Today was a Decent Day

An intense day working single-mindedly on one thing. Mind you, the niggling within won’t let me release it yet, and honestly looking at it again fills me with so much dissatisfaction. Is it really clever at all? If it’s enough just to be right, is it voiced strongly enough

The real test: how would the demagogue do it? 

Come now, let’s not lie about true intent.

At finalization…

At finalization, the company’s merchants present to Drexler samples of the goods they’ve decided to order from the company’s designers—what colors and sizes and in what numbers—and what they intend to charge for them. “We’re here to value the goods right,” Drexler said. He peppers the merchants with questions, in a kind of commercial catechism designed both to refine the decisions being made and to instruct his charges in the rigors of merchandising. His inquisitions have an auctioneer’s tempo and a depositional intensity, but they also project an ease that derives from the pleasure he seems to take in them, and the pleasure, albeit of a wary and poised kind, that his employees seem to take in him.

New Yorker Profile on Millard Drexler (J. Crew)

In the nineties…

In the nineties, Drexler became known as the Merchant Prince, for his transformation of the Gap from a shaggy little jeans chain to a gigantic but fairly nimble purveyor of the stuff everyone wears. For better or for worse, he helped transform the way Americans dress, or underdress… “Success” is often just a fancy word for “luck,” but a recurrence of it suggests the subsistence of design.

More than once, I asked Drexler to define “merchandising.” Sometimes he’d put the question to one of his junior merchants, who had perhaps got some of their definitions from the loudspeaker. “It’s telling America what to buy,” one told him. “It’s about investing in something and then selling it,” another said. These seemed to strike him as too prosaic or crass. They made no mention of the eye or the gut or of the throbbing sensation that comes over you when you see something that you are sure will sell, and sell out. …
The merchant must choose which goods to carry, in which assortments and colors, and at what price. It is a matter equally of capital allocation and taste. Drexler told me about a guy who operates a shoe company, who had just come to see him for advice. Drexler had chided him for running out of a shoe that was hot and overordering one that was not. “I said, ‘Why the hell would you buy the brown shoe more than the gray shoe? Clearly, the gray one looks better.’ He doesn’t know that. I know it. Because it’s internal. Or it’s external. But one shoe’s better than the other. It’s basically putting together a painting. And you cannot argue with a painting. You can’t debate what the right color is. There’s no answer. There’s no committee.”

New Yorker Profiles somehow manage to Deify anyone or anything. (And also, how crazy different is this industry?)

Poor People Food

One week back home and I’ve probably been to Chinatown at least four times so far, actually physically getting off at the “Chinatown” T stop, which I find awkward in its stereotype confirmation.

It’s not that I only came back from China to eat Chinese food–I’ve got friends and family too, hey, plus the whole fact that most of my dinners have been at yuppie seafood or Italian restaurants with cloth napkins–but the food here, whether Chinese or whatever is just better. Skill plays a part in food quality, yes, but the quality of ingredients, even for the simplest foods (or maybe especially for the simplest foods) is so important.

Take, for example, the hot dog bread. A Chinatown staple, the hot dog bread involves nothing more than a hot dog (cheapest, most miscellaneous American food ever) baked within a soft white roll that has been lightly glazed with egg yolk. Saves you the trouble of pairing “meat” and bread yourself and somehow the balance between the fluffy roll and sodium-filled dog are fulfilling enough to preempt additional condiments. The version in the mainland combines sub-par steamed bread with weird-ass Chinese sausage (nonono), which  combines source materials that take a far more liberal interpretation of ‘meat product’ than USDA regulations will ever allow. The result is a shitty product. The American version, even if poor people food by every definition, is still the matching of an American beef sausage with white bread made of real eggs, butter and pure white flour. The hot dog is satisfying, just intriguingly salty enough, and the bread explains why we threw whole grain breads under the truck for this nutrient-less stuff in the first place.

Also, I bought a banh mi for $3.25. I didn’t even shop around, so is that $3.25 ($0.74 less than a tall Pumpkin Latte at Starbucks) overpriced? I DON’T KNOW. Could I get that combination of badass baguette (which is just ‘ok’ in Boston), picked veg, pate and cold cuts (also poor people food done better here) in China? NO. Especially not at that price.

It’s true that not everything is better here (if we really count feet-voting, I am based abroad…) but oh my god, the food sure is.

c.s. Lewis was probably a prick too

oh ish, forgot about this. Why do I have two?

Fifth of July

Creeper that I am–someone once called me an “information whore,” which was not meant kindly, but it works–I do enjoy reading blogs and getting a sense of the individual’s life from the small hints of personality smattered in posts. This may be the purpose of blogs themselves, but this new media stuff is all ambiguity and flying whales. What gets upsetting is when you try and take a different perspective and ask whether you’d actually be interested in meeting this person had you just run across them in the real world (I had to go back, delete irl and write the longhand out). More often than not the answer is no, but that’s probably true for old school writers as well. I bet Orwell was a real asshole.

Hey There

Let’s go back to the somewhat personal but not too personal route! (And maybe pictures of food, but not self-made, that’s just unattractive.) The result is being entirely too cryptic for most people’s interest or understanding. I regret that my future biographer will have some issues working out exactly what was going on, but I guess people can come to interpret this like literature, baaad literature. Perhaps I’m just saving all the juicy stuff for a tell-all confessional à la Augustine–or even better, à la James Frey.

So we’re about three weeks post-graduation and I’m doing some part time work and some reading. I have one plan–the official plan–but hoping to usurp that with a dramatically better plan. Both should be fun, although one will certainly be less fraught with uncertainty! We’ll know about how possible the execution for this second plan will be by Friday. I will let you know. Otherwise, I shall quietly delete this and we will never, ever mention this again.