The Age of the Plastic Stirrer [Beautiful]5/13/2013 9:56:05 AM
The Age of the Plastic Stirrer I have measured out my life with coffeespoons. Not only have they left the beaches pristine, they have amazingly logged every single item of litter that's been bagged. It may not be surprising to hear that up to 2007, the most popular item was the cigarette, with over four million collected. This Entry, however, is about the item which featured 6th in the league table, with a total of 455,796 plucked from the sand. Welcome to the world of the plastic stirrer1. The Spoon, RIPIt never used to be like this. Those born in more recent years may not be aware of a hard shiny substance known as stainless steel, which we used to fashion into all sorts of useful shapes. One of these was a kind of deep concave oval with a long straight handle attached to one end. It was known as a 'spoon', and was quite a useful tool. Two of them, in the wrong hands, made a handy percussion instrument. Other amateur entertainers could balance them on their noses. Its real forte, however, was in the dining area: as well as using it to measure out items like sugar, people would employ it to transfer all manner of foodstuffs from the plate to the mouth. It was also a pretty neat agitation device; tinkling it around in a hot drink for a few moments could quickly accelerate the dissolution and mixing of sugar and milk into it. Sadly, its days were numbered. As the world's economy grew, people found themselves with enough disposable income to enjoy the luxuries of eating and drinking out - cafés and fast food restaurants flourished. Not surprisingly, these became ever more competitive and cost-conscious, and the casualties were the china crockery and the stainless steel cutlery. Plastic spoons were cheaper to produce, and didn't require washing up. They were also less likely to be stolen. Then, as sugar bowls were replaced with sachets, the spoons evolved Darwinian-like into simple stick-shaped stirrers. It's big business, though. In 2007, the OCS (Office Coffee Services) sector was worth $12 billion in the 'break room supplies' category2 alone. How many stirrers did you use today? How many people are there just like you? Is it any wonder that something approaching half a million of them get washed up on Californian beaches over a period of 20 years? It's Not Easy Being GreenYou don't need to be a mathematician to realise that we are manufacturing billions of these plastic stirrers. We use them only once - in fact we are often given one when we don't even need it - then we bin them, or lob them into the sea, or whatever. We know it's not right, but who's to blame? Not the manufacturers, surely? Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths as they tell us how they are simply responding to consumer demand, and how they would see a new environmentally responsible corporate customer image as nothing more than an opportunity to leverage some new paradigm or other. We are socially and corporately addicted to these sticks, and we need therapy, frankly. Is Wood as Good?Most plastic sticks end up as landfill - it's big, but it's not clever. They're neither compostable nor recyclable. The alternative is wood, and the recent trend is to use those slimline lolly-stick stirrers. If you can get over the woody taste they add to your brew, then these are undoubtedly more landfill-friendly (but better still if you take them home and compost them in the garden). Just don't worry about the loss of Chinese birch forests or the carbonemitted by the intensive industrial process which reconstitutes them into splinter-free wands, then delivers them to your local Starbucks. Still feeling guilty? Take your own spoon and reuse it. Acceptable Reuse PolicyReuse is better than recycling, so they say, but be thankful you weren't the first to consider any of the following bright ideas: In a 2006 article in the journal Highlights for Children, Jean Kuhn describes how you can design a table croquet set, making stakes from wooden coffee stirrers and mallets from slit sections of drinking straws, with a plastic stirrer handle. Indeed there are probably countless hot-glue craft projects you could think up that use stirrers - the matchsticks of the 21st Century. Hong Kongmusician, Kung Chi Shing has been known to play the violin with a plastic stirrer bow, as he continues to explore the unconventional sound possibilities of different acoustic and electronic instruments. In 2005, the article 'Think outside the lunch box' in the Wichita Eagle advised parents on how to jazz up the daily chore of preparing their little darlings' school lunches: 'For a fun kabob, alternate pieces of fruit with chunks of cheese on a skewer or plastic coffee stirrer'. In the 1980s, McDonald's withdrew a design of plastic stirrer from its branches after it became the tool of choice for cocaine addicts: a tiny spoon on one end measured out exactly one gram of the substance. It was replaced with a flat stirrer. This was 'celebrated' in 2006 by US artists Ken Courtney and Tobias Wong, who produced their design 'Cokespoon', a replica cast in bronze and plated with gold, retailing at $295. One Final Cautionary TaleIn 2003, Irish teacher Louise Lowe was carrying her breakfast tray from the counter at McDonald's, Dublin Airport when she noticed the tea was resting on a plastic stirrer. Disaster struck when it then toppled over, scalding her stomach - an injury which required medical treatment. When suing for damages, however, the judge ruled that the bulk of the negligence lay with Ms Lowe, reducing her award by 75% (over 11,000) - one expensive stirrer!

Burlesque Costumes [Outlet]5/2/2013 5:08:20 PM
Burlesque Costumes The word burlesque probably derives from the French, which describes a piece of slightly outrageous, humorous art. The term burlesque originally applied to shows intended for middle or lower classes. Such shows lampooned upper class niceties and parodying upper class entertainments like opera dance. Such music and comedy shows and plays grew in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic during the nineteenth century. In Victorian England, where even "a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking", burlesque challenged its audience by offering rather more than a "glimpse of stocking" - the lure of young ladies appearing in tights and lingerie! Certainly demure by today's standards these slightly suggestive interludes certainly boosted the popularity of burlesque. Lydia Thompson took a burlesque troupe, called the British Blondes to New York near the end of the 1860s where they were an immediate hit. At first they were feted by the press, but before long strident voices, from the pulpit and the papers were complaining of loose morals and indecency. The result of all this adverse publicity was to spread the word about burlesque far and wide in America effectively having the reverse effect to that desired by burlesque's critics - female burlesque troupes with close copies of the original British act sprung up around the country. These shows owed a great deal of their structure to the minstrel shows of the time and generally consisted of three parts - the initial section featuring the ladies, the middle section was a mix of male comedians and specialty acts and the final part the grand finale. Copying Lydia Thompson's lead, most of the troupes had female managers. However towards the end of the nineteenth century, as male managers took over, they switched the emphasis away from comedy to push boundaries, determined to show as much uncovered female flesh as the laws would allow. This form of entertainment metamorphosed in the early twentieth century into a mix of music hall, satire and striptease. During the twenties the bias continued inexorably towards striptease and away from the accompanying elements. This shift doubtlessly was burlesque's downfall; by the thirties the popularity of burlesque dropped away probably reacting against what had become slightly tawdry striptease shows. Now, once more on both sides of the channel, it is possible to see shows equal in glamour, bawdiness and variety to equal the art form in its heyday in clubs and theatres in major cities. Arguably the Internet has played a major part to spread the interest in the genre. There are websites, such as Ministry of Burlesque dedicated to promoting it, to teaching dance, makeup and fashion. The mainstay of this style is lingerie and modern burlesque generally concentrates on the fifties and to a lesser degree the forties look. This extends not only to clothing, but hats, footwear and makeup too. There have always been fans of fifties silk and nylon stockings. The majority stocking mills closed up shop when pantyhose all but killed the stocking market. Their huge stocking machines were destroyed and along with it the expertise to manufacture fully-fashioned stockings. Now the rare machines remaining are being rebuilt and returned to service to again produce faux fifties seamed stockings. However a few companies trading online still have limited supplies of the original fifties stockings so the purists can satisfy their need to the 'real thing' rather than the modern copies. Sadly, once that depleting stock is exhausted, they will only be viewable in museums and private collections. However, for burlesque stage performance it is the fishnet tights or pantyhose that are still really popular. Companies are making exact copies both of retro costumes and burlesque accessories, from ostrich feather fans to bullet bras. Lingerie companies, sensing an opportunity not to be missed, are enticing well-known burlesque artists to lend their names and expertise to burlesque-inspired lingerie designs. Burlesque is eagerly embraced by all physiques, from plus size to skinny-minny, proving how empowering it can be to women - all physiques are equally welcomed, but there is not set 'burlesque costume' either. It is very common for burlesque artists to take everyday lingerie, adapt it by sewing on sequins to devise their own unique take on burlesque. However the common thread that runs through the new outfits, going right back to the earliest days of the art form is the element of 'tease', the showing of rather more lingerie and stocking tops that would normally be seen in everyday life. The term pinup also has blurred origins, covering photos of movie stars from around the thirties and forties, but also the airbrushed fantasy women gracing men's magazines by such exponents as Petty and Elvgren. The fashions often featured nylons and lingerie, sometimes being exposed by a sudden unexpected gust of wind or other 'mishap' that befell the model. The intention was actually to reveal very very little by today's standards. It is a certainty that pinup art, with the sexy lingerie has strongly influenced the outfits adopted by many of today's burlesque artists.


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