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Category: Culture

Hoot Couture
It’s hard to ignore fashion, even though I try. Everywhere, the forces of innovation are pushing the boundaries of clothing design, looking for the next big breakthrough. Those creations effect the environment that all of us live in, keeping it in constant flux. Even though I don’t personally practice the apparel arts myself, I endorse such efforts.

Let them have at it, I say. What people choose to wear is strictly their own business, and there are plenty of fashion mistakes that need to be cycled out of existence. My open, accepting attitude, however, does not prevent me from commenting on any cultural trend that violates standards of common sense, decency, or egregious butt-ugliness. It is under this exception that I address the ill-conceived shirt/thing called “Untuckit.”

I confess that I have never seen an Untuckit in real life. The TV commercials, most of them featuring the shirt’s creator Chris Riccobono, are so far the only place I have witnessed them. Mr. Riccobono testifies in the ads that his design is meant to fill a great void in mens’ clothing: the need for a shirt meant to be worn untucked. In fact, Chris reveals that this garment is the realization of his lifelong dream of solving this knotty riddle.

He shouldn’t have bothered. If you haven’t seen the ads or the in-person version, let me say that the shirts look dorky, dopey…even doofusy. Chris himself models them in the initial ad campaign, walking (as is apparently required these days in all advertising) in slow motion through the streets of New York. The slow motion, along with Chris’ own middle-aged pear shape, only heightens the impression of dorklitude.

His complaint about normal shirts — and the engine of his passion — is that they are too long to be worn untucked. But his, by contrast, is too short. Worse, most of the Untuckit examples are button-down, further compounding his folly with a useless trend that has somehow managed to hang on. It looks like a dickie with a hormone imbalance.

In any case, I could have told Mr. Riccobono that there are already plenty of no-tuck shirts on the market, all of them better-looking than his sad gear. The Hawaiian shirt, the camp shirt, and the bowling shirt are all good exemplars, and none of them comes with a button down collar. I wear mine regularly, and I see them worn on the street to good effect by other men. As I say, I have never seen an Untuckit in the wild. I see the ads, I browse the website, I watch revealing interviews of its creator online, but for all I know these garments are strictly a figment of the media.

I do not mean to say that the Untickit shirt is a stupid idea. No, wait a minute. I guess I am saying that. But I have no wish undermine Mr. Riccobono’s push toward fashion immortality. In fact, I applaud his daring and entrepreneurial drive. It’s his taste and godawful business sense that I quarrel with.

And maybe, just maybe, he will somehow succeed after all. Who knows? People might embrace this new getup and grant it a place in our ever-changing fashion firmament. Maybe. If not, I wish him a soft landing in his cataclysmic fall. If he survives, I hope he keeps at it. There’s always room in fashion for new ideas, especially stupid ones.
Straight vs. Curvy
I have been imagining a faceoff between two historic figures. I see them down in the pit, vying for dominance, and only one can come out alive.

FiguratIvely speaking, that is. It wouldn't be a fight to the death, exactly. More like a no-holds-barred build-off. Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Antonin Gaudi for the title of Best Architect of the twentieth century.

The weapons at their disposal would include conceptual daring, soundness of engineering, breakthrough ideas, use of new materials, evocation of and blending with nature, management of space, practicality, and beauty. Some might see this as a contest between art nouveau and modernism, but both men went beyond the narrow boundaries of those categories. Each created a style and a vision uniquely his own.

I should mention that Wright has always been a favorite of mine. His designs and thinking inspired, in a small way, the design of my own modest home, and when I'm in a bookstore, I am always drawn to the architecture section so that I might take a moment to page through any books they have about his work. But that was then. I am in Barcelona now and fresh off visits to Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, and Gaudi's still-unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.

Sorry, Frank. You are a worthy contender, but It's Antonin in a first-round TKO.
Trapped Inbox
Bladder leakage. Unwanted moles. Herpes Madness. And that old favorite, hot Russian girls! These are but a few of the hypothetical needs I see being addressed in my email inbox. In a way, I am touched by the concern so clearly expressed by these messages. It’s nice to know that, in this time of self-absorption and alienation, there is some one out there who cares.

And yet, these matters are quite personal in nature. While I don’t want to be specific, some of these messages strike quite close to home. I am by nature a private person, and it troubles me when others feel free to address my issues so openly. Part of me worries that they have somehow discovered my secrets and now feel free to bandy them about on the worldwide web. I obsess about a nightmare scenario in which my most personal data is shared with some massive digital clearinghouse of internet creepiness.

It is obvious to me that I have been hacked. The list of coincidences is just too long to ignore. Whoever it is that tracks unwanted blemishes has clearly tapped into my data and gathered intimate details about my moles (which, if you must know, are all unwanted).

I have no way of knowing the scope of this breach, but it now appears that the creepiness has access to my financial data as well. Just today I received a notice that the warranty has expired on my family car. True, but how did they find out? I don’t share the status of my product warrantees with even the closest of my friends. In fact, I throw most of them into the trash. That’s how deep this thing has gone!

Another message tells me my application was incomplete and that this is my second notice. Will I be granted more notices? Is there still time? And what am I applying for, anyway? This webmonster, or whatever it is, apparently lives in a mysterious cloud somewhere in another dimension, and it has somehow come to know about things that I haven’t even done yet!

The only thing I can’t figure out is why this all-powerful being is interested in me. It not only cares about my moles and the porosity of my bladder, it wants to help. Too desperately I fear. I suppose I should be grateful, but I am consumed by paranoia. It seems to me that I am naked and alone, defenseless against an irresistible force. What am I to do? What will become of me?

Oh! I know… I’ll just Google it!
Fantasy Island
Think of yourself for a moment as a character in a cartoon. Specifically, imagine that you are in that most classic of all cartoon venues…the desert island. Things are actually relatively good on your island. You’re not starving to death, at least. There is one minor problem, however. You’re only entitled to one of anything.

Let me explain. The premise of this exercise is that you are marooned on the island and cut off from the world and all the choices the world offers. Instead of alternatives, you are stuck with a single option in every category. One particular brand of beer, for instance, not an entire liquor store full.

So let’s start there. If you were stranded on a desert island with only one kind of beer to drink, what would it be? In other words, what is your desert island beer?

Choose carefully, though. The selection process might be trickier than it appears. My gut choice might have been Old Rasputin’s Russian Imperial Stout, a rich and thoroughly enjoyable winter brew that I like to rank as my favorite beer. That is not the question here though. Would I really want to drink it every day on a desert island? Wouldn’t a lighter, hoppier IPA serve me better as the only beer I would ever be able to drink?

You see the issues, then. Your desert island pick in any category would have to address the possibility that you might get bored with it. If you could only listen to a single piece of music for the rest of your life, then “Night on Bald Mountain” (though entertaining, especially if you chose Fantasia as the only animated cartoon you could watch) might not be ideal no matter how much you liked it. Personally, I’d be tempted to pick some lovers’ reggae tune like Gregory Isaacs’ “Cool Down the Pace.” It’s simple and sweet and fully grooved. That would wear well. Or Marley’s “Small Axe” to sustain my resolve and help cure the loneliness. Still, it would be great to have a horn section. No matter what, even the sunniest island music would get old after a while…but also easier to come back to.

How about your favorite artwork, then? What would you want hang on the coconut tree so that you could gaze at it every day? Money is no object, nor is size or medium. And don’t worry about the weather ruining it or any such practical problems. As with all our categories, just assume that the thing will always be in its most pristine and desirable state, ready to consume or view or read.

Which raises the question: what is your desert island book? Something you could stand to read over and over and over? I’d be tempted by the Oxford English Dictionary myself. You’d probably die before you even got to zyxomma (a dragonfly native to India), so the repetitiveness wouldn’t be a problem. The plot line is a bit slow, but if you were ever rescued, just imagine your mastery of Scrabble.

And on it goes. Your desert island fruit? Apple, banana, pluot? Goji berries?Think carefully; you’ll be eating it every day. TV program? May I suggest something with a lot of episodes in the can? Max Headroom and Stranger Things both had some fresh appeal, but if you’re talking about watching them forever, the glaze would be off the donut before too long. And no, I’m not going to recommend General Hospital in spite of its record of 13,700-plus installments.

Which movie? The Wizard of Oz, Apocalypse Now, The Big Lebowski? Plan 9 from Outer Space? Jar-Jar Binks outtakes? Happy endings are optional, of course, but you don’t want to get your dauber down out there.

And what about a game? Even the pluckiest cartoon character, despite all this fine food and these modern diversions, would have have some bouts with crushing boredom. Just remember, though, you won’t have anyone to play with. It’s just you. Please allow me to suggest that you could do worse than the Desert Island Game (which we are currently playing) as your desert island game.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon