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Otium cum Dignitatae

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Leather Opportunities and Waffle Packages


The Oregonian, as always, has just provided me with the most wonderful ten minutes of my day. In their mad rush to remain culturally relevant, they just had to sound off- in the most parenthetical of ways- on the unending controversy surrounding the disappearance of Manliness.
Or, to put it another way: they republished something from Popular Mechanics. It is a pointless little list regarding "25 Skills Every Man Should Know".

"Odd that 'cunnilingus' doesn't appear anywhere on here," said Bee. She's right. And neither does: 'learn to cook your own damn food and do your own damn dishes while you're at it', or 'have at least one joke on hand that you didn't acquire from movies, television, bumper stickers or baseball hats'.
Or even better: 'learn to express your disapproval of things without violence, shouting or generally bellicose, childish bullshit'.

What PM had to say on the subject was fairly predictable. The Oregonian noted that after all this is Popular Mechanic's take on what is important (and therefore very different from what the Official Journal of the National Speleological Society would say, for instance), "And the magazine's editors admitted these are equally valuable skills for women." Whew! Got that one out of the way!

A lot of the items could very easily be compressed into one listing. To wit; "Patch a radiator hose", and "Change oil and filter" are basically "Learn to maintain your own car". And "Protect your computer", "Back up data" and "Extend your wireless network" all seem to fall under "Learn how to use a computer".
Other items are a bit specialized to be something 'every' man should know how to do. "Rescue a boater who has capsized" and "Mix concrete" raise questions along the lines of: "Wait a minute; what do I do if I have capsized, during my endless hours on that boat I apparently own?" and "To be sure, mixing a small amount of concrete is roughly speaking the same process as adding water to a packet of instant cocoa. But if I needed a new driveway or something, why shouldn't I call someone who does that sort of thing for a living?"

"Build a campfire" is indeed something I think everyone needs to know how to do. I'm a little surprised that "Grow your own food" isn't on here somewhere. "Retouch digital photos" strikes me as not only inessential and easy as hell, but shall we say a bit fey for a list such as this? "Frame a wall"? See my response to the concrete thing, above.
Some are things that can save lives, ala campfire building or, "Maneuver a car out of a skid" and "Perform CPR". Perhaps "Navigate with a map and compass" falls into that category, maybe not.

"Clean a bolt-action rifle"? Why only that one kind of firearm? Is that the only thing I need to know how to clean? Do I need to know how to fire this weapon? "Paint a room"? You mean correctly, or just splash paint all over? "Fix a dead outlet"? You fix it!

Matter o' fact, how do I score? On this virtual Honey Do list that Mechaniques Populare has prepared for me, I can accomplish fifteen of them, if certain things are understood in the individual cases. Like "Sharpen a knife": I can, and I have, but it's not like I'm fantastic at it. Room painting? Same thing.
Above all else, I just hate that whiny shit about masculinity being hunted to extinction. It's not even somewhat true, and is largely used to market shitty products. I'm a man anyway, get it? Matter of fact, I may just be more of a man because I refuse to categorize myself in any of the ways that I'm constantly being reminded are acceptable.
And "Hook up an HDTV" is just fucking stupid. Read the manual, dummy.

** ** ** ** **


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which is to say, fall fashion week at Nike.
Or whatever it's called. In true form, this event has some strange name that I currently don't remember. But in any case, fun is there to be had, for those willing to have some.
Every fall (and on a much smaller scale, every June), Nike flies all of their sales reps in to Beaverton for a week, sometimes month. Doling out what must be incredible amounts of cash for transportation, lodging, food and a shit-crazy amount of booze, the only purpose here is to show everybody who works for the company what they're going to be attempting to sell next year.

So they put on a multi-venue trade seminar/fashion show, achieving what must be the world's largest tax write-off for 'business expenses' while doing something that could just as easily have been done by mailing a bunch of catalogues to their people.
This is all achieved by hiring a bunch of ancillary AV geeks, union stagehands, and at least two outside production companies that I know of, all of whom do not come cheap.
And the product of all this brainstorming? Last year, it was the Michael Vick line of clothing and shoes. They put a ton of effort and money into that particular guy/marketing campaign. And look where they are now!
I mean, there's really no way that anyone (at Nike, anyway) could have seen his someday getting busted for torturing and abusing dogs, but on the other hand...I dunno, you guys got a research department, I bet, right?

So this year, it's Shoes specifically marketed to Native Americans. This has already started folks talking. It would seem that...N.A.'s? What's the acceptable terminology of the moment? Anyway, Those People have wider and taller feet doncha know, so let's make lots of those types of shoes that maybe those who live on those rural slums we call reservations might one day buy them/kill each other over them, ala urban slum dwellers, a.ka. Our African American Brothers and Sisters of Color.
It says here that they are only to be distributed to Native Americans...Which shoe police will be enforcing that one, I wonder..."I don't write the laws, boys!" screams Shoe Cop, levelling his riot gun at the white, affluent teens that want wider, taller shoes.

And of course, my favorite thing of all is the Attempt Toward Cultural Sensitivity:
" The design features several “heritage callouts” as one product manager described it, including sunrise to sunset to sunrise patterns on the tongue and heel of the shoe. Feather designs adorn the inside and stars are on the sole to represent the night sky."

As to 'heritage callout': that's the weird code these people speak in. For instance:
Your base layer is called a 'waffle package'. Possible material options for a shoe include 'leather opportunities' ("Who wouldn't want one of those?", an employee asked me, last year). The design of the shoe is called the 'story'.
I sat through a week worth of this drivel last year, only because I had to. Up in the AV booth, supplied by Guckenheimer's Catering Services and given all the Starbuck's Coffee I could drink, I kept hearing statements like, "It's a really neat story...", and expecting to hear a story, when what they meant was 'the design story', which is really just a relatively straightforward description of a shoe.
They also kept on making reference to 'shoedogs', which I guess are teenage boys who are so fanatical about athletic shoes that there's even magazines that cater to them. I wonder about that, though. There's magazines that cater to everything, for starters, and the idea of a shoedog mag strikes me as something that some big brain came up with at Nike.

Anyway, other readers' comments include:
"It's just really fucking presumptious. They probably brought in a Native consultant and heard what they wanted to hear, which is that Native Americans like sunrises and rainbows and feel real connected to the earth and the night sky and stuff. This brand of "multiculturalism" makes corporations feel like they're being understanding and respectful when all they're doing is draping their ignorance in a brightly colored cloth."-la foi

"i am part native american and i do indeed have wide and tall feet. i have always had problems finding shoes that fit well. but there is no way in hell i would put those ugly plain mainstream atrocities nike calls shoes on my feet. i think these shoes should be marketed towards people with wide tall feet not specifically towards native americans. by making these shoes so ugly are they insinuating native americans have bad taste?? these are about the ugliest shoes i've ever seen... thanks nike for your special consideration."-drunk injun

"WHAT??!??? SERIOUSLY? Of the scores of people who were likely involved in the design, manufacture, and advertising of this shoe, not one decisionmaker thought twice about it?"-wha???

With the last note being my point: for all their effort, they remain, like lots of organizations, too firmly rooted up their own asses, and somewhere in there, the idea of Oversight gets lost. Just about any of us could assess this thing for what it is, but these are people who spend years only surrounded by other weirdoes muttering shit about waffle packages, pampered/borderline psychopathic professional athletes and yer marketing types, who hope that Just This One More Time, they can manage to reinvent The Shoe.

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2 Comments:

Blogger David Rochester said...

I think the manliest thing a manly man can do is make enough money to get someone else to maintain his car, mix his concrete, paint his rooms, and shoot his enemies with a single-bolt rifle.

Because money is power, and there is, as we all know, nothing more inherently testosterone-laden than power.

So I say a dignified Neener to Popular Mechanics, and return to my copy of the Wall Street Journal.

7:28 AM  
Blogger George Popham said...

T-Tart and I just read this aloud to eachother over Breakfast, and howled over and over...

It was much needed as i spent the week trying to come down from toxic levels of anti-siezure meds in my bloodstream. Not as dramatic as it sounds, but I do feel as if I have been veeery sloooowly bluuuudgeoned.

the burst of hillarity re-entry was helpful...

11:12 AM  

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