Friday Free-for-All #90: Not cool, clothing, celebrity bye-bye, book love

In the latest Friday-free-for all, find out which celebrities I’d banish forever, and more.

In which I answer random questions from a website. An ongoing series.

What’s something that people think makes them look cool but actually has the opposite effect?

There’s a list! Number one is vaping, which has replaced smoking, but same idea. No, you do not look cool standing on the parkway with a bunch of other hipster douches, fellating whatever form factor your stupid vape takes, and then inhaling huge white clouds into the air that are both more obnoxious and uglier than any cigarette exhale.

We get it. You need to be sucking on something at all times, especially when you’re hanging out with your bros.

Second: Man-buns for non-Asians. You know the concept. It’s a white guy who has long hair that normally looks okay when it’s down, or is even passable in a pony-tail. But as soon as they twist it into that little samurai topknot and stick it up there, they can just go to hell for all kinds of cultural appropriation, plus just looking like a basic douche.

Repeat after me: A Japanese man can pull this off because his people invented it. Other mainland Asians can do it in the same way that Europeans can borrow from each other — no one is going to bitch in Germany if an Irish guy wears lederhosen, for example. But FFS, it isn’t your hairstyle, don’t “borrow” it. Same goes double for white guys in cornrows or dreadlocks. Just… no.

Number three, “lumberjack” beards. You know the type. The ones that get so goddamn big that they grow down a man’s neck and hide most of his face. Dudes, here’s a hint: They are not attractive. They just make it look like you have an extreme baby face and don’t want to get carded.

Hint: If you can smuggle anything bigger than a paperback book in there, or a baby can stick its entire fist in from the front and still not hit your throat, then your beard is too damn big. Lose it, or at least trim it to normal beard proportions.

Now, I do know some actors who’ve chosen to grow their facial hair such stupid proportions. However, they do seem to be working all the time. It’s just that they’re always being cast as either semi-literate 19th-century mountain men or crazy modern homeless people. Sure, it brings in the money, but is it really acting or just playing the facial hair?

Anyway, if I look at your face and wonder how soon the baby birds in there are going to leave the nest for good, then your beard is way too big and ridiculous.

Finally, this one requires no explanation, although I don’t know why anybody would think that these would ever make them look cool: MAGA Hats. Nope. Why not just try a dunce cap instead?

 

What futuristic thing do you wish your clothing or accessories could do?

The most important thing — make me forget that I have to deal with them. In the morning, I go to my phone app, decide what I want to wear, and that shit hops out of the closet or drawers and puts itself on me. Maybe I have to alternately lift a foot while standing or put one arm and then the other back for a sleeve, but it would really be no different than being dressed by a human valet.

Or maybe that’s the ultimate accessory to go with all of this, instead of putting too much work on the clothes: The Closet Dresser. Once you’ve picked out your outfit, this rather sophisticated machine gently puts on all the parts — socks, undies, tops, pants, belt/suspenders, shoes, and it hangs your selected sweater, hat, or overcoat right by the front door. Well, the door you use to exit to go to work — if you still have to exit to do that.

In the evening, the Closet Dresser will remove the day’s clothing, put on whatever you want to sleep in (if anything) and will have already made the bed. Meanwhile, the clothes of the day go into a hopper at the base of the Closet Dresser, which provides a quick and quiet ultrasonic wash that leaves everything as good as new and smelling like it just came off the rack for the first time.

It’s filed back in the closet or drawers and Closet Dresser keeps stats so that, for example, if you try to pick the same top or same top and bottoms combo within, say, a week of each other, it will alert you.

Bonus feature that comes by default with Closet Dresser: Matching accessories, so that you never go out with the wrong shoes, bag, gloves, hat, jewelry, make-up, or tie to go with your outfit.

If you could choose one celebrity to instantly become disappear from the spotlight, which celebrity would you choose and why?

If it’s only one, I might be stretching by referring to this a-hole as a celebrity, but The Former Guy is number one on the list. You know — the Loser formerly known as 45*, or the Oval Office Occupant after Obama, or the defeated president who lost to Joe Biden.

Although I’d hope that “disappear form the spotlight” really just means “disappear completely.”

If I could do it in sets, then the TFG and his entire family and all of his advisors would get a quick trip to oblivion — except maybe for Tiffany, his niece Mary, and his son Barron. Maybe.

Now, if I get to eliminate them in sets, then it’s the Kardashians, hands down — every last one of them and all of their spouses and offspring. Hell, let’s vanish them from memory for three generations in each direction.

The only caveat is that significant others who didn’t marry into the clan get to stay here because no way in hell would I ever send Pete Davidson away, even if his monster dong has led him into a momentary lapse of reason.

Book or movie?

Well, this is an interesting question, because it really depends on how attached I am to the book. However, in a few cases, I’ve found the movie to live up to the book, so that I love them both.

Examples of these are, in no particular order, Interview with the Vampire, Dune (all three versions), Watchmen, Lord of the Flies (1963 film only) and 1984, the technically 1984 but really 1985 film version with John Hurt.

When it comes to books that were okay but kind of shlocky, then the films always win. Anything from a Dan Brown novel comes to mind, where the pace and glibness of film prevents us from dwelling on his self-indulgent prose and super-obvious plotting. There are also acres of so-so books that actually turned into great movies, although I haven’t read a lot of those.

Ones that do come to mind tend to fall into the Science Fiction or miniseries categories. Soylent Green (didn’t read the original) was a great movie, as was A Boy and His Dog (also never read the original.) Logan’s Run (read the original) was also a great movie.

The Bastard (miniseries) and Roots (miniseries) were both great. I did read all of the books in the John Jakes series that started with The Bastard, and remember reading about the first third of Roots. And, of course, both adaptations had to telescope events and combine characters but, ultimately, that’s no big deal.

That’s how adapting epics into film or TV form always works.

Oh — one I’m not counting here is 2001: A Space Odyssey, but only because Kubrick and Clarke wrote the book and screenplay at the same time, and the film version is only so much better than the novel version because it was written with that intention in the first place.

Well, that, and Clarke was kind of a hack who always wrote plot, never character. Sure, a lot of people have accused Kubrick of doing the same. The difference is that, on film, you can replace the weak imaginations of your audience with your spectacular visions and then they will just “get it” that way.

Friday Free-for-All #21

In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

What is the most comfortable piece of clothing you own?

A lot of people might not consider it clothing, but I do, and the answer to the question is: the outfit my mother made for me.

That may be a bit euphemistic, but a lot of people, particularly Americans, freak out over the real answer. The most comfortable piece of clothing I own is my own skin.

I mean, for one thing, no matter where I go, I’m always wearing it, no matter how many other layers of crap I have to cover it up with. But, when I don’t need all that extra crap, it’s gone, and I suddenly feel my most calm and comfortable.

And when I’m around other people who feel the same way and we’re all wearing the same outfit, nothing could be more, well, comfortable.

Right now, I can hear the Americans clutch their pearls while people from most other continents just nod. (Not all of them, but I’m not going to call out anyone not from my culture.) Perhaps they’re labelling me a nudist right now with some disdain, but that misses the mark.

The better term is naturist, and it simply means someone who prefers to be nude when they can be, and outside if possible and permissible.

Here’s another clue-in for the uninitiated. In English, at least, there are two words: naked and nude. Essentially, they mean the same thing — without any clothing or covering. However, functionally, they are very different.

When someone is naked, they don’t want to be. There is a sense of shame and embarrassment in being naked, as if a person was stripped of their clothing and dignity.

Meanwhile, if someone is nude, it’s because they want to be, period. No shame, and no embarrassment. So, basically, I’m never naked, but often nude.

So why is “nudist” wrong? Mostly because textiles (people who prefer wearing clothes) conflate nude and naked, then assume that being in either state only implies one thing.

S-E-X.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, my route to naturism happened in probably the least sexual ways possible. Number one, I was raised in a suburban, white, middle-class neighborhood — but throw on top of that a mother who was a lapsed Catholic who nonetheless never let go of the guilt and body shame.

Or, in other words, naked was nasty. And I remember many a time when she, my dad, and I would be watching some movie on cable in the den, and no matter how violent or gory something was, she didn’t bat an eyelid or make a move to shield young me from it.

But… flash a single bit normally hidden by someone’s “bathing suit area,” male or female, and she would cluck in disgust at my father, announce, “Oh, I didn’t know that this was one of those ‘nudie’ movies,” and he would change the channel while she reminded me that I had homework to do.

However, I grew up at the very ass-end of the era when P.E. in school was still associated with communal showers — in fact, I think I literally hit middle school a class year before it was phased out one year at a time.

To younger readers who might be boggling at the idea that yes, we all were expected to get nude together in the locker room and go shower, that ain’t nothing. Apparently, it wasn’t until about the 1970s that schools finally ended the practice of requiring swim classes and practice to be done in the nude.

Swimmers were segregated by sex, of course, but apparently this was a tradition rooted in history, and it went back to the 1920s. The only likely explanation is that once upon a time, swimsuits were made out of wool — this was before things like nylon and polyester — which meant that they shed fibers, took forever to dry out, and weren’t exactly that comfortable, either.

Apparently, girls were required to wear swimming costumes — not just for modesty, but also because of menstruation.

But to save schools the expense of doing all the boys’ laundry every day, not to mention wear and tear on the filters, they did away with the suits. And, again, this wasn’t that weird. It wasn’t until around the turn of the 20th century that bathing costumes even really existed, mostly because it wasn’t proper for women to go out into nature before that, and because boys and men didn’t need the formality.

Many decades later, it was still totally normal to get naked and take a shower in a locker room. And so, my first year in middle school and the first Friday of P.E. class came the day when we were finally required to do so.

By this point in my life, I’d only ever been naked around my parents, mostly at bath time and, to be honest, I think it had been a while by this point as well — certainly before I’d hit puberty, which actually got me early, in about fifth grade.

But there we were, and factor in the possible weird points of me also being around friends, some of whom I’d known for most of my life, some not quite as long.

But we’d been given the rules, so off my clothes went, and a funny thing happened as soon as I was nude and marching down the aisle between the benches to the showers.

I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me. It didn’t seem to bother my friends, either. The only thing that seemed to be going on was a strange and silent acknowledgement and admiration toward those few of us (myself included) who had already pubed out from those who hadn’t (most everyone else).

I think there was only one kid in our incoming class in the entire school who had refused and worn a swimsuit — and he was mercilessly mocked and teased for it.

Otherwise, I just felt like it was a secondary P.E. uniform, not unlike the school color shorts and T-shirts we wore out on the field. And I certainly wasn’t feeling anything sexual. Rather, what I was really feeling was this: “Wow. I bet my mom would freak out if she knew I didn’t really care about this.”

And, true to form, at dinner that night, she asked me about the whole thing — clearly, the school had been in touch with the parents to “warn” them about the Big Day, which was the first Friday of the semester.

“Did you have to… shower together today?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Were you embarrassed?” she asked.

My honest answer would have been, “Oh, fuck no. Why would I be?” But the way she’d asked it made me think I had to make her happy, so I lied and said, “A little.”

Once I’d gotten to high school, I only had to do the locker room thing for a semester, but then I joined marching band, which counted as physical education but also didn’t require any of the locker room stuff — boys changed into uniform in one of the music classrooms, girls in the other, and no need to showed because, “They can’t possibly get that stanky during a football game.”

Narrator: “Yes. They could.” But at least they dry cleaned them for us every week.

Still… middle school had knocked the shell off the walnut, as it were, and that was that.

One insight I can provide about being a naturist is this: far from being vulnerable without clothes on, it can actually make you stronger. I learned this firsthand when friends invited me to a clothing optional pool party at their place.

I happened to get there first and adhere to the dress code — and then everyone else who showed up turned out to be a fucking textile. So it was one naked man (me), and eight not-naked people. You know who felt uncomfortable during the whole thing? Hint: It wasn’t me.

And they didn’t feel uncomfortable because they were all looking at my dick because this happened to be a group of gay men. It also wasn’t because I had the most fantastic, ripped body at the party, because I didn’t. I was just average, and at least a few of them were actually really hot.

Nope. Quite simply it was because they did not feel comfortable in their own skins.

So in the dynamic of this situation, I wound up having all of the power because I had none of the fear or insecurity.

That’s because I was wearing an outfit I felt (and feel) totally comfortable in — and if you want to learn to do the same, well… Bea Arthur, bea naked.

Besides, if you’re still working from home and not via Zoom — why not?

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