Stetson is the classic brand for cowboy hats.  Founded in 1865, the company specialized in high-end headgear for the frontier, including the wildly popular Boss Of the Plains model.  The original Boss Of the Plains design (above) with its narrow brim looks a little dorky these days, like a hat that would be worn by an Amish farmer.  With a wider brim it looks very cool, like a dashing version of the traditional gaucho hat


In the movie Tombstone Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp (above) wears a modified Boss Of the Plains with a wider brim.


Stetson hats are particularly associated with Texas because of the Open Road model, favored by Lyndon Johnson (above) and Texas law enforcement agencies.  One of the Dallas policeman escorting Lee Harvey Oswald when he was assassinated was wearing a Stetson Open Road.

The legendary Dallas police detective, James Leavelle, who was handcuffed to JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot by Jack Ruby, has been honored by the Dallas Police Department.

The narrow-brimmed Open Road became popular in the 1940s, probably because it seemed more modern than traditional cowboy hats, a bit closer to the conventional fedora.


Resistol hats, however, are the real Texas cowboy hats — because they’ve always been made in Texas, beginning with the founding of the company in 1927.  When I first spent some extended time in Texas in the 1980s, the straw Resistol was ubiquitous — if not worn at least parked in the back of almost every Cadillac and pick-up.

The standard model, the Cattleman Oval (above), is iconic.  Stetson makes a version, The Alamo, which is indistinguishable from it, but for my money, only the Resistol is mainstream Texas headgear.


Resistol calls the Cattleman Oval “a simple classic that easily transitions from farm work to a night on the town”.  That’s the definition of a real Texas hat.



I don’t open presents before Christmas Day.  Since I’d be on the road then this year, I just took a few presents to open in whatever motel I’d be staying at when the day rolled around (you can see them here) — the rest I left at home to open when I got back.  It would still be Christmas, of course, which doesn’t end until Twelfth Night, 5 January.

The haul was rich.

Mary and Paul sent me two choice Criterion titles:


Adrienne and Bill sent me this terrific Robert Crumb art book — for adult intellectuals only:


J. B. sent me a CD of new tracks he’s been recording over the past year in Nashville — they might be available on iTunes before too long and if so I’ll let everybody know, because they are magnificent:


My sister Anna sent me a gift basket of treats from North Carolina — which are mostly eaten and so can’t be photographed:


My sister Libba sent me a supply of smoked salmon and tuna, which her family makes in Upstate New York — the best in the world:


Jack White sent me a complimentary LP from his label Third Man Records, as a beau geste because a larger set of LPs I’d ordered was delayed:


My cup runneth over — thanks to all!

Click on the images to enlarge.



My family had a console record player like this in the 60s and 70s. When I look at the picture I’m taken directly back to moments spinning Bringing It All Back Home, Rubber Soul, The Sound Of Music, Funny Girl (the original Broadway cast recordings of the latter two), New Morning and Let It Be.  I spun lots of other records on the machine, but those are the ones that the picture brings back most vividly.

Click on the image to enlarge.



The first 8mm projector I ever owned. My parents bought it for me around 1964 at a Super Giant in the Washington, D. C. area. This was a branch of a local grocery chain that also sold consumer products.


It was a well designed, solidly built and totally reliable machine. I can still recall the sensual pleasure of taking off the case housing, fitting on the reels and threading the film.  I used it to screen the 8mm movies I made throughout my high school years, as well as the 8mm prints of silent films I bought during that time from Blackhawk.

It was for me a magic lantern indeed.



Deirdre Zahl, the wife of old friend John Zahl, has a business in Charleston, South Carolina called Candy Shop Vintage which specializes in vintage mid-20th-Century costume jewelry — some of which has shown up on the TV show Mad Men.  (Her stuff has also been featured recently in Vanity Fair — “Sweet Vinatge Treats”.)

Now Deirdre is designing her own original versions of this mondo-moderne bling — like the “Space-Age Spangles” pictured above.

It is, needless to say, very cool.


My grandmother made these for her daughters, my mom made them for her daughters, then for her granddaughters — now she makes them for her great granddaughter Stella Grace.

This is mom sporting her chic new haircut:

“First time in my life,” she says, “I have no curls.”


My friend Jae Song took the image above with a new camera system he's just put together — an Olympus E-P1 digital body, two years old, fitted, using an adapter, with a Kern Switar 25mm 1.4 C-mount lens, about fifty years old.  The legendary lens, small, ruggedly-built and sensitive, was originally made for Bolex 8mm movie cameras and won't work with a digital camera which has too large of a chip, because it causes excessive vignetting.  There are a number of digital cameras with chips small enough to accommodate a lens like this Kern Switar — Jae chose the 2009 Olympus because of its solid construction and retro body design.

The combination makes for a distinctive and to me quite wonderful look — quirky in the way that old lenses used to be quirky, each handling light and focus in a slightly different way.  Jae thinks that this has to do with subtle flaws in the glass, which modern manufacturing methods tend to do away with.
  (The Olympus will also take impressive videos in 780p HD — go here for an example.)  In any case, the look seems to harmonize well with the vintage technology of a turntable.