Category Archives: Style

April Fools Day

April_Fools'_DayThis is no joke. The calendar says it is April Fools Day. The weather report confirms it.T.S. Elliot’s famous poem The Wasteland describes the situation this way:
APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding    
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing    
Memory and desire, stirring    
Dull roots with spring rain.

Weather forecasts underscore April’s cruelty: Unseasonable heat caused California’s famous poppy bloom to fall asleep, just as the Wicked Witch of the West predicted; Unseasonable cold killed Vermont’s legendary Lake Champlain Monster, claims one Vermont news source; Unseasonable cold weather has set records in four West Virginia cities. It is as if Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on us.

But what is the deal with all this joking in April? We understand foolishness, April is the beginning of Spring, the season of love and love can turn us all into fools. But what of the Day? Why do we have April Fools Day?

There are a couple explanations. The first is that before the 16th century, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1st, which makes total sense as this is pretty much the beginning of the agricultural year. Things are growing – life begins in the Spring. But in 1583 Pope Gregory XIII, of Gregorian Calendar fame, moved New Year’s Day from April 1st to January 1st. The move had to do with Easter – a celebration that was initially tied to the spring equinox. There were also some debates about the length of the year, the debate was over a matter of minutes. The new calendar became a pretty big deal – adopted initially by all of the Christian countries of Europe and eventually by everybody for the sake of convenience in international trade.

Back in the day, the 16th Century day, those people who continued to celebrate the new year in April were considered fools.

NewHistorian.com sites some other possible origins:

There are other theories about the beginnings of April Fools’ Day which trace its origins to before the switch in calendars. Some suggest its foundations actually came from various pagan traditions connected to the start of Spring. In particular, they draw attention to the Roman festival of Hilaria, a day of celebration in the Isis-Osiris cult. Part of a month of festivities in March that were focused on the life of Attis, the son and lover of Cybele, the day of Hilaria brought the festival to a close with a day of rejoicing for Attis’ resurrection. Even though the Roman celebration did not occur on 1st April, (the day of Hilaria was actually on 25th March) it contained hints of the rituals associated with modern April Fools’ – practical jokes and fancy dress. There were other pagan festivals which took place to celebrate the start of Spring, many of which were also based on humour and deceptive fancy dress. (http://www.newhistorian.com/origin-of-april-fools-day/3399/)

Hilaria sounds pretty good. But a month of festivities! We’d be at wit’s end!

image attribution: By Flickr user baejaar (Dheepak Ra) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

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International Day of Happiness – March 20. Oops we missed it…Not!

united-nations-303670_1280March 20 was the UN International Day of Happiness, a day designed to promote happiness as a legitimate goal of public policy and social progress. We missed it! Here at Comfort Colors, we certainly did feel something happy in the air, but the special UN day passed us by without much more notice.

We love the idea of a day designed to promote happiness (we like to think every single day should promote such design). That public policy should have this goal is commendable, indeed. We also believe that happiness can and should be a legitimate goal of business. Happy employees do a better job. Happy bosses treat their employees better and make better decisions. Happy businesses inspire loyalty among their customers and staff.

When your brain is happy, your work improves. Look at it this way: negative emotions like fear cause your body and your mind to basically close down and run. When you are confronted by a tiger in the wilderness, this might be a good thing, but at the office or the shop, not so much. Positive emotions on the other hand help you see new possibilities and even expand your skills and our limits. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises…and eventually maybe even your paycheck will rise. When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.

When your laughing the sun comes shining through.

It’s all about neuroplasticity, which means that thought has the power to actually change the structure of your brain. And why not? Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and positive psychology expert who spent 12 years at Harvard studying what makes people happy, suggests that you can master your brain’s neuroplasticity and create more happiness in your work life by practicing these five habits for 21 days: gratitude, journaling, exercise, meditation, and email. Here is his list (from his article in Psychology Today):

1. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document or into the free app I Journal. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

2. Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

4. Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-happiness-advantage/201108/5-ways-turn-happiness-advantage)

At Comfort Colors, we are all about happiness – it is a fundamental aspect of comfort. These five habits seem like good ones to practice. Let’s do this happiness-at-work thing!

 

 

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Celestial Matters: Equinox, Eclipse, Freaky Friday, and T-shirt Design

moonToday is the first day of spring and things are looking up. Way up. To the heavens, in fact. Today is not only the Vernal Equinox (the First Day of Spring), it is also the occasion of the Super Moon and a Solar Eclipse. In astrological terms, today is the big Kahuna. In astronomical terms “This is the Earth’s first — and only — total solar eclipse of the year and the first one since November 2013, NASA reports. The next total solar eclipse in the USA will be in August 2017.”
(http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/03/18/solar-eclipse/24970217/)

A Super Moon, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt design comes to mind, occurs “when a full or new moon coincides with perigee — the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit. Basically, the moon will appear a bit bigger and brighter than usual in the night sky.” A Solar Eclipse “occurs when the moon’s orbit of Earth positions it directly in between us and the sun, causing the moon to temporarily block out some of the sun’s light.” (Read the whole article and see a cool illustrative video here.) The Vernal Equinox happens once a year (if we are lucky).

The coincidence of these three celestial events is rare indeed! This celestial line up happens once in a blue moon. Well, the blue moon is a totally different story that is much more common. The Wall Street Journal calls today’s line up  extremely rare and goes on to explain the three phenomena this way:

“Solar eclipses are rare. The illusion of a supermoon can be witnessed several times a year, when the moon flies closest to the Earth and therefore appears larger than usual. The spring equinox occurs every year, and marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.…A solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the view from Earth of the sun’s disk, turning day into night. Though total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, they recur at any given place just once every 360 to 410 years. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but 400 times closer, so it appears the same size in the sky and virtually covers all of the sun during a solar eclipse.”

Some observers are calling it Freaky Friday, other Fierce Friday. We’re just calling it a gift. While T-shirt design is usually a little more down-to-earth, we’d love to see something commemorating this great day. Oh and it is the weekend. Happy Friday!

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T-shirts and High Fashion Firsts

As a T-shirt company, we think we are the very pinnacle of fashion (or maybe anti-fashion). We love t-shirt culture and feel it is superior (at least in comfort) to the excessive primping and preparations of high fashion that in the end only detract from who we really are.

We have been known to eschew the paragons of high fashion, but this week’s New York Fashion Week has opened our eyes. Some of the designs on the catwalk this week have been breath-taking – some for their great beauty, others for their you’ve-got-to-be-kidding factor.

fashion_modelBut the greatest eye-opener of the event has been its inclusiveness (not a word often associated with haute couture). New York Fashion Week has blown the doors off our preconceptions of beauty and style with a number of firsts: a model with Vitiligo (a skin condition characterized by the loss of pigment in patterns), a model with Down syndrome, a male amputee model, a paralyzed teenage model, and a 5-year-old designer (no kidding).

Fashion has a way of reflecting reality and by exposure making it more acceptable. We hope that like other fashion statements that made their way into the mainstream these first from New York are just the beginning.

Fashion Week is an international show hosted by Mercedes-Benz and presented in places like Miami, Berlin, Tokyo, Mumbai, and Istanbul. We look forward to other statements and firsts.

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T-shirts in the News: Must they always be controversial?

We follow news about T-shirts. We are in the T-shirt business. That we should follow such news is a small part of how we roll. But lately T-shirt news seems to be all bad news, bad manners, and bad taste.

Remember when we landed a space probe on a comet? Maybe not but you do remember the “shirt storm” caused by the pin-ups t-shirt worn by one of the scientists involved in the Rosetta Mission. And then there was that whole ‘meninist’ T-shirt backlash. Meninists are men airing (or in this case printing) their grievances with feminism. Kurt Cobain’s suicide note found its way into print on a T-shirt. And just this week, the New England Patriots, even after their exciting victory, embarrassed themselves recently en parade waving tasteless Ts.

We recognize that the T-shirt is the personal billboard, and thus will always be political, but must it always be controversial?

good_newsDesmond Tutu writes in his book Made for Goodness, that the reason the news is so full of bad is that we react to it because it is such an affront to our true nature. He describes our nature this way: “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family…” It is beautiful. And it is true that we take notice of things outside of this sphere of beauty because those things are so very different from ourselves.

While the Reverend may not be an expert on T-shirt design, he does know something of human nature. Bad news (and often bad taste) gets our attention. If a Google search for T-shirt news is any indication, controversial T-shirts get more air time than the sweeter T-shirts that say things like “Support Girl Scout Troop #32” or “The Smith Family Reunion.”

Maybe the prevalence of tasteless T-shirts will cause its own backlash in beauty and beautiful T-shirt design? Maybe it already has. We like to think so.

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Super Super Bowl Superstitions

As a t-shirt company, we are hip to the beauty of sports team T-shirts. Of course you will sport your finest sports paraphernalia during the Super Bowl this weekend. Your love of your team, it is as plain as the logo on your chest.

Or maybe you are the superstitious type. For you, your team colors symbolize more than just team pride. You don your jersey so that you can somehow influence the order of the NFL football cosmos. We thought we’d uncover this mysterious tribe of mystics by taking a look at some of the more prevalent Super Bowl superstitions.

“According to a poll released in January [2014] by the Public Religion Research Institute, about half of all Americans believe that some element of the supernatural plays a role in sporting events.” (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/31/for-some-fans-super-bowl-has-supernatural-twist/) Half!

PatriotwingPlayers have rituals around everything from the pregame meal (Super Bowl Champion, Peyton Manning is known to have a very specific meal of chicken, pasta, a baked potato, broccoli, and Gatorade before every single game, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s pregame meal consists of threes – 3 PBJs, 3 stalks of broccoli, 3 slices of pineapple – anything in three groups of three) to music (some players steep themselves in it, others avoid it like the plague) to the famous Aaron Rodgers beard-pull.

Fans have their own rituals. We’ve got the Super Bowl stock market indicator, game day socks (unwashed and undefeated), prayers, face paint, curses, dances, special seating during the game, special hats (what is the football version of the rally cap?)…you name it.

In a new article in Psychology Today we find support for our wacky behaviors: “Your team is depending on you. You’ve got to help them win. If you get any of this wrong, your team will lose and it will be your fault.” There it is! In black and white. My team needs me.

Sadly though, it’s not quantum theory, the butterfly effect, or The Benevolent Universe at work here. Psychology Today explains: “Humans and other animals have evolved to learn to recognize our effects on the world around us. We behave and look for how the world responds. We develop beliefs that what we did caused the outcome. We do something, something else happens, and we assume that we were the cause. Psychologists have often studied operant conditioning to understand how people and other animals learn about action and response. In operant conditioning, an animal performs a behavior and then receives a reward (usually food). Soon the animal is repeatedly performing that behavior.”

But don’t lose heart. The article ends this way: “…Put on your jersey and go join your friends. Even if you aren’t the cause, it feels good to be with friends and family during the big game. Besides, you’d hate for your team to lose if you don’t wear your jersey. You’d never live that down.” (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-mishaps/201501/superstitions-and-the-super-bowl)

Have a terrific Super Bowl! Go Patriots!

image attribution: By Dhern029 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Keeping Warm in Winter: It’s for the Birds

With apologies to our favorite customers in the South (or maybe just envy), we thought we’d take a look at a more Northern subject this week: keeping warm in winter. Earlier this week, most of New England was having a bit of an arctic blast with temperatures plummeting well below zero and windchill factors increasing the regional penchant for indoor winter activities such as watching the Golden Globes and playing with the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator.

We seem to be having a proper New England winter this year, so we are beginning to wonder about our feathered friends out there at the feeder. How do birds keep warm in winter? We dress in layers starting with comfortable and colorful t-shirts, of course, but how do birds do it?

Like us, birds are warm-blooded – which almost always means that they have to work to keep themselves warmer than their environment. They do this in primarily the same ways we do using feathers (layering), huddling, and fat reserves.

feathersLike multiple layers of clothing, bird feathers are terrific insulators. Downy feathers, just like cotton fibers, are great for trapping pockets of warm air next to the body. When birds puff up, they trap even more warm air. We do this by adding another shirt to our ensemble.

Huddling is something we do, too (though sometimes we call it cuddling). By scooching close to one another (imagine sitting with a friend at a hockey game, believe me, you are going to scooch) birds consolidate their body heat and expose less of their surface area. At night many birds roost, or crowd together in tight places to share body heat (we do this, too, but this is a G-rated blog post, so we won’t go into it here).

And finally, fat reserves. Birds store up on fat reserves early in the season. Even small birds can build up fat reserves “to serve as insulation and extra energy for generating body heat. Many birds will gorge during the fall when food sources are abundant, giving them an extra fatty layer before winter arrives.” (http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/howbirdskeepwarm.htm) This is something we also do which may explain the prevalence of sweet fatty treats during Thanksgiving and the early winter holidays.

Whether or not you agree that this cold weather “is for the birds,” we, like the chickadees and titmouse at the feeder, can do something about it. Keep warm.

 

 

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The Benedict Cumberbatch name generator and the Sources of truly Creative T-shirt Design

Brandenburg Copperwire, Bodybuild Toodlesnoot, Benadryl Clavichord, Rumblesack Coggleswort. Nonsense. Or something potentially more elementary, my dear. These polysyllabic phrases are the random spawn of the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator.

If you are someone who is easily amused, the Name Generator is just the ticket to help you get over the bad feelings created by a disagreement with your boss/employee/peer/spouse/computer/to do list/hangover. If you are a deep thinker, you might start to wonder about the art (or lack thereof) of this type of computer generation. Or you might just continue to be amused.

Either way, we started to wonder about the art of computer generation and things like DIY design t-shirts. Whatever happened to the days of hand-drawn design?

Mona_LisaWe did an online search and came up with things like the Kurt Rambis screen-printed T-shirt on Esty. Rambis played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 80s and later coached the Lakers, Knicks and Timberwolves (not at the same time). Why anyone would want his image on a T-shirt is a mystery – until you see the shirt! It is a hand-drawn, old school marvel that makes Rambis look like KC from KC and the Sunshine Band. And what is not to love about that? The t-shirt design is an original work of art. It is no Mona Lisa, but we love it.

Which makes us wonder: Does a t-shirt design have to be hand-drawn by a real person (instead of a computer) in order for us to love it? Not necessarily. Like beauty, good t-shirt design (whether hand-drawn or computer generated) is in the eye of the beholder.

Thus the sources of truly creative t-shirt design can definitely include computers. After all, we, real people, are behind those computers. And computer programing is its own kind of art. Granted computer programming and graphic design are completely distinct forms of expression, but both are forms of expression. And we all know that the t-shirt is the perfect vehicle for forms of expression.

We gotta get back to it. Bumblebee Cottagecheese, Rumblesack Cuckooclock, Muffintop Coggleswort….

 

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Holiday Cheer and Best Wishes to All!

seasons_greetingsOf all the months of the year, December might just be the very pinnacle of political correctness. We wish a generic ‘Happy Holidays’ to friends and strangers alike, we bake without peanuts or gluten for our allergy-prone loved ones, we toast without tipple with our teetotaling relatives, our holiday meals feature vegetarian and vegan options. We can sum up the month in two words: be have.

We are on our best behavior. And well we should be, there are many important religious, pagan, and secular holidays in December. The following holiday list represents just the frosting on the tip of the iceberg:

Dec 10 – Human Rights Day
Dec 12 – Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Dec 16 – Hanukkah begins
Dec 17 – Saturnalia
Dec 23 – Festivus
Dec 24 – Yule
Dec 25 – Christmas
Dec 26 – Kwanzaa
Dec 28 – Guru Govind Singh Jayanti

Given such a list – and this is just a partial one – we run the risk of offending anyone and possibly every one. With this kind of risk in mind, we thought we’d just go ahead and walk that fine line with as many holiday jokes as we could muster.

– It was Hanukkah and the tiny village outside Budapest in Hungary was frightened that they may not have any latkes because they had run out of flour.

Rudi, the Rabbi, was called upon to help solve the problem. He said, ‘Don’t worry, you can substitute matzo meal for the flour, and the latkes will be just as delicious.’

Sarah looks to her husband and says, ‘Samuel, you think it’ll work?’

‘Of course,’ Samuel replies, ‘Everybody knows Rudolph the Rabbi knows grain, dear.’ (http://www.guy-sports.com/humor/saints/hanukkah_jokes.htm)

– What did the big candle say to the little candle?
I’m going out tonight!

– Just saw a Pagan worshiping the Winter Solstice. He was dressed in a stag’s skull and animal skins. I thought “Deer God…” (http://www.sickipedia.org/other/random)

– Once a person was drowning in sea. He immediately started praying to Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha immediately appeared, looked at him, and then started dancing. The person was confused and angry – “Lord, I am drowning and you are dancing” Lord Ganesh says – “Son, at my immersion, you also danced like this”. (http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-forums/god-and-i/one-of-the-oldest-ganesh-chaturthi-jokesenjoy)

– Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered.

– Why should you never invite a team of footballers for Christmas?
Because they are always dribbling.

– What did Adam say the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve.

– What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney?
Claustrophobia!

– Why does Santa have three gardens?
So he can ‘ho ho ho’!

– Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor?
Because he had a low “elf” esteem!

– My mother once gave me two sweaters for Hanukkah. The next time we visited, I made sure to wear one. As we entered her home, instead of the expected smile, she said, “What’s the matter? You didn’t, like the other one?” (http://www.festivefever.com/hanukkah/jokes.htm)

Wishing you good cheer and the very best for 2015! Happy Holidays!

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Shelving the Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is a fairly recent phenomenon. Depending on your age and whether or not you have small children (or nieces and nephews) you may not have even heard of this delightful little…well how shall we say it? The Elf on the Shelf is something between a home wrecker and a spark of inspiration.

According to Wikipedia “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children’s picture book… The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and who is nice, and describes elves visiting children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features a hardbound picture book and a small soft toy in the form of a pixie scout elf.”

elfSeems harmless enough. But let’s look at both the home-wrecking and the inspirational aspects of this little creature. For many, the Elf on the Shelf is just plain creepy (he’s naughty and manipulative). He is a little spy for Santa, and spies, even great spies like Philip Seymour Hoffman in his swan song, A Most Wanted Man, are a little creepy. We don’t always know or understand their intentions, which are not always good.

Matt Pelc writes in HuffpostParents about a villainous invader in “How the Elf on the Shelf Ruined Our Christmas” (you can read it here). “The elf is always watching” has a creepy Orwellian Big Brother feel to it. The modern equivalent might be The Capitol spying on our favorite characters in the Hunger Games (as much as we love Donald Sutherland, President Snow is not exactly the quintessence of holiday spirit). Yahoo News calls the Elf on the Shelf  “the greatest fraud ever pulled on children” (here).

And certainly if you look with the perspective of caring parents trying to rear their children in today’s society, the thought of using Big Brother or President Snow in the guise of a plastic toy does not bode well for the next generation of parents – or kids. For many,  permanently shelving the Elf on the Shelf might be a good idea.

But in terms of inspiring young minds and nurturing the holiday spirit of wonder, the Elf of the Shelf is a winner. The game of hiding the elf is fun, it inspires creativity and maybe even good behavior, if you’re lucky. But we trolled the Internet for good things about the Elf, and  found all kinds of compromising images of…well, this article is G-rated, so let’s just switch to the Polar Express shall we?

The Polar Express is an award-winning children’s book written in 1985 by Chris Van Allsburg. It is the story of a doubting young boy, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery (to the North Pole, of course) and finds that the beauty and wonder of life never fade for those who believe. This message of belief seems somehow preferable to the Big Brother thing.

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