Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canada Day

Happy Birthday, neighbor to the North!

Tomorrow is Canada Day, a national holiday celebrating Canada's birthday.

I fell in love with this bucolic country during my three recent visits there (Vancouver, Niagara Falls, Toronto). The scenery is beautiful and the people are nice. Several of my best blogger-friends live there. I've visited their igloos.  :-)

I took this picture when visiting Niagara Falls last year.

Have you ever been to Canada?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Poses carry cultural weight. They denote our notions of gender. They're also aesthetic and artistic in their creative choices. Poses, while usually performed unconsciously, are actually serious stuff.

Which is why I study them. And always have. I was criticized as a child for trying to emulate and adopt feminine poses so, to conceal my innate nature, I went underground. I learned how to swagger like a cocky boy when walking in public. I learned how to grow and flex manly biceps. At times, my exaggerated masculinity bordered on parody but it allowed me to pass unnoticed.

In private, I'd experiment with feminine poses but they felt forbidden to me. When I'd occasionally perform one in public to see what happened, I  always got immediate, negative reaction. People can't handle gender non-conformity, even by strangers. It disturbs most people's sense of how things "should" be.

Lately, I've become bored with my standard repertoire of poses for modeling here on the blog so I decided to consciously add some new ones. I don't know if you'll like them or not, but I want to stretch my muscles, literally and figuratively.

Poses can create visual illusions that enhance our femininity. As you know, I wrestle with contorting a non-feminine (cylindrical) shape into the conventional hourglass figure. With limited success. I'm aware that many women struggle the same way with similar issues.

Poses can help. A good one can do magic -- make our shapes look different than they actually are. In July, I have a bevy of new poses I'm going to unleash on you. I'm eager to hear for your responses, thumbs up or down. Successes will be incorporated into my future femininity; failures will be discarded as necessary efforts toward that goal.

Here are some of my past attempts at posing -- which have a lot more conscious effort in them than you might believe.

Do you have a favorite pose for modeling?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blue Suede Shoes

Most menswear is boring so when I want to look snazzy, I put on my favorite pair of men's shoes. They are my blue suede shoes, as the song goes. (Carl Perkins did the song first -- and better -- than Elvis.)

I love how the soles are bright blue. The shoes are made by Cole Haan and I got them on steep discount in a Sak's outlet store a few years ago.

What do you think?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Night In The City

Last night I took Robin into the city. We dined at Russ & Daughters, serving traditional Jewish food with a modern twist, and then watched the incomparable Rockettes in their new show at Radio City Music Hall.

You will not in your lifetime see live entertainment any more thrilling and impressive than the Rockettes. They are amazing.

Afterward, we met one of Robin's childhood friends at a diner to reminisce, which means we got home at almost 3 a.m. We're not old yet. :-)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Launching "Face Value"

Several years ago, I was searching for interesting blogs to read and found one of exceptional merit, The Beheld. The blog examined issues I care about. It focused on women's relation to beauty. The blogger considered the subject with rare intelligence. I learned numerous insights from the blog's scrutiny of the beauty industry, its marketing of beauty products and our society's cultural gender-norms.

The blogger's name is Autumn Whitefield-Madrano. She is, beyond cavil, the smartest woman in New York.

Two years ago, Autumn announced that she was suspending her blog to concentrate on writing a book. As sad as I was to be deprived of her regular writing, I knew it was the right choice for her and for us. If anyone could produce an engaging, educational book on this difficult subject, it would be her. The brief sacrifice, I hoped, would be worth it. And it was.

Autumn just released her book, called "Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives." It is published by a major house (Simon & Schuster) and is available at most bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Examining complex ways women relate to beauty, the book looks at the marketing, consumption and cultural significance of beauty products. Actually, the book goes further than that. It plumbs the condition of being female in modern Western society. The inquiry extends beyond beauty products and considers other important subjects. For example, Autumn skillfully scrutinizes the linguistics, psychology and sociology of compliments, like "I love your dress!" The role compliments play in woman-to-woman interactions is fascinating and when she contrasts it to the situation of women receiving compliments from men, serious issues emerge about cultural conditioning and social power.

Last night I attended a party in NYC celebrating the launch of Autumn's book. It was held at a place called the "Beauty Bar," a nightclub with a retro-salon ambiance. The party was a blast. Autumn radiated authentic joy as she excitedly addressed an adoring crowd. She spoke about her life and thanked the people who assisted her effort.

At the party, Autumn introduced me to her family who had travelled up from Texas and I had delightful conversations with them. They told me about Autumn's youth in South Dakota and her teen years in Oregon. Autumn's parents and aunt beamed with pride as they witnessed tangible evidence of her literary accomplishment.

Right after finishing college in Oregon, Autumn moved to New York and started her career. Her first job was to intern at Ms. magazine. In the decade-and-a-half since then, Autumn has worked as a writer and copy editor for several magazines and held a variety of other interesting jobs.

At the party, in addition to gift-bags, Autumn's book was available for sale. I'd pre-ordered it from Amazon but my order hadn't arrived yet so I picked up another copy. I inhaled the book like fresh Maine air. The writing is everything I hoped for. Autumn's points are lucid and convincing, her prose is witty and sharp, and her style is inviting. It's a book that everyone will enjoy.

Oh, and did I mention I'm quoted in it? DID I MENTION THAT I'M QUOTED IN THE BOOK?!

Here, on page 67, is something I said to Autumn in 2013:

I encourage you to check out this terrific examination on beauty and its role in women's lives. You'll learn from and enjoy it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Transgender Art

When visiting Toronto, I stayed at a hip hotel Suzanne recommended, The Gladstone Hotel. I'm glad I did. The hotel was full of artwork. Coincidentally, there was an exhibition on my floor by a local transgender artist who is also a well-known musician.

The art is a series of photographs taken by the artist which replicate early pictures of her mother from the 1970's. In the photos, the artist portrays her mother in the same clothes, makeup and poses. Next to each photo is the original picture it is replicating.

At the end, there's a poignant open-letter by the artist to her mother. Take a look.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another View

Patti's report on our recent adventure in Canada is up (here). Not only does Patti describe our trip, she offers sage advice on aging well. Lessons worth listening to!

Here are a few more pics Suzanne sent me. In the third photo, I'm modelling bracelets that Suzanne HAND-MADE for me as a welcoming gift. How nice is that?!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Toronto II

I rode home from Toronto yesterday. I made the whole journey in one day -- over 550 miles. Maybe I'm not so old after all... When I got home, I had a well-deserved beer. It knocked me out as cold as a punch from Muhammad Ali. Here are some more pictures from the trip. Doesn't Suzanne look badass on my bike?!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Toronto, And Why I Love My Friends

I rode my motorcycle to Toronto yesterday and am incredibly happy. My intense joy isn't due to the city, it comes from the pleasure of hanging out with two really-good friends.

Suzanne and Patti are fashion-bloggers whom I was introduced to through blogging and later turned into real friends. I've met both in person several times when they visited New York and also at the Vancouver meetup Suzanne organized last year. When they recently invited me to join them in Toronto (where Suzanne lives), I leapt at the opportunity. It was a smart move.

Toronto is a surprisingly-large city, the fourth biggest in North America. (The first three, in order, are Mexico City, New York and LA.) Like New York, Toronto has numerous different neighborhoods with distinctive character. At Suzanne's suggestion, I got a hotel-room in the bohemian part of town, where young and artistic people congregate, socialize and buy unique stuff. Strolling down the street minutes after my arrival, I shopped in wonderful little boutiques and bought a bunch of hand-made coin-purses and greeting cards to later give as gifts.

Let me mention my biggest source of happiness on this trip. It is Suzanne and Patti themselves. These two women are compassionate toward me in ways that touch me deeply. They accept me for who I am, they relate to me as I am, and they encourage me to be myself. That is soooo nice.

Additionally, it is rare. I've spent my whole life not getting this from people. From earliest memory, I wanted to be seen as female -- but was not. After struggling for years with universal non-acceptance of who I am, I gave up hope of ever receiving it. So to be offered compassionate understanding now, my mind is blown. Boom!

You are lucky if you have friends as caring and lovely as Suzanne and Patti.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Foreign Films

I like quality cinema and you can find it in foreign films. Serious artistry exists outside the U.S. border. As long as you don't mind subtitles, foreign movies are fertile ground.

This week, I discovered two German films that impressed me. Both focus on subjects women care about -- love, romance and fidelity.

The first film, Phoenix, was made two years ago and won many awards. Deservedly so. It aspires to be art and reaches the target in several fascinating ways. I found the film by reading a rave review on Roger Ebert's movie-review website. (Even though Roger passed away, the team of critics at his site deliver sound reviews.)

I don't want to give too much of the plot away because it contains some strong surprises. The story is set in 1945 Berlin, just after World War II ended. A woman, Nelly, was disfigured at a concentration camp and has cosmetic facial surgery. The surgery gives her a different appearance; her face is unrecognizable.

Nelly returns home and wants to see her husband, but a female benefactor warns her that he betrayed her during the war to save his own skin. She goes anyway. He doesn't recognize her -- which gives her an opportunity to test his integrity. The movie hinges on the answer to that question. The ending is one of the best I've ever seen.

The second movie, Everyone Else, is set in modern time. A couple, Chris and Gitti, are in their early-30's and exploring a romantic relationship. They think they're going to stay together but each has nagging doubt about their future. The movie explores that in detail.

Gitti is irreverent and fun, which grates on Chris who believes that Gitti doesn't respect his serious problems (with work and his masculinity). Gitti is blunt, even when it's impolite, and Chris accuses her of embarrassing him when they socialize. Trying to salvage their relationship, Gitti tones down her natural instincts and compromises who she is. Ultimately, she hates doing that and wonders why she is forced to.

Unlike Hollywood movies, this one does not have a happy ending. It has an honest ending. What stands out is the truth of the characters' behavior. How much do we -- and should we -- compromise ourselves to stay in a relationship?

If you're open to foreign films and enjoy serious art, consider these movies.