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2009feb10. For some reason I have joined the Facebook facespooks. I’m not sure why this is, since the whole thing creeps me out with creepiness. Well, in any event, now you can be my friend and we can run up the grassy hill holding hands and singing a friend song la la la, la la LA la laaaaaa laala before the tracking dogs are released. In other news, I drove an SUV with a fully-loaded trailer to LA, so I get the non-rollover merit badge now.

2009feb12. Dear Yelp: You used to be cool, but now, you can die. Your shakedown tactics are sad, and the internet does not like sadness.

2009feb27. Excerpts from Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern (2006), by Joshua Zeitz. NYT: review plus first chapter.

It’s easy, in retrospect, to lose sight of just how radical the flapper appeared to her elders. Until World War I, few women other than prostitutes ventured into saloons and barrooms. As late as 1904, a woman had been arrested on Fifth Avenue in New York City for lighting up a cigarette. It wasn’t until 1929 that some railroad companies formally abolished their prohibition against women smokers in dining cars. [pg 6]

But if the flapper faithfully represented millions of young women in the Jazz Age, she was also a character type, fully contrived by the nation’s first “merchants of cool.” These artists, advertisers, writers, designers, film starlets, and media gurus fashioned her sense of style, her taste in clothing and music, the brand of cigarette she smoked, and the kind of liquor she drank – even the shape of her body and the placement of her curves. Their power over the nation’s increasingly centralized print and motion picture media, and their mastery of new developments in group psychology and the behavioral sciences, lent them unusual sway over millions of young women who were eager to assert their autonomy but still looked to cultural authorities for cues about consumption and body image. Like so many successor movements in the twentieth century, the flapper phenomenon emphasized individuality, even as it expressed itself in conformity. [pg 8]

Now, with America fully mobilized for war and thousands of doughboys in starched uniforms flooding Camp Sheridan, Zelda found herself one of the mostly hotly pursued belles in the state. Army aviators stationed at Camp Taylor honored her with elaborate aerial stunts and flyovers above the Sayre household, until an unfortunate pilot crashed his plane and died in a futile attempt to win Zelda’s affections. [pg 19; similarly, Lee Miller]

Before he met Zelda, he had been involved with another young Montgomery belle, a fellow Catholic with whom he once visited St. Peter’s Church to pay penance. After Scott had cleansed away his sins, his girlfriend stepped into the confession box and ticked off a number of minor transgressions against God and man. When she finished, the priest asked, “Is that all, my daughter?”
“I ... I ... think so,” she replied tentatively.
“Are you sure, my daughter?”
“That’s all I can remember.”
“No, that’s not all, my daughter,” he answered severely. “I fear I shall have to prompt you ... Because I heard your young man’s confession first.” [pg 26]

Though the Klan particularly deplored “the revolting spectacle of a white woman clinging in the arms of a colored man,” more hum-drum violations of Victorian propriety also vexed members of the Hooded Empire. In Evansville, Indiana, William Wilson, the teenage son of the local Democratic congressman, remembered that Klan riders ruthlessly patrolled back roads in search of teenagers embroiled in wild petting parties or improper embraces. “They entered homes without search warrants” and “flogged errant husbands and wives. They tarred and feathered drunks. They caught couples in parked cars ... ” [pg 74]

In 1922, Julia H. Kennedy, an official at the Illinois Department of Health, claimed that girls from small towns outside of Chicago and St. Louis were conducting themselves with even more reckless abandon than their big-city sisters. Among their other offenses, these small-town girls drank homemade concoctions like white mule and lemon extract from flasks that they tied around their necks. [pg 79]

In later years, the Round Table was commonly remembered as a venue for highbrow discussions of highbrow ideas – the intellectual nerve center of 1920s America. It wasn’t so. As Ross admitted to the notorious Baltimore wit H. L. Mencken, “I never heard any literary discussion or any discussion of any other art – just the usual personalities of some people getting together, and a lot of wisecracks, and quoting of further wisecracks.” ¶ Clever friends telling clever – and self-referential – jokes over lunch would never have caught fire had not the key players all been connected in some way or another to the press. [ ... ] This almost shameless promotional collaboration quickly transformed the Round Table participants into parlor-set headliners. By the mid-1920s, tourists were dropping by the Algonquin around lunchtime just to steal a glimpse of New York’s allegedly sharpest minds. [pg 84]

From the 1870s to the 1920s, roughly half of all female college graduates opted out of marriage entirely, compared with only a tenth of American women on the whole. [ ... ] In these years, it was common for educated middle-class women, particularly professionals and social activists, to forge so-called Boston marriages – long-term domestic partnerships that were acknowledged openly but lacked any real legal standing. [ ... ] The Victorians didn’t feel particularly threatened by these domestic partnerships or by more casual romantic ties between unmarried women. For one, few medical or scientific experts envisioned rigid distinctions like homosexuality and heterosexuality until the late nineteenth century – the age of eugenics, social Darwinism, scientific management, and taxonomy – when all the natural world suddenly seemed fodder for rigorous study and classification. More important, unmarried women forming close bonds with other unmarried women didn’t pose a fundamental threat to the Victorian gender code; married women in the workplace did. ¶ The same forces that revolutionized sex, romance, and courtship in the early twentieth century shattered this Victorian world in which women could openly nurture emotional and physical ties with one another. By the 1920s, it was completely normal for girls and boys to disappear with each other in the dark recesses of parked cars and movie theater balconies. It had become abnormal for two women to do these things together. [pg 119]

Years later, when asked how she emerged from obscurity to become the world’s most important designer of women’s clothes, Chanel said it was simple. “Two gentlemen were outbidding each other over my hot little body.” [pg 134]

But as working men and women lost control over their political and economic lives, they flexed their muscles in the purchase of shiny new things, an activity that seemed to hold out the promise of a new brand of “democratic” citizenship. Upward mobility was redefined as the right to dress like the Rockefellers rather than earn like the Rockefellers; the ownership of commodities replaced the ownership of labor as a mark of social achievement. More and more, the personal became political. ¶ In effect, Americans embraced a new definitions of freedom that hinged on participation in a burgeoning consumer economy. How “democratic” this new order – and how “free” the average consumer – really was was open to debate. A social critic for The Atlantic Monthly worried that “individuality, in the sense of a man’s distinct personality, in the material domain, is becoming an increasingly rarer phenomenon. We are forced to a common standard. Even those of us who have not material objectives cannot be non-conformers. For the few are powerless to escape the brand of eighty millions. We are socialized into an average.” [pg 171]

Where Colleen Moore bought a mansion, Clara [Bow] purchased a modest seven-room Spanish bungalow made of stucco for $15,000. She filled one room with dirt, so her dog would have somewhere to play at night. [pg 239]

Shortly after World War I, Boy Capel – the great love of Coco’s life – wed another woman. Months later, he died in a car crash in southern France. Coco drove to the site of the accident and wept. ¶ In 1926, she introduced the “little black dress.” She told close friends that she had put the whole world in mourning for Boy. [pg 285]

2009feb27. Friday Freeday.