Ashlee April Alligator

My Dad read a lot of Dr. Seuss to me when I was a toddler, and the memory that sticks in my head is the beginning of the The Amazing Alphabet Book!:

 “Big ‘A’, little ‘a’, what begins with ‘a’?

Ashlee April Alligator, ‘a’,’a’, ‘a’!”

That’s how my Dad read it to me— with my name in it, and I have no idea what is actually in the book.

The earthy aesthetic

Not mine; I wish!

Until a professional designer told me that I had an earthy aesthetic, I hadn’t thought much about it; I know what I like when I see it. But it’s true, and it happens to be very convenient for me, because I’m an amateur and as you can imagine, wooden beads are a lot less expensive than precious stones! Even if cost weren’t an issue, I still gravitate towards the raw and natural look of freshwater pearls versus their polished counterparts, for example.

As for colors, I like earthy hues that are naturally occurring; to me there’s nothing worse than a black and white checkerboard pattern with its sharp angles and cold colorlessness. Aesthetics is subjective but I draw the line there. As for textures, the natural look can be found when embellishments resemble water droplets or barnacles. Take a look at the placement of the gems in this Alexis Bittar bracelet, for example:

Just because I love Alexis Bittar so much, here are a couple more examples of his use of earthy textures:

The earrings look like they could have come from a cavern, and the shape of the necklace is reminiscent of pebbles in the bottom of a brook. Obviously the materials he used contribute to the earthiness of these pieces, but he does the same thing with resin and rhinestones in his most popular cuff bracelets.

These designs are most definitely not naturally occurring, but they look as if they could be; one can imagine natural processes being used to achieve this end result.

The gay agenda

I am close to a handful of gay people who grew up in a conservative and/or religious family, and I know being gay is not a choice. Because if these people had a choice, it would be to not be gay. That would be much easier. In many cases it took them a long time to even acknowledge it to themselves because of their upbringing. It is impossible to shake off all of the things you’re told as a child. That being gay is disgusting, unnatural, and immoral. If you had a choice, would you have your family see you as a deviant and a pervert? Throughout much of their lives they live in
fear of being discovered for who they are, and they try to live in denial. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t it eat at you constantly? And when you come to terms with it in your internal struggle, you then face the re-opening of those wounds by coming out to your family. No one wants to jeopardize their close relationships in this way. Even when the outcome of coming out to a family member has turned out to be positive, there was still a fear that it would change the relationship, that someone you’ve known your whole life is going to think of you differently.

No one is trying to turn your kid gay by broadcasting a message of acceptance (thereby earning the coveted purple toaster!). The religious right describes the issue in terms of an “anything goes” philosophy on the edge of a slippery slope. The real motive for reaching out with a message of acceptance is this: homosexuals who have struggled and endured through discrimination don’t want the pattern to be repeated. They don’t want others to suffer as they have. I have spoken with people who are annoyed at the outspokenness of “the gay community”- they feel as if liberal views are being forced on them. I admit I am impatient for social change. The reason I’m so passionate about this is because I don’t want my loved ones to hurt. Behold the gay agenda! All they want is to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law, hoping it sets an example for everyone else.

Phases

I go through phases in my jewelry-making, and right now I’m in my “brick stitch” phase. In brick stitch, you create rows of beads in a circular pattern around a spherical center bead, as opposed to peyote, which is staggered. I like it so much because I can play with progressions in color. And you aren’t necessarily limited to going around in circles, as is the case in these earrings, where I also used variations in texture:

By using color progressions, you can control how the center is highlighted. When you start with a core and work your way outward, you are literally radiating. I love focusing on the beauty of one color by contrasting or complementing it with others.

Why I wore a pink wedding dress

Image

I’m not that bad-ass. Let me begin by making it clear that only part of the reason to wear color was to make a statement. The biggest and most important reason is that I love color. The core of my aesthetic sense is earthy and natural- I dislike any stark and cold black-and-white color scheme.  And if I do use white in a creative choice, it is always ivory or cream. Hence the grey and brown that the groom is wearing instead of formal black. Ever since I saw Portia de Rossi’s blush-colored Zac Posen wedding gown it was in the back of my head.

So the aesthetic choice came first. But then I didn’t like what it meant in the context our cultural tradition; that it meant it was a second wedding, or I somehow didn’t deserve to wear white. The New York Times announcement of Vera Wang’s collection at David’s Bridal, the very collection I selected my gown from, described the color choices in these terms: “In addition to vestal virgin white, the dresses are available in ivory, blush and champagne — something women with previous experience at the altar might particularly appreciate”. Furthermore, the collection’s tagline was “Every bride deserves to wear white”. I think that what they were going for was more along the lines of  every bride deserves to wear a top designer like Vera Wang. And I adore Vera Wang.  But I still don’t like the implicit assumption about purity in the choice of color.

That’s where the “F*** you, Tradition, I’m wearing pink!” element came in. The idea that the dress I chose to wear is a statement about my purity is disgusting to me. I decided to forgo the veil for the same reason. You want to look and feel your best on your wedding day, and style, which is about self-expression and confidence, should not be tinged by judgement. Before Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding, color dominated the bridal fashion scene. And it will again; color is starting to come back, and I wanted to be a part of that trend. On my wedding day, I was beautiful, and to my knowledge, my pink dress did not elicit any scandalized gasps of horror or nasty comments from the guests. They were too busy having a good time.

The cooperative principle and America’s favorite misanthrope

Sheldon: (knocks) “Leonard…”

Leonard: “What is it?”

Sheldon: “I made tea”

Leonard: “I don’t want tea”

Sheldon: “I didn’t make tea for you!

At the risk of ruining a joke by over-explaining it, I am going to show how a scene from The Big Bang Theory illustrates one of the most important principles in linguistic pragmatics.

In order for there to be mutual understanding, there must be a systematic relation between what the speaker says and what he intends to convey. Herbert Paul Grice’s cooperative principle explains how the speaker gets the hearer  to recognize the intended meaning of the utterance. The speaker relies on hearer’s ability to reason backwards from the speaker’s communicative intentions, which is made possible with guidance by additional assumptions. The problem is that in principle, any action can have an indefinite number of goals and intentions.  In John Nash’s Game Theory,  shared assumptions help narrow down the search space by relying on each other’s cooperativeness and common goals. Here, the common goal is for the speaker’s utterance, and intentions behind it, to be understood by the hearer. Grice’s cooperative principle is based on this, and his conversational maxims lay out the rules of the game.

Grice posited that the assumptions we operate under in our conversations fall into four categories, the conversational maxims: Quality, Relation, Quantity, and Manner. Under quality, the hearer should assume that the speaker is not knowingly lying or misrepresenting the truth. Under relation, the hearer can assume that the what the speaker contributes to the conversation is relevant. Under quantity, the contribution is expected to be as informative as required for the purposes of the exchange, but no more than is required. Lastly, manner has to do with the composition of the contribution itself: it should be brief, or not unnecessarily long, avoid obscurity and ambiguity, and it should be orderly. It’s pretty simple, really: for conversation to work, we need to be able to assume that we aren’t trying to deceive each other, that there is a point to our contribution, that the contribution won’t keep us there all afternoon without a good reason, and that we can understand what was said. To be a cooperative participant in a conversation, don’t lie, don’t needlessly complicate things, don’t inconvenience your friend, and try to be clear.

Back to the clip: the humor of the “I made tea” misunderstanding rests on the fact that the hearer, Leonard, is operating under the assumption that the speaker, Sheldon, is guided by the cooperative principle. Which, by experience, is a faulty assumption, but where would sitcoms be without it? Sheldon is an expert in many things except, notably, human social interactions. Leonard, the ordinary human being, assumes that a speaker’s contribution is relevant to the exchange. Upon entering Leonard’s bedroom, Sheldon declares that he has made tea. The reasonable interpretation upon hearing this is that he is being offered tea, especially given the context of Leonard’s emotional state and Sheldon’s timidness upon entering.  Put plainly, why else would you walk into someone’s bedroom and say that you’ve made tea other than to offer it to them? How is it relevant? Well, it’s not, and that’s why it’s funny.