Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Best New Weekly Feature Week Five: The Return

My diligent commentary on the Firearm had to go dormant the last few weeks because of finals and travels and my commitment to providing you with nothing but my best recycled writings--especially when one considers the great importance of Issue Eight of the First Volume of the Firearm.

You see, if The Firearm really was a commentary on BYU-Provo culture in 2001, then something had been conspicuously absent from the first seven issues: there wasn't a single Abercrombie and Fitch joke. Having not lived in Provo for three years now (yes!), I don't know what the cool kids are wearing, but back in 2001-2002 (and a good many years before those years) Abercrombie was THE thing to be wearing to a point of utter ridiculousness. In fact, joking about Abercrombie at BYU wasn't all that much more comedically advanced than joking about the lake of caffeine-infused softdrinks at the Cougar Eat. So, Andrew and I decided that if we were going to stick it to Abercrombie, the Abercrombie lifestyle, and the now-defunct A&F Quarterly Magazine, we were going to have to go all-out and in-depth. So we bit our tongues for seven issues and then got to work on Issue 8, the all Abercrombie edition of the Firearm.

Now, Andrew has already sent me his take on the issue, which I have pasted below my own words a little later on here, and I think he's done a perfectly decent (okay, a "really good") job at summing up the whole issue and I'll exploit this as an opportunity for me to not have to say so much about the issue, especially since the issue takes such great care to explain itself. You know what? Forget it. I'm not saying anything else about the issue, Andrew did too good of a job summing it up. I mean, I do want to say that the job interview really happened and that I really tape-recorded it and that I'd do anything to find that tape AND that as the interview went on, I started to really want that job at Abercrombie.

This is what my ex-Editor-in-Chief had to say about Issue 8 (I think it's clear which one of us has been in Law School for two years and which one of us has returned to studying English and actually reading):

The Firearm, Volume One, Issue Eight

Our first themed issue. The Firearm’s body of work until this point had been directed entirely by the whim of two boys (yes, Brigham, were we not?) who wrote rather different things. Thankfully, it was not altogether uncomplementary. Some shrewd reader (I prayed, nightly, for one) might have realized our eclecticism did not come from the strict discipline of an expansive mind but, for my part, from the lack of it. (I always chose my subjects and wrote them in a distinct state of franticness. Brigham, on the other hand, was always several steps ahead. Where he still is.)

Our less articulate readers (I hope I will be forgiven for that) would, had they bothered, called us “random.” Now if you’ll allow me one story: While dining amid the frenzy of an uncountably large group date (I was trying, with great bewilderment, to keep up with everything), the young lady to whom I was fatefully attached stopped everything and told me she knew what I was. I was, she said, “random.” I did not immediately respond. I was speechless, but only by design, since I felt very much like bleating out the names of some obscure Northwestern conifers, then leading everyone in a round of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (which would not in reality have been all that inappropriate considering her hobby, but then again how often chance gives us exactly what we expect) and finally pinching her behind with a snicker to show her what randomness sounds and feels like. I easily resisted, since it is not my style to shock. She was, by the way, a state [AZ] champion softball pitcher, which one could derive from the cut of her jib, so to speak; also an unabashed Steven R. Covey admirer. She tried with apparent desperation to help me inject my life with some direction (a placebo, in my opinion) and was not, I sit here knowing, successful.

But this eighth issue, getting back to the subject at hand, had theme (it’s okay—I intentionally dropped the definite article for punch). It did not, however, have purpose, but this suited us, just as it presently does. So we set our impotent sights on Abercrombie and Fitch. Why? Because, to continue the metaphor, it was a target we could not fail to hit. It was at that time an institution of considerable influence in the community (if I am not mistaken, the previous year “Abercrombie” received nearly 3 percent of the Provo mayoral race and was a bit of a scandal). Also, as I suggested in my “From the Editor”, there was something representatively animal (or just American?) about A&F that we, I thought, might all recognize. I was not serious about that, but I suppose it could be true.

Our “Investigative Report”—written by Brigham with some Andrew touches—was one of our only pieces that may have had some journalistic characteristics. We went “undercover” to an interview at Abercrombie and Fitch and played the part of interested “brand reps,” as they were called. Our interaction at the group interview was recorded on the sly, which was a bit of illegal activity on our part. That was, I remember thinking, very journalistic of us, which shows how much I know about journalism. Even still, the experience happened as the article says it did; I don’t know that we embellished any part of it besides that which is acceptably embellished.

In preparing for the interview, I was—and I think this is the first time I have admitted this—exceptionally nervous. I am, I think, at first quite easily caught in the influence of things like Abercrombie and Fitch because they are—only at first glance, it turns out—so bold and audacious. The loud, angry music; the hard-faced, scowling employees; the ripped and frayed clothing, as if torn in rage; all this fed my natural tendency to feel people were right because they were angry. I was prepared, of course, to do and say what I had to to get a good article, but I was simultaneously unsettled by the prospect of exposing so notorious an enemy.

That is, until the interview began. Our interviewer was a nice, courteous young lady, probably from Layton or Bountiful, who seemed to understand—if only on an instinctual level—the ridiculousness of her task. Her manner reminded me of the children of a family I met earlier that year in Cle Elum, WA who had made a small fortune selling magnets for medicinal purposes to their neighbors. It is difficult, when on such an errand, to look your fellow in the eye.

The interview with Mr. Fitch was a sort of backward homage to that great innovator. So little is known about the man, his life and work. He lived and died in relative obscurity, whereas his partner Mr. Abercrombie was a playboy, a fast-living, fate-favored Odysseus, bound unstoppably for splendor. I have a feeling—I do not know for sure (there has been a great cover-up)—that while Abercrombie was off rabble-rousing, Fitch was home (they rented an apartment together during college) sewing, presumably without a thimble. That we may nevermore, nevermore forget the ones upon whose shoulders we stand. Amen.

Many of you know Mike Lemmon. For those of you who don’t know him, he still hardly needs an introduction. Word on the street is, or should I say rumor has it, that he “has it all.” He wrote his article from Japan, which is something neither Brigham nor I managed to do.

The “Abercrombie Joke Breakdown” is a hefty slice of metacognative pie, pun intended.

One bit of Firearm trivia: This issue gave The Firearm some sharpening up, for a little while anyway. It birthed our short-lived logo “F&A Newspapers”, which we placed in the upper left corner. “F&A” is derived from breaking the word “firearm”, which we all know is a compound word, into its etymological parts. That derivation is not, in my opinion, a perfect fit, as it is not hugely intuitive, it does not resonate in the gut. The “Newpapers” part of the logo is, as our readers know, the loosest fit of all.

I know, I know. Lots of words, no pictures. But checking out Issue 8 is really worth your while.


Sara said...
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Sara said...

When I was in middle school and A&F was still selling quality clothing, I did spend a whole paycheck buying A&F clothes. But several years ago, the clothing quality was so low, that I thought I'd quit shopping there. It turned into an all-out boycott when their soft-porn "catalogs" and ads came out. So anyway, I really liked this Firearm issue. It made me feel like I wasn't the only one in the world who had serious ideological conflicts with the (disappointingly) popular company.