Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Clothes Make the Man Child

When people talk about men's ties, you can expect to hear opinions about width, pattern, and color. At a higher level (and usually among tie aficionados and devotees), the conversation inevitably drifts to the knot; the shape of the knot, the size in relation to the collar, and the number of moves it takes to execute a particular knot.

What's rarely brought up in these conversations is proper tie length. Maybe people don't notice. Maybe they think it doesn't matter. Maybe they assume that length is simply a function of the cut and shape of the tie (and therefore beyond the wearer's control).

To these points, I offer the following: there is a proper length, you should notice, it does matter, and it can be controlled.

To be clear, the tip of your tie should land at the middle of the waistband/belt buckle.

"Tie length? Yuuuge, right?"
Donald Trump consistently wears his ties at cartoonish lengths. Maybe it's part of the Republican platform.
Photo copyright (c) Getty Images

As our friends at Fine Young Gentleman point out,  "When a tie is worn at the proper length it helps balance out your legs and torso, wearing a tie at an incorrect length can throw the balance of the ensemble off.  When worn too long it can make the whole look look frumpy and sloppy.  When worn too short the look can look clownish."

Mixed messages: My French cuffs say "sophistication". My tie length says "drunk uncle at your wedding".
Photo copyright (c) Getty Images

Since I've had at least an  inkling of this guideline for most of my tie-wearing life, I assumed it was common knowledge (or at least common knowledge among those whose occupations might require them to wear a tie on a regular basis). Clearly it's not. This week's RNC Convention in Cleveland highlighted the Right's apparent predilection for long, sloppy ties.

A white tie over dark slacks highlights both Mike Pence and his tie missing the mark.
Photo: Carrie Devorah /

Props to Peter Thiel. He probably wears a tie less than any of the Republican power brokers, and still managed to get closest to the correct length (Also, please don't sue me.).
Photo: Copyright (c) Just Jared Photo #: 3713426

Obviously set against the backdrop of xenophopic fear-mongering, racism (both implicit and explicit), divisive and dangerous rhetoric, and hypocritical opportunism, the length of a tie isn't a particularly egregious sin.  

Karl Rove and his water boy sporting laughably long ties. Apparently Karl's influence in the Party remains strong.
Photo: Copyright (c) Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Still, these are grown ass men, powerful men, men who would presumably either know how to dress themselves or at least have people around them smart enough to help them out. If you've recently blanched at the idea of giving the nuclear codes to a thin-skinned narcissist, think about giving them to a thin-skinned narcissist who CAN'T EVEN TIE A FUCKING TIE PROPERLY!.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Like Waving a Red Cape in Front of A Bull(y)

I recently reviewed Sold Out, the Tim Rietenbach exhibition at Angela Meleca Gallery for Columbus Underground. If you haven't had the chance to see it, go now. It's a terrific show that plants its flag in that aesthetic sweet spot just between incisive and cynical. It's an exhibition that's piercing in its cultural observations, but somehow generous as well. Rietenbach has an approach to art making that acknowledges the conceptual elements of art in the 21st century while managing to hold a high degree of visual interest. And while I discussed a number of the pieces in the show in some detail, I made absolutely no mention (save an illustration) of what was undoubtedly my favorite piece.

For all it's apparent simplicity, Rietenbcach's Brutus serves as ground zero for so many potential discussions it's hard to know where to begin.

 Tim Rietenbach, Brutus, 2015 33 1/2" x 31 1/4"

Let's start with the formal elements. Brutus clearly pays homage to the grid and color abstractions of Paul Klee. But while Klee worked these compositions out with paint, palette knife, and his own sense of color theory, Rietenbach uses commercially available paint samples from retail home centers. This material choice calls into question both the role of the artist and the traditional hierarchy of mediums (a hierarchy that places oil painting above all else). Further, Rietenbach's Brutus playfully flirts with the dichotomy between analog and digital. The image offers the appearance of extreme "pixelation" while remaining resolutely analog. In this regard it offers a subtle hat tip to Gerhard Richter's famously "out of focus" paintings.

   Paul Klee, Alter Klang, 1925 30cm x 30cm

Brutus also blurs our spatial sense. While Rietenbach's work certainly reads as a two-dimensional construct, it's actually fabricated in three. These retail paint chips are affixed to a wire lattice support and hover above the ground. It's balancing act that presents viewers with a (mostly) flat image while reminding us that these chips are in fact actual, physical objects.

Oh, and about that image; anyone from central Ohio will llikely recognize it as the head of Brutus Buckeye, the mascot of The Ohio State University's athletic teams (Don't see it? Try squinting).

Brutus Buckeye TM (a registered trademark of The Ohio State University)

This provides a whole new frame of reference by which we can view Brutus. Pop-culture aesthetics are in play now, as is the tacit acknowledgment that even the most comically mundane elements of our visual landscape can serve as inspiration for contemporary artists. Rietenbach's Brutus goes further than that though, punching up in a way that has me cheering for the underdog as enthusiastically as I might the Buckeyes themselves (full disclosure, I'm a graduate of Ohio State and count myself as at least a casual fan).

But wait, punching up? Underdogs? What's that about?

Well, it's about what might be the most interesting element of Rietenbach's humble piece. This business of appropriation in art, of taking that which already exists and using it to create something new, often finds itself at odds with intellectual property concerns. It turns out the world of contemporary creativity is rife with disputes between artists and the holders of various trademarks, copyrights and patents. Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, Alice Randall, and Andy Baio are just a few examples of creatives who've faced legal action in their efforts to appropriate and transform. Baio's story in particular resonates in this instance. The pixelation process he employed in his ill-fated Kind of Bloop project is one that's visually similar to Rietenbach's approach. (For a full accounting of how wrong the legal workings of intellectual property law can go, check out Baio's blog post, Kind of Screwed).

Which is to say it's at least conceivable that The Ohio State University would have a look at Brutus to determine if their trademark rights have been compromised.

If that sounds far-fetched, it's not. The Ohio State University has a whole department charged with the task of overseeing all aspects OSU's trademark business. Make no mistake either, it is a business. Per the Trademark and Licensing Services web site, "the Licensing Program has generated over $130 million in royalty revenue from approximately $1.3 billion in licensed retail sales". And if you think that OSU is too big to go after the little guy, think again. As this report from NBCi shows, enterprises large and small can fall under the watchful eye of the Trademark and Licensing Services.

Of course creative endeavors are quite different than selling mugs, t-shirts, or cookies, and the law makes allowances for this. The legal doctrine of fair use can provide some cover for artists, especially in those instances where a significant transformation of the original can be established. Still, the cost of arguing your case before the court (along with the possibility of losing) is often enough to lead many artists to either give up the fight, or worse, not even consider the possibility of appropriation to begin with.

Knowing how aggressive OSU is about trademark protection, it will be interesting to see if they respond to Rietenbach's work. From the perspective of one who values art's ability to comment on (and borrow from) our existing culture, I hope they'd let Rietenbach and Brutus be.

If, as Ohio State Assistant Vice President Rick VanBrimmer asserts, the school doesn't want to be "the bully on High Street" this would be a good chance to prove it.

Tim Rietenbach's Sold Out will be on view at the Angela Meleca Gallery until March 12, 2016.

For more information visit

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tilting at Windmills: The Traffic Engineering Edition

Traffic can get weird on Summit and 4th streets, scary even. This is particularly true of those stretches between Hudson Avenue and the OSU campus. That's not entirely surprising given the easy access to OSU, the Fairgrounds/Expo Center, Mapfre Stadium, the Short North, and downtown. This geography ensures these corridors present a dangerous mix of young, aggressive drivers ("Check out my Challenger!"), impatient commuters ("I'll take Summit! It's quicker!), bewildered tourists ("Are the fairgrounds around here? Oh! Is this street one way?") and impaired drivers ("Dude, I said I was cool. Give me the keys!").

It should go without saying that any changes to these roads and the traffic they carry should be done carefully and thoughtfully. Unfortunately that has not been the case. As part of a project that involves adding bike lanes to Summit and 4th, the City of Columbus also plans to remove the traffic lights at the following intersections:

Summit and Maynard
4th and Wyandaotte
4th and 19th

Not surprisingly, the people who actually live in this neighborhood have pushed back, citing both the residential nature of the neighborhood and the need for more traffic calming, not less.

The City's not budging. Sure, the signs say the lights are "under study", but make no mistake, they're going away. Still, as a resident of the area myself, I felt it was important that my voice be heard. In that spirit, I wrote a letter to all of our City Council representatives and the lead traffic studies engineer. I knew nothing would come of it, but I'm getting to that age where I'm expected to start shaking my fist at things, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start:

July 22, 2015
Columbus City Council Members,

As an area resident and long-time homeowner near the intersection of Maynard and Summit I am writing to voice my concerns over the removal of the traffic signals at Summit & Maynard and Wyndotte & 4th.
When I moved here in 2000 Summit still had a traffic signal at Tompkins. That was removed when Medary School closed. With it went the traffic calming effect that it had on drivers entering Summit at Hudson.

Now the City proposes removing the only other calming influence on this stretch of road between Hudson and Lane. Maybe that's good traffic planning, and maybe that's good car planning, but it's absolutely awful neighborhood planning. While I understand the importance of traffic flow in the context of a car-centric city like Columbus, I also know that this area is, and remains, a largely residential neighborhood. Are the needs (and safety) of those residents to be compromised simply to help commuters get to campus or downtown a minute or two sooner? That seems neither reasonable nor fair.
Also, I'm curious to know how an intersection that was once deemed problematic enough that it was outfitted with the "added safety" of a red light camera, now doesn't warrant a signal at all. Similarly, do you think this light would be slated for removal if it were still generating revenue for the City? My hunch is no.

I know the City's response to all this has been to invoke federal standards and compliance and the like. The problem with that explanation (as has been pointed out by area residents who've done their homework) is that the City has NOT done all the studies it could have and the City HAS NOT explored means by which the lights can stay. From the sound of it, the City found the answer it was looking for, and then stopped looking.
It's hard for me to imagine Clintonville getting treated like this. I've not heard of any lights on Summit in Italian Village going away either. But North Campus? Well it's just a marginal neighborhood full transient students, absentee landlords, and a handful of voiceless and disenfranchised homeowners, right? Apparently that means drivers, developers, and commuters will get whatever they want. 
This whole episode is shameful. I strongly encourage City Council to re-examine this backward and regressive decision.

Jeff Regensburger

I'll credit Council Member Shannon Hardin's office with replying. Everyone else? Crickets. And that's fine. As I mentioned, this is a done deal and the lights are going away. What surprised me though was that once I found my voice, I didn't want to stop using it.

Sadly, the high number of traffic accidents in our neighborhood have provided a lot of additional opportunities to correspond with this group. "If they want to study traffic" I thought, "Maybe I can help".

So, I sent them a few more letters:

August 25, 2015
Hey Everybody,
I wanted to share this picture from the corner of Clinton and Summit yesterday. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I'm pretty sure it involved a high rate of speed.

The fact is unreasonable speeds on Summit are the rule, not the exception. Yet, in spite of this, you want me to believe that removing the last traffic calming device in the residential neighborhood between Hudson and Lane is a safe and sane option.
But hey, I just live here. You all are the experts. Just let me know when we should expect our guardrails and noise barriers.

Jeff Regensbruger

This time? No response at all. Not even a thank you. I don't know about you, but if I was studying traffic, I'd want to know about this sort of thing. As it turns out the morning of August 30th provided additional material for the City's study.

August 30, 2015
Hey Everyone,

I've got a couple other things to share as you continue to study the removal of last remaining traffic signals in our neighborhood.
First, please find attached a picture from an accident that occurred on Summit St, just north of Maynard at 3:00 AM Sunday August 30th 2015. While it's dark, and hard to tell at first, what you see is in fact a car flipped on its side in the middle of Summit. There was another car involved in the accident and a parked car was struck as well (an occurrence that's actually pretty common along Summit. Have you studied those records?).

Secondly, I'd call your attention to this SUV/motorcycle accident a block further south that happened at the beginning of July:

Honestly, I don't know how you calculate the value of unimpeded traffic, but it's hard to believe it's worth this kind of menace.

I know your collective contention is that restricting Summit to two lanes (and narrowing those lanes) will somehow calm traffic. While you are certainly welcome to your opinion, as a resident who's lived here and watched traffic fly by for the last 15 years, I'd like to offer a different perspective: it's going to take a lot more than that to calm traffic and reduce speeds on this stretch of road.

Removing these lights is a step backwards. You wouldn't stand for it your neighborhood. Why should we stand for it in ours?

Jeff Regensburger

When it rains it pours, right? On the very next day I drove past an accident on 4th Street just north of a signal slated for removal. The scene there offered yet another chance to contribute to City's ongoing traffic study.

August 31, 2015
I hate to pester you folks, but I know you're studying the the traffic light at 4th and 19th too, so I thought I'd pass this along.
The attached pictures were taken around 4:30 PM on Monday, August 31, 2015 at the intersection of Northwood and N. 4th St (that's a few blocks north of 19th).

While it's impossible to know exactly what happened here, it's a safe bet that excessive speed played a role.
To that point, I remain mystified as to how removing the very elements that might help control speeds benefits anyone, save those individuals who would prefer drive as fast as possible regardless of the risks.
I'm really trying hard to avoid hyperbole, but it's getting difficult at this point. This plan is ill-conceived and unconscionable.

Jeff Regensburger

Needless to say, the City hasn't responded. And why would they? They've made up their minds, and that's that. Unless something unexpectedly miraculous or unexpectedly horrific happens, these lights are going away.

Still, I want this to end on a positive note. I want to be gracious and congratulate our winners.

First, a shout out to all the Clintonville residents who work downtown or in the near north. When you swing right on Summit from Hudson now, you can punch it and not have to worry about slowing down till Lane Avenue.

Second, congratulations to all the commuting OSU students and faculty who live north of the University. Your trip to and from campus will now be faster and more convenient.

Third, let's not forget the motorcycling friends who harbor an unquenchable thirst for speed. Open it up. Bless us all with the dulcet tones of your immaculately tuned pipes. On Summit and 4th streets, fifth gear is now yours. You just have to want it.

Finally, congratulations to everyone at City Hall and the Division of Traffic Management. You withstood the backlash. You weathered the storm. The lights are bagged. You win.