29 April 2013

No Glasses for Me

I've been a fan of Warby Parker's approach to selling eyeglasses—stylish frames offered at a supremely reasonable price of $95 including lenses—since they started up a few years ago. After establishing a successful online sales model, WP opened its first permanent store a few weeks ago in New York, and other cities will be following soon (there are job postings on their website that indicate a Boston store will be opening shortly).

When they added prescription sunglasses for $150, I was eager to get a pair. Initially, though, none of the frames they were offering looked right for me, but after a while they added more styles. I ordered some frames for a home try-on (free shipping both ways) and figured out what I wanted.

But when I went online to place my order, I was surprised and very disappointed to find that Warby Parker was unable to fill my prescription. Now, my eyesight is terrible, and there's no question that my prescription is at the extreme end of the vision correction spectrum, but I've never had anyone tell me that they couldn't make me glasses.

I sent an email to customer service asking for a further explanation. I received a very polite and apologetic reply that said, in essence, that because the prescription for my left eye is so strong (it's much weaker than the right), the lenses they use cannot be ground to the level of correction I require.

Their choice of lenses is a business decision. There are many cost decisions that factor into being able to offer a pair of eyeglasses with prescription lenses for only $95 (my current glasses cost about $250, and I've paid as much as $400), and one of those choices is not being able to service outliers like me, so I understand it, but like I said, it's still really disappointing.

They offered to sell me frames without lenses so that I could have them made at a local shop, but that still defeats the purpose of buying from them, because the total cost would end up as high as my previous sunglasses, which were almost $300.

I like what WP offers and I like their approach to the business. I even feel a little bad writing about my experience, because I don't want it to seem like I'm criticizing them. I was hoping to get a new pair of sunglasses at a much better price than I've paid in the past, but that won't be happening, for now at least.

Warby Parker does have some competition. Others saw their success and figured they could do something similar. I ordered frames to try on from a company called Classic Specs that offers pricing within $10 of Warby Parker and seemed to be able to handle my prescription (at least as far as their website indicated), but none of their frames fit me right.

Note: I want to amend a clarification. When you have a strong prescription like mine, optometrists typically recommend a high-index lens, which is significantly thinner than a standard eyeglass lens. This helps to avoid having your lenses resemble glass ashtrays. Most places, including Warby Parker, charge an additional fee for high-index lenses. If I'd been able to get glasses from Warby Parker, they would have been $180 instead of $150.

28 April 2013

This Week in Awesome (4/27/13)

Between yesterday and today, I remembered I was supposed to post this about six times... and then forgot again five times.

Jimmy Kimmel Live pranked a few of the folks attending Coachella.

These movie posters will look familiar, but their titles may not. (Nerdcore)

Here's a pretty talented dog. (BuzzFeed)

A reunion of the stars and director of Wayne's World was bound to result in a couple of good stories. (Grantland via Kempt)

And finally this week, Steven Spielberg's next project is another presidential biopic. (White House via Tastefully Offensive)

26 April 2013

Retro Video Unit (4/26/13)

With everything that was going on last week, I completely forgot about this. Sadly, once again this feature becomes an occasion to remember a performer who has passed away.

Christina Amphlett, lead singer of the Australian band Divinyls, died last weekend at only 53, a victim of both multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. The band will probably be best remembered for the 1991 hit "I Touch Myself," but Divinyls released six albums over the course of a decade and a half. While popular at home, most of their work received little attention elsewhere, and they remain one of the most underrated bands from the early 1980s.

Amphlett's stage persona, at least early on, was something like a mix of Chrissie Hynde and early Britney Spears (and I never, ever thought I would put those two names in the same sentence). She had the gift of an immediately identifiable voice, and she was a true badass, a trailblazer who became an icon for later performers like Shirley Manson of Garbage.

My favorite song of theirs is one of their earliest, "Boys In Town," and it happens to be one that I've had in mind for this feature for a while. As with many music videos from the early 1980s, it's a low-rent production, but is distinguished by the presence of a light-up mike stand. How cool is that?

And just for fun, how about a fierce live performance of the same song from the 1983 US Festival?

Thanks for the music. You will be missed.

25 April 2013

Cheap Summer Sneakers

Yesterday I found myself in Old Navy, a store I rarely visit. But sometimes even stores where you don't normally shop are worth a look. For one thing, there are a lot of promotions and discounts in ON stores that are not available on their website. This sort of practice can be confusing, but it's done to draw customers into the stores.

For summer, I've become devoted to simple canvas sneakers like Vans. (I briefly tried wearing sandals, but they're not for me.) They are relatively inexpensive, are wide enough to fit my problem feet, look good with shorts, and come in lots of interesting color choices.

While poking around the store, I found that ON is currently offering a sneaker that looks exactly like a Vans Authentic, except it doesn't have a tag sewn onto the upper or a rubber logo patch on the heel. So what? They're $25 a pair, about 60% of what a pair of Vans typically costs.

Then I saw the sign: sale price $15. That's lunch money. Among the color choices they had, a nice bright blue caught my eye. I don't have anything like it. And when I got to the cash register, the shoes rang up at $10! I don't know if that applied to all the colors, but I wasn't about to question it.

There are as many as eight different colors available; of course, the selection is going to vary by store. There's off white, a creamy beige, gray, the bright blue, red, a sort of dusty olive, navy, and black. You could get two or three of these in different colors, or two or three of the same color to have a clean pair in reserve. Even at the $15 sale price, who cares how long they last? (Here's a tip: if you rotate among several pairs, they all last longer.)

They have a nicely cushioned insole that is lined in cotton (the rest of the inside is too), so these are going to be decently comfortable to wear without socks. Also worth mentioning: they are only available in whole sizes (up to 13), which isn't really a big deal for a casual kick-around shoe.

Remember, this deal is not available online. You'll have to visit your local Old Navy store, but in this case I think it's worth it.

Kind of Early

I took the dog out right around midnight, and though it's about 50 degrees, someone down the street has an air conditioner running. I guess they could have turned it on earlier today and forgotten about it.

24 April 2013

Aging Out

I have subscribed to GQ for many years. There's much more to the magazine than fashion, so there is always something interesting to read. But for some time now, I've felt that the style pieces have less and less relevance to me, not only because of the way I dress, but because of my advancing age.

I am simply too old for this magazine now.

Some of their advice is helpful regardless of one's age. The new issue (with Robert Downey Jr. on the cover) has a feature on pocket squares. I have long believed that paying attention to the details elevates an outfit above the ordinary, and if I'm dressing up I will have a square in my jacket pocket. And any man, regardless of build, can benefit from getting the fit of his clothing right.

On the other hand, GQ offers plenty of style advice that I would never consider taking. Skinny ties have been popular for a few years now, but because of my height and build, they look wrong on me. I don't wear my pants hemmed two inches above my shoes. I am never going to wear a suit and wingtips without socks (with the pants hemmed to show off my ankles). And I have no interest in what NBA players are wearing (or, for that matter, in the NBA).

Many of these are just personal choices, but age factors in as well. Younger men can get away with taking more risks in the way they dress. Conversely, by the time someone reaches my age, he has typically figured out what works for him and what doesn't, and is more likely to stick with a certain look or style.

I also get Esquire, which seems to be aimed at a slightly older audience than GQ, but still someone younger than me. But there does seem to be a void in the market. Older men tend to have more disposable income (I am obviously not a good example of this, but still), and buy things like boats and vacation homes. Condé Nast attempted to claim this space a while back, but you're excused if you don't remember. The publication was called Men's Vogue, which sort of doomed it from the start.

So I'll keep getting these magazines, but not for the style advice. Men of any age can appreciate Alison Brie.

22 April 2013

Auction Status

Last month I put a bunch of my stuff on eBay. Things generally went quite well, but I did have one item that was "bought" but the buyer never paid me. It's kind of my own fault, because I didn't notice that the buyer had zero feedback, a warning sign that I should have heeded.

In such circumstances, eBay makes sellers wait a certain number of days before opening an unpaid item claim, then they make you wait a while longer. Eventually (which is to say, today) eBay notified me that I could mark the case as closed and relist the item, and that they would refund the fee they charged me when it "sold."

So I've posted this particular item for sale again. All my other auctions have ended, either with items selling or, in a few cases, with them unsold. In the meantime I have rounded up another batch of things to try to sell, and I'll start posting those tomorrow.

21 April 2013

This Week in... (4/20/13)

Using my usual title is totally inappropriate; nothing about this week was awesome. But there were still some notable moments...

Food photography eats itself, gets indigestion. (Grub Street)

Earlier this week I endeavored to show why the world needs more Patton Oswalt. Not that any more evidence is necessary, but if you haven't seen this yet, it's totally worth a watch. (NBC)

Seeing the city on virtual lockdown on Friday was eerie, but it created some interesting photographic opportunities. (BuzzFeed; Jalopnik)

And finally this week, welcome back, Papi.

19 April 2013

Top You Off?

It's been a hell of a week, even though we don't live near the bombing site and don't know anyone who was directly involved or affected. But even so, comfort can be found in simple things like a daily routine.

For me, making and having coffee is part of my routine. For the sake of economy, I buy half and half in the half-gallon size. But when I open a new container it's very difficult to hold the carton and pour it into my coffee cup. I tried using a couple of small creamer pitchers we had around the house, and both of them dribbled and made a mess.

Then I came across this item for sale on ThinkGeek: a creamer that looks like a miniature coffee pot from a diner. I loved its appearance and figured it couldn't be any worse than what we already had, so I ordered one. The elongated lip does a great job of preventing drips, just like with coffee in the full-size version.
(By the way, the mug is from Fishs Eddy in New York. I got it because I liked its color and shape. I may also have a thing for coffee mugs...)

18 April 2013

The Cycle

Inside the Wellington T station there used to be a Dunkin' Donuts. It closed several years back and was replaced by a generic coffee-doughnuts-lottery place.

I noticed a while back that that place had also closed. Passing through Wellington today, I saw that it's being replaced...by a Dunkin' Donuts.

17 April 2013

Dine Out Today to Help

In the aftermath of Monday's events, people are looking for ways to help. A number of area restaurants have joined together and agreed to donate a portion of today's sales to assist victims and their families through a local foundation.

By choosing to dine out today at one of these establishments, you can do your part to help those directly affected:

62 Restaurant & Wine Bar (62 Wharf Street, Salem, MA)
Bella Luna Restaurant & Milky Way Lounge (284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain)
Blue on Highland (882 Highland Avenue, Needham)
Bondir (279A Broadway, Cambridge)
Cafeteria (279a Newbury Street, Boston)
China Blossom (946 Osgood Street, North Andover)
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse (75 Arlington Street, Boston)
Grafton Street (1230 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge)
Harvest (44 Brattle Street, Cambridge)
Olé Mexican Grill (11 Springfield Street, Cambridge)
PARK Restaurant & Bar (59 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge)
Piattini Wine Café (226 Newbury Street, Boston)
Ristorante Olivio (201 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington)
Russell House Tavern (14 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge)
Salvatore’s Restaurants (225 Northern Avenue, Boston; 545 Washington Street, Boston; 55 High Street, Medford)
Temple Bar (1688 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge)
Tryst Restaurant (689 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington)
Tuscan Kitchen (67 Main Street, Salem, NH)

(This list may not be complete; I obtained the information from this post on Inside Medford.)

16 April 2013

The Good

In light of yesterday's events, I didn't see much point in posting anything. What could I offer? I don't even live in the area like PB does.

I still don't know what to say. But fortunately for us, people like Patton Oswalt know what to say, and how to say it. His facebook post has been reprinted, with his permission, on Huffington Post, so I'll just suggest you go over there and read it if you haven't seen it already.

13 April 2013

This Week in Awesome (4/13/13)

I have more or less recovered from whatever early-spring plague variant I was afflicted with, and somehow, in the midst of being sick all week, I managed to collect a fine batch of stuff for this week.

Have you seen what the view looks like from the top of the new World Trade Center building? I regret never going to the top of the original; I will certainly be visiting the new one after it opens. (Gothamist)

Another place I hope to visit someday is Vietnam (particularly after seeing the Top Gear special a few years back). They just opened some kind of fancy new bridge there. (The Verge)

The Arrested Development-related stuff is picking up with the arrival of the new episodes on Netflix now only about six weeks away. This industrious person made an AD-themed structure for a cat. (Nerdalicious)

David Bowie added a bunch of his old videos to his online archive.

Here's a collection of Los Angeles-area modernist houses that have been used in movies. It happens that I've seen all of the movies on the list, and all of them are worth seeing. (Mr Porter via Kempt)

And finally this week, for our requisite piece of Mad Men-related content, a photo tour of the Time-Life Building (location of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices) during the 1960s. (Time)

11 April 2013

Throw Me A Throw

Sorry folks, I've been sick all this week. Not great, but at least it's on the way out now. I have a good tip for everyone though, courtesy of fellow blogger United Style.

Setting aside the fuss about the recently fired CEO, JCPenney has some very nice wool throws on clearance. These are made in America and are currently available in eight different color/pattern choices, marked down from $75 to a very reasonable $36. But wait, until April 17th the code SPRINGUP will take off an extra 20%, bringing them down to just under $29 each. These would make really nice housewarming or hostess gifts, or are just nice things to have around your own house.

(For you true patriots, there's also an American flag throw from the same maker in a slightly larger size for $75, down from $150. Apply the code and it drops to $60.)

09 April 2013

Sandwich Spreads

I can recall asking my mother, as a child of about six or so, as she was preparing my lunch for school, "We eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and we eat peanut butter and Fluff, so why don't we eat jelly and Fluff?"

08 April 2013

Last Week in Awesome (4/6/13)

Late two weeks in a row is not a good precedent. I can only claim that I was not feeling well yesterday. I probably picked up a germ from riding on the T, or something like that. Ecch.

The manipulation of aerial photos results in striking imagery. (Beautiful Decay)

HD footage of the San Francisco Bay area. Yes, it is kind of like a time-lapse. (Vimeo Staff Picks)

This is Mad Men-related, but will only be of interest to those who are also fans of FX's Archer. (Vulture)

And finally this week, vintage albums reimagined as multi-volume book sets. (Laughing Squid)

06 April 2013

Retro Video Unit (4/5/13)

I just got back from seeing Living Colour at the Paradise. They are touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Vivid. They played the entire album plus a few other nuggets, and they sounded just as good as they did a quarter-century ago.

So, I think the obvious choice here is the video for the song "Cult of Personality."

And for a little something extra, here's a clip of the band performing the same song live on The Arsenio Hall Show. Video quality aside (it says it came off a VHS tape), in some ways this is even better than the studio version.

04 April 2013

The Rewatch

I imagine you know by now that Mad Men returns this Sunday with a two-hour episode. As I said last year, I don't care for this approach, as it has the net effect of shortening the season by one week. So I thought it was interesting that in this interview with the New York Times, Matthew Weiner said that AMC forced him to do it.

Courtesy of Netflix, I've been spending some time this week revisiting earlier seasons of the show, and I imagine a lot of others are doing the same thing. Even though I watch each episode at least twice after recording it, I still like to go back and immerse myself in the show's world before each new season gets up and running. Plus it's just handy to get my memory refreshed after nine months away from the show.

I haven't followed this pattern for any other show, but with the announcement that Netflix will be releasing the new episodes of Arrested Development on May 26th, I think it would make sense to go back and rewatch all three seasons of it, as it's been off the air since 2006. I've caught bits of them here and there in reruns on IFC, but out of context of the series as a whole.

And as the final season of Breaking Bad approaches this summer, I think it would be worthwhile to revisit that series from the beginning, if only to relive its many amazing moments.

03 April 2013

Bargain Bin

I never found the gray dress shirt I was hunting for a couple of months back, but I have found good deals on other dress shirts at Marshalls, especially when they put items on clearance. It's chance as to whether or not I will find something good in my size, but so far I've found two shirts for $20 each that originally retailed for $90 and $70. I don't need to wear dress shirts often, but it's nice to have them on hand—they give me options when trying to assemble appropriate outfits.

02 April 2013

Playback, Interrupted

Last week I took advantage of Comcast's free online viewing of shows from the premium cable channels to watch season two of the HBO series Girls. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than the first season, and I think I have a better understanding of what show creator Lena Dunham is attempting to express.

But man, Comcast's online streaming SUCKS. The video frequently lagged behind the audio, when it did catch up it stuttered, playback would stop for buffering at least three times during each episode (and these are only 30-minute shows), and a couple of times the screen went black while the audio kept playing. It made me think of the old days of dial-up internet access.

Of course it's possible that there were a lot of other people doing what I was doing, and the servers couldn't quite keep up with the demand. But I really hope that people who pay for the premium channels don't have to put up with such poor performance, although I suppose if you are an HBO subscriber you'd just use their site or app and not your cable provider's.

01 April 2013

Last Week in Awesome (3/30/13)

Late and minimal is how it is this time around...

To help get us in the mood for season six of Mad Men, illustrator Dyna Moe's tumblr of MM-themed art. (Laughing Squid)

Honesty is always nice, but in this instance it doesn't make me feel any better. (Tastefully Offensive)

And finally this week, an important medical message (note: this is not an April Fool's gag—it came out last week). (Pleated Jeans)