English mannequins ca. 1950.
- If you’re in New York, you’ve surely noticed them, those well-heeled people bolting down the sidewalk looking pissed off and holding enormous cups of coffee. That frisson of exclusion … that perfume of condescension: it’s Fashion Week! And what better time to remind ourselves that the industry promulgates a whole range of body-image issues, not just in the models it chooses but right down to the mannequins? M. G. Zimeta, at a shop in London, tried to get some answers about those mannequins: “Nearly a year ago I complained about the mannequins at the entrance of the ladies’ department in John Lewis on Oxford Street … Months passed, and I received no response … The ‘Fashion Queen’ mannequin range I’d seen in John Lewis is produced by Bonami in Belgium and has the following dimensions: height 185 cm (6’07”), waist 59 cm (23″), hips 87 cm (34″) and bust 87 cm (34″). A Fashion Queen mannequin is taller than the average British man, but with the waist of a ten-year-old girl in John Lewis sizes. Some of the clothes on the mannequins at John Lewis were discreetly pinned in place because the outfits would otherwise, even in the smallest sizes, be too loose for their frames.”
- When you’re considering which book to read next, remember this: you don’t have to read anything. You might, in fact, find it considerably more pleasurable to read nothing. In 2011, more than fifty thousand new novels appeared in the U.S., an abundance that makes it impossible, Amy Hungerford argues, to have a proper encounter with any of them: “While any given reviewer may be an excellent reader, and any book buyer may have excellent taste, the literary market as a whole is vulnerable to forces that have less to do with literary discernment and more to do with money, class, contemporary pressures on journalism, the geography of cities, and the social networks that circumscribe the reach of editorial attention or a bookstore’s clientele. These forces have a profound effect on what is celebrated and what remains culturally invisible among the masses of books written and published, and they affect the meanings that particular books come to have as they enter the stream of culture.”
- Today in hell on earth: What problems has iron slurry caused in your life? None? Well, bully for you. In Siberia, it’s turned a whole river hideously, violently red, so much so that Russians are now referring to it as the “blood river”: “One hint at the possible cause is the path the river, the Daldykan, takes past the Norilsk Nickel mine and metallurgical plant, by many measures one of the world’s most polluting enterprises. The plant belches so much acid rain-producing sulfur dioxide—two million tons a year, more than is produced in all of France—that it is surrounded by a dead zone of tree trunks and mud about twice the size of Rhode Island … The ore also contains iron, but that red-hued element is far less valuable than the precious metals extracted along with it, and is generally discarded in slurry ponds … That iron slurry is the most likely source of the discoloration in the ‘blood river.’ ”
- One of the few good things about the bruising election season is that language—especially tortured, ambiguous misuses of it—is often front and center. And so we find ourselves dissecting a phrase like Hillary’s “basket of deplorables,” which, what is that … I have never seen that form of basket. Ben Zimmer has also never encountered this basket, but he’s done his research on deplorables: “The OED defines deplorables as ‘deplorable ills’ and provides a single citation from the journal of Sir Walter Scott: ‘An old fellow, mauld with rheumatism and other deplorables.’ From a few years later, here is an attestation in an 1831 journal entry by Thomas Carlyle, pairing deplorables with despicables: ‘Of all the deplorables and despicables of this city and time the saddest are the “literary men.” ’ ”