14 July 2011

One Night Stands & Zippos

This picture of Central Park should put you in a reflective mood. If you're reading this, bouncing your knee and biting your finger nails -- consider coming back later this evening. Maybe with an adult beverage. Put on some music and slow down. Just a little. I have something to tell you.

I was talking to Stew, a blogger (Blood & Grits) I have a great deal of respect for. Not only as a writer I admire and envy, but as a man who can simplify complicated things. Be they, cooking pig trotters or giving insight into life or finding really cheap hooch. In short, I think Stew is a poet. A couple days ago Stew asked,

"Why the fuck is every blogger compelled to take photos of his submariner and post them right along with the pictures of "the serene bedroom" with bedside tables littered with stained espresso cups or teacups with PG Tips bags hanging like limp dicks from their lips?"

I told you he was a poet. I tell Stew about a blogger who showed me a Vietnam era Zippo he bought off eBay. I noticed the unit insignia on the lighter was from a division that had been disbanded in the 1950's. Stew said,

"Shit happens if you have no knowledge of the artifact you pursue. Knowing the artifact and simply acquiring it are mutually fucking exclusive. But today, to have is to know. A simple blog post stakes authenticity or at least makes a claim of being "in the know." Most of the time, as you say here, it shows one actually knows little of what one claims. Fucking Internet."

That's it. You can stop reading now because all I'm going to do is repeat what Stew said, but I'll use a lot more words and be far more confusing. It's so good I stole it. I would add that curiosity is key to a well lived life. Buying a picture for the sake of hanging it on a wall is like having a one night stand with a stranger. Sure, it's pleasurable, but not for very long.

I was interested in European advertising posters about 12 years ago. I was living in Chicago and there was a dealer across the street from the Art Institute. I looked at posters but bought four books on poster history. The dealer rang the books up and said, "It's nice to see someone who's really interested and willing to research before buying." I though he was busting my ass for not buying a poster, but he added, "Most folks just want something to hang over the sofa. They could care less about where it came from, who designed it, the significance of it..."

A funny thing happens when you accumulate a lotta shit you don't know anything about or have any connection to. It quickly moves from "The Get" to "The Get Rid Of." For bloggers it becomes a prop for electronic Show & Tell. Sadly, while authenticity is touted it's usually sacrificed. If you don't know what it means or stands for -- how the hell can you appreciate it?

I would add that the experience of the purchase -- that is, "I stayed up 'til two in the morning bidding on eBay for this" is not the experience I'm talking about. However, learning what it is, researching the background and history, wondering who owned it before you, or even better, knowing who owned it...These simple things make the connection.

I'm trying hard not to get too curmudgeonly about this, but I guess the question is this. Are you curious? In the end, curiosity didn't kill the cat but kept me alive while being in a world I didn't think much of. No matter how bad things got, I always wondered, "What's gonna happen next?"


Anonymous said...

Booming post. This should be required reader for any aspiring (or even established) blogger.

brohammas said...

curiosity without means breeds creativity. Its why I started painting.

Kyle said...

Thank you! Agree with Anonymous.

Above all I think it's just a lack of self awareness that gets lost in the search for "authenticity" these days.

Would make for a great first post on one of my new blogs:

An Endless Pitch

A Listless Jackass

See if you can guess where I get my inspiration from ;)

I can keep going...

Unclelooney said...

So i guess the birkenstocks I just bought on ebay did not belong to a member of the Baader Meinhoff gang?

Oyster Guy said...

So well said by Tintin and Stew. But don't feel too bad for Zippo Dude. He'll soon figure out that the Korean War has a much higher retro cool factor than Viet Nam.

Anonymous said...

Connoisseur versus consumer?

Anonymous said...

I am OCD on the "crap" I accumulate... stacks and stacks of "crap", but all "crap" I love, and enjoy and play with and love (I already said that).
Folks see my "crap" (as they think.. I see that word "crap" behind their eyes when they're lookin' about my cave) as just that, "crap".
I (on the other hand) see it as as thousands of lives and hundreds of years of incredible human achievement via art that comes truly alive, in front of me when I lower that diamond-tipped stylus in that really l-o-n-g slow moving circular groove.

Real is as real gets. If you buy, just to buy, flaunt, show off, or just to "must have for the moment" own, you Don't deserve it... just keep on walkin' buddy, let someone else who loves knows and appreciates it have it.

The Dapper Dad said...

Spot on. The whole research process and the discovery are what make "finding" a specific item that much more enjoyable (especially the intimate personal joy of having found it by chance or through perseverance). The story behind anything is what gives it value (whether subjective or objective) and "authenticity". The rest is just wannabe fashion and faddishness (much to the chagrin of the true 'amateur' who must now fork over more money to get that much sought after object).

mpr said...

1.giving a shit v. not giving a shit
2.earning something v. being given something
3.thinking for yourself v. following a trend.
4.learning something v. being told and then reciting.


DS said...

Now, knowing nothing about the use of military insignia (except that Ralph Lauren makes pretty good use on occasion)and strictly playing devil's advocate, isn't it plausible that they guy who had it in Viet-Nam was so enamored of the storied "# infantry/armored/cavalry" that he wanted to put their insignia on his lighter, or the original owner of the lighter had one in Korea with his division's insignia on it, lost it in a bar one night around 1967 and then had someone recreate his original lighter for him.

I'm guessing the dude got scammed, but you never know.

andrea said...

I think I can answer Stew's question ("Why ...is every blogger compelled to take photos of his submariner and post them right along with the pictures of "the serene bedroom...".)

It's because much of the effort of photography involves getting out and physically going to a place. Taking photos in and around the house or apartment involves much less effort.

Main Line Sportsman said...

I also admire Stew's writing...his capture of the vernacular of his region is particularly impressive. I am hoping to one day share a duck blind with him....

Anonymous said...

Lesson: Curate, or regret.

great zamboni said...

This post is almost good enough for me to forgive you for showing me that guys nasty feet. Almost.
But seriously, a thoughtful piece. I continue with my own blog, which walks a very different path from the watch/flannel/shoulder bag fetishists, one that pimps my solo-character, in what is an honest way i hope. For me the difference is, is there a story. Yes, you found a cool watch- but unless there is a story and a connection from it to you -and then to me- its just another nice thing. You articulated better than I could. -jw

AW said...

'In the end, curiosity didn't kill the cat but kept me alive while being in a world I didn't think much of. No matter how bad things got, I always wondered, "What's gonna happen next?" '

Those last couple sentences -- as good as Vonnegut.

Anonymous said...

That whole European poster thing: For me, not so much about what's going to happen next, but what happened then. A poster from the '50s advertising a new post-war product called "detergent" showing an illustration of French woman hanging billowing laundry on a sunny day in the country.

I connect to that for some reason. I might hang it above my sofa, and when my friends visit they scratch their heads. But I get it, and it works. You get it, too, Tintin; an advertiser's version of a snippet of what life was like for average folks anywhere in Europe at that time, clawing their way back to prosperity, to a humble comfort nearly forgotten by the terror of war, just happy to have survived.


Anonymous said...

trad you bring up a point that has been covered vastly in many contexts of the menswear forum underground. Actually specifically with regard to streetwear, which you probably have little to no interest in but can serve as a useful example. The issue (prior to the recession), was that kiddies living with their parents and spending parents money were purchasing high priced street art and street fashion labels, only to talk pictures of themselves with said items, just for the sake of gaining respect or proving something to the forums elite. They had no actual connection to the artists, or brands, knew nothing of the history behind them or anything beyond the illusion of respect that they thought they gained by attaining these items. I think this is a phenomenon that bleeds into any subculture that is not based on mere consumerism but represents a passion, a lifestyle and authenticity. You can't buy memories, you can't buy the past and you sure as hell can't buy a real connection that is gained through life experiences, some of which are down right unpleasant. You must earn the right to own and wear nice things, otherwise you're just really into gaining respect and attention rather than actually being interested in what it is.

rantover. wall of text.

Julia said...

One of the reasons I adore being a librarian - I am never finished with my work and I am never bored - ever. (There are annoying patrons, but that's another story.)

Theo said...

Can a lot of this come under cultural appropriation? i just started reading about this and i'm not sure it quiiiite clicks with me on the rampant/petty activist level, but i dig the premise/theory.

in that sense, where does one draw the lines? like over guiseppe on affordable always having to deal with/justify wearing that ivy gear.At what point can you say that the 'cultural/learned thing' is pretty ambiguous or doesn't require this base of education or having 'earned' it?

another thing i wonder about is okay, i just read about this nigel cabourn ss/12 whatever thing, "desert rats" now, cabourn is always trumpeted as being this authentico bla bla guy, but the more i think about it the more i lump him in with your complaints about ralph etc etc. some sort of appropriating profiteer.

hope i didn't ramble, just really like what you brought up.