Charlie's Blog: September 2018


Blue Collar Fashion Guide

Clothes make the man.

Do clothes make the man? I think so. Clothing reflects who you are internally. Now, people can wear something that doesn't match that internal reality. This would be the drag queen. But, generally speaking, you can tell a great deal about a man by the way he dresses. Your impression of a man sagging his pants past his underwear will be far different than the impression you have of a man in a tailored three piece suit. Both of those are extreme examples, and they are extreme styles to avoid. This is the blue collar fashion guide to help you out on this.

No one will ever accuse me of stepping out of the pages of GQ magazine. I am not into men's fashions, and I am not a clothes horse. I am actually quite clueless about fashion and dressing nice. But I started to get a clue years ago that I needed to do something about the way I dress. This is because I dressed very poorly. I was mismatched with my wife who dresses like a grown up. When you turn 40, you should already know how to dress like a grown up, but I didn't get the memo on this. I dressed like virtually everyone else I knew. This would be what I now call "douchewear." I dressed like a douchebag. It was embarrassing.

I decided I needed a wardrobe change, and images of men in seersucker suits, white hats, and pocket squares filled my brain. I contemplated the bow tie and things like that. Obviously, this is better than wearing basketball shorts and flip flops, but it is too much. So, I went into my memory bank to remember the last man who I remember dressed as a grown up. This was my grandfather. He was a blue collar man. My great uncle dressed the same way. My father was a boomer, and it was the Baby Boom generation that began the sartorial slide for later generations. Using my grandfather and great uncle as templates, I put together a blue collar man's fashion sense, and I have stuck with it. I ask myself a basic question. Would my grandfather have worn this? This is how this guide came to be.


It is hard to believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the billionaire CEO of a gigantic company. This is because the Facebook founder dresses like a douchebag. Zuck took the inspiration for this from Steve Jobs's famous uniform of a mock turtleneck and a pair of blue jeans. There is freedom in not having to decide what you are going to wear that day. Blue collar guys already know this freedom. They already wear a uniform. They just decide between what it is clean and what is dirty.

Zuckerberg should dress like the guys at IBM dressed. This was a suit and a tie. The IBM dress code was famous, and it became a target for rebellion from guys like Steve Jobs who hated IBM. But Steve Jobs was a douchebag. He was a man devoid of respect for anyone or anything. The only time he put on a tie was when he had to. As he became richer and more successful, this became less and less frequent. The man had no respect. Zuckerberg has a similar lack of respect.

The advantage of douchewear is that it allows you to be comfortable. This comfort thing has been taken to such an extreme now that people wear their sleepwear outside and can barely be bothered to put on proper shoes preferring flip flops. This is atrocious. The typical douche outfit will be a T-shirt, a pair of cargo shorts, and some flip flops. A variation will be baggy basketball shorts or sweatpants. These things are perfectly fine for lounging around the home or sleeping, but they should never be worn in public.


If douchebags are perpetually underdressed, you have peacocks who are perpetually overdressed. The epitome of this style was the author Tom Wolfe who took the style of his native Richmond, Virginia, and brought it to the world. Basically, he wore ice cream colored suits, but he also wore all sorts of outfits of different colors. Double breasted coats, hats, and vests were regular staples in this man's wardrobe. Today, this peacockery is carried on by guys like Roger Stone, TV evangelists, and pimps. 

The tradition of peacockery goes back centuries to guys like the English fops who tended towards effeminacy and finery in their attire. The problem is that this sort of thing will get you booted out of IBM as quickly as the douchewear. This is because it is ridiculous.

The thing peacocks and douchebags both have in common is their focus on their self. One cares for comfort while the other cares about vanity. But they both have no regard and no respect for others. They lack modesty and decorum.

If you are a white collar worker, I recommend that you read up on the classic IBM dress code and duplicate that style. The 1960s would be a good era and typical of what IBM workers wore. Unfortunately, IBM has let their dress code slide in a move to be more "modern." This is a real shame. I have to tell the IBM people that they lost out to Apple not because Steve Jobs wore those turtlenecks.

I don't work in an office. I work a blue collar job where uniforms are provided. I don't have to think about it. But I do think about what I wear when I am not on the job. I am not wearing a suit to the grocery store, but I am not a douchebag either. So, I dress like a grown up blue collar guy. Here's my guide to dressing this way.


This is how to dress most of the time when not on the job or a job interview.


You should not wear flip flops, sandals, or athletic shoes. These things either make you out to be a lazy slob or a kid. It's OK for kids to wear sneakers. It's OK for grown men to wear athletic shoes if they are out for a run or working out at the gym. Sandals are fine for the beach. But when in public, I recommend wearing grown up shoes. This would be a pair of work boots or a pair of leather shoes either brown or black.


You should never wear shorts except for exercise or the beach. Always wear long pants. These pants can be denim, canvas, polyester, or khaki. I recommend the Dickies 874 pants in blue. They match well with things and hide dirt. Carhartts are also great pants. You can also wear farmer's overalls.


T-shirts are undershirts. Somehow, the notion that they are underwear has been forgotten. But they sometimes need to be worn as outerwear when the job demands it like washing a car or a sink full of dishes. Because of this, I do not recommend wearing white T-shirts. White T-shirts scream underwear. Black or navy blue are to be preferred. Plus, no one will see your nipples if the shirt gets wet. Also, these T-shirts should be devoid of writing. These would be concert T-shirts or things saying "I'm with stupid." Shirts with writing on them are juvenile.


An overshirt is a button down collared shirt you wear over a T-shirt. It can be long sleeved or short sleeved. It can be cotton, denim, polyester, or flannel. It can even be a recycled uniform shirt from a job you or someone else had. Pick the shirt you feel comfortable with and matches the season and climate in your area. What the shirt can't be is a polo shirt. That's something preppies and golfers wear. Blue collar men wear shirts with collars and buttons.

Coat and layers

When it gets cold, you need a coat and some layers to keep the chill off. Blue collar coats like the chore coat are awesome for this. What isn't awesome are pink and blue fleece jackets or camel hair coats or leather biker jackets or sports team jackets.

As for layers, the hoodie is an acceptable item as long as you follow the same rules with T-shirts and avoid writing and graphics on them as much as possible. I also like a black fleece jacket as a layer. I wear a cheap one that goes easily under my Carhartt sandstone jacket. I don't know if my grandfather would have worn fleece, but it is a good material.

I'm not a fan of sweaters. I've never liked them, and they don't fare well in blue collar work environments. They tend to snag, absorb grease, and catch on fire. I'll leave the sweaters to the guys working on the fishing boats.


Hats are inherently goofy. Wear a ten gallon cowboy hat anywhere outside of Texas, and people will snicker. Hats should be worn for their utilitarian purposes instead of as fashion statements. Hats serve two purposes. They keep the sun off your melon in the warm months, and they keep your brain from freezing in the cold months. Most of the time, you can get away with wearing a ball cap. It can be a dad hat or a trucker's hat or a camo hunter's hat or a hat from your favorite ball team. It doesn't matter. Where you lost advertising space on your T-shirt and coat, you get it back on the hat. A baseball cap without writing or a patch on it looks kind of bare.

When the temperature drops, you will want to switch to a beanie style hat to keep your head warm. Under no circumstances can you wear a hat with the fuzzy ball on the top.

I'm not sure how or why the fuzzy ball got on the tops of these hats. They are vestigial and serve no utilitarian purpose except to allow you to look like a douchebag in winter.

For extended time in the sun, you want to spend money on a large brimmed hat. I recommend a straw hat for breathability. A boonie style hat is also good.

The key to wearing hats is to know they are worn outdoors and taken off indoors. The cap faces forward except for those times when you need 360 degree field of vision for something like operating a forklift.


Real men don't wear bracelets unless it is one of those medic alert bracelets. The same goes for earrings, pinkie rings, and other jewelry. You are allowed three items. The first is a wedding band. The second is a modest wristwatch. The third is a necklace with a crucifix or medal on it tucked discreetly beneath the shirt. That's it. Anything more will take you down the road of douchebaggery.


This is for those times when you need to wear a tie. This would be church, a job interview, a wedding, or a funeral. Blue collar guys hate these times, but they get through them wearing a poorly fitted suit and an old tie.


Just wear a pair of black shoes with black socks. Wear the plainest shoes you can find. Shine them up but not so much.

Funeral suit

Go to Men's Wearhouse or JCPenney and get a black suit and a black necktie. When somebody dies, this will be the suit you wear to the funeral. You can wear the same suit when you go meet the Pope. You can change the color of the tie to wear to a wedding or a job interview. The rest of the time it stays in a garment bag in the closet.


Go to the thrift store and buy gray and black dress slacks with a flat front. Avoid pleated fronts. Gray and black pants match virtually any sport coat you will find.


Thrift stores have an abundance of sport coats and suit jackets. You want to go with blacks, blues, browns, and grays. Avoid plaid coats, white coats, or fruity colors. These will pair fine with those black and gray slacks you bought. You can get a decent set of threads at the thrift store for less than $20.


White shirts all the way. Colored and patterned shirts are a challenge to match to your pants and jacket and tie.


Thrift stores have a collection of ties, and you should buy thrift store ties. You want to purchase the most boring ties you can find. Don't worry if they are too wide or too narrow. Blue collar guys never get this right. And never wear a bow tie except in the unusual circumstance of having to wear a rented tuxedo in a wedding.


The only hat that works with a coat and tie is a flat cap. They are also known as cabbie hats and newsboy caps. They have been the hats of choice for the working class for centuries. You can also get away with wearing a beanie style hat if is really cold.


If it is really cold where you live, you want to get an overcoat that is either black or gray preferably from the thrift store.


A cold weather scarf is also good to go with a hat and overcoat. Don't waste your money on pocket squares or tie tacks and clips. These things are extraneous. Wear a black belt to match those black shoes.

If you do abnormal wear right, you should look like a guy who never wears a suit. The goal is not to look sharp and fashionable. You just want to show respect. Anything beyond this leads to looking like a peacock.

And that's it for the Blue Collar Fashion Guide. If it seems underwhelming, it should be. Some people will claim this is a variation of normcore. The epitome of that style was the attire of the characters on Seinfeld who did not dress like blue collar workers at all. There are those who say this is hipster fashion overlooking the fact that hipsters stole their fashion ideas from the blue collar workers. One day, those hipsters will move on, but the blue collar guys will still dress the same. Others will say that I am telling people how to dress like Steve Bannon which would be dressing very badly. There is a lot of truth to that. The main thing is to dress like a grown up which is a concept that has disappeared in a time where we have taken casual wear too far. I just know that my grandfather and people of his generation got it right. There are other good ways to dress. There is the frumpy college professor. There is Fred Rogers from Mister Roger's Neighborhood. You don't have to look like a plumber or an auto mechanic. This is just the way I choose to look because it reflects accurately who I am. And I can say that I was very pleased when a nice lady from daily Mass looked at my shirt and asked me where I worked because she needed the oil changed on her car.


Cultural Hygiene

You are what you read.

Have you ever watched a movie that was really bad? What did you say to yourself at the end of that horrible movie? I know what you said. You said, "I'm not ever getting that time back." That instant regret is a good thing because it shows that you are still capable of distinguishing the good from the bad. Essentially, life is too short to waste on garbage. The problem is that we often don't know what is garbage and what is good until after the fact. Critics are helpful in this regard, but they are becoming more worthless by the day as they become unmoored from what is true, good, and beautiful. We need a return to a knowledge of the transcendant in order to make these critical judgments and experience less regret in our cultural endeavors.

At the outset, I must confess that I am a cultural chauvinist. I do not believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe that some works of art, music, and literature are better than others. Others like the entire genres of hip hop music and modern art are cultural garbage unsuitable for a civilized people. Does this make me a snob? Yes, it does. My Brahms is better than your Jay-Z. My Michelangelo is better than your Jackson Pollack. I am not going to apologize for this. Have I offended you? That's good. You deserve to be offended. You consume garbage. I am even amazed that you have read this far or even can read this far.

If you consume garbage culture, you are stupid. You are an imbecile. You are a Philistine and a fool. By consuming this garbage, you become this garbage. Oscar Wilde is right. You are what you read. But may be you are tired of living like this. You desire to live on an elevated plane. I can tell you that you will not find this elevated plane listening to AC/DC or reading Fifty Shades of Grey. You can find it if you endeavor to practice cultural hygiene.

Cultural hygiene is the process of removing garbage culture from your life and replacing it with the good stuff. Anyone with a half decent public school education should know enough on how to do this. And the good stuff is not hard to find. Thanks to the public library, public radio, the internet, and other sources, you can avail yourself of elevated forms of culture. The problem isn't access. The problem is poor taste.

To make good choices in the cultural arena, you must commit to the idea that truth, beauty, and goodness are not relative things. These things reflect the mind and character of God. Good culture reflects these attributes of God. As creatures made in the image of God, we have a built in sense of what is true, good, and beautiful. We recognize these things when we see them. When we encounter them, it's like remembering something we are surprised that we ever forgot.

We forget what is true, good, and beautiful by effort and reinforcement. So much of music and art today appeal to the basic instincts for sex or excitement. These are the cheap thrills of loud music, pornography, and action movies. These things work to bludgeon from our minds what is true, good, and beautiful. I call this cultural pollution. The purpose of this pollution is to tear apart your mind and your soul.

When practicing cultural hygiene, you should ask yourself two questions. Does this make me better? Or, does this make me worse? This is not a utilitarian question as virtually all culture fails in the utilitarian sense. Culture always takes time and money. The benefits are accounted on the higher levels of being. Does this make me wiser? Does this make me more virtuous? Does this elevate me in some way? If the answer to these questions is no, that bit of culture should be expunged from your cultural diet.

When you practice cultural hygiene on a regular basis, you will notice some strange things happening to you. You start to become smarter and better informed. You become less stressed and calmer. You become more attuned to things in your experience. You become more virtuous. The benefits are many. I just know that my practice of cultural hygiene has made me a better and happier person. I also rarely have experiences of regretting time lost on bad movies.

How do you practice cultural hygiene? Here is a handy guide.


I used to love watching sports. I now see this as a complete waste of time. Sports are valuable when you actually participate in them. A night spent at the bowling alley is better than a night spent watching Monday Night Football. The best sports are those that get you in shape and teach virtues like teamwork and fortitude and patience. But watching sports is always bad. Time spent watching sports is better spent getting in shape and playing sports.

News is not a waste of time. As citizens, you should know what it is going on in your community, your country, and the world. These things matter. Philistines don't spend time reading the news because it cuts into time looking at porn. But you are better than that.

The problem with the news today is left wing bias. This has always been bad going back for decades, but it is more acute today. Once upon a time, newspapers and broadcasters strived for objectivity. Now, I hear an NPR news brief on my classical station, and I am floored at the blatant propaganda and lies they spew.

I am a conservative and a Republican. If you are a leftwinger, you are a lost cause, and you should stop reading here. You are too stupid to be reached. It is beyond your capability to appreciate what is true, good, and beautiful because you can't even grasp reality. Like I said, I am a cultural chauvinist. I am also a political chauvinist. Marxism is evil, and all Marxists are evil by extension. But if you would like to change this, keep reading.

You should stop reading the New York Times and The Washington Post. You should stop listening to NPR or watching network news or CNN and MSNBC. Instead, you should listen to conservative talk radio, watch Fox News, and read conservative websites like The Drudge Report and Breitbart. Be extreme in removing left wing propaganda from your life.

Once upon a time in my libertarian past, I thought such extreme prejudice in the journalistic realm was bad. It might make you one dimensional. You need to hear news from a variety of sources and perspectives and maintain an open mind. This is nonsense. This is because leftist journalists lie. They make it up. Or, they selectively omit facts. This is because they report with an agenda, and truth is the first casualty in their information war. They report whatever advances their left wing Marxist agenda. Facts be damned.

Conservatives do a better job of reporting the news because they actually believe in truth. That truth is not always flattering to the conservative cause. Conservative news sources will conflict with each other and criticize one another. Conservatives are not monolithic in their thinking. This is because conservatism is not an ideology like Marxism, and conservatives don't have a Saul Alinsky playbook that dictates their operation.

As for local news, I listen to and read my local sources. I find little bias in the crime reports, the weather, and high school football scores. Community news is informed by community values, and these are usually conservative.

Within the world of Catholic media, the same sort of left/right thing is going on. I don't read the Catholic Left crap that you will find at places like the National Catholic Reporter. If they are big on social justice warrior garbage, women priests, and LGBTQ inclusion, don't read them

Social media is a poor source for news. Most of it is too immediate to be accurate. Then, there is the censorship. Plus, social media can lead to addiction. Just delete those accounts.

Music can be placed in one of three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Classical music is Bach and Beethoven. Popular music is Frank Sinatra, country music, and Motown. Vulgar music is hip hop and heavy metal.

Good music tends to stress the melody. Bad music tends to stress the beat. The beat of vulgar music is similar to the tribal beats of pagan cults. The devil's music has a strong beat to it. If Hell has a jukebox, the music on it is purely beat driven stuff.

Classical music is the best music. You rarely hear the beat in classical. When drums are used, it is to sound an ominous tone in a piece. The melody is the prime component in classical music, and this is why it is superior. As you slide down the scale of degeneracy, you have jazz which retains the melody but puts it to a beat. From there, you get blues, rock, and rap.

Not all classical music is good. Avant garde composers like Arthur Schoenberg and Philip Glass rejected common sense and made experimental pieces that are disgusting to listen to. They wanted to do to music what Picasso and Pollack did to art. Unfortunately, left wing types have taken over the classical music establishment especially the NPR stations and might try to slip this garbage out there. But you will know it when you hear it. Change the station or turn it off.

As for popular music, it ranges from beautiful to awful. Classical music consistently delivers. Popular music does not consistently deliver. I have experienced some sublime moments listening to American Idol, but they are rare. Most of the time, pop music is like ear candy. It's fun, but you shouldn't live on it.

The best sources of classical music I find are from internet stations and YouTube. You may also have an NPR station in your area devoted to classical music. The only downside to these stations are the leftwing newscasts at the top of the hour. I find these make for good bathroom breaks when listening at home.

There is a lot of good art out there. Unfortunately, the bulk of it won't be found after 1900. I'm not sure why, but the twentieth century was not a good one for art. Some people blame the camera for the turn towards abstraction, but I find this to be an empty argument. A realist painter like Edward Hopper shows what an artist can do in a post-camera age.

Like music, art can also be classified in three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Virtually all art before Picasso is good. Some think the slide began with the Impressionists like Monet or a guy like Vincent Van Gogh. But art didn't truly take the vulgar turn until Picasso began embracing the ugly and the hideous in his art. This opened the gate for others to explore this forbidden territory of garbage art.

Picasso has been cited as an influence by many garbage artists. Now, it is important to distinguish beauty and skill. One does not have to be the most skilled artist to produce beautiful art. I have seen beautiful folk art. I have seen beauty in the simple drawings of children. Likewise, a person can be very adept at art like tattoo artists that could fit in with the Renaissance painters. But their work is not beautiful.

Technical proficiency does not make great art. This is where popular art comes into the discussion. Artists like Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade made art that was popular, and this art required a great deal of skill. But it tends to be kitschy. It is eye candy--sweet to the eye but not so good for you.

Comic book artists, greeting card makers, and cartoonists occupy this pop art category. There's nothing wrong with this as long as they don't try and pass it off as equal to Michelangelo or Leonardo. These people are more like illustrators than artists.

The bulk of my derision is for shock art. This would be excrement in a can. Literally. As modern art became more depraved, it tended towards the perverse, the visceral, and the scatological. It wasn't enough to be ugly. The artist had to strive to make you feel sick inside. And they succeeded. Spectacularly.

The twentieth century was a time hostile to God and Christianity, and the art of this time period reflects this hostility. This hostility to truth and reason persists today as common sense drains out of every aspect of society such that even public restrooms have given over to transgender confusion.

You should prefer the classical art to all others. You should never give vulgar art and shock art any of your time or appreciation. As for everything else, it would be illustration being neither beautiful nor ugly. And it's ok to put your kid's drawings on the fridge. They have their own kind of beauty because they come from a place not yet corrupted by the world.


Books tend to be good on the whole. This is because stupid people do not read books. It takes too much effort and brainpower. But some bad books do get published like Fifty Shades of Grey. Nonfiction books tend to be worthwhile reading because they deliver information you didn't know. The quality of that information depends upon the worldview of the writer. this requires discernment, but I can tell you that you will be better off not reading Marx, Darwin, or Freud.

With fiction and literature, you should avoid popular trash like romance novels. Men have their own trash novels usually involving action and war. I think virtually all of the books of Tom Clancy and his imitators fall into this category. I also admit to liking a series of trash novels in my younger days called The Destroyer.

Great novels have a quality that trash novels don't have. They impart a moral education. This is not a didactic form of moral education with happy story lines and trite endings. Instead, it is the moral law applied to a fallen world. The characters strive to be virtuous and do what is right in a world that opposes what is virtuous and right. This does not always mean a happy ending. Sometimes the characters fail. This is known as tragedy. Shakespeare is the epitome of a moral education in literature. You will improve considerably from repeated reading of the Bard.

Trash novels just provide excitement. It can come from sex or violence or both. Usually, the cover will tell you if it is trash or not. As for Tom Clancy technothrillers, this is a form of geek literature like science fiction literature. This is literature lost in the details of the worlds they create. Lord of the Rings has this quality but redeems itself because it gives a heavy dose of moral education along with the runes and imagined histories of places that don't exist.

I recommend reading items from the list of Great Books. Not all of these books are necessarily great, but many of them are. Books that are hostile to Christianity are not great books. The key is to remember what I said at the beginning. Books should make you better at the end of reading them than at the beginning. If you find yourself twenty pages into a book that is making you worse, return that volume to where you got it. At least a bad movie only wastes two hours of your life, a bad book can waste days.

Cinema, home video, and television
The same judgment you use for novels can be applied to fictional movies and television shows. The difference is that visual entertainment is almost completely trash. This is because stupid people don't read, but they do love watching stuff. Most of the good movies and television shows that are produced in a year can be counted on one hand. You would do well to watch Andy Griffith reruns on YouTube or local TV stations. Otherwise, you are wandering in the desert.

I spend most of my leisure time reading and listening to classical music and talk radio. I rarely watch TV or movies. But I do keep them as options for those times when something good gets made. I don't use Netflix as it is a waste of money. But it will surprise you what is available for free on YouTube.

Guilty pleasures
Even the most adept practitioner of cultural hygiene will have moments of weakness. This is when I turn off the classical and go on a rock binge on YouTube. Sometimes, this is simple nostalgia. Other times, it is just for fun. This sort of thing is akin to going off of a diet and eating a pile of junk food. It's fun while it lasts, but it usually ends in regret.

Should you enjoy these guilty pleasures? That will be at your discretion. I treat these guilty pleasures like candy or desserts. The goal is not absolute elimination but reduction and minimization. I follow a vegan diet which can seem extreme to those not embracing a plant based lifestyle. But I do have a handful of jelly beans every so often which is my only dietary guilty pleasure. Vegan ice cream might be another. In the cultural arena, this would be watching guilty dog videos on YouTube.

I am not against fun. Fun is fun. You may not necessarily be better off from this stuff, but you shouldn't be worse off either. I think listening to The Smiths with your wife is a lot of fun. Listening to Norwegian death metal is not fun. And that's something to keep in mind. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and Macbeth, but he also wrote The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Fun has its place.

The goal of cultural hygiene is not a Puritan one. This is the impetus behind Baptists burning Black Sabbath records. Culture is fundamentally something you enjoy. When you practice cultural hygiene, your enjoyment of culture should actually increase. You should experience more moments of rapture and the sublime. Cultural pollution diminishes the enjoyment of culture in much the same way that a steady diet of candy bars diminishes the taste of a great salad. Candy gives immediate satisfaction that doesn't last and proves harmful with greater indulgence. In the same way, garbage culture gives an immediate satisfaction. This is its fundamental appeal. But it leaves you worse off. Great culture has delayed satisfaction, but it leads you to a better place.


The Return to Writing

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Cormac McCarthy uses an Olivetti typewriter. The one he uses reminds me of the Smith-Corona I got from my aunt who was a secretary. That typewriter was what I used to write my first stories as a kid. They weren't very good, but I took to writing at an early age. Then, I graduated to a Radio Shack computer that got me through college. I did a lot of writing on that thing. And my hard copies were all done on an old school dot matrix printer. After that computer, I got a Compaq laptop and got on the internet. I literally wore the keys out on that thing. My current keyboard has the same wear especially on the S and the A keys. That wear is what moved me to start using desktop machines. I wear out the keyboards, and I like to replace them without replacing the entire machine. I am on my third desktop machine. I've lost count on the keyboards.

I am a writer. I'm not sure what makes a person a writer except that he writes. He may or may not find publication or remuneration. But the act of putting words on a piece of paper or a screen is what make you a writer. That's it. My wife is now a writer as she blogs about the practical things. The thing she has discovered is that writing is a lot of work without much reward. I've told her this for years, but she knows it now.

I wish popularity had something to do with craftsmanship and skill. But it doesn't. Stephen King writes some of the worst crap to ever be published. But those crap books will sell. Other crap books endorsed by Oprah Winfrey will also sell. But they are crap.

quit writing, but it did not last for a day. This is because of the thoughtful e-letter this reader sent to me:
I am a stranger but thank you for your writing over the years. I am sad to see it go but your priorities are correct. Wife and home over hobbies. 
I am a Christian and originally started reading you when you were an atheist in order to understand the adversary well and play devil’s advocate. I rejoiced when you embraced the truth. Your writings since have been thoughtful and convicting, especially the blue collar theme. I am part of white collar corporate America and struggle to resist the corrupting influence. 
I could feel the guilt ray burning on that one. It reminded me of the Spider-Man Quits storyline from the comics and the Spider-Man 2 movie. I remember in the movie that Peter Parker is having a hard time trying to balance being a student, photographer, boyfriend, and on and on with being a web slinging superhero out to save the world. Spidey doesn't get paid to be Spider-Man. The guy works for free. That's pretty noble of him except it is making the rest of his life a wreck. Sometimes, a guy just wants a quiet life.

This same storyline pops up with other superheroes. Superman let it all go in Superman 2. Batman hung up the cape at the end of The Dark Knight. But you know they will go back to being superheroes. The world needs them, and they can't stop themselves from serving that world even if it comes at a heavy personal cost.

Is a writer a superhero? That is a huge stretch. I have to laugh at the notion. I don't think the world will be saved through what I write. The real heroes in this world are the unsung ones who pull us from burning buildings, save us from heart attacks, defend our country, or just make dinner for their families night after night without complaint. But I can say that my life has been changed by the writings of others. I don't know if I am worthy enough to put my writings on the same shelf as theirs. But writing does have the power to change things and people.

I don't know why I write. I think I wanted money and fame at the beginning. I wanted to be like Tom Clancy or Stephen King. Then, I started to want to be more like Sebastian Junger and Paul Theroux. Now, I admire Chesterton, Tolkien, and Lewis. Somewhere, I decided that writing well mattered more than writing for fame or money.

I write because it makes me a better person. Most writers are not better people as they drink their way through producing depressing novels. There is nothing inherent in writing that makes you a better person. Plenty of bad human beings have written books. But writing these blog posts helps to clarify my thinking. If I didn't write, I simply would not think.

I publish for the sake of others. It is much easier to scratch my thoughts in a journal for my own benefit. But publishing is for others to read. The internet has made that possible. I can publish so that others can read. If it benefits others, then it is worth doing. My wife is discovering this now as people express appreciation for her practical advice.

There are frustrations with writing. The first is the simple fact that people don't read. They will read a Tweet or a meme on Facebook. They may even sit through a YouTube video if it is short. But a blog post is essentially an essay requiring brainpower and attention span beyond that of the average bear.

The second frustration is the time requirement. If you think reading these posts takes a long time, imagine writing them. I don't have exact numbers, but these posts take about two hours to write. I could write short blurby stuff like other bloggers, but this makes them little different from someone with a Facebook or Twitter account. This is why I identify more as a writer than as a blogger.

The time thing is the biggest frustration. It requires hard work and sacrifice. There are other and better things to do for your own sake. But you make the sacrifice, and you are left wondering if it is worth it.

Writing is worth it. I can resolve the time issue thing. It is actually a chapter in the book I am writing. Somehow, you have to fit all the things you need to do and want to do into a 24-hour day. I just have to figure this out somehow. It would be nice to not be burdened by a day job, but the only writers I know who managed this tend to be very bad.

I will keep writing this blog.

The End of Writing

He who writes for fools always finds a large public.

Blogging is like playing bingo. The only difference is that you gamble away time and labor instead of money. Some people win the game, but most people leave the bingo hall as miserable losers. The way to win at bingo is to not play the game. Be satisfied with what the Lord has given you.

Last night, I had a bit of time. I could finish the blog post I was writing. Or, I could clean the bathroom. My poor wife has been stuck with that chore for years as her husband has poured his time into a blog that no one reads. So, I chose to clean the bathroom and give her a much needed break. You can put that in the win column. That blog post didn't get finished, and I don't really care. I feel more satisfaction in cleaning that bathroom than I feel in writing this blog.

I hate this blog. I write with the same compulsion that gamblers have with their game of choice. I can't leave the table. I can't just let it go. Yet, if I don't let it go, I will lose harder than I do now. That's the sick trick of gambling. You attract losers and turn them into bigger losers.

I lose every time I write a blog post. I lose the time I could have used to get chores done or learn a new skill or get some exercise or just take a much needed nap. I am tired of losing. I have literally spent years hoping that something I wrote would go viral or something and make this project worth it. I don't expect to get rich from it. But I do expect to get more from it than what I put in it.

I can live with writing as a pure hobby. I can always keep a private journal if I choose. I have started a journal at least ten times or more over the years only to lose interest in it. Keeping a journal is like playing chess. It's an awesome game to learn and play, but it doesn't have a jackpot like bingo. Blogging is bingo.

I need to stop doing this. It is a waste of my time and energy. This is my last blog post. I might change my mind about this. I don't know.  I just know that blogging and writing take more than they give. So, I'm letting this crap go to see what happens. I'll let the C-blog float out there for awhile before I blow a hole in the hull and let it sink into the abyss.


Charlie's Big Idea

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.

If you read Nassim Taleb's books, you are struck by the fact that they are the same book. They are all devoted to the same idea. Yet, you should read them all. Taleb gets a lot of mileage out of that idea. Similarly, I get a lot of mileage out of my one idea.

What is my one idea? It is difficult to sum up my one idea in a sentence or a word which is why I am able to get mileage out of the idea. If Taleb had a label for his idea, it might be "antifragility." The label for my idea would be "blue collar." It has a long history with me, so I'll start with the genesis of the idea.

I used to be a basketball fan. I have moved on to other things, but I still have a fondness for a team that existed in the late 80s. This team was the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys roster that would go on and win two NBA championships. Lots of teams win championships, but it was the way this team won that made them special. The Bad Boys were physical and rough. They played hard especially on defense and earned a bad and fearsome reputation as a consequence. They were gritty and tough.

A co-worker of mine from back in the day used to go on and on about those Pistons. We both loved the team because we identified with them. The Bad Boys were a bunch of scrubs. They didn't have deep talent to draw on. They just put on their hard hats and went to work. That grittiness was what turned a team of losers into a team of winners. They were blue collar.

My love for that team, and their strategy for winning was what gave birth to my blue collar idea. It was not fully formed, and the tenets of the idea would take longer to take shape. But the seed was planted. I was developing a framework for thinking about things.

The next part of the idea came from my frustrations with work. I have a college degree, and I have worked one job that required a college degree. It was the worst job of my life. I literally saved money by living as a pauper in a "Go To Hell" fund in order to quit that job. That was two years of pure hell as I occupied the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. I was a supervisor with the intention of getting promoted up the chain. Yet, I hated the job, and my bosses hated their jobs. The only guys that seemed to like their jobs were the maintenance guys who worked on our equipment. They made more money than me, but they had no ladder to climb. I envied them. I realized I was in the wrong job.

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs showed me the way on this. The problem with those corporate management jobs was that they were a shining but false path. Basically, you are running a business for someone else's reward. When blue collar people want to move up, they move out and start their own businesses. They don't need a college degree to do this, but they do need skills and a work ethic. What they don't need is glamour and hype.

The next part of the blue collar idea came from a martial art that is all martial and zero art. This is Krav Maga. I've spent some time learning some kung fu from a friend of mine who took special delight in training me and then beating me up. I learned many things from him, but my frustration with martial arts only increased. Once you get in shape, martial arts is chess from that point on. It doesn't get simpler and easier. It just gets harder. But you don't get tougher. You just get overwhelmed by all the options you have learned, and you get your ass kicked trying to think about them all.

I have little faith in traditional martial arts. If you are learning tae kwon do at the local strip mall dojo, you are wasting your time. I know because it was a waste of time for Ron Goldman who was young, fit, and possessed a black belt in karate. It did not help him not get killed by OJ Simpson. OJ even laughed about it in his "confession." Goldman got into his karate stance, and OJ still took him down.

The problem with karate and other traditional martial arts is twofold. The first is that they are complicated. The second is that they lack grit. There has to be a better way, and this way is Krav Maga. Developed by Imi Lichtenfeld for the Israel Defense Forces, Krav Maga is a simple, brutal, and effective real world self-defense system. Building on natural movements and an acceptance that fights are dirty, Krav Maga makes fighters out of ordinary mortals including women like Jennifer Lopez in Enough. Ron Goldman would still be alive today if he had known Krav Maga.

The next part of my blue collar idea came from the writings of Saint Josemaria Escriva and the work of Opus Dei. After my conversion to Catholicism, I didn't know what direction I should take with my life in terms of spirituality. I was married, so I knew I wasn't called to be a priest or a monk. I'm an ordinary guy living in the world. Then, I discovered Escriva and noticed a similarity in his way of doing things with those of Imi Lichtenfeld and Krav Maga. Escriva cut through the complication of Catholic spirituality, simplified it, and made it applicable to ordinary people like me.

People are dismissive of the spirituality of Opus Dei. The harshest antagonism and criticisms of Opus Dei come from the Jesuits who see the laypeople and priests of the Work as rivals. Here is a favorite quotation of mine from the Jesuit, Father James Martin:
Some of the group’s spirituality can be gleaned from Escrivá’s numerous writings, most notably his 1939 book, The Way. The book is a collection of 999 maxims, ranging from traditional Christian pieties (“The prayer of a Christian is never a monologue”) to sayings that could easily have come out of Poor Richard’s Almanack (“Don’t put off your work until tomorrow”).
This description paints Escriva and his followers as unsophisticated rubes. That is one thing I will give to the Jesuits. They are sophisticated. They are also a bunch of sodomites interested in promoting anal sex more than holiness.

I love this quotation from St. Francis de Sales:
It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesmen, a prince, or a married woman. . .It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world.
The desert St. Francis de Sales refers to is the life found in the religious orders like the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and others who have endeavored to pursue holiness in a way that is very devoted and complicated. Most of this complication comes from praying the Divine Office.  But as the Jesuits show, a sophisticated spirituality does not automatically produce saints. Opus Dei works because it stresses simplicity and getting it done each day, week, month, and year in the Plan of Life and in apostolate.

All of these ideas and influences have produced in me a mindset that I label "blue collar" because that was the label those Detroit Pistons had. You can be a white collar worker or a schoolteacher and have the blue collar state of mind. It is not a job where you work with your hands but a mindset. Here are the components of that mindset:


Things should be simple. Most problems and errors come from unnecessary complications. People are astounded when I tell them that the greatest breakthrough in medicine was when doctors and nurses started washing their hands. Soap and water have cured and prevented more disease than all the pharmaceuticals the drug companies have ever produced.


You have thinking. You have talking. You have advertising. You have marketing. You have focus groups, studies, commissions, blue ribbon panels, and on and on. Then, there is doing. Most of what gets accomplished in the world comes from plain and simple hard work. The world has no shortage of ideas and thinkers. It has an acute shortage of hard workers.


Grit is an extension of work ethic. It is the fortitude needed to get things done. People want beautiful and elegant answers to things. When those show themselves to be unavailable, they give over to "experts" and their complicated solutions which are not solutions at all. Then, there is the guy who rolls his sleeves up and accepts that the real solution won't be pretty, but it will be effective.


So-called experts and technocrats and other members of the Parasite Class attempt to protect their turfs through intimidation. This comes in the form of complicated jargon, complex ideas, and just plain crap to make others think they are more than what they are. They portray themselves as a priestly class privy to the mysteries that the rest of us rubes could never comprehend. The reality is that they are a bunch of bluffers who are full of bravo sierra. The blue collar mindset rejects this intimidation by adopting what I call "unintimidation." Basically, you become like a honey badger in the belief that no one is bigger, badder, smarter, or tougher than you.

People who read this will be dismissive of this blue collar idea of mine. This comes from a combination of conventional wisdom, pride, and laziness. They make the ironic criticism that this blue collar way is simultaneously too easy and too hard. They can't get their minds around it, and they never will. Yet, their hubris makes them overestimate themselves and underestimate you.

The best examples I can give for this phenomenon are the great pyramids in Egypt. Those monuments of stone are stunning achievements for people who possessed neither machines nor magic. Yet, there they stand. Experts today readily admit that they could not duplicate those feats with their modern tools, sophistication, and equipment. It baffles them how the ancients ever did it. They propose theories including outlandish ones involving aliens and UFOs. But here's the secret behind the building of those great pyramids. Simple people with simple tools put themselves to the task and got it done. They were blue collar. That's it. It baffles people because they can't wrap their minds around the cumulative and almost magical effects of hard work. It can't be done! Yet, there they stand. The real builders are unknown to us, but they were the simple workers of their world.

We live in a world today where all of the credit goes to the thinkers and the dreamers and the architects. None of it goes to the workers that turn those ideas into reality. The reason the workers achieve so much is that they don't concern themselves with who gets the credit. This is the preoccupation of parasites bluffing their way through life.

This is my one big idea. It's not a sophisticated idea. It is just the basic belief that so much of life is a load of crap. Life gets better when you cut through that crap. Most problems in life are not in need of sophisticated answers but blunt answers ruthlessly applied to those problems. What separates the blue collar types from the sophisticates is this. Blue collar mindset people solve problems. Sophisticated types create problems in need of their solutions. This is what separates the Productive Class from the Parasites Class. Quit the Parasite Class and join the Productive Class.