30 June 2011

Shameless Plug: My Loss Can Be Your Gain

So yeah, no post yesterday—sorry about that, it was just one of those days. We had a meeting at work and it seemed I was the only person who wasn't aware of it (there was nothing on the Outlook calendar and nothing in my email), then I kind of skipped over lunch because I needed to leave early for a dentist appointment, plus there was a cake for a departing intern, and before I knew it, it was 10:30 pm and I needed to start getting ready for bed.

You may remember me talking a few weeks ago about the SeaVees sneakers I bought from Zappos. I like them a lot, and in the interim I bought another pair in a different style direct from the company. But after wearing both pairs for a couple of days each, I ran into something that has happened before, and which my friend the Proper Bostonian has also experienced and talked about more than once: sometimes, you buy a pair of shoes and try them on, and everything seems fine, but then you wear them and walk around in them for a normal day and realize they don't fit properly after all, but now you can't return them.

Even without socks (the only way to wear canvas sneakers, really) the fit is very snug, and given the problems I have getting shoes that fit well in general, it's simply not worth it to wear shoes that are not comfortable. The main issue for me seems to be the toe box, which is fairly low from top to bottom. Otherwise they fit well and have nicely cushioned foam footbeds.

I was able to order one style in the next larger size from Zappos, but I can't find the red canvas ones in the proper size anywhere. Meanwhile, I've decided that the sensible thing is to sell the ones that don't fit; I've worn each pair only twice, so they're still basically new. Both are size 11, but they run small even by athletic shoe standards, so they would most likely fit someone who normally wears a size 10 shoe. I've posted them on Style Forum, and if you happen to be interested but are not a member, please contact me through the email link over there in the right column.

28 June 2011

Extra Postage

I know the postal service hasn't been doing well for a while, as the volume of mail has decreased due to things like people paying their bills online. But on the other hand, I'd think they would be making it up in increased package deliveries, which cost more and must bring them more profit.

Have you been in a post office lately? Even if you just want to buy some stamps or mail a package, you get a whole hard-sell routine. The clerks have to go through this whole spiel, asking if you want to sent it overnight, do you want to add insurance, blah blah. It's like department store employees who are required to ask if you want to open a store charge account. And you typically have to wait in line longer because there are fewer employees staffing the counters.

I kind of feel bad for the front-line staff who are required to ask all those questions, but honestly, it's less bothersome to just use the automated postage station.

27 June 2011


The Mrs. has been at her current job for a little over two years, but at the beginning of the month she found out (along with all her coworkers) that her program was being shut down as of June 30th. The parent company has been losing money on this particular endeavor for some time, so even though any layoff is something of a jolt, it did not exactly come as a surprise to anyone.

As it happened, she was not particularly upset by the news. She enjoys her work and cares about the people she works on behalf of, but she had no love for her employer or her miniscule salary. She had already decided to return to school, primarily because not having an advanced degree is a barrier to advancement in her field, and had been accepted to a Master's program with classes mainly on weekends.

But as soon as she learned of the impending layoff, she contacted the school and was able to switch onto a full-time track, which means she will be able to complete the degree program in two years instead of three. Sometimes the universe decides things for you, and this seemed like one of those times.

Of course, this means changes for us and our lifestyle. I suppose we'll need to cut back on our takeout meals somewhat, and try to grocery shop more regularly. If further economizing becomes necessary, we will manage. Plenty of other couples have handled this sort of circumstance (though more typically when slightly younger, I'd say), and so will we.

26 June 2011

This Week in Awesome (6/25/11)

Gotta be honest, internets, you let me down a little this week. Just not quite as much awesomey goodness as I would have liked. But still, we must press on...

Are you looking for planter pots, and do you consider yourself generally not too picky about spelling errors? This is the place for you. (The Daily What via Videogum)

Last week I bought some Sixpoint Crisp Lager and noticed the cans have a cool, funky barcode with a city skyline (presumably New York, since Sixpoint is brewed in Brooklyn) and the Statue of Liberty. Then I saw this. (BuzzBrewery via Consumerist)

Do you guys remember Miss Blankenship, Don Draper's elderly secretary last season on Mad Men? Well, even though she's been dead for like 46 years, and wasn't even a real person to begin with, she has a facebook page. It's really a clever part of a campaign to get Randee Heller, the actress who played her so memorably, an Emmy nomination that I would say is well-deserved. (Basket of Kisses)

And finally this week, something I think many of us have suspected at one time or another: animals can be dicks (this one in particular). (The Awl via The Daily Beast)

24 June 2011

You Get One Warning

I read an interesting article today in the business section about the strict no-phones/no-texting policy at the Austin-based movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse, and how they turned a complaint left on their voicemail by a disgruntled patron into an ad. Brilliant and hilarious (and also, sad and disturbing). Here's the uncensored version of the ad.

I wish more places, particularly movie theaters, were willing to take this sort of hard-line stance against rude, ignorant behavior. Also: no ads before the movies, and no kids under 6 allowed. I wish Alamo would open a theater around here; it sounds like my kind of place.

23 June 2011

Coffee Puddle

It's very interesting to observe how different people react in certain situations. When I got on the train after work, I sat next to a seat that had some spilled coffee on it. I had a section of newspaper that I was done with, so I tried to use it as a blotter, which sort of worked, but it was still iffy.

At the next stop someone attempted to sit down next to me and I warned her off. A grateful look crossed her face, she said thank you, and moved on to another part of the train. Same sort of situation at the next stop.

At the stop after that an older woman who looked a bit unsteady on her feet headed toward the seat. She was wearing an apple-green poncho with pink flowers on it. It looked to be made of vinyl, and reminded me of nothing so much as an old tablecloth, the protective kind like you might have found in your grandmother's kitchen 50 or 60 years ago. I warned her about the coffee, and she looked right at me and said matter-of-factly, "I don't care, I'm wearing a plastic coat." She sat down.

A few stops later the person on her other side left the train, and she slid over. By this point I was reading and not paying full attention to the seat anymore, but I had finished the last section of my paper and added that to the adjacent seat for some theoretical extra protection. Soon after that, someone swung into the seat so quickly that I didn't have time to say anything, but then I saw that she was wearing those big-ass headphones and wouldn't have heard me anyway.

She proceeded to get out her Metro, turned to the sudoku, and adjusted her belongings on her lap so she could write, in such a way that her bag was digging into my leg. I made a couple of tentative nudges in her direction to try to get her to adjust, but nothing happened. I sat there and hoped her ass was getting wet from cold coffee.

22 June 2011

Backed Up

You would think that by now I'd know better and avoid the Green Line on days when there is an afternoon Red Sox game. But since it was raining, I hopped on the E train that was waiting outside work.

Things were fine until we got to Government Center, where trains were being turned around en masse, whether they were supposed to turn there or go on to North Station. I counted six trains, including the one I was on, before a train rolled in that was continuing on, and of course it was packed. I held back, and another one came along in a couple of minutes.

I've found that in these situations it's much better to just let go and realize that I will get home eventually. Getting home 20 minutes later than usual isn't really a big deal. But it's taken me a couple of decades to truly understand and accept that.

21 June 2011

You're Killing Me

Did you watch The Killing on AMC? If not, this probably won't be of any interest. If you did, but you haven't yet watched the season's last episode, be warned that I'm about to get spoilery.

The Killing is an adaptation of a Danish series about a murder investigation in Seattle. Each episode covered one day in the case. I hadn't even planned on writing anything about the show, but the finale provoked such strong reactions from so many people. The season ended in a particularly unsatisfying way, with an apparent answer to the season-long question of who killed Rosie Larsen (the very line used to market the show) that was revealed in the final moments to be a fakeout, or at the least, a solution without a full and adequate explanation accompanying it.

The show set up a pattern of dangling a teasing reveal for us at the end of almost every episode, only to debunk it within the first few minutes of the next. These red herrings grew increasingly tiring, and sapped some of my interest in the show. There were parts of the show that I thought were quite good, but they were interspersed among other parts that were alternately enervating and frustrating. This is an unfortunate side effect of a show with this type of story structure (see also: 24), but I stuck with it because I wanted to find out who had killed Rosie, and then they didn't even really tell us.

They seriously expect us to wait nine months or so, and still care, and still be invested enough to come back to the show. The show's creator has said in numerous interviews that the show is meant to be an anti-mystery, an anti-cop show, and that no one ever said the crime would be solved by the end of the season. Well, that's a gross violation of the audience's trust and patience. They could have given us some hints from the outset that the case might not be solved by the end of the season, or they could have given us a better show, in exchange for which we probably would have been inclined to allow them some slack.

But hey, it could have been worse. Imagine if the show hadn't been renewed.

20 June 2011

Way Back When

I love seeing photographs of the city as it used to be, and I'm always happy to discover new sources. Over the weekend Universal Hub directed my attention to Old Boston, a tumblr full of vintage Boston goodness.

18 June 2011

This Week in Awesome (6/18/11)

I did not attend the Bruins parade, but I was there in spirit. I only attempted to go to one of these once, after the first Patriots Super Bowl victory, and I couldn't get close enough to actually see anything, so I'd rather just watch on TV.

The Office reimagined as a 1980s-style sitcom, with laugh track and cheesy opening credits. Vulture via Have You Seen This?)

Some women are into guys who are a little older, and some women have a different definition of "older." (The Hairpin)

A conceptual diagram of HBO's original programming. (CollegeHumor via Warming Glow)

And finally this week, tying in nicely with the wedding-suit stuff, Racked NY ran a contest this week asking for submissions of pictures of horrible bridesmaid dresses, and the internet happily obliged.

17 June 2011

Eating Habits

Chicken pot pie followed by caramel cup ice cream. Last Friday it was a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake at Uburger. This has to stop...

16 June 2011

Retro Video Unit

Today I need to be brief, as my monthly deadline is nearly upon me. I was recently listening to an mp3 I'd created from a mixtape cassette I had made back in the '80s. When this song came on, I remembered how much I enjoyed the wacky, low-rent music video for it, and how long it had been since I had seen it.

Then I thought, it must be on YouTube, and sure enough I found it. So take a few minutes to enjoy this flashback to the golden age of music videos and MTV: The Rubinoos, "If I Had You Back." (With apologies for the poor video quality, but you know, it's likely it came off a VHS tape someone had stored for 25 years or so...)

15 June 2011

Suited for Summer, Part 4: Putting It On

Last week's summer suit suggestions were by no means meant to be an exhaustive list; I left out some stuff, more for reasons of time than anything else, like Boden (I've never bought anything from them, but there are banner ads all over the web lately for various discounts plus free shipping and returns; you may want to peruse RetailMeNot for some discount codes) or Haspel (a hundred-year-old manufacturer of traditional cotton and linen summer suits similar in fabric and cut to those you'd find in Bank or Brooks; use this store finder for retailers, or try online sources like eSuit). I've also seen cotton suit separate pieces pop up occasionally on the flash-sale sites Gilt and RueLaLa, but the size and color choices are usually limited.

Maybe it's been obvious, but all of this came out of my efforts to find a comfortable and affordable summer suit for myself. That decade-old Banana Republic model no longer fits quite as well as it used to, and anyway the jacket was a three-button style that looked dated and was not a good candidate to steam and press into the more trad-preferred 3-roll-2 (though I have done this more successfully with a tweed sport coat, with the aid of a wooden pressing block that the Mrs. uses in her sewing projects).

I don't have any impending dress-up events, but I figured I was better off doing the research and shopping when I was not in imminent need. A summer suit is something I've been wanting to add to my wardrobe for a few years now. My main requirements were: lightweight fabric; a comfortable and age-appropriate fit (by which I mean, no low-rise pants); the ability to buy separates to get the best fit and minimize tailoring needs; and a moderate price.

After much thoughtful consideration, I settled on the L.L. Bean Signature Plain Weave jacket and pants in "soapstone." The online photos make the fabric look like it has a greenish-gray tinge to it, which I liked, but in reality it's a pretty standard light beige. The jacket is fully tailored with a center vent, full lining, multiple inside pockets, including ones for a pen and a phone, and lightly padded shoulders. I may look into having those removed if it isn't complicated; they aren't prominent enough to be noticeable, it's just a comfort thing.

You may remember that I expressed concern about the lack of tall sizing in the jackets, but it turned out not to be an issue. The jacket is of an appropriately butt-covering length, and in fact the sleeves are a bit too long on me. The overall fit is on the trim side, particularly through my midsection, but I can button it without it pulling. It also has functional sleeve buttons, which are showing up more and more on moderately-priced suits and jackets. This is not necessarily a good thing, because if you need sleeve alterations it can cause a problem. In my case the sleeves need to be shortened about half an inch, which should not affect the buttons or buttonholes.

Many suit pants are lined to the knees; these are not, which I don't consider a problem; if you're going to be wearing a rig like this in warm weather, unlined pants are probably better. I could say the same about the jacket, but I don't care for the look of unlined, less-structured jackets, and if you put stuff in the pockets they have a tendency to droop. The pants are alterable via a split in the back of the waist. They have a plain front and straight, on-seam front pockets. They are sold only with finished inseams, so if you are an in-between inseam length or prefer them cuffed, you'd need to choose a longer inseam and visit your tailor.

Overall I think these pieces are a good value at $220. If you happen to have an L.L. Bean Visa card, you can reduce that amount, as I did, by applying the reward discounts earned by making purchases with the card. I have one small complaint, but it's not about the garments themselves: mine arrived in one of those plastic mailing pouches, so they were extremely wrinkled. I would have expected items of this sort to automatically be packed in a box, but who knows how those decisions get made.

14 June 2011

TV Bits

Last week, while poking around on Netflix, I discovered that all nine seasons of the previously discussed British spy drama MI-5 (including the most recent eight-episode season that aired in the UK last fall) are now available, either on disc or via streaming. I find the show isn't as good as it was in the first few seasons, but I still enjoy it enough to keep watching.

A couple of other reminders: Breaking Bad returns for its fourth season July 17th on AMC at 10 pm Eastern time. The channel is still running the previous three seasons' episodes late at night. According to the schedule page, they're going to be starting another cycle of the whole series in order starting in the early morning hours of July 6, so if you haven't gotten on board yet and have the DVR space, I recommend you set up a "record all episodes" season pass. But if you do, you'd better set aside some time, because once you get started on this show it's likely you aren't going to want to do much else until you've watched all 33 episodes.

Over on FX, the amazing Louie returns for its second season next Thursday, June 23rd, at 10:30 pm. Louie isn't a sitcom in the way we're used to thinking of them; there are situations, and there's plenty of comedy, but that's as far as the similarities go. It's a bold, brash, uncompromising, brilliant expression of one man's comedic vision. It will make you uncomfortable, and (depending on your sensibilities) it will make you laugh really hard, sometimes simultaneously. If you enjoyed the show last year and have not yet read it, I highly recommend this article that ran in New York magazine last month about Louis C.K. and his unique approach to creating the show. The season one DVDs release next week, and it's probably also in iTunes (though I don't know that for certain).

13 June 2011

Tree Your Shoes for Less

If you have nay decent shoes, you should be storing them with cedar shoe trees when you aren't wearing them. (Not those square-toed Kenneth Cole things, either; throw them away and start over.) It's an easy thing to overlook, unless you are in the habit of getting the shoe trees when you buy the shoes. That's definitely one way to remember, but it's a more costly way of doing it.

Over the weekend I happened to visit a Nordstrom Rack (we had to wait for a table at a restaurant, and the store was in the same shopping center). On my few previous visits to Rack stores I've found them to be very hit-and-miss; much of the merchandise is no more interesting or impressive than what you'd find on any given day at your local TJ Maxx.

But as with any discount shopping experience, you often find good deals when you aren't looking for anything in particular. A couple of years ago the Mrs. found a pair of Keen outdoor/hiking shoes for $30, because they were technically boys' shoes. She was waffling on whether or not to buy them, but when I told her she would likely pay around $100 for the adult version of the shoe, she bought them, and has gotten a great deal of use out of them, since they are waterproof.

On Saturday I saw some shoes that might have interested me, but then I turned the corner and saw a display full of shoe trees. I needed a couple of pairs, and these were tagged at $12.90, which is an excellent price (they typically sell for $20 or more a pair, depending on where you buy them). They are the kind with the two-piece toe, made in Wisconsin by a company called Woodlore. I know this brand well, having several other sets of trees from them.

I grabbed two pairs and headed for the register, where I learned that some sort of additional discount was in effect: the trees rang up at $9.90 per pair, plus tax. I was in the process of considering whether or not to go back and get more when the restaurant buzzer went off, so I paid for the two pairs and hurried on my way.

I don't know how long this deal might last, but if you live near a Nordstrom Rack you might want to swing by and check it out. Even at the regular price of $13 a pair, these are a good deal.

11 June 2011

This Week in Awesome (6/11/11)

Kind of a low-key weekend, not great weather, but still getting some stuff done around the house.

On the NBC comedy Community, Abed is a pop culture-obsessed film student. Variety magazine asked the actor who plays Abed, Danny Pudi, to comment on the upcoming Emmy nominations in character. (TVLine)

Sometimes things don't go as planned but turn out pretty cool anyway. So it is with this vehicular stunt involving a ramp and some old school buses. (Jalopnik)

A graphic designer in the UK has a collection of "logo swaps." Take a look and you'll understand. (Graham Smith via The Daily What)

And finally this week, did you catch the Google Doodle guitar on Thursday in honor of Les Paul's 96th birthday? I didn't realize it when I saw it, but you can "play" the guitar using your keyboard, which is pretty damn cool; instructions are provided here. (Huffington Post)

10 June 2011

On Second Thought, Maybe Not...

At first, this seems like a good idea: cuff links that contain USB drives.
But damn, those are some ass-ugly links.

(Image borrowed from the Los Angeles Times style blog All The Rage.)

09 June 2011

Bargain Alert: About Those Suits...

In the midst of my suit discussion, I received an email from Jos. A. Bank alerting me to a one-day offer today: 50% off all suits, plus a second suit (of equal or lesser value) free. Of course, those reductions are going to be off the theoretical "original" prices, but even so this could be a good opportunity. It's valid on all suits, not just summer ones, so depending on your needs, taste, and fit preferences, you could cover your year-round basic suit requirements.

Some fine print: as far as I can tell the offer is valid only on their web site and not in their stores, but they are also offering free shipping with no minimum (I think their free shipping normally starts at $175). The suit offer ends at midnight Pacific time. Happy shopping.

08 June 2011

Suited for Summer, Part 3: More Choices

Once I got going on this topic, I found there are many more possibilities than I'd first realized, and I felt it was too much for one post, so I broke it up.

L.L. Bean's Signature line has a couple of options. However, there are differences in the fabrics, fit, construction, and detailing. The "New Traditional" is much more casual overall: the jacket is cut shorter, with patch pockets and a half lining, the pants have unusually wide belt loops, and the fabric is visibly stonewashed, giving it a slightly distressed appearance along the lapel seams, which also has the unfortunate effect of making the stitching stand out in an unfavorable way (click on the lightest-colored jacket here and zoom in on the bottom seam, and you'll see what I mean). It might be a better choice for a teen who has been invited to a family wedding for the first time and needs to look decent without it costing much. The New Traditional jacket is currently on sale for $90 (from $135), while the pants are still full-price at $60. (Update: the pants are now on sale for $40.)

The LLBS "Plain Weave" jacket and pants are much more traditional-looking pieces which would not look out of place or draw undue attention in a more dressed-up setting, but you should know that the jacket is not available in short or long, which is going to exclude a portion of potential buyers. The Plain Weave will run you around $220 for both jacket and pants. There's also a jacket and pants in something called Tropicweight Wool, in a nice-looking light-medium gray, that appear to be the same cut as the Plain Weave pieces and might work in less-sweltery locales ($325 for both pieces).

This is the point where we need to discuss seersucker. It's a wonderful fabric for summer wear, and it conjures thoughts of elegant garden parties, or perhaps warm memories of Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird. But you have to stop and consider it very carefully before you opt to head down that road. With any seersucker suit, even in the traditional blue stripe or a subdued gray, you run the risk of looking like you're wearing a costume. It has a lot to do with your age, the way you like to dress in general, and where you're wearing it (both geographically, and the type of event).

To be honest, a lot of men will simply look more at ease and put-together in a solid, light-colored suit such as the ones we've been discussing. If you're inclined to split the difference, there's pincord, which is a very fine stripe, traditionally in blue and white, but J. Crew has Ludlow fit separates in "faded black" and white as well as the blue. I like the look of this, and have considered buying it for myself for a couple of summers now, but the Ludlow jackets aren't the best fit on me, and the pants are cut too slim and too low in the waist. Hey, J. Crew: please consider offering this style in the Aldridge fit.

If you truly feel you have the confidence to pull off a seersucker suit, then I think the way to wear one is to go full-on peacock: a colorful bow tie (maybe a madras plaid?), white bucks without socks, and topped off with a straw boater or panama. Go back to the Bank site and check out the colors they offer their seersucker suits ($200) in: tan, white-on-white, even red (or, for the less bold, a dark navy with white pinstripes). There's a part of me that would like to get the red one just for the go-to-hellness of it, but I'm not sure I could pull it off. And anyway, where would I wear it?

Alternately, you could have a go at the black-on-black seersucker from Bean Signature ($265 for both pieces), which might work if you have goth tendencies, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to wear a black suit in the summer sun, even if it is cotton. An after-dark event, maybe? (They also have it in loden [olive-ish], currently on sale for $100 for the jacket, $50 for the pants.)

There are some other inexpensive options available at places like H&M, Express, or Zara, just lower your expectations accordingly. Anything you buy at H&M is unlikely to last more than a season or two, and the one time I attempted to try on jackets at Zara, I was never able to find anything big enough to fit my shoulders. I happened to wander into an Express (did you know they still sold men's clothing? did you even realize they were still around? me neither) a month or so ago because a suit on a mannequin in the window caught my eye, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was actually impressed by their offerings, they were better than I expected, reasonably priced, and decent looking (and on sale at the moment).

07 June 2011

Suited for Summer, Part 2: What to Wear?

Now that we've established some guidelines, let's consider some reasonably priced options for summer suits.

In the past, warm-weather suits were typically purchased at the traditional men's clothing stalwarts like Brooks Brothers or Jos. A. Bank. They are still available at these stores, but these days they are typically a cotton/polyester blend, which isn't going to wear as cool as all-cotton, and the quality isn't particularly impressive, especially so with the Bank suits.

A Brooks Brothers cotton suit is going to run you $400, unless you wait until the end of the season when you'll probably see some markdowns. By comparison, the Banks are a relative bargain: if you go look, you'll see that you can currently get a poplin suit for $137, which is hard to beat if you can live with the fabric. Keep in mind, though, that their suits are cut very full, and you can't mix and match jacket and pant sizes. (At least there are a couple of fit options at Brooks Brothers.)

Fit and sizing are key issues for me. I don't have what would by any means be considered an athletic build, but I still have an eight-inch "drop" (the difference between the chest and waist measurements), and a standard suit has a six-inch drop (sometimes tapering to only five in the larger sizes). You may be able to find an "athletic-fit" suit, which would have a seven- or eight-inch drop, or a good tailor can alter a standard, fuller-fitting jacket so the waist is more defined, but tailoring has its limits. If I were to purchase a suit from Jos. Bank in the proper jacket size, the waist of the pants would be three inches too big, and even the best tailor can only take in a pair of pants so many inches before they start to look too weird (back pockets too close together) and/or the tailoring becomes not worth the expense. Overall I think buying separates is a better option.

As I mentioned yesterday, Banana Republic can be a good source of reasonably-priced suit separates, and it looks like they are now offering two fits, though it seems to be an either/or proposition: some suits are in one fit, some are in the other. J. Crew still offers its most basic cotton suit pieces in both fits. Those of you who tend toward the shorter and lankier would probably be more comfortable in the Ludlow fit, which is cut slimmer and with a slightly shorter jacket and lower-waist pants; those of you who are built more like myself would likely want to go with the Aldridge fit, which is more traditional but not nearly as sacklike as a Bank. The Italian fabric on these is really nice, and there are options like center- or side-vent (for the Ludlow jacket) or two- or three-button (for the Aldridge). For either store, the suits run $370-380 for both pieces, but can certainly be bought for less during sales or with the retailers' frequent discount offers.

J. Crew also offers the Ludlow fit in linen, which is an option worth considering because its weave makes it breathable, and the fabric has some tactile and visual texture. Linen also wrinkles easily, but then again so does cotton. I've never particularly cared for linen, probably because you can end up looking dressed-down even when you're dressed up, but if worn with the right shirt, tie, and shoes (keep 'em all simple) you can do a credible impersonation of an Italian fashionisto. The J. Crew linen pieces are only $10 more each than their cotton counterparts, and it comes in a light gray that's a refreshing change from the typical beiges and tans.

Tomorrow: believe it or not, I'm not done with this nonsense...

06 June 2011

Suited for Summer

Once you get a few years past college, it's likely that someone you know will get married. These events often tend to occur in clusters (one of my coworkers has a different wedding to attend each weekend this month!). And while weddings take place throughout the year, eventually your presence will be requested at an event that takes place during the summer. And if it happens not to be a wedding, then there will be some other situation (a job interview, a graduation, or a Derby Day party) that you will attend during warmer weather, where you will be expected to show up wearing semi-formal attire.

Do not even think about not wearing a proper, respectable outfit such as a suit, or at the very least, a sportcoat or blazer with a tie. I can tell your eyes are already sliding over toward your closet, and you're thinking, Why can't I just wear my "good" khakis and my nice blue button-up shirt? Forget it. If you happen to be still in high school, you sort of maybe get a pass, but beyond age 18 you need to dress like an adult.

Jesse Thorn of Put This On expressed the essence of this very well, but unfortunately I can't find the exact relevant quote at the moment, so I'll have to paraphrase: as guests of the bride and groom, we dress up for weddings as a way of acknowledging that it is a serious, important occasion and not just another day. In other words, you are a grownup, and you grasp the idea that there are certain occasions in life that require you to look like one.

You should be wearing a suit, and that's that, especially if you are attending this event with a wife, girlfriend, or significant other. If you don't it will reflect badly on her as well as on you, and it's likely she will suffer some embarrassment and end up feeling resentment toward you as a result, not to mention she will most certainly have gone to some effort to look her best, and it's disrespectful to her if you don't at least offer the appearance of having gone to some comparable degree of effort yourself. (Friendly advice: dressing in a way that upstages your date is highly ill-advised. You need to look good, but make sure she looks better.)

[Aside: During the past decade I have attended two weddings in California, one in the southern part of the state in July and one in the northern part in January. In both situations I was quite shocked to see how the guests, both male and female, were dressed. It's like they're living in another country or something. Extreme casual was the dominant look at both events, though it skewed slightly more toward streetwear at the first one and more than slightly toward hippie at the second. There were guests who looked like they had rolled out of bed maybe an hour before and literally grabbed the first pieces of clothing they could find. I still have occasional unpleasant flashbacks about this.]

Now, you probably own at least one suit, and that's swell. But trust me, you are not going to want to put on that thing made of wool in the middle of July, and I can practically guarantee you that the site of either the ceremony or the reception will lack adequate air conditioning, or that it will take place outdoors. I have been in both these situations while wearing a non-seasonal suit, and it's not fun at all.

Over a decade ago I found a very nice cotton suit jacket and matching pants the color of sand, deeply discounted at Banana Republic. I think I paid around $120 for both pieces, and I got more than enough use out of them over the years to justify the purchase. The lightweight fabric is a bit more forgiving in warmer weather, and the neutral shade gives you a chance to demonstrate your style with judicious use of bright color in your shirt and/or tie. (Incorporating bright colors in this way may not be the most appropriate choice for a job interview, but it depends on the situation; I did it once, and I got the job.)

Tomorrow: a few suggestions for you.

05 June 2011

This Week in Awesome (6/4/11)

Yesterday we took the dog for her annual vet visit, got haircuts, did some other errands, and otherwise just enjoyed a beautiful day. Regarding other diversions...

What's that? You say you never get tired of those New York time-lapse videos? Wow, what a coincidence—me neither. This one happens to have a lot of night shots, which is a bit different from ones I've posted before. I'd love to post something similar for Boston or other cities, so if any of you come across such, let me know. (Gawker)

Those of you of at least a certain age will have memories, fond or otherwise, of the "cassingle," a retail music product with a relatively brief history. (Digital Music News via The Awl)

Pictures of cool people being cool. (The GQ Eye)

And finally this week, a cute little computer-animated short that's worth two minutes of your time. (Daily What via b3ta)

03 June 2011

Recommended Viewing: Party Down

We just finished watching the too-short run of this unappreciated comedy, which ran for two seasons on Starz (which one could argue is part of the reason so few people saw it). It's about a group of cater waiters in LA who are (mostly) trying to make it in show business.

It's really funny, there are only 20 episodes total, and it's available to stream on Netflix, so you could probably knock off the whole thing in a weekend (if you didn't have any other plans) or a few nights at a more modest pace.

02 June 2011

Pizza Face

The Daily Show does it yet again. You have to watch this. Really, you have to, 'cause there's gonna be a quiz. Okay, not really. Just watch the damn thing:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Me Lover's Pizza With Crazy Broad


Diving for Boxes

Online shoe shopping is possibly one of the greatest benefits of the rise of e-commerce over the past 15 years or so. (I do miss the full-service, multi-brand shoe stores of my youth, but that's a post for another time.) Sites like Zappos and Endless have far more variety than you could ever hope to find in a single store anywhere, and you typically receive your shoes within a day or two of ordering them.

(If you have VIP status at Zappos, you get permanent free overnight shipping. (They used to offer this to everyone all the time, but cut back a few years ago.) They offer VIP signup days now and then, or you can go to vip.zappos.com and get on the "waiting list." However, knowing what sort of company they are and the emphasis they place on service, I think that if you just called their customer-service number and asked, they would give you VIP status. YMMV.)

The flip side of this convenience is that you don't always know what size you should order, especially if it's a brand you are not familiar with or one that isn't readily available in local stores. With many brands of shoes I'm kind of between sizes, so the right size might depend on whether or not I plan on wearing the shoes with socks, or whether or not the shoes are available in wide widths. I frequently have to order two pairs of the same style to find the right size (which is where shopping in a store can be easier).

It's not really a big deal since most shoe sites offer free returns for this very reason—just pack 'em back up and drop off the box at the nearest UPS Store. But what happens when you order two pairs of shoes and then need to return one of them? It's not always practical to send that pair back in the larger box that arrived containing two pairs. Sometimes it can be extremely awkward. In the past couple of weeks I've had to deal with this situation twice.

Now, I tend to hold onto the boxes I receive stuff in. I have the space (in the basement), I sometimes need boxes for those times when I sell things on eBay or Style Forum, and I have some pack-rat tendencies to begin with, so I grabbed a tape measure and headed down to the basement. One box was easy, but the other was a problem. Plus, since the shoes were from separate orders from two different online stores, they could not go in the same box.

I had ordered some red canvas "tennis shoes" from SeaVees, a newish revival of an old brand that's been producing some really nice retro-looking styles in the past couple of years. Since I ordered two different sizes, and the shoe boxes SeaVees uses are somewhat larger than normal, the box Zappos shipped them in was fairly gigantic—it could easily hold five or six "normal" shoe boxes. When the UPS guy appeared at my cubicle the other day holding the box, I though he had me mixed up with someone else in the office.

I couldn't realistically send back the other pair in the huge box, but I also couldn't find a box in my basement stash that would fit the oversize box. The shoes were still at the office, and we do sometimes have empty boxes around there, so I went back to work the next day hoping I could find something suitable. Eventually, in the copier room, I found a box that had contained copies of one of our publications. It was a couple of inches longer and wider than the shoe box, and tall enough. I also found a large quantity of bubble wrap that I used to fill the extra space.

So now it seems I may need to start hoarding boxes at work, too.

01 June 2011

Wednesday Bonus Awesomeness, Sports Edition

I can't claim to be a big hockey fan, but this is all kinds of awesome. (Kristen Kmetetz via Unviersal Hub)

Go Bruins!