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.

Friday, July 28, 2017

It's High Summer at Totleigh-in-the-Wold. . .

The results of our joint efforts once we finished late this afternoon.

The Young Master and I spent the afternoon today brushing up our driveway and front walk by weeding, picking up twigs, raking, sweeping, transplanting some newly purchased plants, and finally putting up our flag and flagpole.  Almost a month after July Fourth!  Never mind.  The Grand Duchess was at work 15 minutes away on campus, so it was a good excuse for father and son to spend time together taking care of some external upkeep and getting things accomplished.  Our seven-and-a-half-year-old was extremely helpful all day. He pushed the cart at the supermarket and DIY bigbox store, and even offered to share his highly coveted Star Wars light sabre popsicles with ol' Dad once we finished, cleaned up, and stood back to admire our work before heading inside for dinner.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It's Not Rocket Science. . .

A stretch of the former Berlin Wall, somewhere in Berlin during the 1960s from the look of the children.

Pardon the cliche, but after suffering through one more article online in the New York Times about the difficulties of, and barriers to, class mobility -- specifically access to the upper middle class -- it's hard to keep silent any longer.

First of all, let's be clear about one thing.  Lots of people manage to move up the socioeconomic ladder.  While not always easy, it remains entirely possible and within reach although many, it seems, prefer to think otherwise.  The following will, no doubt draw the righteous indignation of many readers, who will choose to interpret it as dismissive, elitist, and arrogant.  That is not the intent.  Instead, what I suggest below is meant as hard advice without any rosy sugarcoating or kid glove treatment whatsoever.  Ready?  Here we go.

Changes to one's social standing might actually have to start with (Surprise!) the individual.  It might require a change in the way one perceives and approaches the world.  It might require a shift in values and habits.  It might require that one quit whinging about how awful the 1%, the 20%, or the whatever are.  It might require minding one's own business and getting one's own house in order.  It might mean that one stop looking for handouts, free rides, quick fixes, and the easy way out.  It might necessitate learning to handle one's own problems, difficulties, and challenges through normal, socially accepted, and legal channels. 

 Moving up the socioeconomic ladder might also require a hard, difficult look at oneself.   Some deep soul-searching and reflection might be in order.  Who knows?  It might be time to lose the attitude.  It might mean changing yourself in some ways and adapting to that part of society into which you wish to move rather than expecting that same segment of society, or indeed the rest of the world, to change and adapt to you.  It might mean adopting an upwardly mobile, aspirational mindset, dirty words to many these days, who choose to see this trait as being, somehow, inauthentic or failing to keep it "real."  It might also mean, if you'll permit, leaving the metaphoric village behind, together with its own set of entrenched allegiances and prejudices.  

It might be time to bust your ass, even more than you have up to this point, take control of your life and situations, and do without certain luxuries, whatever those might be, for a while.  It might mean that you delay that insatiable need for instant gratification that consumes so many of us in the 21st century.

Instead, make tough choices and change your mode of thought if necessary.  Quit operating on the fringes of society and come to the party.  Value and embrace learning and take the necessary steps to get an education.  Make it a priority.  Develop healthy self-respect and realize that respect from others is earned.  Keep your nose clean.  Get control of your life and stop self-destructive habits.  Distance yourself from those who have them.  Is it easy?  No, but sometimes it is necessary to advance and achieve the sort of life you want for yourself.  

Lack of consistency is the enemy here.  Be  dependable and predictable instead.  Develop a routine.  Hold down steady employment.  We all have to keep jobs that are less than thrilling sometimes to pay the bills and put food on the table.   Manual, unskilled labor?  Punching a timeclock?  Calloused hands?  Sore back and feet for days on end?  Low wages and long days?  Yeah.  Been there, one that.  We all have to take occasional crap from above in these sorts of situations and keep our thoughts to ourselves.  That's life as my grandmother used to say.  Is it fair?  Not necessarily.  Is it real life?  Damn straight.

The important thing to remember is to keep one's eyes and ears open and learn from those around you.  Assuming they have personal and work habits worth emulating.   Never leave a job without something better (and legal) lined up.  Likewise, stabilize your relationship habits, in whatever form that might take, and limit your reproduction.  This doesn't originate with me.  There have been actual studies conducted, and I've read some of the resulting journal articles, which suggest that habits like those I mention in the preceding paragraphs enable people to turn their lives around.  Sometimes dramatically.  If not right away, then in a generation or two.  Stability, in its various forms, seems to have a direct correlation to earning potential and class mobility.

I would also add that it is vital to network constantly within your work and social circles.  Get involved in directing your own life.  Inform yourself.  Become part of a community and serve others in some way.  Meet people, make connections.  Contribute ideas.  Ask questions.  Listen to what others say in response.  Look for opportunity.  Be a team player, but also look for possibilities to emerge as a leader in some way.  Offer to take on more responsibility once in a while and make sure you do a good job executing the tasks at hand.  Work long hours occasionally.  Realize that you are a walking advertisement for yourself by how you come across to others through your skills and abilities, your performance, your appearance, your speech, and your behavior.  Develop your hard and soft skills if necessary.  In a nutshell, increased awareness and self-improvement are vital in turning things around and moving onward and upward in life.

There are plenty of opportunities out there for climbing the socioeconomic ladder.  Contrary to what seems to be a prevailing and entitled attitude these days, life ain't easy, and it ain't always a rose garden boys and girls.  There are no guarantees.  Nevertheless, it remains possible to pull oneself out from under whatever life has dropped in your lap.  And before anyone throws out the "privileged" label, I too have experienced my own setbacks and stumbling blocks, many due to my own uninformed, poor decisions at the time plus just damn bad luck at different points during my adult life so far.

The point is, quit talking endlessly about how bad you have it.  No more harping on all of the obstacles placed in your way by "the man" solely for the express purpose of keeping you down, out, and disenfranchised.  If you are not happy with the hand you have been dealt, do something (legal) about it.  Get up off your duff, dust off your hands, pull up your pants, tighten your belt, broaden your horizons, elevate yourself, and get on with things.  Develop some personal agency.  Take some responsibility.  Don't give up after one or two attempts.  Seize the day, take charge of your own destiny, and embrace the challenges and opportunities life throws your way.  Or, to use yet another cliche, if life gives you a bunch of lemons, figure out how to make lemonade.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

If You Make an Appointment, Keep It. . .

Here's another classic style tip that will cost nothing, and does not necessarily require that you are "dressed up" although you might be if it has anything remotely to do with your job (or getting a job).  When you make an appointment, keep it!

One more time, I have made sure that I am up early, showered, and dressed, so that I would be ready for an appointment with a service person who was to come by the house this morning to discuss a possible big ticket purchase and installation.  There are a number of things that need replacing here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold to keep things looking nice and relatively up to date in and around our vintage (tongue firmly in cheek, you understand) house built in 1985.  And once more, we have been stood up.  No call.  No voice mail.  No email.  Nothing.  Just like the old Ricky Nelson tune.

If this were a isolated incident, I would not be so annoyed, but this has happened repeatedly with various service people over the last nine years since we purchased our first house in Illinois and here in Mid-Michigan.  What is it with so called service providers who make an appointment and never turn up?  As my late maternal grandfather might have said, "Well son, I guess they just didn't want the business badly enough to bother calling or showing up."  Looks like we must contact another company now.

And the moral of today's story?  Whether it involves your job, interviewing for a job, performing well in your job, keeping your job, a money-making opportunity for you or the company you represent. . .  or you are simply lining up a social occasion in your private life, you move mountains to keep appointments.  Or just call and leave a message if you are detained.  Apologize for the delay and ask to reschedule.  It's the polite and considerate thing to do, guys.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Eyebrows Etc. . . .

Not me, or my barber's hand, but the photograph illustrates the point behind today's post.

Facial grooming -- and I don't mean shaving, mustache, or beard timming -- is something that a lot of guys seem to forget in the quest to kick up their style several notches.  And while I do not advocate the current trend for  "manscaping" and the bizarre, almost pathological need that many people these days seem to have to remove any and all body hair (like tattoos and piercings, I simply don't get it), it is important, however, not to forget smaller things like the ears, nose, and eyebrows.  

Have you ever tried to talk to someone with visible tufts of hair sticking out of his nostrils or ears?  Then you'll know what I mean.  It's like some bizarre hobbit version of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells!

Anyway, where the ears and nose are concerned, it's easy  and fairly inexpensive to take care of yourself in the privacy of your own bathroom.  Pick up a trimmer at your local drugstore, pharmacy, or big box retailer like Target or Wal-Mart.  While it is possible to take care of one's own eyebrows every few weeks, that is a bit more tricky.  It's best to avoid ending up with Spock brows by mistake, or looking like Bob Geldof's character in the cinematic version of The Wall, who, if memory serves, shaved off his eyebrows with an old-fashioned safety razor at one point in the midst of a breakdown by asking your barber for assistance here.

If you're like me, your eyebrows might have started doing weird curly tricks not too long after the ol' 30th birthday.  It was somewhere around then that my barber at the time suggested a quick eyebrow trim during a haircut.  "Yes, please!" said I, and in a matter of 60 seconds both brows were neatened up, and I haven't looked back.

Asking your barber to trim your eyebrows is an easy, quick, and cheap way to improve your daily style without even the need to tuck in your shirt, put on a necktie or belt, or wear quality leather dress shoes.  Perish the thought!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy Belated Independence Day and Casual Summer Style. . .

An assortment of short-sleeved summer shirts collected over the years.  These, and others in my dresser similar to them, have been part of my go-to warm weather attire since at least the late 1990s.

We're in High Summer mode here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold on July 5th, and it seems like a good idea to get back to attire for a few minutes.  Without going into a long dissertation this afternoon about the whys and wherefores of dressing better than what is now the sad, pathetic average in so much of the developed world, let's keep things short and sweet today.  

I often hear, when talking to various male friends and acquaintances that they either 1) don't have the time, or, as they admit in more candid moments, 2) lack the sartorial knowledge to dress nicely.  Please allow me to channel Colonel Sherman T. Potter from the old 1970s TV series MA.S.H.  In a word (well, two really), "Bull Puckey!"  

All you need are a few different (collared) shirts, and a few different pairs of shorts from a company like Land's End or L.L. Bean, plus a casual belt or two, which will enable you to mix and match to your heart's content while at the same time avoiding the mismatched, disheveled, sunburned average American/German/Scandinavian/Brit on vacation look.  Heck, you could even tuck in your shirt if you want.  Imagine that.  

In dressing for warm weather, I would, however, advise against wife beater shirts with visible cheap bling, visible underwear, cargo shorts, those godawful, almost sheer basketball shorts that so many overgrown boys schlepp around in, or, while we're at it, anything that remotely resembles a belly or fanny pack.  God almighty! 

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

 Mixed and matched with shorts like these (carefully in the case of the plaid pair), one can create an array of different causal, cool, comfortable and yet pulled together warm weather combinations of clothing in which you won't embarrass yourself or anyone else by virtue of being an eyesore.  After all, we do not want to resemble Napoleon Dynamite's older brother following his transformation late in the movie's narrative.  I wear my shorts with surcingle belts from Leather Man, one in olive green and one in navy with a broad red stripe.

One view down our street here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold just before eight o'clock on the evening of July 4th.

 And the view up the other end of our street yesterday evening about 8pm.

The bright points of light in my life. . .  The Grand Duchess and The Young Master -- just post sparklers and pinwheels on the evening of July 4th, 2017 -- celebrating the shaking off the yoke of English oppression by the 13 original colonies back in 1776 and wishing you a belated Happy Independence Day!