December 9, 2010 - December 2, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
For a Change:
Some Good News
What Q's been up to lately in the
THE END OF THE
. This post is really only a pointer to an article
everyone should read every word of. I guarantee you it's the best news
you've heard since the November election. It's about the sabotage that
has seriously damaged and delayed the Iranian nuclear program. Without
dropping a bunker-busting bomb or firing a single shot. A few short
In the 20th century, this would have
been a job for James Bond.
The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy
headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are
secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that
weapon harmless and escape undetected.
But in the 21st century, Bond doesn't get the call. Instead, the job is
handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a
jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only
crippled Iran's nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of
computer security around the globe...
The construction of the worm was so
advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I
battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first
to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first
“weaponized” computer virus.
At Natanz, for almost 17 months,
Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific
component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment
manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning
centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of
the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a
quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the
same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered
at the centrifuges' control panel.
At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner
called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant's
massive steam turbine.
The nuclear facility in Iran runs an
“air gap” security system, meaning it has no connections to the Web,
making it secure from outside penetration. Stuxnet was designed and
sent into the area around Iran's Natanz nuclear power plant -- just how
may never be known -- to infect a number of computers on the assumption
that someone working in the plant would take work home on a flash
drive, acquire the worm and then bring it back to the plant.
Masking itself from the plant's
security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to
rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This
damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it
corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear
engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no
malfunctions in the operating system.
Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the
Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted
throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet
and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.
One additional impact that can be
attributed to the worm, according to David Albright of the Institute
for Science and International Studies, is that “the lives of the
scientists working in the facility have become a living hell because of
counter-intelligence agents brought into the plant” to battle the
breach. Ironically, even after its discovery, the worm has succeeded in
slowing down Iran's reputed effort to build an atomic weapon. And
Langer says that the efforts by the Iranians to cleanse Stuxnet from
their system “will probably take another year to complete,” and during
that time the plant will not be able to function anywhere normally.
So. Whodunnit? Find the best guess here
There was a whole
episode of Justified
about the hat.
As sometimes happens, I wrote a post that inadvertently brought
up a whole new, probably more interesting topic. In this case, it's
men's hats. I'm sympathetic but also cautious and skeptical. The hat
thing can be done, but it has to be absolutely right. There's no margin
for error. A few weeks ago I saw a man in the newest Jag convertible
sportscar wearing a beret. He simply glowed with the coolness he
thought he was exuding. He looked like a smacked ass. Kind of like that
self-important, self-proclaimed genius on Mythbusters:
A month or so ago, a family outing took us to the Cowtown rodeo (cool),
where my son-in-law got his first mass exposure to cowboy hats. He was
infatuated. He tried on several in the presence of his wife, who
shrugged and turned thumbs down every time. Subsequently, he bought one
somewhere else. I haven't seen it. It might be cool. It might not. I
can tell you the missus loves Raylan's hat (above), but she hasn't
exactly been agitating for me to get one like it. So there you go. I
admire the aspiration toward hattedness, but I'm also mindful that it's
incredibly risky. Which is also cool. Men are risk-takers or they're
not, you know, men.
There's no doubt that the best bet is the fedora, which is an excellent
way to bring out your inner Bogart. Yet it's also extremely
problematical. For example, who doesn't love this version?
It's handsome as hell, but it's also a beautiful copy of the model worn
by Indiana Jones. You see the problem. I'm truly sensitive to the fact
that (as one of our commenters pointed out) men may actually need
hats to protect their
progressively more, uh, unprotected scalps from the dangers of the sun.
I don't envy them the decisions they have to make. I'd like to be able
to offer positive guidance, but the best I can muster is a few clear
1. No berets. You'll just have to
imagine the boldface type and flashing colors behind that sentence.
2. Nothing short-brimmed like the old guys at Walmart and in creaky
Dodge Darts driving 40 in a 50 mph zone wear.
3. I hate the new floppy-brimmed camo hats troops wear in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Sorry. I understand the utility. But there's absolutely nothing cool about them.
4. I'm pretty thoroughly opposed to the old sports caps worn by
fanciers of 60s British roadsters.
5. Baseball caps should be worn by baseball players. Only baseball
catchers can wear them backwards, underneath their facemasks.
I guess everything else is okay. I mean, tophats are gorgeous and
ennobling, but where can you wear them? And Panamas make every man into
a possible spy until he leaves the tropics. It's complicated. Do what
seems right for you. As long as you bond
with the hat and your wife or girlfriend doesn't giggle when you put it
I know. Pretty lame, eh? I'm open to more sophisticated analysis if you
have it to offer.
Yup. I've got the trenchcoat. But not the hat. Maybe I should. Or not.
THE COWBOY HAT
I've seen them all my life, but here's the first real
disquisition I've seen on the subject. Courtesy of commenter Allen:
Hats should be both functional and
provide a sense of individuality to the wearer.
Never. It's an affectation unless you are serving in the military.
Speaking of which, when the US Army went to the black beret for
everyone it was an "everyone is special" moment common to kindergarten.
Damn it, I earned my black beret, lo, those many years ago.
Hats should also fit the local climate
and culture. A nice fedora in New York City doesn't wear the same in
a cowboy hat, as with how best to train a horse, is a much debated
subject with fierce adherents on all sides but some common principles.
need several; as with clothing, different occasions require different
hats. If you are into the western horse thing, you need a riding hat.
Never clean it unless you like to be seen as the ever constant
greenhorn. It should also have stampede strings where you are allowed
to flex your stylistic urges, mildly.
You should have both
a summer and winter cowboy hat for more formal occasions, like taking
your lady out on the town. I prefer a black one in the winter and a
white one in the summer. These hats must be kept scrupulously clean and
The hatband is where you are allowed to
yourself, but it should be something personal. For the black one I have
the skin from a Mojave Green rattlesnake that my lady killed when it
came too close to her children. For the white one a multi-color
horsehair braid that I was given by a member of the tribal council that
I have dealings with.
Finally, you need a cowboy hat for
outdoors work. Your riding hat will do nicely, but I prefer a light
straw cowboy hat with plenty of ventilation.
There is one last caveat. If your lady
sees you in any of these hats and frowns or laughs, never wear it again.
I think I covered the last point for all hats in all walks of life
above. But maybe it's even more serious in this instance. Thank you,
Allen. You're a hat man. I'm not. I bow to your superior experience and expertise.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
The Four B's of
Whatever you do, pay no attention to
The world's leading spokesman
'Everything goes with everything
else.' uh, Wrong.
Since nobody cares about new Obama theories, I'm going to talk
about something important. Men's fashion works in decade cycles. The
1950s were a freak show of beige suits, wide lapels and loud, short
ties. The 1960s were reactionary and far spiffier, lots of dark suits,
narrow lapels and skinny ties that reached almost to the belt. The
1970s were a complete disaster -- double-wide lapels, doubleknit suits,
and a psychotic mixing of patterns among suits, shirts, and ties. The
"greedy" 1980s were another highpoint, a classic Wall Street look of
white shirts and tailored suits with lapels and ties of just the right
width. Then the 1990s came, and the question seemed to be, 'How much
seventies stuff could we get away with now?' Answer: Pretty much
everything except doubleknit, only less with the width, please. Result:
Which brings us to the 2000's. By the book, it should have been a
good-looking decade for menswear. But it wasn't. Isn't. Tailoring,
lapels, and tie width have returned to esthetically correct
proportions, but there's something going on with patterns and colors
that shouldn't be. Men have somehow gotten the idea that everything
goes with everything. It's not true. The fabrics are great, the stripes
and windowpane checks and argyles are all nice enough, but it's
suddenly become the rage to dress like a cuisinart of patterns and
colors. Bright pink ties with busy shirts and gangster-striped suits.
Some of the suits even have four or five buttons, and the firmament is
beginning to collapse. What's going on?
Gayness. Metrosexuality. Herd instinct. Men who need help.
Why I'm offering some rules. I call my prescription the "Four B's."
What does that mean? B
rummel and B
rothers. It was Beau Brummel who
laid down the foundation of all modern menswear, postulating that men
are not male birds; their impact should consist of themselves, not
their duds. He counseled black as the default male color, solid,
stolid, and never wrong. Brooks Brothers interpreted Beau Brummel for
the twentieth century: dark blue suits, white shirts, and quietly
elegant ties incapable of distracting from the character of a man's
face. They were right, with a few very minor exceptions. Hence, my
rules for the coming decade, which I can only hope will make the 2000s an
anomaly rather than the beginning of a pernicious new trend.
It's really hard to improve on a white shirt.
Let's face facts. Men aren't any good at dreaming up 'outfits.' Forget
all that metrosexual talk about 'neutrals' and the appropriateness of
mixing stripes, checks, etc, as long as there's some difference of
scale. Men can't do that. We wind up looking as if we'd been dressed by
our wives or girlfriends (best case) or our mothers (worst case). The
only 'neutral' we can or need to understand is a white shirt. The only
thing that forgives us automatically for all our other combining
decisions. And, yeah, I'm deliberately and ostentatiously excluding the
blue shirt and the white collar with some other color shirting (Brit
Hume take note), because as we get older, every deviation from the
utmost simplicity makes us look like we're trying to be younger than we
really are. And when we're young, it's still wrong to put on something
that makes the world think, "He's young enough to get away with it."
Which means we're not really men yet. See? Also: forget the button-down
collars. The one thing Brooks Brothers got consistently wrong. In old
age, William F. Buckley looked like the oldest prep school senior in
2. Avoid suits that cause people to
see the pattern before they see you.
Maybe you want to look like a
racetrack tout from a Damon Runyon story or a gunsel from a Raymond
Chandler novel. Stifle that urge. It's a character defect. Men are not
a package or a fashion statement. If there's anything to them, they're
themselves. The only thing anyone should ever think about your
clothing is that you're well dressed, not dressed up. If they see you
approaching and think, "Wow. The stripes on that suit are killer"
rather than "Here's Bill, looking great again," you've screwed up.
3. Ties are not your natural enemy,
but they sure can be.
Remember that the knot of your tie is just below your face. Women have
labored for thousands of years to get men to look into their eyes
before ogling their breasts. Ties should not be substitute breasts. I
have chuckled for decades about the term 'power ties,' be they yellow,
salmon, or -- as in our day -- poisonous pink. So-called power ties are
nothing but men's cleavage. They're not about power at all; they're
about sexual ego, which should flow not from fabric but the eyes. Women
who display cleavage also make up their eyes to return the attention
where it belongs. Men can't do that. Result: Power ties make you look
like a damn peacock, bird brain highlighted. How to pick a tie? Muted
elegance of pattern, quality of fabric, and -- if you must make a
statement -- a neutral metallic like silver that says you'll learn
nothing about this man unless you meet his eyes and face. Also: Never
pink. An absolutely ironclad rule with no exceptions. Windsor knots
okay with Windsor collars, double Windsors never, under any circumstances.
Finally, the new ego statement of disdaining a tie, like that creep on
the Fox Business Channel, is the biggest loser statement of all. It's
like not wearing pants, the first thing anyone notices about you and a
thing that's bound to catalyze automatic judgments before they see
anything of you as an actual person. It's obnoxious, moronic, and
rightly frowned upon.
4. Don't draw disproportionate
attention to any part of your attire.
This is a follow-on to the previous rule. Wearing a suit with no tie is
an example of this rule. But so is wearing flashy suspenders with no
suit jacket. You are not what you are wearing. Every time the first
thing someone notices about you is what you're wearing or not wearing,
you become a woman, subject to the same arbitrary judgmentalism. When
they move into fashion critique mode, you become an object, not a
person. For the same reason, do not affect Gucci loafers or a Rolex
watch. (Gaudy accessories are always gaudier on men.) They should
always observe that you are nicely appointed, not that here are some
spectacular accessories containing a male of the species.
5. Always err on the side of
I've covered the white shirt part. This is analogous. Don't mix
dramatics. If your suit has a pattern people might notice, wear a solid
color tie. When you dress for business, don't wear any loud or bright
colors. You're not Beyonce and you shouldn't be. If you're casually
dressed up for a party and your slacks have a pattern, wear a blazer
and a solid color tie. If your blazer is camel colored, wear a red tie.
Period. If you feel compelled to wear a red vest with your camel
blazer, wear dark slacks and a tartan tie. Don't mix patterns.People
6. Color rules for men are absolute.
Blue suit? Black shoes. Brown shoes brand you, quite literally, as a
Nazi. (Why did the Nazis have such great uniforms? Because Germans have
the worst color sense of any people in the western world. If you doubt
me, go to Germany. The Frankfurt Airport alone will precipitate
esthetic nausea. Probably why they've been such a problem for the rest
of us.) Don't mix browns or beiges with black. Ever. Don't wear
black suits. (Sorry, Beau). They make you look like an undertaker. If
you wear a black blazer, your tie can be any color but brown or beige.
If you wear black slacks, your shoes and socks must also be black. In
that case your sportcoat can be any color but brown or beige, and your
tie the same. Why? Because if you have a brown tweed sportcoat, why are
you also wearing black shoes? Don't wear pastels. Ever. They're for
7. Don't ever try to be cute or
It always makes you look like an asshole. No matter how you think you
look in some specific context, imagine how you'd look at a 7-11 in the
ghetto. Don't wear corduroys with whales on them. Don't wear prismatic
sportcoats or trousers. If you must wear leather, be prepared to back
it up or don't put it on. Period.
8. Don't ever wear white sneakers.
Men don't do that.
9. Denim is a two-edged sword and time
is not on your side.
Some older men can wear jeans. Most shouldn't. Why? Because men's asses
get flat and awful, and whether you think you're telling the world how
youthful you are or not, the world sees an old guy with a flat ass and
a Viagra prescription.
10. Clothes make the man, but only if
there was a man inside to begin with.
Yeah. You can wear whatever you want -- all my rules aside -- but you
better have a face and eyes to back it all up. I call this one the
Alpha Rule. I wear whatever I
want. Why? Because I mostly follow my own rules AND I never go anywhere
anymore. Because I have nothing left to prove.
Thing is, I know a bunch of you are saying, 'This doesn't apply to me'
because they wear tracksuits everywhere and jeans so huge nobody could
ever mistake them for Beau Brummel, and all I have to say to you is
this: They're ALL judging you, every moment of every day. The same way
you judge women, with the flick of an eye, everyone is also judging
you. Not whether they'd jump in the sack with you or not, but whether
they'd trust you, hire you, or believe in what you have to say. If you
short-circuit their appraisal process by the way you dress, you're
making yourself a loser. Because there's no upside to men's fashion.
It's all downside. Everything they notice about the way you dress is a
distraction from the only thing you have to offer: what's behind those
eyes of yours.
Best example? Barack Obama. Best dressed politician since JFK. What did
he achieve by his wardrobe? Only transparency. His beautiful suits and
faultless taste never became an issue separating us from his character.
A luxury no woman has.
case you think I've been too harsh, here are are two hints, one from my
long departed dad and one from the master of all punks. 1) There's no
such thing as being over-dressed for an occasion; and 2) You can't ever
have enough leather jackets and coats if your preference is denim pants.
If you're a punk, boots and boot chains are also necessary. If you can
pull it off. Which reminds me of the InstaPunk fashion code, one rule
only: Dress like a toff from the waist up and like a biker from the
waist down. It's worked for me since long before most of you were born.
Uncharacteristically, this post was vetted by three longtime
friends and commenters. All of them wanted pictures to illustrate my
points, not that they disagreed with my analysis or my rules. Which is
why I'm soliciting those images from you. Go for it. I'll post an
Addendum if you'll offer up pictures tied to specific parts of the
post. Deal? A couple wanted bad examples from network, cable news, and
sports shows. A third wanted GOOD examples -- how men should
look -- from Brooks, J.
Peterman, etc. Do what you will. I'm stunned by how seriously they all
took a post I regarded as a day off. Shows what I know.