I was in a coffee shop today, reading a book and thinking about Shakespeare. I probably should have been reading Shakespeare and thinking about my book, but I'd still call it a productive day. However, for some reason the coffee shop was in a Frank Sinatra mood, because that was the only thing they played while I was there.

Now, I won't surprise anybody by saying this, but I love Frank Sinatra. But why? I've actually given this some thought over the years, and I've turned a comparison of him and Dean Martin into one of my core philosophies. In fact, I'm reasonably certain I've blogged about this before... but I think I still need to remind myself of it once in a while, so here's a re-post.

Frank is Frank. You can hear it in every bend, in every pause, in every time he looks over to the band and smiles. He may very well have invented the "cover" - because when you hear a song from that era, you wonder how Frank would have sung it. This is my definition of "style" - being able to do things the way that only you can do them.

Dean, though... it's surprising, listening to a quintessential Dean Martin song, and realising just how complex its subtleties are. This is a song that can probably get reduced to five notes after a long night of karaoke, and he must have sung it thousands of times... but he hits every note carefully and precisely. His own persona takes the back seat to the song, respecting where it wants to go. This is my definition of "class", and it's on the other side of this axis - "class" is doing things the way they should be done.

It's kind of odd, assigning those descriptors as I have. From their public personae, Sinatra was the epitome of class, while Martin will always be remembered for his flair and his style. But without that balance... well, look at Harry Connick, Jr. He's got Martin's careful, classy delivery and Sinatra's smooth, classy rapport. He's a great performer, but he's still a bit more boring than the other two. Likewise, someone with stylish delivery and stylish countenance comes across as a flash with less substance.

Martin and Sinatra were fellas who knew their own hearts, and knew how to strike a balance between class and style... and that's my definition of "panache". And unlike the other two qualities, this is something that does not come naturally. Panache takes effort - but the effort is always rewarding.
I must admit, though, that final sentence sort of undermines the rest of it -- it's like advertising a miracle weight-loss cure, and then mentioning in the fine print that after drinking your breakfast slurry, you're supposed to run five kilometres. But that's okay, because that doesn't make the message any less important. Decide who you want to be, and then work at it.

And with luck, I'll remember those words the next time I re-post my own words in lieu of actual blog content.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.