Punk rock was never my bag but when you peel it back, especially in its earliest forms when barely anyone knew what it was, you get glimpses of these kids exploding with raw ideas and you wind up with something like the Minutemen–one of the greatest American bands. Or, you stumble across two-minute snippets of a guy like Ian MacKaye, and his clarity of thought in what he says.
Schick sent a Hydro five-blade razor sample in the mail and I tried it. I still like the Gillette Fusion better and I still haven’t tried the Pro Glide with Flexball because I really don’t think I need my shaves to get any closer. We’ve made some pretty big leaps over the past several decades to get from straight edge to this point.
But getting the free razor reminded me of a great expose on the disposable razor blade industry that the New Yorker ran 16 years ago. The article stuck with me for several reasons. Partly because there are not many magazines out there willing or able to delve 14,000 words into razor blade technology.¹ It’s one of the reasons I both love and hate the New Yorker at the same time. I love it because it practices longform and literary journalism at the highest level. Hate it because often the people who like to talk about what they’ve read in the New Yorker seem to do so specifically because they like to show off the fact that they read the New Yorker. (As if that in itself is an estimable endpoint.)
But what I like most about that razor article is that it reminds me that if you write well you can write about pretty much anything. John McPhee demonstrated the same thing with his 17-pound book about Interstate 80.
But back to the razors. These things all have five blades now. Five. How will they top that? There’s got to be six or seven blades coming down the pike, maybe that you can wear in the form of some hip looking wristwatch. I hope somebody has something interesting to say about it.
1. I’m only guessing at 14,000 words but everything in the New Yorker seems to run that long. Except the cartoons.
Once in a post I likened the darkened bars on the gill plates of a smallmouth bass to war paint.
In the last issue of The Drake, I wrote an essay about smallmouth bass where I described the “dark bands on the gill plates popping like war paint.”
Many times when you write for print it’s as if you send it out via pneumatic mail tube, never to be heard from again. So it was gratifying to get a package in the mail from an angler from Michigan named Jon Lee.
“That stuck with me,” he wrote of the line. “I paint fish and couldn’t get it out of my head so I painted it.”
Thanks Jon Lee, to me that’s about as cool as it gets.
“Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it.” –Thelonious Monk
These kids played on Letterman and I liked the song so I listened to it again.
The baseline reminded me of this song from the Raconteurs:
Jack White supposedly gets pissed about this sort of thing (witness his feud with the Black Keys), which is funny because he basically states in the documentary It Might Get Loud that his idea for the guitar-drums ensemble came from watching the Flat Duo Jets, before they added a bass player. (He also raves about them in Two Headed Cow):
But, hey, it’s ok to be influenced by someone else. Witness these J Roddy Walston and the Business fellows…
..who have a Kings of Leon vibe…
But then to me they all sound a bit like Uncle Tupelo covering the Stooges:
And Uncle Tupelo is among the best of my generation and they are both heavily influenced and original all at once, which is the best kind of thing…
So bring it down home kids, there’s always room for more.
There’s a certain mindset I’ve come to expect from Texans based upon those I’ve run across. If I had to explain it, it’s something along the lines of, “We need to disassemble this 10 ton truck and walk it piece by piece across the length of the panhandle? Let’s get started.”
Tosh Brown has that in him, as evidenced in his revelation that he left behind his University of Texas business degree and a job in commercial real estate to shoot pictures. “Ditch the tie, get a camera and go on to be one of the most acclaimed fly fishing photographers of the past two decades? Let’s get started.”
He was certainly that way when he teamed up with me to publish our photo-essay book [shameless-self promotion alert: The Blitz: Fly Fishing The Atlantic Migration]. On our trips together, I learned a few other things about Tosh. First and foremost, he is a family man, proving that you can reconcile creative pursuits with raising kids in a functional manner. Second, he loves good jokes and great stories.
When I read through Tosh’s new book, Top of the Flood: Halfway Through a Fly-fishing Life, I think back to those slogs through New England on the ferry, eating food warmed under a rotisserie heat lamp, listening to Tosh and waiting for the payoff.
Tosh’s recollections come across on the page as they would in person, well-told and with comic sensibility. In his essay called “A Matter of Record,” he recounts his nonchalance about applying for potential IGFA records for flounder and red snapper. He says of the latter, “If my memory serves, we ate that one grilled with new potatoes and a fabulous Veracruz sauce.”
There are great one liners like that in every chapter. (In his essay, “Extremes,” he aptly notes that “…snook are fastidious little pricks, even in Texas.”)
I traveled. I fished. I caught fish.
Hear the extended version at ORVIS NEW YORK this Thursday at 12:30 pm at 44th and 5th.
Meanwhile, here’s a 50-second GoPro synapsis from two years ago.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time listening to the Pogues, which is something to do on St. Patrick’s Day among other days. The song “Poor Paddy¹” came on.
In the song, Shane MacGowan references corduroy britches nine times. It struck me as an intriguing cultural reference in that the only other song I can think of that mentions the fabric is NWA’s “Dope Man.”
In “Dope Man” Eazy-E mentions them only once. At the song’s four minute mark he says, “I’m the dope man yeah boy wear corduroy, money up to here but unemployed.”
These are the top two songs to my knowledge that involve corduroy². Both songs have the same hardness to them, of the working man trying to get by in less than ideal labor conditions. So what does corduroy have to do with that?
Luckily, Google provides ready answers for surface grazers, expedited by the magic of autofill.
No less an apparel authority than Brooks Brothers³ calls corduroy the “cloth of the king,” before noting that during the Industrial Revolution, it became the go-to fabric of the working class, or as BB tells it, “poor man’s velvet.”
A more in depth history of corduroy can be found at V is for Vintage
This accounting describes it as having a “velvety feel making it durable yet soft to touch.” It also makes reference of using corduroy to sew “trousers” for soldiers, mountaineers and factory workers and those in “ink-based trades.”
So corduroy rightly has context within the two songs, and its strength as a material has afforded it venue in other pop culture mediums(4).
In any event, I own one pair of corduroy pants but several works of the Pogues and NWA and Eazy-E, so I’ll keep attuned to any other possible commonalities.
And, in case you were wondering about the justification for this, there is corduroy in fly fishing.
1. (It’s a traditional song, “Poor Paddy Work on the Railway,” documented by Carl Sandburg in American Songbag.)
2.(The Pearl Jam song titled “Corduroy” never actually mentions corduroy and, vocally, Eddie Vedder sounds like he may or may not be taking a dump. Who can say?)
3. (Brooks Brothers titles its clothing advice page, “Of Rogues and Gentlemen.” I can imagine the scrubbed salesman at the retail shop trying to play up the rogue angle to some accounting consultant from Deloitte. And, in hearing this, the consultant daydreams of the gang at the 19th hole saying, “He’s such a rogue, he played the entire round from the gold tees.”)
4. (Corduroy gets more play on Seinfeld in the form of swooshing pants. So do velvet, Gore Tex and cotton. Side note, the Yankee’s cotton uniforms episode has one of my favorite random Seinfeld bits, where George reads aloud, “Wade Boggs says, ‘What a fabric!'”)