Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Downfall of Abercrombie and Fitch

Over the summer, Abercrombie and Fitch announced that they would improve customer service. They succeeded. As a result, the brand has begun its slow but inevitable death.

You might think that embroidering "Abercrombie and Fitch" on the back of select polo shirts underneath the collar so that when one "pops like it's hot" yet one more billboard that screams "I (Mom and Dad) just shelled out 80 bucks for my shirt!" becomes apparent is tacky and shows desperation, but trust me, that can't hurt the brand. Back in my early high school days, before A&F completely succumbed to shirts like "I'm Easy" and "Serial Bachelor," which are sick but at least honest, their shirts made absolutely no sense. Yet kids still bought.

Don't get me wrong, they were kinda romantic. To this day I'm strongly considering quitting school and becoming an Abercrombie Lift Operator ("Work to live, live to ski"... Sail away, sail away, sail away...), or perhaps serving the community by joining the A&F Canine Rescue Unit (You know those kegs around the St. Bernards don't actually have whiskey in them? Poor canines...). There was this one kid whose parents were either on a budget (see: sane) or just downright cruel and only got him one shirt from the popular store, so he'd wear the thing every other day and as a result I always thought "I really gotta go visit Dave's Tree Farm." Dave woulda got a lot of business off that if they'd only listed an address.

"Abercrombie and Fitch Waste Management" and "Abercrombie and Fitch Dry Cleaner" never made it onto the long-sleeve T's, but if they had, rest assured, the kids would have bought. It wasn't the logo or the illustration or the material or the fit or the cut - it was the name! Abercrombie and Fitch. Yes, it sounds dignified (stupid limeys), but it wasn't just its wonderful flow and 4-syllableness (in recent years, "Fitch" has found himself ousted on some shirts, giving "Abercrombie" center stage) that caught kids attention.

Like a road trip to Des Moines, acquiring clothing at Abercrombie and Fitch was not about the destination, but the journey. The clothing was only proof that you'd done it! You were adult, you were hip, you were all grows up...

You were... a veteran?

When Abercrombie (see? No Fitch.) announced they were going to improve customer service, those of us who had actually been in the store recognized "improve" meant "introduce." Introduce they did. I never actually bought anything there myself (my lunch table didn't have an apparel requirement), but that's not to say I never went into the store. I had to know what this "A&F Lifestyle" was all about. Sure, you might have once see the kinky, downright raunchy magazine, but that's just a front. Peace and Love? No way - as a store, Abercrombie and Fitch was war.

A&F had employees, but once the object was for them to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Like the French Resistance, most of them were there but didn't actually do anything. Perhaps a more watchful eye could catch someone folding clothes and then, then get them to find those jeans in 34x34 in the back room, or perhaps unlock the dressing room. But such fanfare was reserved for parents... dorky parents. As every teenager (especially teenage boy) knows, shopping with mother is about as conducive to coolness as Star Trek. The cool kids didn't shop with their parents, they had the credit card or the cash and, if they were freshmen or sophomores, friends with cars. At the very least they'd get their parents to drop them off... for heaven's sake, parent, whatever you do just don't come into the store.

Would you bring mother to war with you? Of course not. Certainly not dad, as he's usually the breadwinner. Woe to those kids whose dad ever went into A&F. "Thirty dollars for a t-shirt?!" He wouldn't even keep his voice down, as mother would at least do. He wasn't hip, he wasn't with it, and he certainly wasn't going to let you spend your allowance on this stuff. "What the hell is an Abercrombie Lift Operator, anyway?"

Perhaps some newbies survived this onslaught. After initiation, they were free to roam the war zone. That Hobbesian State of Nature. Was life nasty, brutish, and short inside Abercrombie and Fitch? Well, maybe you'd come out breathing, but what about your social life? If you thought putting on the suave facade at school was a big deal for these tools, you should have seen this place! Who's outcooling who? Who's going to come in, find the stuff they want, buy it and leave while looking like the baddest cat in the history of the world ? Sociologists could have written entire books on the place. It was hormones, cologne, perfume, money, power, makeup, hair products, a giant moose head, and combat all combined into one giant goulash of delicious teenage retardation.

"I got one!!!"


"Have you TRIED our new jeans!?"


And with that homoerotic question, my studies were over. No, I never actually tried your old jeans, Mr. Fitch. I was just here to watch. But if I wanted to try your jeans, I woulda found them myself, then picked the lock of the dressing room to try them on. I don't need this... this... service! Do you know what table I sat at when I was in high school?! What is this, 'cause I'm an adult now I need customer service? And I thought the whole gay thing finally went out with the Philly season of "The Real World", why did you keep the lisp?

But it wasn't just for me, even the teeny-boppers were being... helped. A&F was now the same story as J. Crew, Marshall Field's and every other store. It was ordered... it was... socially contracted.

It's just any other store now. As a result, it will be replaced.

Abercrombie and Fitch

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey, Hey, (Hey) Hey Ladies!!!

All debates about the man's man aside, at least one issue can be resolved without any discussion. That's who is the best lady in the history of the world. No matter what factor one prefers, there is one lady that not only embodies that characteristic to the extreme, but 100% of all the other vitamins and minerals a man may need or desire. If it weren't for the fact that it would impurify the whole "There Can Be Only One" aspect of the whole thing, this lady would provide an excellent case for cloning so men the world over wouldn't hafta deal with finding some lady to (sorta) live up to her impossible standard.

The internet is driven by females, namely the exploitation of them. It's big business. Long before the internet, the degredation of would-be ladies to girls took its toll. Before stating the obvious, perhaps we should go down some of the worst offenses of femaledom that have been in the limelight recently.

Girl #1: Anna Nicole Smith

Anna gets some credit, 'cause she's not just a girl, she's a trilogy!

Episode I

Episode II

Episode III


While providing adolescent pleasantry for many a male, Anna's reality show added serious baggage to a personality that was already about as appealing as a Pauly Shore movie. Comeback's are impressive, but considering she got started in the business with the help of plastic surgeons, it's just not Rocky III comeback material. More like... Rocky V... man, that's rough.

Girl #2: Pamela Denise Anderson (Lee... sometimes)

(Kills people)

I was as excited about the one season of Baywatch that had Pam, Donna D'Errico, Carmen Electra, Gena Lee Nolin, and Yasmine Bleeth as the next guy. Alas, no matter what the Fox ratings say, Hepatitis C is bad for you. Wait... is that a... stain on her dress? Whoa. Sick.

Girl #3: No, really, take a good look at that picture... what else could that be? Geeze... sloot.

I'm getting way too caught up in the 90s. Yes, these females have been in the limelight, but let's face it, they're has-beens. Hmmm...

Girl #3 (for real this time): Vida Guerra

Yes, FHM, you discovered one fine butt.
I'm over it.

Morons are dismissing me right now as some kinda old man trapped in the body of a stud. But, really, even the current "All American Girl" Jessica Simpson - who totally pulled a perfect Machiavellian Slip by ousting both Christina Aguilerra and Britney Spears just by going on TV acting like a dumb blonde - doesn't have brains or soul to live up to the status of lady. I mean, as far as pop culture girls go, and considering she's still alive, she's up there. Still, though, once you see this, you're going to be amazed.

Behold, the Lady:

(Drool elsewhere)

That's Grace Kelly, you dolts.

As if Rear Window and Dial M for Murder weren't enough, viewing To Catch a Thief this past weekend confirmed it. She swaps dialoge w/ Cary Grant (who, if Lee Marvin weren't alive, woulda been a contendah...) as naturally as... well, too naturally. So naturally, it was real. A real, classy lady. Looks, brains, wit.

So, here's to you, Grace Kelly, and to Prince Albert of Monaco... who totally got to marry her. Damn.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Men's Men trumped by Man's Man

The quintessential Man's Man is proclaimed on websites far and wide across the great vastness of cyberspace and debated on an equal number of boards and newsgroups. A popular classic would be one of the diatribes of Maddox, which opens with an eloquent summation of the late and great Gregory Peck. Tao of Steve a few years back tried to give the title to Steve McQueen and other ladies men of yesteryear.

Honest, convincing efforts, the lot of them. However, there are some internet campaigns of late that, while not coming outright and saying it, are trying to give comeupance to men that have no place in the realm of Men's Men.

Offense #1: Chuck Noris

This is a sensitive subject for me, because even now that I'm on Thanksgiving break there's a few voicemails popping up on my phone every morning. They remain unchecked, 'cause I know what they're going to say: "I'm telling you, they were nin-ja." Apparently when The Octagon came out in 1980, nobody in America had ever heard the term, unless they were in-the-know at the local dojo.

Considering this was years before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and sweet Ninja appearances in every Marvel Comic from The Punisher to Archie Meets the Punisher, it's purely in retrospect that we can take humor in Chuck stretching out the word an extra fifteen seconds than we're accustomed to. Niiinnnnnnnn-juh. Back in 1980 in theaters across America, The Octagon probably helped start the whole thing. Before Americanization, Nin-ja was the bridge between the true American students, the wannabees and finally, the poseurs. Real Ninjas probably still say Nin-ja.

I have nothing to say about Ninjas themselves; the subject has been beaten to death already.

My point is, I love Chuck. I believe nearly every fact revealed on this random fact generator. But, being able to retain reason even amidst the deepest personal man-crush (which any guy who sees Delta Force 2 will have for at least an hour afterward) , I must say Chuck's just not the man's man.

Offense #2: Vin Diesel

Suffice to to say, if Gibbon was still alive this attrocity would culminate The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization.

There are other offenses, no doubt, but as they are not popular they are not worth mentioning.

And now, without further ado, behold, the forgotten reality:

Lee Marvin
(Kills People)

I could go into a long diatribe about The Dirty Dozen, The Big Heat, etc., etc. But that would be just silly. Just watch the original Delta Force. Romantics might say, as this was Lee's last movie, that he was in fact handing the torch to Chuck to take over as the man's man. Right, and Steve McQueen and Yule Brenner's rival showboating in The Magnificent Seven was done with all the friendliness of the dueling banjos.

Watch the movie, people! If you can find one shared scene where Lee isn't about to smack Chuck upside the head with a good 'ol fashioned Marine fist and say "Get over yourself, man!" please let me know.

This is not to say Lee had no respect for Chuck's trademarked art of "Chun Kuk Do," it's just that this art of "The Universal Way" really doesn't add up to delivering a universal barrage from your BAR on a group of Banzai soldiers on Saipan in WWII. You know, when it comes to real manliness, Jimmy Stewart's got more to his credit than Chuck Norris. Don't even get me started on Vin Diesel.

Clearly, by the time Chuck met Lee the whole fame thing had just gone to his head. Like Han talking to Ben Kenobi, it was just "She's fast enough for you, old man." Lee's influence was delivered upon many who chose to listen, unlike Chuck.

Like who, you ask?

Ronald Reagan
(Kills people)

Lest we forget one of Ron's last film roles, The Gipper received his commupance from Lee in The Killers. They both played bad dudes, and out-badding Lee Marvin was an impossible feat. So what did Lee do? He showed up to the set wasted on the last day of shooting so that his acting ability would be impaired and Reagan's mediocre acting would be able to live up to Lee's death scene. No doubt they parted as friends.

Then, while Lee would go on to do Dirty Dozen and a bunch of other movies that should be watched any time one gets the temptation to watch an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, Reagan went on to topple communism with a smile.

In conclusion: Know your men's men; beware of false prophets.

Men's men gotta stick together.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Judge a Book by Its Cover...

They say "Never judge a book by its cover." Whoever they are, they obviously read The Communist Manifesto.A lil' glance at the hammer and sickle obviously coulda saved them a lot of time. What a stupid way to symbolize a country. Even the working man would put those down in a second if there was a sale on John Deer tractors and pile drivers at the local TSC. Anyway, they (again, those that make clever sayings their paradigms) read things like this cover-to-cover, and they're sitting in the coffee shop right now discussing lines like "He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law." Oh, please...

Go ahead, you whiny commie. Sip on your uber-Kapitalist $6.00 espresso while you and the girl with the pink hair and the pet mouse discuss how the poor are getting poorer. While you're at it, please don't stop to consider that somehow you've been coming to the same coffee shop for 5 years since getting your BA in Gender Studies (which took 6 years to get in the first place) and thanks to mommy and daddy you still haven't had to get a job. Capitalism supports your communism. Just stay in the Starbucks (which originated in the state of Washington, but is now one with your state of denial), and we'll call it even.

Man, that sounds kinda grumpy! There are way too many grumpersons puttering about this internet and this world to join in the grumblings. I'm not trying to pan communists. I'm just laughing. At them. Joy is the goal!

Where... does... the joy... come from?


What I was really trying to get at with judging a book by its cover was this:

eh? You can judge me anytime. I'm no narcissist, but this could change things. Whew!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Trunk

Hunter S. Thompson is dead.
Old news. Solidified by Tom Wolfe's obituary in the Wall Street Journal.

If I could know I was going to die with "The 20th Century's Greatest Comic Writer" as the announcement of my departure a few days later, perhaps I'd contemplate death more often.

But with that would come worries. Worries are not me.

Thanksgiving is a busy time for me. I spent yesterday afternoon emptying the trunk of the Town Car of recyclables. The elder generation of Gluds just wouldn't understand the accumulation of empty Killian's and Heineken bottles, Bud Light 40s ('cause everyone goes slumming sometimes...), quarter barrels, cases of wine, boxes of cigars, and other assorted spent paraphernalia piling up in the back of my car. It wouldn't do well to try and explain away any possible below-average grades in the coming months after sharing that spectacle, believe me.

Now, by "emptying the trunk of the Town Car," you may get some vision of something like this:

Go ahead, laugh it up.

You think emptying the trunk of a 2003 Town Car would be a spectacle? No more than if I was giving you your luggage, and I'm not a chauffeur.

Try this instead:

Emptying this is no chore, it's a journey. Perhaps, even, "a savage journey into the heart of the American dream"?! And here you were wondering what the Hunter S. Thompson bit was about.

A quick scan of the internet will reveal that the cargo capacity for the newer Town Cars (like the first one pictured) is 20.6 cubic feet. Not bad, but a definite sacrifice compared to 1989. What was the cargo capacity of 1989 (pictured above, not mine, but the same model)?

Try finding that, I dare you. If you do find it, the figures are at best estimates made by the world's top scientists or bold-faced lies (and you know better than to trust those phonies on the internet... nevermind). My point is, no one knows for sure, and many men have died trying to find out.

I'm no such fool. I'll drive the beast, but you won't catch me messing around back there.

The front part where the light touches when the trunk is open, that's where it's safe to wander. It's where the contraband is stored and, more importantly, the only place where it can be seen. That's the limits of my venture. I'm a young man, and quite independent, but there are some things you learn from your elders that you don't forget... ever.


Before I left for college a few years back, my dad and I spent the night in the cabin my grandfather built on the car's bumper back in '91. People always asked him "But what if you get rear-ended?" To this day, the cabin's still there. Anyway, this was a last night of bonding, and it went really well. I knew the car; I knew to buckle up, get those periodic oil changes, check the tire pressure (7.4 x 10^4 PSI), and not to trust the gas gauge but definitely heed the "Low Fuel" warning light. Dad was ready to let go, ready to trust me. But he had one more lesson to teach. We climbed up the back of the car using grappling hooks and once we reached the summit, or the edge of the trunk, dad popped that sucker and showed me the rear kingdom that awaited.

Everything the light touches...

Yeah, I know, "Now just wait a minute..." I saw the movie too, okay? And while I wish my dad was Mufasa, he's a little less powerful with words and doesn't have the hair. He really just put it like this:

"Son, this is all yours. Except for that dark area over there."

He pointed to the netherworld, the rear portion of the trunk where the light didn't just end, but was absorbed as if the car was feeding it into its black-hole bowels. "Son, don't go there."


So, yeah, maybe I do "play it safe." Then again, to this day no one's asked to borrow my car to help move. This is rather odd, because in the forward (safe) section alone there's enough room to shelter the entire dormitory during a storm, if only they'd man up and get in. Four guys who didn't want to register their cars with campus security park back there, for Pete's sake! Like most '89 Town Car owners, I've had to field proposals for mega malls and other constructions: "Don't get me wrong, son, I've seen land like that before, I'm from Texas! Didn't you see Giant? I mean, I've seen land like that before! But land like that on wheels?! GAWWW-LLEE! It's historic, son, historic!"

Maybe someday, but the world wasn't ready in '89, and I still don't think it's ready. I think most would actually rather be blown away by a hurricane than venture into the trunk of my '89 Lincoln Town Car. Administration seems to agree, as they flatly rejected my proposal last year to alter the emergency plans.

Anyways, that was yesterday. I spent today resting. So all of you with your "Michael, I'm telling you, they were ninja." voicemails trying to get me to come watch The Octagon can just buzz off. Chuck Norris? I just cleaned out the trunk of an '89 Lincoln Town Car and you're trying to tell me I got to look to Walker, Texas Ranger for inspiration? Bronze souls, the lot of you.

Monday, November 21, 2005

First Post

People approached me at a quarter to one yesterday morning. With the uttmost sincerity, they asked me "Michael, where does the joy come from?" I had no response. But they expected no response.

The night had been a blur of excitement- no, pure elation. But as it wore down, the happy faces began to wane. All good things come to an end, and they know it.

Or do they? (That's in reference to "Do all things come to an end?" not "Do they know it?")

Gludfest, a three-hour yearly extravaganza, should not be limited to 1/2920 of the year.
I don't know where the joy comes from, but I sure know it can go for longer than that.

This is joy. This is Gludfest 24/7.