August 14th, 2006

Wearing the Past

Saturday two of our friends came over to "remix" clothes together with Kim and Skylar. I deftly steered clear of the needles and thread by sitting in my office revising my Richard Hell piece. But I did step out to chat a few times in order to capture the proceedings in photographs. Some of you may have already seen the evidence elsewhere. Anyway, when the fabulous fashions were complete I was enjoined to document them as well, thereby earning my right to accompany the ladies during their night on the town for Japanese food at Yoshimatsu, reading material at the Book Stop, and dessert at the Santa Barbara Ice Cream Company. All in all, it was a magical day.

Bean decided to wear her outfit again yesterday for the gallery show celebrating the end of her art camp. As I watched her walk around, I tried to pin down a sensation I'd had the previous evening, which wasn't exactly deja-vu, but definitely related. A little while ago, I sat down at the computer and saw the following image in my iPhoto window:

All of a sudden it hit me. The combination of the outfit and Skylar's expression reminded me, both of the odds and ends in my paternal grandparents' bedroom, which struck my elementary-school mind as a space from another time, and of the family photographs I looked through when I was visiting my parents in December. I scanned a bunch of those. Sadly, the ones that most reminded me of my daughter's look were not among them. But I did find a few from the 1920s and 1930s that at least give some insight into why I was "tripping" yesterday and today:

That's my paternal grandmother on the far right, my great aunt Louise on the left, and my dad's older sister Marion between them. Since Marion looks about five or six, this photograph is probably from 1928.

Whenever my dad looks at photos of Marion he remarks how much Skylar looks like her. And I agree with him, though this photograph doesn't demonstrate the similarity as well as others. What intrigues me right now, though, is the way that this old snapshot conjures up the era of Cabaret, the soundtrack for which has been on heavy rotation in our world for months. I look at Bean's outfit and feel like she's channeling a past to which she has no direct access, since it precedes all of her grandparents' attainment of self-awareness. But then I start detecting family resemblances and wonder whether its legacy hasn't reached her by other means.

For the Irony Files

The new Oliver Stone movie World Trade Center, which I have yet to see, focuses on the rescue of two men from the rubble. One of the Marines who helped to find them disappeared shortly after 9/11 and has only now come forth to confess to being one of the rescuers. His story is interesting in its own right. But the relationship between the real man and his cinematic representation adds an intriguing twist to it:
Shamberg said he apologized to Thomas for an inaccuracy in the film: Thomas is black, but the actor cast to portray him, William Mapother, is white. Filmmakers realized the mistake only after production had begun, Shamberg said.

Thomas laughed and gently chided the filmmakers, then politely declined to discuss it further. "I don't want to shed any negativity on what they were trying to show," he said.
Given the fact that our armed forces are considerably more diverse than most other American institutions, it says a lot that the filmmakers assumed that the mysterious Marine must have been white. At least no one can accuse them of celluloid affirmative action.