Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
A request for my friends in Connecticut: is there anyone out there who might be able to scrounge up the May 1982 issue of Connecticut magazine, shown above with Lisa Birnbach on the cover? I'd like to get a copy for my collection, or at least a good cover scan.
Thank you, and have a great weekend everybody!
|Image from ABC News.|
Thank you, and have a great weekend everybody!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The 1984 magazine ad shown above is a favorite image of mine, for the obvious reasons: the popped collar, the cable-knit sweater draped over the shoulders, the happy, jaunty pose. But on deeper reflection, it seems to also offer an opportunity for meditation on the delayed opportunities and inevitable perils confronting women in sports, and the forgotten attitude of give-and-take that once governed American business—to say nothing of serving as a springboard for additional visual treasures of a more laid-back age.
For starters, how did a healthy, athletic pursuit such as women’s tennis come to be sponsored by a manufacturer of tobacco products? I used to wonder about this myself, until I began studying the cultural history of my own generation. Counterintuitive as it seems, the phenomenon represents one of the happier accidents of timing in American social life.
|Three tennis stars of the early 1970s you've never heard of. But they helped put the game, and Tretorns, on the map.|
Philip Morris introduced the Virginia Slims brand in the late 1960s, positioning the product as the cigarette of female liberation just as a generation of young tennis stars such as Billie Jean King began to lobby for parity with the men’s tour in promotion and pay. Whether the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby” was empowering or merely reinforced an atmosphere of condescension is beyond the scope of this discussion. The point is, hitching the Virginia Slims name to a struggling movement in women’s sports was a PR no-brainer—one that nonetheless could not have come to fruition without PM’s willingness to assume what at the time was a fairly risky proposition.
|1976 hair color ad. Girl power for the girl next door, thanks to Title IX and Clairol.|
The subsequent success of women’s professional tennis, further ratcheted up by the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match, undoubtedly played a role in accelerating the passage of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, requiring that all programs at federally-funded colleges and universities, including sports, must be open to women as well as men. Many of the larger schools with expensive athletic programs whined and fussed and delayed, but they were only forestalling acceptance of a truth that private women’s colleges had understood for years: sports build discipline, character, and leadership.
|Hollins College field hockey team, from the 1984 Spinster.|
Going to high school in the 1980s, I took the existence of sports opportunities for girls as an article of faith. I suspect most of us, boys and girls alike, never gave it a second thought. Male or female, sports were just something you did if you possessed a natural aptitude. The pretty, popular girls who were involved in cheerleading during the football season thought nothing of getting themselves dirty on the softball field in the spring. A lot of that came from growing up in a preppy farm community where physical activity was valued as much as one’s intellectual education. It’s strange to look back now and know that those girls were some of the first who could really take that environment for granted. Sadder still is to realize thirty years later how little we now value it.
|The nod to snowboarding aside, books like this should have been discredited 40 years ago. It was published in 2010.|
Today, we seem to have regressed in many respects. Women’s tennis remains popular, but usually the story degenerates into what push-the-envelope outfit Maria Sharapova or one of the Williams sisters happens to be wearing on a given day. Despite the emergence of likable female athletes such as Hannah Kearney, Picabo Street, and Morgan Pressel, the cameras usually go where the drama and bad behavior are. Even worse, current popular mythology would have us believe that women don’t even like sports, preferring to go shopping while their uncivilized partners trash the family room during a televised football or basketball game. Personally, I find it a sad state of affairs, but like so many things, it only reflects the larger culture. In a digital age saturated with princesses, fairies, and divas, it was probably inevitable.
Time will tell.
|Cool girl stuff I can draw.|
Monday, March 14, 2011
Just when you think the arbiters of pop culture have declared “preppy” dead and buried for the last time, along come reinforcements. Behold the latest issue of Virginia Living magazine. Discussing the recent appearance of True Prep at some length, VL examines how the lifestyle has and hasn’t changed at the regional level—an important task, considering how the Commonwealth’s inherent preppiness is so inextricably entwined with its identity.
VL seems uniquely qualified to write about this subject. As a glossy, upscale lifestyle magazine that reports on art, culture, history, foodways, and social happenings, it has what could arguably be termed the preppiest audience in my immediate backyard. Unfortunately, it also seems obliged, as all contemporary accounts are, to indulge in some mildly snarky “Thank God they updated that!” moments. Furthermore, the favorable description of aviator glasses as the “Southern sheriff look” is not exactly an image that gives me the warm fuzzies. If I wore sunglasses, I’d be buying a pair of tortoiseshell Wayfarers, like the 1980 model they poke fun at, strictly on principle.
Still, on balance the article is a good one, and features beautiful photographs shot at Sweet Briar College, using SBC and Hampden-Sydney students and their fams as models. Just holding the magazine in my hands, I felt a wave of inferiority overtake me that I haven’t experienced since…well…last Saturday in Charlottesville.
To learn more about Virginia Living and this month’s feature, click here.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
We’re very fortunate in Virgnia to have a thriving wine industry. In spite of the early setbacks encountered by Thomas Jefferson in trying to emulate the wares of the French masters, the intervening generations have persevered, until it is possible to drive nearly anywhere in the Commonwealth and be only minutes away from the product of a good local vintner.
|During good weather, opportunities for tastings and tours abound. This is the view from Flying Fox Vineyard near Afton.|
Because it's such a source of regional pride, and so readily available, I always buy Virginia-made when shopping for wine. Many local shops have a good selection, and some of the larger grocery chains, such as Martin’s, have even jumped on the bandwagon.
|Aside from being sturdy vehicles for their contents, wine bottles also add a personal touch to one's home decor.|
|An assortment of Flying Fox's clever labels. They set up a table every week during Farmer's Market season.|
All things being equal, I tend to favor whites, but I’m not averse to a good red when the food calls for it, such as this pepper steak I made earlier in the week.
To accompany this, a dry red, like this Barboursville Merlot, seemed in order.
Many Virginia wineries also offer space for special events, and will often have personnel on hand for tastings during those occasions, even if the venue would not ordinarily be open. White Hall Vineyards near Crozet, for instance, rolled out the red carpet for a wedding I attended a few years ago, and a lovely time was had by all. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival, which takes place in August. Last year I had tickets, but had to cancel at the last minute. With any luck, I can follow through this summer.