Monthly Archives: August 2013

What we’ve read this summer– From Here to Eternity by James Jones

It’s no coincidence that on the last day of August we’ve only just finished our summer reading of From Here to Eternity by James Jones. The text of this seminal 1951 military novel clocks in at a whopping 896 pages. And yet it rarely fails to captivate.

Set in and around the Schofield Barracks near Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii in the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, From Here to Eternity tracks the lives of several soldiers and their women in this last peaceful period before WWII. Principal among them are Private Robert E. Lee Pruitt and First (“Top”) Sargent Milton Warden. Pruitt is a poor Kentucky boy who enlisted in the Army after escaping the mining town that consumed his parents and bumming around during the Depression. His aim is to be a “30-year-man”, a career soldier, because he loves the ideal of the Army, the camaraderie of the men and the art of soldiering. It is really the only true home he’s ever known. Continue reading

Watch Collector’s Notebook: A golden dream

It won’t happen often but every once in a while as a watch collector you will run into something genuinely rare and special. I’ve been fortunate in my relatively brief years in the hobby to have more than my fair share of these moments. But the one watch that arguably stands out for pure Wow! factor is this early solid 18k gold reference 1680 Rolex Submariner:

1680-med-2Now there is nothing particularly uber-rare about an acrylic crystal “Nipple” dial gold Submariner, although they are not all that easy to come by. But what made this example really special and drew me to it is that the dial was meters-first, which is very uncommon in a Gold Sub. Rolex manufactured the Submariner line for 15 years before they decided to make a version in gold. (This despite the fact that they had always produced a GMT-Master in solid gold from the beginning of that reference in 1955. Who knows with Rolex?) But from it’s introduction at the Basel watch fair in 1954, the Submariner was only available in stainless steel. Also notable is that their dials had always had the proud depth rating with the metric measurement of 200 meters first. Furthermore, no Submariner had ever been produced with a date complication. But in 1969, Rolex was about to change all of these things.  Continue reading

What we’re listening to today–Walking in the Rain by the Ronettes

If Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound is a sledgehammer of beautiful bombast, then “Walking in the Rain” is its velvet hammer:

Yeah, there are a lot of shitty covers of this tune (including one by the Partridge Family –don’t click if you have a weak stomach). And sure the June-moon-swoon lyrics are not exactly John Lennon. Yet, as has been well documented, the Beatles learned a lot of their songcraft from the great girl groups of the early 60s… they had to write “I Want to Hold your Hand” before they got to “Revolution”, my friends, and the driving beat and optimistic love talk of the Crystals, Marvelettes and Ronettes helped get them on their merry way.

More to the point, the Ronettes original version of “Walking in the Rain”, with Ronnie Spector (née Veronica Bennett) and her little girl-cum-Broadway belter delivery powering through the storm effects, sleigh bells and endlessly layered background vocals, is just about as pure a pop song experience as you can find. Check your hard earned cynicism and anti-romanticism at the door. Hell, she hasn’t even met the guy she’s singing about yet! But damn if she doesn’t make you wish you could live up to that dream lover.


Hearing this great song again is also a good reminder that Phil Spector was not always a homicidal hermit freak but, in fact, one of the geniuses who kept Rock alive when Elvis was in the Army and the Beatles had not yet come along. I definitely recommend picking up Back to Mono to get some perspective on his prodigious pre-murder achievements.

Download this classic tune at Amazon.

The bike we want – The MO-05 Swiss Army Bike


Military surplus is often an endless well of cool and unique stuff. Built with an eye towards efficiency, function and practicality, the designs of military products often end up being more beautiful than their civilian cousins, either in there stark simplicity or their necessary complexity, whichever happened to be called for in that particular instance. The MO-05 Swiss Army Bike embodies this complex beauty.

Starting back in 1905, the Swiss Army  maintained a bicycle infantry unit. Actually, they weren’t the only ones but that’s a different story. Bikes were used in the same way horses were, for patrols, etc. The Swiss Army still uses bikes today, although the infantry unit was disbanded in the early 2000’s.
Continue reading

Formula 1 Backgrounder: Spa Francorchamps

The most technically advanced motor racing series in the world returns to action after its 4 week summer layoff for Round 11 at one of the classics of the calendar, Spa-Francorchamps. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa dates back to the inception of F1 in 1950, although for several years in the 1970s and 80s the race was held primarily at the Zolder track, infamous for the death of Gilles Villeneuve during qualifying in 1982. But Spa has its own deadly history to be sure. Originally an open road circuit, Spa used to encompass a blistering 14k tour through several Ardennes villages and was considered, along with the original Nürbergring, the ultimate test of a driver’s skill, not only because of the high speeds but also the unpredictable weather. But as cars became faster and faster and particularly prior to the advent of downforce, the risk factor for such a long country road course with houses, ditches, telephone poles and trees only yards from the edge of the road became extremely perilous and fatalities and serious shunts piled up.

New and Old Spa Circuits Overlaid

New and Old Spa Circuits Overlaid

Eventually in 1983, after many years of disuse by F1, the Spa track was shortened to the 7k circuit we see today. Although most of the real life hazards have been removed, the circuit is still one of the fastest and is considered a supreme test of driver skill, as it always has been, particularly the narrow uphill charge out of Eau Rouge. When you see overtaking there, you know that a driver has nerves of steel because the consequence for failure can still be quite severe. Simply have a look at this terrible crash by a very fortunate Ricardo Zonta in 1999 to see what happens when things go awry at Spa:

You can see the practice times for the first two Friday sessions at Spa at



What we’re listening to today – Nevertheless by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

There are artists and there are artist’s artists, those who are always one step ahead and showing the rest how it’s done. The Brian Jonestown Massacre are in the latter category. Infamous before they were famous, the BJM have long gone unrecognized as what they really are…one of the best bands of the last 20 years. “Nevertheless” is an example of the BJM at their finest. Equally catchy and expansive, this one never gets old.

You can find it on the 2001 album “Bravery, Repetition, and Noise“, which also features an excellent cover of The Cryan’ Shames song, “The Sailing Ship”.

As a bonus, this fan generated video features footage of a canoodling Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot, from the 1973 film Don Juan (or If Don Juan Were A Woman). How can you go wrong?

A big MFL welcome to our new contributor Punto Verde

We’re very glad to announce the addition of a new contributor to Man’s Fine Life, a gent who goes by the handle Punto Verde. Like tomvox1, he’s yet another Brooklyn hepcat (they’re downright ubiquitous these days… like herpes, only more charming) and PV is also an artist, music lover and all around bon vivant. We’re looking forward to his take on fashion, tunes, vintage contraptions and whatever else catches his fancy. The more the merrier and it’s always good to have another well-rounded gentleman aboard. So let’s raise a stein to Punto Verde!

What we’re listening to today–All the Way From Memphis by Mott the Hoople

Here’s a little bon Mott to spice up the afternoon, straight from live video back in the 70s:

Sometimes you just gotta go glam, man. So put on that velvet blazer and pick up your six-string razor.

And BTW, I wonder who taught who how to sing like that: did Bowie teach Mott or did Mott teach Bowie? Hmmm… the eternal riddles of Rock ‘n Roll.

Download the classic studio version at iTunes or Amazon.

High Blood Pressure: Still a silent killer

You may be working out five times a week and running triathlons on the side but every time you go for your physical, your BP is stubbornly high. Nothing crazy just 140/90, what they call “high normal” or “borderline high.” You argue with your doctor that because you are such a fine physical specimen there’s no need to worry about a number and you’ll try to get it down by reducing sodium intake and drinking more water. But, assuming you’re not testing it at home, another year goes by and the next checkup your numbers haven’t budged: still borderline high.

For a lot of guys in their 30s this may sound familiar, as this is when mild but persitent hypertension can start to kick in. But now’s the time to get your number down and if it takes a little medication, so be it. Because even if you feel terrific, your mild hypertension is damaging the inner workings of your body and putting you at long term risk of heart disease, stroke, eye problems and, yup, impotence. Continue reading