Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 00:03 on 26-06-2014, Arthur B
Like Typhoid Mary before me, I come bearing a gift for you all: Mouth Sounds, the latest creation from internet wunderkind Neil Cicierega.

This is the Metal Machine Music of our age.
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at 18:59 on 25-06-2014, Sonia Mitchell
Re: Oscar Wilde - I think The Happy Prince would be the poster boy for nice guy syndrome. He gave up all his gold and jewels and all he got was crummy posthumous recognition. The sparrow's love doesn't count because she doesn't reach his standards.
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at 18:31 on 25-06-2014, James D
re: fedoras, in addition to what Arthur outlined, think a big part of why they so rarely work on guys these days is simply because society's general dress code has gotten so much more casual. In the 20s, even lowly gangsters wore ties, but today pretty much nobody wears a suit unless their job requires it or they're going to a nice restaurant or something. Dressing inappropriately for the occasion makes you look silly and oblivious to social norms, whether you're wearing sweatpants to a job interview or a tuxedo to a dive bar. I think the whole 1940s fedora-and-overcoat look is cool, but I also think the Roman Legionnaire look is cool, and I'm not going to walk around town with a scutum and a gladius.
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at 14:19 on 25-06-2014, Arthur B
Holy shit, a Nice Guy version of Oscar Wilde would be terrible.

Like, Dorian Gray is unceasingly friendzoned by women who end up preferring jerks like Lord Henry Wotton, and everyone comments on how he puts on a brave face and doesn't seem affected by this, but over time his portrait shows an increasingly pronounced neckbeard...
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at 14:18 on 25-06-2014, Axiomatic
Are you sure that's Oscar Wilde? It looked like Neil Gaiman to me.
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at 14:00 on 25-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Yeah, but think how nice it would be, if people started to think that Oscar Wilde had the best idea(which he bloody well did)? With appropriate demand, the supply would rise up to meet it.
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at 13:59 on 25-06-2014, Alice
Oh, dudes in fedoras.... Or, more often, trilbys, I suppose: I rarely see guys in an actual fedora, and then mostly at the airport, because I live near Red Hat's corporate headquarters and apparently you get given one after you've worked for them for a while? So there are regularly guys in red fedoras at the airport bar during business travel hours.

The Red Hat guys bug me specifically because they don't take their hats off (you're indoors! Gentlemen remove their hats indoors!) though to be fair maybe they're required to wear them when they visit clients, and I can see that if you don't usually wear a hat you'd be worried about forgetting it if you took it off and put it down somewhere.

Arthur has already articulated my thoughts on why the average dude-in-a-fedora-or-trilby doesn't pull it off, and I think Janne's point that "to [wear a snappy suit] comfortably on a day to day basis actually demands a lot of money" may also be a contributing factor to the "hat as a magic charm" thing: guys may want to look like Neal Caffrey but not have the funds for the fancy suits. But they can afford a hat like Neal's (and Neal's hat is a bit of a thing on the show), so they go for that.

To be -- very slightly -- fair to terrifying MLP/guns/knives guy, he does look pretty comfortable in his getup (which also seems to fit him reasonably well, so he's escaped Arthur's Fedora Fallacy* #4), it's all the rest of his profile statements & photos that really make you go "argh, no".

Which just brings me back to the feeling I can't shake about 99% of fancy hat-wearers, which is that they're substituting a gimmick for actual charm or (attractive) personality.

*sorry, alliteration, I couldn't help myself...
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at 13:51 on 25-06-2014, Axiomatic
>It's also curious that the choice is so obviously to dress in the Mad Men era of style as if this sort of style is more timeless or classic than pre-WWI for example. Of course, before WWI the male fashion was much more in a state of flux as aristocracy was more in their strength and a much stronger trend-setter than nowadays. There seems to be this idea, that the sort of look they are copying is somehow essentially more stylish or sharp, when it as much a fashion thing as anything.

It's kind of easier to get your hands on a suit, a tie and a fedora than it is to acquire a full Hussar outfit.
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at 13:09 on 25-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Hopefully so, although the existence of such a person is both frightening and kind of enticing for the pure absurdity of it all. So now I'm confused, which makes the image art in a way that would take much effort and head-ache to describe.
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at 13:04 on 25-06-2014, Arthur B
It's entirely possible the picture is a parody, mind. Poe's Law and all that.
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at 12:49 on 25-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Oh dear, I don't want to pile on the toy store gun too much and sure, I'm from a different cultural background, but. If you're obsessions are My Little Pony, you're fedora collection, knife collection and gun collection and you're spouting stuff about "friend zones" then maybe the problem is actually not your niceness, but rather the judgments people might make in relation to your interests. Which might or might not be justified, but people will still react in certain way to talk about a knife collection and that is a fact that has to be accepted in the society we live in.

But then again, maybe he is very suave and charming in person...
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at 12:39 on 25-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
For example, a big part of the reason this chap's photo seems unfortunate is that, shorn of context, it looks like he's dressed up all formal in order to visit Toys 'r' Us and hang out with the ponies.


He looks like a very weedy looking hitman from some classic era of organized crime or an Observer. Either way, his presence in a toy store raises some unsettling questions.

Anyways, dressing all fancy like is fun on occasion, but there should be some sense of time and occasion, since that toystore guy, while his get up might've been okay in some previous generations, now seems to be more appropriate for funerals and more sober circumstances.

It's also curious that the choice is so obviously to dress in the Mad Men era of style as if this sort of style is more timeless or classic than pre-WWI for example. Of course, before WWI the male fashion was much more in a state of flux as aristocracy was more in their strength and a much stronger trend-setter than nowadays. There seems to be this idea, that the sort of look they are copying is somehow essentially more stylish or sharp, when it as much a fashion thing as anything.

Not that I don't like a snappy suit now and then, it's just that to do that comfortably on a day to day basis actually demands a lot of money.

And really, the modern suit solidified from aristocratic and upper class style and it's prevalence is just as much about hierarchy as anything else. That seems to be another element not considered by these sort of geek dandies. If you're not projecting status and worldliness successfully, then what is the point of dressing like that?
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at 11:12 on 25-06-2014, Arthur B
No, because Walt wears a pork pie hat. If BB had come out 2 or 3 years earlier than it did then the craze might have been for those, though.
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at 11:10 on 25-06-2014, Andy G
Is Breaking Bad to blame for the fedoras?
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at 11:05 on 25-06-2014, Arthur B
The fedora thing seems to have come about from this perfect storm of factors:

- Guys start wearing fedoras in an awkward fashion (about which I'll say more later).
- Reddit's Atheism board did a "faces of atheism" thing where people took pictures of themselves and wrote stuff on them about their experiences with atheism. A striking number of guys wearing fedoras in an awkward fashion are included in the results, which often include a lot of simplistic dismissals of, petty sniping at, or overt hatred towards religion and religious people in general. This poor soul became an unintended icon of this but he is hardly alone.
- At around the same time you get the Fedoras of OKCupid thing starting up, where people would pass around screenshots from OKCupid of guys wearing fedoras in an awkward way along with snippets from their profiles of them saying offensive, silly, or otherwise embarrassing things. The original tumblr is gone but there's a lot of material out there from it still circulating.

As far as guys wearing fedoras in an awkward way goes, generally there's a bunch of errors you can make when wearing a fedora and all of them seem to have a strong correlation with guys who hang out on Reddit declaring that people who believe in God are idiots, or people who hang out on OKCupid crying on their profile about how women don't like Nice Guys.

1: The more common error is to treat the fedora as a magical charm which will automatically make you look stylish. Fashion doesn't work like that. Wearing a formal, business-style fedora with your ordinary, scruffy clothes does not magically make your dragon shirt and cargo pants suave and sophisticated. It's like wearing a tie, in that simply wearing a tie won't make you look smart professional unless everything else you are wearing is similarly smart and professional. See this guy, who seems to be under the impression that if he wears a hat which is "classy, sharp, and old-fashioned" then that doesn't somehow clash with his meme shirt and khakis (which are the opposite of classy, sharp, and old-fashioned).

2: Trying too hard. The other extreme seems to be people trying very hard to pull off the Don Draper old-fashioned gentleman look and either not really pulling it off, or actually kind of pulling it off well but taking it into contexts where it isn't really merited. For example, a big part of the reason this chap's photo seems unfortunate is that, shorn of context, it looks like he's dressed up all formal in order to visit Toys 'r' Us and hang out with the ponies.

3: Head shape is a thing. If you wear a hat which is too large or too small, or whose shape isn't flattering in conjunction with the shape of your head, it'll look bad, just as wearing a shirt which you can't quite button up over your belly isn't a great look. A narrow-brimmed trilby (which a lot of these "fedoras" actually are) atop a large, broad head tends to look comical.

4: Not being comfortable in what they are wearing. This tends to be exacerbated in photographs, especially if people tense up when being photographed, but even so as a general rule if what you're wearing doesn't feel natural for you it probably isn't going to look natural for you. This will sabotage even the best tailoring.
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at 04:38 on 25-06-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Like Typhoid Mary before me, I come bearing a gift for you all: Mouth Sounds, the latest creation from internet wunderkind Neil Cicierega. It's an hour-long album of mashups and remixes scientifically designed to take '90s nostalgia down to the quarry and shoot it in the head. The weapon of choice for this project? Smash Mouth's "All Star" the song hated by many and feared by all. But don't take my word for it; consider these testamonials:

"The overall effect of 'Mouth Sounds' is akin to dropping acid at a Media Play going-out-of-business sale[...]" -Katie Rife, The A.V. Club

"The mixtape equivalent of touring the killing fields in Cambodia. I loved every minute." -Wearedevo, AV Club comment thread.

"If I had someone in my trunk, this is what I'd put on the stereo. It's that kind of amazing." -GrantB, same.

"I'm not saying that listening to this was an unpleasant experience, but I think the Homer/Dave Matthews mashup might work better if my head faced backwards so that I could weep tears of anguish onto my own buttocks." -The Artist Formerly Knows As Y, same.

"Why do you hate me, Neil? What wrongs have I perpetrated against you? I'm sorry for all of it. Just, please, let it stop. This must end." -Jay Jackson Newman, Soundcloud comment.

So, with much to do and so much to see, what's wrong with taking the back streets? You'll never know if you don't go. You'll never shine if you don't glow. Listen to it. You know you have to.

(If Soundcloud isn't your thing, the separate tracks have been uploading to Youtube. And, FYI, Will Smith is very concerned about the bees.)
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at 02:52 on 25-06-2014, Ibmiller
@Robinson - Yeah, sorry I was unable to help with that.

I like a good newsie hat. And bowlers. And top hats. I do think fedoras have an air of pretentiousness that bothers me. That being said, they do have a certain stylishness.

The Disposessed is amazing. I do really enjoy parts of the Earthsea series, and haven't gotten to Left Hand yet, but Dispossessed is good enough that it catapults her to top tier for me.
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at 00:54 on 25-06-2014, Michal
I wore a fedora for a couple of years whenever I went out in the rain. I had initially bought it for a 1930s adventurer's costume. I lost it a few years ago. Didn't get a new one. I agree that it's a nice hat.

Fedoras never really had negative associations for me until I found out J*hn C. Wr!ght had one. All my resentment was reserved for berets--when I was an undergrad, I never met someone who wore a beret who wasn't completely insufferable. (See also: fixies)
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at 22:02 on 24-06-2014, Robinson L
@Ibmiller: Thanks for the recommendation. I'm looking specifically for stuff relating to the Wedding of Sir Gawain story, though, so I'm not sure how helpful that would be.

And yeah, but it's apparently becoming a truism on the internet that the Venn diagram of men who are assholes and men who wear fedoras has a massive overlap. I've only seen this second-hand, so I couldn't tell you how or why this association has come to be.

@Axiomatic: I wasn't massively taken with Mists of Avalon, and while I don't dislike any of Le Guin's books that I've read (except The Left Hand of Darkness), the only one I'd say I really like is The Dispossessed; so I guess I'm not at that far of a remove from you myself.
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at 21:47 on 24-06-2014, Tamara
Re Mist of Avalon - I remember thinking it was more or less ok (I was like 13 when I read it,) but I just took an Arthurian class, and there were some really strong (positive, that is) feelings about it. Like, really strong, (and the prof mentioned that every arthurian class he'd ever taught had it's contingent of people with an insane love for the thing.) It seems almost like the dreamy adolescent girl's Ender's Game, something with that kind of deep, formative, (slightly disturbing from the outside) identification. Dunno. Someone needs to a thesis about this stuff.
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at 21:43 on 24-06-2014, Tamara
Poor fedora. I think it's a nice hat.

(I also think this kind of self satisfied "bow before the authority of my progressive judgment" thing is pretentious and pointless, but truth be told, I feel more strongly about the hat.)
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at 20:33 on 24-06-2014, Melanie
What does a fedora connect to, though?


I feel like this summarizes the attitude they've become associated with remarkably well.
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at 19:59 on 24-06-2014, Ibmiller
@Robinson - I've done two Arthurian classes, one in undergrad, and one in grad school, and that doesn't sound familiar to me, sadly. Then again, I think the most recent text we read (aside from the awful, awful Clive Owen film) was from the 80s.

I do strongly recommend Gillian Bradshaw's "Hawk of May" trilogy (Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer, In Winter's Shadow), which was recently republished in very nice paperback editions and kindle. The first two books focus on Gawain's (here called Gwalchmai, similarly to Rosemary Sutcliff's historicized Sword at Sunset), the last on Guinevere (Gwynhwyfar). In addition to being really beautifully written, they're also the first time I didn't finish an Arthur story and want everyone involved to die. :)

@James D - Idylls of the Queen was really fun! There was a solid mystery, a really fun sense of "this is the world where all that Malory happened, but this is what they're like when the big events aren't happening." A sense of consequence and lived-in-ness that was very appealing. I did come away from it with a strong sympathy for Kay.

@Axiomatic - I didn't like the 100 or so pages of Mists that I tried, but I do think LeGuin is amazing. What does a fedora connect to, though? If I didn't have a hatred of my head being hot, I think a fedora would be nice. :)
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at 12:17 on 24-06-2014, Arthur B
Very, very excited about the announced extras on the Twin Peaks blu-ray set: 90 minutes of cut scenes from Fire Walk With Me edited together with an epilogue by Lynch himself, plus Lynch interviews the Palmer family. Yes, the actual characters. Including the ones who are dead.
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