Archive for GQ

Reading Rainbow: Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One”

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Authors, Critical Theory, In the News, Reading Rainbow, Role Models, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by effingjro

Zone One - Out October 18

Some books read like love letters to New York City: Joseph Mitchell’s Up In The Old Hotel, for example, and Joan Didion’s gut-wrenching essay: “Goodbye To All That.”

Zone One? It’s hate mail for the whole island. There is a lot of gut-wrenching, though.

James Maher's take on Chinatown post-apocalypse

Meet Mark Spitz – he’s managed to survive after most of the population has been reduced to mindless ‘skels,’ only because he is so exceptionally mediocre. A consistent B student, whether he studied or not. The member of the senior class “Most Likely Not To Be Named The Most Likely Anything.” That mediocrity grants him a longer lease on life than his parents, his girlfriends, than almost anyone he knew before the innard-chomping nightmare the survivors refer to as ‘Last Night.’

It’s a good name. For the survivors sweeping Zone One in southern Manhattan, the evening when the world went mad stays fresh in their minds. How can they escape it? Mark and the two other civilians in Omega Unit spend their days picking off the wasted victims of the disease – walking corpses who still sport haircuts copied from sitcom characters and bear passing resemblances to former gym teachers, girlfriends, relatives.

That’s the problem when the whole world’s gone skel – the victims still have some shadow memory: they frequent the same hang-outs, wear the same clothes, maintain the same piercings and haircuts and facial features (at least until the skin starts rotting away). In an interview with GQ, Whitehead sums it up: “The skels are ghosts, other people haunted by their pasts. I’ve certainly been stuck on certain periods and events in my life, so a skel is a statue dedicated to nostalgia.”

Each monster has its trope. With vampires it’s abusive lust, with werewolves it’s a split personality. Zombies come in mobs, and with mobs there is a mentality. The skels in Zone One invite contemplation, not as sad skin sacks, but as walking memories of the people they were, people who were always part-monster to begin with.

In 'Zone One,' the skels are incinerated, creating clouds of ash over the city. By inbrainstorm

Zone One didn’t have to be a zombie novel, but it’s a handy device to dissect the problems of the populace post-Empire, particularly in a city. As a new recruit to New York, there are certain lines that hit me in the gut. Spitz will pick off zombies and consider their former, waking lives – He wonders when they came to the city, bright-eyed and ambitious, and how they’d been forced to settle in the intervening years, crowding around cocktail bars and laughing too loudly in attempts to capture some Sex and the City fantasy. He thinks about the shut-ins who barricaded themselves against the coming plague, particularly “new recruits” like myself, who were too fresh to the city to develop the kind of support system that could have afforded them a means of escape.

It scares you. Scared me, at least, in a way blood-spurting zombie movies never have.

Formally, it’s excellent. Spitz falls through temporal trap doors constantly in the narrative, moving backwards to memories of ‘Last Night,’ the deaths of his parents, unexpected skel attacks, and then he snaps to at the last moment, when his life depends on it. The language is carefully chosen, and evokes spinal cords, joints and necrosis, even when describing entertainment systems and subways. And there’s humor, too, in the unlikeliest places. When Omega Team spots a few walkers in the distance, they try to tell if they’re human or skel. The deciding factor? They’re wearing ponchos. “Only a human cursed with the burden of free will would wear a poncho.”

Definitely pick up a copy on the 18th. Whether you’re a zombie fan or not, this book has a lot to say.

Banana Republic: Too Mad For Mad Men

Posted in Advertisements, Found Item, In the News, Photos, Rag Mags, Rage Blackout, Soul-Crushing Materialism, Stylez, TEEVee, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2011 by effingjro

I was enjoying my normal Saturday routine: G&Ts on the lounge chair in the back yard with the latest men’s mags, when I came across this Banana Republic ad in GQ.

OK, fine, Mad Men. I dig that just as much as any of human being out there. I love the show, I LOVE the costumes – I even went so far as to download the characters’ individual playlists on iTunes – that’s how taken I am with a mid-century modern lifestyle (no, I didn’t not craft a personal Mad Men avatar, but I was tempted).

The thing is, Banana Republic has been going Mad  for three years now. They started out with a ‘casting call’ promo in 2009. Then they rolled out their capsule collection in 2010 (I remember this in particular because I urged a straight friend to glean his whole wardrobe here). And now, in 2011, they’re putting out a third collection, even though the next season of Mad Men likely won’t materialize until 2012.

This show caused a bit of a style revolution, and I’m totally in favor of gents getting more dapper. The looks – a few of which I’m posting below – are still great, if extremely grey.

No arguments here, even if they are eschewing some of the preppier, Pete Campbell flourishes for The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit-style tailoring and homogeneity.

I just think it’s a bit lame that BR hasn’t come up with anything more exciting for the past three years than Mad Men. If I think your novelty capsule collection is starting to look familiar, maybe it’s time to change it up.

And for those of you trying to cultivate a little MM panache – try a vintage shop. It’ll be a whole lot more fun.

Project Vassar

Posted in Soul-Crushing Materialism, Stylez with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by effingjro

How about a Vassar clothing line?

Fashionista posted today about one of Harvard’s new measures to staunch their bleeding endowment (OK, graphic, but losing 18 mil is pretty serious). What are they doing? Launching a clothing line! It’s called Harvard Yard, and it will obviously capitalize on the preppy/collegiate craze vaunted by trust-funders and hip hoppers alike. Here’s a peek of what they’ll offer:

Considering the name-brand cred Vassar carries, especially for girls, and the daring style I see on campus daily, you have to wonder what a Vassar line would look like. MadsVassar recently linked to a GQ photoshoot with some Vassar apparel, so clearly some people (at Conde, no less) think our name is worth throwing on an editorial page. Realistically, the school doesn’t have the funds to launch this on the scale Harvard is doing, but at the very least, it would be great to see design-oriented students working on a smaller-scale project, fusing Vassar old-school and new-school, and selling some items online. High-waisted skirts, patent leather, scarves and pins, padded shoulders, cinched waists, you get the pikcha.

Apparently, the Vassar name works well for selling body-shaping undergear:

Git it, grrrl

Git it, grrrl

Plus, we could do so much better than that boxy Harvard jacket.


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