Saturday, March 31, 2012

Unlikely Ivy?

Unlikely? By what criteria ADG? I don’t know. In the slightly more egalitarian and meritocritized world today, is there really a “likely Ivy”? Does legacy still count as a variable? Legacy…certainly it should count for something and I’m assuming that family and close friends who’ve attended and will vouch and offer  a well-placed letter and phone call might still be a tie-breaker.
I’m also of the mind that today’s Ivy admission criteria, regardless of who your mama and daddy might be, requires a stellar academic performance record. And I’m convinced that leveraging your legacy for admission through the courtesies of family and influential acquaintances may get you in—but it won’t keep you in. 
Harvard didn't fill its Freshman class until 1934. Prior to then, if you had he dough and a half-decent academic record, you were in. But see the aforementioned regarding staying in. George Frazier got thrown out and had to beg his way back into Harvard. His best revenge was coming back and winning the Bowdoin Prize.
George W. Bush may go down, perhaps accurately, as one of the five worst Presidents in American history. His malaprops are legendary and his judgement suspect. One tends to question therefore, his intellect. At least I do. But of this I’m assured…his Bush and Walker antecedents might have made certain his admission to the Harvard Business School but he had to do the work once he got there.
My bias also says that unlike the male WASP ascendancy (I’m gonna ponder the idea of male WASP “ascend” versus “descend” and when the trajectory headed the other way—I feel another blog story coming on—stay tuned) of decades past, today’s Ivy credentials don’t necessarily make THAT much easier, your professional and personal post graduate journey—post graduate in the sense of striking out in the world with just an undergraduate degree.  Surely an Ivy undergraduate degree with a respectable GPA makes grad school admissions at the better schools a bit less onerous, no?  What I’m stumbling to say in too many words is that the Ivy ticket probably doesn't guarantee as much anymore. I can hear it now...from some haughty Ivy grad reader..."Oh, ADG, you are mistaken. The currency, the cachet...the tickets...the assurances are still guaranteed and are accepted. It's subtle don't you know. Oh no, you wouldn't know. That's right." Sure, there are subsets of Ivy minions who are palpably government and Wall Street for example. And the CIA for a half century was nothing more than Saint Grottlesex--Ivy extended. Quite the Shetlanded Weejuned Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight,actually. However, my bias is that the other venues where the Ivy tickets remain currency are only places that Ivy folks would give a damn about anyway.
And does academic accomplishment at an Ivy assure good judgement and the life skills necessary for success? Of course not. I left the pharmaceutical industry in 1996 and joined a boutique consultancy founded by Dr. J. Sterling Livingston who  received his Masters and Doctorate in business from Harvard. He then taught there for over thirty years so if there was anyone who was a proponent of formal education…and an Ivy one at that, it was Dr. Livingston. By the time I joined his shop, Dr. Livingston was in his eighties but was still so freakin’ smart—so lucid—so present, that he intimidated the shit out of me. Folks, I’m not bragging too much—I know that my gifts are modest. But I generally don’t cower in the presence of anyone and I’m not nervous when speaking to five hundred people. I allowed my IQ to drop by half when I had to engage with Dr. Livingston one-on-one. Why? The man was uber in every sense. Orphaned during the Depression, he was as hardscrabble--life skills wise--as he was Ivy degreed.
Ok, so where am I going with this? Hell, I don’t know. Shut up. Oh…So Dr. Livingston was a huge proponent of academic training but he was the first to espouse the lack of guarantee therein.  In his legendary Harvard Business School article The Myth of the Well Educated Manager, Livingston declared that… “Formal education programs emphasize the development of problem-solving and decision-making skills, but give little attention to finding and exploiting opportunities or to dealing with potential problems. Effective managers, on the other hand, share characteristics that cannot be taught in a classroom: they need to manage, they need power, and they have the capacity for empathy. Furthermore, managers develop leadership capacities by first hand observation of their environment and by an assessment of feedback from their actions. Managerial aspirants must be taught how to learn from their own first-hand experiences.” Other academics have, from Livingston’s original work, further posited that“…the arrested career progress of MBA degree holders strongly suggests that those who get to the top in management have developed skills that are not taught in formal management education programs and may be difficult for many highly educated managers to learn exclusively on the job.”  True dat.
I begged, bullshitted and cried my way into graduate school at Hopkins. And I didn't begin ‘til I was twenty-nine years old. I wouldn’t have stood a chance if I’d tried to go directly to grad school after my beer soaked seven years of undergrad at the KA house. And I’ve always said that I value the years I spent working part-time in a men’s haberdashery as well as time on my paternal grandparents’ farm as factors equal to my formal education—life skills development wise.
So the title of this drivel and any half-baked premise I could make from it are flawed from the get-go. And I won’t even try to shore it up. What I’ll say is that as I pondered who’d attended the Ivy League; I simply scratched my head and said “who’d a thunk it?” But that wouldn’t have made for a good title.
I think that the reason I kinda think these first few examples are more likely Ivy is because they’re from the era of deportment and swathing that just seems to convey more easily the aesthetic and morphological stereotypes of Ivy Style. Oh, and a lot of these folks received an undergraduate degree in English or Literature. I think the ideal “education combo” is an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in a more specialized discipline. First up… Jack Lemmon: Phillips Academy and Yale
Cole Porter: Yale, then on to Harvard Law School. Roommate of Dean Acheson. Porter dropped out. Acheson finished. Porter went on to be Secretary of State. Acheson wrote show tunes.
Jimmy Stewart: Princeton
Sam Waterston: Groton and Yale

And on to the “who’d a thunk it?” crowd…based solely on my stereotypical biases…
Jimmy Smits: Cornell
David Duchovny: Princeton
The little man in the boat...the Love Boat...Fred Grandy: Harvard
And Ron Livingston of Office Space fame: Yale
Edward Norton: Yale
Tommy Lee Jones: Harvard
John Krasinski from The Office: Brown
Paul Giamatti…the stellar but sometimes too angst laden actor: Yale
Oh and here’s a non-Ivy collateral to my story…Kris Kristofferson. Not an Ivy guy but a Rhodes Scholar none the less.
And I’ll close this out with my favorite discovery. One Frederick Hubbard Gwynne. Groton--then Harvard ’51.
A member of the Fly Club and a fondly remembered bon vivant.
Harvard Lampoon President …
…and a cappella crooner with the Harvard Krokodiloes.
But I mostly remember him as the affable and anything but scary Herman Munster.

Ok, that’s it for now. I’ve gotta get the finance and transportation machine up and running pretty soon. Princess LFG is with me this weekend and she’s gonna wake at any moment. With demands. Oh, and why aren’t there any women in my story? Because all women—any women—who are Ivy spawned—are likely.

Onward. ADG II. Shrubbery League.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Heavy Tweed Jacket--True Trad Reportage

Heavy Tweed Jacket is alive and kicking and that's nice. My free time has been nil and I'm beyond dilatory in reading the blogs I love. But I had a moment to snoop around the digital world and am pleased that our Anglo in the East still has his blog up. HTJ is one of the true Mother Churches of what I call True Trad Reportage. 
True Trad Reportage? Yep. It's just the facts. Unencumbered by the angst and poorly-overwrought subplots that you have to stomach if you read my stuff. HTJ is the real Trad Ivy deal and he must have a hundred vintage J. Press and Brooks Brothers catalogues...the good ones. Not the three per week that we all get in the mail from The Brethren these days. I'm glad I stopped by over there and I hope that you'll do the same. Go tell him, as we say down South..."hey". 

Onward. Is it linen time yet?

ADG the Only-est-ish-esque.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eyewear…Round and Tortoise

There are all kinds of rules about complementary tones, shapes, colors and textures that for the most part are grounded in common sense. Flusser has pulled me from the proverbial fuzzy diced ledge more than once when I was perilously close to pouncing on some big-ass out of proportion pattern or color-texture combo because I saw it somewhere, probably on the world’s most famous house guest, the Duke of Windsor.
Consistent with the tone-shape-color-texture strategy, I know that there are certain shapes-styles-sizes of eyeglass frames that are better suited to some faces. Just like there are colors that are kinder to some skin tones than others. But for me, the round glasses thing is kinda like a white dress shirt. Sure, some people may look washed-out in a white dress shirt but what guy, regardless of skin tone, doesn't own white dress shirts?
So for me…it’s round and plastic. And for the most part it always has been. It’s been so long ago that I can’t remember what else I had to choose from when deciding on my first pair. I’ve been fairly consistent with my affinity for round plastic—mostly in some tortoise-d mottled color—for thirty years. The size has dwindled considerably (it happens over a thirty year run) but the foundational round-ish tortoisity has been fairly consistent. That little lump of baby fat I’m holding in the photo above is now a college grad, making his way in the women’s fashion-shoe business in New York. Go figure. His younger brother is a Marine.
My buddy DCA started wearing glasses in elementary school—I didn’t. I was fortunate enough to dodge the corrective lens bullet ‘till I took the eye test for my license. I’ve had until recently, the weird fortune of having one eye that’s vastly different than the other—near sightedness-wise and I was able to cheat—go without wearing ‘em for long stretches unless I was driving or at the movies.
That’s surely about to change though. I have an optometrist appointment this week and will certainly have a stronger prescription. I might even give contacts another go. Enough about the need for corrective lens, let’s get back to its style aspect of framing them.
Oh, and I've wandered off of the tortoise reservation a time or two. I still have the frames I’m wearing in the photo above. Clear—now yellowed plastic Ralph frames. And I have that photo framed and on the dresser in my bedroom. I like it because it reminds me of how nice yet transient those peaceful moments are when your child is ambulatory. LFG has a little rug burn on her knee which reminds me that she was still crawling—but crawling ninety miles an hour.
I was wiped out physically in that photo—but in a real sublime way. “Good tired” as my paternal grandfather, the tobacco farmer would say. Fatigue that’s satisfying—after work well done. I’d flown to Los Angeles and back twice that week. Crazy…but I had to be back east for another meeting as well and there was nobody to cover for me. And I liked the room LFG and I were sitting in. It was our little Florida-television room—with pastel colors and Berber carpet. Don’t get Berber carpet if you have little ones who are crawling. Note LFG’s little leg in the previous picture. Oh, and note the madras covered chair. I lost it in the divorce but that’s ok, I got the bean bag chair and the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Christmas ornament.
So back to eyewear. I do believe that there are folks who either through prospective contrivance or over time, end up with their eyeglasses as part of their oeuvre. Swifty Lazar wouldn’t have looked swifty without his iconic eye-orbs. This little man had lenses the size of the windshield on my 1969 VW convertible.
And Lazar fought people in ‘em. Who knows, maybe those big-ass glasses gave him Sampson haired power. What is it about New York’s 21 that makes people fight? Lazar popping Otto Preminger and John O’Hara fighting two midgets in the bar—and losing. I didn’t fight, other than verbally, with my buddy Mark “Puerto” Rykken the night that I snapped this photo of my pre-martini, 21 roost.
I’m pretty sure Jiminy Glick’s framed visage is Lazar inspired. Take a look at Glick’s interview with Anderson Cooper and notice that when Glick dons his glasses, Cooper can’t help but allow an audible.
Sally Jesse Raphael owns the red frames position.
I think Tom Daschle should have left the red thing to Sally.
IrisApfel wouldn’t be Iris Apfel without her Iris Apfel glasses. Really.
Rumor has it that Drew Carey had laser correction surgery on his eyes but still wore his trademark frames thereafter—with clear lenses. And that foul mouthed Jeffrey Ross said that Drew Carey looked like “Buddy Holly and Barney Rubble had a baby and then peed on it.” Now that’s not nice. It’s funny in kind of a fratty-house sophomoric way, but it’s not nice.
I’m happy that Drew Carey lost a bunch of weight and surely there are those who would say his contemporary frames look better on him. That’s fine. It’s just that those little rectangulated things aren’t for me.
I did go through an Oliver Peoples wire framed tortoise covered phase just before LFG was born and for a time thereafter—in two sizes. NO, LFG was not born in two sizes. Those are the larger Olivers above—just an hour or so before my wife-to-be and I almost ended up at the emergency room.
And here’s another record of the larger Olivers…right before LFG peed on me.
et al became too highfalutin for me with their snooty attitude in the NYC store and their prices everywhere. So it was back to plastic and mostly…
…back to A.R. Trapp in New York. There are lots of places to buy these rather standard frames and right now, there is (think wide ties and bell bottom dress pants) a resurgence it seems, in the round-tortoise trend so they aren’t hard to find. But A.R. Trapp has per square foot, the off-the-hook best collection of round plastic frames that you’ll find pretty much anywhere.
That’s LFG and me on the Isle of Palms. The Anglo American round-tortoise sunglasses I have on are compliments of A.R. Trapp. And I wore them until this past Christmas.
Here is my Trapp-Anglo American upgrade from this past Christmas. I rolled in with my decade-plus old, beat up pair and they popped my lenses in another, lighter tortoise version in a snap. A snap and about $325 bucks.
Probably my favorites are vintage frames that A.R. Trapp offered me many years ago. I’ve seen plenty of upgraded, revamped and ready for modern use, vintage frames but most seemed fragile to me. The only thing fragile in this photo is the little gal that I’m holding. The frames remain solid. I’ve got ‘em on right now.
LFG and ADG…our bohemian noir phase. It didn’t last long. God reminded me that I’m from Florence, South Carolina.
I’ve got a few pair that came from elsewhere including those above. I forgot the brand name and it’s worn off of the frame but I remember it was a German maker. And it isn’t surprising since the stereotypical sturdy Germanic precision is included. This frame is anything but delicate and it has those hinges that flex outward…you know…the kind of hinges one is thankful for when a toddler yanks your glasses off your face. These came from, I think,
And yes, I know all about Moscot and their cool frames. I’ve walked by their shop but have never been in to check out their stuff. I’d probably like it but…
…everyone seems to have jumped on the Moscot—Johnny Depp trend-train lately and that’s all the more reason for me not to. It’s Johnny’s thang-not mine.
Round frames just work for me…they are the penny loafers of eyewear in the ADG realm and I see no reason to change. But I’m glad some things change. I tried to put on a happy face for little three year old LFG’s preschool graduation but it was tough. That was back when I was at ground-zero in the toxic wasteland of divorce litigation and it shows. I’m much better now. Thanks.
I’m gonna close this eyewear drivel with a comment about the photo above. I try to be unpretentious while at the same time apologizing-not for my pugnaciousness and high minded opinions. There’s evidence in my stories here and there of calling myself out for life journey missteps and aesthetic indiscretions. Seems to me that it is rather karmic to confess a yellow polyester prom outfit if one is going to give Thom Browne hell. We are all human and I’m head of the class—flawed mammal-wise. I keep this photo on my desktop and glance at it from time to time. It keeps me humble—kinda. When I get a bit too well-pleased with myself I look it and remember the—thankfully brief—period when I blew up. Nothing like not being able to get into your britches—or anyone else’s for that matter—to get one back on the fitness train.

Onward. In round tortoise. Awaiting the Sunday morning emergence of one L-F-G. 

And Glick.