Just a few years ago, California seemed well on its way to becoming Mars thanks to a prolonged drought.

It started in January 2014 and didn’t really begin to ease until a year ago. Now, there are no areas of the state in drought, the first time that’s been the case since 2011.

Justin Sullivan, of Getty Images, recently returned to all of the spots he documented during the drought. His images show that nature is pretty grand, if occasionally unrelenting.

There’s a cheaper way to look like you’re doing physical work than buying the $425 jeans at Nordstrom with fake mud.

You can actually go out and do some work.

Here’s Nordstrom’s description:

Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

You know what shows you really are afraid to get down and dirty? Those shoes.

Not surprisingly, Mike Rowe, who’s made a good career out of lamenting the lack of appreciation for real dirt, calls it a “war on work.”

On the positive side, Nordstrom’s isn’t purging their shelves of work-related imagery, like the owners of Monopoly did when they replaced the wheelbarrow with a rubber ducky. They seem to value icons work. What they don’t value – obviously – is authenticity.

I understand the appeal of buying broken-in jeans. I mean really, who has time these days to wait for a pair of jeans to naturally fade? I also understand the different cuts. Might as well get something that fits and feels comfortable. But they lost me years ago with their various stages of “distress.” The stone wash and the acid wash the rinsed wash and the bleached wash… And they really lost me when they started tearing holes in them on purpose.

I saw a pair of jeans at Macy’s the other day that looked like they’d been bathed in boric acid, hung up and shot multiple times with a twelve-gauge, and then pounded on a rock down by the river. They too, were on sale, for $249.00.

But forget the jeans themselves for a moment, and their price, and look again at the actual description. “Rugged Americana” is now synonymous with a “caked-on, muddy coating.” Not real mud. Fake mud. Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort. Or perhaps, for those who actually buy them, the illusion of sanity.

The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans aren’t pants. They’re not even fashion. They’re a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic – not iconic. To them, might I suggest the revolutionary new “Borax Wash,” which I discovered some years ago while rescuing birds who had the misfortune of falling into Searle’s Lake in the lovely and picturesque town of Trona.

If Nordstrom’s wants to carry them, the description would read something like this:

“Finally – a pair of jeans for the hard-working gent who doesn’t want to actually wear them. The Borax Wash is so rugged and so manly, they don’t even need a human to hold them up! So sit back and relax, secure in the knowledge that your work pants can’t be folded or stored like other jeans. Show the world you mean business by owning the only jeans that can’t be worn! The jeans, that can stand on their own!”

$600 – only at Nordstrom.

If murder or autopsies are more you’re thing, you can buy a pair of these for $425 too.

Says Nordstrom:

Hand-painted and destroyed denim jeans tailored in a modern straight-leg fit have been prominently hand-sanded, distressed and repaired with contrasting patchworking and stitch-detailing, transforming your style into wearable abstract art.

Don’t think of them as jeans; think of them as art.

Nordstrom is getting ripped online for the jeans, which is still publicity and that’s probably the point.

That’s the art.

The sudden infusion and meaning of a more youthful sound on NPR in the last few years couldn’t really be ignored, especially if you still have one foot in the iconic past of public radio. Time cannot be stopped. We knew what was coming.

New hosts were introduced in late 2015 providing for more diversity. Four hosts meant less time for All Things Considered host Robert Siegel and it was only a matter of time before he stepped aside.

NPR Today, NPR announced that Siegel’s 30 years as host of All Things Considered is ending. His last day on the job will be next January.

“This is a decision long in the making and not an easy one. I’ve had the greatest job I can think of, working with the finest colleagues anyone could ask for, for as long a stretch as I could imagine,” Robert says. “But, looking ahead to my seventies (which start all too soon) I feel that it is time for me to begin a new phase of life. Over the next few months, I hope to figure out what that will be.”

This is the reality of the working world and particularly so in the news business. One day you wake up and you’re the oldest person there.

The new hosts and youthful faces of NPR are as talented as they come, offering a new perspective and fresh voices that NPR — public media — desperately needed.

But they’re not Siegel. Not yet, anyway.

  1. Listen Robert Siegel’s postcard from Paris

    November 20, 2015

Siegel is old school. He doesn’t vote in primary elections, for example. He will only vote in general elections.

“While one of the functions of journalism is to reach out to people who might not bring their curiosity with them at full bore, we also should accept that some people really don’t care about these things,” he lamented in 2014, sounding as if he feared for the future of his industry if it began to cater to those people.

Change is good, of course. But so is a little sameness and dependability and the wisdom of institutional memory. We’ll miss the avuncular passenger on the ride home each afternoon.

There’s something about a radio station that connects you, Siegel said of his industry. That something is someone like Siegel, with whom we shared the daily triumphs and tragedies.

In time, we’ll look at the new generation of radio companions the same way. But it’ll never be quite the same once the people who built NPR move along.

Man, we had it good.

Isabella Nicola Cabrera wants to play the violin. That’s difficult when you’re born with no left hand and a severely deformed forearm. A music teacher at her school had tried to build her a jury-rigged prosthetic, but it was never going to allow her to do what a violinist really needs to do.

So it’s a good thing that the first project idea that a group of students at George Mason University needed in order to graduate failed.
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