Category Archives: Style

Haley looking very Chris Christie today. I just hope she doesn’t put on unhealthy pounds


While typing my last post, I was listening to Nikki Haley’s live presser about the weather. Occasionally, I would glance over, and was struck by how the gov had adopted the standard Chris Christie disaster couture, with the dark blue windbreaker and everything. (Although she added a stylish white turtleneck.)

I’m telling myself this doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean she’s going to stop lanes of I-20 going through Kershaw County just to punish Vincent Sheheen or anything. And so far, it doesn’t look like she’s packing on any unhealthy pounds.

Apparently, this has become the national standard for a governor wanting to show that he or she is in Complete Weather Disaster Command and Control Mode. Like a general getting out of Class A’s and into fatigues — or rather, like what that would have meant decades ago, before generals started going to the office every day in BDUs.

Anyway, it just struck me as an interesting visual. Increasingly, we think in visual symbols rather than words, don’t we?

And are we next going to see Gov. Haley walking alongside President Obama, showing him the devastation wreaked on our state? Probably not… although I see she has sought a federal emergency declaration, which I found ironic…


AP says there are no more ‘illegal immigrants’ in the U.S.

But Doug and others who’ve been yearning for this day shouldn’t get overexcited. AP says we still have an “illegal immigration” problem.

It’s a matter of style.

Most news organizations in this country follow The Associated Press Stylebook quite religiously. Except for a few local exceptions here and there, so did every paper I ever worked at.

And AP style just changed. Those who follow the guide are no longer to call anyone an “illegal immigrant,” or refer to people as “illegals.”

Romenesko quotes from the statement today from AP explaining the change:

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally…

The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)…

… we had in other areas been ridding the Stylebook of labels. The new section on mental health issues argues for using credibly sourced diagnoses instead of labels. Saying someone was “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of schizophrenic, for example.

And that discussion about labeling people, instead of behavior, led us back to “illegal immigrant” again.

We concluded that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance.

So we have….

Here’s the way the entry in the Stylebook reads now:

illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.

There’s a certain logic to this, but I think the AP is going about a step too far. I can see not describing humans as “illegals.” It’s lazy, and unless a person has been declared an outlaw in the full meaning of the term (is that even possible in today’s legal system), the person himself is not illegal.

But by doing away with “illegal immigrant,” AP is eliminating a perfectly clear and accurate way of describing one aspect of a person. I doubt the service would balk at “recent immigrant,” or any other accurate modifier used with the word “immigrant.” “Illegal immigrant” is a quick, accurate way to describe a characteristic of an individual that is important to the story (else it wouldn’t be mentioned at all). I see no reason to inconvenience thousands of writers and millions of readers by forcing them into less direct ways of communicating the same concept.

The real problem with the U.S. Olympic uniforms

After noting that failing to have the U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms made in this country was a serious missed opportunity, Peggy Noonan raises the other problem, which has occurred to me whenever I’ve seen photos of these ridiculous togs:

But that isn’t the biggest problem. That would be the uniforms themselves. They don’t really look all that American. Have you seen them? Do they say “America” to you? Berets with little stripes? Double breasted tuxedo-like jackets with white pants? Funny rounded collars on the shirts? Huge Polo logos? They look like some European bureaucrat’s idea of a secret militia, like Brussels’s idea of a chic new army. They’re like the international community Steven Spielberg lined up to put on the spaceship at the end of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Americans wear baseball caps, trucker hats, cowboy hats, watch caps, Stetsons, golf caps, even Panama hats and fedoras. They wear jeans and suits and khakis and shorts and workout clothes. The Americans in the now-famous uniform picture look like something out of a Vogue spread where the models arrayed on the yacht look like perfect representatives of the new global elite.

Our athletes aren’t supposed to look like people who’d march under a flag with statues and harps and musical notes. Also, the women’s uniforms make them look like stewardesses from the 777 fleet on Singapore Airlines.

The failure of the uniforms is that they don’t communicate: “Here comes America.”

They communicate: “Chic global Martians coming your way.”

Amen to that, Peggy.

I saw a photo in the WSJ the other day showing the uniforms, and at first I thought sure they were on male fashion models — you know, the kind who are distinguishable from the female models only by slightly larger jaws, with neither gender looking entirely like normal, healthy humans? The effect was heightened by the fact that they were wearing clothing no normal person would wear.

I was shocked to learn they were actual American athletes. I’m still not sure the cutline was right. So maybe it was entirely the uniforms that made them look so unreal.

Naked without a jacket

Some of y’all were advising me on a “look” for my band, once I start a band. That, of course, is a worthwhile consideration — yet another thing to settle before actually forming the band itself, along with the band name and playlist.

But y’all were a bit off with the platform shoes with goldfish in them and other suggestions. As I responded, my own concept of a “look” is somewhat different.

I tend to think back to when I saw Dylan with The Band in Memphis in 1974. Basically, they were casually dressed with dark sport coats over work shirts, and jeans or other casual pants. I seem to recall a scruffy old sofa on the stage. It was comfortable, homey, and vaguely old-fashioned. They were dressed sort of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, only without the guns and cowboy hats.

That’s the sort of look I’m comfortable with. It’s the way I dress. It’s more or less the way I’ve dressed since high school. There was once a sort of clearance/warehouse sale at the base exchange at Hickam Air Force Base back in 1970, and they were getting rid of all kinds of out-of-style items. I picked up a couple of sport coats for $5 each. One of them I really liked. It was wool, a sort of rough, tweedy wool. It was a dark, dark blue with other dark colors in it, vaguely seen, and a faint sort of reddish pinstripe running through the hard-to-see pattern. I wish I still had that jacket, even though it wouldn’t fit me now. It was very like what The Band would wear, or what a cowboy in a particularly cool western might wear, and have to pull out of the way to draw his sixgun.

Over the years, I got dressier than that, and took up such items as the bow tie. But nowadays, when I do wear a tie, I’m the only one at ADCO who does. And more and more often, I don’t wear one at all. So I’m drifting back more toward that look I had as a student. But part of that look is that I always, always wear a jacket.

How could I not? How would I get around? Where would I put my:

  • Car keys (right outside pocket)
  • Wallet (sorry, but I’m not going to deform my spine by sitting on a wallet in my hip pocket)
  • notebook (my Moleskine fits perfectly in my inside pocket on the right
  • flip-up shades (breast pocket)
  • pills, tissues, etc. (antihistamines and such that I always carry — left outside pocket)

Where would all that stuff go without a jacket? And then there’s my iPhone, which I wear clipped to my belt — you want me to go around with my phone exposed to the weather?

The other day, on NPR, I heard an interview with British actor Bill Nighy, who among other things said the following:

SIEGEL: You have a look and bearing that says, at least to my American eyes: British gentleman. Is it true that you feel naked if you’re not wearing a suit?

NIGHY: Yeah. In fact, a jacket, really. I’m a jacket man. And if I’m without one, I am kind of seriously disabled. I don’t know how to operate in shirt sleeves.

SIEGEL: You don’t?

NIGHY: It makes me anxious and uneasy.

SIEGEL: Even to a reading for a part or something very informal?

NIGHY: Yeah. It’s ludicrous. People sometimes inquire why there’s a lack of classical work on my CV with the emphasis on Shakespeare and I have joked in the past that it’s because I can’t operate in those kind of trousers. But, in fact, it’s true. I can really only operate in a decent lounge – what we used to call a lounge suit. It is kind of my muse and I am ludicrously attached to the idea.

I did a play on Broadway here in New York and the director desperately tried to get a jacket off me. He said, you’re in the garden. It’s summertime in England. What would you be doing wearing a jacket? I said, I always wear a jacket in the garden. Anyway, he did get the jacket off me and he actually made me appear without socks, which was deeply unsettling.

SIEGEL: This was very difficult for you.

NIGHY: Yeah…

Exactly! How indeed does one get along with a jacket? I can’t imagine. I gathered that this was supposed to be heard as an expression of the actor’s eccentricity, but I thought he made perfect sense. No wonder I like Nighy in pretty much anything I see him in (“Page Eight,” “I Capture the Castle,” “Love Actually“).

As for going about without socks? Totally beyond the pale. Let’s not even go into that.

Like Butch and Sundance, but without the guns and hats.

Grow up and put your clothes on

Two weeks ago, when I arrived back at CAE from my trip to Key West, I saw an unusual sight in the baggage claim area. A woman had brought two children to greet an arriving man — husband and father probably, but I have no way of knowing — and the kids were in their pajamas. Fine. Made sense, I suppose, being a little before 9 p.m.

But here’s the thing — the woman I took to be the Mom was in her bathrobe and slippers. Presumably, also pajama-clad beneath the robe.

This seemed a bit much. It’s not like the arrival was not scheduled, and/or was taking place at 3 a.m.

Then, I ran across this on the Web:

Pajamas are on the rise. Across the land, according to the Wall Street Journalteenagers have taken to wearing PJs all day, even in public—even to school! Apparel companies like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle are cashing in on the trend, stocking their stores with leggings and sweatpants and other comfortable, flowy, elastic waistbanded apparel. Pajamas are even popping up in high fashion: Here’s Sofia Coppola happily, gorgeously stepping outside during the day in Louis Vuitton pajamas, and here’s designer Rachel Roy attending a movie premiere in her own brand of jammies. Last week, a women’s clothing site that tracks new “looks,” exhorted its customers to “get comfortable with pajama dressing.” Among its wares were several silk blouses selling for more than $200 each; a pair of silk drawstring plaid pants with elastic cuffs for $495; and these $845 (!) wide-leg print pants constructed out of sateen, a fabric that I think is mostly used to make bed sheets.

As you might expect, a whole lot of silly and just-plain-mean people aren’t happy about this nascent pajama craze. A number of school districts have banned sleeping clothes on the theory that they somehow inhibit students’ motivation. The idea, I guess, is that taking the time to dress up for school makes you ready to learn—which sounds plausible until you think about it for five seconds. Isn’t spending time worrying about what you’ll wear an even bigger distraction from academics?

Some people are so upset with pajamas they want to bring in the law. Michael Williams, a commissioner in Louisiana’s Caddo Parish, won national headlines a few weeks ago by calling for a ban on pajamas in public. Under Williams’ proposed ordinance, people caught wearing pajamas—which he defines as clothes sold in the sleepwear section of department stores—would be forced to perform community service. (I wonder if they would be required to wear orange jumpsuits—which look like very comfortable pajamas—while serving their sentences.) Williams told the Journal that the daytime pajama trend signaled America’s dwindling “moral fiber,” and then added a nutty slippery-slope argument to bolster his point: “It’s pajamas today; what is it going to be tomorrow? Walking around in your underwear?”

Precisely. And there’s nothing nutty about it, given that that’s precisely what I wear to bed, and I’m guessing a lot of guys are with me on that. I have only this to say about the PJ trend: I don’t hold with it. I mean, come on, people — make an effort. Count me among the “silly and just-plain-mean people.” Somebody’s gotta draw a line somewhere.

There are related phenomena which I will also decry. Saturday night, I saw an SNL rerun from just before Christmas. The musical guest was someone unfamiliar to me, a Michael Bublé. He is apparently a crooner who aspires to the Sinatra-to-Tony Bennett spectrum. Although I’m thinking Andy Williams-Wayne Newton is more like his speed.

Anyway, he was perched on a barstool with a microphone, dressed in black tie. Which was appropriate, this being well after 6 p.m. But here’s the thing: He hadn’t shaved in a day or two. And if his close-cropped hair had ever known a comb, it was not obvious. He kept smiling at the audience in this particularly smarmy manner, and all I could think was, Hey, you want to ingratiate yourself? Take a minute to shave. It’s not that freaking hard. It takes less time than putting on a tux. Give it a try.

I really don’t know what is supposed to be achieved with the “I can’t be bothered to shave” look. It wasn’t even careful, Sonny Crockett can’t be bothered to shave. It was actually like he got up that morning and looked in the mirror and said, Nah. Not gonna do it. I’m just going on live national TV, and my thing is to look like somebody from the 40s, when men were carefully barbered, but nah…

Back to the PJ thing. Ladies, if that’s what you want to do, go for it. But be advised — full-length PJs are not a good look, for anybody.

As for guys, I’ve gotta ask — how many guys even wear pajamas to sleep? I’m thinking, not that many. I mean, what’s underwear for? I know that nobody wants to see me in public in what I wear in the sack, and I respect that. So should everybody else.

Santorum tries to ‘look older’ — you know, like Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter

I was somewhat taken aback this morning when I read this:

We thought Rick Santorum’s sweater vests were just a regular old-fashion statement. Turns out, they’re so much more. Santorum explained to Laura Ingraham on Monday that he likes to wear the sleeveless numbers because they make him look “a little older.”

Said Ingraham, “When I think of sweaters I think of Jimmy Carter, I think of Lamar Alexander, so all I’m saying Rick, with how you and I are so aligned on social issues and world view, but I’ve got to take issue with you on the sweater vest.”

“Is it geek chic? What is it?” Ingraham pressed.

The 2012 candidate explained that saying yes to the vests has a lot to do with looking more like an elder statesman. Santorum, 53, pointed out that a man in Iowa guessed he was 32…

So he’s trying to look older? You mean, like Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter? Jimmy was often portrayed with a sweater vest back in DC’s Silver Age, and I see evidence, both here and here, that he hasn’t lost the look in his latter-day manifestations, either.

Nothing against sweater vests, mind you. Below, you can see the one I’m wearing today. Unfortunately, I’m not going the fully Jimmy today — no bow tie — on account of all my shirts being too tight in the collar all of a sudden. I think I was exposed to some kind of special Kryptonite over the holidays or something. More on that later, though…

Back to Santorum: Does it tell us something that someone who presumes to ask us to elect him president looks so much like a kid that the Jimmy Olsen look is a step up in gravitas? By the way, if you want to look avuncular, you need a long-sleeved cardigan, not a sweater vest. Do I have to explain everything to these people?