The Cone Mills plant in Greensboro, N.C. has been continuously weaving denim since 1905, and is currently the only U.S. plant producing selvedge denim. They’re calling it quits at the end of this year.
“Selvedge” is a specific style of denim produced in broad strips on relatively narrow shuttle looms using a continuous weft such that the edge is automatically finished—i.e., it produces a “self-edged” bolt of fabric that won’t unravel (if you’re looking at denim and the edge of the seam is white with a single thread of color—often red—then you’re looking at selvedge denim). Because it’s produced in narrower strips on shuttle looms (and usually with un-dyed weft), the fabric has certain characteristics in how it breaks in and ages, both in terms of fit and coloration. Some folks dig these. Other folks just dig putting their money where their mouth is, in terms of “Buying American.” I kinda like to do both, so I’m kinda bummed that Cone Mills is rolling up. Certainly the generations of weavers in Greensboro are bummed.
By the end of this year, you’ll only be able to get this prototypically American fabric from Japan. That’s still great selvedge (hell, it’s made on American machines: Japan bought them up in the 1980s when Levi’s et al. made the shift to larger looms), but it’s a bummer that this once uniquely American product is going extinct.
The only upside: When you see some Stars-and-Bars waving asshole in blue jeans popping off about “foreign manufacturing” next year, you’ll know he’s wearing jeans from Vietnam, and thus can go fuck himself. He didn’t put his money where his mouth was, and subsequently American selvedge denim died. That’s how economies work. Way to “Make America Great Again,” bro.
Anyway, if you’ve been thinking about getting into high-quality American-made denim, it’s sorta now or never. Brave Star is my go-to company on this: Incredibly reasonable prices given the quality, nice cuts, excellent craftsmanship, solid customer service, 100% American made: The denim is from N.C., the hardware from KY, the cutting and sewing in California.
OK, at first blush, this seems like nothing more than a mildly sexist—but still basically harmless—”invisible touches” routine: Magician has a volunteer stand with her eyes closed as she pays super-duper sensitive attention to any physical contact she might perceive.He then steps well away—way, way too far to have any direct or indirect (e.g., creating a draft, blowing on her, tickling her with threads) contact.As witnesses watch (confirming that Magician never makes contact), he is able to make the subject believe she’s been touched (in this case, that her boobs have been squeezed)—simply by the power of his psychical abilities!
(Here’s another vid of the same dude.Note that he puts in our heads the notion of an unambiguous boob squeeze, but that his volunteers consistently describe a tap high on the chest.That gap—between his implication that he’s honking their boobs contrasted to the women’s implication that this is more of a light tap—is the tell.)
Yes, this dude is a creep, and his impinging on women’s time and space and totally leveraging huge cultural forces that oblige them to smile through bullshit like this.
But it’s still basically harmless, right?I mean, he isn’t actually touching their boobs while they are defenseless and non-consenting, right?It’s just a trick.
Accept for the thing is, he is for real and with his actual physical flesh-and-blood hands, touching these women’s breasts without their prior consent, and only getting away with it because he’s manipulating the situation owing to an information (and thus power) imbalance.And, in a move that’s both cheap from a magic performance perspective and indicative of a guilty conscious on the part of an assailant, he mostly cuts from the video the part where he does the touching.
Because he is indeed a fucking creep of the first degree.
Psychokinetic Touches Background
Back in the mid-1990s a guy named Steve Shaw was selling an effect called “Psychokinetic Touches.”Shaw himself is a really, really interesting guy (as is the pre-Internet—and even current—market in cheaply printed pro-grade performance techniques like these).Shaw he designed Penn & Teller’s famous bullet catch, although I myself first got wind of him in the 1980s, when I was a kid and he was a teen working with James Randi to fool some ESP researchers; Shaw caught my imagination then because of how straightforward and cunning his techniques were.
None of that is really germane, accept for the fact that if you maybe spend some time googling “Steve Shaw” and “Psychokinetic Touches”, you’ll dig up a blurry PDF of the old comb-bound booklet explaining his technique (which is marked by the straightforward cunning of Shaw’s work).If you do so, you’ll note that in the introduction to that work Shaw explains his inspiration: a routine from the early 1900s that is the totally obvious inspiration for the YouTube creepers stunt.
I.e., not only is dude a creepy perv, but he’s also an unoriginal creepy perv.*sighs*
(I myself got acquainted with Shaw’s PK Touches after seeing this bit on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, which is basically 100% textbook Shaw, and an overall better effect and performance.)
At any rate, here’s an overview of Shaw’s “Psychokinetic Touches” routine:
The performer selects a volunteer from the audience, and explains that blah-blah psychic blah-blah ghosts blah-blah From Beyond—and for that reason, he is able to physically touch a receptive individual with nothing more than his mind.He then makes some gestures to “clear the volunteer’s aura” (or whatever) and steps far away.Now, standing much too far away to conceivably physical reach the volunteer, and in full view of an audience (who can be surrounding the pair on all sides), the performer makes his cooky touch-touch gestures—and low and behold!, the astonished volunteer can confirm that she has been touched(!!!)
I won’t spoil the whole thing, but SPOILER ALERT!!! : Dude is not a psychic or ghost wrangler or whatever.Here’s the basic schtick:The performer gives his little spiel, then has the volunteer close her eyes.At this stage he explains a few more things—reminding her to be “psychically receptive” and super attentive to even the lightest contact.He shuts up, does his little “aura cleansing,” and steps away to do his mambo-jahambo magical passes and psychic touching, singling out certain parts of the body (the right shoulder, the left elbow—whatever).N.B.Everything he’s done since advising her to be super attentive and receptive has happened in absolute silence.The next time he speaks is to ask “Have you felt any contact?”He than has her indicate where that contact was on her body.Lo and behold, she reports being touched in all the right places.OMFG!How did he do it?!And here comes the spoiler:
HE TOUCHED HER DURING THE “AURA CLEANING.”
From the audience’s perspective, this isn’t part of the trick yet, so they are not being super diligent; he has an easy pass to brush her gently.But remember, he’s fallen silent and the volunteer’s eyes are closed: She has no frame of reference for what’s going on, and thus from her perspective everything from when he stops talking on is part of the trick.Her perceptions are temporally out-of-synch with the audiences’, and they have no easy way to rectify that, even after the fact.
Here is a more benign version of PK Touches, and the tell is more obvious. Watch carefully at 1:55: when the performer waves his left hand in front of her face, he surreptitiously taps the back of her left shoulder with his right hand.This is largely obscured owing to how he’s positioned the volunteer relative to the audience and cameras—blocking Shaw suggests in his PK Touches.The waving-arms misdirect is also straight out of Shaw’s PK Touch.(Peter Boie uses Shaw’s exact stage business at 3:13 in the Penn & Teller video I linked up above.)Once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot the Creep-o-Perv Magician moving into the “magic passes”(/secret boobie poke) portion of his routine around the 0:34 mark in the video embedded above, when he squares up the girl’s shoulders.
Bad Touches and Bad Jokes
And I’m gonna come correct right here: I don’t know what annoys me more:A skeevy dude using a decades-old store-bought routine to non-consensually poke girls’ in the bust, or the fact that he has so little respect for his craft that he resorts to cheap “camera tricks” to pull it off.
Naw, I take it back:What annoys me most is using a third-rate performance of a first-rate effect to make a jokey pantomime of sexual assault in order to cover up the actual sexual assault you just perpetrated, ’cause it so clearly gets to the heart of what enrages me about the “Lighten up; it’s just a joke!” attitude toward minimizing the crazy-making reality of microagressions:The problem isn’t the stupid joke, but the very real assaults the jokes conceal.
A lot of the short films Dust releases are 75% solid, then fall apart at the untangle/resolution (often by not having one at all: they have a terrific Setup, then a nice Tangle, then roll credits—grrrrrrrr). But this one holds up nicely. Give it a watch:
Fresh translations of samurai accounts of a “barbarian” ship in 1830 give startling corroboration to a story modern scholars had long dismissed as convict fantasy: that a ragtag crew of criminals encountered a forbidden Japan at the height of its feudal isolation.
The “samurai accounts” listed above included watercolor sketches made by Makita Hamaguchi, who was sent to investigate the interlopers and their “unbearable stench.”
What really gets me, though, is the detail of the dog in this sketch, which Hamaguchi noted “did not look like food. It looked like a pet.”
. . . that it never dawned on me that the dwarves in Snow White, etc., are Jews—especially because I was already familiar with this and this and a slew of earlier print sources (see e.g., the “Lead” section of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, Richard Wagner’s descriptions of Jews, etc.) as well as stuff like this, and so on.
Anyway, just no idea where my game was at for this one to have given me the slip for four decades.
Tuesday was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. At 4:20, when her bus finally arrived, she didn’t get off.
The driver checked, first calling out from the front, then shushing all of the kids and calling out again, then finally going seat to seat down the length of the big yellow bus.
My daughter wasn’t there.
Don’t worry—this is an “all’s well that ends” situation: Due to a printing error her First Day of Kindergarten name tag didn’t have her bus number printed on it, and subsequently she’d gotten on the wrong bus.She ultimately wound up exactly where she should have been, all smiles and in fine fettle—albeit about an hour and a half late, following two bus transfers, and thanks to the intercession of three bus drivers, two transpo office workers, four school admins across two buildings, and one teacher. (The second day went smoother—in part because a neighbor kindly took it upon themselves to assign their first grader the job of making sure my daughter always sits next to her.)
You’re probably thinking “You must have been terrified!“, but the thing is, my son (now 11) also never showed up at the end of his first day of kindergarten. I can’t even properly recall how that came to pass, now, just that he didn’t get on any bus at all.This may have been due to some confusion about aftercare (which required he take a different bus to get to a different locale)—
but I seem to recall that the geodesic dome he’s on in the pic had something to do with it, too, being strategically located right next to the bus loading area, but on the far side of a hedge tall enough to block the play structure from view, but not thick enough to prevent a kindergartner from slipping through.An attractive nuisance if there ever was one.
Incidentally, his fish—a beta named “Electric,” given to him by an older boy who’d won it at a Labor Day fair, decided he didn’t want some stupid fish, and had thus stood in a gazebo and called out “Who wants a fish?”—had died that day while my son was gone at his first day of school.That would be lamely symbolic if it wasn’t just a fact.
Point being, the boy was fine, as you can see in the picture.He was more upset about the fish, and even that didn’t last.
Anyway, you’re probably thinking “You must have been terrified!“
But I don’t know that I was terrified then either, because I remembered the end of my first day of kindergarten.I remember it clearly, because it occasioned what I now recognize to be the first truly adult thought of my life:
I was the only kindergartener that rode my bus.The “safety” (one of a small cadre of fifth graders given fluorescent orange Sam Browne belts and tasked with holding doors, keeping the halls orderly, and making sure the little kids found their buses) led me down a long cinderblock-and-linoleum hall, where kids were other kindergarteners were lined up under construction-paper cut-outs of school buses.He stopped me in front of a red paper bus, taped high above my head on the wall, and said:
“This is your bus.”
He walked away.I stood there, alone, staring up at the two-dimensional red paper school bus, and thought to myself:
“How the hell am I supposed to get home on a paper bus?”
I tried to puzzle this out, and had a brief, vivid moment where I imagined myself shrinking down and flattening out like a Shrinky Dink™, transforming into a big-nosed black-and-white cartoon character (basically the kid from that 1980s Tootsie Pop commercial).Cartoon me moseyed up to the bus, the door accordioned open—just like the door of the real, steal, three-dimensional bus I’d ridden to school just after eating lunch with my mom (back then it was half-day kindergarten, and I had PMs)—and I climbed aboard. Then the paper bus chugged to life and cruised down the wall in a little Pig Pen-esuque swirl of penciled diesel fumes.
In that moment, and for a moment, I entirely believed in that scenario. It was the only thing that made sense. And then I recall thinking:
“No, that can’t be right.“
Soon enough another safety came and lead us kindergarteners, lined up like ducks, down to the turnaround where the real steel yellow schoolhouses were similarly lined up, and I discovered that my bus was identified with a number (that I could not read) written on a sheet of red construction paper—hence the red paper bus on the wall.So, sort of a semiotics lesson built into that first day of school to, I guess—although it was a bit above my head (pun? joke!)
Point being, kindergarten was my first time out of the home place, in a meaningful way.Going to kindergarten, among other things, meant my first brushes with anti-Semitism, with both the quiet, constant terror of bullying, and the quiet heroism of the few bigger kids who tried to stand up for you.And it was my first taste of solitude, being left to think my own slow, long thoughts in the intervals between assigned activities—something that I still treasure very much.I wasn’t me before I was finally left alone to be me.
But none of that was on the First Day.
On the First Day I had to grapple with staying calm when faced wth a seemingly impossible scenario: Here, kid, you’re six now; figure out how to ride a paper bus home.
In a lot of ways, my life has been a series of brief intervals separating moments of distorted, disconcerting reasoning–and in which the only thing that separated me from a Very Bad Turn of Events was that simple first adult thought:
“No, that can’t be right.Calm down and think this through.”
It’s the only useful response to the apparently endless string of Kobayashi Maru that make up our lives.
Not that I knew any of that then—for chrissakes, what do you expect?I was six; it was My First goddamn Day.