My Ability To Turn Off Whatever It Is That Causes Human Bodies To Reflect Visible Light

"I'm a quirky dresser. I'm absolutely fearless about what it is that I believe in. My shirts are incognizant and my socks: you must be completely unaware of my socks. That's, like, my approach to socks. 

Chris Farley in a film still from Tommy Boy, 1995. From IMDB.

Chris Farley in a film still from Tommy Boy, 1995. From IMDB.

My pants can be wily or even dishonest on some days* if I just get up and feel that, but I have to feel it. When I wear a tie--and believe me, sometimes I really wear a tie, it can be porcine, straight-laced, odious. I have a certain little boy quality. But there's also that big, fat, sweaty guy thing in there, too."


Gannon, Frank. "I Know What I'm Doing About All The Attention I'm Getting" read on Selected Shorts by David Sedaris, 2013. First published in Yo, Poe (New York: Viking, 1987) and was reprinted in Sedaris' collection of short stories, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005).


The least cliched ways of talking about one's clothing choices, and a commentary on personality building through dress, the narcissism that ironically comes from being a bad dresser. I think something about the syntax of these sentences is perfect, semi-colloquial and just a bit off:

"It will be me putting on the pants, it will be me pulling up the socks. I know how to do this, I've been at it for quite a while. I dressed myself for a long time before anyone was paying attention, and I'll dress myself a long time after everyone's paying attention to the way someone else dresses themself. I know how these things go."

You must, must listen to the whole story, it's a "short short."


*or Sundays? I can't tell from Sedaris' reading. I like Sundays better.

With the Stuffing Out

"She was a giant of a woman, her face was set not only to meet opposition, but to seek it out. The downward tilt of her large lower lip was like a warning sign: "don't tamper with me." Her bulging figure was encased in a green crape dress and her feet overflowed in red shoes. She had on a hideous hat. A purple velvet flap came down on one side of it, and stood up on the other. The rest of it was green and looked like a cushion with the stuffing out. She carried a mammoth red pocketbook that bulged throughout as if it were stuffed with rocks.

Vintage photo with attitude (and hats) from the wonderful  Wildfell Hall .

Vintage photo with attitude (and hats) from the wonderful Wildfell Hall.

To Julian's disappointment the little boy climbed up on the empty seat beside his mother. His mother lumped all children, black and white, into the common category "cute," and she thought little Negroes were on the whole cuter than little white children. She smiled at the little boy as he climbed on the seat. Meanwhile, the woman was bearing down on the empty seat beside Julian. To his annoyance, she squeezed herself into it. He saw his mother's face change as the woman settled herself next to him, and he realized with satisfaction that this was more objectionable to her than it was to him. Her face seemed almost grey, and there was a look of dull recognition in her eyes, as if she suddenly had sickened at some awful confrontation. Julian saw it was because she and the woman had, in a sense, swapped sons, though his mother would not recognize the symbolic significance of this. She would feel it. His amusement showed plainly on his face.

The woman next to him muttered something unintelligible to herself. He was conscious of a kind of bristling next to him, a muted growling, like that of an angry cat. He could not see anything but the red pocketbook upright on the bulging green thighs. He visualized the woman as she had stood waiting for her tokens, the ponderous figure rising from the red shoes upward over the solid hips, the mammoth bosom, the haughty face, to the green-and-purple hat. His eyes widened. The vision of the two hats, identical, broke upon him with the radiance of brilliant sunrise."


O'Connor, Flannery. "Everything That Rises Must Converge" from Everything that Rises Must Converge. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1965.


Read the story or listen to it on Selected Shorts to get in on the joke! Beautiful use of clothing in fiction, underlining the plot and punctuating the moral, that exclamation point of a hat.

Hand-me-up Clothes

Peter Sagal: Brian, Republicans have had a hard time courting younger voters, so they're turning to a new spokesman, a gentleman named Scott Greenberg. He is the first known Republican what?

Brian Babylon: Gimme a hint.

PS: Well, with him, the party platform is, 'Skinny Jeans, but a Big Tent.'

BB: Oh, these are...a Republican hipster?

PS: A Republican hipster! The first one found.

Bobcat Goldthwait: I was gonna go with boyscout.

PS: Scott Greenberg, uh, has got the jeans, the horn-rimmed glasses, he's got the three-day growth of beard, he's the kind of guy who would intern on a public radio show if he didn't want to defund public radio.

[wild applause from crowd that not only listens to radio but goes to see it live]

Scott Greenberg in a 2014 GOP ad.

Scott Greenberg in a 2014 GOP ad.

BB: I don't even want to know what this kid looks like, because I know he know hipsters wear hand-me-up clothes.

PS: What does that mean?

BB: Hand-me-up-clothes? That a little boy hands up to a grown man. They wear those little clothes, tight, and they have handlebar mustaches, and I'm scared of those...

PS: This is what I mean: he's doing a great job advocating Republican policy positions because just after one minute of listening to that guy, 100% of Democrats wished they owned a gun.

From the March 22 episode of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me

WWDTM has a way of beating a dead horse, but at least Babylon has a new spin on the skinny-jeans-and-glasses description.

Andy's Joke on the Art World

"In this room that's so antiseptic, where the procedures are so set, and paperclips become museum objects, we're still dealing with a man's stuff. It's very personal.

The girls know that Andy's dry cleaner's name was Danielle, and that she was always sending him bills, which he ignored. He did the same with the surgeon who saved his life after he was shot, who they found a note from that read, 'Pay up, you blowhard.' But they also know that, along with the unpaid bills, he would send art donations to charities. They know there are letters from fans, asking him to sign an enclosed photo, and the photo will never be there, which means he sent it back to them, signed. They know what he looked like without his wig on; that he had a comb-over.

Andy Warhol with mother in LIFE magazine, 1960s (?).

Andy Warhol with mother in LIFE magazine, 1960s (?).

They know there is a whole box he made devoted to his mom, and how that one felt extra personal, because some of her clothing was inside, and that can connect you to a person more than anything else. They found Andy's clothing in the capsules, too. They know there are certain things you can't know about a person just through reading, like the actual size of their waist."

Spot on! A thoughtful but playful piece by Starlee Kine. Collections in Pop Art and popular culture. Please disregard the idiotic voices of the collections people, why do we let girls talk like that?

Listen to the act here, in Episode 514.

Kings Of Leon

"So last weekend that happened, and I walked up to the bus and I said to the bus driver, like, 'Hey, the subway is off, but it said that I could take the bus to the subway, do you know where I can get off?' And the bus driver said to me, and I quote, he goes, 'I don't know anything about the subway.' I was like, You don't know anything about the subway? You're wearing the same outfit as the man running the subway! 

Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from  My Many Bags , where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

Nathan Followill from Kings of Leon wearing a Burberry t-shirt, 2009. What could he say about other tattooed men in snoods? Photo from My Many Bags, where you can see many celebrities and models in this shirt.

If someone said to me, 'You see that guy walking down the street with the khaki shorts and the Kings of Leon t-shirt? You know anything about that guy?' I'd be like, 'Yeah, I'll tell you a few things about that guy. I know that he could use somebody.'"


Birbiglia, Mike. Excerpted in Episode #515 of This American Life, "Good Guys." Listen to it here--it's obviously much better when he tells it.


Occupational Dress vs. Tribal Dress. All the people wearing the same things know the same things! I wonder what he was wearing on that tour, maybe some khaki shorts?

I Make Clothes for People To Wear

Sasha Weiss: So there's a lot more freedom today when it comes to clothing than it was in the 80s, surely, but I wonder now that things are less coded and less formal, at least for people working in a creative setting, it's kind of harder to dress for work, and I wonder how women who are entering the work force learn the norms, because it is harder to draw the line now.

Cartoon by William Hamilton, 1980s (?), found  here .

Cartoon by William Hamilton, 1980s (?), found here.

Susan Morrison: That's interesting. Emma Allen, a young Talk of the Town writer here [and I] were talking about this yesterday, that when she graduated from Yale in 2010, every student was given this thing called "Life After Yale," a little publication produced by the Career Services people called a Survival Guide for the Class of 2010. And for women there's a long section about what to wear, and here I'll read a little bit of it:

If wearing a skirt, you need to wear nylons. Sheer is best. Don't forget to keep an extra pair of nylons in your desk in case of runs.

Now, I can't even remember the last time time I owned or put on a pair of sheer nylons. When I first saw this book I thought, "This is preposterous," but then I was thinking about my own teenage daughters, who I think just because they're younger and they don't feel as confident about knowing the ways of the world tend to have more conservative ideas than I do often about what's an appropriate thing to wear.


From The New Yorker's Out Loud podcast, September 13, 2013. Sasha Weiss discussed "Work Clothes" with Rebecca Mead and Susan Morrison.


Are the "rules" of (work) fashion generational? How do you dress for work? Susan Morrison thinks the only no-no is "being inappropriately revealing." But that's relative too, isn't it? Up to a certain point, I guess. Oh, and no flip-flops. Agreed.

This piece has some worthwhile contemporary observation of work dress and dress codes in literary and creative offices.

Minnets mekanismer

Rapporter Ulla Strängberg: Jag är lite nervös inför mötet med Doris Lessing. Som många har sagt att hon är lite kärv och svår intervjuad. ...alltså är jag förberedd till tänderna när jag står där lite för tidigt utanför hennes hus i ett av raderna av likadana i West Hampstead inom västra London. Jag hade tänkt mig att det här programmet skulle handla om minnets mekanismer. En 84-åriga författare som skrivit i 70 år med ett 20-tal romaner bakom sig och minst lika mycket annat. Som skrivit så mycket om sitt liv och även i fiktiv form gestaltat minnena från uppväxten i Afrika. Var ska man börja, då?

Portrait of Doris Lessing by Ida Karr, late 1950s. In the  National Portrait Gallery , London. Does she have a run in her stocking? I would love that.

Portrait of Doris Lessing by Ida Karr, late 1950s. In the National Portrait Gallery, London. Does she have a run in her stocking? I would love that.

'En scen: jag har på mig en aftonklänning av svart sammet som jag hade sytt på eftermiddagen. Det var bomullssammet. Inom ett år skulle jag fingra på den och förkasta den. Den var skuren i den tidens klassiska modell: ryggen bar ner till midjan, med nackband och djup u-ringning framtill, sned runt höfterna och med mjuk vidd nertill. En man som är mycket äldre än pojkarna på sportklubben sitter på armstödet till den fåtölj och studera mig med ett leende som jag är för ung för att tolka som ett sorgsätt leende från en åldrande kvinnoälskare. Dansmusiken dunkar från balrummet och jag är rastlös och redan halvt börjat dansa, längtar efter att ge mig hänge. Han säger,

-Vem är din kavaljé ikväll? 

-Den och den, säger jag.

-Den där klänningen är bortslösad på en pojke som han, säger han med ett bittert leende. Han snurrar mig runt med manlig auktoritet, och förvandlas med ett andetag till en annan människa.

-Har du behå? 



-Ja, det är klart, säger jag indignerat. 

-Du har en perfekt figur, förkunnar han. Men det är synd att ditt högre bröst hänger en halvcentimeter längre ner än den andra.

-Det överlever jag nog. 


Det här lilla minnet skulle kunna jämföras med de fotografier av sitt unga jag, som kvinnor placerar där alla kan ser dom. Det de säger med det är "inbilla inte för en sekund att jag är den gamla haggan som du ser sitter här i den här fåtöljen, för det är jag inte alls. Det där är mitt verkliga jag.' [same Under My Skin excerpt in English here]

Doris Lessing in 2006. Photo: Martin Cleaver, AP. From  here .

Doris Lessing in 2006. Photo: Martin Cleaver, AP. From here.


US: Do you remember your black velvet dress?

DL: Yes. 

US: Must have been beautiful.

DL: It was, and I made it! I used to make my evening dresses. 

US: Your mother had a sewing machine.

DL: Yes, I used to...make sure I had a sewing machine. Um, I put this into my...I've just finished four short novels, which...and I put the making of evening dresses, much changed, into that. Because, you see, we used to make our clothes, because it isn't like now where there's so much...there's so many cheap clothes around. So it was, um, well it was enjoyable making clothes. Very! I don't do it now, of course.

Doris Lessing minns mycket väl sin svarta sammetsklänning som hon hade på balerna i Salisbury, i dåvarande Syd Rhodesia, där familjen hade slagit sig ner. Om det livet har hon berättat i sin självbiografi, Efter utbrottet från farmen, när hon bara var femton år. Familjen hade flyttat till Syd Rhodesia från Persian för att söka lyckan som majsfarmare. Men Doris bröt sig loss, och gick som alltid sin egen väg. Klänningen är ett slags symbol för frigörelsen, som är lustigt nog återvänt till igen i den kommande bok med fyra lång noveller. 


Doris Lessing, maker/consumer. From a great Swedish public radio piece on memory in remembrance of Lessing, who died November 17, 2013. Haven't read any of her work (!), but just happened to pick up the Penguin edition of "Five" (1960) in a thrift store in Uppsala a few weeks ago. Maybe the next English-language book on the pile?

This memorial to Lessing caught my ear when Strängberg asks herself, Lessing has written so much about memory, so "where do I begin?"...and promptly quotes a passage about a dress. Clothing and memory! Inextricable. Youth and age, memory, attraction...all in a piece of cotton velvet. I almost don't believe that Lessing made a velvet dress in one afternoon...but it fits the tone of the passage. Have a listen!

You are High Priority

"You do not have to be a big fat queer to get a ride from Homobiles...but it does help! No, just kidding. But, you know, you have to understand that the real reason we are here is for people that don't get rides, normally, from anyone else.

Try getting that hair into a normal taxi. Lady Bunny, from  here .

Try getting that hair into a normal taxi. Lady Bunny, from here.

And so, if you're putting on all this padding, high heels, a wig, and three sets of false eyelashes and a bunch of glitter, you are high priority at Homobiles."


From "The Making Of...The Homobile" by the Kitchen Sisters.

How you look affects how you are perceived! No one should be denied a ride.