Express Yourself

There’s been a lot of talk about breastfeeding in recent days, thanks to Michelle Obama’s public endorsement of it as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity, and the stunningly moronic Tea Party commentary that has since followed it.  I think it’s common sense that we can now use money from our flex-spending accounts toward breast pumps, just as we’ve been able to use it on contact lenses.  And seriously, is publicly touting the virtues of breast milk anything worth getting upset about?  Regardless of whether or not a woman decides to breastfeed, it’s not like a controversial thing to recommend something that most mothers have been doing since the dawn of time, right?  I guess these hypocritical “I breastfed all my babies but don’t think other women should be able to use their FSA money to help fund $300 breast pumps” women (e.g. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann) haven’t received the memo that breast milk is all the rage.  Let’s just say it ain’t just for babies anymore!

The Icecreamists in London’s Covent Garden was recently featured on BBC for being the first to offer an ice cream flavor called Baby Gaga made out of freshly expressed and pasteurized human breast milk.  At £14 a scoop, I’m not desperate to try it anytime soon; though as a friend pointed out, how much longer before we witness the same at our local farmer’s markets with locavore labels like “Danny’s Mom”?  Of course they’ll have to get around the New York Health Department, which last year banned Chef Daniel Angerer of Klee from making and serving cheese made out of the excess milk produced by his wife’s mammaries.  Waste not, want not?

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Craftsmanship is Sexy

Living basically across the street from the Brooklyn Flea, I know that I have no excuse for being about a decade behind the curve in finally taking up a D.I.Y. activity that requires a modicum of manual dexterity.  Thanks to a Lifebooker Loot certificate for a beginning knitting course at La Casita purchased about a year ago and the kick in the pants (a combination of impending certificate expiration date and rapidly expanding belly) needed to actually redeem it, I can proudly say that I am now on my way to hand-crafting my first non-edible project as a grown-up.  Starting to knit a baby blanket is hardly a cause for public self-congratulations, but I have to say that an intimate knowledge of how much time and effort goes into making something that I could easily buy for a quarter of the price I spent on the yarn is really eye-opening.  It’s not hard to see why there has been such a huge resurgence of interest in craftsmanship and highly skilled manual labor as a result of all this amateur Etsy-style crafting activity.  There’s an element of elevated appreciation — gee whiz, how did he make that? — that naturally comes with having tried to make something out of nothing yourself.

The interest in craftsmanship seems to be pretty universal in mature economies across the board.  The shokunin (craftsman/artisan) boom has been growing in Japan for a while now and most international luxury brands with any heritage and dignity seem to have shifted their focus from logo-driven celebrity flash to an emphasis on the actual work that goes into their products.  Not surprising, given that in these markets, the default setting is overseas mass-production and an abundance of pretty much anything you need at comically low prices.  (The iPhone 3G is $49 today!)  Naturally, the swingback reaction to such a culture of ‘easy everything’ is to seek out things that are genuinely complicated and difficult.  Like comparing a baroque oratorio to a Black Eyed Peas reworking of a song from Dirty Dancing.  Scary fact: Handel composed the entirety of the Messiah in just 24 days!  I mean, no disrespect, but mad skillz just doesn’t mean what it used to.

Anyway,  I’m losing my train of thought again.  Oh right, so what I wanted to do was post these videos that Shota sent over and direct you all to Dunhill’s awesome Day 8 site that showcases the work of their craftsmen like this “Making Heritage” video below.  Super hot, but totally suitable for work.

 

This video for Red Wing Shoes I saw on Hypebeast today is similarly awesome, though decidedly more proletarian in flavor.  Viva Manual Labor!  Being a “knowledge worker” is overrated.  It’s what pays my bills for sure, but I certainly wouldn’t mind making something for a living.  PowerPoint Schmowerpoint.  -sigh-  But first things first…I should finish this blanket.

For What It’s Worth

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — the polarization of media consumption keeps on escalating.  The day after Borders went out of business I find myself reading on Grub Street about how a set of $625 cookbooks are rapidly selling out.  I’ve long found it fascinating how mega-brands like Newsweek struggle to turn a profit while over on Mercer Street, the folks at Visionaire have been churning out deluxe magazines typically costing at least a couple hundred dollars since 1991 without a hitch.  Apples and oranges in terms of content, perhaps, but the point is that in the realm of media publishing, as things get more crap and diluted overall with the majority of product becoming either free or extremely affordable, there’s a simultaneous growth in demand for a truly luxury experience.

Radiohead’s controversial experiment with their release of In Rainbows back in 2007 was truly a harbinger of post-consumption consumption.  Their release of their digital album for free in conjunction with a super-slick and pricey LP offering basically reflected today’s consumer landscape to a T.  Some people just don’t want to pay for anything or don’t care enough to pay for something, while others will sell their internal organs for a piece of something they love.  The band is back this week with an announcement that they’ll be releasing a new album, The King of Limbs, digitally (not free but on the cheap) via their website on February 19.  What they are calling their deluxe ‘Newspaper Album,’ which consists of two clear 10″ vinyl records in a purpose-built record sleeve, a CD and ‘”many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together,” will be shipped out in March for fans who pre-order for the obviously worth it price of $48.  Around the same as a face-value ticket to see LCD Soundsystem for their farewell show at MSG!  That is, if you are an evil scalper bot who was actually able to procure a ticket at the price. (Another example of astounding consumer demand in this era of Free! but I digress…)

You're so very welcome...

Anyway, as usual my train of thought seems to have been hijacked by Thom Yorke.  I believe what I was originally trying to say is, dude, check out these luxury books in a custom Goyard trunk I saw in a bookshop window in Montreal!

Traveling Luxury Library by Goyard -- spotted in Montreal