Look At Me Right Now! .com

June 10, 2014

Social media has ushered in – among other things – an age of staggering egocentricity. Any mook with a mobile phone can, with sickening ease and speed, announce anything to the world. Idealists regard this ability as the freedom of unregulated self-expression. In truth, not every aspect of every self is worth expressing. Too seldom does somebody with an intelligence quotient greater than the number of letters in the English alphabet announce something interesting about something interesting. Too often, social media is little more than an open sewer in which worthwhile self-expression suffocates in dim-witted self indulgence. The ability to tell anybody anything has fooled many into thinking anybody cares. Granted, those many probably did not require much effort to fool.

Why do we visit museums? To see worthwhile art. What if museums let slip standards and filled themselves with every cartoon from a third grader’s penmanship notebook? We would not visit. Or visit once, just for the novelty.

Once, publishing a thought to more than the number of subscribers to a neighborhood newsletter required a threshold level of intellect and  at least a nodding acquaintance with the language in which publication was attempted, and typically applying that aptitude to something worth the effort and cost of publication. This was a golden age in which “selfies” did not exist – or, if they did, were not inflicted upon readers like mustard gas. Discretion existed. It was understood that, just as restraint is the essence of taste, an absence of restraint proves an absence of taste.

When effort and cost ceased to constrain publication, so too did quality.

Worse than a simple absence of taste (which is a personal problem) is an overinflated sense of self-importance (which can present a public problem). Those unrestrained by taste in an age of social media are free to indulge a staggering egocentricity which insists people other than their parents care that they are a) sooo tired of waiting in line at Starbucks ha ha ha!, b) thanking all my peeps for the bestest birthday wishes!!! feel sooo loved, or c) omg so so so excited for Glee season finale!!!!!!!!!!

Cost and effort, the safeguards of publishing which once kept the thoughts of morons safely out of sight, are hence mourned.

This may be an ironic stance for a web log to take. The medium was once rightly derided by Joe Rago of the Wall Street Journal as the provence of “the blog mob” – a territory to be avoided. But drastic times, etc. Public discourse used to be a marketplace of ideas. Entry to the market meant having something worth selling. Nowadays, the cost of admission is a cartload of garbage with which to abuse shoppers.

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100% Guaranteed Online Privacy Protector

December 19, 2011

Social networking monolith Facebook rolled out its “Timeline” application this week, allowing users to construct pictorial autobiographies online for the enjoyment and convenience of friends and family and complete strangers. The process involves organizing photographs posted and made available online, ranging from the recent to the prehistoric, and the depth with which the networking site can plumb its users’ digital pasts has privacy protectors off to the ramparts, cranking the alarms.

With Facebook’s Timeline application, they warn, private online data will be even less safe than it was before, when its only threats were Twitter, blogs, Google, Flickr, Photobucket, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and the old-fashioned Facebook. The alarmists have, as pointed out in these pages once or twice before, overlooked – in their rush to the ramparts – the obvious solution:

If you don’t want people to know something about you, and don’t want them to be able to find it out, don’t put it online. Don’t post, tweet, chirp, hoot or do any other silly thing about it. Keep it to yourself. Contrary to apparently popular belief and reality television, not everybody needs – or wants – to know everything about everbody else, all the time.  

Accusing organizations like Facebook of invading our privacy, or paving the way for others to invade it, is a galactic abdication of personal responsibility. After all, Facebook didn’t put those embarassing New Year’s Eve photographs online for public consumption… we did. Making information available online and complaining when it’s found is like leaving the keys in your Mercedes and being surprised when it’s stolen.


Authenticity, Faked

May 17, 2010

With narrow exception, the fashion web logs out there, especially those inclined to advise, are worthless. To be fair, some aren’t bad (and some of those which aren’t, or are less bad than the rest, are linked to herein). Few of them lurch across the line into “good” and none of them demonstrate anything beyond a passing familiarity with the English language. Than is usually then, or vice-versa; there are lots of words spent on “The Ivy League Look,” very few on the places where that look grew up: schools which would be ashamed to have turned out most of these bloggers.

The style bloggers are enamored of what they call sprezzatura, an idea of affected nonchalance. They love the concept in parts nearly equal to their disdain of grammar. Think of rumpled shirt-collars, ties tied so that the back-end (the “blade”) hangs down as far as, or more than, the front, and working buttonholes left unbuttoned on jackets. That’s the idea: “I’m too stylish to care about style, so these casual mistakes are actually indicative of my sophistication… I’m so fashionable that I’m above caring whether I’m fashionable or not, and that makes me even more hip.”

This is obviously stupid, but alerting the sartorial blogosphere won’t do any good. Those people have enough trouble on their hands already, sounding out words in their heads as they write.

So we’ll leave this between us, you and your editorial staff, and we’ll do our best to lay it out quickly. If you make an effort to outfit yourself in a way that looks like it didn’t require effort, and go so far as to prove your lack of effort by making the additional effort to introduce into that outfit some small foible like unbuttoned shirt cuffs, you’re not too fashionable to care about being fashionable: you’re a fraud.

What’s worse, you’re an obvious fraud because no man who cares enough to spend $500 on his necktie would not care enough to tie it properly. So the improperly tied tie must be done that way on purpose, we all know, and since we all know, you’re not fooling anybody but yourself. You’re the trust fund brat who eschews “Capitalist materialism” to travel the world and find his poetic soul in Amsterdam but doesn’t mind, or get, the irony of undertaking the soul-searching on his parents’ dime. Again… a fraud.

A few come by their artful slovenliness honestly: they’ve been wearing ties and blazers since prep school and reach for the repp so absentmindedly that the way it’s tied really is honestly absent-minded; those guys aren’t the type on the fashion blogs. And if you’ve spent $2,000 on a sport coat with functional buttonholes so you can leave one artfully unbuttoned, you’re not one of them. Don’t pretend you are.

Chuck Bass: too cool to care?


Your Name Here!

February 22, 2010

A quick scan of any “Top 10” list having to do with web logs (“blogs”) reveals some really awful writing. Authors either ramble aimlessly or don’t make any sense at all, can’t correctly spell five words in a row to save their lives, and generally attack proper grammar like it’s a grizzly bear going after their first-born.

Astounding, then, that these people make money from their blogs. Or not, given the state of our public schools. How many sophisticated readers are we really turning out every year? Judging from the popularity of Perez Hilton, not many. Blogs hailed as “revolutionary” certainly aren’t anything like it, at least not in the American sense: the leaders of that Revolution knew how to spell.

With that in mind, this web log is offered for sale to anybody at all. Its normal editorial staff will keep content current and entertaining, though maybe not “revolutionary.” All a buyer needs to do is send a monthly check, and then advertise whatever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants on these pages. Honestly, the heavy lifting has already been done: a lot of sentences have been made out of English words and then organized into paragraphs here, which is more than most blogs manage.

A literate, informative blog… with pictures!… is within your reach! Price is negotiable. No reasonable offer will be refused. Interested parties should contact the editorial staff via the “Comments” function on this page.

Really, it’s better than most of the other crap out there. A lot of sentences here even have periods at the end. 


The Measure of a Man

June 25, 2009

Regular internet sartorial searchers are already well abreast of the explosive trend in men’s bespoke (custom) fashion forums, discussion boards, blogs, and e-mail lists. Gentrystyle.com explains: “[Online custom clothing forum] The London Lounge, and to a lesser extent American sites such as Ask Andy and Style Forum, provide a nonthreatening space in which to demystify the bewildering array of choices and protocol that you face when you visit a good tailor. The London Lounge can teach you how to identify peak and notch lapels, double and single vents, besom and patch pockets, ghillie collars, floating canvas and raglan sleeves.”

tailor

Of course, all of this is important. As previously noted here, taking care in appearance is very important because appearances are often first indicators of deeper characteristics. An attorney with untied shoes might write equally sloppy briefs and motions. A doctor with stains on his cuff might be equally lazy about washing his hands before surgery. And so on. The thinking is: industry, care, attention to detail, and cleanliness, if present within, will be reflected without. The same holds true of their absence.

As also previously noted here, however, the importance of appearance as an indicator is in hinting at deeper values, not as an indicator of appearance itself. Tying your shoes doesn’t make you a good lawyer any more than wearing boots makes you a cowboy, unfortunately, and clean cuffs won’t make you a good surgeon any more than a magnifying glass makes you a detective. Dressing well is fine, but dressing to purposely evoke an image is worthless without also acting in the values and traditions of that image. Absent the actual identity, you’re only wearing a costume.

Bespoke London: Savile Row.

Bespoke London: Savile Row.

 Men used to wear button-down Brooks collars and repp ties with khakis and Alden loafers because it’s what they’d grown up with, and the clothing was a uniform which was, like all uniforms, incidental to their jobs. And like uniforms, their clothing was habitual. For example: an army officer wears a brown shirt because it’s part of his uniform. He may own 10 identical brown shirts, and take one down to wear every morning without a second thought. A civilian who asks his tailor to make him an expensive brown shirt, and takes it down in the morning and obsesses over the buttons, the epaulets, the creases, the medals, and then wears it very self-consciously because he wants to mimic the army officer style… isn’t an army officer.

In Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder’s cousin Jasper gives him some advice on dressing for Oxford. There isn’t much detail… certainly less than can be found daily on the fashion blogs. Commentator Michael Anton explains: “Forty years ago, when a father introduced his tailor to his son, they probably both thought, ‘This is something we do, but let’s not dwell on it, because that would be unseemly’. They’d look at the level of interest on these internet forums as going way beyond what is appropriate.” Clothes are a means (appearance) to an end (respectability), not an end unto themselves.

Here, two competing schools of thought emerge. In the first corner is a disdain for costumes and affectation. For those born to a station which includes a certain look, that look comes without effort. Men from certain backgrounds reach for the Sperry brand boat shoes because it’s what they know, not because an internet discussion board said they should. Those who put in effort to look a certain way must not have come by that look naturally. In the second, competing corner: a great sigh of relief that men think it worthwhile again to be aware of proper dress and try their hand at it, even if the effort requires, well, effort. Surely we can’t be any worse off for more men wearing ties and actually caring about how to knot them, and it beats the hell out of more denim shorts and Bluetooth headsets.