Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 House Horribles

As someone on the brink of first-time home ownership, I am keenly aware and even anxious about how to fill up my new house - especially since I’ve mostly lived in apartments for the last ten years or so. As opposed to apartment living, there is a veritable universe of options when it comes to things to populate a home with: furniture, appliances, decorations, etc. After watching years of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous and Cribs, I have some very big ideas, and after living by myself for the past six years, some very strong preferences for the small stuff. But, in my searches and observations I have come across some items that you should definitely not put into a place. And so, in the hopes that mine won’t be the only house I’ll never have to see these articles in, here are 3 things that should not be in your house (or anyone else’s):

1. Unbreakable. The 1970’s was an era of fashion, style and home decor that is usually best forgotten. It was also, as it turns out, the last time that ceramics were a welcome addition to interior design. With the notable exception of handprints, ashtrays or other basic pottery made by your own young children, the only thing in your house that should need to be “fired” is any interior decorator who thinks it’s ok to put this kind of kitschy crap where you live. And you can only hope that the worst ceramic thing you’ve got is pottery, because the only thing creepier to have in your house than ceramic figurines is human body parts. Honestly, I’d rather stay in a house full of feral cats and discarded food containers than one full of Precious Moments and Hummels; at least I know the cat-owning slob in the first house isn’t going to trying to make me a life-size part of their “collection” of pretty things. “It puts the lotion on!” If you need something fragile in your house, stick with your ego, and leave the ceramics for the garage sale.

2. Work Outdated. There is only one type of product that gets outdated faster than the consumer electronics in your house, and that’s exercise equipment. Which is unfortunate since it’s usually really expensive, really big, and has the aesthetic appeal of your average dungeon setup. Of course, there are some less-expensive options (i.e. infomercial fitness), but if you’re the kind of person who will display anything in your house that you bought from a television commercial airing after midnight - you’re likely beyond any kind of help that I can offer. For the price of one decent piece of equipment you could buy a couple of years worth of gym membership, where they keep the equipment updated and repaired regularly. But for some reason you don’t want anyone to see you work out? Listen, don’t buy into the advertising, not everyone at the gym is a fitness model. In fact, most of the folks there will be there for the same reason you are - to get their fat asses into shape. Besides, which would you rather have as a totem of your utter lack of resolve and laziness: a barely used membership card, or a stationary bike/treadmill/Bowflex machine with a year’s worth of dust on it? Only one them will fit into a drawer when you’re having company over that may want to have some kind of respect for you.

3. Going Down. There is one fixture that you can have in your house that makes you, inalterably, into an asshole. One device that, no matter what other tasteful and carefully considered items you fill you house with, will make everyone who visits think you’re a douchebag. And that item is an elevator. There is simply no defensible reason to have an elevator in your house. If you have more than three floors in a house that only you live in, you’re an ass. If you have three floors or less, there’s a solid possibility that you could use the exercise that a couple of flights of stairs could regularly provide. Seriously, you could have a laboratory dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, three bedrooms for orphans and a soup kitchen for the homeless, and as soon as I see an elevator I’ll want to punch you in the mouth. I’d rather see a full-sized bronze statue surrounded by painted portraits and a wall-sized photo montage of just you than one elevator - and the personal shrine is the only one of those two options that won’t make me want to slap you. Having a home elevator is an excellent way to make your guests (a) wonder where your stairs are in case your house burns down and (b) hope they get used for that very same reason.

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There may be no more personal canvas for you than your home. It is, inside and out, an expression and reflection of who you are, where you’ve come from and what you want the the world to see. It is both intensely personal and inescapably public. And notwithstanding the foregoing, I’ve always believed that you have an absolute right to do whatever makes you happy behind the closed doors of that home (provided you’re committing no felonies). But that said, with this freedom comes the responsibility for what you choose to do with it - and my right to mock/judge you for abusing it. In the end, you can fill your house with whatever you’d like, hopefully steering clear of all of the above. As for me, I’m hoping to fill mine with three things of my own: love, friends, and way too many toys.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 Gridiron Goods for Girls

It is difficult to mark the passing from summer into fall, even in my land of threes, without noting the glorious return of our real national pastime: football. What has for the past six months been my passing, ancillary and utterly marginal interest in sports has now turned into a ravenous information, betting and televised game-play hungry beast that no one dares leave unsatiated. The American obsession with this weekly symphony of violence is well-documented and ever-growing, but not truly understood. I, for one, believe that as our society has become more and more gentrified (i.e. wussified) our need for vicarious blood-lust has grown. You know, how every kid in youth sports gets a trophy, how you have to wear a helmet to do anything more dangerous than walk down the street, and how you haven’t seen a public spanking in ten years, but see a kid that deserves one a dozen times a day? So, while we suffer through weeks where no one hits anyone (no matter how much they need it) and all just grin and bear it, we wait for the weekend, when we will watch armored warriors battle over inches and yards. It’s also no secret that the fairer sex is about as interested in this annual revival as their hairy-knuckled counterparts are in Sex & the City, Cosmo or anything Danielle Steele has ever written. But, while there is never a good reason for a man to watch Lifetime television, here are three reasons ladies should tune into a little pigskin:

1. Quality Time. It’s not easy being a man these days. The modern day man is about as useful to a woman as a jock strap (and only slightly more comfortable). Ladies can now do most of the things we used to be able to do for them, for themselves. The opening of pickle jars, the fixing of busted items around the house and even the lifting of heavy things can now be accomplished by even the daintiest of females (with the help of a little technology). Academic arenas once the exclusive purview of men: law, engineering, mathematics, etc., now have as many or more female students and scholars than their male peers. And while all of this sounds fantastic, it robs men of the one thing they want most in a relationship (well, aside from seeing women naked), and that’s to feel needed. I’m not sure when or how I learned as much about football as I know, but I know I’m not alone. You can put any two guys together from vastly different walks of life, educational backgrounds, or professions and we will be able to speak fluently in football - a language that most women think sounds like a cross between throat singing and a really long dirty joke. Watching football with you (as opposed to simply near you) will give us the rare and wonderful opportunity to actually explain something to you and know what the hell we’re talking about. Besides, we’re much less likely to screw that up than trying to actually repair any of your appliances.

2. The Zen of Hitting. Let’s be honest, you ladies have got a little more violence in you than you’d like to admit. Sure, it’s been socialized out of your since you were old enough to talk (sugar and spice and all things nice, right?). But you know there plenty of moments in your day when you just want to grab a bitch by the hair and throw her to the ground (you know what I’m talkin' 'bout Elizabeth Lambert) And since you’re not playing in a college soccer game anytime soon, what is your outlet for this supposed to be? Rachel Ray reruns? Kate Gosselin updates in People magazine? Lifetime Original movies? C’mon. That’s going to end in more frustration and disappointment than your prom night. But, it’s also not a solid idea for you (or your criminal record) to actually go out and start hitting people, either. So, while it’s certainly not the same as personally laying someone out, watching 275 pounds of muscle and pissed off lay the wood to some mouthy, pretty-boy receiver is sure going to do a whole more for your inner ass-kicker than watching Merideth Baxer-Birney blubber through another contrived mother-daughter reunion. Trust me, you don’t have know or like a whole lot more than just plain hittin‘ to just plain enjoy football.

3. Dance, Dance Revolution. You girls probably think it would be a whole lot easier to get you to watch football than it would be for you to get us to go dancing with you. But as it turns out, you’re wrong. You’ve just been looking in the wrong place. In fact, joining your main squeeze for a Saturday or Sunday of football will not only afford you the opportunity to finally see him dance, but he’ll also actually sit and watch other people dancing with you. Sure, it’s not Dancing With the Stars, but watching that celebri-smut is only rotting your brain anyways. It turns out that we just need a good reason to dance, and while anniversaries, receptions and nice evenings out don’t always get it done, scoring a touchdown, making a monster tackle, winning the big game (or watching your favorite team do any/all of the above) is usually just the ticket. Of course, the dancing that ensues is usually somewhere between seizure and falling down, but at least you won’t have to bother with getting us to lessons. We already know just what to do. And so you know, we’re even more likely to cut a rug if our friends are around - especially if they’re rooting for the other team. There‘s just nothing quite like the “your team sucks” dance. It usually even comes with a song.

* * *

It was all that I could do to not include “because it’s awesome” on this list. Because, in fairness, when I sat down to think about why anyone should watch football, that was the first 10 or so reasons that came to mind. In a world where the stories peddled to us are ever-more simple-minded, patronizing and contrived, sports offers a measure of unpredictability that not even M. Night Shyamalan can produce on his best day (which I’m pretty sure was sometime in 1999). And no sport offer higher stakes and higher drama than football. While the other major pro sports offer 80 plus games (and baseball gives us 162), football only has 16 - with installments just once a week, like an old-time serial western. Each tilt, in its massive stadiums, top-to-bottom coverage and ravenous fans, feels epic, and its championship, the venerable Super Bowl, annually breaks its own record as the most watched sporting event of all time. So, ladies, why not give it a go? Trust me, it’s the sort of gesture that won’t go unnoticed, and may actually get you someone to hold your hand and pass the tissues next time through P.S. I Love You.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

3 Bad Trips

I’ve never been one for vacations. In fact, to date, the total number of vacations that I’ve taken in my adult life could be counted on one hand (with five fingers left over). Yes, seriously. As the second straight year where my New Year’s resolutions have fruitlessly included actually taking that first professionally purposeless trip begins to come to a close, I’m ever more committed to finally taking the plunge, requesting the time off and buying the damned tickets. But because I’m not accustomed to taking vacation for vacation’s sake, I’m convinced that an event/destination trip would be a good first step to take as I slowly begin to learn how to relax. You know the kind of trip I mean, where you go someplace to do something that only happens there; like running with the bulls in Pamplona, falling down the hill after the cheese in the UK or having a cheap suit made in Taiwan. I’m afraid, however, that going overseas is a little ostentatious for this first-time hedonist, so I’m sticking to the good ol’ U.S. of A. for my event trip. As a word to the wise for my fellow vacation virgins, however, (from personal experience and reliable hearsay) here are 3 event destinations to be avoided at all costs (no matter what else you’ve heard):

1. Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I know. I know! Dissing New Orleans is about as fashionable as leg warmers and a Dukakis bumper sticker. So let me just begin by saying that I was completely wrong about the Big Easy when I predicted the end of that city after Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t think they had it in them. And, despite all the motivational tales I’ve heard/read/seen about New Orleans’ survivors and perseverance, faith and restoration, I have to tell you, I would have run out of there like I stole something (perhaps that’s a bad analogy). But amidst all the bad, the one good trait that the survival of Katrina has highlighted in the citizens of the N.O. is tolerance. They will tolerate near chaos with a smile. They will tolerate buildings literally rotting around them with an unwavering faith and complete disregard for personal safety. And they will tolerate a lack of sterility and cleanliness only otherwise seen in horror film scenes and third world prisons with a stiff drink and a cavalier attitude towards deodorant. Unfortunately, nothing highlights these disturbing strengths quite like their annual Mardi Gras celebration; when they fill an entire city with the kind of people you spend all your time avoiding when you go out in your own hometown. If the black plague ever resurfaces, this is the one place they can reliably start looking for “Patient Zero.” If you hold your health, safety and well-being in any sort of regard, just grab some beads and head down to your local bar for Fat Tuesday - and leave the civic anarchy to the folks who have perfected it.

2. New Years Eve in NYC. Like most things on television, this looked like a better way to ring in the New Year than I could ever hope to replicate in whatever little ‘burg I was turning the calendar over in (including Los Angeles). It just seemed so cool. I mean, it’s in Times Square - the center of the commercial universe; there’s Dick Clark, MTV personalities, singers and other celebrities; there are countless throngs of people, that giant ball, the countdown, and that fateful moment - where hundreds of beautiful, fresh-breathed strangers will want to celebrate the occasion by kissing you while Auld Lang Syne plays loudly in the background. Which all sounds great, except, that’s not how it really goes down. First off, it’s cold. I don’t mean “a little nippy” either. I mean the kind of cold that makes “global warming” seem about as believable as the Easter Bunny and renders your entire cognitive process capable of only one thought: “Fuck, it’s cold!” And since they don’t make clothing (other than spacesuits) able to keep warm-blooded animals alive in that kind of weather, no matter what you wear (and especially if you try to dress fashionably) - you’ll be freezing your ass off. The famous people? Well, they’re actually in Times Square. Your pedestrian ass won’t be anywhere near Times Square because 500,000 people had the same good idea that you did. Trust me, you’ve never seen 500,000 people in person before - because if you had, you wouldn’t want to ever see it in person again. For reference, it’s like taking your average NFL crowd and multiplying it by ten, and then turning it loose on surface streets. And like that same NFL crowd, it's mostly populated by people who have breath that smells like burnt hair and wet dog, and who have imbibed to the point of forgetting any notions they had of good manners, personal space or volume control. Unless your resolution is to lose faith in humanity less than five minutes into the new year, watch your NYC New Years like you watch your pro football: on TV.

3. Halloween in (the) Castro. Though I give Portland credit for sincerity and effort, the real capital of weird is and will always be San Francisco. For those who have been reading me for a while, you know that I have an especially pointed hatred for the “city by the bay”. But for all of the horrible and terrifying parts of “the City”, I always had a special place in my heart for the Castro. For the S.F. uninitiated, the Castro is the traditionally “gay” part of the city - where the freedom to love who you want, how you want is a civic mantra so strong that the entire borough seems to be infused with the same rainbow that adorns the flags which mark its streets. It was also the only place in the city where I didn’t fear for my physical safety after dark. Or at least it used to be. As a law student in nearby Palo Alto, I was convinced by friends that this stronghold of proud individualism would be the perfect place to celebrate Halloween. I mean, what better place to play dress up and make believe with your friends, than a place which encourages and celebrates the same year-round, right? Wrong. Way wrong. It’s difficult to describe the true horror of the Halloween scene at the Castro. It felt like the truest approximation of what I would expect to see in the streets at the Apocalypse. Social order wasn’t being blithely ignored, it was being forcefully abandoned. There wasn’t so much shouting as there was screaming. There wasn’t pushing and shoving, there was fighting - with weapons! Windows were being smashed, cars rolled, and trash bins lit afire. One of most peaceful, jubilant and tolerant places on earth had been transformed into a living nightmare. So, if you’re looking to simulate actual hell during your October 31st festivities, you now know where to find it. For everyone else, stick to your local costume party, and save the hell for Sundays.

* * *
I’m all for experiencing new things, and certainly an advocate for getting yourself outside of your comfort zone every so often. That being said, I’m also no proponent of putting yourself purposefully into your discomfort zone - as I am similarly not a proponent of festering, freezing or bleeding. It’s cool if you’re into that sort of thing, as long as it’s cool with you that I’m not. Vacations, like any time off, should not, as a rule, involve anything particularly painful - because, well, that’s what the gym, work and watching The Notebook with your girlfriend are for. Like stocks, investment opportunities and anything advertised on TV after midnight - if something sounds too good to be true, it is. So the next time someone is telling you what an awesome time they had collecting beads, New Year’s kisses or drug-laced candy corn, it’s best to remember three important things: (1) it’s not you they’re trying to convince, (2) misery loves company, and (3) you avoid contracting 100% of the diseases you don’t hang out with. Safe travels everyone, and I’ll see you in Philly in December.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

3 Fall Fashion Faux-Pas

To be honest, I wouldn’t know “fall fashion” from its other seasonal counterparts, except that when it gets colder, I tend to put more clothes on. That being said, it seems that no matter how much advice is offered on what not to wear these days (i.e. a Google search of “what not to wear” yielded approx. 726,000 results), there seem to be more and more examples of people who either got dressed in the dark or let their pets/pre-adolescent children choose their clothes. I recently had an occasion to be at a grocery store near the middle of the day and it looked like everyone there had gotten dressed out of the “free” box at a garage sale. And trust me, I’m no fashion snob - I think it makes about as much sense to pay $300 for shoes just because they say “Prada” on them as it does to try and retrieve items from a garbage disposal while it’s running. That being said, there is simply no viable excuse for deciding to wear cutoff jeans 3 sizes too small, or a t-shirt that was last washed during the Clinton administration. And so, as a word of a advice to either take or pass on to a friend who desperately needs it, here are 3 things you really need to stop wearing:

1. Sleeves Optional. There is only one group of people who are truly allowed to wear anything sleeveless in public, and those are women whose underarms stop shaking as soon as their arms do. Note, there are no age restrictions here, but if you have enough extra arm hanging where there’s supposed to be a tricep, that there’s an outside chance you might be able to fly, you need to do us all a favor and try to cover some of that up. For the opposite sex, there is simply never a good reason as a grown man to wear something without sleeves. Let’s be honest, there’s an overwhelming probability that you don’t have the guns to pull it off (especially if you ever refer to your arms as “guns”), and even on the off chance that you do, you look like a complete asshat for needing everyone to notice. The only time I can ever recall a man looking correctly dressed in something sleeveless was when Cooter Davenport was doing it amidst fixing the Duke boys’ car and shouting “yee-HAW!” over the CB. So unless you’re a slender young lady, or are fixin’ to help Bo & Luke get away from Roscoe again, find some damned sleeves.

2. Dragons. There was once an innocent time when I thought that crosses and skulls marked the height of screen-printed douchebaggery, and that seeing there was no place to go but up, our latest generations would seek out at least marginally less ridiculous totems. But alas, I was wrong. Amidst a generation obsessed with adolescent wizards and gay vampires, they’ve come up with something even more absurd to plaster all over their clothing: dragons. Seriously, post adolescents haven’t been this obsessed with these oversized lizards since the Middle Ages (which was, at it turns out, the last time it was showing up this frequently on clothing). Dragons are to bad-assery what Shape-Ups are to athletic prowess; you may think that you’re sporting can’t miss indicia of your mad skills, but you’re really just wearing orthopedic shoes. I truthfully can’t imagine taking anyone seriously who was wearing something with a dragon on it. The only thing I should see dragons on in 2010 are my Chinese take-out boxes. If you want to look exotic, try a tan, darker hair and a bigger butt - and leave the dragons to the nerds with the 20-sided dice.

3. Mixing Brands. It’s one thing to have personal taste so bad and a self-worth so pervasively low that you need to display the brand name of the clothing you buy as boldly and loudly as you possibly can. It’s quite another to lack the good sense to avoid doing this with more than one brand at once. Honestly, I’d rather see someone wearing both horizontal and vertical stripes than a Juicy Couture sweatsuit, oversized D&G sunglasses (worn inside, no doubt), Ed Hardy Ugg boots and a Louis Vitton handbag. These personal billboards of desperation make me feel the sort of vicarious embarrassment that I usually reserve for people unsuccessfully auditioning for American Idol. And like those same “Idol” wanna-be’s, the real tragedy of the situation is not their failure, but their utter obliviousness to it. On balance, these fashion brand pimps likely consider themselves to be at the pinnacle of personal apparel, all the while looking like a homeless person who raided the dumpster behind a fashion show. If anyone besides Joan Rivers ever asks you “who you’re wearing”, that’s a fantastic excuse to (a) never speak to them again, or (b) slap them with a shovel. Come to think of it, the same actually holds true for Joan Rivers. Trust me, no one worth caring about really cares.

* * *

It would appear that personal fashion is experiencing a bear market just as dismal as the U.S. economy of late. Despite our most fervent high hopes and the previously cyclical nature of such things, the apparel awareness of the public at large continues to plummet, with no hope of recovery in the foreseeable future. Just when it appears there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon (e.g. trucker’s hats falling out of vogue, everyone starting to pull their pants up, or women realizing that no one looks particularly good in a poncho) another even more absurd, inexplicable or downright foolish fad pops up to take its place (e.g. the faux-hawk on grown men, gladiator sandals, or the widespread acceptance of Crocs as acceptable footwear) and down deeper into the fashion abyss we plummet. One can only hope that this absurdity of style reaches some sort of critical mass, where even amidst our ever-deepening self-absorbed hazes we will all stop, look at our ostentatious screen prints, faux workout gear, gaudy hats and ridiculous footwear, and then collectively ask each other, “what the hell are we wearing?”