Cogs and Cabernet

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 11:42 AM

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I have recently been consumed by planning my costume for a Steampunk themed birthday party I am hosting. If you are unfamiliar with Steampunk, the bland, Wikipedia explanation would be that it is a “sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that…involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually the Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy…and features anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc.” Wow that was a mouthful… If you Google “Steampunk” you will see that it is much more than that. What is so mesmerizing is the culture surrounding this literary genre. I would consider myself a Steampunk novice. I have only read a few Steampunk novels, but none of the classics. Still, I am drawn to anything and everything Steampunk. I have always loved the Victorian era in literature. It was a period of social change but also a time where society clung to social traditions. Steampunk takes Victorian lace, bustles, and tea and adds the masculine elements of gears, cogs and zeppelins. The combination is aesthetically beautiful. I don’t know if it is the escapism, the nostalgia, or the fashion, but Steampunk definitely has its allure. The “maker” mentality of steampunks is amazing. The costumes, the weapons, the jewelry…all are made by hand or re-purposed. I think that is the fun of it—making your own costume/character—which is why I start obsessing around this time every year over what my Halloween costume will be. There is something in all of us that wants to be someone else, even if it is just for one night. I also think that many of us long for simpler times. I am somewhat disappointed that “the future” is not turning out as writers like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne envisioned. In the meantime, I guess I can have my tea...err wine and crumpets with clockwork gadgets on the side.



Wine and Possibilities

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 9:58 AM

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RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition. -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

This may sound foolish and slightly peculiar, but I truly enjoy walking along train tracks. I know many would say it is reckless or dangerous, but that doesn’t dissuade me. I don’t know what it is about this simple pastime, but each time is like an adventure. I love to take my wine, and a wonderful friend, and walk the rails. There is a beautiful Japanese Garden in my city park that is adjacent to the railroad. A winding trail through the woods takes you to the tracks. Once on the tracks there are several bridges that overlook quiet creeks. It is very peaceful and a great place for deep conversation. It is there, overlooking the creek, that I tend to make many self-realizations. Maybe I’m inspired by the fact that the tracks are a mode of travel. I find comfort knowing that they lead somewhere…somewhere away from here…that there is more to life than what I currently know. The tracks remind me that I am not limited and that my life doesn’t have to be stagnant. I can improve and change and possibly move away. I can travel the world. Although some would call the tracks a hazardous place to spend my time, all I see are the possibilities.

Pollock

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 5:34 PM

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Life if like a Pollock painting--make of it what you want...

YA Fiction and Reality TV

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 11:58 AM

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I have a confession to make. I enjoy reading YA fiction. Don’t judge…you know you read Harry Potter and Twilight. I don’t always read YA, but when you find a good book, you find a good book, regardless if it came from the teen section. My most recent obsession has been Cassandra Clare, but before her there was Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. I picked it up by chance one day in the book store (I saw two other adults reading books from the series) and decided to give it a whirl. I was hooked immediately. It reminded me of Orwell’s 1984 with a little of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery thrown in. The three book series, which includes The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, is set is post-apocalyptic North America, now called Panem. It has been divided up into 12 districts. There were originally 13 but after an uprising the thirteenth district was destroyed…or was it? As a result of that rebellion, each year the 12 remaining districts must randomly choose a boy and girl, ages 12 to 18, to represent them in the Hunger Games where they must fight to the death on live television. Pretty heavy stuff for teens if you ask me. The 12 districts are ruled by the Capitol a.k.a. Big Brother and the Hunger Games serve as a reminder to the districts that no one is above the Capitol’s power, not even children. The story revolves around the two District 12 “tributes”, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, who become symbols of the revolution against the Capitol. I don’t want to give away any more because I’m hoping you will read the books, but what I love about this series is that it is almost a satire of our current society. The totalitarian government is an obvious reflection of the fears that we will one day have a similar fate. Unfortunately our government thinks that the more they watch us the safer we are, but at what price? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Beyond that, one of the things that affected me most in the books is the way the people who live in the Capitol view the Hunger Games. To them it is pure entertainment, not teenagers brutally killing each other. Collins’ modeled the Hunger Games after the Coliseum of Ancient Rome and has discussed how her inspiration for the series came when she was channel-flipping between war coverage and reality TV. We look back now and call the Romans barbaric, but have we really changed that much? Do we not still enjoy seeing people’s pain and suffering? Reality TV has taken over our society. We love the idea of watching “real life” instead of scripted drama. The Hunger Games are the epitome of “good” reality TV.

There’s the Host: Caesar Flickerman is the charismatic host who interviews all the tributes before they go into the arena. He is the Hunger Games version of Ryan Seacrest.

There’s the Judges: The Gamemakers might as well be Judges because they decide how the games go. Plutarch Heavensbee could be considered Panem’s version of Simon Cowell.

Then there’s the Makeover. We love to see someone go from ugly duckling, to beautiful swan. Extreme Makeover, America’s Next Top Model, even The Biggest Loser, every good reality TV show has a makeover episode and each of the Hunger Games competitors is beautified before they go into the arena to be slaughtered.

Of course there must be a Romance: Fake reality-TV romances are a staple. Katniss and Peeta’s fake romance is what makes them so popular with the viewers and helps them survive the games.

And don’t forget about the All-Stars: Catching Fire focuses on the Quarter Quell, a special edition of the Hunger Games, in which former winners come back and compete. Practically every major reality show has had an “All-Stars” edition, from MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge to Survivor All-Stars.

Then there is the idea of the Survival of the Fittest. In competitive reality TV shows, we love to watch how the game plays out. Contestants will lie and betray their fellow castmates just to get ahead and we eat it up. Except for the murder, are the Hunger Games not just like Survivor? Stranded in a remote area, forced to survive, only one will win…

Each year the envelope is pushed a little farther. Shows like Jerry Springer and Jersey Shore get the most attention because of their shock value. What are they going to shock us with next? I’ll admit I indulge in reality TV. We all do. I have watched Jersey Shore, although I liken it to watching a train wreck—you just can’t look away. Reality TV is our new Coliseum. I am constantly amazed at how many people are prepared to be publicly humiliated, harassed and embarrassed on these shows. The Romans’ love for the morbidity of death is what pushed the gladiators to kill innocent Christians in the arena. By choosing to watch this, the people welcomed their own decline by diluting the social values that are needed to maintain a healthy society. Is reality TV not doing the same thing? Is it not destroying the moral values of our culture by changing people’s values through the images they see? Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes? Who is to say that in fifty years we won’t be watching our own version of the Hunger Games?



Wine and Rafting

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 8:22 AM

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This weekend I attended my city's local Art Walk where all the downtown art galleries, studios and unique shops open their doors to display their collections and serve wine and hors d'oeuvres. Art and wine...I'm there. While ambling through one of the galleries, wine in hand, I gasped when I rounded the corner to see The Raft of the Medusa. I know this painting very well from my college days as an Art History minor, but Gericault’s French Romanticism is not at all what I expected to see in a contemporary gallery. I’m sure I made quite a fool of myself has I hurried over to get a closer look, spilling wine in the process. Upon inspection of the massive piece, I could see that The Raft was actually a photo instead of a painting. It was staged exactly as the original, with only a few slight changes. The French flag was replaced with the American flag, for example, and the barrel was replaced with an oil drum. The exhibition is entitled, Catalyst, and displayed Southern artists’ take on the Gulf Coast Oil Crisis. Gericault’s Raft also represents a crisis. The Medusa sank because of the incompetence of its captain. Due to a shortage of lifeboats, 149 people piled onto a raft that drifted for twelve days. Only fifteen survived the ensuing slaughter, madness, and cannibalism. Gericault displayed his painting two years after the actual sinking of the Medusa and the French people saw it as an indictment of their monarchy because the inept captain had been under its authority. Today’s political climate hasn’t changed much. A year after the Gulf Coast Oil Crisis and we are still reminded of the ineptness of our government. Our incompetent captain, BP, has tried very hard to tell us that everything is back to normal, but those who live here still see blood in the water. The rig workers and countless marine species and birds that died are not forgotten, just as the victims of the Medusa.


Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa

Generic Art Solutions' The Raft

Dude!

Posted by Wine Stained Lips | Posted on 6:33 PM

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I saw this wino, he was eating grapes. I said "Dude, you have to wait". -Mitch Hedberg