academia | advice | alcohol | American Indians | architecture | art | artificial intelligence | Barnard | best | biography | bitcoin | blogging | broken umbrellas | candide | censorship | children's books | Columbia | comics | consciousness | cooking | crime | criticism | dance | data analysis | design | dishonesty | economics | education | energy | epistemology | error correction | essays | family | fashion | finance | food | foreign policy | futurism | games | gender | Georgia | health | history | inspiration | intellectual property | Israel | journalism | Judaism | labor | language | law | leadership | letters | literature | management | marketing | memoir | movies | music | mystery | mythology | New Mexico | New York | parenting | philosophy | photography | podcast | poetry | politics | prediction | product | productivity | programming | psychology | public transportation | publishing | puzzles | race | reading | recommendation | religion | reputation | review | RSI | Russia | sci-fi | science | sex | short stories | social justice | social media | sports | startups | statistics | teaching | technology | Texas | theater | translation | travel | trivia | tv | typography | unreliable narrators | video | video games | violence | war | weather | wordplay | writing

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fire on ice

Like Mike and Anna, I love to watch ice-skating. I could barely contain myself on Wednesday night when the contestants on my favorite reality show, Project Runway, were assigned the challenge of creating a costume for Sasha Cohen. Whereas America's Next Top Model is addictive because it's such a train wreck, Project Runway is classy and interesting. My mom calls me after every episode (Wednesdays at 10 EST on Bravo, but re-run all the time) to debrief the night's events. At the grocery store yesterday evening, I got into an intense conversation about the show with women I didn't even know. Tim Gunn's commentary about each contestant's work is indispensible for any fan of the show.

Highlights from the latest challenge, which Chloe deserved to win over Zulema:

"It was like International Male gone g-g-g-g-gay."
--Nick re: Emmett's assigned costume.

"Kara's design was basic. Not in a Calvin Klein way, in a J.C. Penney way."
--the adorable Daniel V.

When I was 13 years old, I was obsessed with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding fiasco. Somewhere, I own copies of Fire on Ice: The Exclusive Inside Story of Tonya Harding (bought at the grocery store, now available for one cent on; not very oddly enough, Sasha Cohen's biography is also titled Fire on Ice, as was Santino's disastrous design last night on Project Runway, Women on Ice: Feminist Responses to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle (statistically improbable phrases include voyeuristic camera and fetishistic scopophilia), and Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters. One of the points of comparison between the two came down to their costume design: Nancy had costumes designed by Vera Wang, while Tonya's were cheap and sometimes tawdry. Thus it was easy to cast them into the virgin-whore dichotomy, which made it even easier to deconstruct that dichotomy.

My obsession knew no bounds. The Tonya-Nancy spectacle broke weeks after The Pelican Brief was released in movie theaters, and I was convinced that if I followed Julia Roberts' investigative methods, I'd discover the real culprit responsible for the assault. This delusion seems impossibly weird now, but I really did spend hours at the library poring through articles about the seamy underbelly of the ice-skating world on a pre-Windows version of ProQuest. I'm not sure how sorting through old issues of People magazine was going to help me--or Tonya, whom I believed to be innocent for longer than I should have. My deluded sleuthing was based in a popular myth that the act of reading a text holds as its main goal the discovery of secret information--a fine myth that's productive of all sorts of literature from detective fiction to adventure movies. Of course law students discover corporate cover-ups in their case studies; computer programmers discover secret plots to take down national and global information systems; archaeologists decipher secret maps to find the fountain of youth; English graduate students find secret correspondence that will make for the best dissertation ever and fall in love ; and symbologists ... don't exist.


Blogger Jenny Davidson on Sat Jan 21, 01:33:00 PM:
Alice, my equivalent of your girl-detective-story was my (in retrospect equally bizarre) conviction that I would be able to solve the puzzle of a series of mysterious deaths of polar bears at the Philadelphia Zoo -- I don't think I ever did as much archival research as you, though...
Anonymous Anonymous on Thu Jan 26, 09:50:00 PM:
Alice, I love this post. Don't forget to add to your read-and-crack-the-secret list Three Days of the Condor, with Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, in which RR is a CIA agent whose JOB it is to read every effing novel published that year to find messages being passed between spies IN THE TEXTS. It's ultimately a story about becoming disillusioned with the supposedly noble motives of US foreign policy and its governing organziations (i.e. CIA), but RR's job in it is cooooool. He is Super Nerd Spy Hunter.