Mistakes Were Made: Walking the Stations of Quality, Taste and Style with Fashion Guru, Tim Gunn

Embed from Getty Images

Miss me, dear ones? I’ve been so busy scrubbing the extra layers of dermis from my feet in anticipation of sandal season that before I knew it, the rough spots on my heels and the entire month of June had vanished. But I promise today’s gathering will be worth the wait.

This afternoon, we are hosting none other than Tim Gunn, debonnaire fashion scholar and cucumber-cool star of Project Runway. Mr. Gunn is here, in gorgeous pinstripe, to impart the lessons of Quality, Taste and Style, and to help Rhapsody understand why her own wardrobe is one step away from being deemed a Superfund site.

Now, when I say Tim Gunn is here, perhaps I should be more precise. Which is to say, he is not. Gunn is a busy man who tends not to accept invitations to pretend salons, so we’ll have to use our imaginations, and a very narrow interpretation of the term “libel.” Today’s topic may be surprising to some Rhapsody readers, but as my friend Daphne says, “There’s a reason I’ve left myself such a mess. I’m simply making it easier for Tim Gunn to find me!”

And find us he has, my friends. Rhapsody has spent countless minutes poring over Gunn’s book “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” and quite a bit longer wandering the walk-in closets of the internet, sampling interviews in which Gunn wears those devastating suits that seem to have been sewn directly onto his body by a team of Lilliputian fashion designers.

And, oh, Readers, the topspin that man can put on a rhetorical question! Why won’t straight men ever learn to talk like that?

I’m know I’m very late to the party of idolizing Tim Gunn. “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” is seven years old, and he has several other books including a brand new one I’ve not yet bothered to read. But these are timeless lessons in style, and I will spend a lifetime misunderstanding them, so why rush?

We’re serving Manhattans today, of course. Gunn’s hometown is Washington D.C., but he practically owns New York, so it just felt right. And let’s have none of this “skinny cocktail” nonsense, please. If you only want half a drink, then for heaven’s sake, hand it to me first.

Now, then. Shall we begin? Continue reading


The Worrier’s Life: A Post From My Cabin in the Molehill Mountains

cabin public domain Life images

“If you’re not worrying, you’re not family.” — Rhapsody’s sister, Andromeda

So good to see you, friends! For today’s post, I’ve thoughtfully arranged the chairs in a semi-circle so you can all see me on the screen up here, and still reach the cocktail olives with ease. The reason I’m addressing you by video today is that I’ve taken myself off for a little rest at the cabin—my retreat when the daily effort of being “somewhat difficult” overwhelms me.

Mr. Roboto and the children aren’t here; this is my time for picking wildflowers, journaling and sipping homemade blueberry wine that doubles as paint thinner.

Arm’s length seemed the optimal distance for today’s topic. With you in the salon, and me in an undisclosed location with a camcorder, I can more comfortably explain what it’s like to be a mildly depressive worrier with just the tiiiiiiiniest bit of an anxiety disorder. To save money and time, I self-diagnosed with the help of pharmaceutical commercials. My doctor was glad I confided to her that I suffer from Rich-Woman-Gardening-But-Not-Enjoying-It Disease.

You see, I’m afraid you won’t understand what I’m talking about today, and will think Rhapsody is a strange and embarrassing misfit—and that is precisely why I must come forward. As a reward for listening, or at least keeping one eye open, I’ve made you each a Rhapsody in Cool first-aid kit stocked with band-aids, emergency flares and a fifth of bourbon.

So grab your life vests, friends, and follow me for an adventure of the imagination! That’s Shit Creek up ahead and we’re putting our canoes in right above the rapids. No paddles on board, please: we’ll just scoop the water frantically with our hands. Continue reading

I Think We’re Being Followed: Rhapsody’s Guide to Blogging the Good Life

Friends, it’s the six-month anniversary of Rhapsody in Cool and I hardly know where the time has gone.

Moments ago, I was peering into the void at WordPress, thinking, “Do I dare? Is it ethical to squeeze another blog into that great Cloud that, when it finally bursts, will rain down enough toxic prose to kill us all?”

So I went right ahead, of course.

But if I’m going to keep at this—and stats be damned, I am—then I’ve got to share what I’ve learned, or at least what I am pretending to know as I add to this spiraling mess of text and misappropriated imagery.

By holding court here in our salon, mixing cocktails and expounding on topics unbound by any detectable theme, I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging. And like any good blogger, I took those two things and expanded them into a list of twelve things.

This guide is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of new bloggers who have signed on at WordPress since Rhapsody took up the keyboard last December. That’s a researched fact by the way. You might like to take it with an aspirin, or better yet, a Gin Fizz—the preferred cocktail of seasoned bloggers.

But enough of this insiders’ jibber jabber! Let’s begin, shall we?

* * * *

If Fran Lebowitz is right that the opposite of talking isn’t listening but waiting, then blogging is even nicer than talking, because it eliminates the wait. Continue reading

All My Favorites… Which Demand Your Attention, Too

Welcome back to Rhapsody in Cool, the official blog of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Archery Team. Well… not yet. But we’d be honored, ladies! Just putting it out there. And while the team mulls that over, the rest of us have serious business at hand. It’s the Rhapsody in Cool 2014 Spring Favorites and they pair perfectly with these mimosas.

Readers, when I set up this salon I had you—all six of you—at the forefront of my mind. I wanted this blog to be like a great big gift basket placed on your doorstep to make you feel treasured, and just a mite confused: She’s so thoughtful! Look at these handcrafted goodies. But what’s the occasion? Am I ill? Did my kid say something to another kid at school and start a horrible rumor about me? What the hell is going on?

You know, all the usual gift basket feelings.

Anyway, in my research, I found that blogger “Favorite” lists are a vital resource and the only way that we’re going to make sure our GDP keeps up with China and India. So I thought we’d better have one of our own. The Rhapsody Favorites will wake you right up with fresh, citrusy top-notes and a long, will-we-ever-reach-it finish. Other favorite lists are just silly round-ups of things to buy or make or fill with frosting, but I’m not interested in that and I trust you aren’t either, so I’ve made a list of my favorite public figures, including writers, comedians, politicians and a puppet.

I leave it to you, dear readers, to decide who is who. Feel free to skip around, or skip right out the door if you get bored—that’s the beauty of a blog, after all.

Here’s the list:

  1. Wallace Shawn
  2. Fran Lebowitz
  3. Senator Al Franken
  4. The Democratic Vice Presidents of the United States (all of them), especially Joe Biden
  5. Lady Elaine Fairchild

Now everyone pull up a lawn chair and let’s get started!

* * * *

1. Wallace Shawn

American playwright par excellence.


Embed from Getty Images

Just forget about The Princess Bride for a minute, will you? Wallace Shawn is so much more than the scheming Vizzini or that neurotic T-Rex in Toy Story. He’s an important American playwright! And a devastatingly good essayist! I can’t believe you didn’t know this, just like Rhapsody didn’t know either until recently! Stop living under a rock. It’s not like the world of contemporary, serious theater is some tiny pocket of cultural elitism on the Upper West Si– what did you say?

Never mind. The point is that he is cracklingly smart, and if I may pull on my Theater Critic clown suit for a moment: the potency of plays like The Designated Mourner and The Fever cannot be overstated. They’re so seductive and powerful that I can’t stop thinking about them—and the closest I’ve come to seeing his work on stage is the movie that was made of The Fever, starring Vanessa Redgrave. She delivers a monologue in that thing that is… just…. well… I am speechless trying to do it justice. Look at me! I can hardly talk. That isn’t like me at all.

It’s the speech of a rich woman with compassionate leanings, trying to say how she feels about the plight of poor and oppressed people, and how she imagines they must feel—how they hunger to have their share and grow impatient waiting for it. This monologue, not five minutes long, takes any idea you had of yourself as a feeling, caring member of the upper classes and blows that idea right up in your face.

It’s simply marvelous! It’s what Wiley Coyote must feel after the Roadrunner hands him a gift-wrapped package that immediately reduces him, in one terrific BANG! to a blackened piece of gristle. You can’t see it coming and yet it was there all along. It’s the most depressingly brilliant, vital, scary thing ever. Go read or see this play, if you can! And send me a ticket. Continue reading

The Failure Memoirs, Part II: Rhapsody Goes to Writer School

Welcome back, pets. In Part II of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs, we’ll rejoin Rhapsody where we left her in Part I, at the awkward cusp of her teen years. We’ll work quickly through high school and college and then “pivot”—meaning abruptly change topics but with a ballroom flourish—to grander failures.

By which we mean MFA writing programs.

Yes, dears, the Sundance Festilog was fun, but today it is time to put on our tweedy jackets with the elbow patches, chew thoughtfully on our pipes and ask a serious, academic question: What does it mean to call oneself a “failure?”

It is a searing indictment of the self, to be sure, but it is also a carefully calculated defensive maneuver. You can’t call me a failure if I’ve called myself one already. Ha, ha! Beat you to it. I know you are, but what am I?

A failure. You’re a failure. And a damned good one, I might add.

Before we begin, we want to offer a warning for sensitive salon-goers: this memoir is rated U for Uncomfortable. Should you find this unpleasant to watch, you can grab one of the cucumber-yogurt face masks I made (top shelf in the fridge), slap it over your eyes, and rejoin us at the last set of four asterisks.

Everyone else: pour yourself a scotch. You’re going to need it.

* * * *

While nothing awful happens to Rhapsody in junior high, the possibility of awfulness goes with me everywhere, sitting on my shoulder like a vulture. I am still writing poems, using the poem-seeing Third Eye, not that I would reveal this to anyone even under torture.

Which I fully expect will happen.

Embed from Getty Images Continue reading

The Sundance Festilog: Bold films inspired by the crap in the Sundance catalogue

Welcome, Readers! To celebrate spring, I’ve prepared a treat for Rhapsody salon-goers and anyone who found herself unaccountably left off Bobbie Redford’s VIP list this year. It’s the Sundance Festilog, combining indie film and the Sundance catalog into one sweet and crunchy box of cereal.

Embed from Getty Images

We may never make it to the red-carpeted ski slopes of Park City, my dears, but if you are an American female with a credit limit above $10,000, Robert Redford’s other baby,the  Sundance catalog will reach your mailbox eventually, like it or not.

Probably not. Anyway—let’s begin!

* * * *

Festilog History

With the Sundance Film Festival in it’s 36th year, Robert Redford was burnt out. Not only did he have to play sexy MC at his film festival, but as soon as the champagne was gone and Ashton Kutcher had been poured into a cab, he had to race back to his vast catalog warehouses to fill our orders of tunics and… well, mostly tunics.

It was more than any ruggedly handsome 77 year-old could sustain. So he called in Rhapsody as a “consultant,” who pegged the obvious right away: a Festilog would join his two pet projects in one fabulous, two-headed love child, bringing us films inspired by the items in the catalog!

I billed him $9,000 for our first session, and then Bob and I got to work.

Over dinner, he read me the story of the Sundance catalog, which opens: “In 1969, we founded Sundance. The next year the General Store was established. In the beginning for us there was no end. Now, it’s hard to remember the beginning.”

He went on in this confusing way—no end, no beginning, no topic—until he got to the catalog: “Today… we’re celebrating that “spirit” with this first edition of the Sundance Catalog…. When you purchase something from this catalog, we appreciate the fact that the prime reason is enjoyment for yourself. [“Points for obvious!” I cried.] But you are also supporting American craftspeople, the Sundance Institute for development of new artists in film, music, dance and theater, and efforts to enhance and preserve the environment…. There is richness and diversity still in the American experience. I hope you enjoy the collection.”

Our waitress stopped by with the check and to ask Mr. Redford if he would have a baby with her, which gave me a moment to collect my thoughts. Continue reading

Rhapsody’s Rules for The Naming of Cats And Children (Not a Difficult Matter At All)

Embed from Getty Images

In the early days of Rhapsody in Cool I said advice was “a sordid business” that I was not going to get mixed up in.

I spoke prematurely.

Why deprive the Rhapsody salon-goers of these 16 valuable tips? My brief presentation will reduce stress, strain and poor choices, and allow me to try that wonderful blogger’s trick, the Numbered List, which works like a supportive bra to hoist up wobbly prose.

In honor of today’s salon topic, I’m serving Love Birds (vodka, sweet-and-sour mix, rum and grenadine). So get yourself a highball, friends, and let’s click to the first slide!

* * * *

1. Nothing that produces hairballs has any business going by the name Shakespeare, Bronte, Faulkner or any other famed author. It goes without saying that this also applies to babies, given what they are apt to produce. If you feel a literary name will increase your child’s odds of being a writer, consider that he can rise to fame with the name Tim just as easily, and without the burden of expectation.

Some of you will insist on writery names, but before you yoke your child with Ovid or Yeats please remember that there are also important poets called John and Anne.

Lastly, if you think that giving your cat an erudite name will raise the cat’s opinion of you, remember that cats use just one name for all humans and it is Jerk Face.

2. A note of caution. Making fun of the names other people’s children and pets is one of the last socially sanctioned forms of snobbery, so stop and think before you speak. Then, after a moment’s thoughtful pause, continue as before.

Continue reading