Friday, September 19, 2008

The tale of how I try not to be naked (and attempt to look good doing it)

This blog has been my forum to cover a wide scope of interests, mainly music, art, politics and random ranting. But one aspect that I’ve inadvertently avoided is fashion.

I know there are countless sites, blogs, and telephone book sized magazines on the subject, though I’ve noticed that there are not so many for men. And even less for men with my tastes.

Over the past few years, my interest and awareness towards what I wear has grown considerably. Today is a far cry from my who-the-fuck-cares-about-fashion t-shirt and jeans days in high school. Okay, I still wear t-shirts and jeans, but I pay more attention to the quality and fit of those items, which makes a significant difference. Deciding what to wear used to be such an inconvenience for me so I stayed with the basics. Nowadays I’m feeling more adventurous and confident in a personal style.

The downside for me is that men’s fashion just doesn’t seem to have the variety and resources of women’s wear. In my opinion, there’s virtually no middle ground between the cheap crap at Old Navy and the unobtainable awesomeness of designer wear.

I’ll flip through a men’s magazine and review their fashion sections. Yeah, these guys all look great in their suits but A. I don’t really want to be wearing suits everyday no matter how pimping and B. even the pocket squares shown are in the $100s and I can barely afford rent.

So this is an attempt to use the awesome power of my blog to help me pool my knowledge and findings into some focused strategy, not unlike how I use it to formulate coherent opinions on music and art.

Since I’m still a fledgling trying to develop a fashion sense, it’ll be baby steps along the way. I’ll try to avoid the really obvious stuff that all men should know right off the bat, such as:

  • Always wear a watch
  • Earrings – terrible, terrible idea unless you're a pirate
  • Never, ever, EVER pop your collar up (it’s a fad that you’ll someday regret even considering, like painted fingernails)
  • Learn to tie a tie properly
  • Shaving can be an enjoyable ritual (too bad what I have can barely be classified as facial hair)

My most pressing goal for now is to find some decent shoes. I have very particular tastes and have been looking for at least a year now. I need something versatile, semi-formal but mainly casual. I hate tips that are too pointy or too boxy. I know, I’m picky. Probably why I fall back on my Chuck Taylors so often. They go with just about everything, short of a tuxedo.

I’ve learned not to settle for anything less than what you love. I’m not opposed to paying higher prices because I want quality pieces that won’t disintegrate after a wash (looking in your direction, Old Navy). And I’ve also learned that the accoutrements make the outfit. Cheap belts, watches or (especially) shoes can render an otherwise badass outfit into a total failure.

But for now, I’ll just start off my compilation of basic knowledge with an article from GQ on how to properly roll up sleeves. I hate seeing guys who literally roll their sleeves until they look like they have giant bagels around their elbows. “Rolling” is a bad term since you’re really folding up the sleeves. Look at clothing store displays to see how it’s done.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Family Feud (Election ‘08 edition)

This upcoming Presidential election is definitely one for the history books. Case in point, I sent an email out to my family to make sure everyone’s safe from the imminent hurricane off the coast of Texas and it quickly turns into a political debate.

It’s a good look into opposing views, which I have had a hard time gauging in New York. I’m presenting the entire email chain here, not to ridicule anyone or push one candidate over the other, but to offer a glimpse into what’s driving some people to make their choice.

To protect my family's anonymity, I replaced everyone’s name with characters from The Office. The names are randomly selected so don’t try to read into any meaning behind why I picked who. (I’m Toby, by the way.)


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 9:04 AM
Subject: Everyone safe?

Just wanted to know if everyone is out of harm’s way, especially any family members in Houston.

Also, a glimpse at who could be our VP... (it’s pronounced “nu-cle-ar” not “nu-cu-lar”)


From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 9:31 AM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

Phyllis called Jan and she said that Michael doesn’t want to evacuate because he still have some business meeting at TI. I really don’t get it.

Are you not a Palin supporter?? did you hear her said Nu-cu-lar? I can’t really tell. may it is just an Alaskan’s accent


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 9:44 AM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

My friend Dwight isn’t evacuating either. What the heck? It’s a freaking hurricane!

Only if Incorrect is a regional accent of Alaska. Ok, I’m picking on Palin, but I’m more concerned about her not even knowing what the Bush Doctrine is. I think a potential Vice President (and possible President if McCain kicks the bucket) should be a bit more informed on current political policies.

That’s just me.


From: Oscar
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 9:45 AM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

Go Obama!


From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 10:01 AM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

Ok!! what does Obama know??? Everybody can said “CHANGE” Even Andy and Ryan when they were 2 yrs old and got a dirty diaper


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 10:31 AM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

Analyzing “change” as per specific policy topics:

“Change” as per Obama’s overall political ideology:

Comparing Obama and McCain’s stances on each issue:

Obama’s DNC speech transcript:

If you’re inclined to find out really indepth (I let Jim borrow this, ask him if you want his take):

What stood out in Obama’s speech for me in particular was his proposal for us to become totally 100% independent from the Middle East in 10 years. That’s a bold, ambitious, TANGIBLE stance he just made. But it’s similar to JFK’s goal to land on the moon before the end of the decade in the 60’s. It seemed impossible at the time, but he set the bar and sometimes you need a definitive deadline to propel you to achieve something. And Obama’s plan doesn’t include raping the natural wildlife refuge in Alaska for a 9 month supply of oil.

Oil and energy have been dictating our foreign policy for way too long. It’s a main cause for why the entire Middle East hates us, why we have to succumb to whatever Saudi Arabia wants, why automakers can’t put out a completely gas-independent vehicle. Even though GM successfully created a viable, economic, 100% electric car YEARS AGO. ( – watch and be appalled.)

Look, each politician will spew out rhetoric and every news agency will be slanted. Look at both sides and judge for yourself.



From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 11:22 PM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

Obama is wishy washy on several issues.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Would suspend buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Said during an August 4, 2008, speech that the U.S. should sell 70 million barrels of oil from the reserve for less expensive crude oil. Earlier this year, Obama said he did not think the country should use the strategic oil reserves “at this point.” He said on July 7: “I have said and, in fact, supported a congressional resolution that said we should suspend putting more oil into the strategic oil reserve, but the strategic oil reserve I think has to be reserved for a genuine emergency.”

Offshore drilling
Previously was against lifting federal government restrictions on offshore drilling, but appeared to modify his position in an August 1 statement that supported a bipartisan legislative effort that would expand offshore oil drilling. Part of the statement read: “I remain skeptical that new offshore drilling will bring down gas prices in the short-term or significantly reduce our oil dependence in the long-term, though I do welcome the establishment of a process that will allow us to make future drilling decisions based on science and fact.”

I see a lot of big empty promises that sounded good but I think will NEVER materialize.


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 11:51 AM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

No denying that Obama has shifted his stance on issues, but McCain’s no saint on flip-flopping either:

Pot calling the kettle black.

It’s partly the nature of politicians to shift their views, whether it’s for good reasons (like having new insight or information that they previously didn’t) or for less virtuous reasons like to appease fickle voters and constituents.

A strong, decisive leader is great, but it’d also be nice to have someone who could rectify a mistake instead of plowing ahead without acknowledging that he/she was wrong (a la Bush and WMDs).

Stanley, sounds like you’re pretty much pro-McCain, which I’m fine with if you’re informed and making a decision on what you think.

Everyone of us should vote. Just please don’t vote based on superficial issues like b/c Obama’s black, Palin’s a woman or McCain’s a vet.

I personally am willing to take a chance on “change” in a spirit of optimism that hasn’t been portrayed in politics in so very long. I’m not saying that Obama couldn’t be a spectacular disaster. But after what we’ve had with Bush, I’m willing to take a gamble. Maybe it’s because I’m younger and don’t have a family to support; I can be a bit more reckless with my views. But this country was not born out of “playing it safe”. Men like Abraham Lincoln, Ted Roosevelt, JFK would’ve never had a chance in the White House if people didn’t have hope.


From: Creed
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 11:51 AM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

i believe this Great Country is run by a bunch of IDIOTS, not PATRIOTS they say anything to get your votes


From: Jim
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 11:51 AM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

Jan told Pam last night that they were going to ride out the storm. If you ask me, it’s too big a risk to take (Katrina was a good lesson).

As for my political view, my military background might be bias but I am pro-McCain (Toby and I already had lengthy discussion about our candidates. I told Toby that Obama is an excellent speaker but he has not really done anything that shows he’s ready for the job. The economy has up and down cycles, so my real concern is terrorism which can turn this country up side down. I don’t think Obama is up to the task. Sarah Palin brings a breath of fresh air to the good-old-boy, business-as-usual Washington. She said in her interview energy independent will make our country safer and more prosperous; I couldn’t agree more. That said, vote for what you believe in.
May the best team win in November. Good to the see the enthusiasm about the future of this country.

You all have a nice weekend and check on Jan.




From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 2:34 PM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

I just don’t see how a person without much experience in the political scene can do what he said he going to do. Does he realized that what he said in the White House if he get elected won’t be the final words? Again, What have Obama done to prove that he can lead this country? If you said that he has aides or advisors than all he is is a puppet.

Just because Bush is a screw-up doesn’t make McCain one and Obama is playing that card to get more votes.

McCain has more grit than Bush will ever dream of having any at all.

Like you said, vote for who you think is best for the your research.


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 2:09 PM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

If McCain has such a lack of faith in politicians who lack experience, he shouldn’t have nominated Palin as a running mate. There’s no proof that McCain would be any more effective in pushing his agendas through the legislature any more than Obama. Abraham Lincoln took office with roughly the same amount of “experience” as Obama and he fared pretty well under arguably more dire circumstances. Not trying to directly compare Obama to Lincoln, just trying to illustrate that we really don’t know how anyone will deal with the immense pressures of such a strenuous job like the Commander in Chief. McCain could also fold under the burden. I can’t predict that for sure, no one can.

As for advisors, where are the accusations that Obama would become a puppet to them? Again, I’ll reference Lincoln, because he’s a hero of mine and I’ve done a fair amount of reading on him. Lincoln’s cabinet was comprised of more experienced, more popular, more educated politicians who each believed that they could eventually mold him to their own agendas. What happened was they ended up respecting Lincoln and working towards the same, unselfish goal of preserving the country. If you were in a leadership position, wouldn’t you seek out the most intelligent, qualified people to advise you? Or would you appoint yes-men who’s only job is to smile and nod at whatever you say?

Biden was a shrewd move for Obama because Biden is a seasoned senator who HEADS the Foreign Relations Committee and shores up areas that are perceived weaknesses in Obamas resume. Palin offers nothing in experience and her views mirror McCain’s own, thus offering nothing to round out his administration’s ideology.

Uncle Creed is right that they’ll say ridiculous things and slander the opponents (short of accusing the other of eating babies) in order to get in office. They’ve laid out many lofty ideas, and there’s no realistic way they could achieve all of them. But those ideas are a starting place, and my views align more closely with Obama’s, particularly an aggressive reform on our energy policy.

I never made a direct correlation of McCain to Bush. I don’t think it’s a valid argument. I agree McCain has more grit than Bush. I was just referencing GW to illustrate that someone should be able to adjust their stance on an issue as circumstances develop and change.

A good soldier doesn’t necessarily equate to a good president.


From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 3:47 PM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

Things work differently in Lincoln’s time than now plus Lincoln has strong characteristic and less material gain influences than Obama.

I agreed that you would want to have the best people around you but you must also be able to stand on your own like Lincoln did. I don’t think Obama has it.

Biden was one of Obama’s critic and now he is his running mate? Bringing him on board is like paying him off, looks like the same old Washington way rather than “change”

It’s been fun but I am running out of things to write and probably doesn’t make much sense.


From: Toby
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 3:03 PM

Subject: Re: Everyone safe?

I agree, I only started this email to make sure everyone’s safe from the wraith of mother nature.

But I have to say that saying that Obama “paying Biden off” with the VP nomination is ridiculous. All through U.S. history presidential nominees pick someone in their party to run with. Primaries pit people on the same team against each other to determine the best (kind of like Gladiator). The people vying for the nomination would ideally be the cream of the crop in your party so of course your candidates are most likely from that pool of competitors. Picking Hillary would’ve seemed like paying her off. When a winner emerges, you bury the hatchet and pool together for the greater good. Hopefully that’ll happen when we pick a president.

Now if McCain had crossed party lines to pick Hillary, THAT would’ve been change.

Have a good weekend everyone!


From: Stanley
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 4:10 PM

Subject: RE: Everyone safe?

you just want to get the last word in. I read Obama bio in Wikipedia and it sounded very impressive but he probably paid someone to write it...JK


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Back to the Future

I just Netflixed a wonderful documentary, The Future We Will Create, about an annual event called TED which gathers together some of the world’s smartest and most innovative minds to share their ideas and inventions.

Predictably, some of it traverses into the realm of techno-geeky such as information graphics and user interfaces (interestingly showcasing the touch-technology that would become famous in the iPhone and Surface).

But what became really inspiring was how the convention selects three participants to pitch a “wish” and then see if everyone can come together to make those wishes a reality. It was impressive to see how every wish was an unselfish act of humanitarianism, which was the driving force behind this gathering. Every person highlighted was trying to make the world a better place, from Al Gore’s global warming agenda to Larry Brilliant’s goal to create a worldwide infrastructure to prevent and contain outbreaks of illnesses.

Currently, we are all inundated with such bleak, negative imagery such as war, terrorism, corruption (political and corporate), celebrity gossip, etc. that is was so nice to catch a glimpse of optimism and unabashed virtue. TED is an amazing forum for the world’s brightest to gather, trade ideas, collaborate to try to cure illnesses, educate the masses, house the poor, and generally make our lives better.

Personally, it was humbling to see such great minds on display. I’d always done well in science and math but I realized that I was not a scientist by nature. I may not be working to cure cancer, but it’d be nice to find a way to steer my career into something more beneficial to people. I’m certainly not daft enough to think that my photography or designs or whatever will save the world, so I’ll have to think of other ways to contribute.

For now, I can take some solace in the fact that I’m doing my best to not make the world worse off. Since I don’t drive a car, don’t use plastic bags, recycle, and barely use my A/C, I’m curious as to what my actual carbon footprint is these days.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Eighties (were Great-ies??!)

All Songs Considered has a great podcast featuring a roundtable discussion on the merits of the 80s music. Granted none of the participants are fervent lovers of that era so the critique is a bit skewed. Nonetheless, they try to be unbiased in their exploration of where the 80s sits in the spectrum of validity and relevance. Okay, there is quite a bit of synth-music bashing, but who couldn’t lament all that fake drumming?

This was a particularly interesting conversation for me to hear because I find myself listening to and enjoying 80s music more than ever. I’d always noted how I loved every decade for their music except the 80s. I grew up with oldies in the house and in the car so those decades feel engrained in my DNA. My affinity for 90s is due to that being the time of my own musical awakening and discovering what I personally enjoyed. Grunge and Nirvana exposed the ridiculousness of 80s hair band rock. The music of Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine seemed to come from something much more genuine and earnest than the cheesy synth-pop of the decade before.

Up until recently, I’d written off the 80s as a musical void. So this podcast seems appropriate because of the current revival of 80s style in music and fashion. Lately, I’ve been surrounded by friends who are genuine fans of that music. And 80s songs just seem born for karaoke (which has been the main way I’ve learned of these songs). I’ll admit that this has allowed some 80s music into my playlists.

Still, the 80s weren’t a complete dead end for me. I grew up as a fan of Michael Jackson, although I’d abandoned his music for a decade or two, and recently rediscovered how great his early solo albums are. Madonna is someone who never really resonated with me before, probably because I’m a guy, but I now listen to her early songs with new respect and enjoyment. And it may be ridiculously strange, but I love the song “She Blinded Me with Science”. (Who can’t love a song where the word “Science” is randomly yelled out in the background?) Listening to an all-80s webcast station has reawakened my affinity for a lot of long-forgotten songs.

I see many parallels with the culture of the 80s music and what’s going on today, which makes me wonder how this decade will be viewed historically. Although with so many genres of music getting exposure these days, it’s hard to think how they can all be summed up succinctly. I can easily imagine descriptors for the previous decades, although the 90s show evidence of the fracturing of overarching themes. The first half of the 90s were pretty much dominated by Grunge/Alternative music but the second half seemed to splinter off into metal-rap, boy bands and Britney. These days seem much more difficult to categorize, probably due to the spread of viral blogging and mySpace.

Personally, I’m not sure how long my newfound pleasure of the 80s will last. The podcast commentators make some interesting observations which I think are applicable to me. While the music in during that time seemed cringe-inducing, there’s a sense of nostalgia that comes along with it as well. It’s easier for me to enjoy this music now because it can be viewed in respect to the wider scope of music. I can hear the synthesizers and the cheesiness without groaning. It’s an interesting trip, but I don’t think it’ll ever feel like home.