People Weblogging

The Lady Cyr

I finished up the base functionality for the OsCommerce application, including replacing the category implementation. OsCommerce is one of the more used applications for store fronts, and is open source to boot. However, the code is obtuse and cumbersome, and not especially well documented; you change the code in one spot, you end up breaking it in half a dozen other places.

I’ve also been working on weblog coding, and helping Feministe move from Movable Type to WordPress. I installed the application and handled the permalinks and htaccess changes, and Lauren did the import and a lovely, and amazingly quick, design. Other than forgetting to remind Lauren to turn off MT auto-generation, and her losing her initial index page, the move has gone relatively well.

Note to current WordPress users: As of a day or so ago, the default template for a WordPress installation has been moved into a theme, and the contents of the index.php file reduced to a few lines of code, easily replaced. What does this mean? This means that what happened to Lauren won’t happen after the 1.5 update.

Yes: 1.5 — the developers skipped 1.3 and 1.4, and the next release of WordPress will be 1.5.

While I was working on her site, I noticed she’d posted her results of a new quiz, Which Classical Pin-Up are you. Much better than the what kind of vegetable is one quiz. I broke away from coding a few minutes to take it and found out that:

You are Lili St. Cyr!
You’re Lili St. Cyr!

What Classic Pin-Up Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The other classic pin-ups were Betty Grable (of course), Marilyn Monroe (must we), Brigitte Bardot, and Bettie Page.

All in all, I was rather pleased to ‘be’ Lili St. Cyr, one of the more famous of the 20th century strip teasers. Beautiful, but with a stronger face than the norm for the time, and an imperious tilt to her head. Unique in her performances, too. A classically trained dancer, when other strippers would do the usual bump and grind, Lili’s acts consisted of her taking a bubble bath on stage, or having her maid dress her rather than remove her clothes.

Standing five-foot-six, and featuring nearly ideal 36-24-36 dimensions, she was built to please. But it was her seductive moves that made her a star. She was most famous for a bathtub routine, in which she emerged from a bubbly tub, froth clinging strategically to her naughty bits. But her repertoire also featured narratives like “Suicide” in which she tried to woo a straying lover by revealing her body, and “Jungle Goddess” an exotic number where she appeared to have relations with a parrot.

Lili was a fiercely independent woman who married six times, leaving all six when she got bored. She appeared in magazines and movies, was adored in Montreal, and at the time considered the queen of burlesque. After close to three decades on stage, she retired and started her own lingerie line, where her catalogs would feature drawings or photographs of her wearing her products.

Her life was not a happy one, though, and she had problems with both alcohol and drugs. When she sold her business and retired, she withdrew from the public eye, living in seclusion with her cats until her death at age 80, in 1999.

The glamour photographer Bernard of Hollywood, creator of the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe wearing the white dress standing over a exhaust grate, took many pin-up photographs of Lili St. Cyr, calling her his ‘muse’. But I don’t know if he was the photographer who took one picture I found of Lili that stood apart from the typical cheesecake shots.

In it, Lili is posing under a bed canopy, seemingly swirling a sheer cape around herself, as she strikes a pose for the photographer. But the camera, rather than move in to tightly focus on her, is pulled back and much lower to the ground, exposing the obvious nature of the set. Because of the angle, rather than a spontaneous swirl of cloth, it looks like Lili’s cape is actually wired to be pulled up and out. Additionally, as you can see in more detail in this larger photo, the walls of the set slant in and down, drawing you into the photograph; and in the crack between them walls, a photographer’s light shining on the floor in front of the dancer actually competes equally for attention.

Off to the side is a dresser with a parrot in a cage, and you can’t tell from the photo whether the bird is fake or real; and if the latter, alive or dead. The bed, which should look inviting and seductive, seems cold, remote, and hard as bricks for all that it is draped with velvet. Rather than seduce, the image makes one’s back vaguely hurt.

What’s especially intriguing about the shot is that it looks as if someone had carefully contrived an image, and then impulsively rejected it. However, there’s more than a hint in the photo that the scene you see is exactly what was planned, and if the camera were to pull back more, yet another set would be exposed.

A compelling photo of a genuinely interesting woman.


Coding on the hoof

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

This last week I’ve been heavily into development, trying to get OsCommerce to agree to operate a certain way, in addition to doing some really strange things to the version of WordPress in use at Bb (changes which will then get ported to Wordform). In fact, you may see things break here and there, off and on, as I’ve decided to do all my coding ‘live’ — directly to my working weblogs.

This is contrary to traditional development practices. Normally the rule is to code in a separate space and then roll out a nicely polished, tested, finished, fairly stable working copy. However, I thought it might be interesting for non-technologists to see what an application looks like as it undergoes changes.

I sometimes think we, the techs, hide what goes on behind the scenes too much–fostering a myth that an application is solid-state when really its bits and pieces stuck together. Hopefully, we manage to stick the bits together in a way that they actually do something useful, but that’s not always the case.

It’s frustrating for users to hit a bug in software, and when they do, they wonder how this bug could be missed and/or why isn’t the developer just “…putting out a quick fix”. What happens, though, with many bugs, is that trying to fix the code in one spot can break it in three other places because the code is really bits and pieces, stuck together in a way that hopefully works, but in this case, doesn’t.

It then becomes equally frustrating for the developer to try to explain to the user that there are so many moving parts to an application of any size, there is no such thing as ‘bug free’ code. In addition, the ‘quick fix’ the user asks for could take a month of developer time because it’s connected to half a dozen other bits of code all of which need to be changed–so they shouldn’t hold their breath.

For the next month, as I work at creating all sorts of new goodies (for WordPress, Wordform, and other weblogging tools), you can watch me break, repair, break, and then repair again my own weblog installations; all the while comfortably knowing its my site, my weblogs, my code that’s falling apart, not yours. Sort of like you being an observer behind one-way glass, and me being the insane patient under treatment.

Speaking of coding on the hoof, you saw it here first: iProngs and prodcasting.