17 March 2014

Je suis [toujours] seropositif!



Vous vous souvenez peut-être de la campagne « Je suis séropositif » de la Coalition des organismes communautaires de lutte contre le sida. La première édition de cette campagne a été lancée fin novembre 2012 avec cinq porte-paroles courageux. Cette communauté d’affirmation est en plein croissance, avec de nouveaux participants prêts à se tenir debout et dire au monde « Je suis ici, je suis séropositif et je suis une personne à part entière, avec des plans, des rêves et des expériences à partager avec vous. » La deuxième édition de la campagne est sortie cette année, avec deux nouvelles vidéos en novembre et trois autres vidéos en février. Je suis heureux de vous dire que je figure dans le groupe de cette année, donc j’ai pensé vous montrer la campagne à nouveau et vous raconter mes raisons de participer.

Le principe est simple : les gens sont beaucoup moins apte à craindre ou à ignorer d’autres personnes quand ils les perçoivent comme des vraies personnes. Communiquer son humanité dans une courte vidéo d’environ deux minutes est tout un défi, mais c’est au moins un début, quelques pas sur le chemin vers la familiarité.

Au cours de la première année, il y avait beaucoup d’incertitudes : quelles réactions pouvions-nous attendre du public? Les porte-paroles, feraient-ils face à des situations négatives? Des questions trop personnelles? En effet, toutes les inquiétudes qui arrivent quand on pense à divulguer son statut sérologique à une nouvelle personne. Et tout comme le déroulement de ce processus individuel, le processus virtuel de divulgation via la campagne a mené à la compassion, l’encouragement et le respect.

Donc, pourquoi ma participation? J’ai créé ce blogue à la fin de 2006 parce que je tiens à l’approche de la campagne actuelle. Il serait impossible pour quelqu’un qui me connaît de me craindre ou de m’haïr (évidemment je suis convaincu de mon amabilité!). Nous avons tous témoigné la réussite de cette approche avec les communautés LGBT — quand les membres de cette communauté sortent du placard en nombre, il devient plus difficile de les traiter de moindre. Oui, il reste des progrès à réaliser pour cette communauté aussi, mais l’élément incontournable est la familiarité.

C’est une chance que la campagne ne dépend pas de la surprise, parce que je suis depuis pas mal de temps relativement ouvert avec mon statut de séropositivité. Cependant, je me trouve assez régulièrement dans des situations où je divulgue pour une première fois à quelqu’un, avec tout ce que ça continue à entraîner. Il y a quelques années, j’ai fait une entrevue télévisée au cours de ma participation à Ça Marche (notre marche annuelle de lutte contre le VIH/sida au Québec). Un couple de jours plus tard, ma voisine qui a emménagé à notre adresse quelques jours avant moi il y a vingt ans m’a dit qu’elle a vu l’entrevue et nous avons discuté de ma santé devant l’escalier en avant. Sa santé aussi. Tout le monde aime parler de ses réalités et trouver les parallèles dans les vies des autres.

Bien que ma séropositivité a une certaine notoriété — on peut le lire sur l’en-tête de ce blogue! — je voulais prendre ce pas additionnel en solidarité avec ceux et celles qui sont allés devant moi et avec tout le monde qui pourrait bénéficier d’un peu plus de familiarité du grand public en lien avec le VIH. Est-ce que j’ai réussi?

The English version of this article is published here.











16 March 2014

Signs of an Election


Ah, the election signs. They pollute our view of the city for all of the rather short 33 days of the campaign, and for much longer afterward, until they are scavenged for other uses. One of the better uses has been by artist Yvon Goulet, who uses the fronts of these corrugated communicators as canvasses for his art with an urban edge.


Until they can be salvaged and transformed, however, they are out there trying to persuade us to vote for party X and candidate Y. And they are generally out there early, too, as candidates jump the gun to have their posters out there even before the election writ is dropped, if only by a few hours. So shall we have a look at this election’s crop of imagery?


Parti québécois (PQ)

I’ll start with the Parti québécois, the governing party (at least that’s where they were at the beginning). This time they have gone with a very simple approach: name of the party very prominently, large colour photo pf the candidate with the first and last names printed across the chest to the left (from the viewer’s perspective) and the party logo at bottom right with the web address in simplified form and the Facebook and Twitter logos to entice us to look for content elsewhere.

My first reactions to these, apart from being annoyed at how they went up overnight the day before the election call, was to note that this is the first time I remember seeing the PQ logo presented all in white. I speculated that this might be the effect of the party’s proposed Charte des valeurs (the real name of the legislation ended up far too long to remember): excluding all the colours and variety. In the search for images on the web, I discovered that this is in fact not the case, as it was all white last time around, too! I stand corrected, but not chastened…the imagery of the all-white logo in the context of this divisive social debate is fascinating.


Parti liberal du Québec (PLQ)

The Liberal Party would have done well to follow the simplicity example laid down by the PQ. They have gone with prominent slogan — or at least the first word of the slogan is prominent, as the other words are too small to read except from a very proximate position. Even the Ensemble loses its punch on the bilingual version of the posters that are to be seen in some areas. (Apologies for the fuzziness of the second photo: I was waiting for a bus after seeing a movie and took it with my phone in the cold.)

If even the most prominent word on the poster is at times difficult to make out, the candidates’ names are even harder to discern. I wouldn’t be hiring the same firm next time around if I were the PLQ.




Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)

The CAQ might have the most graphically interesting posters. I have always found their logo — if not their policies — very pretty and interesting. This time around, they are taking full advantage of that by deconstructing the colourful logo or showing parts of it only in the images. The actual posters outside (and here I am relying on what I found online, as they seem not to be spending a lot of time promoting their candidate in my part of town, where they finished 4th last time out, with just under 15% of the vote) have a black and white photo of the candidate with the full colour logo and the name of the candidate. Sometimes, it’s just the top or the bottom of the logo and that lends an air of sophistication to the whole campaign. Or at least the visuals.

One of my colleagues has pointed out that in some regions of Québec, the slogan On se donne Legault takes a turn for the juvenile, as le go is slang for diarrhoea, which has got to be unfortunate for them.




Québec solidaire (QS)

Québec solidaire might be poised to pick up a couple more seats in central Montréal because of the perceived right-wing turn of the PQ, and they are running hard, with posters that went up almost as early as everyone else’s. Unlike everyone else, however, they have a series of issues-oriented messages almost as abundant as their candidate posters. I kind of like the sharp candidate photo with the blurred (and oranged) background, but I would have to say that the posters are a bit wordy and there is a bit of a disconnect between voting with your head (as the slogan would have it) and the omnipresent heart pictogram.

On the issues posters, there are unfortunately two different styles. And as I paired them up I discovered that there are different dimensions, too, as some have text trimmed from them for me to fit them into the same space. I like the ones with the photos, as they really click with the whole of the campaign. The messages on the other ones are attractive too, but the hors série look doesn’t help make for a cohesive campaign. I will confess, though, that I have not seen the plain colour ones anywhere but on the Facebook page of the party…the only ones on poles outdoors are the ones that fit together with the candidate posters.

Oh, and one more thing that I wanted to share, especially in light of our divisive Charter debate: from a distance, I was sure that the young woman pictured with the metrosexual guy in the Québec libre poster was wearing a hijab. It wasn’t until I got much closer that I realized it was a knitted hat, and that made me chuckle all the more, as the distinction between the two is so very artificial.

Parti vert du Québec

Oh come on now! If you can afford to put a full-colour photo of your leader on your posters (only one model out there, all leader, no local candidates) and you can spend money on having them all over the place (how ecological is that?), you could at least deploy a little creativity to take your look beyond high school.


Option nationale

You would think that Option nationale might have a stronger presence in my sovereignist neighbourhood, but no. No posters here; all images drawn from their Facebook page. They probably have even fewer resources than the Greens (don’t quote me on that though — ON seems to have a campaign car and maybe it’s still too cold, but I haven’t seen any campaign bicycles for the Greens), but they have managed to put together some imagery that looks sophisticated and a simple well-constructed slogan. They couldn’t contain themselves, though, and tended toward the wordy in some versions.

Parody and graffiti

Sometimes it is very funny to see what people can do to the posters that are all out there for us to appreciate — and apparently write on! Sometimes the graffiti is just not clever and downright offensive. If you want to see ongoing examples of both, I would suggest this Tumblr, which seems to be posting regularly. Two that I will talk about, however, are parodies done with computer graphics rather than felt markers.

The first is my own, of which I am excessively proud. Since the announcement only one week ago of the candidacy of Pierre-Karl Péladeau (PKP) for the PQ, there have been big waves in the campaign, and not necessarily all in the direction that the PQ hoped for. Here was a successful entrepreneur coming out clearly in favour of Québec independence, which might be a boost if that is your issue. However, PKP comes with some other baggage, notably a huge number of lockouts of his employees and the exploitation of gaps in the anti-scab law that made it possible for his company to hire telecommuting journalists to replace the locked-out ones. For a party like the PQ that used to have a left wing (this has been a bloody stump for quite some time now, regularly hacked off), the Lockout King of Québécor might also be the cause of lost votes to the left.

So, while I am not the inventor of the name “Parti Québécor” I did take the logo of the media conglomerate and put it into the format of this campaign’s representation of the Parti québécois, even replacing the “Q” with the PQ’s traditional logo, but in black to go with the company name.

A well-meaning young woman photoshopped a hijab onto the election poster featuring PQ leader Pauline Marois. While the symbolism of this image is interesting and the young woman herself says she thinks the Première ministre looks beautiful in it, the act plays into the hands of the supporters of the Charte des valeurs, in my opinion. She has imposed a hijab on Pauline Marois (as opposed to Mme Marois having chosen to wear it) and in doing so she has also covered up (erased) Mme Marois’ name. That’s too bad. It might have been a stronger message to put the hijab on Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the Charte, subverting the symbolism and erasing the identity of a man for a change.

TV ads, too!

From an article on the site of l’Actualité, but rearranged into the order of presentation above, and selecting only one per party:









(I guess the high school camcorder was not available for the other two.)

15 February 2014

How [not] to choose a movie

I confess: I’m shallow. And easy. I’m a total sucker for a pretty face, especially when it’s attached to a pretty torso that may or may not be fully covered by the work of some costumier with any degree of consistency in the film projected before me. However, after a few experiences of stories that I didn’t particularly care for (or that didn’t really hold together), should I put into question this movie selection method?

I don’t get the fuss
Self-important like their hair
And no abs to scam

The boy can wear clothes:
suits, jeans and sweats. But the tale?
Beneath his talent.

Horse-dog and a man
Who lives forever to save
Not this, but that one

Now I won’t deny that there were some lovely shots in these three films, but the stories either failed to make me laugh (when they were trying) or succeeded (when they were not) and provoked so much rolling of eyes that I almost needed to recover with a sleep mask when I got home.

So have I learned my lesson? Well, Pompeii is coming out next week, right Jon Snow (Kit Harrington)?

31 December 2013

The Seven Film Itch

As we count down the last hours of 2013, I have a short list of films I have seen and so far failed to review — or whatever that thing is that I do when I write about the films I have seen. I set myself the challenge of writing about each and every film I saw this year in a cinema (no counting the airline films or the ones I might have caught on TV or on the internet), and with these seven we are up to 35 for the year, which is not a bad score, I must say. So let’s just get these last seven out of the way, shall we? And I’m sure we’ll do it with our usual attention to detail and comprehensiveness.

Philomena
A lovely story of a faithful and humourless woman who recruits a jaded and sarcastically funny journalist to help her track down the son she had to give up for adoption as a young unmarried girl. The contrast between the characters couldn’t have been more striking, and the journalist’s coming to care about the story and his subject couldn’t have been more moving. They almost dragged a whole other movie into the mix when we found out what the son had done and what had happened to him.

Out in the Dark
I saw this at Image et nation, our LGBT film festival. An Israeli production, I was a bit worried about possible pinkwashing in this boy-boy version of the old Romeo and Juliette tale. I needn’t have worried about that. Yes, the Palestinian family (and the community around them) are rather homophobic, but there is a kind of sinister “use and discard” approach taken by shadowy Israeli intelligence operators with respect to the gay Palestinians they run into that is itself deeply homophobic. And just like real life, nobody’s really happy at the end.

Freier Fall
A second film at Image et nation! (I’m so bad at getting myself out the door to see films in this festival that it is well worth underlining my success in doing that this year.) This time around, these police trainees are indeed from the same ethnic background, but we are seized with the complicating factor of a pregnant wife who finds herself in the middle. Nobody ends up happy here, either, but some of the characters were so little developed that we don’t really understand why or what motivated them.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I’m as geeky as the next guy (only because the next guy is the friend with whom I go to most of these movies), but I have to say that when I heard that The Hobbit was being turned into no fewer than three films, I thought it was just the extreme manifestation of Hollywood trying to milk what they could from the fans of the story. I, and probably most of the other Tolkein fans, would be happy to sit and watch the whole thing in one giant movie, but we shall have to content ourselves with playing them back to back when they’re all out on DVD or Blu-Ray. As it is, I loved the depictions of those creatures that remain familiar, despite the fact of my last having read the books in my youth, the scenery is fabulous and there is just enough humour — even a little sex appeal — to fire one up on all cylinders. But even after more than two and a half hours, I still felt that this segment of the story was only half told. Four films, maybe?

Nebraska
I’m afraid I did my best in the viewing of this film to emulate the habits of the father character, falling asleep with great and unpredictable regularity! Don’t blame it on the film, though, but on my exhausted state just before the holiday sleeping in time. What I did see (I kid…I saw much of it!) was quite a touching account of an elderly man bamboozled by promotional materials into believing that he is the winner of a big prize (you know the kind: you have won…a chance to win) and the decision of his son to accompany him on the trip to claim his prize. Spectacular views of dying communities and people with long and convoluted memories of each other, plus the strange state of the children who have left all that and come back as visitor-strangers, something I find rather familiar to my own experiences visiting my old hometown. You will love what the son does for his father after the unsuccessful prize claiming and leave smiling.

Inside Llewyn Davis
The friend I went with to this film kidded me at the beginning that it was before I was born…but she was wrong! Must be my youthful looks, right? And speaking of youthful looks…Oscar Isaac should drop everything and come marry me. Or I’ll go marry him because it’s now legal there, too. This has nothing to do with the movie, but maybe everything to do with how I could have warm feelings toward a character who is chronically unsuccessful in his folk music career (hey, it was the early sixties, not such an oxymoron back then), couch surfs well before the term is invented, leaves behind a series of unwanted pregnancies and can’t even abandon his music career well. Still kinda liked him at the end, and that folk music can be catchy if it’s sung right… Also of note, some big name small parts, including John Goodman, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver (Adam in HBO’s Girls, in case the image didn’t spring right into your mind).

12 Years a Slave
I needed to see this, although my usual movie buddies were not hot on prioritizing it in the run up to the holidays. I will not fall into that awful mess of what some noted commentators have been saying in the US — that now they understand why slavery was bad. Really? I think I knew that already. The violence and the attitudes of the slave owners are all there in their disturbing reality, but there were two things that really haunt me from this film (saw it earlier today, so it’s fresh): the passivity of the acceptance of the situation by most of the white characters, and the feeling of guilt that I got on behalf of the main character as he was being rescued from his slavery by the sheriff and a friend from the north, leaving behind all the others, who would probably pay for his freedom with their own pain and blood. “How could he do that?” I wanted to ask, knowing that the answer was “How could he not?”

So that’s my year in cinema. Thirty-five films in fifty-two weeks. Not bad for an amateur.

27 December 2013

Past Shop

 A little consumer rant for today? Well, you’re getting it anyway!

I was oh so proud of myself and giddy with anticipation. On December 25th I decided to take the plunge and buy a new washer and dryer for myself, replacing the small apartment-sized ones a friend gave to me when he moved out of town that had themselves been purchased used. You see, I have had some problems of late with the washer (sometimes I have to help it work up to the final spin so as not to end up with clothes that I had to wring out and dry forever) and with the dryer (a scary noise that has made me reluctant to use it again for a couple of weeks now).

A chance e-mail from a retailer about their fabulous end of year sales (I’ll leave you to guess which retailer that might be) and I fell upon a lovely duo of front-loading machines (not as novel for the dryer as for the washer) in what they described as “liquid silver”. Fabulous! I called my Dad to see if he thought the pedestals were necessary (they are just storage drawers; he said no) and then I placed my order online. I even called them part way through the order to ask about the recycling option (take away my old machines for a fee and recycle them) and after much searching on their part, I was told that that could be worked out once I got my delivery notice. “Fine!” thought I, and proceeded to the checkout, where I was greeted with the usual credit card options and a flashy “PayPal now accepted” button. I went for the PayPal, which charges my credit card when I make a purchase, but it was marginally easier, having only the password to fill out and having my delivery information automatically supplied to the retailer. I went to bed dreaming of my lovely new machines and oh, the laundry I’d be doing!

The next day, I woke up to the delivery notice e-mail, proposing the last day of my time off as the delivery date, which suited me just fine. It was also my opportunity to work out the details on that recycling option. Not having a car (or a truck) or being physically capable of wrestling my old appliances down my stairs to be trashed by the city’s large item garbage collection, this recycling thing was a truly necessary part of the whole deal, and it promised to make me feel better about the disposition of the old machines, even if not actually certain they would be re-used or taken apart for their useful components.

The e-mail had little clickable buttons, including one for the recycling option, additional fee of $30 per item. Fine! I clicked for naught. It seems that the link brings up a “mail to” window which doesn’t really work when one uses webmail exclusively. Never mind! There’s a helpful toll-free number to call — all will surely be worked out!
Are you beginning to suspect that all did not work out? Clever you! The first person on the phone brought up the file of my transaction and sadly announced to me that I couldn’t choose the recycling option because I had paid by PayPal.

Me: “What? How about if I pay for the recycling in a second transaction, on my credit card if you prefer?”

Customer “service” rep: “Sorry, but our system won’t allow me to do that.”

(A couple more tries on my part to work that out, to no avail, then I asked for the supervisor.)

Supervisor: “Sorry, but our system won’t allow me to do that.”

Me: “You’re going to throw away a $2,000 sale for a $60 recycling fee that I’m offering to pay for on my credit card?”

Supervisor: “There’s nothing I can do about that. The system won’t allow it.”

So a rigid system trumps a sale. Let’s just say that the sale is now cancelled. And while they managed to charge my credit card (through PayPal) within hours of my placing the order, the refund will take up to a week, and maybe a few more days before it appears in my credit card account. The quick automated call about how satisfied I was with my exchanges with customer service probably won’t be earning anyone a bonus this year, either.

My dreams of getting this accomplished during the holiday break are over, and my motivation to do the preparation for having these new appliances in my apartment has evaporated. Don’t even let me remember that this is the same retailer that I had to visit several times to accomplish the purchase of a television a few years ago, even ending up with a radio (there was no picture) the first time around.

So bah humbug to you — uh — Past Shop!

26 December 2013

PRAS3 5-8: Hoods, Homer, Hollywood and … Bloggers

Continuing my catch-up with Project Runway All Stars season 3…

Episode 5: Bonnie & Clyde • Guest judges: PR alumnus Austin Scarlett (replacing Georgina Chapman), supermodel Bar Rafaeli and designer Elie Tahari

Uh-oh! Teams of two! Male models too! Yet another commercial tie-in has our contestants designing outfits for the TV mini-series Bonnie & Clyde. One half of the team will be responsible for Bonnie’s outfit, the other for Clyde’s and the designs should be fashion forward (duh!) yet rooted in the 1930s (huh?). The additional prize for the winner: outfit to be worn in the miniseries and a screen credit to the designer! A schoolyard pick comes down to the last two: Korto and Elena. The latter is convinced that people are still afraid of her “former” self and her temper while the former is pleased to be able to offer a calming influence to her. We’ll see how that works out.

Well, in fact it does seem to work, as the drama all comes from boy town. Jeffrey flies off the handle because his model seems to have spent the whole year since his measurements were last taken working out and bulking up and is too muscly for the coat J has made. He swears, he stomps out of the room, and then he’s back. The difference between Jeffrey and Elena becomes clear: he is quick to apologize and get back to work. She ought to have taken notes on that instead of snickering that his team’s looks were all wrong for the challenge.

It always fascinates me to see how thrown the designers are by having to make menswear. They struggle, some claim to have a lot of experience with it, and then they inevitably end up making good pants and then shirts with horrible uneven collars. Considering that the shirt is usually only showing at the collar, you might want to focus on making that bit work, no? I suppose it is clear that I am not a tailor or a designer, as I have no appreciation of how difficult this seemingly simple garment is to make. Oh, and it seems like half of the men weren’t allowed to wear socks! Is this because they were not available on the accessory wall, or that they would have had to have been made by the designer to make it to the runway? Mystery.

It ended up coming down to the menswear: Jeffrey and his terrible neck and hand tattoos take it with the really beautiful coat and nice pants, and Mychael is out, not because he can’t spell Michael, but because his shiny copper tweed jacket was too short- and tight-looking to evoke the sense of elegance we look for in a serial robber and killer. Now I will have to fire up the recorded version of that mini-series to look for Jeffrey’s credit. I will, however, miss Mychael and his good temperedness and design skills.

Episode 6: A Date with Homer • Guest judges PR alumnus Anthony Ryan Auld (replacing Georgina Chapman), actress Abigail Breslin and designer Stacey Bendet

An original challenge this time out: Marge Simpson (yes, the beloved cartoon character) needs a dress for a dinner date with her husband. She is expecting that there will even be table service and no cafeteria trays, and wants a dress that will come off easily in hopes that Homer will be in the mood at the end of the evening! The winning design will actually be drawn into the cartoon this season, with a credit to the designer. And the funny bit: Marge tells the contestants to use accessories from the “who’s ever sponsoring the wall now wall”. Ouch, QVC.

There were a few odd things happening this time out. Viktor seemed to be blaming Christopher for his having been in the bottom in the previous challenge, and avoided him, which sent Christopher into a bit of a tailspin. It didn’t help that he was also having trouble wrapping his head around having a cartoon character for a client, yet sewing for a real model. By far the craziest was Seth Aaron (I can’t believe we have to use both of those names, despite their not being hyphenated!). He kept starting over and ended up walking his sixth dress attempt down the runway, after spending all of two hours making it (he was cagey with the judges on that point).

What was nice to see, however, was that Irina took up some additional space. Despite all of the dire predictions of drama from Christopher in episode 1, there has been nothing of the sort from Irina. She has been steadily producing quality garments and otherwise keeping herself out of the bickering and crying and screaming. It was delightful to see her dress win this challenge, and even to get a sneak peek of Marge wearing it at the end of the episode. Lovely work.

The person probably most annoyed by the result was Jeffrey, who went from last week’s win to a loss, and a loss to someone who had basically flung some fabric over his model and added a belt to it, spending all of two hours on this “creation”. Still, there was no excusing the dishevelled look of his dress, and no explaining why he chose bright orange shoes for the model to wear with the light purple dress. A real eyesore. Good-bye neck tattoos (except for that star on Seth Aaron’s neck)….

Episode 7: Red Carpet Mama • Guest judges: PR alumnus Mondo Guerra (replacing Georgina Chapman), QVC program host Lisa Robertson and actress Elizabeth Moss

Everything was dramatic this week! It started with the trip to get the assignment…at QVC headquarters in Westchester Pennsylvania…in helicopters! And there was a boys’ helicopter and a girls’ helicopter to boot. The assignment was to design a red carpet look for QVC program host Lisa Robertson to wear at an event in LA…sketching in the broadcast studio at QVC before being whisked back to New York to work.

Another bit of drama that touches closer to my heart, as Viktor, agonizing to the point of everyone noticing something was wrong with him, finally asks Elena and Seth Aaron to come talk to him, announcing that he is HIV-positive and has been for seven years (i.e.: through his whole previous PR experience). Only his partner knows, and now Elena and Seth Aaron. As groundbreaking as this is in the life of any person, it is not new territory for Project Runway, after Mondo Guerra came out as poz in the fabric challenge in his original season, and to the judges, to boot. What was truly moving, though, was Elena’s and Seth Aaron’s reactions, as they drew close to assure him of their support, and nobody seems to have blabbed either. While he may have announced his news to those two and to all of us because it was on camera, it was important for me to show that the others involved in the show went on as though they didn’t have that knowledge. Telling who I choose to tell is not a license to tell anyone else on my behalf. Bravo to Viktor for his courage. Well-handled by the show.

Interesting that Mondo Guerra just happened to be sitting in for Georgina Chapman for this “coming out” episode.

Less bravo (I guess that can’t really be said that way, but whatevs) to Zanna for her “mentoring” job. She visits the workroom, announcing on her entry that she doesn’t want to see any jewel-toned strapless gowns, but got exactly that when she visited her first contestant, Christopher. She snaked her way around the room and then paused before leaving to tell the group that nothing she had seen was all-star quality and any of them could be going home. Supportive much?

We also got to see the less desirable side of Irina, as she pinned the blame for the ripping of her dress on her model, despite the fact that it ripped several times when it was in her own hands. Tch-tch-tch! That made it a bit easier to say good-bye to her at the end, after Korto had been awarded the win for a “gown” that didn’t look very gownlike to me.

It occurred to me that they are really spreading the wins around this time. I don’t think anyone has actually won twice. I wonder if that’s on purpose? It also occurred to me that Georgina has now been absent for three consecutive episodes, saving my delicate ears from hearing Ms. Milano’s terrible French pronunciation. Brava Georgina!

Episode 8: Bloggers • Guest judges: PR alumnus Christian Siriano (replacing Georgina Chapman), Nina Garcia of Marie Claire [and the real PR] and Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein

Yay! Nina Garcia! So delightful to have her on this episode, not only as the setter of the task, but also as a judge. Nobody can produce a cutting comment like Nina. But first the task: to design a coming trend, and to use the 2014 Pantone colour of 2014 — Radiant Orchid. [Never mind that Ms. Milano later calls it Wild Orchid..why is she on this show again?] The lovely extra prize with this challenge is a video with Nina Garcia for the Style Hall web site and a gift package from Pantone worth $10,000, including 3 nights at the Pantone Hotel in Brussels. But wait there’s more! Nina has chosen five influential fashion bloggers who will be both muse and model to the designers. Another schoolyard pick….

Elena’s temper is beginning to rear its head. She notices that everyone is now using neoprene, which she was doing — like — three years ago, so they’re all just a big bunch of copycats. She manages to restrain helself from attacking them and expresses this opinion only in the diary/side interview segment. She persists, however, in her cloying lack of confidence in herself, which is beginning to annoy the judges, too.

And here is why Nina should be on every show. The lace on Christopher’s dress looks “…like seaweed that has come out of a swamp.” He thanks her. She adds “That’s not a compliment.” And he can’t leave well enough alone, adding “I didn’t take it as a compliment.” Meow!

Korto comes away with the win — the first repeat winner, and they are back-to-back and near the end, so she has to be feeling rather good about her chances. Viktor, alas, is the one who doesn’t make it, and he doesn’t answer the winner’s query as to who he might pass the fan to. We think we are so clever to notice these things, but we are not alone.

25 December 2013

PRAS3 Episodes 1-4: Punk Bugs Drinking in School

I’m totally stretching here by mashing the episodes together, and my title is just the first indicator of that. But what can a person do when he is so very far behind in the commenting?

Episode 1: Punk • Guest judge: Debbie Harry, of Blondie

Wow! You really know you’ve “arrived” when a world for which you would have had no respect in your own heyday reaches out to [mis]appropriate your movement for its own evil purposes. It helps that many of the contestants were born well after the fading of many of the iconic punk bands, so they are really to be counted on as the experts in parading punk down a runway.

The biggest hardship — to make them really understand what it might have been like to be a disaffected youth — is that they had to work (brace yourself!) in the basement of Mood. Oh, the humanity! It’s enough to drive a fragile manic-depressive to tears and cries of anguish. Oh, there you are Elena. What a totally brilliant idea to do what your model said and turn the jacket around for her to wear it backward. Now take credit for the idea and move along. The rest of us will be counting the times you accuse others of not using their own original ideas.

Ari goes home for not really getting what punk is.

Episode 2: Insects and Arachnids • Guest judges: jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer and PR9 winner Anya Ayoung Chee

The designers meet Ms. Milano at the American Museum of Natural History, which is preparing to open an exhibit called “The Power of Poison”. While this includes a number of venomous insects and arachnids, several others among the collection that will serve as the inspirations to the designers didn’t seem all that poisonous to me. But they were icky and crawly, so we got to have little screams and contorted faces from many of these “professionals”. They sketch with their bugs, which later join them in the work room, still firmly in their glass containers. Oh yeah, and it’s the avant-garde challenge, so go wild.

After having won last week, Elena now draws attention to herself by “losing” her sketch while they are shopping at Mood. Surely this means a total disaster and the world is over! Cry it out, Elena! Rant and rave a bit, too! And Zanna Roberts Rassi really seems to be on a different wavelength from that of the judges. She advises people they are being too literal, resulting in changes that make the judges ask why they were not more reflective of their bugs. Because they were listening to the dizzy blonde “mentor”. And while we’re critiquing the cast…Ms. Milano had some kind of creepy mascara spill at the sides of her eyes that made me want to spit on a Kleenex and dab away, and then she reacted to Jeffrey’s hooded model by saying that the hood looked like it belonged in the bedroom…”Oops” Too much information!”

In the end Mychael wins for having turned his “too literal” version of the hornworm inside out to make it cocoon-y and Daniel and his little moustache go home for being too fake effusive literal with the design based on a vinegaroon, but with a giant swath of fabric as a train.

Episode 3: Cocktails! • Guest judges: designer Rebecca Minkoff and interior designer Nate Berkus

The contestants go to a hip and trendy bar! But yes, it turns out to be a challenge, as they find Ms. Milano there handing out the task. Each is to choose a creation by cocktail “architect” Yousef and then make — what else? — a cocktail dress inspired by it. At least one designer orders the virgin version of the cocktail, while others get tipsy and sketch crooked. But first some innuendo, as Korto’s drink has some candied ginger on the rim, and Jeffrey can’t stop himself from shouting out “Taste the rim”, which Korto does sensuously, then toasting Jeffrey as the next to choose. Viktor attempts to flirt with the bartender — er — cocktail architect (pictured below), but gets nowhere but tipsy.

At the critique, Zanna announces the twist to the competition — after all, what goes better with a cocktail [dress] than a twist? Each of them must also make an accessory to accompany their dress down the runway. I loved Korto’s response to that, as she said that if she didn’t have time for the accessory she would just stick a straw in her model’s mouth and say “Work it baby”. She was really on for this episode, except for that horrible print she chose, of course.

Perhaps as a consolation for striking out with “Tiger Eyes” Yousef and in spite of his dress threatening to flap open to reveal hidden treasures, Viktor gets the win. Melissa’s dress, which we have seen from her before, but not in pink velvet, gets her a ticket home.

Epidsode 4: School ‘em! • Guest judges: actress Gabourey Sidibe and actor Michael Urie

When the contestants are told to wait outside Parsons for their ride, they aren’t expecting what rolls up: a classic yellow school bus. This turns some of them into children again, while Korto tells a cute story about how jealous her daughter will be (she wants to ride a school bus) and Christopher retreats into terrible memories of having been bullied. When they arrive at PS212 — an actual school — Ms. Milano is delighted to tell them that this is the unconventional challenge. Four minutes to full their provided backpacks with all of the materials they can find in a designated classroom at this arts-oriented elementary school. These are the usual type of school supplies that have nothing to do with fabric and everything to do with gluing and cutting things up.

Here’s where Elena shares with Viktor her idea of breaking up rulers into geometric shapes to adorn her dress. Viktor takes that further and ends up making a dress that almost looks like fur, there are so many slivers of ruler attached to the dress. We hear Elena complaining that it isn’t fair, that he stole her idea and took credit for it, maybe like she did with her model’s idea back in episode 1, when she won. She doesn’t make any official complaints, but you know it is stored in there for future tantrums.

The other notable moment comes when Isaac Mizrahi shares with the other judges that he feels manipulated by Christopher’s terrible memories of being bullied, which is completely fair. After all, who is going to stand up and vote for someone else’s dress in the face of such a compelling story?

Well, that little rebellion was neatly put down, as Christopher gets the win. In a surprise move (making room for a double elimination in the future?), none of the bottom three is sent home.