Always dress well

This isn’t a fashion blog, but I do on occasion write on the topics of gentlemanliness, chappism, and such. Quite some time back I commented on an article on A Suitable Wardrobe, and referenced a Mises article titled Dress Like its the Great Depression. I’d like to follow up with a brief commentary on the Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes.

I’d never heard of “sapeurs” until a recent bit on NPR, but I am fascinated by them. Aside from the absolute bombast of some of their attire, I am captivated that in the midst of the poverty that surrounds them, they choose to dress to the nines.

Hector Mediavilla/Picturetank
(http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2013/05/07/181704510/the-surprising-sartorial-culture-of-congolese-sapeurs)

Now, given the examples one can find from an Internet search, some of the younger gents are a little too dandy for my tastes, but the older gentlemen dress quite well.

I understand the rebellion aspect of these Congolese gents, but I think it’s a great example of dressing well, even when the environment one finds himself in is in diametric opposition. Compare that to the United States, where even our poor are rich compared to the rest of the world, and we have people of all social strata walking around like this (I’ll not debase my site by actually posting any of these preposterous images).

Prince Philip: my hero

There is much to appreciate about a man nowadays who isn’t afraid to let you know how he feels:

Prince Philip puts finger in his ears at performance: The Duke of Edinburgh is famed for his foot-in-mouth moments but yesterday he was being spotted with his fingers in his ears at the Royal Variety Show.

I have to say that Prince Philip is my favorite British Royal. The media may call them gaffes, but I call them priceless. His political incorrectness inspires me. Not only has he survived the cultural revolution, he has bested it.

Understanding Olympic design

An interesting post from the Oxford University Press blog on olympic logo design:

Understanding Olympic design:
By Jilly Traganou

After attending the “Because” event at the Wolff Olins office on July 4th, I was once again reminded of the big disconnect that lies between designers and their public. Wolff Olins is the firm that designed the London 2012 brand, a multifaceted design campaign that included much more than the London 2012 logo. Readers may remember the numerous complaints that the logo generated. As my research revealed, this was caused partly due to International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s restrictions and the corporate unwillingness to allow for the full application of what might be seen as a “no logo” campaign.

Wolff Olins proposed an open-source framework that would integrate the public by providing a design language that could be shaped into new forms and messages. The designers’ intention was to “hand over some tools that would allow people to make everything they wanted.” Design would be “off the podium, onto the streets.” But neither the public nor the broader designers’ community were ready to accept that the Wolff Olins team showed no compliance to the usual set of corporate instruction and that what they were trying to achieve lied beyond the creation of beautiful forms.

London 2012 event. Photo by Gary Etchell. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gary8345/557769058/
The designers’ goal was to evoke an effect similar to that of the Mexico 1968 design: a visual language designed by Lance Wyman that was not only appropriated by the counter-Olympic movement, but also marked future visual languages developed by local designers in Mexico. In a way, Wolff Olins’ design succeeded in its adaptability, even though its multiple viral deconstructed versions that appeared on the streets and online were meant to primarily express conspiracy and protest, or even a disdain for the very visual language that the designers provided (and which these “dissidents” are now using).

But why would designers today strive for openness and participation? And why should IOC, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), or the general public be indifferent or even hostile to these intentions? After all, are there any designs that would meet the aspirations of all stakeholders: Olympic organizers, designers, and their multiple publics? The Olympics, as indeed most public events, are complex platforms that bring to the surface deep social conflicts and generate heated debates about the notion of public good. The new temporary or permanent configurations that are designed for the Olympics express these tensions and often become the targets of opposing voices.

Everyone today recognizes that the modern Olympics only partly concern sports. Few, though, are aware of the multiplicity of the design engagements that are mobilized for their realization. Being characterized as something between urban festivals and quasi-religious events, the Olympics have a strong ceremonial character that design generates. Hundreds of designers are mobilized to create a series of objects (logos, posters, uniforms,

mascots, souvenirs) that are indispensable for the Olympic ensemble. This may seem to some a contemporary distortion to the original 19th century idea of the modern Olympics’ founder, Pierre De Coubertin, but Coubertin was keenly aware of the importance of design for the identity of the Games. He designed what has been credited as the most recognizable logo in the word, the Olympic rings, and spent considerable energy in prescribing the ceremonial characteristics of the event, with writings on subjects that ranged from attention to lighting and decoration, to specifications on the architecture of the venues.

Photograph in newspaper (unspecified) of Richard Beck working on the design for the Olympic poster. This proto-version differs from the final design, particularly in its typography. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 92/1256–1/4. Used with permission.

The design for the Olympics has been an overlooked subject in the fields of design history and Olympic studies alike. Olympic design’s role as an instrument of modernity becomes obvious, for instance, in the way British athletes’ uniforms were designed for the early Opening Ceremonies, expressing but also helping to shape the identity of modern Britain. The Melbourne 1956 poster designer, Richard Beck, abandoned the neoclassical body of the male athlete that characterized earlier Olympic posters for a non-figurative composition along the tenets of modern design.

As it has become only too obvious with the current case of London, in late modernity the Olympics are also an opportunity for new infrastructure projects and major real estate enterprise, which leave a debatable legacy to the host-city. Planners, architects, and urbanists play a major role in this process, as well as those who sponsor, lease, or invest in the projects in the longue durée of the post-Olympic era. The design for the Mexico 1968 Olympics had significant ideological implications for the social segregation that marked the future of Mexico City. The architecture of the Athens 2004 Olympics is emblematic of ‘instant monumentality’ and a lack of legacy planning that has characterized many modern Olympics.

At the same time, the high visibility, budget, and scale of the Olympics have provided designers with opportunities to realize ambitions that are not possible through ordinary projects, and to envision ideas that are often too advanced for their times. Katsumi Masaru for instance insisted in compiling a design manual for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games (a set of prescriptions that would secure the unified application of the graphics, and thus a cohesive Olympic image), even though he knew too well that it could hardly be applied in the Tokyo Olympics per se. Indeed it was completed just before the start of the Games leaving nevertheless an important legacy for all forthcoming Olympics for which a design manual became a staple. Should we similarly expect that the “no logo” idea of the London 2012, with its openness and lack of corporate compliance, is signaling a new paradigm shift?

Jilly Traganou is Associate Professor in Spatial Design Studies at the School of Art and Design History and Theory, at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. She has published widely in academic journals, has authored The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (Routledge, 2003) and co-edited Travel, Space, Architecture (Ashgate, 2009). She is currently working on a new book Designing the Olympics: (post-) National Identity in the Age of Globalization. Traganou has recently edited a special issue titled “Design Histories of the Olympic Games” for the Journal of Design History, where she also serves as Reviews Editor.

The new issue of the Journal of Design History titled “Design Histories of the Olympic Games” introduces the Olympics as a multifaceted design operation that generates diverse, often conflicting, agendas. Who creates the rhetorical framework of the Olympics, and how is this expressed or reshaped by design? What kind of ambitions do designers realize through their engagement with the Olympics? What overall purposes do the Olympics and their designs serve? ‘The Design Histories of the Olympic Games’ brings together writings by a new generation of scholars that cross the boundaries between traditional disciplines and domains of knowledge. Some of the articles look at the role of Olympic design (fashion design and graphic design) in representing national identity. Other articles look at the interconnected area of architecture, urbanism and infrastructure and the permanent legacy that these leave to the host city. You can view more on the Journal of Design History’s Design Histories of the Olympic Games Pinterest board too.

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Read more blog posts about the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games.


Buffet tipping

Below is a great post from Get Rich Slowly on tipping, but it still doesn’t answer my biggest tipping conundrum: How much do you tip at a buffet where the waiter/waitress only refills your glass?

How Much to Tip (and to Whom):
Note: This article is a reprint. Several readers have suggested that one way for Get Rich Slowly to retain my voice although I’m no longer a regular contributor is to re-publish old articles like this. This is a keen idea, especially on days like today when the staff writer hasn’t turned in his assignment!Every time I get my hair cut, I’m faced with a dilemma — should I tip the barber or not? I usually get my hair cut in a small-town shop. I tip $2 on a $12 haircut. If I get to hear stories about Vietnam or histrionic political rants, I tip $3, even if I don’t agree with the barber’s viewpoints. (I tip because I’ve been entertained.) Sometimes, if I don’t have enough cash, I don’t leave a anything at all. Are these tips appropriate?

What about when I pick up Chinese takeout? Should I have tipped the guys who delivered our new gas range last fall? What about a hotel bellhop? A parking valet? Out of curiosity, I did some research on tipping practices in the United States. There’s actually significant disagreement about how much to tip for even common services.

For example, you know you should tip your waitress. But how much should you leave? Some people claim that 10% is adequate. Others claim that 20% is standard. But I suspect that most of us learned to tip 15%, and to give more for exceptional service. (The wikipedia entry on tipping currently contains the bizarre claim that “18% is generally accepted as a standard tip for good service”.) Which amount is correct?

After browsing dozens of pages, I drafted the following guide. The amounts listed are based on averages or on consensus, when possible.
Food ServiceBarista: No tip required, though many suggest throwing coins into the tip jar.
Bartender: $1/drink (or 15% of total bill). Pre-tip for better service.
Delivery person (including pizza): 10%, $2 minimum (also, also)
Maitre d’: $5-$25 for special efforts
Takeout: No tip required unless something special is done (also, also)
Waiter: 15% for adequate service, 20% for exceptional service. For poor service, leave 10% or less. It’s okay to leave nothing for exceptionally poor service, but only if you’re sure it’s the waiter’s fault.
Hotel StaffBellman/Porter: $1 to $2 per bag, $5 minimum. (Or, just as many places say $1 bag, $2 minimum.)
Concierge: $5-$20 depending on the service. $20 if he does something exceptional. Nothing for directions.
Housekeeper: $2 to $5 per night, paid daily or as a lump sum at checkout. (Most sites suggest you tip daily.)
Parking Valet: A wide range of opinions. Everyone agrees that you should pay when your car is retrieved. Some say to pay when it’s parked, too. Most sites say to tip $2, though some suggest $5.
Room service: $5 minimum (unless gratuity is included in check)
TravelBus driver (not mass transit): $1 to $2, if she handles luggage
Cab driver: 10%, $2-$5 minimum
Chauffeur: 10-15%
Gas station attendant: Nothing. Or $2-$4. There’s no agreement. (I’ve never seen anyone tip a gas station attendant ever.)
Porter/skycap: $1 per bag. $2 for heavy items, or if porter brings luggage to counter.
Personal serviceBarber/Hairstylist: Again, little agreement: 10-15%, 15-20%, etc. One person recommends $5 to each individual who shampoos or blow-dries your hair! (also)
Manicurist: 15%
Spa service: 15-20%
Masseuse: 10-15%
Shoe-shiner; $2 or $3
OtherBuilding superintendent: Varies —read more.
Coat checker: Most sites recommend $1 per coat, though one said $2 to $5 upon retrieval.
Furniture deliverer: It depends. Most of the time $5-$20. Some recommend simply offering cold drinks. (also)
Grocery store bagger: One site recommended $1-$3, though I’ve never seen one tipped in my life.
Mover: $10-$25 per person (also)
What about tipping at holidays? Tipping service people with whom you have regular contact can build goodwill. I found these recommendations:
Holiday Tips

  • Babysitter: one week’s pay
  • Doorman: bottle of wine or box of chocolates
  • Garbage collector: $15 to $25
  • Gardener: one week’s pay
  • Housekeeper: one week’s pay
  • Janitor: $15 to $25
  • Mail carrier: $15 to $20 (up to $20 non-cash)
  • Nanny: one week’s pay
  • Newspaper delivery person: $15 to $25
  • Parking attendant: $15 to $25
  • Personal trainer: $20 to $50 (tip discreetly)

Some points regarding tipping etiquette:

  • If you use a coupon or gift certificate, calculate your tip based on the total before discount.
  • Tip above the norm if:
  • Service is exceptional,
  • You’ve been a burden, or
  • You are a regular client.
  • Don’t tip if it’s not deserved. Poor service should not be rewarded.
  • In some circumstances, if you offer an initial tip — especially a large initial tip — you’ll get better service.
  • If you take up a restaurant table for a long time, tip extra.
  • Tip discreetly.
  • When in doubt, tip.

What about public officials? When is a tip a tip, and when is a tip a bribe? Kris and I tipped the judge who married us, but even then we had trouble deciding how much to give him. (We gave him $50.)
I suspect that tipping practices vary widely from region-to-region and, especially based upon the size of the city. As always, do what works for you.
Other articles about tipping: