Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Great Enthusiasms Endorses: Scott Bradley and the Postmodern Jukebox

This guy brings a variety of vocalists together to form what he calls an "alternate history of pop music." It's as if musical styles stopped developing in the mid 1960's. I love it. I love all of it.

Witness his rendering of "Sweet Child O' Mine," by Guns N Roses. It's as if Axl and Slash found an old record from the 1920's, liked one of the tracks and did a cover of it for "Appetite for Destruction."

Or how about this rendering of that Taylor Swift song the radio keeps harassing us with?

My favorite, though, is that "all about the bass" song. I prefer this version:

He's coming to the Pacific Northwest in November. Might have to get tickets.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Submitting To A Discipline

[Muhlenberg, "Young People's Books," directions to shelter.]

I think I've written about this before, but in traditional Japanese culture hobbies are a way to achieve perfection. Hobbies are a vehicle for the development of one's character. I don't know that this tradition exists overtly in the west, but you meet people... people who seem overly obsessed with their hobby. My father is like that with rifles; he wants to get that hole a quarter inch closer to the bulls eye, even though it's close enough to kill a deer already. He's a rifle crank. It's not about killing the deer as much as it's about mastering the weapon.

The longer I've lived the more I see the value in becoming a "crank" about something. I realize the value of discipline. I used to do something until I lost interest. A few years ago I decided to stop that. I decided to devote myself to my hobby, which at the time was radio controlled aircraft. It still is.

I find that by pushing through periods of tedium I increase my skill level. It's not a steady thing. I plateau, I plateau, and then suddenly I'm much better, both in the building and the flying of them. Another thing happened as well: there are deep reserves of pleasure and satisfaction to be had by sticking with a discipline, things that would not be apparent to a casual practitioner.

I found this with the rolling circle. This is a maneuver by which the airplane simultaneously rolls and flies in a level circle. I had given up ever learning it, though I was committed to continue to practice it, and then one day I just did it. Easy as you like. That was a very good day.

So the next time you decide to pass the time with a casual hobby, try making it mean more than a pastime Make it a discipline.

* * *

Image, courtesy of the New York Public Library, is public domain

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.

* * *

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!

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

Image is public domain