Kate Holds Court

Accept No Substitutes.

House Full of Zebras

Victorian House

I’ll bet it even comes with its own ghost.

My dream house kind of looks like that beauty up there. Look at those balconies. There’s a turret. The big windows, the wide front porch…and even solar panels! (The owner is green!) I can’t see the inside, but I can guarantee that there’s a back staircase, wood floors, a fireplace in every bedroom, weird little closets and nooks and crannies, and claw-foot bathtubs. And if we lived there, one day Mini-Me would be fiddling around with her bedroom fireplace and a brick would become dislodged, and she would remove it and find the secret compartment where a young woman of the North had concealed her tragic Civil War diary, along with a locket given to her by her lover, a soldier for the Confederate cause. Pardon me while I take a minute to swoon.

Anyway. We don’t actually live in a 150-year-old house. In fact, our house is about 65 years old, one of a series of tract houses thrown up in the late 1940s to accommodate soldiers returning from World War II. A previous owner was a do-it-yourself sort who single-handedly put up an extensive addition, including a master bedroom and bath and an enormous kitchen. In theory, I am in awe of his undeniable skill. In practice, it means that if the house is 65 years old, then the addition is maybe 35 years old, and things are wearing out and breaking down, one at a time. Basically, our house has all of the Issues but none of the charm of a Dream House.

So stuff is falling apart in our house on a fairly regular basis, but here’s the thing — it is always something weird. You know how you go in for medical tests and you’re always worried that you have Von Schnitzelhauffer’s Disease or some other rare, fatal thing you read about on the Internet, and the doctor piously intones “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,” and sure enough it turns out that rather than some rare fatal malady, you actually have pinkeye? Out here, the horses left the barn 20 years ago. It is always a zebra.

Illustrative Examples:

Some years back, the sink faucet in the master bathroom was dripping. Nothing big — just a nice, steady drip. Day and night. Drip, drip, drip. Now, we could have called a plumber, but the Reader’s Digest New Fix-It-Yourself Manual assured me that I could save the money and fix it myself! The problem was almost certainly, according to the RDNF-I-YM, a seat washer.

A what?

I’m so glad you asked. The scoop: A faucet has a whole apparatus that you don’t usually see — it’s all beneath the surface, as it were. It consists of a stem that has a bunch of hardware on it, including a little object called a valve seat. Sitting atop the valve seat is a seat washer, which can wear out over time, causing leakage and, yes, dripping. The RDNF-I-YM made replacing a defective seat washer sound like a lark, a piece of cake, a walk in the park, so armed with my copy of the RDNF-I-YM and a smile, I trekked over to the local Home Depot and came out half an hour later with a 50-cent seat washer in my purse. Boy, did I feel smug.

Faucet mechanism

Where else but this very blog  can you find Irish music, romance novels, and plumbing, too?

And you know, fixing it wasn’t that hard at all. I was feeling pretty darn good about myself until I turned the water back on and found that the faucet was now dripping approximately twice as hard and twice as fast as it had been before.

“Hmm,” I mused. I turned the water back off and went back to the Home Depot and picked up a slightly larger seat washer. There was maybe a little less swagger in my step as I went back home and tried again. This time, the drip had turned into a steady trickle of water.

“How odd,” I remarked. I took the thing out, adjusted it, tried again. No joy. In desperation, I replaced the original seat washer on the stem. The trickle became a veritable gush.

At that point, I decided it was time to call in the cavalry in the form of a licensed professional. A plumber was summoned. He took one look at the various parts and pieces spread around the bathroom — like Frankenstein anesthetized upon a table, to paraphrase one of the greats — and picked up a small object. It was the valve seat itself, and it had a nice fat crack in it.

“Oh,” I said. Basically, I could have spent all afternoon, and in fact did spend all afternoon, switching out seat washers, and it wouldn’t have made a blessed bit of difference. Live and learn.

After that rather painful initiation to the art and science of plumbing, I went on to become, if not an expert, at least minimally competent at small-scale stuff like flapper replacement and so forth. In a moment of great triumph, I even successfully replaced the fill valve (the doodad that regulates water flow in the tank) in the Master Bath. So of course, when our upstairs toilet began to run, I knew exactly what to do.

By way of clarification, I should mention that we have three bathrooms in our house. Bathroom #1 is original to the house; we call it the Blue Bathroom. The Master Bath was added by Owner #2; that’s where I learned all about seat washers vs. valve seats. And then there’s the Upstairs Bathroom, also added by the previous owner; it’s a dark, nasty little cave, reeking of cat pee. Still, it’s a functional toilet.

Or, I should say, it was a functional toilet.

Anyway, it was running, so I did what any reasonable person would do and replaced the flapper. That didn’t fix the problem, so I decided it was time for a new fill valve.

Fluidmaster Universal Toilet Fill Valve

This is really a very easy fix. Really.

No problem! A toilet fill valve, for those of you who have sailed through life blissfully unknowing, is the “#1 Solution To Fix Noisy Toilets.” It says so right there on the box! EASY INSTALL! — it screams in big white letters. “Install with confidence. Installs in 15 minutes.”

I installed with confidence. It took about 15 minutes. Awesome! I gave the restored toilet a few experimental flushes and was about to strut downstairs and brag when I realized the floor was wet. Also, the toilet was still running, but at this point that was the least of my worries.

“Goodness gracious,” I said. I fiddled with the valve, I fiddled with the line, and then I noticed that water was leaking out of the spot where the water line went into the wall. “Well, that won’t do,” I observed.

I went downstairs to share my observations with the Handsome Husband and suggest that we might want to bring in the experts soon rather than late. While I was explaining what had happened, Mini-Me’s voice floated out from the Blue Bathroom: “Why is the ceiling dripping?”

“Heavens!” I exclaimed, and ran to shut off water to the house and call the plumber. But our regular plumber was not answering their business or emergency lines — did I mention that all this went down over a holiday weekend? — so I frantically googled “Plumbers open on Sunday” and ended up calling an outfit called The Plumbing Doctor.

I liked The Plumbing Doctor. All their experts are addressed as Dr. So-and-So, which, on one hand, that’s how you know we’re in the DC area — even the plumbers are “Doctor;” but on the other hand, I like it, because they’re certainly more expert than I am and it’s always a little weird when the plumber comes in all “Good afternoon, ma’am! I’m Mike,” and in any case I would have happily addressed our guy — Dr. Manning — as Your Most Awful and Serene Imperial Highness if it meant that I was going to be able to take a shower that night.

Dr. Manning fiddled with the toilet for a few minutes and then informed me that a new fill valve was never going to stop that toilet from running. Apparently: a) It’s an old toilet (Fun fact: If you remove the lid from the tank, you can usually see the toilet’s date of manufacture stamped inside. Ours said 1948.) b) It’s an American “Standard,” which, name notwithstanding, uses unique parts that are hard to get. c) The underlying problem was neither the flapper nor the fill valve. (Thanks, Fluidmaster!) It was the “gasket.” It might be possible to replace the “gasket,” but “gaskets” for Truman-era toilets are increasingly difficult to come by. Dr. Manning finished by “strongly recommending” that we replace the thing altogether.

I was like, “Mon ostie de saint-sacrament de câlice de crisse! VAS T’ENCULER, OLD TOILET!!!”

No, what I actually said was, “That’s very interesting. Since it is now 9 o’clock on Sunday night, is there a temporary fix that will stop the drip into our downstairs bathroom?”

There was. Dr. Manning capped off the water line, and now we have a pee-reeking storage closet with a sculpture in the shape of a 1940s American Standard toilet where our Upstairs Bathroom used to be. I should paint the thing and fill it with flowers:

Toilet Full of Flowers

And why not?

And why not? I used to think I wanted to live in an old house, but it wasn’t until we bought our Money Pit that I realized what I really wanted was a beautiful house, an interesting house, and a house with character. Oh, and working toilets would be nice. And character doesn’t just happen — it’s built gradually, one eccentric decision at a time.

And if the house looks like this — well, all the better.

Another Victorian

That round window tho

Get out your tools, Handsome Husband! We have a new planter to decorate!

Listen

“So, Kate, what are you listening to lately?” is something that…well, actually, it’s something that no one has said to me ever. Alzo is the undisputed Expert in Interesting Music in the family, and maybe someday I’ll write a blog about what he’s listening to these days. But for now, since I’ve already posted pretty pictures for you to look at, I should probably post some lovely musical accompaniment to go with them. (Not all your senses will be engaged on this blog. I draw the line at cooking all of my readers a delicious meal. Sorry.) So here goes:

Skara Brae

 Skara BraeSkara Brae

I’m 40+ years late to the party with this, but I’ve recently discovered the one and only album recorded by an Irish band called Skara Brae. Skara Brae consisted of three siblings — Micheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill — along with one of Micheál’s college friends, one Dáithí Sproule. The eponymous “Skara Brae” (1971) was the first album to feature Irish-language vocal harmonies, and as such it was enormously influential. (I mean, sure, you had the Clancy Brothers and the Chieftans and the like running around in the ’60s singing “Danny Boy” and whatnot — but they largely performed in English.) The various members went on to either establish or participate in many of the most popular and groundbreaking acts of the 1970s and 1980s, including the Bothy Band, Nightnoise, Relativity, and Altan. Indeed, the case could be made with some justification that without Skara Brae, this never would have happened:

I saw an excerpt from this once on PBS. It was a song called “Acushla” in which Michael Flatley and his female co-lead circled each other and eyed one another suspiciously. That was it. It was really weird.

 

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a question I will leave you to ponder within your own heart, but the point is, Skara Brae’s influence continues to be felt even today, as three of the four members are still out there making music. The fourth, Micheál Ó Domnaill, died tragically young in 2006, and what a shame it is that I was just a preschooler in 1971, because he totally had it going on:

Double sigh.

Sigh.

The remarkable thing about Skara Brae is that the oldest of them was, like, 20 years old when they recorded this album. Maighread, the youngest, was still in high school. What were you doing when you were in high school? Probably not this:

Also, if anyone ever says “Cad É Sin Don Té Sin” to you, it’s not the worst thing they can say, but it’s not exactly…polite. Just saying.

Panda Bear

I heard this song on satellite radio on the way home from one of Hoot’s basketball games and was immediately taken with it. It’s catchy and hypnotic. Enjoy “Boys Latin”:

 

Gettin Mah Dork On

Yeah, I like Taylor Swift’s new album, and believe me, no one is more surprised about that than I am. I mean, just look at her. She’s clearly a snippy little blonde prom queen with a magnificent case of Resting Bitch Face:

Bitca Taylor

She doesn’t actually care what I think.

She also writes — as she herself would put it — hella entertaining songs, and I rather suspect that she’s totally In On The Joke. Ladies and Gentlemen…Blank Space.

So that’s what’s on my iPod these days. What about you? What are you listening to? Recommend some new music for me!

Here’s Skara Brae to play us out:

Look

Kate's House

We’ll leave the light on for you!

What, this decrepit old pile? This is just our retirement property.

— Nah, not really. This is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Isn’t it gorgeous?

I’m putting it up because quite literally everyone I know is having a crappity-rotten day today, experiencing issues ranging from the annoying to the very seriously nasty, and I for one could use something pretty to look at. And I’ll bet you could too. So, here you go! If you come visit us 20 years from now, we’ll try to put you in a guest room with a balcony overlooking an Alp.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Greetings, Blog-Friends!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This year, I’m going to do better. In fact, my New Year’s resolution is simple: Write every day. Of course, here we are a week in and I’ve already broken my resolution. Why? Read on.

So, the year is kind of off to a rough start. We visited my mom in Kansas, like we usually do. Mom’s downsizing a bit, so she gave me some old Waterford goblets — eight gorgeous wine glasses in jewel tones:

Waterford Clarendon Goblets

My beautiful glasses looked like these.

These gorgeous goblets, in addition to having certain sentimental value — my parents used to gift one another with them at Christmas — were a favorite at family gatherings:

Nagy Sisters

We’re not as think as you drunk we are.

I packed the goblets up and shipped them off to Virginia and kind of forgot about them for the rest of our trip, which was great right up until we got to the airport. We were flying through Chicago O’Hare (NEVER AGAIN), but our flight was delayed out of Kansas City, so we missed our connecting flight but almost immediately got stuck on another flight home.

Wah, wah, wah, I hear you cry. That sounds like the sad holiday story of, oh, about twenty million other people. You probably won’t even feel more than a mild twinge of pity for me when I mention that our luggage didn’t come along with us, kind of like, wah wah wah, maybe fifteen million other people.

BUTBUTBUT!!! My cell phone charger was in the pocket of my suitcase. I was UNTETHERED. HALP! (Also, we didn’t have Hoot’s favorite blanket, Mini-Me’s lucky Green Bay Packers jersey, any of my husband’s belongings, or a very nice bottle of wine that my niece gave to me for Christmas. I just mention all this in passing. To quote the great Wilkie Collins: Youths! I invoke your sympathy. Maidens! I claim your tears.)

Three to six hours, the nice lady at the American Airlines Baggage Office said (and HELL YES I’M CALLING YOU OUT, AA). Unless, she mentioned, it got too late. Then it might arrive at our doorstep on Sunday morning.

Good enough, we said.

Do I even need to tell you that by the time Monday rolled around, there was no luggage?

I got a pick-me-up, though: My wine glasses arrived. Yay!!!

I think you can guess where this is going.

Spoiler: Nowhere good.

Eight beautiful wineglasses. ONE arrived intact. One has a broken foot; three were snapped at the stem. The rest were shattered beyond repair.

Monday night was not a good night, y’all.

But, hey, our luggage was sure to arrive on Tuesday, right? Because I totally called American Airlines and they said “Oh, we’re so sorry, the baggage delivery company is behind because of the bad weather.” And I was like “Oh, you mean the sunshine? Because the sun is shining in Falls Church right now.” And they replied “…”.

So then it SNOWED on Tuesday. I kind of figured that if the delivery drivers can’t drive in the sunlight, they probably can’t drive in the snow either (or maybe they can ONLY drive in the snow…but, no, this is Washington, D.C. No one can drive in the snow here). Fortunately, in my closet I have a big tub of nice warm sweaters, sealed against the incursion of the dread House Moth, against whom I went to war this fall in Operation Death To All Vermin:

I said ALL vermin.

My moth-ridden belongings.

The unmistakeable scent of naphthalene moth balls may cling to those sweaters, but that’s okay because there are no moths eating them, right?

One would think so, but when I opened that tub of naphthalene-scented sweaters, the first thing I saw was a live moth. Well, he was alive at the time. I will spare your delicate sensibilities further detail. I will note that when I shook out my chosen sweater before putting it on, a live cricket jumped out.

So, to recap, my cell phone is dead, my family’s luggage is driving around Metro D.C. doing God only knows what, my Waterford Goblets are in shards, there’s ice on the roads, and my closet is evidently full of wildlife. Drinking a glass of wine and taking to my bed with the covers over my head has seemed like a reasonable option these past few nights. Hence, little work is getting done.

But I’m back. That has to count for something, right?

(Addendum: Most of our luggage arrived at around 11 Tuesday night — 72 hours after we arrived. Husband still doesn’t have his at this writing.)

(One more Addendum: Husband finally got his suitcase at around 6 p.m. Wednesday, fully 4 days after we arrived home. Ladies and gentlemen…American Airlines.)

CBR #11: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

All parents — at least, the ones in my house — dream bright dreams for their children. “Maybe she’ll be an executive chef when she grows up. And she can teach other chefs on t.v. Like a nicer Gordon Ramsay,” we say hopefully, after she’s trashed the kitchen for the third time in a week while making herself a favored meal of French toast and hot chocolate. “I’ll bet he’ll be an architect,” we speculate, after we battle for an hour before we FINALLY drag his ass toward his homework and away from Minecraft, where he has been hard at work building a four-story complex with balconies, diamond floors, spires, a zombie jail, and a teleportation device. We don’t say, however,  “Maybe he’ll grow up to perpetrate mass murder on seven of his high school classmates, a beloved teacher, and a cafeteria worker who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

This is the situation in which Eva Khatchadourian, the prickly and embattled narrator of Lionel Shriver’s unflinching exploration of the dark side of motherhood, finds herself. Eva’s son, the titular Kevin, is in prison for doing all these things and more, and it’s up to Eva, in a series of soul-baring letters to her estranged husband, to excavate her own conscience and figure out where it all went wrong.

Eva herself is quite a piece of work, alternately self-flagellating and insistent that, gee, the damn kid just came out that way. And the evidence is strong that Kevin was a little shit from day one. On the other hand, Eva has been ambivalent about motherhood from the start, and her husband, the steadfastly obtuse Franklin, is no help at all — he yells at Eva for dancing while she’s pregnant (it could hurt the baby!) and turns a blind eye to her very real concerns as Kevin’s behavior grows increasingly alarming. In her narrative, Eva relentlessly, almost clinically, lays out for Franklin the way her love for her family (which eventually expands to include the sweet, passive, and not terribly bright Celia) wars constantly with her resentment for all of them, and her guilt because she knows that deep down, she and Kevin aren’t all that different — maybe he’s just more honest about who he is.

Although Eva constantly references other high school mass murders, at times reciting them like a litany, Shriver really isn’t all that interested in theorizing about why such atrocities happen. It’s clear that if Eva is to be believed, Kevin has never been precisely “normal,” whatever that means. Instead, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a character study of a very unhappy woman who believes that she deserves to be unhappy, and maybe she does, but maybe she doesn’t, and her hate is a form of love and her love is a form of hatred. Through Eva, Shriver takes you on a powerful, haunting journey. Whether or not it’s a journey you’ll be glad you took is another question entirely.

CBR Reviews #8 and 9: A Grace Burrowes Two-Fer

Gareth, Lord of Rakes and Andrew, Lord of Despair by Grace Burrowes

Oh, to live in Grace Burrowes’ Regency England. This is a magical world where the aristocracy’s finest specimens of masculinity are, to a man, well over six feet tall, with all their hair and all their teeth. They are careful stewards of their wealth, which is considerable. Despite what the historical record might suggest, they bathe frequently, and instead of smelling of whiskey, the stables, or their own stinky sweat, they rather have about their persons the pleasing scent of bergamot or cedar. In the boudoir they are both talented and considerate; they like to cuddle almost as much as they like to swive. They not infrequently, although not always, have wildly anachronistic names (cf. Gayle — Gayle! — in Burrowes’ The Heir). They often have surprising talents and abilities, which may range from efficiently managing a brothel to performing an external cephalic version during the delivery of breech twins during a blizzard. They are affectionate. They are handsome. They are kind.

But they are tortured — oh, so horridly tortured! — with grief, crushing guilt, or some malign combination of the two. And the only one who can end their torment is the most unlikely woman in the world…

Look, I laugh because I love. Burrowes’ books are my crack; she’s one of a handful of writers on my auto-buy list, and after having gobbled up most of her backlist, I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted a purchase. Her books represent a warm escape from the rigors of everyday life, and it’s one I welcome, repetitive plots, anachronisms, and all.

But I can still laugh just a little, can’t I?

Which brings us, after an unconscionably long hiatus, to this week’s two books — the tales of two brothers who are haunted by a long-ago boating accident. One of them has dealt with his guilt by becoming a rake; the other has dealt with his guilt by retreating to the Continent and becoming a rake. Ladies and gentlemen (although, I suspect, mostly ladies), I give you two of the recent protagonists of Grace Burrowes’ Lonely Lords series: Gareth and Andrew.

At the beginning of his novel, the eponymous Gareth (Lord of Rakes) finds himself faced with a prim, pretty, and economically distressed spinster named Felicity Worthington who has come to him with a bold, nearly unthinkable proposition: Her cousin Callista, the proprietress of a popular, somewhat high-end House of Ill Repute, has gone to her eternal award, and has willed the brothel to Felicity, with the proviso that Felicity must learn everything — and I do mean everything — about running the place within ninety days. Furthermore, she can only gain this education at the hands of one of two men — her choice. One is a notoriously evil bounder and cad. The other is Gareth.

Hoping to save Felicity, a decent woman, from the undesired attentions of the aforementioned bounder/cad and also from penury, Gareth — to his credit, reluctantly — begins Felicity’s erotic education.* He also finds himself falling arse over teakettle in love, as well as increasingly uncomfortable with the thought of Felicity scuttling her own reputation, as well as that of her innocent younger sister, by taking the reins of a whorehouse. Also, mysteries remain, not the least of which is why Callista left the place to Felicity to begin with. And who is the mysterious Lord Holbrook, who has suddenly appeared in town and taken a remarkable interest in Felicity’s family? Could he have his own designs on the young proto-madam? Finally, there’s the matter of Gareth’s guilt over the events surrounding that horrible accident, which took his grandfather, father, older brother, and fiancée, leaving him with a title he didn’t want and a life full of regret. Can he forgive himself in time to save Felicity and her sister from unspeakable danger?

Gareth: Lord of Rakes is vintage Burrowes, full of pragmatic, feisty, forthright women and emotionally unavailable men whose heads are lodged firmly up their bergamot-scented asses. I devoured every word like a starveling at the Country Kitchen Buffet and, without even pausing to belch, promptly turned my attention to the sequel, Andrew: Lord of Despair.

Andrew’s story picks up several years after Gareth and Felicity wrestle their HEA to the ground (come on, that’s hardly a spoiler). Since his beloved older brother’s wedding, Andrew has spent his time whoring it up on the Continent, writing home only infrequently. Notably, in between wenches he has somehow found the time to pick up some mad obstetrical skillz, as guilt-addled young lords bent on drinking and screwing their way across Europe did back in the early nineteenth century. This will eventually be important to the plot.

Among those pining for his return is Felicity’s younger sister, the improbably-named Astrid. Andrew and Astrid have a bit of a history; before she made her come-out, she and Andrew had a spectacular make-out, although he considerately stopped short of Ruining Her For Marriage. Andrew has always loved her from afar, although he considers himself unworthy of her or any woman’s affections as a result of his actions during the aforementioned boating accident. For her part, Astrid loves him, too. However, she finally got tired of waiting for him to respond to her letters, so she married another man — Herbert, Viscount Amery — who conveniently dies just as Andrew is returning home. What’s not so convenient is that Herbert has left Astrid flat broke and pregnant.

Even worse, someone apparently has it in for Astrid — subtly poisoning her, pushing her down the stairs, etc. Suspicion immediately falls on the new Viscount, the cautious and reserved Douglas, who is also the legal guardian of Astrid’s as-yet-unborn child. To protect Astrid and the child from danger, Andrew offers marriage…but can he do what both of them want and offer his heart?

Andrew is a bit unusual among Burrowes’ works in that the couple gets married about midway through the book, and we get to see them weather a challenging few months of newlywed life. (Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight — a much lighter read — is the only other one I can think of. Wait a minute — Nicholas: Lord of Secrets, too, I guess. And maybe Darius? I honestly don’t remember.) It also features the only instance I can recall (in Burrowes) of flat-out bad sex between the hero and heroine, when Astrid, angry with Andrew for being cold and withholding, refuses to allow him to, um, take her over the top. It’s actually pretty icky and uncomfortable.

Eventually they get things sorted out, figure out who’s trying to kill Astrid (and why), and live happily ever after, but by the time I finished the book I thought Andrew was kind of a tool and that Astrid had put up with a lot more than she should have. I liked Astrid well enough, although between this book and Gareth, she does (spoiler!) display a remarkable penchant for getting herself kidnapped and placed in mortal peril. That’s the price one pays, I guess, for walking among the Mortal Gods of Burrowes’ Regency.

By the by, the next book in the series is all about the mysterious Lord Holbrook, whose attentions to Felicity and Astrid gave Gareth such fits. I’m not sure I altogether buy this guy as a ladies’ man:

Siegfried? Or Roy?

Also, Regency gents didn’t wax their chests.

He looks like Siegfried, or maybe Roy, to me. Nevertheless, David: Lord of Honor is the next book up on my TBR pile.

*I know what you’re thinking here, and I assure you, this isn’t porn. Really! There’s an actual plot and everything!

CBR Review #7: Everyone Wants to Be Me or Do Me: Tom and Lorenzo’s Fabulous and Opinionated Guide to Celebrity Life and Style

My stars and garters. That title is a mouthful, isn’t it?

Super-fabulous fashion bloggers — and newlyweds (mazel tov!) — Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez surely need no introduction to most readers. At their eponymous website, TLo (as they are affectionately known) regale their legion of fans, aka the “Bitter Kittens,” on a daily basis with photographic evidence of celebrity style tragedies and triumphs, with accompanying snarky commentary. This is the pair who invented the coveted WERQ designation and first referred Johnny Depp as an “elderly gay wind chime,” an appellation the perfection of which has never since been exceeded, nor is it likely to be.

He doesn't look THAT old

Behold: An Elderly Gay Wind Chime.

They admonish deluded ladystars “Girl, That’s Not Your Dress” and encourage the gentlemen on the red carpet to “Willis It The Fuck Up,” i.e., emulate Bruce Willis looking particularly dapper at some summer event or other. One or both of them apparently has a background in fashion, and their commentary is usually as insightful as it is funny. In fact, I usually visit their site several times a day, especially during awards season, when (if I’m lucky) there will be a Lupita Nyong’o or SWINTON sighting for me to ooh and ahh over. (Their analyses of Mad Men from a style viewpoint are also not to be missed — check their site this summer for those.)

Bow down, bitches

SWINTON in Alexander McQueen (I think).

I’m a fan, is what I’m saying. But I’m — surprisingly enough — not a particular fan of this book, which retains the snark but dispenses with the knowledgeable fashion analysis and commentary that lift their site into the stratosphere, far and away above the “WHO WORE IT BEST?” columns in the likes of People and Us. Instead, they train their sights on the celebrity machine, and carefully explain the care and feeding of a typical celeb — how he or she becomes famous, behaves while famous, and tenaciously clings to fame. The result is a fitfully entertaining screed, devoid of the very things that make their site unique.

I mean, they have their moments, particularly when they’re talking about the courtship/marriage/BABY JOY phases of celebrity. Who else but TLo could get by with observing that “Stretch marks can mean the difference between a seven- and eight-figure salary sometimes,” or pontificate as follows:

No celebrity is going to go through the dreary, mundane motions of the adoption system. And besides, it’s only going to give her so much press in the long run. Signing documents in lawyers’ offices does not a fabulous photo op make. No, the very best thing any celeb can do is buy a nonwhite baby from another country, preferably in Africa, since that’s where all the hot, trendy babies are coming from at the moment. And it makes a much better backdrop for pictures. Lots of cute little camis and cargo-shorts ensembles to wear for the mother-to-be. She would be advised, however, to not sport any major logos for these pictures. A Louis Vuitton backpack next to a mud village might make a fabulous editorial for Vogue, but it’ll make any star look like an asshole.

Yeah, TLo’s wit runs acid from time to time. You’ve also got their trenchant observations about celebrity naming conventions, to wit, “They name it [the baby] after their latest project, whether it’s an album or a movie. Note: If non-celebs did this, there would be children named ‘Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Mid-Atlantic Region Jones.'” (Both funny and true.) But then, they spend an alarming amount of time discussing what one could consider non-news, like the fact that many celebrity “romances” are cooked up by studios to sell projects. (Wait a minute, you mean Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgård weren‘t involved in a passionate fling [with one another]? — Hold me. My faith in humanity has been shattered.)

But a hundred and eighty pages of snark with no informed commentary is sort of like eating a full meal of whipped cream without touching the cheesecake beneath (to say nothing of the steak you passed up earlier). TLo are incredibly funny, but they’re also incredibly smart and knowledgeable about fashion and about the ways fashion influences culture. The “funny” is on full display here; the other, not so much, and I missed it! I wanted to see them deploy their razor-sharp wit in a take-down of Stella McCartney’s latest crime against humanity frock and to revel in their enumeration of all the things the Divine Lupita does right in situations like this:

Yeah, that's a WERQ

Lupita Nyong’o WERQs a red cape

In short, I am a Bitter Kitten indeed, and I want more. Fortunately, TLo’s web site is still going strong, and they haven’t succumbed to the temptation to throw their best stuff behind a paywall. And I’m not sorry I shelled out the $$ for the book, if it means that they’ll continue giving it away for free.

So there you have it. We’ll call it a deal: The Bitter Kittens buy the book, and TLo will continue providing us hilarious commentary on spectacles such as the Miss Universe National Costume presentation. And to whet your appetite, I will leave you with this:

Netherlands 2013

She has tulips growing up her shins.

As TLo themselves would say: Amen.

 

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