Friday, December 30, 2011

The Path of Least Resistance

(The Great Computer Crash of 2011, part 3 of 3)
Chapter 47
Alas! The TT&S computers are still off-line thanks to a hostile rootkit, so while it snoozes peacefully on the shelves of the local computer guru's shop, I am reduced to pecking out the last blog post of the year on my Kindle. No fear, though; even if this week is off on a bit of a rabbit-trail, my scheduled end-of-year installments will still be posted...just a bit further into 2012 than I had planned.

To make my point this week, I'm gonna talk about cars. I like cars. My daily driver is a 35 year old British motorcar. Twice a year I need to shoot grease in the suspension, adjust the valves and brake shoes, bleed the hydraulics, clean the spark plugs, set the timing, change the oil...well, you get the idea. It will get to 40 mph in about half a minute and might do freeway speeds if I had a death wish. It doesn't have power anything, and stowing its convertible top takes about five minutes. (It isn't a beater either; it's in excellent mechanical shape and runs like a sewing machine.)

It is surpassed in every conceivable way by even the most basic of modern cars. An everyday, simple modern car like, say, the Chevy Impala I rented to get the family to the beach this week, is a supercar by the standards of when my car was built, in 1976. An Impala is a barge today, (although it would have been considered merely a midsize then,) but  no car of any price thirty years ago could hope to be as quiet, smooth, powerful, quick, agile, thrifty, OR clean, let alone ALL of those things at once, as that little rental Impala is. In fact, there's very little to do in it other than turn the key, point it at the horizon, press the go pedal, and steer between the lines. Give it gas when it's empty, change the oil every couple of years, and it's good pretty much forever.  But you know what? I still wouldn't trade my old MG Midget for one.

And why is that? Because modern drivers don't have to think much, and as a result they get sloppy. Their engines are controlled by computers, so they just fling their cars around while sitting in their airbagged cocoons, without paying any heed to that mysterious hunk of spinning metal under the hood. For instance, when they turn a key, their computer controlled fuel injection systems start their vehicles instantly: and they expect no less. My car? I have to think to declutch, turn on the fuel pump, prime the carburetter, choke the intake, and only then hit the starter switch. As a result, I know every sound, every squeak and rattle that car makes; I know when something sounds different, I know just what that sound or vibration means, and I (usually!) know how to fix it.

Here is the point: if people don't HAVE to pay attention to something, they usually WON'T.

They let the engine computer, the GPS, or what have you, do their thinking for them. It is the same with the clothes they wear: the world is stuffed with easily-available, cheap, ready-to-wear rags that are practically shoved under your nose for you to brainlessly buy, with no more fashion sense than a fifth-grader. Of course, these clothes are also bereft of any aesthetic sensibility whatsoever. If you want to dress any better than that, you have to do your homework...just as, if you want to "really" drive, you have to learn to double-clutch, work a spark advance lever, maybe even a crank handle, and run an engine yourself; instead of letting a computer run it for you.

You need shoes: you go to a large store in the mall filled with athletic shoes and pick a pair. You take what is most readily available and easily offered. If you want real shoes, you must make the additional effort to find them.

You want a hat: there are plenty of stores filled to bursting with baseball caps. You want a real hat, a fedora, fitted to your head? More extra effort.

You want clothes: thousands of stores with billions of tee shirts and "pre-stressed" jeans beckon you. Real grownup clothes? More work.

Getting married? Lots of places will be more than happy to rent you a "tux." Perhaps you want a fitted morning suit with a cravat and detachable collar instead? Good luck -- you may have to rent from overseas. That's a LOT more work, not to mention money.

The reason it seems so hard to dress well, is that the world makes it so gosh darn easy to dress poorly. And most people will take the path of least resistance and just take what's most readily available.

Hopefully, if this blog has been of any use at all this year to you, it has been to show that you do not have to follow the lemmings off the sartorial cliff. If I may make a suggestion for a New Year's Resolution, it would be to resolve to go that extra mile and make that extra effort in 2012 to seek out the real clothes, the grownup clothes; and start your own one-person revolution against the men that dress like children.

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