a significant amount of unrest in the 1930s (i.e., roughly around the time this pamphlet was printed, and these links are but a few small examples). But it’s all good, right?  Because Nancy Tice reminds housewives: Sugar is one of the most necessary foods in the family diet (see the back cover image if you don’t believe me). So that makes it all OK, right? I also love that Thailand is still referred to as Siam and the rest of the Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam/Myanmar peninsula has been lumped together by western mapmakers as one big “Indo-China“. Who needs specifics when you’re pirating the sugar trade and working with slave labor? Yo ho, me hearties!

But then.

And then.

The entire pamphlet opens up into a centerfold of sugary awesome, as the Pennsylvania Sugar Co. examines the total process of sugar production, from harvest to loading to ships steaming in to Philly, through production and then onto the trucks for distribution unto a hungry world clamoring for sweetness.

Centerfold? Hey, this did turn sexy!

Centerfold? Hey, this did turn sexy!

Oh, for a simpler time, when no one balked at the idea of using cheap labor, and the world was ours to harvest at will!

One question: what have they got going on in Louisiana?  While the world labors to make sugar affordable for all Americans, are the Louisianians…sitting around playing banjo? Is that it?

As gloriously jingoistic and kind of craptastic as this pamphlet is, I’m still having a hard time trying to understand its practical benefits. Mainly because I can’t figure out when or where this would have been distributed. I mean, sure, at the grocery store, but that begs the question of the consumer: why would you take it in the first place? Though–believe me–I know why I paid one entire dollar for this baby, and it was worth all 100 pennies. Hells to the yeah.

FYI: This scanned e-book is an interesting way to explore the concept of economic and trade pamphleting, but its writing style is dry and old-timey, so be prepared that it’s kind of like reading through sandpaper.

The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 10: Inmates

~~~SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS~~~

There you have it.

So. We’re still putting together the chess board that is Walking Dead World in the aftermath of the Governor’s rampage on the prison, as Rick & Co. are still making their way through the woods, kind of freaking out to find themselves in groups of two or three, after a horrific expulsion from what had served them well as a fairly safe zone. Some wise person asked of the internets, “But why didn’t they have a contingency plan? Why didn’t they have a predetermined rendezvous point, like you do with your kids if there’s a house fire?”

Because that wouldn’t have made for nearly as interesting TV. Why have them logically organized, when an unstructured dash for survival is so much more thrilling for the viewer?

Maximizing my total geek cred, I couldn’t help myself when a Lord of the Rings moment ran through my head:

There is no strength left in the world of Men. They’re scattered, divided, leaderless.

(The quote in question is all the way at the end of this clip; forward to 3:10 if you also can’t help yourself. Or, congratulate yourself on escaping the Nerdery and living a life less dominated by film/tv/book quotes. True nerds: I expect to see LOTR/TWD comparative essays tout de suite.)

First: YAY! Daryl‘s alive! Ladies, let’s all take a moment to enjoy a collective swoon before moving on.

Finally…FINALLY they did something with that annoying Whatsherface…OK, I mean “Beth“, whatever…Hershel‘s other daughter, the not-Maggie. She’s escaped into the woods with the totally emotionally wooden Daryl, because Daryl and Michonne (as we saw her in the previous episode) seem to share a similar, “Shutting down is better, hoping hurts too much” mindset.  They kill zombies, they argue about having hope, they discover they work well as a team, Beth has a full-on crying meltdown when they come across zombies feeding alongside the railroad tracks. I get it; in her world, threats and horror lurk around every corner. The episode opens with a voiceover of Beth reading a passage from an old diary she kept, reminding the viewer that she’s really only 16 or 17 and the kind of girl and writes in her diary so her wishes can come true. *sniffle*

Which makes it that much more interesting when she burns the pages of her diary for kindling. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride…away from the hordes of flesh-eating undead.

So long, wishes!

So long, wishes!

Next: Yay! Tyreese has Baby Judith, and a big congratulations to these folks, who nailed it at the mid-season finale!

Tyreese also has the girls Mika and the increasingly psychotic Lizzie, and they’re trundling through the woods like a psychotic postmodern Brady Bunch.

Here's the story...of a man named Tyreese...

Here’s the story…of a man named Tyreese…

Lizzie is developing apace as a bona fide serial killer. She is a little young for autoeroticism and alcohol can’t really be a factor for her development,  but traumatic childhood? Check. Animal torture? Check. (Those poor bunnies. More on that later.) If she starts wetting the bed or lighting fires, then we’re in trouble deep. Baby Judith was just a few lungsful away from becoming the first official Crawling Dead, since fortunate timing is the only thing that prevented la Liz from smothering her.  And Judith was only saved because…

Considering my postmodern Brady Bunch joke, it's fitting her name is Carol.

Considering my postmodern Brady Bunch joke, it’s fitting her name is Carol.

Yay! Carol is back! She saw the prison go down and followed Tyreese & Co. into the woods. Tyreese clearly has no idea that Carol is the woman who stabbed his lady love, Karen, in the head and then lit her body on fire.  Which, at the moment, is probably better for all involved. We’ll see how all that plays out, though I suspect there’s going to be a, “Yes, that was me” moment of truth with Carol that will make Tyreese lose his mind. Then he’ll try to kill Carol and attract a zombie horde, which will force him to have to trust Carol to get him out of it. Or, he’ll bring about his own death because of his rage. As a side note, my boyfriend and I were talking about how, despite the crazy circumstances of the post-prison dash, Tyreese seems so much less vengeance-minded-ly insane. It’s like he went, “Oh, crisis, right! Time to focus on saving my bacon and not lash out at my cruel and indifferent world.” Which then got us talking about mental illnesses, and if there is a leisure-time component to them. So. That’s a fun discussion to have with your sweetie as Valentine’s Day weekend comes to a close.  And I digress.

Countless hordes of sleepless, ravenous undead. Me, and one 4-inch blade. I can take 'em.

Countless hordes of sleepless, ravenous undead. Me, and one 4-inch blade. I can take ’em.

Yay! Maggie is still alive, with Sasha, also yay! Oh, and Bob Stookey is there. This is the third camp that’s been destroyed out from under him.  Maggie is still reeling from the gruesome loss of her father and possible loss of her husband in one day, and sets off “with or without” the other two, who kindly don’t let her go toddling off into the woods armed with nothing more than a…what was that, a 4-inch hunting knife?  She finds the bus that Glenn was supposed to be on (but was not), which has of course become a bus filled with Rolling Death.

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

Hey, lady, could you get the door?

Maggie unleashes her rage and grief-fueled frustration on zombie after zombie after zombie. While the burning of the prison has shut Michonne and Daryl down and given Tyreese clarity, Maggie has become reckless in a desperate search to restore some of her family. Interestingly, she doesn’t say a word about finding Beth. I can’t say I blame her.

Oh my, I just had the worst dream...my home had blown up and then...

Oh my, I just had the worst dream…my home had blown up and then…AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!

Yay! Glenn is still alive! Once he and his still-pleuritic lungs lurched off the bus in an enfeebled attempt to help Maggie (ironically, saving his life), he ended up getting knocked out in one of two spots in the prison that’s inaccessible to zombies.  Good for him! Though it did generate this text from my nephew:

How on Earth is Glenn still at the prison?

The next thing you know we’ll start Skyping to watch it long-distance together. Ahhh, family times. Yes, they did cover Glenn’s bizarre bit of impractical bravery in the story arc of the prison’s destruction, but Michael, if it makes you feel any better, George didn’t remember that either. Anyway. Glenn–one of the smartest characters–scavenges the prison, gathers a big bag of goodies and a riot control suit, which simultaneously turns Glenn into a live-action action figure while providing the TV viewer with a Glenn’s eye view of zombie mayhem.

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

Zombie Mayhem Suit. Nom Access: Denied!

As he’s running through the grabbing, bitey chaos he sees Tara, still alive, and still completely flaked out after being party to The Governor’s deranged last tango with Rick. (If you remember, Tara had one of the greatest “Fuck this, I’m out” faces I’ve ever seen.) With the cunning use of psychology, Glenn convinces Tara to get on her feet and out of the prison with him, saving her life even though he knows she was one of The Governor’s people.  But.  Stranger alliances have been made in the zombie apocalypse.  They have a talk, find common ground, Glenn admits he doesn’t want her company so much as needs it, then they beat the crap out of some zombies which finally exhausts Glenn, and he drops to the ground.

See why he needs you, Tara?

Then we meet this guy. This fucking guy.

20140217_164417

I have no idea as of yet what to make of Abe Ford and his crew.  They’re just…present.  And show up in a militarized vehicle, which has never once boded well for our intrepid band of survivors.

Also introduced in this episode: a sanctuary called “Terminus“, which literally means “the end of the line“. That can’t be good.

As for what happened with Lizzie’s bunnies, take a look at what was in a log as Daryl and Beth made their way through the woods.

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

Sad bunnies. Crazy child. Deranged future.

Remember, the timelines in these stories are linear unto themselves, but not contiguous. They’re all starting at different times, so we’re trying to piece together the timelines.  And it’s sad and poignant–they’re just missing one another.

So now we know, sort of, where everyone is. Next week: Craziness ensues!

Bad Fashion Ideas, Fall 2013: This Isn’t Funny Anymore, OK?

Omigod.

OK, so, I just went to the mall to check out what was happening in the anchor stores, what’s being marketed to women, what is determined by corporate buyers as completely appropriate and (at least on some level, I would hope this was a goal) aesthetically pleasing for the American woman buying clothing today.  And usually the clothes kind of suck but they’re also often a little funny and you know, even though you wouldn’t want to put this stuff on your body, maybe, at least you could kind of chuckle about it.

Today?  Not chuckling. Not even a little.

It’s rare that I leave the mall pissed off…I mean, really, really pissed about what I’ve seen in shopping land, but this trip was like a blight unto mine eyes.  For reals. I thought…whaaaaat…the fuuuuuuuuuck…are some of these midrange price point designers/buyers thinking?  If you ever need convincing there’s a secret war on women then come see me ’cause baby, I got the proof.

Usual rules apply: no clearance, all multi-state and/or national (U.S.) chain stores, so the distribution for these beauties is wide-ranging and a recipe for despair.

Let’s just start with this.  How did the conversation with the buyers go?  “Well, you know, that simple red sheath dress is so…sane, and practical.  Have you got any spare material laying around?  Because I’d really like to see this with enormously expansive side panels that add girth to the wearer, make no sense, and look like colorblocked bat wings.  Hail Satan.”

Done and done!

What. Is. This. About.

What. Is. This. About.

Though I’ll grant this: at the very least, this dress is trying.  It’s nightmarish in its efforts and the only message it would convey is that the wearer is either insane or on a mirror fast but, on some sad level, this dress attempts to define a person’s style.  Sadly, this was not the case with much of the clothing I saw in the stores this season.  There was an uncomfortable amount of pre-layered clothes, which are bad because you can never change the look of a shirt (ummmm…it’s better to let some faceless designer at a drafting table express yourself for you?) and the layers wear differently, so if one shitty, poorly constructed layer gets pilled/stained/stretched out of shape, the whole shirt becomes useless.

Though I would argue these shirts are pretty useless already.

Not even copious amounts of rum could ease the pain this shirt brings.

Not even copious amounts of rum could ease the pain this shirt brings.

For those fancy days at the office...

For those fancy days at the office…

100_7952-001

Ladies, repeat after me: NOBODY looks (or smells) good in unstructured 100% polyester.

And if a two-layered look isn’t good enough for you, then let me present you with a triple-layered shirt.  Because WTF.

Come on, seriously?

Three layers?  Seriously?

Worse: there are stacks and stacks of this crap.

Grim.

They suck your life and energy right out from under you.

Grim.  Please, buy separate pieces, people.  Because freedom, that’s why.

There was also a trend in “I Give Up” wear.  A phrase I totally stole from a beloved TV show, I Give Up wear is clothing for people who know they must adorn their bodies with fabrics in order to not get arrested, but don’t care/don’t know how to dress themselves/don’t have faith in their appearance/think for some reason they don’t deserve to look good.  Sad?  Certainly.

Nobody feels great wearing any one of these tops. Not really.

Because nobody feels great wearing any one of these tops. Not really.

And yet, I Give Up wear is alarmingly prevalent. There’s a study out there supporting the theory that zombie stories gain popularity during times of economic downturn.  It speculates about the nature of mindless consumption.  Is this a similar trend?  The economy is bad, the news is grim, we seem to be mired in endless war…just gimme a frigging shirt and STFU or I will eat your entrails off a spike.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have a deep and abiding hatred for seasonal applique, which is total “I’ve Given Up” wear because people misguidedly think seasonal applique allows them to opt out of thinking about their clothes.  Of course you’re appropriately dressed, right?  It’s the end of August and your boxy, shape-free T-shirt has school buses and apples stitched onto it, so that must be right, right?  Wrong.  It’s not good or whimsical or fun; it’s a hollow bill of sale that makes the buyer think they’re “having fun” without actually…you know.  Having any.  If you see anything that looks like this (or jingle cows or halloween cats or soda-drinking polar bears)…

...RUN...

…RUN…

Try and avoid anything that makes you look like the prison matron from the movie Chicago, no matter how fierce Queen Latifah is in real life. Or anything that makes you look like you’re wearing one of those decidedly un-sexy retro gym suits that were mandatory in US high schools until the 1970s.  Or something that is a combination thereof, as the poorly designed item in the center of the photo below demonstrates. Unless, of course, you have a prison-drab fetish and if so? Then you can pair this blight with the shapeless blue-grey cardigan on the right for a full-out visual declaration that you don’t like yourself even a little.

It's a pity the actual prison matron costume has the most style.

It’s a pity the actual prison matron costume has the most zazz.

Here’s some quick rules by which you should abide when shopping this season. Or any season.

When buying skin-colored leggings (and this applies not just to the Caucasian variety, as the leggings depict but rather, any woman who buys leggings that are fairly close to her skin tone), be careful about the texture.

Because ew, that's why.

Because ew, that’s why.

Exercise extreme prejudice when facing down a short-sleeved sweatshirt with a pearl-embellished closed placket.

Kill if you must.

Kill if you must.

I don’t mind plaid shirts. I don’t mind crocheted lace insets. I DO, however, mind when these elements are all part of one confused shirt, which tries and fails to be cowgirl-sexy.

Poor confused shirt.

Plaid tie front and lace epaulets = a sad and lonely shirt.

Let’s not forget…

ruffles-001

*sigh*

And then there’s…

OH COME ON.

OH COME ON.

I give up.

I mean, I really give up.

There’s no coming back from this.  I’d like to present you with a few more things, just to drive the nail in the ol’ coffin of widely available women’s clothing this season.  First, here is the ultimate “I give up” ensemble.  Oatmeal-colored pants, washed out wallpaper-print pattern.  I even found shoes to match.  Please note: the shirt and pants were merchandised BY PROFESSIONALS as a potential outfit. SOMEONE THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, AND PUT IT ON PROMINENT DISPLAY.

This is the newest uniform for greeters in Hell.

This is the newest uniform for greeters in Hell.

Seriously. I give up.

But it does make me wonder…these clothes are so, SO bad.  How could this be?  How could one season be so horrifically, pathetically ugly?  I’d even say the clothes this season actively work to undermine women’s confidence and sense of well-being, they are that bad.  How does that happen..?

Wait…

I think it’s coming clear to me…

Do you see it?

It's right there...looking at me...

It’s right there…looking at me…

It’s not…no…it couldn’t be, could it?

As a matter of fact…

...I think it could be...

…I think it could be…

That would explain so much.  I understand now!  Dark Lord Designs for the Fall 2013 win!

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