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12/7/04

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Banality Ridge: Art and Style Critic Jess Hautman
Critiques the Homeland Security Secretary's Tenure



There was much obligatory praise given to the head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge when he resigned. But not by me. I saw a man who given the chance to be a bold artist, was no more than the square headed bureaucrat he looked every inch to be. This is a man who thought well inside the box, and not just any box, but one surely from sales rack of Payless Shoes. His biggest failing, other than from the looks of things, letting the new girl at Supercuts do his hair, was the color coded terror alert system. This system could have been full of dazzle capturing the imagination of the country by screaming, "You terror-persons can steal our sense of calm, but not our sense of style!" Ridge didn't scream at all, although a shouting match with his tailor wouldn't have hurt, but instead dribbled out a color coding system comically uninventive and plagued with unimaginative and clichéd basic colors.

Witness the witless and banal: Red equals severe terror alert, Green equals low. Please. Anyone who has ever been to a night club knows that black remains the severest of the colors. And although last season, dark blue gave a nod to severe by being the new black, red was never meant to be anything but a color best served for First Ladies' hats, Santa suits and ties for the overly serious. Even green, as it can cause eye bleeding when seen in the form of a suit or shoes, is more severe. Yet there red is at the top. Mr. Ridge, Mr. Ridge, oh poor, poor pedestrian Mr. Ridge.

Color misnomers aside, it's the solid patterns that really get one down. Imagine stepping out and seeing America was on high-alert with a splashing palate of the audacious but frequently overlooked colors of pink and black stripes. We would all be swept up in a good feeling, a whirlwind of '80s nostalgia and a general belief that something... something tasty... was going to happen, terror level be damned. Of course it was never tasty, was it? And this lack of tasty only underlines a legacy of missed chances and plodding coloring book sensibilities.

A candidate for Mr. Ridge's replacement will certainly be Red State (there's that color again) palatable, which means the most fabulous candidates are out of the running. My choices, people like Extra's style maven Steven Cojocaru, or Jai or Carson from Straight Guy were out before it started. America's loss.


(Reported by Davejames)





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