30 June 2012

This Week in Awesome (6/30/12)

Hello, blogland. I hope your air conditioning is working this weekend.

Louie returned this week for its third season. It's a very New York show, so here's a map of locations that have been featured so far. (Splitsider)

Also New York-related, a collection of photos of the city in the 1980s. (Flickr via The Trad)

It's hurricane season, and here's an interesting look at hurricane trends based on their names. (The Awl)

Gary Oldman offered some advice to athletes interested in acting. (Jimmy Kimmel Live via Kempt)

If you have 12 minutes, watch this history of rock & roll in 100 guitar riffs. (Devour via BuzzFeed)

And finally this week, Jon Stewart had a few words for Fox and CNN in the wake of their dubious coverage of the Supreme Court's health care decision. (The Daily Show)

29 June 2012

Retro Video Unit (6/29/12)

Considering the approaching holiday, there's really only one choice for this installment: "Fourth of July" by X from 1987's See How We Are. Unfortunately, as is frequently the case I can't locate the official music video, though I'm certain one exists, having seen it many times on MTV. (One labeled as such on YouTube is in fact the video for the title track from the album, and still worth a watch.)

But I did find a very nice video for it by Dave Alvin, who wrote the song and who was briefly a member of X after the departure of original guitarist Billy Zoom.

If you're in the mood, there's also an excellent audio-only clip of the band (with Alvin) performing the song live at Boston's Paradise in 1986 (followed by another live version from a 1993 show in California).

X may not have achieved mainstream success or recognition, but few bands have come close to their ambition, talent, and stature.

Urban Deal

I almost never go into Urban Outfitters these days, though I shopped there semi-regularly back in the '80s. But I do look at their website from time to time, and I'm even more likely to do so when they are having a sale. Right now UO is having a pretty big sale, and these Eastland shoes caught my eye.

Anyone familiar with L.L. Bean's blucher mocs will recognize these as almost exactly the same shoe, except for being rendered in suede. Bean did this themselves for their Signature line, but I think they made a bad call in terms of the colors they offered: there was navy, a dark khaki, and an olive or loden green. The khaki was the closest to a "normal" shoe color, but looked a little weird with black soles. Navy shoes certainly have their fans, but I can't consider myself one of them. The green? Well, I kind of liked it, but I had no idea what I might wear them with.

These Eastlands also come in navy but it appears to be something between nubuck and regular leather, with a brick red sole borrowed from suede bucks. This is admittedly a sharp-looking shoe, and I bet there are people out there who would go for it. But the brown suede is what caught my eye. It looks enough like the original, but the suede gives it just enough of a twist. I can't speak to their quality—could be decent, could be not so good—but I have ordered a pair to find out for myself.

Both colors are currently on sale for $55 from an original price of $85; my calculator tells me that's 35% off. All orders of $50 ship free, and returns by mail are free as well, which is a simple and decent policy. Web purchases can also be returned to UO stores, so there's absolutely no risk to ordering a pair of these and trying them out. But sizes are starting to get thin (no more half sizes in either color, nothing smaller than 10 in the navy) so if you want 'em, act fast.

28 June 2012


Last year my bank was bought by another local bank. I'd had my account with the purchased bank for a long time, but the good news was that my account numbers didn't change, the routing number for online bill payments didn't change, and I was able to continue using my existing checks for the one or two checks I still write per month.

One of the reasons I'd chosen my bank was because it belonged to a network of banks that had agreed not to charge each other's customers ATM usage fees. The credit union at work was also a member, so I could get cash from the ATM in the cafeteria, which was really convenient. The new bank said they would honor the SUM arrangement for one year after the purchase of my bank was final.

A couple of months ago I got a letter from the bank reminding customers that the SUM agreement was ending. I didn't read it in detail; I had other things on my mind at the time. Then while reviewing my transactions online I noticed a "foreign ATM charge." I remembered the letter and realized this was a result of using ATMs that were part of the SUM network but not my bank's. I don't like having to think about stuff like this; I just want a checking account with no fees for anything.

But the new bank did create a new category of checking account that allows customers a way to avoid fees. The easiest way to qualify is to keep at least $1500 in the account. I'm meeting that at the moment, but it may not remain that way. Alternately, customers who sign up for electronic statements and make 15 debit purchases each month can use any SUM ATM, and additionally will have fees from "foreign" ATMs refunded up to $10 per statement cycle (nice for emergencies).

I switched my account to this type, but I still feel compelled to track how many debit purchases I'm making each month. I was accustomed to carrying cash in order to pay for my lunch each day, and I hope I'll be back at work soon enough and that wherever I end up working, there will be a cafeteria that takes debit cards. Doing that every day would definitely cover the minimum.

27 June 2012

Learning to Like Market Basket

Twenty-some years ago, when I was a single, grossly underpaid retail worker (though that job did provide health insurance, which would be far less likely now), I moved to Prospect Hill in Somerville. Until that point I had always lived "across the river," having spent my first few post-college years in Brighton, Allston, and Jamaica Plain.

Back in my Allston days I shopped at the Purity Supreme on Harvard Street (where there's now a TJ Maxx, I believe). Everyone called it Poverty Extreme and it was a brisk 15-minute walk from where I lived, but it was pretty much the only option in Allston. Food shopping in JP was even worse; there was a small, family-owned market called Flanagan's, but without access to a car, if you wanted to visit a Stop & Shop or Star you had to take at least one bus, or do your shopping on the way home from work. I did both, frequently, but carrying groceries on the bus isn't fun either.

After moving to Somerville I quickly learned that the closest, cheapest supermarket was the Demoulas Market Basket on Somerville Avenue just outside Union Square, about a five- or six-minute walk from my house. It was downhill to get there, uphill (lugging the groceries, naturally) to get back. Going there on my way home from work was again an option. (I know I could have gotten one of those granny carts, but I never got around to it.)

The laundromat was also at the bottom of the hill (both were a lot of fun in the winter), so another of my tactics was to bring my clothes down and get them started, walk over to Market Basket and get groceries, go back to the laundromat to switch my clothes from washer to dryer, carry my groceries up the hill and put them away, and go back down to retrieve my dried clothes. (I was younger then and had a lot more energy.)

I never grew to like shopping at Market Basket; I put up with it because I didn't have another option. It was always crowded, and the aisles were especially narrow. The store closed at 9 pm (and earlier on Sundays), so I had to plan ahead. The store felt antiquated and had a vaguely seedy air, and the deli counter people almost invariably messed up my orders. After I'd been dating the Mrs. a while she started driving me to a Stop & Shop, and after we moved in together we continued to shop there. (Now we live just down the street from that same store.)

A couple of years ago Market Basket opened a gigantic superstore in Chelsea, about a ten-minute drive from our house. It has a huge produce section, a substantial prepared-food area, on-premises baking, and spacious aisles that I never could have imagined while fighting my way through the throngs at the Somerville store. And the prices are still insanely low; we load up on hummus and pita chips there, because they're even cheaper than buying in bulk at Costco. I've also been buying bananas, seasonal berries, whole-wheat English muffins, local organic lettuce, and plenty of other items at wallet-easing prices.

They still close at 9 pm, even on Fridays and Saturdays, but otherwise it's a completely different experience than shopping in Somerville was. Well, it's still always crowded, but since the Chelsea store is so much bigger it's tolerable.


The hell?

Blogger just ate my post, which was finished and in process of uploading. Now I have to do it all over...

25 June 2012

Radio Free...Internet?

Well, this is encouraging: boston.com is launching a streaming radio station, and has scooped up some of the leftover folks from the recent WFNX massacre for both on-air and off-air staff. No details yet on when this will be happening, but it sounds like a good idea.

Update, 6/26/12: Things just got weird(er), as WFNX announced that they too will be launching their own streaming radio station. Stay tuned (HA!)...

24 June 2012

This Week in Awesome (6/23/12)

Wow, where did Saturday go? For that matter, where did Sunday go?

The New York Times's City Room blog featured a pair of sites dedicated to preserving images of neon signage.

Fifty or so years ago, there were all sorts of predictions about what sort of lives we could expect to be living in the not-too-distant future. One such vision, courtesy of Disney, concerns transportation. (Hemmings blog via Michael Lamm)

Also car-related, the European brand Skoda (owned by Volkswagen) used the launch of a new model as an excuse to erect a mini-Stonehenge out of cars in London. (Autoblog)

CBS tried unsuccessfully to prevent ABC from launching a reality show they claim is a ripoff of Big Brother. I couldn't care less about any of that because I hate these shows, but in the aftermath CBS decided to issue a fake press release for a show clearly not influenced by anything ABC had done. (HitFix)

Grown-up movies artfully adapted for younger folks. (BuzzFeed via The Daily What)

And finally this week, a kindergarten class shows off its singing and dancing skills. (For more info on how and why this came about, go here.) (Videogum)

22 June 2012

Summer Clothes

I don't shop for clothing at the high end of the market, simply because I don't have the means to do so. But the fact is that the quality of what you can buy at the lower end of the market is much better than it was even ten years ago. As with the automotive marketplace, features and quality from the luxury brands eventually find their way to the more mainstream offerings.

When summer arrives, we naturally want to wear our easiest, most comfortable clothes. For many of us this means shorts, T-shirts, polos, and whatever else is light and keeps us cool. But sometimes you have to look more put-together when it's warm out. Sometimes wearing pants instead of shorts or a shirt that buttons is just more dignified and more adult, regardless of the weather and what the rest of society is doing.

As with yesterday's comments about JCPenney, I don't buy a lot of clothing at Target, but the men's section is usually worth at least a quick look. On a visit earlier this week I found two items I ended up purchasing, and after bringing them home and trying them on I decided to keep both. Target has had an exclusive Converse line called One Star for a few years now. The line is geared toward younger men, but both of these items are simple and stylish enough to be worn by just about any man, and with little or no external branding, you don't have to feel self-conscious about what you're wearing.
The color of this shirt is what caught my eye. This is the sort of blue I don't generally venture near, except perhaps in a polo shirt. (This photo is lousy, but it shows the true color better than the others I took.) But it stands out in a way that makes it a natural choice for summer wear. This is as close to "blogger blue" as I plan to get.

A glance at the tag told me the shirt is a linen/cotton blend, another natural choice for the warmer months. This style is also shown online in a light red (less attractive in person), and for those of you feeling less adventurous about color, light gray and charcoal (which looked more like black in the store); my local store had all those colors, plus white and navy.
These roll-up sleeves aren't generally my thing either, but the sleeves are cut loosely enough so that they don't constrict my arms when rolled up, and if you're going to wear a long-sleeve shirt on even a somewhat warm day, you're probably going to want to roll up your sleeves anyway. If you're really not into the roll-up thing, you could just remove the buttons on the sleeves, and if you're feeling more adventurous you might try getting a seam ripper and removing the tab altogether. Oh, and this shirt is $25. I was glad it didn't have epaulets; that would have been a bit too military-looking.

I finally found a good pair of off-white jeans a couple of years back, but sometimes they're a little too heavy to wear when it's warm out. Near the shirt I saw these jeans in "natural," one shade further away from white. They're a nice, summer-weight fabric. I couldn't tell you the ounces per square yard, but they are lighter than any jeans I own. The fabric has some texture so I thought it might also be a linen blend, but they are 100% cotton. These are $30, and they look pretty good with the blue shirt.
The cut is called "vintage straight," which on my frame in size 36 translates to a slightly lower rise (11") and a normal leg opening (8.5"). Your mileage may vary depending on how you are built and how you prefer to wear your pants.
This picture shows the back pocket detailing. Both pockets have that straight-line stitch about a third of the way down, which is a slightly unusual choice of placement; usually you see something like this halfway between the top and bottom of the pocket, but from a few feet back it's pretty unobtrusive. The red bar tack appears only on the right side of the right pocket, which is probably just enough, otherwise it would be too gimmicky. There is also a hanging loop stitched into the waistband with red thread, but if you wear a belt (and you should, because your shirt is going to be tucked in, RIGHT?) it won't be visible. There's a typical brown fake-leather patch on the waist stamped with "Converse," but you know I already removed that.

Public Works

You can tell it's near the end of June over here where we live. For the past two weeks there has been a frenzy of public-works activity: crews have been installing signs (I was clued in by jack-hammering across the street early one morning), digging up sections of uneven concrete and replacing them (more early-morning noise), repainting lines and crosswalks, trimming trees, and other general civic beautification and maintenance. Just a little while ago a work crew was filling a pothole in the street in front of of our driveway.

Municipalities are like businesses: they have to make sure that the budget money is spent by the end of the fiscal year, or they don't get as much the following year. And don't misunderstand; I am not complaining. I am happy to see our city making sure things are tended to. It's part of what makes this a nice place to live.

20 June 2012

Looking Forward

I'm always interested in what's going on in the retail business, and I'm always interested in what's going on with JCPenney. I don't buy a lot of clothing there, but they fill a need for certain things, and they have been making an effort to improve their offerings.

The GQ Eye blog posted an interview with Nick Wooster, a guru to style bloggers worldwide and veteran of high-end stores like Barneys and Neiman Marcus, who recently signed on with Penney as vice president of "brand, design, and trend." That bit of marketing-speak means he's now the guy in charge of men's design, and he offers a preview of some of the company's efforts that will be reaching stores starting this fall.

(Side note: since JCPenney decided to drop its Ralph Lauren-prodced American Living line, I'm wondering if another clothing retailer would be interested in picking it up, like how Martha Stewart went from Kmart to Macy's. I don't know if that's even possible under the terms of the agreement, but it's certainly an interesting thought.)

19 June 2012

Rock On

This Friday night presents an embarrassment of riches for me as a fan of my friends' musical endeavors. The Rationales are playing at Precinct in Somerville, while B-52s cover outfit Bikini Whale will be rocking the Beachcomber in Quincy. What to do...

Sales and Stuff

If you need some dress shirts, this is a good time to swing by a Brooks Brothers (or hit their website). If you buy two shirts the discount is 25%; buy four or more and it's 40%. One nice thing about BB is that they offer their shirts in four fits, which covers just about every body type. However, it's also worth noting that most of the shirts they now offer are of the non-iron variety. I bought one of these a while ago, and I find the treatment used to resist wrinkles to be a lot more tolerable than what I've come across in most other shirts of this type, but of course YMMV.

Also, if you like wearing your watch on a one-piece nylon strap (which can be more comfortable in summer), and you like having a variety of different colors to switch between, you may have noticed that these straps aren't cheap. They typically sell for $17 to $20, which seems like a lot considering a moderately decent leather strap costs about the same. I've found two sites that sell these straps for much more reasonable prices.

The Knottery started out selling small runs of USA-made ties and pocket squares, and has since expanded into other useful accessories. Their nylon straps are available in either 18 or 20 millimeter widths for $10 each, plus they have similarly styled, USA-made, one-piece leather straps in 18 mm for $25 each. Crown & Buckle carries a much wider selection of straps; their nylon straps range from $12-14, but if you buy three of a given style they will discount your order. They also offer one-piece leather straps for $18.

17 June 2012

This Week in Awesome (6/16/12)

There has been some neglect of TWiA in recent weeks, to my dismay. The truth is, rooting out the awesome on the internet takes time and effort, and my attention has been somewhat divided lately. Also, sometimes it's just harder to find than other times. But let's not dwell on that, let's just enjoy what's here now...

I haven't gotten to see The Muppets yet, but for those of you who have, and those of you who just like these things anyway, here's a nice, plump blooper reel. (/film via Kempt)

We've mentioned the Boston Public Library's photo archives on Flickr before, but did you know they have a whole section devoted to traffic accidents? (Universal Hub)

New York public radio station WNYC put together a map of Mad Men locations in the city that spans all five seasons. (Basket of Kisses)

The season two finale of The Killing airs tonight on AMC, and those of us who slogged through it are finally going to learn who killed Rosie Larsen. For those of you who chose not to bother, Vulture compiled a tongue-in-cheek guide to the events of this season, in case you want to tune in tonight.

And finally this week, a list of 15 worthy rock movies. I've seen all but one of them. (HitFix)

Mad Men Season 5 Thoughts

After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, season five of Mad Men is now behind us. Matthew Weiner stated that the theme of this season was "every man for himself," and that was certainly evident, so I thought I would look back at the season with that in mind.

Spoilers ahead! If you have not finished watching season five, DO NOT READ FURTHER.

At the start of the season Don was happily remarried to Megan, his former secretary. Obviously she couldn't continue to be the boss's secretary and also be the boss's wife, so she got a promotion to copywriter and was taught how to do the job by Peggy. Megan turned out to have a natural ability for the work, and Don was pretty pleased with himself, but Megan didn't enjoy it because her dream of being an actress was going unfulfilled, so she quit.

Don didn't know how to handle this, because he thought he had come up with a way to make Megan happy, which made him happy. He also couldn't grasp the concept of someone not enjoying the thing that he enjoys so much. Megan's ambition was something new to him, and it upset the balance in their marriage. On the other hand, Megan's departure from the agency seemed to reignite Don's passion for work, so what does that say to us?

Looking back at some of their arguments during the course of the season, it seems obvious now that her dissatisfaction with her own life was at the root of many of them. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Many people have expressed their dislike of Megan, and I will allow that she can be a bit childish and annoying at times, but their relationship makes sense to me. However, now that Don has helped her get started on her acting career, their future together may be somewhat questionable.

Roger's marriage to his own former secretary (which always seemed like a worse idea, given the even wider age difference) sputtered to an end in the aftermath of a memorable LSD trip. Roger's new-found enlightenment inspired his own renewed interest in work and the agency (and in Megan's mother), but let's not forget that earlier in the season he was buying off people left and right to do extra work for him and generally keep him looking good. In hindsight, the episode of Joan's partnership is just a far more egregious example of this behavior.

However you feel about Joan's decision to have sex with a man in exchange for an ownership stake in the agency, I got the sense that this was a sort of transaction Joan was familiar with and had quite possibly been involved in previously in her life. It may have been distasteful, but it was her decision, and she made it willingly. For a single mother, or really any woman in 1967, to reach that level of achievement is significant, and I think that regardless of how she got there, we know Joan keeps the place running; she deserves it.

Pete continued to be a whiny little sourpuss who has everything and is still unhappy. Pete has been very successful at work, but in his personal behavior he has become much more like Don. He racked up several carnal trysts this season, even making a move on an underage girl in his driver-ed class before being cock-blocked by her hunky classmate. Instead he went after the unhappy wife of a commuting acquaintance, whom we later learned was depressed and undergoing shock therapy. (I guess this explains Rory Gilmore's Alexis Bledel's dreadful performances: she was playing a woman whose affect had been dulled by repeated ECT treatments. Or maybe she's really just a poor actress.)

Perhaps the boldest move was made by Peggy, who tired of Don's treatment of her and left the agency for a promotion and significantly more money at a rival shop. I was greatly relieved when we got the scene in the season's last episode of Peggy chewing out junior copywriters in a very Don Draper way; it was the show's way of telling us that we will continue to follow Peggy's journey, which for me has always been one of the best and most important aspects of the show. And as soon as we saw Don entering a movie theater, I knew he was going to find Peggy there. It allowed Don to say the things he should have said to Peggy when she told him she was leaving, and to express his pride in her accomplishments.

Things didn't end so well for Lane, who tried to solve his financial problems by borrowing from the agency via a forged check. When Don learned what Lane had done, he had no choice but to fire him, but he tried to soften the blow by allowing Lane to resign. The shame and defeat were too much for Lane, who chose to take his life in his office for the others to discover.

Betty is much more of a peripheral character now, which makes sense given the circumstances, but she was at least able to reassert herself when Sally needed her, and showed that she can be a good mother, sometimes.

The agency is now prosperous enough to make the once-apocryphal second floor a reality, and I loved the image of the five partners standing in the raw space, looking out the windows. I wish the season had ended with that, but the final moment with Don in the bar was equally powerful.

I'm sorry that I couldn't make things work with the weekly writeups this season, but life has been just a bit unsettled of late, and that combined with some travel and some poor planning on my part. Maybe by next season things will have sorted themselves out.

16 June 2012

Retro Video Unit (6/15/12)

This song has been in my head for weeks, but at least I know why: when we went to Mortified a few weeks ago, it was playing on the sound sytem when we walked in.

Raise your hand if you thought the Flamin' Groovies were a British band. (Raising my own hand.) In fact they were from San Francisco, but this song and the 1976 album it comes from were produced by Dave Edmunds, whose influence is all over it (see also "RVU 2/10/12").

Power pop doesn't get much better than this. Unfortunately, in '76 there was no such thing as an official music video produced by the record company, so we'll have to go with a bifurcated approach. First, here is the full version of the song, with only a static image of the record cover:

And here's a live performance from 1986 (regrettably, the image is seriously cropped on the sides):

15 June 2012

We Had Stuff to Do

Sorry things have been a bit quiet this week. I had an all-day career workshop on Wednesday and a job interview yesterday, so my focus has unavoidably been elsewhere. I promise my thoughts on season 5 of Mad Men are coming soon, along with this week's Retro Video Unit.

13 June 2012

Support American Workers

Hey, you want to help support American manufacturing and job creation, right? You can, easily. Just go to your local Starbucks and buy one of these mugs for $10. They are being manufactured for Starbucks by American Mug & Stein in East Liverpool, Ohio, and for each one purchased Starbucks will donate $2 to the Create Jobs for USA Fund. You can also read more about the factory here.

12 June 2012

Oh! You Pretty Thing

Things used to be a lot different, as today's edition of the comic strip Gil reminds us.

11 June 2012

Early Morning Encounter

Since I'm not on a regular schedule these days, the morning dog walk occurs whenever the dog decides she needs to go out. This is generally anywhere from 6 to 7:30 am.

When I used to walk the dog before leaving for work, we would sometimes encounter an elderly neighbor, returning from somewhere (perhaps an early-morning visit to the grocery store?), who would slow down alongside us in her car and call out, "He's taking you for a walk!" She did this every single time she saw us, as though (a) it was the cleverest thing anyone had ever said, and (b) I hadn't already heard it countless times. I've pointed out many times that the dog is a "she" and not a "he," but given the circumstances it's not surprising that information didn't stick. (Also, my father regularly made the same comment about our next-door neighbor and his German shepherd 40-odd years ago. The dog was huge, and it was much more appropriate in that context.)

This morning I went out with the dog around 6:30 and we saw the woman again, though this time she was standing on the sidewalk in front of her house, as though she was waiting for us. Of course she said "he's taking you for a walk" again, and I nodded in response. Then she abruptly said, "I have a cat."

I replied, "Yes, I've seen it." It's a big orange thing that sits on the front porch and eyes the dog warily as we walk past. The dog is afraid of cats in general, which is pathetic, and I find it quite amusing to see her get nervous as the cat gives her the evil eye.

She said, "The orange one?"

Me: "Right."

She: "That's not my cat."

Me, confused: "Well, it's on your porch all the time."

She: "That's because I feed it."

And that, apparently, was the end of the conversation, because she did not offer anything more. The dog and I went on our way. For a moment I wondered if maybe I was dreaming, and hadn't yet gotten up to walk the dog. A couple of hours later, after I'd gotten up for real, I realized that I haven't seen the orange cat in some time. Usually once winter ends the cat is outside frequently, glaring at us as we pass. So maybe it isn't her cat after all, and has found another porch on which to perch.

08 June 2012

Just Because: Silly Chase Footage

I've been knocking around YouTube trying to find something silly to post, and I think this will do nicely: a bunch of different car chases from the original Hawaii Five-O edited together into one long, strange clip.

07 June 2012

Watch Wednesday Thursday (6/7/12)

I will probably never own a Rolex, or a Breitling, or an IWC, but there are plenty of great, interesting, collectible watches that cost far less than one of the finer brands. I've focused on acquiring watches that are affordable and that I want to wear. What I have to show you today is what I have long considered the coolest watch ever, the Accutron Spaceview:
I've featured other Accutron watches in the past, but a Spaceview has been missing from my collection for a long time. I actually bought one around 13 years ago, early on in my collecting. After a couple of years my feelings about the watch had changed (I realized that I preferred a different style) and I sold it, planning to get another one somewhere down the road.

"Down the road" became a decade. I looked on and off over the years, finding ones that were in excellent condition and comically overpriced, or ones that were not running and in need of a total electronic and cosmetic overhaul. Also, during the years they were produced, there were many variations in case designs and in the markings on the crystal, and I wanted the very specific style that you see here, a stainless steel case with the metal ring around the edge with hour and minute markers, and the Accutron name and symbol on the crystal at the 8 o'clock position.

Last fall I renewed my search with a bit more enthusiasm than I had given it in some time. I found that people were still asking outrageous prices, and I started to worry that I would never be able to find a watch at a reasonable price. In November I came across a watch for sale on eBay that had been tucked away in the proverbial dresser drawer for 40 years. It was running and in very nice condition cosmetically, and being offered for a realistic price, so I bought it.

When the watch arrived, I found that while it did indeed run, it was afflicted with a problem common to many older Accutron watches: it ran quite fast, much too fast to wear even for a day. I knew it would need servicing. I remembered a New York based eBay seller who sold watch parts and also offered Accutron repairs at a flat rate. He has been repairing Accutron watches for over 40 years. When I was planning my April trip to New York, I contacted him and asked if I could drop off the watch in person while there.

It took a few weeks for him to complete the repairs, but the watch arrived back to me last week. Not only is it running just right, but he polished everything so it looks like a brand new watch. To complete the package, I had him put the watch on a period-style Accutron strap with the tuning-fork logo on the buckle. I'm thrilled to have this watch, and very happy that I was able to get it repaired so it runs properly. Watches are wonderful to look at, but they are meant to be worn.

05 June 2012

In the Stars

Clouds prevented us from seeing Venus's transit of the sun this evening (more info here), but I think reading this may leave you in a better mood anyway.

Summer Suit Field Test

About a year ago I expended several days of blog space on my attempt to find a serviceable and reasonably priced cotton suit for warm-weather use. I ultimately purchased the Plain Weave jacket and pants (sold as separates) from L.L. Bean Signature. I wasn't buying this suit for any specific occasion; I was trying to take the "get it before you need it" approach.

Buying separates meant I would need only minimal tailoring: the pants were hemmed and fit decently enough, but the jacket's sleeves were too long, with the added complication of working buttonholes. At one time this was an indicator that your clothing had been custom-made for you, but in recent years it has found its way to all sorts of low-cost, mass-produced sportcoats and suit jackets. It's a gratuitous and unhelpful "feature," because (1) no one needs to be able to roll up his jacket sleeves, and (2) if the sleeves are not the right length, it makes getting them tailored much more complicated.

After I'd bought the jacket, I never bothered taking it to the tailor because I didn't need to wear it anywhere imminently, and because I wasn't 100% convinced I wanted to keep it. Since it was from L.L. Bean I knew I could return it, so I left the tags on and put it away with my other suits and jackets.

A few weeks ago I spontaneously decided to volunteer for an event. The instructions said volunteers should wear business dress, and when I started thinking about what I was going to wear and what the weather would be like, I realized I might need to wear the cotton suit. The one that still hadn't been to the tailor yet, after nearly a year.

Around the same time I clicked on one of the emails from Jos. A. Bank that deluge my inbox every day. Their cotton-blend suits with some sort of "stay cool" voodoo in the fabric were being offered at a ridiculously low price, somewhat less than I'd paid for my separates. I decided to order one to see how/if it fit, since I'd never bothered to go into one of their stores and try one on in person. To be safe I ordered the same style in two different sizes, which also got me above the free shipping threshold.

The Bank suits arrived, and neither one fit particularly well. The 42 fit decently in the shoulders, but there was no way I could button it. The 43 was a bit big in the shoulders and I could just barely button it, but it didn't look good. When I returned the suits to the local store, the salesperson tried to convince me that the 43 could be let out at the sides, but that sort of alteration is much more complicated (meaning it also costs more) and I didn't feel strongly enough about the suit to start with. The Bean jacket fit me much better overall, except for the sleeves.

That meant I still needed a tailor, and by now I had only a few days left. From my previous experience with Mr. Lee, the tailor I've used in Teele Square, I didn't think he would be able to complete the job in time. I had noticed a tailor shop near our house and decided to visit. The proprietor understood what needed to be done to the jacket's sleeves, but she told me she would have to close the bottommost buttonhole on each arm. I didn't care as long as she could do the work. She offered to have it done in four days; I asked if it was possible to complete it in two. She said yes, and with no additional charge.

The day of the event was sunny and about 80 degrees, but thankfully not humid. I had to walk a short distance from the subway, so I got a little overheated; it was easier to wear the jacket than carry it. I also discovered that putting my phone in one of the inside breast pockets messed with the way the jacket hung on my chest, but shifting it to a side pocket solved the problem.

Once I got inside the building and adjusted to the strong air conditioning I was fine. Because they are cotton, these pieces have a slightly more casual look overall than a "real" suit, but I dressed it up with a blue spread-collar shirt and a red paisley tie with a blue accent that picked up the shirt and a light beige accent that picked up the suit. I wore it with honey-brown lace-up shoes with tan cotton laces. I managed this picture with my phone in the men's room mirror:
If I had been attending a more casual sort of event, I might have considered wearing loafers, but if you're wearing a suit with a tie, you should be wearing lace-up shoes. If you have to attend an outdoor event in summer, I'd recommend getting a linen suit with as little lining in the jacket as possible, but if you know you'll be in a climate-controlled environment, cotton works nicely.

02 June 2012

Retro Video Unit (6/1/12)

I've been trying to get back on schedule, but obviously I haven't been entirely successful. Let's be honest: sitting at a desk for seven or eight hours a day provides an ample framework for finding fun stuff on the web, and for blogging. Not working provides no framework for anything.

Anyway, let's go back once again to New Wave-era England, a rich period that I (obviously) never tire of exploring. I've just learned from Wikipedia that Buzzcocks has no "the" before it, which feels a bit awkward. The band was quite successful at home, but did not achieve wide recognition in the USA. I remember seeing their albums when I started exploring record stores in downtown Providence in the late 1970s, but I never bought any of them, which was clearly a mistake.

Here's a live performance of the 1978 single "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldnt've)":