Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm Only Human, Part 2.

Two weeks ago I admitted that there are things in this word that I am powerless against. Slow-motion butt shaking in black and white is certainly one of them. Today I get to share another with you: I love watching people fall. I really don't know anyone who doesn't, if they are being 100% honest. I have no less than a dozen great 'seeing people fall' stories, like the time a few of my buddies and I just saw a guy fall in a heap in the Wal Mart parking lot. He didn't trip, it wasn't icy, he just went down. We laughed so hard it hurt.

Perhaps my all time favorite story of another person's pain happened on our last trip to Australia. Inky and I were doing the hike around the base of Uluru and we had stopped to have an apple and some water while taking a break on a bench. Along comes a woman who is probably in her mid-50's and as she is walking behind our bench we hear it. The unmistakable sound of a foot hitting an exposed root followed by a distressed grunt and a stumble.

Inky and I both bit our lip till the lady righted herself and walked away at which point I turned to her and said "How 'bout that. It's even funny when you HEAR someone fall." Both these stories are hilarious if you are Inky or I, but probably awful if you are that guy or that lady. Like wise, the following pictures are filled with breathtaking majesty if you are looking at them, and the worst 4 seconds of you life if you are this guy:







(Thanks to Barstool for bringing this little piece of schadenfreude to the web.)

_

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

R.I.P. John Updike

There is a point in every person's life when something just clicks. For most of us, these events primarily took place in school. They range from the first time you made it through the times tables to the first time you looked at a sentence in a foreign language and understood what it said. As a kid with a learning disability, I really cherished these moments, and most of mine took place at St. Joseph's Prep Seminary in Princeton New Jersey.

The Vincentian Fathers are great teachers, and the fact that there were only 50 kids in the whole school meant that we all got individual attention. It was there that I was first convinced that while I'd never be a math wiz, I could pass algebra. It was at St. Joe's that I first started to believe that I could learn Latin, and Spanish. And it was in those limestone buildings that I first started to believe that I could love to read. One of my biggest challenges as a kid was being able to read a book with any kind of attention, let alone a short story or chapter of a textbook.

Then in the late months of 1990 we got an assignment from Mr. McCullough to find and read a short story that we liked. I spent a few hours in the library trying to find something that resonated with me, and if truth be told, I was also trying to find something very short. I stumbled upon a collection of short stories by John Updike, and was taken by "A&P" which met all my requirements.

Not only was it very short, but it was also easy for me to read and visualize, which was one of my main difficulties in the past. I felt like I knew were Sammy was coming from, and I could identify with what he was feeling watching Queenie and her friends walk barefoot through the supermarket. Plus, the store was set in beach side suburb of Boston in the early 60's, and my father was from Revere Massachusetts and was in high school in hte early 60's.

I read the story over and over again, finding that the first person account and the conversational tone opened this story up to me. On its face it was a banal 10 minute slice of a teenage kids life, wherein he gawks at a few hot girls and makes a bad choice which is ultimately unrewarding to him. What I read was so much more, though. I could easily be Sammy, and he was real, believable and relatable. I didn't want to stop reading it, and for the 14 year old version of me, that was a pretty big deal.

In the years after that, I would find new favorite things to read, and reread, but John Updike's slice of life short story was where it all started. It was the moment reading clicked for me, and I've never been the same. Updike was on of the nations most prolific writers over the last half century, and will probably be best remembered for "The Witches of Eastwick" and "Rabbit, Run" but I will always be thankful that he gave us "A&P". If you have a few minutes to spare, you can read it here, or make your way to the library or bookstore.

_

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

High Score

When you're in the midst of a run of bad days, as I have been for awhile, you look for any event to act as your catalyst for change. In baseball, when you are mired in a hitting drought you seek out a slump-buster to set things right. Since I: A) am a married man B)have self esteem, and C) have respect for women, I have to look for other options to get out of this rut, and get back into the groove.

That's where games come into play for me. Sure I'm almost 33, but I love my playstation. Sometimes just sitting down to play Madden, MLB Baseball or NCAA Basketball can snap me out of it, not to mention the recuperative effects of a rampage on Grand Theft Auto. I don't have a playstation or a TV in my office, sadly, so when I'm faced with the need to kill time and/or decompress I turn to solitaire as do millions of other American workers.

So earlier today, while sitting on hold with someone I was trying to set a meeting with, I clicked open the solitaire program on my computer. I got a great spread of cards, including two aces, in the deal. Once those were placed in the piles above I made 8 or 9 moves before even clicking on the stock pile in the upper left. For a few moments it was like I was seeing two or three steps ahead, and my hand was working the mouse and clicking with fury. In that moment, I knew what it was to be all-powerful.

By the time the secretary came back on the phone, I had finished the game and it took everything in my power to keep myself from telling her that I had just reached my own high score: 6576 points in 119 seconds! (see screen grab above for the proof. That's right fuckers, I screen captured it for posterity/proof) That's less than two minutes people! I'll pause for a moment to let you all recover from the amazement while simultaneously basking in my accomplishment.

What's that you say? How do I know it was my all-time high score? Well, because I keep a file on my laptop named "all by myself" (get it?) where I record particularly high scores. I started this practice on my trip to Seattle last November, as I sat in the Nashville airport waiting for a connecting flight. My previous high was 6081 in 129 seconds, but back in November I was only at 4454/184 so, as you can see, I've made marked improvement.

I'm sure there are some people out there who don't see any value in shaving more than a minute off your best solitaire score (my boss, and her boss spring to mind) but most of the rest of us understand the importance of the little things in this life. So here I am, feeling a bit puffed up by my childish accomplishment, and I can't let the naysayers out there take that away from me. After all, as a wise man once said "If we give in to those people, we're giving in to all the cute and fuzzy bunnies in the world."

_

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day, 2009.

Anyone who has ever read more than a few sentences of my blog knows that I am obsessed with Australia. I rather think that I am American by birth, but given the choice I'd be living in Oz in a second. While Inky and I have made our two trips there in the last 4 years that never seems to be enough. To keep a finger on our faint Aussie pulse we watch Rove on YouTube, follow our footy team on satellite TV and listen to Triple J or Hamish & Andy online. We also enjoy the odd occasional meat pie and have forked over a ton of cash to Target to buy Tim Tams.

We may never be real Aussies, but we're sure going to give it a shot. So, it is in that spirit that I say happy Australia Day, which to Aussies is kind of like a mix between Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. It was on this day 221 years ago(in the middle of the antipodean summer) that Captain Aurthur Phillip and the first fleet of convicts, settlers and marines first landed in Sydney Cove. The land, and it's indigenous people, were inexorably changed from that point on, and the debate as to the merit of that change rages to this day.

Just like any relationship, my love of Australia is a complected mixture of compromising good with the bad, while also taking the time to find new things to love about it every day. That's why I was so excited to watch some bonafide Aussie TV last night, in my own living room on my own TV. The cable channel G4 premiered The Chaser's War on Everything just after midnight, to kick off Australia Day in the US. It will normally air on Wednesdays at 9, and if you have G4 you should check it out, because it's pretty damn funny.

_

Friday, January 23, 2009

Destined for Silence

I saw something at lunch today that made me think about relationships. I was facing a booth where an elderly couple had sat down just a few moments before my group had, and the were already working on their soup. They sat there, eating, drinking and looking around the room, but what they weren't doing was talking. This went on for the whole meal, as their sandwiches were served they both thanked the waitress, so they possessed the ability to talk. What they seemed to lack, however, was either the desire or need to talk to one another.

On one hand, perhaps they have grown tired of making idle chitchat over their decades together. Maybe it has all been said and done, and they don't feel the need to eradicate any silence between them. Think of how this paradigm develops throughout a relationship; going from constant nervous chatter on a first date, to a comfortable back and forth where you can finish each others sentences before eventually turning into an elaborate system of clicks, pops, grunts and pointing.

On the other hand, maybe it is possible that this old couple has been together for so long, and are so completely intertwined that they have developed a kind of old couple telepathy. At one point during the meal, the old man was looking at a young mother getting her baby ready to leave the restaurant, and he smiled. Upon seeing his smile, the old lady turned in her seat to see what he was looking at, and she too smiled. She turned to face him and as their eyes met they nodded at one another. In that moment they could have been saying any number of things to one another:

"Remember when the kids were young sweetheart?"
"Oh to have the energy necessary to take care of a little one again."
"I can't wait till the grandkids come over this weekend"
"God damn that MILF is hot! And thanks to the little blue pill, now I can take you home and screw you till one of us breaks a hip while I think about how cute her ass looks in those jeans."


You know, something like that. All joking aside, I can see how this geezer telepathy can develop over time. I've been with Inky for 12 years and we already have a bit of it going for us. God knows we both end up saying the same thing at the same time offen enough that it borders on the creepy. I have to think that in time I will be able to just look at her and she will know what I'm saying, and vice versa. I just hope that I find a way to avoid the billowing gray nose and ear hair that seems to come with that power.
_

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Totally Worth It.

I don't know what you did with your day, but I started mine shortly after midnight by picking my brother up at the Glenmont metro stop after he partied with an old friend on a local college campus. Then I got a few hours of sleep and headed out with my Mother, Brother, Brother-in-Law, Aunt and Niece to DC. We caught a bus, a train, and hoofed it around the District for a while. After a few fits and starts, with lines that lead to closed gates, we found our way to the National Mall.

We bivouacked behind the Washington Monument and settled in amid cold breezes and warm sunshine. If you saw the speech then you know that the eight year era of retarded ramblings is over. More than that, we all can begin to think about what life is like with a chief executive who can spin oratory that will one day be famous for its excellence rather than its lack of cohesion.

While we all stood there, more than a million strong, I was struck by how united we all felt. Along the way, my family and I acquired the company of a trio young Howard University students who ended up spending the rest of the day with of us. It was eye opening to see just how important this event was to these three young black students. But, we also got to have little moments with people of every stripe who overheard comments we made among our group.

For one frigid day it was as if the million plus people in the mall were one small town, where Mayberryesque interaction ruled the day. Everyone had a smile on their face, and a kind word for the people they passed, and it reminded me of the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Whereas the burgeoning embers of togetherness were never flamed in '01, with the people told to go shopping in response to the tragedy, things can be different this time.

If we can find a way to build on the overabundance of goodwill that I witnessed today, and if Barack Obama can be the divining rod that leads us to that result, the world will be a better place. We as a nation are never as good as when we are all together, united in our love of our nation, and our understanding of our place in the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Song Spotlight: "Forever Young" by Youth Group



This version of this song is a few years old, and the song its self was penned by the band Alphaville back in 1984. But it's been stuck in my head the last few weeks thanks in part to an add for New Zealand tourism. The Youth Group version holds a special place in my heart, because it was the song Channel 10 used when they did their intro to the 2007 AFL Grand Final. In addition to those memories, and the obvious Aussie connection (and forgetting that it was used on an episode of The O.C.) I just really like this song. The funny thing about amazing music is that, while I couldn't begin to understand what it takes to make, I sure know how it when I hear it.

Let's dance in style let's dance for a while,
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies,
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst,
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Let us die or let us live forever,
Don't have the power but we never say never,
Sitting in the sandpit life is a short trip,
Music's for the sad man

Can you imagine when this race is run,
Turning all our faces into the sun,
Praising our leaders getting in tune,
Music's played by the mad man

Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever forever,
Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever

Some are like water Some are like the heat,
Some are melodies Some are the beat,
Sooner or later they'll all be gone,
Why don't they stay on?
It's hard to get all without a cause,
I don't want to perish like a fading voice,
Youth is like diamonds in the sun,
And diamonds are forever,
So many adventures couldn't happened today,
So many songs that we forgot to play,
So many dreams swimming out in the blue,
Let them come true

Forever young I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever
Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever
Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever


_

Thursday, January 15, 2009

For Christ's Sake, I'm Only Human!


Seat girls - RJ41 Productions from RJ41 on Vimeo.

Sweet Jesus! I don't think I can even convey my thoughts on this video in prose, so I'm going to have to rock the bullet points.

-This video all at once makes me proud and ashamed to be a male.

-I don't care what it takes, this should be turned into a half hour TV show.

-There are two types of men in this world, Butt men, and liars.

-Black and white video somehow makes anything classier/cooler.

-I didn't think it was possible for beach volleyball to get any better, but here it is.

-The Girl who shakes her ass so hard that her bikini bottoms lower an inch, exposing her ass crack and tan line must win the Nobel Peace Prize. Now.

-If the goal of advertising is to get previously unaware consumers interested in your product then mission accomplished SEAT Automobile company of Spain. That's good work out of you.

-To quote Ron Burgundy: "You have and absolutely breathtaking hiney, I mean that thing is good. I want to be friends with it... I wanna say something. I wanna put it out there and if you like it you can take it, if you don't, send it right back. I want to be on you."

-Someone needs to tell the people at Discovery Channel's "Time Warp" show about this.

-I once saw a girl strip to a three song set of Johnny Cash songs, and it was all wrong. This, inexplicably, is all right.

-Am I still going? Wow

-Now I know how Inky feels on Man Candy Mondays.

-I may have to reassess my "greatest inventions of all time" list again and move the internet back in to #1 and put the Tim Tam at #2.

-If you care about the future of our species, for god's sake, please send this link to everyone you know.

_

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pinch Me, I May Be Dreaming

I was going to skip posting about this story to try and limit the number of people I have to compete with for this job. Then, I got emails from about a dozen people with links to the story from sources such as Yahoo and AOL to "US News and World Report" and the BBC. There is so much coverage of this story today that the Tourism Queensland website won't even load, and some reports say that they are getting as many as 100,000 hits a minute.

The good people at Tourism Queensland have come up with a great way of getting a whole lot of interest turned their way, and in case you aren't one of the people who sent me this story, here is the long and short of it. They are looking for a person to take a job from July 1st 2009 until the end of the year with a salary of A$ 150,000. The job will have a few small duties, but mostly the person who holds it will be a de facto PR rep for tourism in the northeastern Aussie state. There will be blogs to write (Hey, I've been blogging just about every other day for three years now...), videos to be shot and posted on the web (I have a degree in Radio and Television, and have worked for TV Stations...), and interviews to do (I talk to people for a living and try to convince them to do things, I am really close on this one). What's that? I'm perfect for the job you say? Well, thanks, I know. It's just a shame that I'm not some 24 year old "bro" with rock hard abs and cute, wavy hair.

Not that my decided lack of cuteness will stop me from applying for this job mind you. I plan on making a kick ass "Real World style" audition video that shows off my love of Oz, as well as my ability to communicate that love to others. One of the highlights of my life was SCUBA diving near the Great Barrier Reef island Michaelmas Cay back in '05. When it came time for Inky and I to pick between the Reef and the Outback on our '05 trip the Reef won, and our anticipated third Aussie trip in '10 or '11 will be spent almost entirely in Australia's Sunshine State.

There is so much to see and do in Queensland, from Brisbane to Cape York and the state has some of the most amazing beaches in the world. Then, off shore, there is Fraser Island, the unrivaled beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands where the winner of this job will live and work.

So dear readers, keep your fingers crossed for me, and maybe you'll be able to come stay with Inky and I in Oz this summer.

_

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Mind Playing Tricks on Me.

I try not to needlessly rebel against commonly accepted ideas and paradigms. To that end, I generally believe that the moon landing was real and that the earth is more than six thousand years old. That said, I can’t really get on board with the idea that dreams mean anything at all. There are literally hundreds of books that purport to tell you what the symbolism in your dreams mean.

I don't dismiss this idea totally out of hand, because I know that some dream interpretations sound accurate. I have the "showing up to school without having done my homework" dream all the time and i know Inky does too. I can also get down with the idea that a dream where you are falling is symbolic of feeling out of control, but they ALL can't mean something.

As an example, let's take the dream that I spent the first waking hour of my day trying to figure out. I was on a bus (specifically the York College Campus Shuttle) with Abe Lincoln sitting next to me. He was wearing York College Basketball warm ups and his famous hat, while rocking out to a penny colored iPod. When I tried to tap him on the shoulder to ask him what was going on, he just kept turning up his iPod, so I peaked at it and saw that he was listening to "Gold Digger" by Kanye West.

So I just yelled out loud: "What the fuck is going on?" and then Kanye emerged from the bathroom (I should point out that in reality the YCP Shuttles don't have bathrooms)and told me to "slow my roll." He said that we were all on the way to Barky(not a spelling error)Obama's inauguration. Then the bathroom door opened again and Snoop Dog came out shrouded in smoke saying something that ended in izzel.

I sat down again, and Kanye and Snoop began reading a copy of G.Q. which rather then standing for "Gentleman's Quarterly" just stood for "G's Quarterly." The actress who plays Thirteen on the show House was on the cover, and she was naked yet covered by a huge Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The headline read "Barky in the Motha'fucking dog hiz'ous."

At this point, I've pieced together that I'm on a bus with a few rappers, and the heading to what I believe to be an inauguration of a dog cleverly named after our next president. When the bus comes to a stop, I realize that we are in my old home town: Metuchen NJ. The door opens and my father gets on, dressed to the nines in what can best be described as pimpwear. This surprises me on many levels because A) The man wouldn't have been caught dead in these threads and B) He is actually dead, and has been for 6 years.

Nonetheless, he gets on the bus and sits down right behind the driver, who quite surprisingly is the real Barack Obama. I keep trying to get my fathers attention, but Obama keeps telling me that I have to return to my seat and get buckled in. When the bus finally stops I realize that we are at the New Jersey opening to the Holland Tunnel. Obama gets on the loud speaker and says that we have to walk into the city from there.

I spend the whole walk through the tunnel talking to my dad, who tells me that he didn't die in 2002, but that he had gone undercover for CIA. He goes on to say that all those years we thought he was working for the Postal Service was just a cover for his work at CIA, and when we thought he was taking classes at the Culinary Institute of America that was his way of explaining to my mother when he got mail from the real CIA.

We walked from the NYC side of the Tunnel to Tompkins Square Park, where somewhat anticlimactically, Barky Obama was being inaugurated by the Queen of England. After she performed what looked like a knighting on him, he walked to the podium and rose up to speak into the mic. He was just about to deliver his address when my dad turned to me and said "you should probably get out of here now, it's going to get messy" and with that I woke up.

Now, you can't tell me that any of that nonsense means anything. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I miss my old man. And I think the chick that plays Thirteen is kind of hot and I am excited about the possibility of going to Barack Obama's inauguration next week. But on the other side, I hate dogs, I'm not a fan of Rap and I'm reasonably sure that my dad did actually work for the Postal Service, not CIA. I'm sure someone could sit down and tell me all the parts of this dream that mean something, but I don't buy it. I think I just have a fucked up subconscious that likes to see where it can take me.

_

Friday, January 09, 2009

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

I was born on the outskirts of Washington DC, but I grew up 20 miles away from the biggest, best city in the world: New York. Because my father was only supposed to be in the New York office temporarily, I always thought of myself as a Maryland kid who was in a New Jersey exile. Like Hemingway or Roman Polanski were in France, but with out all the alcoholism or pedophilia.

As I grew older, and the chance that we would move back to DC began to become less and less likely, I began to think about how I would have to make the move myself. There is only so many Yankees or Giants games an Orioles and Redskins fan should ever be forced to watch, and so in adulthood I made my way back to Maryland via Central Pennsylvania. More pages of my story turned, and before I knew it I had settled back in my old College town. I was no longer a Maryland boy in Jersey, or a Jersey boy in York, but a man without a home. Ask me where I'm from and your libel to get a complicated response.

In all those years, I never really gave any thought to the idea of just staying in the area I grew up in. Sure I loved being able to just pop into the city the way some people in the rest of the country drive to Wal Mart, but I never thought of it as anything more than a given. Do you want to see sporting event? Well, there is a world class professional or college game nearly every day of the year. Plays, Museums or live music? Well that's unparalleled too. Not to mention a million little shops selling everything from records to vegan lip balm, and that's just SoHo, the Village and the Lower East Side.

I was in the City for work this week for what seems like the 10th time this year. I think the number of times I've been back this year have really lead me to miss how close I used to be to it. Not that the 3 hour drive I have now is too far for a day trip, but it is much harder to do with any frequency and/or spontaneously. There was nothing quite sitting in the diner on some random weekday and just deciding to go into the Village and see what kind of trouble we could find. I once thought that was a whim I would outgrow, but now I know that fancy free approach to life knows no age limit.

So now I find myself just waiting for Inky to hit it big as a novelist or screen writer so we can move to Brooklyn and live the life I once didn't know I would later want.

_

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Greazy Tony Asks: What If?

The course of human civilization unfolds in a way that is all at once haphazard yet finite. It would be nice to be able to go back and sterilize Hitler's father or tell JFK to ditch the convertible in Dallas, but no matter what Dr. Sam Beckett, Sam Tyler, Marty McFly, Dan Vasser or George "the Time Traveler" Wells tell us, that's not on the table. And so, we must dwell in the realm of reality, and live with what has unfolded in our world. To that end, there is no question more useless than: What if....? It is just about as useless as the people that say "If the playoffs started today (insert team here) would be in" because we all know that if the playoffs started on that day, people would be saying "hey, what the fuck happened to the rest of the regular season?"

All that was just a long way of acknowledging that what I am about to say is, at best, useless pondering and at worst, a waist of your time. Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder: What would have happened if Flavor Flav had been on the "Surreal Life" with Adrianne Curry, while Christopher Knight appeared on the show with Brigitte Nielsen?

The 2009 we live in is our reality, and it is a reality that is lousy with lousy reality TV. (still with me?) A large strain of the current reality TV that is infecting our lives can be traced to the 2003 debut of "The Surreal Life" on The WB. That show's progeny include some of the worst trash on TV today, or, as the bible would put it in First Chronicles: "Surreal Life" begot "My Fair Brady" and "Strange Love". "Strange Love" begot "Flavor of Love". "Flavor of Love" begot "I Love New York", "Charm School" and "I Love Money". Like wise "I Love New York" begot "New York Goes to Hollywood" and "Real Chance of Love" which lead to the birth of "Rock of Love" which begot still more "I love Money" and "Charm School" and eventually a new show for that Daisy bitch from "Rock of Love"

At least I think that's how the bible would put it. Something tells me that all of these shows were more likely to have been mentioned in Revelations, however. But back to my original point. If Flavor Flav had never met Brigitte Nielson they wouldn't have "fallen in love" and would never have done their show "Strange Love." So then there would never have been a "Flavor of Love" or any of the many other mutations of that virus that are all over VH1's line up today. So basically, what I am saying is that Flavor Flav is the original Outbreak Monkey... er...wait, that sounds kind of racist. Let's just say that in a perfect world, none of them would have more money then you or I and VH1 would bring back "Pop Up Video" and "Behind the Music." Hell, Maybe they'd even show some videos every now and again.

_

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Extra Case: An Update

A little more than a year ago I did a post about a guy who lives in my neighborhood who drinks 2 cases of beer a week... every week. I ran the numbers and found that he consumes 576 ounces of Miller Lite each and every week for a total of more than 30,000 a year. Well, as the last 12 months wore on, he never let us down. Each and every Sunday afternoon there they were, two empty cases and the recycling bin filled with the fallen soldiers. I have remained torn between being impressed by his consistency while also being a bit worried for him. I mean, that's a lot of beer.

The consistency is gone, however. Today I walked outside and saw three cases of beer piled at the end of the driveway. As you can see in the picture the bottles were also overflowing the top of the bin. All of this adds up to either a onetime blip due to New Years Eve, or an escalation of his drinking problem. Hell, maybe his New Year's resolution was to drink more, so he can do his part to stimulate the economy.

...sweet land of liberty!

_

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Don't Cry to Me When There's a Pin Shortage

Inky and I took advantage of the temporarily low gas rates and headed down to the Baltimore area so I could spend a little christmas money. I couldn't come up with a single damn thing I needed this year, so Inky told my mother in law that all I needed was some new work duds. Being the great mother in law that she is, she gave me some dough to spend on new duds.

I hit the jackpot at the first store I went to, finding a few pairs of pants, two new french cuffed shirts and a pair of ties, which Inky helped me pick out. By way of full explanation: Inky and I have been together for 12 years and married for 9 1/2 but I have never taken her shopping, nor have I ever taken any one's input on my work wardrobe other than my old man's so this was a big step in our relationship.

When we got home I wanted to try a few of the combinations out (including my black suit with the black french cuff shirt and the white tie... can you say Mob Funeral?) but before you can try a dress shirt on, you have to extract it from it's cumbersome packaging. If you've never bought a dress shirt, just know they are pinned down to within an inch of it's life. The pins go through the shirt and into one of the 3 or 4 pieces of cardboard and plastic that are used to make the shirt look "lifelike" in the package.

I guess people are more likely to buy a shirt that has a sharp looking raised collar and a stiff feel when in your hand, but the number of pins they use is preposterous. I counted 11 in the one shirt and 14 in the other. The problem is exacerbated on my french cuff shirts because they feel the need to pin one of the cuffs to the front of the shirt so you can see that you need cufflinks with it, as if the writing on the package that says "french cuff" isn't enough.

I know they are just 11 or 14 pushpins, but multiply that by every shirt sold in the world and we're talking a ton of metal, or a few hundred tons perhaps. I don't mean to be a tree hugger here, but is that really necessary? I get my shirts folded at the dry cleaner and they don't have to pin them down there. I'm just sayin'...

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