The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

George Shearing - Bossa Nova - 1962 - Full album

Happy New Year Everyone!


Happy 2017 everyone!  Do you have any particular resolutions for the new year?  Here are some of mine in no particular order:

1) Exercise more routinely.

2) Achieve a better work-life balance.

3) Read more fiction.

4) Enjoy, somehow, more free time.

5) Play more.

6) Spend more time with the Grand Duchess ad Young Master.

7) Listen to BBC Radio 4 online for at least 30 minutes everyday.

8) Do a better job of following world and domestic news and events.

9) Be more patient.

10) Listen to and play more music.

11) Make a tiny difference in someone's life.

12) Continue dressing with classic flair and style, or at least attempting to do so.


Small things, really, but all things I'd like to do more of in the coming 12 months.  What about you?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Father Christmas Style 2016. . .

One of my guilty pleasures is collecting Victorian and Edwardian images of Father Christmas.  I hope you might agree that this is one of the loveliest and most magical.

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Classic Style!

-- Heinz-Ulrich, The Grand Duchess, and The Young Master

Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Frigid Mid-December Style. . .


 The first of two photographs today, taken just after the school bus departed at about 8:35am.

A frigid day here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold.  Perfect weather for the pajama day they have decided to have today at our son's elementary school!  I kid you not.  Now, I like the teachers and administration at our son's school.  They have been most helpful, accommodating, and inclusive where our son is concerned during the last year.  But you can't help but wonder when messages are emailed/sent home about stuff like this.  And let's just forget for a moment that the very idea of pajama day runs counter to what I consider the dictates of good taste.  Sigh.  In any case, the weather is just how we like it in our neck o the wood.  Cold, snowy, Norwegian sweater weather.  Come to think of it, I'll wear one for my 2pm meeting on campus later this afternoon.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



And the second.  The snow is so cold that it squeaks underfoot.  Our high for today is predicted to be 18 degrees F./-7.7 degrees C. with similar temperatures and more snow on the way throughout the next week.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Digitized Family Member Style. . .

 My maternal grandfather, Dave, as a young paratrooper.  'Granddaddy' was originally an anti-aircraft gunner in a Pennsylvania German battery that guarded the Dutch refineries on Curacao in the Caribbean for a whileI believe this photograph was taken shortly after he had completed jumpschool at Fort Benning, Georgia before shipping out for Great Britain sometime in 1944 and later France.  A soft-spoken and gentlemanly soul, he actually volunteered for both paratrooper and glider training!  Amazingly, he lived to tell the tale.


My late grandmother, Vivian, or 'Granny' as my sister, cousins, and I called her.  I believe this photograph was taken around about the same time as my grandfather's above.  The two photographs were always displayed together in a hinged frame that I finally replaced a few years ago, so we could hang the two photographs on the wall more easily.


My grandfather's parents, Myrtle and Tom, or 'Mother and Daddy Stokes' as everyone always referred to them.  Tom always wore a white shirt, jacket, and necktie, with pressed pants and shined shoes even in old age according to my mother.  Myrtle was a true lady according to what I have been told over the years by various family members.  Born with one leg shorter than the other, she was sent to finishing school and then to teachers' training college.  She was known all over Davidson County, North Carolina as an effective and understanding teacher, and if you talk to people old enough "down home" her name still sparks recognition and kind words. This photograph was taken in the late 1950s, not long before Myrtle died.

This morning, I finally got around to digitizing these old portrait sized photos, which hang on the wall along our staircase to the second floor here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold. My maternal grandparents -- David Lewis Stokes and Vivian Jessie Bennett (nee Roberts) Stokes -- and one set of great grandparents, my grandfather Dave's parents -- Thomas Baxter Stokes and Myrtle Maud (nee Surratt) Stokes. 

My grandfather, who hailed from a family that arrived in central North Carolina sometime during the early 1700s, was a paratrooper during WWII. Somehow, he managed to survive, come home, and reintegrate into society without difficulty and ended his working life in the early 1980s as an executive in a large building materials corporation headquartered in Manhattan.  My grandmother was first generation, the daughter of a family who came first to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Cornwall in England to work the mines outside of Calumet before later making their way to North Carolina where the two 20-somethings met while working in the same Asheville, NC department store during the late 1930s. Granny worked in the business office, Granddaddy as a sales clerk on the furniture floor. 

I spent the vast bulk of my childhood and teenage years in my grandparents' home in southeastern Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and remained close to them until I was 39-40 when they both died within a year of each other. I still think of them everyday in various contexts.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 


And our own Christmas 2016 family photograph -- actually taken the Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend -- from left to right: The Grand Duchess, the Young Master, and yours truly.

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's That Time Again. . .

Mind your manners (table and otherwise) this holiday seasons, gents!

The holiday season is once more upon us, and with it the annual lead-up the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's period.  While I naturally hope that regular and occasional visitors to Classic Style will have to good graces NOT to show up to any special holiday dinners or other events dressed in hoodies, sweatpants, sagging jeans, and flip-flops or sneakers -- or, frankly, any other common attire of the sort -- this post is not about that.

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  With that idea in mind, here is a reprise of a post from November of 2012 (with a few small recent edits by yours truly), which presents all kinds of useful tabletop information, most of which used to be common knowledge.  At least in my particular dimension.  Sadly, however, that very knowledge about how to conduct oneself pleasantly at the table seems to have become more arcane and even esoteric in recent decades.  In any case, here we go.


*****

In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs and websites that talk at length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting/perceiving ourselves as gentlemen.  Good.  That's a decent enough goal by itself.  However, it's only one small part of the picture.  There is another hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs and websites on the subject that I peruse and read each week.  What is it, you ask?

Why, table manners of course.  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Yep, I said it.  And I'm making no apologies.  Table manners should be as much a part of our personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so.  Average guys ought to keep that in mind.  Even when we are at home with the door closed.  Newsflash!  Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.

However, because table manners are associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are a potentially explosive issue, prompting knee-jerk accusations of snobbery and arguments about elitism.  Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds cross paths.

Sadly, lots of people labor under the delusion that table manners -- or indeed polite behavior and social niceties in general -- are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, not genuine, and outmoded with no place in modern society.  And if that's your attitude, fine.  I can't change it.

But let me make a few relevant points.  We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here.  Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around.  We are not cavemen, dogs, or farm animals eating from troughs after all.  Moreover, actions speak louder than words.  And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where and who we come from, as well as the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.  

Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with.  But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time.  Likewise, and I would argue even more important, we want to remain attractive, likeable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners.  The people with whom we share our lives and selves on a daily basis 24/7.  Why risk spoiling that with crass or even crude behavior?  Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children.  We want, hopefully, to teach our youngsters to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication before they are unleashed on the world.  Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not. 

So, without belaboring the point any further, here are 14 tips to remember that will go a long way in helping us average guys to be pleasant dining companions -- and more gentlemanly -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation.  Here we go:


1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally.  Don't forget it!

2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you.  Don't slouch in your chair, and keep your feet confined to the space beneath your seat.  Don't swing your feet or stretch out your legs beneath the table into someone else's space.  Keep yourself to yourself.  Finally, keep your feet off the darn chair!  In other words, don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level. . .  something that seems to have reached epidemic levels these days.  Buck the trend, and just keep your feet where they belong.  On the floor. 

3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal.  Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.  Your napkin that is.  Not your elbow. 

4) Ask for things to be passed to you.  Don't reach.   If serving yourself, don't pile heaps of food on your plate.  Take a small share (a slice or two of meat, and a serving spoon or two of other items), and leave enough for others.  You can always come back for a second helping later.

5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces.  Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth.  Ick!

6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't hunch over your plate with an arm around it, stabbing at or picking through your food with your fork as though someone will swoop down and steal it.  We aren't vultures, so let's not act like it. 

7) Slow down!  Don't gobble your food as fast as you can.  This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.

8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table.  Excuse yourself if and when this happens although it really  shouldn't at a table of older children and adults.  Chewing with your mouth closed might help.

9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full.  No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion in the middle of relating something to him or her.  Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.  Oh, and try not to leave food particles on the edge of your glass.  Better yet, make sure you don't.

10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils.  We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer.

11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread.  Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is.  By the same token, DON'T lick your plate or utensils clean.  Yes, I know.  I've actually heard of families where this is the norm.

12) Finally, please don't wipe your mouth with your hand or the back of your wrist when you are finished.  Use your napkin!  That's what it is for, but be discreet.  Your napkin is not a washcloth/face flannel for Heaven's sake, so don't scrub your entire face with it.  And it should go without saying that you never, ever blow your nose into it!  If you run into nasal issues during a meal, excuse yourself from the table without going into details and, once again, take care of the problem in private, well out of earshot of your dining companions at the table.

13) Avoid picking food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table.  I actually witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students.  Ugh!  But then, she was sitting with her knee bent and a foot on the seat of her chair, airing her differences to the other three young "ladies" (sarcasm intended) at the table with her, so I should not have been surprised.  In any case, if or when you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the matter privately in the restroom. 

14) Here's a final tip to keep in mind.  While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, etc. ) that is best left for another time.  If you absolutely need to discuss it at all.  Talking about things like that during meals is just plain crude and will probably put at least one other person at the table off of their food.  Really.  Our mothers raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be.  Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.  Right?

Remember, guys.  Behaving like ravenous street curs at the table is not attractive (understatement of the year).  So, let's make sure we take the necessary steps to avoid coming across that way.  Start by making the various and sundry pointers above habitual.  Yes, even when you are alone.  Make pleasant behavior at the dining table a normal part of your routine, and you will be well on your way to becoming an extremely pleasant dining companion in most situations you'll encounter during the Christmas season. . . and, indeed, anytime of the year.


-- Heinz-Ulrich  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Friday Style. . .


(In a Pathe Newsreel announcer's voice) Here's Heinz-Ulrich after the first sip of wine.  What a lightweight!  It doesn't take much to put him in the party mood.  More seriously, the salt shaker and pepper mill were my maternal grandmother's and were on her dining table all of my life until she presented them to me in 1994 when I left Pennsylvania to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  They have been on my own dining table ever since.  Oh, and out of sight on the lower half, a pair of balck tasseled loafers and some very subtle dark green and maroon plaid wool pants from Bill's Khakis of Reading, Pennsylvania. . .  My old stomping grounds in Berks County.


The Grand Duchess enjoys her meal.  We had only just started with the wine, honest!  She also wore a dark red wool skirt and a pair of dress boots with high heels.


 Up and around and into mischief once more, the Young Master models one of his ocbd shirts, a new pair of corduroy pants, and his trusty Sperry docksiders which get a lot of use.  As I explained while helping him dress before dinner, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and a few other occasions during the year are special, so we dress a bit more nicely for these than usual, an example set by my own (transplanted southern) family when I was a child, teenager, and young adult at home.
We celebrated the U.S. Thanksgiving here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold a day later than everyone else since the Young Master had his tonsils removed earlier this week.  So, Black Friday it was.  Still on soft foods for now, but he's not exactly complaining either about all of the pumpkin pie, buttery mashed potatoes, and as much chocolate ice-cream as he can hold.

Apropos the surgery and short hospital stay, we decided to cut back on the food preparation this year and limited Thanksgiving Dinner to pork tenderloin, roasted brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and apples filled with a walnut stuffing/dressing plus dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and spiced apple rings.  Pumpkin pie with coffee followed for dessert with a sip of single malt scotch (Laphroig) in front of the fireplace after the Young Master's bedtime.  

It was a delightfully calm meal and evening without the pressure of guests -- with one or two notable exceptions, I, for one, am not troubled by the fact that we are now not within easy driving distance of various extended family members and assorted hangers on -- or preparing a huge laundry list of dishes that go off before we can finish everything.  

While few, perhaps, will choose to see my point, I heartily recommend cutting back on the craziness that has become the near two-month "holiday season," here in the United States at least, and that people free themselves from the mental and emotional burden of feeling like they absolutely must accept every invitation, include everyone, and/or do everything.  It's much less stressful, which, in the end, makes for a much more satisfying holiday.  There is enough stress in our everyday lives already.  Why make it part of various holidays too? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!


To all U.S. visitors to Classic Style, I wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving Day wherever in the world you might find yourselves this year.  Regardless of whatever life drops in our laps, we nevertheless have a great deal to be thankful for in the everyday small things that we (probably) take for granted.  If we have the company of loved ones, a solid roof over our heads, enough on the table, gainful employment (maybe even a job we like), with a little extra for a rainy day, a few pleasurable diversions that bring us happiness, plus a life lived in relative safety, then we can count ourselves very fortunate indeed.  Many in the world lack one or more of these things and suffer for it.  We ought to keep that in mind.

--Heinz-Ulrich von B.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bingo Little Tweed Suit Tuesday. . .


The upper half today, featuring a wool challis necktie by Rooster.  Italian material hand-stitched in the U.S.A.  It's amazing what people will unwittingly unload on thrift/charity shops.


And the lower half, featuring those recently recrafted Allen Edmonds suede  brogues once more and a pair of flying geese Merino wool dress socks by Dapper Classics.

Decidedly nippy here in Mid-Michigan today, so a perfect excuse to trot out this heavy tweed suit by Chipp for its inaugural wearing.  A lined, winter weight garment here kids., so it's got to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to wear this one comfortably.  The only alteration necessary was to have the waist of the pants taken in a bit, but otherwise, it fits very well.  A pleasing silhouette with slight waist suppression and side vents, shoulders with almost no padding, not too tight, but not billowing around me either with a medium break in the pants, which I wore with actual braces today.  And it is finally cool enough that I can keep my coat buttoned at the center (o a three-button coat) without roasting away.

Found this particular suit on Ebay late last spring and, if memory serves, splurged a tiny bit, but still picked it up for far less than it would have retailed new.  I feel almost like I'm about fire up the old roadster and motor down to Aunt Agatha's for a long weekend of hunting, dinners, sing-alongs at the piano, late breakfasts, and the avoidance of romantic entanglements with scheming third cousins of the female persuasion.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, just one more  day to go until the long Thanksgiving weekend begins.  Not exactly the type of weekend I mention above, but I'll take it just the same.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donegal Tweed, Corduroy, and Ancient Madder Monday. . .


The upper half today, featuring a thrifted Donegal Tweed jacket (with Gaelic language labels inside) and a thrifted Ancient Madder necktie among other things.


And the lower half, featuring freshly polished and buffed shoes along with a new pair of Merino wool Argyll socks from Dapper Classics.

The weather has at least turned cold here at Totliegh-in-the-Wold, but I'm not complaining.  It is, after all, late November in Michigan!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prawn Necktie Thursday. . .

Every man should have a tie with shrimp on it in his wardrobe.


And the bottom half.  

It seems winter weather has finally arrive here in my neck of the woods, so it might be a while before these calfskin monkstrap loafers see the light of day again.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Gussie Fink-Nottle Harris Tweed Wednesday. . .

As above. . .


So below.

Don't fret, ladies and gentlemen!  I tamed that pocket square with a mind of its own and stuffed it back down in my pocket just after snapping these photos early this last Wednesday morning.
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Woody Allen remarked in a 1977 New York Times article, "Showing up is 80 percent of life."  
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Someone, anyone, please inform those numerous undergraduate neer'do'wells I have each semester, who, despite having all of this information on the syllabus from Day One -- and keep in mind we talk incessantly about these assignments in my courses in the run up to paper due dates (Shame on me!  It's the way my courses are designed) -- somehow cannot manage to develop, polish, and turn in on time (if at all) four 3-4 page, double-spaced papers.  

Keep in mind, there isn't even a research component to these four assignments, due at four-week intervals.  Students must simply formulate carefully focused, reasoned, thesis-based discussions using evidence from a single text or film (they may choose between two), depending on the course.  Sure.  15-20% of students in each course take the assignments seriously, rise to the challenge, develop well-crafted work, and manage to avoid falling back on a litany of bizarre excuses about why they somehow don't have their work finished.  Alien abduction anyone?  Yes, I have a policy on the course syllabi regarding late work.  How mean of me.

And as for the quality of the work from most of the rest of the undergrads I see each semester?  Clearly, formulating a short discussion that features focus, clarity, and evidence of something more than the most superficial grocery list of thoughts, or just pure plot summary, eludes them.  Yes, yes.  I can almost hear the chorus of indignant protests now.  "Why don't you teach them then and stop moaning about it?"  Ok.  Here ya go.

One, these aren't remedial courses we're talking about.  Two, by the time I get them (freshmen through seniors mind you), students have already completed the first year writing requirements at some point.  Three, all of my courses nevertheless feature a writing component, so in fact we do spend quite a bit of time discussing the actual writing process over and above the specific course content.  Four, thanks to graduate school training (student-centered teaching), teaching experience since the mid-1999s, and more recent reading and research, I am well aware of and utilize current pedagogical thought in my teaching, and constantly adjust my practices in the classroom as a result in the eternal search of that elusive magical key that will unlock the door and somehow help ALL of my students to perform at the high end of the grading scale.  In other words, what transpires in my classrooms ain't the old school, sink or swim, lecture. . .  lecture. . .  lecture.  Perhaps most important, to learn, students must actually be open to the possibility of learning.  It's a two-way street, something that many people, from students and their parents to educational commentators of all stripes, conveniently forget.   

Alas, there is the rate of diminishing returns to consider with regard to how many figurative handstands, forward rolls, tightrope walks, complex springboard leaps, and high-flying trapeze tricks I can do as an instructor (lesson planning and the variety classroom activities)When you think about it too much, it's enough to drive one to drink.  Or you become even more of a filthy elitist than I am already.  You start to think that maybe, just maybe we ought to make public, post-secondary education much more competitive than it has become, and we drastically reduce the number of incoming freshman across the country each year to ONLY the best and brightest.  Young people who demonstrate genuine intellectual talent, or who exhibit particular skills that can be channeled into preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow in their respective fields instead of a bunch of (barely) credentialed worker bees, who can't seem to string together a coherent thought about much of anything, much less to think critically about what they see and hear.  

Now before anyone screams foul, I've run into students from all walks of life who demonstrate real ability where the ol' gray matter is concerned.  At the same time, perhaps we should consider making the college admissions process here in the U.S. more rigorous and selective.  What??!  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Light your torches!  Organize a lynch mob!  There.  I said it.  Relax though.  It seems highly unlikely that will ever happen in a country where we are doing our utmost to throw open the doors to everyone with even the vaguest notion of why they think they need a college or university degree.  You can just march me out into the quad and stone me to death now for having the brass cajones to voice my dark thoughts, but we have done it to ourselves.  This is what we have come to, and we should be extremely worried (the tongue in cheek nature of much of this post notwithstanding).  

The lack of seriousness and intellectual preparedness for a four- or five-year undergraduate course of study is not just the fault though of our K-12 system, so often the preferred whipping boy every time the shortcomings of our education system in the United States come under scrutiny.  We have become, it seems, incapable of looking at ourselves more closely as a society.  Teachers can only work with what they are given.  I'll be so bold as to say that the problem of (higher) education begins, as so much else does, at home.  Let's look instead at the family of origin.  If children do not come from homes where basic curiosity, the importance of learning and education, or, for that matter, self-improvement through normal legal channels are stressed -- or at the very least Mom, Dad, or whoever do not tell the kids to settle down, shape up at school, and do their damn homework -- then of course they will not be open to learning new things and will underperform as young adults once they take up space on a college or university campus somewhere. 

Changes need to happen at home before more children and young adults can begin to take education as a whole more seriously and value it to a much greater degree than too many people seem to within the United States of the the 21st century.  We are incredibly spoiled as a society and take far too much for granted.  Education here is no longer seen as a wonderful opportunity and huge privilege that many elsewhere in the world still do not enjoy.  Instead, it has been reduced to being a credential pure and simple.  A series of hoops you must jump through before you get that piece coveted of paper.  Nothing more.  If even the pretense of education interferes with our collective fascination with our own terminally and perpetually wired belly-buttons -- that is when we aren't keeping up with Honey Boo-Boo, the Duck Dynasty people, the Khardashians, or the idea of getting something for nothing -- then a substantial portion of  the population isn't interested.  How terribly sad.

My own uninformed opinion on the matter -- Because, of course, how in the world would I know what I am talking about in our post-truth era? -- is that too many incoming freshmen arrive on campus each fall with their minds already made up about the world and thus closed to new information about it and the (intellectual) experience of it.  Too many of them, and their parents, view college and university as little more than vocational training and a way to extend adolescence without any sort of commitment to anything.  Sure, there are some young minds -- and again, I see them from MANY of the  socioeconomic backgrounds that make up our variegated patchwork of a society -- who are ready for all that college or university lecture halls, classrooms, and labs have to offer.  They work hard to expand and add to their knowledge base and perfect their related skills.  Sadly, however, these students are in the minority.

So, I've gotten tricky.  I have begun issuing eight-page (EIGHT PAGES for three-four page assignments!!!) assignment packets that are posted online two weeks before an assignment is due.  In short, students get a specific paper prompt, extremely detailed and explicit  instructions on the writing process, suggestions for clarifying their work and adding additional details to it, pointers on how to polish their work, which includes seeing a trained graduate student tutor in our Writing Center (before scheduled peer review days in class, and a checklist of things to address before delivering that final (hopefully polished copy of said paper as well as a copy of the grading rubric that will be used by me to assess the papers.  All in one packet.  

Finally, at the rear of that same packet are two additional pieces of information.  One, there is a list of a dozen questions to help student write a single-page reflective and self-evaluative letter to themselves on how they have gone about the writing process, what grade they might objectively assign their work, and an explanation of why.  Last, there is also an anonymous sample of solid student work written for the very same assignments one year ago in the same courses, so current and future students can see what a well-developed written discussion looks like for the paper in question.  Not necessarily perfect examples, but thoughtful, reasoned, informed discussions that are presented well.  These types of papers are what set a few students each semester apart from the rest of their fellows.  In other words, those who don't get it, don't care, or whine incessantly yet remain unwilling to apply the mental elbow grease required to earn better grades.  Returning to Mr. Allen's observation above, high grades in a college or university course result from more than simply showing up.

And before you ask, yes.  I've had various curricular development experts on campus and fellow professors assist me with the development of this assignment packet project, so it is not written or presented in a way that will confuse the intended undergrad audience.  Let's see if it helps more of the little darlings to succeed?   Oh, yes.  I know.  What a mean, rigid, and unreasonable professor I am!  Totally uncommitted to helping the vast bulk of my students at a state university succeed.  You're absolutely right.  I should be horsewhipped to within an inch of my life.  Of course, students have got to be willing to come to the metaphorical table in the first place, and I am pretty firmly convinced, after two decades at the front of the classroom, that only a small percentage of undergraduates are willing to do so given our long established anti-intellectual climate here in the United States.  

To the 15-20% of my students who get it, bless you.  You make my job easy, at times even fun, and you remind me daily of what I most enjoy about the life I have chosen for myself and have worked hard to attain.  Working with young minds.  Not to shape them in my image necessarily, but to help them think for themselves, about the world, and about their place or future role in it.  And occasionally I learn from those same young minds too.  Learning, you see, never stops.

For everyone else, here are some hard words of advice you might not want to hear.  Hit the damn books!  Get serious.  Show up prepared.  Do the reading.  Take notes while you read and during class.  Think about things from more than one side and beyond a superficial level.  Look alive.  Get off your asses.  Ask questions.  Don't be afraid to disagree or challenge, but have a well-formulated, thoughtful alternate approach worked out rather than a superficial knee-jerk reactionBe able to walk us clearly through your thought process Put up, or shut up in other words.  If you're enrolled in the course, make it your business to try harder, work more efficiently, stop your incessant multitasking, focus, concentrate, and  -- Surprise! -- you will do better where your assignments and the related grades are concerned.  See my remarks from a few years ago about how to do well in college or university courses

In sum, demonstrate that you are engaged in what is going on in the classroom around you and do not simply take up space as you check your text messages under the table of deskDon't whine about a mediocre grade later because it challenges how you have been led to see yourself and your abilities by overly involved and indulgent helicopter parents, who have stuffed you with empty praise up to this point.  Life involves much more than simply putting on clean underpants each morning, playing with your Iphone while ignoring the world around you, or simply showing up.  You need to do more than that to make an appreciable mark on the world.  Now where's that bottle of Thunderbird?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Flannel Three-Piece Tuesday. . .

The upper half today, another delightfully soft and warm Ralph Lauren wool flannel suit complete with my 'Drones Club' necktie.  The stripes are in the wrong direction on this Brooks Brothers number, but otherwise, said item looks strikingly like the tie worn by club members in the Wodehouse stories.


And the lower half.


Finally, here is a close-up to showcase the Barney's cufflinks I was given by my younger sister for my recent birthday.

Overkill (for a public university campus in the United States at least) was the name of the game this morning, but I felt good, and that's the main thing.  

It strikes me that, among the menswear blogeratti at least, there is way too much anxiety about wearing a suit in 2016.  You know the kind of thing I mean.  To wit: When do I wear one?  How do I wear one?  Why should I wear one?  Where do I wear one?  Is it appropriate to wear one?  Am I trying too hard if I wear one?  Will I send the wrong signals if I wear one?  Will people make assumptions about my sexuality?  Will I look like a dick if I wear one?  What will others think if I wear one?  Will people talk about me behind my back if I wear one?  Will I drive women away if I wear one?  Will I attract more women if I wear one?  Will my pitbull bite me on the ass if I wear one?  Will that big mean kid on the corner trip me and steal my lunch money if I wear one?  Blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.  And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.  

That's hardly in the spirit of 'put on your clothes and forget about them,' is it?  What are we, George Costanza?  I suppose we have done this to ourselves in a social climate where pajamas, flip-flops, basketball shorts and sweatpants (sweatpants!!??) have become normal wear in public for, it seems like, about 98% of the male population sometime during the last 25 years, on all but the coldest day of the year.  To such a degree that a guy in a suit is now unusual and immediately suspect.  Bull----!  

Here's the deal.  If you have more than a single suit in your closet and enjoy wearing one from time to time, even if and when you don't necessarily HAVE to, put it on if you want and fugeddaboutit!  End of story.

-- Heinz-Ulrich