Thursday, September 16, 2010

AttaCHE Bags, CHanel, et les CHameaux

When I bought my beautiful Cadillac, I felt that it would be discordant to have my black nylon “attaché” bag lying on the iced-coffee-colored leather upholstery in the back seat, so I bought the perfect beige leather bag from the Levenger catalogue (they bill themselves as selling “tools for readers,” but I always think of them as more “tools for writers”), which has been my daily companion ever since. (The look I was striving for was what I think of as "CEO": a gorgeous leather attache case, a pair of gray suede gloves, and a crisp Wall Street Journal carefully folded in thirds.) I used to get tons of compliments over that bag (which that catalogue no longer sells anything comparable to anymore), but now (110,000 miles later on the Cadillac, which is still more or less pristine, thanks to a rebuilt engine and transmission by my expert mechanic and a new gold vinyl roof and new upholstery on the driver’s seat), the bag has become pretty thrashed. It’s stained and loose and floppy instead of tight and some of the trim on the edges has worn off, but it’s certainly still serviceable, perhaps more than ever. I can’t say that I treat it as carefully as I did before (which in a terrible way makes me think of something written by Zora Neal Hurston about the black man Tea Cake beating his woman because she wasn’t as pretty as another one), and in a way I kind of have my eye open for finding a new one.

But I’m anything but fashionable these days like I used to be when I was younger; it’s almost like “what’s the point,” with this body that’s as used and scathed as the bag I was just talking about. And one thing I have basically stopped completely is wearing cologne, when only about as recently as a decade ago I had a virtual wardrobe of cologne. That is to say that there was “daily going to the office cologne” and “weekend lying about cologne” and “going to brunch cologne” and “incredibly elegant going out on special occasions cologne”. There was even “hmmm yummy ‘voulez vous couchez avec moi?’” cologne. But now, it’s whatever soap I had just used in the shower and a rolled-on splash of Aubrey “E Plus High C” deodorant that I buy at Whole Foods. Does that even have a scent? Let me look at the label…gee, I guess it does, the first ingredient is rose water. So that’s what I am doing nowadays, going around smelling like rose water and sea kelp? (Or olive oil.)

But I’m not immune to marketing…in fact, I am extremely susceptible to it, especially when such experts as Chanel and top film directors and fragrance and color and packaging and language experts get together. Such as here: directed by Baz Luhrman. What’s to not like? Paris, Istanbul, ancient European train stations, the Orient Express, a sleeping compartment at night, ferry boats on the Bosphorus (if you had ever seen the movie Steam, you would be in love with Istanbul), two gorgeous people shown to great advantage surrounded by gold and skin tones, French accents, and (I’m guessing here) Billie Holiday. Might as well pierce us through the heart with a steam roller, but I love it.

Who knows why exactly, but, those marketing experts and my susceptibility again, this very much caught me:

I think maybe because I am drawn to woolen navy blue coats (let’s say like a peacoat, although I do not actually have one, because I happen to live in an almost always warm climate), despite the fact that the model is not actually wearing a peacoat, or maybe it’s the French accent again, or a somehow magnetic shade of blue that is almost black, but only a glance at this advertisement made my think I should go back to wearing cologne again, and that this cologne ought to be the one. It’s all about image, of course…I had NO idea what this cologne smelled like, but, peculiarly, that didn’t even seem to matter (although to a rational person, that seems to be the only pertinent thing, and to the rational and practical person, no fragrance whether you liked it or not would be worth $59 a 1.7 ounce bottle…would it?).

As it happens, my Visa bill was coming due and my Visa card is a Macy’s card, and you can pay your bill at the store. Also, I desperately needed a new pair of shoes, so I decided to go to Macy’s to pay my Visa bill and buy the shoes I needed. I was looking for something extremely comfortable that I could wear to work, so they had to be casual but look acceptably dressy. Regular dress shoes were feeling like a torture from the Spanish Inquisition. However, Macy’s had nothing that was close to what I wanted, so I figured I would try a regular shoe store elsewhere in the mall.

In walking through Macy’s to get to the rest of the mall, I happened to walk past the men’s cologne counters, and remembering the Chanel Bleu ad, I thought I would try a tester. I found the tester, sprayed a tiny amount of cologne on one wrist and rubbed both wrists together. To be honest, I did not like the scent at all. It seemed to be kind of similar to several other popular colognes, but lacked a certain “beauty” that I was hoping for. Well, I’m no expert on fragrance, but this one just didn’t seem to be “me”. Oh well, as I said, I wasn’t wearing cologne these days anyway and now I could save myself from spending $59.00.

I found a shoe store, Clark’s, that had the perfect “comfortable, casual, but looks good enough for business wear” shoe and they were even on sale, so I ended up buying two pairs of the shoe I liked, one in black and the other in brown. I had been helped by both a female sales clerk and a male manager, so they both were at the counter ringing up my sale and they both began to gush over my attaché bag (that hadn’t received any complements in quite a while). They were saying things like “that’s a classic,” “gets only better with age,” “very handsome and appealing,” and I was quite pleased to come away both with some wonderful shoes that I could wear and with so much appreciation for my bag.

Now that I had my shoes, I walked back through Macy’s so that I could pay my bill. Since Clark’s had been on an upper floor in the mall, I was now in an upper floor in Macy’s, a women’s clothing domain I had never entered before. I found a likely sales clerk who cheerfully handled my paying of the Visa bill. She also took the time to gush over my attaché bag, saying pretty much the same things that the clerks at Clark’s had said. Again, I was quite well-pleased by this, but also rather surprised.

Later in my car driving home, I was marveling over this sudden approval over my poor worn out leather bag. At both places where I had a personal interaction, the sales people really loved it. Suddenly as my hands were turning the wheel of my car, I caught a whiff of the Chanel Bleu that was on my wrists, the fragrance now resting on its “final note,” which, by itself, was actually something that I really liked. Then I realized it, that’s what had to be it, it was the cologne that had been causing all this positive reaction to my bag. It must have seemed that I was (suddenly back to being) “fashionable”. That’s what I was thinking then. But then later, I read a review of the cologne by a fragrance expert, who defined the final note of the scent as “suede”…in other words, some kind of “leather”. So now I see that what must have been happening was the final suede note of the Chanel Bleu on my wrists was as if my attaché bag, itself, were sitting there broadcasting its presence and its “leatherness”, very much like if I had obtained from a car manufacturer that “new car smell” (which is NOT the same thing as the kind you can get at the car wash), anyone sitting in my car very well might start gushing over how beautiful my car is, despite the fact that it now has a mileage that has gone beyond 100,000 miles! Fragrance really is a powerful force.

So I guess I am kind of back to keeping one eye open for a new bag, although I haven’t yet seen anything that is anywhere near as nice as the bag I already have. Such as these in the pictures that follow, I don’t like them very well because they have the messy complication of all those buckles and straps. Mine closes perfectly with just one elegant metal oblong device that fits through a slot in the flap and turns from horizontal to vertical to lock it closed. One flip of the fingers does it.

I DO love the marketing idea of these bag ads, though, where they show their bags in use at exotic places around the world. I just happened to think that these camels in these photos are so damned cute, the way they curl up their legs when they are resting. Why aren’t camels appreciated more? I mean, for sure these are as cute as kittens all curled up on a pillow, aren’t they? Yet think how hard they work. They deserve their rest, sweet things. I wish I could pet them; does anybody ever pet the working camels?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Super Model Ash Stymest

I guess I will dare to go out on a limb, here, and say that as a super male model, Ash Stymest must represent something quite different from what we ordinarily expect. I really do like him, but the question is why? I don't think he is particularly good-looking; he is young and all, but compared with some others such as Paddy Mitchell or Luke Worrall, or let's really be unfair and throw in somebody like Francisco Lachowski, guys who are "swoon down on your knees WOW", I don't think Ash Stymest has the same effect. He doesn't have a really great body. Yes, he is at least lean, very lean, but if he has any muscles at all it is because he plays around and is hyper-active, skateboarding, dancing, or just plain won't sit still. But I doubt he has touched a weight or entered a gym, which means there's no conscious effort toward his body, he just sort of has this natural body that is sexy and appealing for no discernable reason other than he just doesn't worry about it, but instead enjoys it without concern.

One of course notices his tattoos (maybe with like, maybe with dislike), but on the whole, those are more of a distortion to the body than an enhancement, I think. I do LOVE the way he says "tattoo," though; I wish I could write it in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but the way he says it is a kind of a lightly skimming over something like "taddauw" but said so appealingly that it almost makes ME want to get one too (and that's saying the nearly impossible). I think tattoos would be truly wonderful if you could walk up to a person with them and ask him about them. I mean, really LOOK at them and get their story, not quickly glance away as if the person were badly crippled or had a horrible disfiguring disease. Maybe Ash Stymest is a person with tattoos that make him look dangerous and tough, and yet you aren't afraid of him.

And honestly, as much as he is photographed, are they ever having him wear any kind of clothes that you would actually wear (although you maybe kind of wish you COULD wear, but only he can and you can't)? This means that you are yearning toward a world he lives in, and you can, when you realize that he seems to making it up himself as he goes along (I think he would be the first one to say this). If he can, you can.

I also imagine that he is kind of unhealthy (although of course I could be wrong, he could be almost Mormon in his pristine personal habits for all I really know), smoking, drinking, taking risks, there are probably drugs in there somewhere, all of which means that he could be eventually wearing out in a painful way, youth doesn't remain immune forever. But then, if so, he's also living in a world you are curious about but don't want to subject yourself to the danger of. So you watch him, instead, and enjoy its reflection.

I think what it is, is that he is a nuclear ball of energy. You never know what he is going to do, and probably neither does he, but he'll do it anyway and that lack of inhibition is powerfully magnetic. I don't think we could possibly stand him for long as lover or even a friend (we're not up to it), he would wear us out or send us screaming to the quiet comfort of a padded cell, but we would like to PLUG INTO him for a moment, but the most we could stand is what we get from a photograph or a video, a three-minute experience, or a two-dimensional one. The full-on experience of Ash Stymest in person would probably burn us out as if we touched a live power line. Does anybody know, does he have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or are all his human contacts like balls rolling around in a pinball machine, good for a quick bump, but then they've got to skitter away (or he does)? If he has some loved one, I'd love to see what they look like. I imagine hair as frizzy as a Troll doll and if you touched THEM, you'd jump back from the electric spark as if you had spent the last half hour shuffling along a thick carpet (whereas they're the one who has all the residual energy).

In short, what Ash Stymest shows is that you don't have to be beautiful in any tradition that anybody knows, you don't need to work out, groom yourself, count your calories, live in crippling moderation, worry about a future you have no control over, or follow anybody's irrelevant rules. You only need to be yourself without inhibition, regret, fear, social approval, or higher authority. How wonderful it is that a person who seems totally free can be a super model (that is, a representative for others), and that may be Ash Stymest's greatest power, that he is dissident and dissidence is exactly what we need, all of us, even those in power.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thoughts On The BP Oil Crisis

First of all, I am sick of it being called an "oil spill". It is not a "spill", it is a "leak" or a "spew" or a "gusher" or an "out of control uncapped oil well"; to constantly call it a "spill" is to harken back to the Exxon Valdez and other accidents wherein certain legal precedents were set, but this is a different situation entirely and needs to be looked at with fresh, unbiased eyes. (And using the right words instead of common "sound bites" is always being on the side of truth instead of manipulation.)

Second, I am sick of everybody saying "BP did this," and "BP did that". BP is a huge corporation (a legal creation on paper, actually), comprised of hundreds of employees, including board members, officers, managers, clerks, and every other type of occupation. What caused the explosion was a combination of decisions made by INDIVIDUAL workers on the job. It was a DRILLING SUPERVISOR who decided that chunks of rubber coming up out of the riser (which ended up being pieces of a damaged rubber ring that is one of three stopper methods used to temporarily cap off the well) weren't a problem enough to delay the operation, an operation that already had cost BP close to 30 million dollars, I think it was, in losses due to problems and delays in the drilling of the well (leasing the Deepwater Horizon costs a million dollars a day). Secondly, it was a BP MANAGER (again, an individual person) who overrode the Deepwater Horizon's method of filling the well with "mud" (a thick, heavy liquid substance which has weight that applies downward pressure to counteract the upward pressure of any gas or oil that seeks to escape from a well), which was the second of three capping-off methods, in the interest of making it more convenient and quick for the extraction platform that was going to come in afterwards (Deepwater Horizon is a drilling platform; after they drill, they cap off the well and move on to drill elsewhere while another platform comes to connect with the well and pump out the oil). So now we have two individuals making time and cost-saving decisions that compromised the safety of the operation and effectively eliminated two out of the three methods used to safely close off a well. The third method is the concrete cores that Halliburton installed. I do not have much information on that piece, except that I did hear that some manager at BP counteracted Haliburton's procedure in some way which compromised that, as well (used fewer cores, maybe, to plug up the well?). To hear how this whole thing is being treated, it was as if the Board of Directors themselves issued a policy of "safety features be damned, full speed ahead," you know, due to "greed" and all that, when really, again, it was individual workers on the scene making risky (and wrong) decisions, which can, and does, happen any and everywhere (such as the railroad engineer in Southern California who was text messaging just before having a head-on collision with another train). Perhaps BP "policy" can be blamed for putting on that pressure to hurry? But who has a job where THAT doesn't exist? (Why have I been putting in 12-hour work days for the past four months? Fortunately, I just work at a school instead of drilling the deepest underwater oil well in human history.)

This is NO DIFFERENT from the Challenger space shuttle explosion, where engineers warned that due to unseasonably cold temperatures in Florida that the rubber in the O-rings might have been compromised, but management at NASA refused to delay the launch due to fear of bad public relations and damage to their carefully drawn-out schedule (a delay in launch probably also costs money). This was a decision to "chance it", since they really didn't KNOW what the o-rings would, or would not do. The drilling supervisor on the Deepwater Horizon didn't actually KNOW that the annular ring was totally damaged, nor did the BP Manager KNOW that the pressure from the well would be too great to contain the methane gas without the weight of the "mud"; these men only knew that many millions of dollars had been "wasted" already and they wanted to hurry up and get this well capped off so that the pumping rig could then move in (maybe in a few hours?) and start extracting this oil.

I don't remember there being cries that NASA ought to be drawn and quartered because of this managerial decision to launch the space shuttle against engineering recommendations to not launch. Why? Because NASA is the GOVERNMENT whereas BP is a corporation; to liberals, GOVERNMENT is supposed to be the solution to these problems, yet always, it is individual working people who make the decisions whether they are working for the government or for a corporation. So, the very force that liberals want to use to regulate errors such as made by individuals working for a corporation (BP), were the actual forces that caused the Space Shuttle explosion (workers for NASA). So, increased government control is not the answer. Deepwater Horizon had the best safety record of any drilling facility out there (seven years without an injury or accident), yet the risk-taking decisions of a small handful of workers in a moment counteracted that great safety record and caused the greatest ecological disaster in history. But this is not "BP". It is a laborer for Deepwater Horizon and a mid-level manager for BP. It could be someone like us in some other setting.

"Corny" as it may seem, I feel like saying to all those screaming congressmen and liberals and environmentalists, "Let he who has never been involved in an accident or made a bad decision throw the first stone." Everybody else is just working to satisfy their agenda, which is to "destroy the petroleum industry" and "increase government control over all aspects of life." Sounds good to some level of idealist, but I see they're all still driving cars....

I will probably be vilified for my comments here, but I care about the environment just as much as anybody else does and I detest what happened and mourn the loss of life in whatever form it comes in, and I can't stand the thought of beautiful white Gulf beaches turned gray. But my grief over this situation does not make me succumb to regular "ten-minute sessions of hate" as if I lived in Oceania in 1984. My whole orientation is more "what exactly happened, what can we do to make sure it never happens again, and what can we do now that it HAS happened?" (This, of course, will never happen with a government commission, such as the one that Obama has already assembled of environmentalists and others who have already said that their agenda is to socialize the energy industry.) Looking to find who to blame and brand them as "evil" (members of the Board of Directors?) and spend all our time screaming at them and thinking of ways to punish them is simply medieval and really, not of much practical use to anybody.

Monday, January 25, 2010

They Don't Matter

I'm turning over a new leaf concerning my involvement on the Internet (although sometimes I feel that I am turning over so many new leaves that it is eternally autumn) and although it is a simple and almost childish thing, I am putting it down here in writing for my own benefit in hopes that I continue to follow it.

Virtually all correspondence on the Internet is anonymous and the truth is that we may be temporarily contacting a type of person that we would never willingly stand within 100 feet of in real life. I think of being on the Internet as somewhat similar to riding a Los Angeles Metro Bus, which I sometimes did, for example, when my car was in the shop. But riding a Metro bus is to be packed jostling body-to-body for a horrendous, extremely uncomfortable hour, hour and a half commute with people you just might not want to ever associate with for even a moment, let alone having your entire body pressed tightly against them for an eternity. So now whenever my car is in the shop, I rent a car.

I want to apply an "escape" similar to that regarding my use of the Internet, and this particularly pertains to forums, discussions, comments, and book and movie reviews within which I might participate. It is nearly impossible to read a list of comments on any subject without coming away from the experience being thoroughly revolted by some of the participants--"Who are these people?" and "Keep them away from me, please!"

In the several years that I have been extensively participating on the Internet, I have NEVER EVER seen a person change his point of view during a discussion. There is absolutely no learning, no compromises, no coming together of minds, no progress at all, just an ever-increasing spiral of filth and spittle. It's all about you extending an opinion to an anonymous stranger and then him spitting in your face something vile in response, not only disagreeing with your opinion, but also casting aspersions against your character. What's the point of it, really? If what I was interested in was cock fights, then where you would find me would be in some seedy part of town putting my money on some poor razor-blade-legged rooster. Since that's about as far from my personality as anything I can imagine, what am I doing wasting my time discussing things on the Internet with people who are, in my opinion (as far as the type of people I would willingly associate with), just as objectionable?

So I'm simply not going to do it anymore. Oh yes, I will still leave comments, reviews, my opinion, and I will also carry on a discussion with somebody worth discussing things with, but regarding this other type of person, I will simply ignore them. This is a hard thing for me to do, and in the past, I have been far too easily drawn into further escalating discussions until I can't stand the involvement any more. This has been very stupid of me, but I have learned from the experience and it is now at an end.

One of my favorite people of all time was American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In his day, he was a controversial figure (and actually still is) as many highly creative and innovative people are and he was forced to receive a lifetime of bile from other architects, critics, and various other people who just didn't understand. He was interviewed by Mike Wallace in a series of television programs and one of the questions Wallace asked him was what did he think about or do about this kind of person. And I loved his answer so much that I would like to see it carved into stone: "They don't matter. I realize that I am not for them, and they are not for me." And that ended the matter. Why should this man be interrupted in his progress by stepping into a pile of dog do? He'd just wipe his feet and move on. I absolutely love that attitude.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Old But Not Freakin'

Is it just me, or...

I mean, I know I am "old" and "out of touch" and all, but don't you think that if you were young:

and considered good-looking enough to be a model (though in this picture I'm not too keen on the farmer tan):

that you would do whatever you could to preserve your looks, and not have a freakin' FACE tattooed on your chest?

After all these years, I still just don't get it. But it really doesn't matter, does it, this guy is STILL a model anyway. Like those models who look like heroin addicts. I am beginning to think that on some level (have I ever said this before?), this kind of advertising is similar to those liquor ads that had carefully airbrushed into the ice cubes monsters that severe alcoholics sometimes see when they have delirium tremens, selling a product by appealing to Freud's id, the lowest level of each individual's psyche (unconscious, instinctive, and relentless in pursuit of its basest desires). It's frightening how so many things are actually an addiction. But as for me, I'll draw the line at addiction to needles, which in my view, is what we are really seeing in the picture above. Watch how on him, now that he is started, those tattoos will spread like a fungus.