Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Piece of Flair . . . or Something

Two separate house porn magazines urged me to buy this book, on the same day that One Kings Lane (that alluring and addictive online storefront for house porn) advertised its Rizzoli coffee table book sale and offered to sell me my own fabulous copy of Flair by Joe Nye at a substantial discount. I was intrigued. I went to to comparison shop. I purchased my own fabulous copy of Flair by Joe Nye. And I waited anxiously for it to be delivered - because I am a big fan of exquisite invitations, lush flowers and gorgeous table settings, and always looking for ideas for all of the above.

So, reality check. First, this is not a coffee table book, per se. Unless, maybe, you live in Manhattan, in a 400 square-foot efficiency with a really tiny coffee table. So, okay - given that I may have just described a large segment of the target audience for Flair by Joe Nye - culturally biased snarky remark withdrawn.

But I know these facts to be true - cultural biases or no:

(1) Flair by Joe Nye is noticeably short on images of (a) exquisite invitations, (b) lush flowers or (c) gorgeous table settings. Like, really noticeably short. There aren't all that many pictures - and none are jaw-droppingly stunning. The orange ranunculus/parrot tulip/geranium leaf/berry thing that he has going on on page 45 is worth duplicating. The rest are pretty ho-hum.

Also, many of the pictures are of Joe Nye - author of Flair by Joe Nye - creating flower arrangements and table settings. Helpful photos like a picture of Joe Nye - author of Flair by Joe Nye - holding a wine glass and smiling at the camera (page 8). I particularly enjoyed a montage of photos of him holding silver-colored things (page 54), accompanied by the caption, "There is sterling silver and silver plate, both of which are shown here." Only he doesn't identify which items (out of a sauce boat, a leaf-shaped dish, a salt cellar and an assortment of handled cups) are sterling silver, and which are silver plate. Also a fave: the shot of him hunched over an arrangement of blue glasses, white porcelain, blue and white porcelain and a striped placemat that he has spread out on the floor. The caption: "At Crate and Barrel, I am arranging a possibility of blue glassware, white porcelain, and blue-and-white-porcelain on a striped placement." Okay, placement - typo or affectation? And what, exactly, does the caption add to the image, other than the inferred tidbit that glasses, porcelain and placemats/placements can be acquired at Crate and Barrel?

Which leads me to my second observation.

(2) The target audience for Flair by Joe Nye not only has never thrown a party but, in all likelihood, has never attended one. Here are some helpful tips for those of you who happen to dwell under rocks:

Page 62: Hot mixes of strongly colored flowers can set the tone for Mexican-themed or other festive parties.

Page 86: Self-service is a common feature of buffets. (Were you sitting down for that one?)

Page 94: E-mail invitations are fine for some informal occasions, or for work-related occasions (where, you know, e-mail likely is your primary means of communication?), but a paper invitation is appropriate for formal occasions (like your wedding? the coronation of European royalty?).

Page 98: One of the greatest invitations that the author ever sent out was last minute, and - get this, people - HE WROTE OUT THE TEXT ON PAPER. WITH A SHARPIE MARKER. AND THE SHARPIE MARKER WAS RED. THEN HE HAD KINKO'S COPY THE PAPER. SEVERAL TIMES. It's not specified whether the copies were color or black-and-white. THEN HE BOUGHT ENVELOPES AND MAILED THEM.

I could go on and on. Really - I could. I could quote the whole book in an arch and ironic tone. But, instead, I'll limit myself to two favorite passages:

"Because they are used well before the party starts, invitations are the first things you should think about after you've decided when and what the party is going to be" (page 92). So, wait - we should set a date for a party before we print the invitations? And also pick the theme? Yeah, I can see how it would be embarrassing if you send out invites to a baby shower tentatively scheduled for November and then subsequently determine that you really want to throw a Super Bowl-centered chili cookoff. Oh, wait, page 100: "Ironically, the part of creating an invitation that many people find the most challenging is figuring out what to say. I've seen hosts get so caught up in finding a fresh way to say, "Will you come?' that they go overboard, or worse, forget to include important information such as the date or time!" So, the whole "think in advance about what and when" concept is a hedge against making a complete arse of yourself. Got it.

And one more, from page 86 (it's long, but I can't bring myself to edit it):

"A basic full bar should include a mixture of dark and light liquors, beer, and wine (at least one white and one red). Scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka, and sweet and dry vermouth will cover pretty much any drink a guest could think up. Tonic water, ginger ale, cranberry juice, and another tangy juice are good to have on hand as mixers. Some people also like to stock sodas, such as Coca-Cola and 7UP. And always keep a good supply of flat and sparkling water for those who prefer not to drink.

"If all of this sounds too fussy, you can forgo the mixed drinks and just serve beer and wine. That's certainly more economical, and if the party is quite casual, it's perfectly fine not to go all out. Or you can choose to serve one type of cocktail or alcoholic beverage along with beer and wine. If your gathering has a theme, you may want to come up with a drink that goes along with it (such as pina coladas for a beach party or mojitos for a Cinco de Mayo celebration) or one that goes with the color scheme or aesthetic you've established."

Questions and comments:

(1) Did you get all that? The part about the different beverages, the clarification that some are alcoholic and some are not, and the stuff about how different people like different beverages? Also that you can offer two things, or three things if two doesn't seem like enough, and buying a few things is more economical than buying all of the things? Did you get that beverages come in colors? Which you can coordinate with your theme - if you remembered to pick one, before or after you sent out your invitations?

(2) Entreaty to Joe Nye, author of Flair by Joe Nye: if your target audience is incapable of functioning within society on the strength of common sense alone, as you seem to suspect that they are, you really should not leave it up to them to pick "another tangy juice." Also, consider using a synonym for "aesthetic."

(3) Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a holiday held on May 5 that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. A mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail. Cuba is not located in Mexico. It was separately colonized by the Spanish, some years prior to the colonization of Mexico. 1492, Columbus . . . ring any bells? Sterling, silverplate or otherwise? It's called Wikipedia, buddy. But perhaps the Internet service to your rock is dial-up and therefore on the spotty side . . . .

Yes, I'm in a bad mood. I was expecting a sparkly piece of Flair - and I think I got a piece, alright. But, on the bright side, I put a coin in my "Seriously?" jar with the turn of just about every page. I may have paid for my next gorgeous table setting.

Postscript: I was going to delete this post before I published it, realizing just how mean-spirited that it was. But then my ten year-old mentioned that he had looked at Flair by Joe Nye, and he thought that it was funny, "because someone needs to tell you that you can display flowers in a pitcher instead of a vase? Seriously?" So give it up for guest blogger Connor, who would like to add the following:

"Maybe he should clarify that if the flowers are too tall for the pitcher, you should cut them - but DON'T CUT THE HEADS OFF!"

"Aren't margaritas the appropriate beverage for a Cinco de Mayo party? Mojitos are Cuban."

"I have allergies - sniffle, sniffle." (He made me write that last part. Why? Because he's ten, and he's silly - but I think he might have a little more on the ball than this Joe Nye guy, even when suffering from allergies.)

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