Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rockabilly Socialite





I'm a big Chris Isaak fan. About 2 years ago my wife surprised me with a Chris Isaak concert and man was I impressed. He's a complete showman, and his smooth-as-honey voice sounds as good live as it does on his albums. The guys in his band have been with him since the beginning and you can tell that everybody gets along. He's very old school.

Well, a recent search involving Chris Isaak got me into the online rockabilly community and that led me to "The Rockabilly Socialite."  This excellent blog chronicles the exploits of Dollie and Zach, two freshly scrubbed young people who take their vintage lifestyle seriously. For all practical purposes they live in 1954.

She is an enthusiastic proponent of the classic American casserole, cooked in a Pyrex dish. He sports a fairly conservative pompador and plays his guitar professionally. Dollie and Zach: even their names fit the part.

I love watching people choose their own culture. We should all do more of that.

Worth a look, gents.

Friday, September 19, 2014

GQ's New Rules of Chivalry: I'll Pass

The article, by Lauren Bans, starts out with four pictures. Three photos, all black and white, feature well dressed men kissing the hands of ladies. A fourth features a naked scruffy boy sucking the toes of an unseen woman. Well, it's probably a woman.

You see, the respect and gentle flirtation conveyed by the kissing of a hand in 1940 has evolved into fetish toe sucking. It's a smooth transition from one to the other. You should be OK with that. Those of you who consider the sucking of another person's toes to be near the apex of submissive behavior need to check your privilege, son.

Chivalry existed at a time when women were considered to be helpless, we are told, and men were required to assist them with virtually everything. This was due in part to the widespread use of chastity belts, which made men think of women as toddlers because women were always "pooping" in them.

Standing up for women when they enter the room is "bullshit." This implies that the stander considers the standee to be a helpless-wee-darling. It is in no way meant to convey respect. Now at a military installation lower ranking soldiers must stand when an officer enters the room in deference to the officer's rank, but when men stand for women it's in recognition of helplessness. Got it.

That said, chivalry still has a place. For example, hold the door open for a woman except when she enters a cab, because if you hold a cab door open she'll feel the need to slide across the seat to the far side, and she's wearing a skirt. Cab seats are gross. And sliding is hard.

And if she offers to pay for dinner, let her. If you insist on paying you are trying to prove something.

Never order for her unless she is working late, in which case bring her food.

If a dude flirts with your woman, don't punch him. If you punch him you are an "utterly clueless dickwad." She is prettier and more educated than you are, according to a nationwide study, and nothing deters an aggressively flirtatious man MORE than a physically-weaker-pretty-educated woman. As an upper middle class New Yorker who travels in literary circles she runs into her fair share of aggressive men. She knows what to do. Unless he is an "asshole" and calls her fat. In that case punch away. Calling her fat obliterates all anti-man powers she may posses.

And if somebody breaks into the house you're still expected to die first, because you're bigger and stronger. This assertion negates everything else in the article, but she's making the rules now so you need to be OK with that. If you're not it's patriarchal bullshit.

She doesn't need saving. Unless she does.

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Here's my reaction:

First off, the whole "chivalry" thing applies to the middle and upper classes anyway. Most women throughout history held domestic jobs and then came home to more domestic jobs. They worked like dogs. They were anything but shrinking violets. There's some class privilege at work here...

Next, although the "chastity belt" thing is clearly hyperbolic, have a look at this male chastity belt from 1911 and tell me just who got the better end of THAT deal:


This rig existed to keep young hormone-filled men from behaving improperly when alone, so as to avoid mental illness. Nice. Moving on...

I don't stand for women anymore because it has gone so out of fashion that it comes off as strange, and a gentleman ought not try to draw attention to himself with anachronistic customs. Besides, it's part of an old social contract that no longer applies.

As far as griping about a man holding open a cab door, I have to point out that this is clearly the complaint of a helpless-wee-darling. If I ever hold a cab door open for you and you explain the sliding-with-a-skirt thing to me, without irony, then you have officially had your last door held open. You are demanding and picky. Here you have a well trained gent who shows you consideration out of habit and you decide to pick out flaws or highlight extremely minor inconveniences because... why? You're that important? You view him as your own personal manservant? Lighten up. Let it go.

Please do order your own dinner, and go ahead and pay for mine as well. I don't know what you want to eat, and since the social contract is dead anyway, pay away!

If a dude flirts with you I expect you to tell him to knock it off. It doesn't surprise me that you're being flirted with. You're attractive. I'm not the only man who is attracted to you. If you actively or passively encourage the flirting, however, I guess we're done. You and I have a temporary contract. We're "dating." This means that we both avoid flirtations with other people. Since by your own admission you can handily rebuff this guy, but you haven't actually done it, you must like it. You should have told me earlier. I might have wanted to do some flirting of my own at this party.

If you do tell him to stop and he doesn't I am gratified to learn that you can handle things completely on your own. Real fights are scary and ugly and result in jail time. That's actually good news for men. I will enjoy watching your anti-aggressive man skills in action. Good luck.

And that intruder? That guy is probably an aggressive man as well. I don't see why I should have to die when you have these special powers. You go disarm him. You're prettier and better educated, after all. I hope he doesn't call you fat...



Post Script: Esquire's front page is looking like a magazine for men. There are very few naked ladies, and those are at the bottom. Most of the articles seem written to appeal to men who don't "rock" floral print espadrilles. Well done!


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Image is public domain

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jack The Ripper Found

Aaron Kosminski


Russell Edwards, an author and amateur criminology enthusiast, bought the shawl of one of Jack The Ripper's victims at auction and used DNA evidence from it to track the culprit down. The storied murderer wasn't a well-healed nobleman after all, but rather a Polish immigrant called Aaron Kosminski. Edwards enlisted a great niece of Kosminski's to connect him to the shawl.

The evidence was preserved because a Victorian era detective thought it might look good on his wife. She quite rightly tucked the bloody rag away but kept it, and it remained in the family until 2007.

Mr. Edwards has published a book about his exploits. Check it out here.

Kosminski, a barber whose Jewish family had fled persecution in Poland, had a long history of mental illness. He refused to bathe, compulsively ate things other people dropped, experienced auditory and visual hallucinations and acted out sexually.

He was thrown into an asylum in 1891, three years after his murder spree ended. By 1919 he had starved himself to death.

Take a look at his victims (warning: these are disturbing) and see if you can drum up much sympathy for him. Poor ladies.

Inspector Poirot it is not. Actual murder is ugly.


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Image is public domain

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Young Lions

I read about this movie somewhere and thought it looked interesting, so I got it from Netflix. It came out of an era of chest-thumping postwar propoganda, but it's not like that at all. Marlin Brando plays a German officer and Dean Martin plays an American sergeant (each doing great credit to their characters). Both men start the war as globe-trotting playboys. We follow them through the whole thing, seeing how war changes them, and we witness their collision at the end.

Montgomery Clift's subplot is a bit more nuanced. I'll leave it to you to discover.

This film is magnificent. I highly recommend it.


Monday, August 4, 2014

How To Avoid Paying Service Fees To Your Alarm Company


I have a buddy who used to work at a call center. He said that often when they put you on hold they're just listening on the line to see what you're really thinking. They aren't talking to any "supervisor." I knew a guy who worked a car lot who said their offices were bugged for the same reason. Today I took advantage of this devious practice.

My alarm panel was on the fritz, so I called the company and they took me through a reset. No dice. He scheduled a tech to come out and said "by the way, that'll be a $49 fee." I said that we weren't on contract and HIS company's system had failed, so if that was the case I was in the market for a new alarm company. He put me on hold. I said, very clearly, into the phone, "honey, can you believe they want to charge us for this?" She wasn't home, so I paused a beat and said "yeah, we ought to shop these guys. That's what I told him."

He came back immediately and offered to drop the fee to $24. I said he needed to drop it to zero. He put me on hold. I said "That's it. I'm hanging up. Hey, Sweetheart, could you look up ADT's number?"

Before the last word was out of my mouth he was back and the fee was $0.

Now, I'm not a badass. I didn't overawe him with my masculinity. What I did was say the right things, which led me down the flow chart on this young man's screen to the box that reads "don't charge this jackass." It's not personal. It's business.

My brother in law cancels his satellite TV every 6 months and gets free Showtime. He's just working the flow chart.

Sometimes I love capitalism. I really do.


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Image is public domain

Monday, July 28, 2014

Totes For Men: No



I try to keep an open mind. I do. Totes for men, however, is a bridge too far.

I check out Esquire about once a week, and although I still find things to appreciate (Billy Bob Thornton railing against Cupcake Wars, for example), the gulf seems to be widening.

I'm sure Max Berlinger is a wonderful man who calls his grandmother once per month and volunteers at the local food bank, but when he advises us to consider 10 Tote Bags This Summer, we should ignore him. Nay, we should DISPUTE him.

If you are a man and you want to carry a tote, I can't stop you. It's a free country, and I suppose your tote is none of my business. I, however, will not. I will not do it. I will not carry a tote. And damnit, neither should you.

If a man has things to carry he stuffs them into a suitcase or a duffel bag. An honest duffel bag, and not a fussy one. When you join the Army what do they give you first? A duffel bag. When you go to the gym what do you cram your clothes into? A duffel bag. When you go to the range what do you take with you? A shooting bag. What is that really? A duffel bag.

A man carries things. He does not "tote" things. One exception: if you roam the mountains with a flintlock in search of beaver pelts, you may "tote" things, but only because it's part of the vernacular. When you tote said things you will tote them in a "possibles bag," or a "haversack." You will not carry a tote bag.

I know, I know. You're evolved. You're modern. When Faith Cummings tells you to wear pineapple print trousers to inject some "timely excitement" into your "fashion arsenal" you do it. Never mind that the words "pineapple print trousers" have no right to be associated with any sort of self-respecting "arsenal." Maybe you take Esquire's advice to love Anna Faris even more because she wants to lock her husband in a room and force feed him Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe it matters to you that Eva Green's Sin City poster was censored. Perhaps you even know who Eva Green is! And maybe you think that Cameron Diaz might be the Second Coming. Certainly she's better than you, that's a given.

Fine. Fair enough. To each his own. We can have a beer and talk it over. But I draw the line at totes.

No totes. Not for me, and not for you.



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Actually, this one's OK. This is the only tote bag you may own.

Image 2 is believed to be public domain.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Michio Kaku's Future

A hundred and twenty years ago people couldn't fly. Twenty years after that people flew using machines made of sticks and fabric. 60 years later people were on the moon. Now a person with a device which is about the size of a deck of cards can communicate by video with anyone else on Planet Earth... from space. Technology has changed more in the last hundred years than it ever has before, and the pace of that change is accelerating. This is without a doubt the most interesting time to be a human.

So what does the future hold? Michio Kaku thinks he knows: