Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

3 Wearing Warnings

While the turning of the New Year brings resolute behavior to many of us, it doesn’t seem to move the needle much when it comes to ill-advised fashion choices.  Despite the availability of well-made, stylish and flattering clothing at exceptionally reasonable prices, it seems like an impossible majority of people still look like they dress themselves without the assistance of friends, mirrors or indoor lighting.  Fashion advice abounds, in almost every conceivable medium, and yet, its like there’s been a conscious effort to avoid any employment of the same.  The only explanation that I can come up with is that the abundance of “what to wear” advice has become so overwhelming that no one’s bothered to offer a similar volume of advice of the “what not to wear” variety.  As it turns out, however, fashion is much easier to screw up than to get right, and so, in the hopes that I might be the catalyst of a cascade of criticism, here are three things you almost certainly should not be wearing:

1.  Faux-ssociation.  There have always been, and there will always been certain pastimes, hobbies and other activities with a sort of cool caché; an implicit sense of fashion forwardness that is validated solely by the activity itself.  For the west coast crowd, this mantle has traditionally been borne by skaters and surfers and, in recent years, by the mixed martial arts crowd.  Now, while I am perfectly happy to see these free souls find a way to make a living doing what they love - by selling their duds to the public - the sprawl of these styles (by way of shopping mall brands like Pac-Sun, Tillys, Zumiez, etc.) has rendered them a staple of modern dress no more remarkable than Levi’s, Old Navy or the Gap.  But what is even more troubling than the mainstreaming of this counterculture, is the almost unbelievable swagger that it seems to engender – as though simply by wearing the same clothes, these double-digit IQ mouth-breathers have adopted the carefree and well earned bravado of these modern-day cowboys.  Sure, in my day, we wore the apparel of our favorite heroes, both large and small, but I was also sure that wearing my Hulkamania t-shirt didn’t make me a wrestler, nor did my Air Jordans give me the ability to dunk a basketball.  So to be clear, your Billabong shirt doesn’t change the fact that the only things you’ve surfed are your parents’ couch and the Internet; your skate shoes don’t make you a skater, they just make you too lazy to buy grown-up shoes, and your TapOut shirt does not make you a fighter, they just make a jerk off with anger issues and a grudge against your ex-girlfriend.  The clothes don’t make the man, especially when they come with screen-printed logos.

2.  Big Timers.  As the cell phone has become more and more ubiquitous, it has come to replace any number of previously cherished personal items: our calendars, our address books, and perhaps someday soon, even our wallets.   But perhaps nothing it has replaced has been so obvious or unexpected as the wristwatch.  I truly can’t remember the last time I was compelled to wear one of these anachronistic pieces.  There is just no need, as the accurate time is always at my fingertips, just the push of a button away.  And so, the watch has ceased to function as a necessity, and is reduced to solely a fashion accessory.  You might think that, relegated to this status, the watch would become a subtle accent piece – the pocket square of jewelry, if you will.  But of course, you would be wrong.  The modern day wristwatch has grown to ludicrous proportions, both in size and "bling."  And as women have taken to wearing watch sizes previously reserved for men, men, not to be outdone, now wear watch faces that could serve double duty as drink coasters, with numbers large enough to be read from across the room.  Look, the bottom line here is simple, if the diameter of your watch face, in inches, starts with the number two or higher, there’s simply no chance that you have anything of value to offer the world, and you may as well just wear that watch into traffic – at least that way it can finally serve a useful purpose, noting the time of death of one more douche.

3.  Size Shmedium.  It’s not like I don’t get it.  I was a late bloomer.  I get that an appropriately small t-shirt can lend a measure of credibility to a torso that just doesn’t have any hope in something that actually fits.  And there is a time in a man's life when this is the sort of thing I could overlook – and that time is high school.  So unless you’re making Friday night plans to see the football game, or trying to figure out who to take to the Prom, you really need to find a shirt that actually fits you.  There is nothing more desperate and pathetic than a grown man wearing a shirt tight enough that you can count his ribs.  Seriously, who do you think you’re fooling?  Here’s a quick test, gents: raise your arms above your head – if your shirt has now produced a bare midriff it’s not the right size.  Want to know a secret?  Women can tell how big you are no matter what you wear.  That’s right, just like black stretch pants that have a better chance of hiding a chalk stain than a big butt – they’ve got us figured out – and now you just look like a five foot ten inch tall stack of self-esteem issues.  Honestly, a shirt that tight couldn’t be any less masculine if it was hot pink, bedazzled and covered in rainbow glitter.  What’s worse, they actually cut and size modern t-shirts to produce the look you're going for – so you’re only foiling the efforts of much more talented designers (and looking even dumber in the process) by refusing to size up.  Do us all a favor, ask for some size help at the store, and for the sake of all of us, get the “Large.”

* * *     

Despite all of the options out there, it’s really not that hard to figure out what not to wear.  All you need to do is put yourself in that same cruel and relentless mindset you used to take to middle school every day.  You know, that awkward time in your life where you going through so many changes that the only thing that satiated your own terror was pointing what was wrong with everyone else?  Yup, that’s the one.  Channel that inner demon child and sidle up to the closest full-length mirror and take a good long look.  If your mind begins to spin out of control with the requisite flood of mockery, it’s time to head back into the closet and try again – maybe this time with the lights on.  This process can be repeated until the only decent insult you can come up with is: “you look like a big stupid grown up” – then you’re finally ready to head out the door.  Because keeping in touch with your inner child is only a good idea if you don’t let him pick out your clothes.      

Monday, January 7, 2013

3 I Told You So's

There are few things so easily and justifiably hate-able as Notre Dame football.   In a world where fads and brands come and go like the seasons, those that refuse to exit so gracefully become a disappointing reminder of the petulance that often accompanies ignorance.  Every football game Notre Dame plays is a morality play, where the “Irish” play the part of the villainy of modern day entitlement and ill-deserved self-righteousness.  Watching Notre Dame win is like watching the rich and poorly-mannered kid get the girl; like watching Goliath beat David; like watching Justin Beiber upstage the Rolling Stones.  But this season, and the least impressive 12-0 record in the history of college football, has always had a sense of inevitability to it.   You knew, you just knew, that at some point, it had to give; at some point, the luck of a team who’s no more Irish than the good folks in Tuscaloosa had to run out; at some point, there would be a reckoning.  And so there was.  But while I’m not in the habit of dancing on graves, planting a foot on a great and vanquished evil and pumping a fist is exactly the kind of thing I’m about – so here are three reasons why Notre Dame sucks, and why I was right all along

1.         Hijacked Pride.  Nothing about the Notre Dame football you see today is genuine.  Nothing.  The colors (blue and gold)?  Well, you should know by now who had those first (and who still wears them best).  Fighting Irish?  Well depending on where you read it, they got that nickname from either opposing fans, opposing players or the New York Daily News – how’s that for originality?    The legend of Rudy?  Well just ask Joe Montana (who, as it turns out was the last ND quarterback to win a Super Bowl) who has maintained that it just never happened.  QB University?  How are Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen working out in the NFL?  As for their fans, well, I don’t even know where to begin.  The overwhelming majority of Irish fans have never even been on the campus, let alone attended or graduated from the University.  Many of them are Catholic, but that doesn’t explain why they’re not rooting for Boston College, Villanova, or Loyola.  A few are Irish, but they seem like they’d better served rooting for their national soccer team than a bunch of kids who couldn’t tell you the difference between Protestants and Catholics if you gave them cue cards, hints, and three tries at it.  Truth is, there’s more reality in reality television than in any “Irish Pride.”          

2.         Tired Dynasty.  The only thing I can think of which has lived longer off it’s long past glory to get fans to suffer its current utter noxiousness is Star Wars, and while the last great Star Wars movie predated the last great Notre Dame team by five years, George Lucas at least at three shots at it – whereas the “vaunted Fighting Irish” got their first chance to stink up a National Championship game a heady twenty five years after their last.  Seriously, if getting to the final game every two or three decades qualifies as a “dynasty” then we’ve got more college football royalty than we know what to do with.  The worst part of this is, their fans don’t know this.  They’re reliving 1988 like it happened last year, you know like that one guy at your twenty year reunion who was telling old football stories in the hopes of bedding a cheerleader one last time?  Honestly, barely skipping by Pitt and Purdue doesn’t make you a champion, it makes you a middling top 25 team that got some lucky bounces and a few good recruits.  The only thing scary about Notre Dame coming to play your team is the horde of mouth-breathing idiot fans who wouldn’t know sportsmanship if it walked up and slapped them (which isn’t such a bad idea).

3.         Behind the Shine.  The real reason, the best reason, to hate Notre Dame is what lurks behind those glittery helmets and face-painted shamrocks.  Despite the fact that it’s planted smack dab in the middle of small-town Indiana – the kind of place that is just about as “Midwest” as a place can get – Notre Dame is a private school for rich kids who think winning is a birthright, and not something you earn.   Notre Dame in South Bend is like putting a Barney’s in the middle of a WalMart.  But how else can you explain a fan base that legitimately believes that it’s chasing a national title the year after winning 3, 7 and 6 games?  It takes a special kind of entitlement to believe that you’re chasing greatness when you’re chasing Purdue around the field.  The audacity of the ND fan base is exactly what you might expect from a culture where 50% of the nation’s young adults believe they’re in the top 10%.  Notre Dame is the epitome of an all-shine and no-substance culture that generates fame for its own sake – and if you can find a better reason that to hate them, I’d like to hear it.

* * *

Comeuppance, recompense, just desserts – whatever you want to call it, what transpired in the national championship of college football in 2013, was the kind of justice that we all expected, that we all needed after a season of doubt turned into a month of creeping belief, and we all simply couldn’t take any more.  For just a moment, we all stopped believing our own eyes – looked at the statistics and wondered if there just wasn’t enough good left in this broken system to keep an evil empire from assuming the throne.  But as every good story goes, there is always a great fall in store for those whose achievements are built on long-faded reputation, an unwillingness to take on challenges and transparent bravado.  As the great Pat Haney once taught me, so many years ago, it’s about heart, and this team, simply has none.  Because Notre Dame’s is a legacy whose heartbeat has long since been replaced by the echoes of past glory, and for those with the will to fight each day like it’s their last, for those who play with heart, in the end, there will always be victory.  Roll Tide. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

3 Reasons to Come Back

Knowing when to quit is a nuanced skill.  After all, we love nothing more than a good comeback.  Our professional sports leagues award Comeback Players Of the Year; we line up for sequels of even the most tired franchises and we hold no ideal in greater regard than that of never giving up hope.  That said, we also note with disdain and vicarious embarrassment, those who have held on too long: the athlete who retires and un-retires repeatedly, the aging actress who insists on obvious plastic surgery and the band who, despite custom made monitors, fails to notice that they just can’t hit the notes anymore. (Dear the Guess Who, I’m talking to you).  But despite these cautionary tales, I find my cup not quite as empty as I expected.  And so, a great risk to whatever reputation the previous iterations of this project has built for me, I have decided to come back for one more year.  And by way of explanation the only way I know how, here are three reasons I’m back:

1.  I can be.  The combination of the pending end to the football season, the greatest dearth of entertaining television since we invented the thing and no pressing yard work has left me with a great deal of free weekend time which I’m remiss to fill with anything similarly mindless.  I’ve tried crosswords, audio books and word games on my iPhone, but nothing really satiates me addiction to wording like just writing them down.  And so I’m back to spending my free doing what I spend the other twelve hours of my day doing: slapping the ol’ keyboard around (which may be the worst euphemism for writing, ever).  The primary difference being, no one will pay me to write the funny stuff.  Sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither do Gummi Krabby Patties, Gangham Style or the chronology of the James Bond series, and I’m completely addicted to all of those.  For the most part, I’ve got the time, and when I don’t I can finally make it.  And guess who gets to benefit from all that?  It’s definitely not my lawn.

2.  I want to be. Crossing the finish line of twenty years since high school means not being ashamed to like what you like, and I just like writing this stuff.  Three Things represents the first thing I’ve ever written that I can consistently go back and not be mortified while reading.  Sure, there are always things that I might tweak – and a few pieces I’d like to take back altogether, but on balance, I actually like what I wrote back then, and I’d like to have the same experience years from now.  Truth is, Facebook notwithstanding, very little of what we do has any permanence, and even less of it has any desirable permanence.  So if you find something that fits that category, seems to me like you ought to keep up with it.  Sure, I could spend my time doing all sort of mindless jibber-jabber, but just like a glass of scotch versus a fruity cocktail, I prefer laying down these tireless rants over more hedonistic endeavors.  Sure it may burn a little more at first, but doesn’t that seem to make the ride just that much sweeter?

3.  I must be. The catharsis of writing is a cruel addiction.  Walk away for just a moment, and the ache of keeping it bottled up arrives before the ink has dried on your previous piece.  Do that for the better part of a year, and you’ve got all the makings of a psychotic break.  Writing is a life sentence.  Writing is our most basic expression of intellect.  It is the sharing of information in a permanent way that gave rise to our civilization as we know it.  Recording our thoughts, our impressions and our aspirations is the most human thing we do, and if I have discovered any small part of the “meaning of life” it is that we are meant to share our minds.  No endeavor has ever given me the intellectual satisfaction that I derive from these pieces; this includes a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, qualification as a Nuclear Engineer in the Navy’s submarine program, a law degree from Stanford and eight years of private practice.  And so, for any measure of peace of mind, I have no choice… but to write.

* * *

When I first started writing these odes to that great Trifecta in the sky, I wondered if I might ever run out of “threes” to muse over.  And to that end, 2012 was instructive: there was always be new and horrible things to rant about; there will always be beautiful and wondrous exceptions to our otherwise barbaric and foolish nature to inspire with; and there will always, always be a reason to laugh, cry and maybe do that awkward thing that’s a bit of both.  And because of these things, these three things, I’m back – and with a little luck, and a whole lot of your support, I’ll be better than ever.