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.

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Sound familiar?

Great article on hipsterism by Mark Greif in New York Magazine this week.

Photo: Plamen Petkov (NY Mag)

Cute Bacteria

My manga-illustrator friend June told me very casually today over dinner, as though it was the most normal thing in the world, about a manga-turned-animated series involving agriculture students, one of whom has the special ability to see microbes with the naked eye.  I swear I am not making this stuff up.  Many a grad student has pondered the peculiar Japanese drive to make everything kawaii and their love of anthropomorphizing just about everything, but this Moyashimon series that turns everything from the bacteria strains used to make natto (fermented soybeans) and yogurt to staph and salmonella into cute little talking creatures really blows my mind!  I guess they’ve started airing a new live-action version of the series now on late night Fuji Television, which looks way worse than the manga or the anime.  Floating computer-generated talking bacteria combined with laughably bad acting just doesn’t do the cute little illustrations justice!  Anyway, I’ll certainly never look at E. Coli the same way ever again.

Illegal Wedding Fair in NYC

I haven’t had a spare moment to blog for the last couple of months since planning for the Illegal Wedding Fair went into high gear!  This is my better-late-than-never post about the upcoming event that we’ve been feverishly working on, with an additional note to say I probably won’t be posting anything until after June 6 when all of this is over and I have time to do normal things again like pick up the dry cleaning and wash the dishes.

So here’s everything you need to know about the IWF.  It’s NYC’s premier same-sex wedding fair event taking place on Sunday, June 6 at the stunning townhouse venue, 632 on Hudson.  It’s a 4 hour event from noon-4pm with over 25 local vendors showcasing their work, all of whom unanimously support marriage equality.  There will be gorgeous wedding cakes by Cake Alchemy and Nine Cakes, a fabulous dinner-party vignette by floral designers Poppies & Posies in collaboration with the incredibly talented calligrapher Bryn Chernoff of Paperfinger, utilizing furniture and tableware provided by Broadway Party Rentals.  You’ll be able to nibble on delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by eco-chic caterers Stuart & Welch, as well as Brooklyn’s own DISH Food & Events.  There will be an explosion of gorgeous flowers everywhere, designed by our participating gay-friendly florists, including Saipua, Worship Luxury, and the elusive/exclusive private florist Shaun Carson.  Luxury event designer Zak Kunish of ZAK Events will be showcasing his talents, as well as Marie Danielle Vil-Young, event coordinator of À Votre Service Events.

E&V Weddings, the featured photographers of the Illegal Wedding Fair will be taking over an entire room in the upper triplex that I like to call “the Chuck Bass Opium Den,” offering retro-vintage portraiture and all sorts of photographic goodness.  Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Kelly Guenther will also be on hand to showcase what she calls her “wedding photojournalism,” as will luxury events photographer Robert DiScalfani‘s crew.  You’ll find some gorgeous wedding gowns by Lovely bridal shop in a room that looks like Marie Antoinette’s boudoir, sample beautiful favors by Amy’s Cookies and Bespoke Chocolates, and even get to talk to speech consultants at The Oratory Laboratory about how not to embarrass yourself when giving that semi-drunk and tearful speech at your next wedding.  Face Time Beauty Concierge will be doing touch-ups and offering advice on how to look your best, and wellness guru Tory Marsh will be giving advice on health and nutrition.  You can find same-sex wedding bands designed by Rony Tennenbaum, who recently opened a boutique in Nolita, and check out the beautiful stationery of both Lion in the Sun Park Slope and Atelier Isabey.  Am I leaving anything out?  All this while enjoying cocktails expertly mixed by Payman Bahmani of Life’s a Cocktail and Mayur Subbarao of Evoe to the sounds of some great performers provided by Elan Artists!  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, right?

If you start to feel overwhelmed you can take a breather in the gorgeous lounge space on the ground-floor created by the furniture and props rental outfit, Taylor Creative.  From there you can look across to the Speaker’s Corner and catch some amazing talks by David Toussaint, author of Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony, Annie Lee, principal planner and founder of Daughter of Design, and Dr. Anne Klaeysen & Law’nence Miller, officiants from the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Meet Kirsten & Maria Palladino, the Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Equally Wed, the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine and our national media sponsor for this event.  They’re coming all the way from Hotlanta so come say hi!  We’re also crossing our fingers that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn might be able to drop in to give an address so this is serious stuff!  We’ve got a ton of great products to raffle off for charity from our amazing sponsors, including a few of those famous Marriage is So Gay T-shirts.  Everyone will go home with a sweet swag bag and enjoy products from sponsors illy issimo and popchips among many others.  Our hearts are full with love and gratitude for all the awesome people participating in realizing this one-of-a-kind event.  Come on out and share the love on June 6!  Say NO to marriage discrimination in our state (and everywhere else, for that matter), and let’s hope that next year this will be the LEGAL Wedding Fair!

Tickets are $35 per person / $60 per couple – available here via Brown Paper Tickets, the first and only fair trade ticketing company.  See you at the party!

Tokyo in Bloom

Back from Tokyo where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and everyone was in a particularly good mood.  Grateful to have got the timing just right, as if we’d arrived a week later it would probably have been too late to see this:

Or the sight of this poor dude whose sole responsibility for the day must have been to secure a good location under the blossoms, hours in advance of the drinking and debauchery scheduled for later in the evening:

But as this blog is not supposed to read like the travelogue of some JET, I will refrain from indulging myself further in posting pictures of the Nat Geo variety.  I didn’t have too much time this time around to “braille the culture” as we used to say back when I worked at Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, but I did manage to sneak in my usual tour of the design floor in the Matsuya department store in Ginza, where they had their usual selection of stunning housewares by Yanagi Sori and ±0 with a smattering of neat new things I hadn’t seen before like these memo sheets from D-BROS designed to look like wedges of apples and pears.

Also got to check out the much buzzed-about store  called Pass the Baton that just opened a few months ago in the new Marunouchi Brick Square complex.  Started up by the same entrepreneur behind Soup Stock Tokyo, Pass the Baton takes the concept of recycling to a whole new level by combining the trend towards all things vintage with the public yearning for storytelling and community.  The way it works is that customers can submit “formerly loved” items that they want to sell at Pass the Baton, alongside a requisite introductory description of who they are, what they are selling, why they want to sell it and what the item meant to them, etc.  Once accepted as resale-worthy, the merchandise gets posted online alongside the owner’s profiles, and select items get chosen to be displayed in-store.

So instead of the experience of merely coming across old knickknacks at a flea market, you get a much more comprehensive sense of the “life” each object on sale had before ending up in Pass the Baton’s exquisitely curated shelves.  The prices are relatively high, but the sense of specialness that the stories of prior ownership imbue each item makes the experience worth the premium.  Pure genius!

Pass the Baton in Marunouchi Brick Square
A new type of recycle shop.

Read About John Writing

Ugh, it’s an absolute blogging disgrace how infrequently I’ve been posting.  What can I say, the responsibilities of meatspace are just too great these days!  So instead of trying to make excuses (like hello, I just moved) and come up with something clever to post, let me direct your attention to someone else’s blog.  My friend John has recently embarked on an excellent adventure.  In his own words:

For reasons that are still beyond me, I’ve decided to quit my steady job in the worst economic climate I’ve seen in my lifetime, pull up stakes, and write for four months. Five hours a day, seven days a week, a hundred and twenty days. A major change of lifestyle; call it a sharp right turn.

So John is off in Mexico at the moment, borrowing a friend’s flat and writing a book.  Oh, and eating tacos and blogging about it too.  To make a lame metaphorical connection to the tree falling in the woods: in this day and age, if a man goes off to write for 4 months without blogging about it, can we say it really happened?

He’ll be posting some of his writing soon so I encourage you to bookmark it and follow his progress!  He’s off to Cape Cod after this (part of his couchsurfing grand tour) so I have to say, the life of a writer ain’t all that bad.

John taking a sharp right in Mexico

Banksy’s Pop-Up Premier

Photo by FRANTZESCO KANGARIS for the Independent

British street artist-turned-global-brand Banksy struck publicity gold again this week with the limited pre-release screening of his super-hyped film, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop‘, in a cold, dank pop-up cinema hidden in a tunnel underneath Waterloo train station.  Called The Lambeth Palace, the temporary 150-seat theater is screening the film for 10 days prior to its nationwide release on March 5.  Needless to say, tickets sold out instantly and are now being scalped online for upwards of £200.

It’s truly brilliant (and ironic) how marketing-savvy Banksy is.  Despite never having abandoned his anti-corporate, f*ck-the-man message in his art, and never having actually sold out to the powers that be, the man simply cannot avoid having everything he touches turn into solid unobtanium.  Just when you think, “Oh my god, that fratboy has a Banksy poster on his wall,” the artist does something absolutely genius like quietly open an animatronic petstore in the village as he did in late 2008, making you smack your forehead and repent for ever having considered thinking he was passé.  The Lambeth Palace is yet another one of these surprising moments of Banksy brilliance that make him nothing short of an inspiration.

New Banksy work @ The Lambeth Palace

Tower Records Revisited

The digital age quickly turned Tower Records into a Towering Inferno, and last year saw even the Virgin Megastore in Union Square permanently shutting its doors.  So it’s quite a remarkable opportunity that starting tomorrow we’re invited to enter the old Tower Records store on Broadway and 4th for one last farewell to that convivial era of buying music with others in bricks-and-mortar megastores.  The good people of No Longer Empty, a non-profit arts organization that revitalizes unused public space, has curated a month-long multimedia exhibition called Never Can Say Goodbye involving more than twenty artists to recreate a fantasy Tower Records, complete with record bins and a live performance stage.

As someone who once stood outside that exact same Tower Records for hours in the winter of 1997 to get an album signed by Blur, I am sure the experience will be a nostalgic one.  However, don’t let all the funeral dirges make you forget that there are still some awesome independent record stores still cranking out high-fidelity tunes and experiences.  After bidding adieu to Tower Records, hit up Other Music just down the block where you can buy a limited edition copy of the latest Vampire Weekend album.  Ya, it’s worth it.

The Caveman Cometh

Fascinating article in the NYTimes this weekend about a small subculture of people who mimic paleolithic lifestyles by eating mainly meat, fasting periodically, vigorously exercising by sprinting and leaping, and in some cases donating pints of blood to recreate blood loss after an attack.  Man, I knew butchers were trendy but this just takes carnivorism to a whole new level!  Young Japanese herbivore men should take note…