31 May 2012

Determination Yields a Bargain

Those of you who pay attention to men's clothing and fashion will know the name Michael Bastian. He's been offering luxe interpretations of traditional styles for more than half a decade, and in the process has become one of menswear's most admired designers.

But man, his clothes are expensive. Even after he terminated a manufacturing arrangement with Italian luxury brand Brunello Cucinelli (supposedly to reduce costs), his stuff is still way, way out of my price range.

For example, this red cotton jacket was one of the standout pieces of his spring 2012 runway show. Care to guess how much it retails for? When it finally showed up in a GQ fashion layout a couple of months ago, they had it listed at $875. I had to squint at the magazine to make sure I was reading the number correctly.

I've been looking for a red jacket similar to this (minus the epaulets) for some time. I could have just bought a Baracuta-style jacket, but I don't care for the stand-up collar or the raglan shoulders, and Baracutas are overpriced too. After I saw the Michael Bastian jacket, I was even more determined to find a reasonable facsimile, and even more determined to find a good deal. The knockoffs haven't had time to hit the market yet (probably in the fall), so I figured I would have to dig around on eBay.

I spent some time one afternoon with eBay's shopping tools, narrowing down the hundreds of thousands of available items in the men's coats and jackets category to make searching more manageable and, maybe more importantly, to eliminate the stuff I knew I didn't want. From there I looked at individual brands; I wasn't especially concerned about finding a particular brand, but for me it's just an easier way to search for an item within a specific category, and it allows me to avoid looking at items that I know will be logo-encrusted or of poor quality. After a while I found this:
It was in unworn condition, for $13 plus shipping. It's at least a decade old, but probably older, back when Gap actually made decent stuff. Remember that? It's a slightly darker red than the tomato hue of the Michael Bastian jacket (and my mediocre camera makes it look even darker), but for what it cost me it doesn't matter. Of course, now that summer is setting in, I won't be able to wear this until at least September.

Busy Thursday

Just a bit busy at the moment—I'm volunteering at another event for Community Servings this evening and an appointment this morning. I'll be home in between and may be able to post then, or it may not happen until late tonight or Friday.

29 May 2012

Classic Movie Alert

As I've mentioned in the past, the 1984 movie Repo Man is near and dear to my heart. The Harvard Film Archive is kicking off a retrospective series of director Alex Cox's work this Friday, June 1, with a screening of Repo Man at 7 pm. If you've never seen the movie, or have never had the opportunity to see it on a big screen, this is an excellent opportunity to absorb its glorious 80's satire.

28 May 2012


A couple of days ago, the hot water faucet on our bathroom sink came off in my hand. I thought it had just come loose and would screw right back on, but it had broken off. I'm not sure exactly how old it is—we've been living here six years, and the bathroom was renovated at some point before that—or how long such things typically last, but the stopper function also broke a couple of years ago, so it seems like replacing the entire faucet assembly is needed. I contacted our landlord and we should be seeing a plumber in the next day or so.

27 May 2012

This Week in Awesome (5/26/12)

Think of this as the blog equivalent of spring cleaning; some of these have been hanging around for a while.

Garage door designs on midcentury houses. (Hemmings Auto Blog)

A supercut of all the gear shifts (and only the shifts) from all the Fast/Furious movies. (Devour via Autoblog)

Saturday Night Live's 100th Digital Short was kind of a greatest-hits callback to many others in the series.

This tumblr offers visual comparisons between movie references on The Simpsons and the movies being referenced. (Videogum)

And this one riffs on imagery from Mad Men episodes. (What's Alan Watching?)

The second episode of Jimmy Fallon's Downton Sixbey arrived this week.

And finally this week, back in February SNL did a great Downton Abbey spoof, treating the show as if it were on the brotastic Spike channel. At the time it wasn't posted online because of rights issues, but I came across it today. (Styleite)

26 May 2012

Senior Dog

I guess the air conditioners are going in this weekend after all. Blech...

It's not just us, though; our dog is almost 11, and has difficulty with heat and humidity as well, so we have to think about her comfort. We went to the vet yesterday, and not only do they want to see her twice a year now because of her age, but she's also getting a joint supplement that we hope will make it easier for her to climb the stairs.

24 May 2012

Watch Strap Search

Those of you who have read my watch collection posts know how important it is to me to find the right strap for each watch. Sometimes I end up making compromises, but I find that when I do so, I end up not wearing certain watches as much.

One such watch is this Tudor that I spent a fair amount of money to have repaired a couple of years ago. It takes a 19 mm wide strap, which is an uncommon size. The strap on this watch is just a cheap one I found somewhere (maybe Target?), and it's not very pleasant to wear, so I set the watch aside and forgot about it for a while.

Recently I remembered that I'd wanted to find a nicer strap for this watch, so I started looking around online at all the various watch strap sites I'd bookmarked. Very few even carry 19 mm straps, and those that do have a slim selection. Also I want something very specific: black leather with little or no grain, with matching stitching. Many of my watches have straps with white or colored stitching, but I thought that style wouldn't look as good on the Tudor.

I thought of trying some local stores, but was having no luck that way either until today. I had lunch with the Proper Bostonian, who afterward wanted to look at jewelry at downtown mainstay E.B. Horn. I spotted a nice, plain strap in tan and almost bought it, but I asked if it came in black and was told it did, and it could be ordered. At this point what's another couple of weeks?

23 May 2012


I kind of had to post this... the first trailer for Baz Luhrman's 3-D version of The Great Gatsby hit the internet yesterday. It looks just as bonkers as I expected, maybe even kind of in a good way? (You can see how conflicted I am about this.)

I did detect dialogue that comes directly from the source material, and regardless of what's coming out of the actors' mouths, it's certainly going to look magnificent on a big screen. The movie opens on Christmas Day. Anyway, enjoy...

22 May 2012

Time Flies

It's hard to believe that Memorial Day weekend is already approaching. Not that I have plans to go away or anything like that, just that it's generally considered the unofficial beginning of summer, and it's at around this point each year that I think to myself, wait, where did spring go? I don't want it to be summer yet...

This year we had an up and down spring, with a couple of bursts of very warm weather mixed with more typical cool, wet stretches. It can be tough to figure out what to wear, and on days when the temperature can fluctuate by 30 degrees or more, I frequently end up carrying a jacket that conditions have become too warm to wear. I wish I was one of the people who can tolerate temperatures well enough to keep his jacket on no matter what, but it just ain't happening.

Being a person who dislikes heat and humidity, I kind of dread the point in the year when the onset of summer becomes inescapable. Last year I was forced to put in our air conditioners on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, but thankfully it's not going to be that warm here yet. Remember a few years back when it didn't get hot until the middle of July? Yeah, I was the person who was happy about that.

The weather, and our trip to California, also led me to pull some shorts and other warm-weather clothing from storage before getting around to putting away my cold-weather clothing. Conditions in our bedroom and closet are haphazard, to say the least. A project for this week, I guess.

19 May 2012

Retro Video Unit (5/18/12)

Another tribute would seem in order, due to the untimely passing of Donna Summer earlier this week. Now I realize that her music doesn't fit with the clips I tend to post here, but you have to remember that I grew up in the 1970s. At this point in my life there's no harm in admitting that I had a disco phase during high school, but even if I hadn't I would still love her and her music.

Her music wasn't included in Saturday Night Fever, but Donna Summer defined the disco era as much as the Bee Gees, KC And The Sunshine Band, and the Village People did. And she was a gifted enough artist to transcend her early work. She was a great performer, and her music meant a lot to me. Here's a performance of "On The Radio" that I found on YouTube.

Another One Bites the Dust

On Wednesday the Phoenix Media/Communications Group announced that it was selling WFNX to Clear Channel, considered by many the evil empire of radio. Almost all the staff were immediately laid off and, assuming the sale goes through, the station will likely switch to a different format.

WFNX had been around for almost 30 years, and like WBCN before it, was a crucial part of my musically formative years. From the time it went on the air in 1983 it was the cool kid among Boston radio stations, and I welcomed the station as a place on the radio dial where I knew I could find the music I cared about and wanted to hear. Over the years 'FNX introduced me to hundreds of new artists, some that wouldn't merit airplay on any of the other, more commercial station in the area.

Part of its appeal was its status as an independent station, the last remaining one in Boston. But as much as I loved and appreciated WFNX over the years, I had not been a regular listener in a long time. Part of that was simply because I don't drive, which is where many people listen to most of the radio they consume. But I had pretty much stopped listening to any radio, not because of technological changes, but because it just wasn't as satisfying to me anymore. I did listen to music much of the time at work, but I used my personal iTunes library; for some reason it never occurred to me to click into 'FNX's streaming feed.

So now WFNX becomes another piece of our shared past that's gone, with nothing left but memories and nostalgia. Or maybe not quite. I did have a personal connection with the station that most other listeners didn't. Back in the late 1990s WFNX used to do a fundraising event for World AIDS Day. In 1998 midday DJ Julie Kramer offered listeners the opportunity to join her in hosting the "Leftover Lunch" show in exchange for a contribution. The Mrs. made the donation as a gift for me, and I did my show the following January. They made a copy of the broadcast for me on a cassette tape, and a few years back I converted it into an mp3 file. Here's the playlist:

David Bowie: "'Heroes'"
The B-52's: "Legal Tender"*
INXS: "Don't Change"
Elvis Costello: "Radio Radio"
New Order: "Temptation"
U2: "Out Of Control"
The Lucy Show: "Ephemeral (This Is No Heaven)"
Pretenders: "Talk Of The Town"
Roxy Music: "Over You"
X: "The Hungry Wolf"
Dumptruck: "Island"
Shriekback: "Hand On My Heart"
The dB's: "Never Before And Never Again"
Robyn Hitchcock And The Egyptians: "Heaven"
O Positive: "With You"
Tommy Keene: "In Our Lives"
Graham Parker: "Discovering Japan"
The Church: "Tantalized"

(*a request from the Mrs. that I had to play, since she was the reason I was there)

Thank you Julie, and thank you WFNX, for all the great radio memories.

17 May 2012

Short-Term Savings

I haven't offered any shopping tips in a long time, partly because I've been trying to keep a tighter rein on my spending. But just because I'm not buying as much doesn't mean you have to.

Endless is having one of their two-day 20% off events. As it happens, today is the second and final day; I dutifully ignored the first email I received from them, and didn't realize this discount was in effect until I saw it on Dappered. To get the discount, use the code FRIENDS2 at checkout.

There are restrictions: you have to spend at least $100, and the offer does not apply to clearance items. But the best thing about these events is that the discount does apply to more expensive shoe brands like Allen Edmonds, which rarely go on sale, and shopping through Endless gives you the convenience of free two-day shipping and free returns.

This is an excellent opportunity to get a pair of quality, American-made shoes (a few of their styles are made in the Dominican Republic, but most are US-made) at a nice discount. And if that isn't your thing, there are plenty of other brands to choose from. Endless also offers accessories like sunglasses and watches, so get going...

16 May 2012

Travel Thoughts

...and we're back. The traveling is over, for now. Our trips back from the west coast usually involve overnight flights. It's a bit of a hassle, but ultimately it's the simplest way to return. I would rather fly overnight and nonstop than have to deal with changing planes. However, I am almost never able to sleep on planes, so I have to plan on devoting the rest of the day to sleep and recovery. I hit my pillow around 6:30 am and woke up about seven hours later.

The San Jose airport is mercifully easy to deal with. It's not huge, but it's not so tiny that you have to disembark from the plane onto the tarmac. Everything is laid out very logically, and the signage is excellent. Even if you'd never been there, you could probably drive out of the rental garage and figure out which highway you needed to be on and how to find it.

Visiting northern California is always interesting to me. The climate is agreeable, the people are uniformly friendly (sometimes a bit too much so for a New Englander's comfort), and there are lots of old cars. And by "old" I mean cars that are 30, 40, maybe even 50 years old, being used as daily drivers. (The weather means rust just isn't the issue it is in the Northeast or Midwest.) This makes observing everyday traffic much more varied and colorful. Unfortunately the cars I saw were gone in a moment or two, so I wasn't able to get any pictures.

As for us, we were driving around in a rented Nissan Sentra, a car that can charitably be described as funny-looking. But it was comfortable enough and didn't use much gas, and when we got to the car return area at the airport, the check-in staffer told us to stay in the car and someone would drive us around to the terminal, so we didn't have to take the shuttle. It was a small gesture that made our lives a bit easier, but one I've never had another rental company offer, and it was appreciated.

14 May 2012

Double Double

Someone had the good sense to build an In & Out Burger adjacent to the San Jose airport, so we are fueling up before taking off. There wasn't even a line to order.

11 May 2012

I Must Be in the Front Row

I thought I was being clever by selecting seats in the first row of the plane. It never occurred to me that being in the first row means no seat in front of you under which to store a bag; everything has to go in an overhead bin until the plane has reached cruising altitude. Also, the little TVs are mounted on the partition, which is further away than the ones mounted on the seatbacks. Not an issue for most people, but a little too far away for me.

But other than those minor things, and a very bratty three-year-old one row back on the other side of the aisle, it was the easiest cross-country flight I've taken. We took off on time, there was no turbulence, and we landed 20 minutes early. Getting our luggage and the rental car took longer than the drive from the airport to the hotel. We checked in just after 9 pm Pacific time, eager for some rest.

The weather is beautiful, and we have a lot planned for the next several days. The Mrs. brought her laptop and the hotel has free wifi, so I'll check back in when I can.

09 May 2012

Travel Prep

Travel is both exciting and tedious, simultaneously. It's great to be able to cross the continent in six hours or so, but while airborne it feels agonizingly slow. For this flight to San Jose we ended up paying a little more for "extra legroom" seats. It wasn't strictly necessary, as JetBlue's planes are already pretty gemerous with legroom, but there were only a few middle seats still available, scattered around the cabin. The extra-room seats were at the fromt of the plane, and came with some sort of expedited security (which didn't seem any faster to me) then there's the weather. Santa Cruz is fairly warm right now, so I had to dig into my warm-weather clothing storage for climare-appopriate stuff. I didn't even bother with a jacket, but I did pack a heavier canvas shirt that I can wear ad a layer if needed.

08 May 2012


I needed shoelaces. The laces that came with my L.L. Bean blucher mocs had started to deteriorate; small splits had opened, causing the white inner filling of the laces to poke through. I'd never seen laces do that, and it looked terrible.

You'd think it wouldn't be a big deal to find shoelaces. You used to be able to find them in any drugstore, but the shoe care section of the typical CVS has been shrinking steadily, to the point where it's a few packages of athletic laces on pegs and a few cans of shoe polish.

Also, I didn't want to buy the same kind of laces again, because I figured the same thing would happen. And since the laces that came with the shoes didn't stay tied well, I thought it would be a good idea to try rawhide laces. They are durable and more likely to stay tied, but they look similar to the ones that came with the shoes.

Finding them wasn't easy. Even shoe stores like the DSW downtown didn't have them. On a whim I ventured into the Army-Navy store on Tremont Street across from Macy's. Stores like this also used to be more plentiful; the one in Kenmore Square was a good source for simple, cheap clothing for my friends and me when we were in college.

The Army-Navy store did have rawhide laces, in both the typical orange-brown and a darker brown. They're meant for boots, so they were long, but cutting one lace in half gave me two laces just the right length for my blucher mocs, and I have the other one as backup. But this search made me think it might be a good idea to start stockpiling shoelaces.

07 May 2012

More Travel Ahead

That's right, we're off to visit the Mrs.' sister and family on Wednesday. It's been a couple of years since we've been out there, and about 18 months since they visited out here, so we're due. The Mrs. has a couple of weeks between the end of the semester and the start of her summer session, so we have a limited window of opportunity to work with.

Unfortunately things aren't working out so well with the Mad Men writeups this season. It's kind of crazy since I'm not even working right now, but I've had other stuff going on, and while I have generally been watching the episodes when they air on Sunday nights, I have not been able to get in the second viewing that I find I need to critique them effectively. The traveling hasn't helped either. I'll definitely so a summary of the season when it concludes.

06 May 2012

This Week in Awesome (5/5/12)

Some of these are from last week, so they may not be completely fresh by this point...

A visual representation of the planet's transportation routes. (Gizmodo)

Legendary British DJ John Peel's legendary music library is being made available for online streaming. (UrbanDaddy)

Another transit blog (I can't get enough of this stuff). (Transit Maps)

Art class: check out how these intricate paper sculptures are made. (The Daily What via BuzzFeed)

And finally this week, you may recall that when Paul Rudd was on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon a couple of months ago, they made up a batch of posters for fake movies the two allegedly made. Well, they've done the same thing for Jimmy and Amy Poehler. (Pop Culture Brain via Videogum)

04 May 2012

Retro Video Unit (5/4/12)

Sad news comes today of the death of Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys. I can remember hearing "Cooky Puss" on an adventurous radio station nearly three decades ago and thinking, "What the hell is this? Also, I kind of like it..."

So let's celebrate MCA's life, talent, and profound impact on music and pop culture with what I consider to be one of the best videos of the 1990s: the Beastie Boys' glorious spoof/homage of 1970s cop shows, "Sabotage."


While I was in New York, I made sure to visit Uniqlo's new global flagship store, which opened about six months ago. It's on Fifth Avenue right around the corner from the Museum of Modern Art.

At 89,000 square feet, it's quite enormous, though when you first walk in off the street it's a bit deceptive, as all you see at first are three escalators, all going upward, with small selling areas on either side. The best thing is just to jump on one of those escalators and ride all the way up to the third floor, which is much larger than either of the two floors below it.

The selling floor up there seems to keep on going almost infinitely; I kept turning corners and finding more stuff, without even straying into the women's section. At the same time, the environment wasn't overwhelming, as the Soho store can sometimes feel. I think this is because this store is so large, everything is somewhat more spread out, making shopping more comfortable.

I roamed around for a while, just taking in all of it, before starting to shop in earnest. There are almost always promotions being offered on certain items; last week, all T-shirts were half-price, and buying two got you a free admission ticket to MoMA. Button-front plaid and checked shirts, usually $30, were $20, which encouraged me to buy two.

The Soho store suffers from a relative scarcity of dressing rooms, but that isn't a problem here. I recall reading when this store opened that there are 100 dressing rooms. Personally, I'm much more likely to buy something and then go back to my hotel room to try it on (I did that this time with some pants, which I ended up needing to exchange), but that's just me, and it's still nice to know that a dressing room is more likely to be available if needed.

Another great thing about this store is that it's loaded with staff. They are fairly easy to spot, and you may be approached before you even need to ask a question by a friendly staffer asking if you would like a bag to hold your potential purchases while you make your way around the store.

Uniqlo has plans to start opening stores in other US cities; this fall they will open their first West Coast store, in San Francisco. Meanwhile, if you are visiting New York, you really should make a point to see this store.

03 May 2012

Seeing Gatz

Sorry for the unexpected absence the past couple of days. There's no particular reason for it; I guess just going away, and then adjusting to being back, threw me off schedule. So, do you want to hear about the epic play I saw in New York? I hope so, because that's what this post is about.

To refresh your memory, I saw Elevator Repair Service's production of Gatz at the Public Theater. The building that's home to the Public, on Lafayette Street near Cooper Union, is over 150 years and originally housed the New York Public Library. It's a beautiful old building, and the interior public spaces are currently being renovated, which can be slightly confusing, but the staff was gracious and helpful.

Because of the extreme running time, the show began at 3 pm. The story opens with people working in a dreary, cruddy-looking office. One employee arrives and finds he can't start up his computer (which is ancient). Bored and unable to work, he rummages around his desk and comes up with a copy of The Great Gatsby, which he begins to read aloud. This brings some odd looks from his coworkers, but he ignores them and continues. At one point he appears to go home for the day, return the next morning, and resume his reading (by that point, his computer has been taken away by an IT tech).

Gradually, his office mates become the other characters in the story, and by the time our narrator (he's reading the part of Nick Carraway, who tells the story in the book) had reached the end of chapter 3, two hours had passed, and it was time for the first intermission. I got up and stretched my legs, and stood around waiting for those in my row who had gone to use the restroom to return.

Act 2 ran about an hour and 15 minutes, after which there was a 90-minute dinner break. I used that time to walk a few blocks north to Dos Toros, a burrito place on Fourth Avenue just below Union Square. I had an enormous burrito and a $2 can of Tecate, and walked off my dinner a little before starting back. I grabbed an oatmeal raisin cookie from the concession stand before heading back into the theater. The show resumed promptly at 8 pm, with the final intermission at 9:30. Act 4 ran from 9:45 until around 11:10 pm. It took me only about 15 minutes to walk back to my hotel, just off Houston Street.

I was slightly terrified that I might fall asleep after eating, but the performance was completely engrossing. It really didn't feel like I had been sitting for over six hours, and it also didn't seem possible that the cast had covered the entire text of The Great Gatsby in that time. F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly didn't write Gatsby with the stage in mind, and I'm sure he never imagined anyone would want to perform his work on stage, but it's a brilliant idea that is flawlessly executed, making for a unique and memorable theater experience.