Saturday, May 24, 2008

Netflix Recommendations: A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

The last time I logged into Netflix, I was advised that they were sure I'd give Spongebob Squarepants: Friend or Foe 4.6 stars. Seeing as how I have not rated any Spongebob movies, let alone cartoons, on Netflix, I was interested to know how they arrived at that recommendation. Apparently, I rated Unzipped, the 1995 documentary about Isaac Mizrahi 5 stars. Guilty. How that translated into love for animated sponges, I'm still not entirely sure. Unless the gays are big SpongeBob fans, I really don't see how the two are related, other than I'm sure you can buy Mizrahi products and SpongeBob products at Target. I've never really put much store in Netflix recommendations. You'd think that with the over 2,600 ratings I've provided them, they'd be able to figure out what I want to watch. Or, even what movies people generally might be interested in if they watch a particular movie. You'd be wrong.

For example: I have The Other Boleyn Girl in my queue.
Netflix says that people who enjoyed that movie enjoyed the Bridget Jones sequel and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. The only approximately related historical drama movie they suggested was First Night. The first and second seasons of The Tudors were nowhere to be found. Neither were A Man for All Seasons, Anne of The Thousand Days, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Private Life of Henry VIII, Henry VIII and the TV version of The Other Boleyn Girl, all of which are available on Netflix.

Here's hoping that when the Netflix Prize is awarded, the technology will actually improve the recommendations. Yeah right.

What are the most ridiculous recommendations you've received?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

To Trend or Not to Trend?

Being a third generation Southern Californian, I never thought I'd say this, but here it is: I am so sick of the flip-flop.

Some of my earliest mem
ories about being excited about buying clothing had to do with the annual trip to the Sanrio store (Hello Kitty for the uninitiated) to pick out the pair of flip-flops that I would wear all summer, to the pool for swimming lessons, and the beach. I still have immediate recall of the man-made scent of that thick pink wafer of rubber, which mnemonically leads straight on to the combining aromas of chlorinated pool water, salt air, sunscreen, and smoke from the beach shack grill, joyously proclaiming: SUMMER IS HERE!

That was back when I enjoyed clothes for the sense of wonderment they caused in me, for the excitement I felt when something spoke to me. My goodness I loved Hello Kitty! And look, I could have her on my FEET! And--MY SHOES COULD BE PINK! Going to college in the Rocky Mountains, where it snowed my freshman year in October and didn't stop until June, I wore my flip-flops as a badge of honor, an emblem of my "ethnicity." When my roommate queried me as to why I was wearing a polo with a wool sweater, jeans, a jacket and a scarf...and flip flops...I didn't realize it was so unusual! I had only recently seen Amber Valletta pairing them with a men's suit and tee shirt while attending a black tie event in the social reporting section of Vogue. The only time I considered not wearing them during those years was after I went line dancing in them and (because I have no talent for structured dance routines--I need to be free form, people!) got trod on by cowboy boots.

Diana Vreeland wrote in her memoirs, D. V., about the rhapsody that can occur between a girl and her sandals. Hers were hand-crafted on Capri circa 1935: "The theory of the sandals was that the sandal strap went between the toes. The soles of these sandals were so beautiful. They were built up in layers thinner than my fingernail--layer upon layer." Ooh Diana, I knew YOU would understand! And then one day, flip-flops were everywhere I went. And I slowly but surely began my descent into disenchantment. Flip-flops weren't an organic expression of my environment anymore. They were just more proof that Americans are becoming lazy. In this case, too lazy to wear shoes that require socks. And so my irritation grew. As in all relationships, what you initially love about someone can become the biggest annoyance about them. So help me I saw people wear flip-flops to church! This wasn't Ms. Valletta's deft tweaking of the status quo by a fashion insider, this was apathy on a grand scale.

And I wanted no part of it. This summer, the gladiator sandal is back, making appearances in such un-Mediterranean climes as suburban London in April, on the feet of style makers like Gwyneth Paltrow. But where the flip-flop is straightforward, there are many permutations of the gladiator sandal. Gwyneth's gold gladiators, by Giuseppe Zanotti, look great on her, but what about short women like me? Doesn't encasing the whole foot make us look shorter? The similarly styled gladiator sandals I tried on at H & M certainly did. The braided t-bar sandals from Stella McCartney certainly have a more delicate ankle strap, but do the big thick silver braids overpower smaller feet? And can you wear metallics without a pedicure? I think not. This look is much more difficult to pull off well than it might initially appear.

And then I found the answer to my current fashion conundrum where I usually do: in something Anita Pallenberg wore. Holding her baby Marlon and wearing a mini, in the south of France with Mick and Keith, thin golden strapped gladiator sandals sinuously silhouette her fantastic legs. This is not a woman in the Georgian buckled flats of the sixties, or the platforms of the seventies, both decades which were heavily influenced by her style. This is a style maverick bucking the trends, wearing gladiator sandals when no one else was. Maybe that's when I'll wear them too.