Saturday, October 8, 2011

2.7: Explaining the Baron

Paul:  What a difference half a decade makes!  It was an awkward moment of "catch-up with the past" for Laurie and I when Tim Gunn announced that the design challenge was to design an outfit for Sasha Cohen.  We did not immediately think of the figure skater.

We were then, however, treated to the funnest episode thus far.  The designers are delivered unspeakably gauche ice skating outfits (by Robert Plotkin in a postal uniform, giving the illusion that reality is breaking down and Atlas is located in a thin area in space-time where strange beings, both archaic and mythological, can pass freely) and told that they must put them on.  Andrae and Santino moan a bit, but then are gripped by the hilarious realization that prim and sartorially classic Emmett will also be wearing a similar outfit.  They are not disappointed when Emmett walks into frame in a pink leotard with a sparkling "E" on the breast.

Laurie: Yes, Emmett was treated with the most outlandish and tacky costume of all. I have little doubt the Project Runway gods also snickered as they schemed to see the ever dignified and self-controlled Emmett debased.  To Emmett's credit and integrity, he took it all in apparent good humor.

Paul:  Tim Gunn arrives and makes them go outdoors in those outfits. [Laurie: insert female gasp of horror!] Paul:  Tim Gunn is dressed like Tim Gunn.  They, in fact, all go to an ice skating rink.

Let me take a moment here to assure you that this is exactly the episode I observed.  I know this is sounding like "the episode Paul made up" but I assure you we have not got to that one yet.

Laurie:  I loved this whole scene. I love when they make these tense participants play, and I'm convinced that the ice skating freed every one of them for just a span of time from the angst of competition.   For just a few moments, these image conscious souls were children again, free and hilarious. Delightful!

Paul:  Tim Gunn reveals that he too cannot ice skate.

No one is injured. Sasha Cohen arrives.

Laurie:  Yes, our designers, creators and celebrators of beauty, have been reduced to awkward, giggling bumbling, and Sasha glides in all grace, expertise, beauty and confidence.  I like to believe there is great freedom and joy in humility. Unfortunately, our designers being mere humans, will not be able to hold on to that feeling for long.

Paul:  We almost wish it would end there.  I would watch a show that was just what I've described up to this point.  But there is still a competition.  They are to make an ice dancing outfit for Sasha Cohen to wear while ice dancing.

Santino's design image via
Faced with all of this jocularity, I wondered what I would write about aside from what I've just written.  As usual, the creative genius of Santino serves as our guide.  In this episode, we begin to see Santino's musical talent (he makes up songs throughout the season while working as we've already seen with "Daniel Franco, Where Did You Go?"), which has me thinking about diversity of ability in art, as well as the process of creation.

I am not necessarily calling Santino Rice a polymath simply by virtue of the fact that he starts singing while crafting a dress, but I would like to introduce the concept to our discussion.  A polymath is one who gains expertise in many diverse fields.  Aristotle was one, as was Ben Franklin, Blaise Pascal, Jean Cocteau.  Some contemporaries who have been called polymaths include Rowan Williams and Stephen Fry.  The term is a synonym of possibly the more popular, but excruciatingly gender-specific "Renaissance man."  [Laurie: the blue-collar and equally gender-specific term being "Jack-of-all-trades", although it is also said that he is a master of none, an ambiguous expression if you ask me, one that could be meant as a compliment or a slight ] Paul: I feel that a polymath is a fine thing toward which to aspire.  More to the point, I think that people would do well to engage with the world around them as much as possible.

I also feel that everyone should make all kinds of art all the time.  I feel that plumbers and cab drivers should compose operas, and insane preachers should paint, and scrap metal collectors should write poem cycles about groups of storytelling travelers.  I feel that art and the desire for fame or renumeration are two distinctly different spheres.  Sure, it would be the cat's pajamas to get Allen Ginsberg level fees for my poetry, but I have to create art for art's sake because that is the only option available to me.  I am of that age where one realizes that one is not going to become a full-time poet, which in a way is a freeing realization.  I have to create my art for the ages because I cannot create it for the wages.

Wow.  I rooted out the corny rhyme like the pig does the truffle.

I recall a time when I was stage managing a production of a medieval creation story play that I had a very intense conversation with the assistant stage manager (ASM) over the tea situation.  A small portion of our production budget went to the local tea house, specifically to a blend of mint and tarragon tea that we would all have at the beginning of rehearsals, sort of cleansing ourselves and the space in which we were rehearsing.  One day, we ran out of the tea and I told the ASM to go get some more.  She did not, choosing instead to focus on actual production details.  I remember sitting her down and trying to express to her just how important the tea was by virtue of the fact that it was not important on any quantifiable level.

I feel largely the same way about art.  So much of what we do in life is about the "how" of living.  So much of what we do in art is about the "why."  Santino's songs were such little throw-away moments, but I can already tell you that they will be some of my most distinct memories of this season, possibly more than a great deal of the design.  I also feel as if this is something so often lost in a world where we have so many bare survival hoops to jump through, totally unnecessary hoops, in my humble opinion, in this age of miraculous technology.  Why do we eat steak and eggs instead of just taking protein pills in the morning?

Laurie:  Indeed, we dishonor life, creation, and our fellow-man by neglecting to appreciate the beauty inherent in them. This, I believe is one of the great values of seeking to be, as you call it, a polymath.  It is in dipping and tasting, in trying on, or exploring the great variety this world of people, things, and ideas has to offer that we learn to understand, and respect one another's points of view.  We may not like or agree with all we see or hear, but our understanding will be informed and we will have done others the honor of having done our best to look at things through their eyes.

Chloe's lovely offering via
Zulema's winning design
Now back to our scheduled programming.  By the rules of this challenge, the winning design was to be chosen by Miss Cohen herself, and so was not a matter left to the judges but to her own taste and artistic/athletic needs.  Perhaps this explains why Chloe's beautiful design was not the winner. I can only imagine how beautifully it would have rippled like waves on the ice.

Instead Sasha chose Zulema's design. It was a nice design, but had a frumpy fit on the model, and was cut so dangerously close to revealing the nipple that I found myself too busy being nervous for the model to enjoy the design. (This isn't the first time one of Zulema's outfits borders on the too-revealing.) I imagine that when they actually fit it to Sasha that problem will be remedied.

Image via
Paul:  I would have been inversely more upset at the loss of Emmett in this episode in relation to how fun this episode was.

Laurie:   It really was a fun episode! I was sorry to see Emmett go for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the dignity and traditionalism he brought with him to the competition.  It would appear that Project Runway has only limited tolerance for these traits.  It is understandable, I suppose, since he added no novelty or drama.  Be that as it may, the real truth is that if all of us carried our ways through this world as Emmett did through this program this planet would be a much pleasanter place.  He was a throwback to a not-so-distant time when people were actually expected to behave themselves in public.  In addition, the style he brought was quiet and dignified, traits also under-appreciated in our day.  Perhaps I'm showing my age, which is about the same as Emmett's, in that I thought his design was stately, traditional, and elegant. Perhaps I am revealing my own fashion obsolescence in really liking the very design that was judged boring and sent home. I along with you, Paul, expressed a sigh of disappointment upon seeing him leave the runway for the final time.

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