31 May 2013

Retro Video Unit (5/31/13)

I've been trying to mix some memorable Boston bands into this feature, so this week we'll look at one that popped into my head recently: The Del Fuegos. Their single "Don't Run Wild" was very popular at the time of its release in 1985, and I saw the band play several times over the years.

The video is perhaps most memorable for the shots of the band playing on the Mass. Ave. bridge. The night shots are cool too; those appear to be in a parking lot on the waterfront, possibly on the Fan Pier?

Sun Clips

After my failed attempt to get new sunglasses from Warby Parker, I've been considering alternatives. I found clip-on sunglasses specifically made to fit my eyeglass frames at Ben Silver, a rather fancy men's store in Charleston, SC. Unfortunately the clip-ons alone cost $125, and for that much I might as well just go ahead and get new sunglasses made somewhere.

Some idle googling led me to a site called Western Ophthalmics in Lynwood, WA. They seem to be primarily a wholesale distributor to eye doctors and optometrists, but they do have clip-ons on their website in a shape that roughly corresponds to my eyeglass frames. The width matched my frames and they are available in different colors and cost only $12, but there was no other size information given on the site, so I sent an email with some questions.

I never received a response, so after maybe three weeks I decided to call them. The person who answered the phone, Jean, was very pleasant and helpful. She needed to find the product and measure it, but offered to call me back. It turned out that their clip-ons are not tall enough to fit my frames, which is what I was hoping to find out in order to avoid ordering them and having to return them.

As usual with my product quests, I'll have to keep searching.

29 May 2013

Drugstore in a Box

I get a lot of my personal care items from Target, because they tend to have lower prices than the local drugstores. What I don't get from Target I tend to order from drugstore.com, which doesn't usually have the best prices but is often the easiest option.

My orders are typically packed and shipped within two hours of being placed, and they frequently arrive the next day. The minimum for free shipping is $25, which is easy enough if I order several items at once. They accept PayPal, which is a huge convenience when I want to make a purchase but don't need to add another charge to my credit card.

They also operate beauty.com, where I sometimes buy shaving and hair products, which tend to get me to $25 more quickly. And if your order something from that site, you get free samples of other products.

28 May 2013

The Reentry

Oh, hi there. Yeah, my brain took a few days off. I guess that's what long weekends are for, right? I got my stitches out this morning, but I'm still healing.

I'm also in the midst of rewatching the three seasons of Arrested Development that aired on Fox (since I haven't seen them since they were first shown), to get ready for the new episodes on Netflix.

I'll be back soon with more fun stuff.

25 May 2013

Retro Video Unit (5/24/13)

With everything going on last week I forgot this again...

This is one of those obscure bands from the New Wave era that were really good and deserved to be more popular. They're called The Brains, they were from Atlanta, and the song is called "Money Changes Everything."

You may actually know this song, because Cyndi Lauper covered it on her 1983 album She's So Unusual, but this is the original. It's not much of a video, but it's slightly better than the ones people make with just a static picture of the band or the cover of their album.

I have a lot of bands like this filed away in my head. In many cases I have the music on vinyl. Once in a while songs like this show up on compilation albums. I found this one on an album called Gold: New Wave (but the cover says New Wave Gold) that has several other excellent obscure songs on it and is worth owning if you ever come across it.

24 May 2013

Tie Do-Over

After the tie incident a couple of weeks back, I continued browsing eBay for a suitable replacement. It didn't take long, which was a little surprising.
This tie is very different from the other one, but it's also from Liberty and made of cotton in the USA. The background is a coral pink, which my camera represents as more red than it really is.

We don't have any summer weddings or other dress-up events on our schedule, but if we did this would be a likely candidate to wear, probably paired with my cotton suit and the chambray dress shirt I acquired back in December:
(Blame the poor lighting in this shot on my basement's fluorescents.)

Meanwhile I'll still be checking eBay to try to find another tie in the same pattern as the one that got mangled.

23 May 2013


My recovery is proceeding; yesterday I was able to remove the bandage covering my stitches for cleaning. The area was rather swollen, but is improving.

I'm supposed to avoid physical exertion, which is never a problem for me, but I have to be careful even about things like carrying laundry down to the basement, so I'm doing smaller loads.

It has also prevented me from being able to switch my seasonal clothing, but fortunately it hasn't gotten that warm yet around here. It's a good thing, because I have no idea when we'll be able to install our air conditioners. The past two years they have gone in right around this weekend.

21 May 2013

An eBay Story

Last month I mentioned my experience with a fraudulent eBay bidder who "purchased" one of the items I had for sale but neglected to pay for it. Since then I've been more wary of the offers that buyers have submitted, and have looked at their feedback information before responding.

A couple of weekends back I got an offer on a suit that I have for sale. It was for only 40% of my asking price so I rejected it, but I also noticed that the bidder had zero feedback and his eBay user account had just been created a week or so earlier.

A couple of days later he made another offer, higher but still lower than what I was hoping for. I contacted him through eBay and told him that as a seller I was looking to protect myself, and that to be blunt, I was suspicious of him. I said that I would feel somewhat more reassured if he could confirm to me that he had a vaild Paypal account with a confirmed address.

His response was more or less "oh yes I have a paypal account," which was not at all what I had meant; I was looking for him to provide information that I could use to confirm the existence of an account. So I came up with an idea: I asked him to send me $1 via Paypal, so that I would have a transaction connected to him, with the associated verifiable details. I would then deduct the dollar from the amount I wanted for the suit, which was still higher than his second offer.

Imagine my lack of surprise when I heard nothing from him, which served to confirm my suspicions. Interestingly, he tried again this past weekend, making another offer for the same amount as his second offer. Buyers get three offers per item per auction, and as a seller I can reject any offer without having to provide an explanation, so I was able to deal with that nuisance with a click of my mouse.

eBay does protect sellers from fraud, as happened with my earlier experience, but heading off a fraud before being victimized is certainly preferable.

20 May 2013

Feeling It

Today I had a follow-up to my medical procedure from last week. I received stitches, and as soon as the local anesthetic wore off, it started to hurt quite a bit. So I'm going to rest up and I'll be back tomorrow.

17 May 2013

In the Audience

The Mrs.' graduation went just fine, though of course it had to be 80 degrees yesterday. The ceremony was indoors, in a building that is used as a hockey arena, which would lead one to think that it should be easy to keep it cool inside, but that wasn't the case.

It was just barely comfortable enough, but sitting on a flimsy plastic chair for two hours is less than ideal. To our right we had a guy who sneezed raucously through the entire ceremony, and immediately behind us we had a fussing baby that I suspect was the child of someone receiving a degree, as the people caring for it were substantially older and were probably its grandparents.

The actual issuing of diplomas took only about 35 minutes, and the enthusiasm of the graduates kept things buoyant after I almost nodded off a few times during the speeches.

14 May 2013

Under the Weather

Yesterday I had a medical thing. Nothing serious, but it needed to be done. Meanwhile I was enduring another cold (very unusual for me to be sick twice in such a short span of time), but now it seems it may in fact be a sinus infection. Yay.

It was kind of careless of me to schedule my procedure for this week, and it's an inconvenient time to be sick, because we're pretty busy otherwise: the Mrs. has completed her graduate school program and is getting her diploma on Thursday. We have family coming in to attend who are staying with us, which means we need to clean our apartment. I don't have a ton of energy right now, and I'm not exactly thrilled about cleaning even when I'm feeling 100%, plus I'm supposed to be taking it easy for a few days, so today will be challenging.

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting this week, but there will probably be something.

11 May 2013

This Week in Awesome (5/11/13)

Back where it belongs, and full of internet-y goodness...

Everyone's probably seen this by now, since it's from last week, but local commercials really are the best. (Rhett and Link)

Remember a couple of episodes ago on Mad Men when the realtor told Peggy that when the Second Avenue subway was finished, the apartment she was considering buying would quadruple in value? That was 1968. 45 years later, they're still digging the tunnel. (TechGraffiti via The Nanigans)

One good thing about getting older: the benefit of hindsight. (Esquire via Put This On)

Don Draper somehow time-warped into the 1980s. (Videogum)

This tumblr attempts to distill movies to just nine frames each. (Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, another TV ad, though this one's not local. Why can't all commercials be this good? (Jalopnik)

10 May 2013

Postal Perils

I have a bunch of ongoing searches for items on eBay, some of which I pursue more intently than others. I have very casually been looking for a Liberty of London floral-pattern tie in cotton, in the event that I have to go to a wedding or other dress-up event during warmer weather. Liberty ties are colorful and fun, yet still dignified enough for adults.

I didn't have any particular colors in mind; I'd just take a spin through the listings here and there to see if anything struck me. A couple of weeks ago I found something interesting. The print had the look of a watercolor painting, the tie was a standard width, the condition was excellent, the colors were bright but not overpowering, and it had a low starting bid.

I ended up being the only bidder and got it for something like $7 plus $2 shipping. I figured the seller was going to send it by first class mail, which meant it wouldn't be trackable. That's how these things go sometimes.

It didn't get lost, which is how these stories typically go. It arrived a couple of days ago, in one of those apology-festooned plastic sleeves the postal service uses when a piece of your mail gets devoured by one of their machines. I took pictures to document its condition:
It was sent in only a plain business envelope (addresses blurred, because duh). I contacted the seller right away and explained what had happened, and he issued a refund immediately, which was great. But I wasn't even concerned about the money, since the tie had been so cheap. I was more disappointed that the tie was ruined, because as you can see it was a really pretty tie. Here's a closer look at the damage:
It really got crunched and munched. And who knows how long it will be before I find another that I like as much.

As someone who's sold plenty of items on eBay, I know the importance of protective packaging. When I ship shoes I use bubble wrap and pack the box with wadded tissue paper, to prevent the shoes from banging around inside the box. Sure, a lot of the stuff that gets bought and sold on eBay is used and not necessarily of high value, but nobody wants to receive a purchase in this condition.

08 May 2013

Watch Wednesday: Summer Straps

I bought my first one-piece nylon watch strap a few summers back, but last year I finally went all-in and got several different colors and wore them regularly, changing among them based on my mood on a given day and what I was wearing.

One strap I couldn't find was a suitably bright orange. Many were too pale, others were more than I wanted to pay. I saw one at Target, alongside the Timex Weekender watches that come with nylon straps, but it was too narrow, sized for a smaller woman's watch. For only $7 I figured it was worth waiting to find one.

Every time I went back to Target, I checked the watch section, but the orange strap in the correct width never appeared—until a few weeks ago. I was there on a weekday afternoon, picking up some household needs, and I went to check like I always do. There was only one, but it was what I'd been waiting for.

I decided to do a group shot of all the straps I have and the watches I wear them on. My camera tends to underexpose, leading to photos with incorrect color representation. From my recent batch of eBay sales I've learned that the photos come out looking more accurate if I photograph items outside, so I took the straps outside and took a couple of shots, but they looked wrong. Maybe the sun was too bright?

So I brought everything back inside and tried again, with better results:
All these straps are 20 mm wide except the two striped ones on the far left, which are 18 mm. I wear those two on the Timex watch on the left. I'm not feeling a strong urge to add any additional colors, but if something interesting presents itself I will consider it.

07 May 2013

Mad Men Note

I'm not going to return to doing Mad Men writeups, but I did want to add an observation about this week's episode. (It will be spoiler-free, insofar as saying that the agency pitched for new business does not constitute a spoiler.)

So far, a lot of this season has felt like treading water, waiting for something significant to happen. Last week was devoted to a crucial historical event and its aftermath, and I sensed the beginning of a shift. "For Immediate Release" felt like the show finally hit a groove that had been missing so far this year.

The business SCDP goes after in May 1968, an upcoming Chevrolet product code-named XP-887, was a real car in development at the time. Some of the discussion in Don's office might have led you to believe that Chevy was preparing a product to compete with the Mustang, but in fact they had already introduced such a product, the Camaro, in the fall of 1966 (two and a half years after the Mustang's debut).

The car in question was to be the Chevrolet Vega, a subcompact launched with the intention of offering an American-made alternative to Japanese imports like Toyota and Datsun, and other brands like Volkswagen, all of which were starting to gain acceptance in the US (especially in California and the Northeast). Honda was just getting started selling cars here, but they would become a formidable force in the 1970s.

The introductory ad campaign for the Vega, which went on sale as a 1971 model, was enormous, and the car initially won praise including Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, but the car was rushed into production and was compromised by cost-saving demands imposed by GM management. The biggest issues were with faulty rustproofing and engine problems; there were three recalls in 1972 alone, covering hundreds of thousands of vehicles. By the time GM had sorted out the car's problems, it was too late; the Vega was a lemon.

I have no idea what this could mean for the agency, as the show is supposed to end with next season and I don't think it will move that far into the future. But I thought it was interesting to look at this plot development with the benefit of hindsight. (I used Wikipedia as a source and there's much more on that page, which I've linked to above.)

06 May 2013

Today's Notes

Yes, TWiA is AWOL. We were gone most of the day yesterday, and I didn't really feel like dealing with it when we got home, so we'll just let things simmer until next weekend.

I just learned that Trader Joe's sells bacon cheddar ranch dip. Come on, TJ, you trying to kill me or something?

There's also news today that Davis Square barbecue institution Redbones will be opening a satellite location in Malden that happens to be stumbling distance (or perhaps more appropriately, waddling distance) from our house. Come on, Red, you trying to kill me too?

04 May 2013

Retro Video Unit (5/3/13)

As I mentioned before, I've been digging around in YouTube's storerooms looking for stuff by old Boston bands. This song, "Lonelyhearts" by The Atlantics, is one in particular that I'd been hoping to find, but this video is a bit of an oddity because the music has been combined with a gritty chase through New York and into New Jersey from the 1973 movie The Seven-Ups.

Interestingly, it kind of works. The other option was a shorter edit of the song with only a static image of the cover of its original 45 release. So, here you go:

And Now for Something Completely Different...

This is vulgar and tasteless, and I can't stop laughing at it...  
"...that's why Senator Joe Manchin, who co-sponsored the original background-check bill, has vowed to reintroduce it, all on the flimsy excuse that over 90% of Americans want it, making it slightly more popular than nacho cheese and reacharounds... not to mention Nacho Reacharounds, which, incidentally, is the worst Doritos flavor ever."

03 May 2013

A Look Back, Old Sport

You have probably seen an ad for, or at least heard about, the new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby that's coming out next Friday. The publicity machine has been ramping up over the past month or so; next week Carey Mulligan (who plays Daisy) is scheduled to appear on The Daily Show, and the movie's director, Baz Luhrmann, is scheduled for The Colbert Report.

The movie was actually supposed to be released at Christmas but was postponed, probably due to production issues related to Mr. Luhrmann's decision to make it in 3-D. Yes that's right, a 3-D version of The Great Gatsby. Does that not make sense to everyone? (Don't worry, there will also be a 2-D version. There always is.) After all, this is the guy who made Moulin Rouge, and I'm sure he would have done that in 3-D if it was an option at the time.

Anyway, I'm very interested in seeing this movie, even if it's a complete disaster (which is a distinct possibility, and one which provides its own distinct sort of pleasure). It's one of my favorite books, and you may recall that I went to New York last year to see a six-and-a-half-hour play in which the entire text of the book is recited onstage.

With the release of the new adaptation, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. When it was released it was considered a flop; the director did not make another movie for almost a decade afterward. I saw it once, maybe 30 years ago, but I didn't really remember anything about it other than the cast, and that much of the filming was done in Newport, RI; as a child growing up in RI at the time, a movie production in the state was a big deal and it was covered pretty extensively in the media.

Conveniently, the movie is on Netflix streaming, so I sat down to watch it one afternoon last week. (Still one of the best things about being unemployed: you want to watch a movie at 2 pm? Go right ahead.) It's kind of long, about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and it kind of bogs down about an hour in, right around the point in the story that Gatsby and Daisy are getting reacquainted. This is probably because their relationship has zero chemistry, and because the Daisy of the book, a passionate and impulsive wild card, comes across onscreen as a vapid, vain airhead.

I think some of the blame for this has to be directed at Francis Ford Coppola, who adapted the book for this screen version. The story plods along, feeling much slower than the book, and the sense of this world, which is supposed to come across as a giant money-filled playground, ends up as tedious and antiquated.

On the positive side, Sam Waterston gives a nicely understated performance as Nick, the narrator and moral filter of the story. Karen Black goes in exactly the opposite direction in her portrayal of Myrtle Wilson, the doomed mistress of Daisy's husband Tom, and succeeds beautifully in her excess.

One other detail worth noting, especially for those interested in style: the production design is suitably sumptuous, and the clothes in the movie are uniformly fantastic. All the outfits for both women and men were designed by Ralph Lauren, and you can tell just by looking at them. (Whenever I watch a period movie like this, I can't help but wonder how men were able to stand wearing three-piece suits with stiff shirt collars in the middle of summer.)

I'm very ambivalent about the choice of Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby in the new movie. I've never been that big a fan of his work, and I was going to complain that he's too old for the role, but then I checked IMDB and Robert Redford was basically the same age, maybe a year younger, when he played Gatsby. But he comes across as younger onscreen, so we'll see if the same is true for Leo.

Although they are lesser characters, I am looking forward to Isla Fisher as Myrtle and Jason Clarke as her husband George, mainly based on the other work of theirs that I've seen. As for Tobey Maguire as Nick and Carey Mulligan, I'll have to reserve judgment until I've seen their performances.

02 May 2013

Hi There

Still here, just preoccupied. Stuff coming real soon...