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September 17, 2006

RVCA is the new BVLGARI

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Guy Trebay, in a wonderful August 13, 2006 New York Times story, explored the origin and evolution of this singular company, whose business philosophy co-founder Pat PM Tenore aptly summed up as, "... Sometimes it's better not to have a plan."

Here's the article.

    Off the Wall and Off the Hook

    Decades collapse into each other. This happens constantly. One moment you find yourself in a crowd of X Games fans just out of puberty, ogling death-defying stunts performed by people barely old enough to vote. Hours later you are at a party filled with people from this same X Games age cohort rubbing shoulders with musicians from some faraway Planet of Yesteryear: ex-members of Devo, say, or Weird Al Yankovic.

    This occurred Aug. 5 at a factory alongside a taxidermy studio in a semi-industrial section of this coastal city in Orange County, where a couple of former surfers have somehow managed to build a multimillion dollar company on the basis of exporting a quirky and persuasive visual variant of old style Southern California cool.

    Five years ago, the surf and sportswear company Ruca was nonexistent. Now, a label that began as the fashion equivalent of a garage band is booking annual sales of over $20 million and, more important, is being touted as the next big thing. ''Ruca is where Volcom was a decade ago,'' Andrew Asch, retail editor of California Apparel News said this week, referring to another one-time indie label that became a sportswear behemoth. ''It's like they're a rock group that's on the verge of hitting it really huge.''

    There was something instructive about the mood of the party, held at Ruca's headquarters in celebration of an art collaboration between the label, the artist KRK Ryden and Mark Mothersbaugh, a former Devo musician who has long made art and who now earns his living writing scores for films.

    Out in the chilly Pacific air, people gossiped, drank Red Bull and vodka, dandled babies and sat around on canvas-covered poufs in a closed parking lot while someone played that most charming of musical anachronisms, the theremin.

    The rhythm-of-the-spheres vibe felt oddly appropriate since the unstated dress code seemed to be time travel. There were people dressed as Ward Cleaver did in the 1950's, and an equal number of people dressed, as Pete Doherty does, in 1960's rocker style.

    All of it had something to say about the amalgam of bohemianism and mainstream business that has helped Ruca attain cult status: clothes that are whimsical, rendered in an eccentric palette and with cuts that are almost Wal-Mart generic (although far from Wal-Mart cheap: a pair of board shorts costs $52), yet so offhandedly stylish that Ruca clothes are now sold at 400 stores in the United States as well as shops in 18 countries, among them the Parisian boutique Colette, perennial arbiter of hipster chic.

    That Ruca's vendors include both hard-core surf and skate shops and places like Bloomingdale's SoHo and Fred Segal in Los Angeles -- presumably that is where movie people like Josh Hartnett, Sandra Bullock and Ewan McGregor buy their Ruca stuff -- are part of the brand's high/low, hard-core/mainstream appeal.

    Last year, when Reebok went looking for a label sufficiently cool to design limited-edition sneakers under a deal licensing art by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the obvious choice was Ruca, explained Chris Noyes, whose business card identifies him as the brand's lifestyle representative. ''They're always in touch with the grass roots of the cultures they come from,'' Mr. Noyes said.

    Make that culture, singular. Pat PM Tenore and Conan Hayes, the two Ruca partners, are both wave riders of long standing. It was Mr. Hayes's decision in 2001 to forego a lucrative pro endorsement contract, put up a $20,000 grubstake and sign on to Mr. Tenore's vision of an active sportswear label that drew inspiration from ''skaters, musicians, surfers and graffiti writers'' that helped get the label off the ground.

    The concept then and now, the designer said, was to ''promote the genuine integrity of these subcultures while giving back to the community,'' a statement that could easily strike the hollow note of a beauty queen's coronation speech.

    Yet, however intended, the label's link to communal subcultures makes sound business sense. Few niches are tougher to exploit commercially than cool, and so it is probably logical that Ruca sponsors a rock band, has built a skateboard half-pipe inside the company's headquarters and underwrites regular art exhibits like the one by Mr. Ryden and Mr. Mothersbaugh.

    ''Of course we want to control the world, like everybody else,'' said Mr. Tenore, 33. His unlikely route to that goal is through Ruca's Artist Network Program, an ongoing collaboration with artists who create images for limited edition T-shirts, which are then sold with the proceeds partly earmarked for charity.

    The list of Ruca collaborators would be immediately recognizable to board sports cognoscenti: the artist and skateboarding legend Ed Templeton; the painter (and skateboarder) Aaron Horkey; the graffiti artists Eklips and Neck Face; and the conceptual artist Donny Miller, whose new book, ''Beautiful People With Beautiful Feelings,'' is among the more droll recent commentaries on pop culture's durably seductive banality.

    ''I wasted all my pretty years on you,'' reads the legend on a T-shirt Mr. Miller designed for Ruca's new line, the phrase printed above the eyes of a comic book seductress from the 1970's.

    Ruca also publishes the ANP Quarterly, a handsomely quirky, free (and advertising-free) magazine filled with dispatches from points all around the creative and cultural perimeter.

    In a single issue one may encounter Hanna Fushihara, a New Yorker whose Little Cakes gallery is run out of her Lower East Side apartment, or Wendy Yao's quirky Los Angeles boutique, Ooga Booga; or Ian MacKaye, the founder of bands like Teen Idle, Fugazi and the Evens; or snapshots from inside the Smell, the indie/punk/dance/funk club in Los Angeles; or an interview with Laurie Lazer and Darryl Smith, who run the Luggage Store, a gallery in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.

    One might stumble upon a chat with Thomas Schmidt, the schizophrenic zine creator who in the early 1990's, under the name Earl Parker, put out a wildly influential publication called Polyurethane Monthly from his home in Kansas City, Kan.

    It was Ms. Fushihara of Little Cakes gallery who pointed out in an ANP Quarterly interview the existence of little pockets of ''weirdos'' like herself living all over the country, ''making music, touring, sleeping on each other's floors, having weird plays, lots of costumes and masks, posters, self-released CD-R's, records, etc.'' It doesn't matter anymore where one lives, she added last week in a telephone interview. ''You could be in Idaho or Iowa and be connected,'' she said. The point by now is beyond argument. And yet what are the odds that the matrix for a series of creative encounters would turn out to be a board shorts manufacturer in the part of Orange County known as Velcro Valley?

    ''It's about the way I grew up,'' Mr. Tenore said, referring to his discovery of a world of kindred spirits among skateboarders, graffiti artists, surfers and cultural outsiders, generally. Mr. Tenore's own ''turbulent, mostly fatherless and short childhood'' was spent partly in the Bay Area and also in part with relatives in the Philippines. His family's support came from his mother and also a maternal grandfather, an American of Chinese-Filipino ancestry who worked two jobs, as both a janitor and security guard, almost until the day he died.

    During his teens, Mr. Tenore found a job at a surf shop, where his eye for style eventually evolved to the point where he opened a store of his own. He was always, Mr. Tenore explained, acutely sensitive to the fine points of slacker and surf style. (''I wore my pants three sizes too large,'' he said, beforeit was fashionable to do so and later switched to Dickie's with legs he tailored to look pegged.) But if fashion as a form of self-expression came naturally to him, Mr. Tenore said, a career in the apparel industry was never part of grand scheme.

    ''I fell into it,'' Mr. Tenore said last week before his party, as he flopped atop a cushion on his office floor. ''The business people don't like to hear this, but sometimes it's better not to have a plan.''

September 17, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aluminum Foil Tape

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This stuff is very useful around the house.

The furnace guy uses it to cover the air filter insertion slot when he replaces the filter.

But the piece he leaves wears out over the years and you're stymied when you try to find it around town.

That's why you've got me.

$6.99 for a roll that's 2"W x 10 yards long.

Years of happy uses you haven't even dreamed of.

Bonus: you know how some tapes are so sticky and curly they drive you nuts?

This stuff's the opposite: very easy to work with — in fact, I'd go so far as to say fun.

September 17, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Galco's Soda Pop Stop — 500 varieties of soda from around the world

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You could get lost daydreaming about them all.

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A few are shown up top in a photo that accompanied Janelle Brown's September 10 New York Times story.

September 17, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's Most Decorative Music Earbuds

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From the website:

    Bamboo Earphones

    Embellished with natural bamboo, these lightweight earphones deliver clear, powerful sound.

    The ear hangers and earphone housing can be adjusted for a secure fit.

    Made of bamboo, steel, and aluminum.

    Size: 2"H x 2.25"W x .25"D.

    Made in Japan.

....................

If you've been wanting to bag the generic white ones that came with your iPod, here's your big chance.

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$125.

September 17, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Skateboard Ministry

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Willliam Wan reported in the September 9 Washington Post on a novel approach to transgressing skateboarders in rural southern Maryland: the congregation of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lusby formed a skater ministry.

Here's the story.

    Skateboard Ministry

    Price of Admission to Church's Skate Park: Listening to the Sermon During Water Break

    Once a week, a skateboarders' oasis appears in rural Southern Maryland. There are grind rails and a quarterpipe ramp, stretches of asphalt and loud music. There is also talk of God and no shortage of crucifixes.

    Saving souls sometimes calls for extreme measures, and to reach local teenagers, the congregation at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lusby turned to extreme sports.

    The ministry began last year when the youth pastor, Dave Showalter, heard neighborhood teenagers complaining that they were being chased off properties and hit with trespassing notices and fines. He went to the church board and persuaded the members to buy a few grind rails -- metal rails skateboarders jump onto to perform tricks with precarious balance.

    Early Christians had also been persecuted, he said, and Jesus was in His own way, a cultural rebel.

    In their attempt, however, to enter a culture long stereotyped as countercultural, anti-establishment and breaking the rules, church members formed the skate ministry the only way they knew how: with a volunteer committee, attendance rolls and permission slips (which ask for everything from insurance numbers to food allergies).

    But the teenagers came anyway.

    "They're nice people, I mean, it's a chill place to skate and not get in trouble," said Steve Wood, 19, a longtime skateboarder from Lusby. "I don't necessarily agree with the whole religion thing, but my attitude is, you know, whatever gets you through the day."

    Showalter is quick to acknowledge that he doesn't know the first thing about skateboarding. He tries to relate to the kids, however, in appearance -- wearing a crucifix stud in his left ear, a gold chain with a cross and a loud T-shirt that says, "Xtreme Faith." He plays "edgy" Christian music while the teenagers take turns speeding up the ramp and into gravity-defying tricks.

    Many of the boys said they are not regular churchgoers. The price of admission to this makeshift skate park is a five-minute sermon during a water break.

    It is a job Showalter both loves and fears. "It can be intimidating talking to these guys," he said. "You see a couple eyes rolling, and you feel kind of goofy talking about love and salvation, but telling them the truth is so much more important than seeming cool."

    Attendance ranges from a dozen to 40 on a good night. On a recent evening, there were about two dozen, jumping, flipping, grinding and sometimes crashing around the parking lot.

    After an hour of skateboarding, Showalter turned off the music and gathered the teenagers around two giant water coolers.

    He opened with a verse from the Bible. "This is from a guy named James, who's really an action kind of guy. I think you'll like him," he said, reading a passage on the importance of mercy.

    While he talked, the skateboarders sat on curbs with blank expressions on their faces. Some looked bored or indifferent or at least acting like it. A few responded to his questions.

    Showalter pointed out how they yielded right of way to each other on the rails and ramps, how the older ones help the younger ones. "If you can take those actions out there into the world, it can be revolutionary. I mean, that's something powerful," he said.

    He closed with a quick prayer, and the teenagers then jumped back on their boards. Some said later that the sermon is something they just sit for out of respect for Showalter and the church members, who, unlike other adults, seem to listen to them and take them seriously.

    Others, especially the younger ones, seemed to have listened more closely than they appeared.

    "They're basically trying to show us how we can be better to people," said Jesse Stotts, a middle-schooler practicing kick flips with a friend. "If you start one thing that helps a person, maybe that person will help someone else."

    Showalter watched as Jesse and other boys tried to go higher and higher off the ramp and into the air. With summer ending and the skateboard ministry closing down at the end of the month, he's grateful that his skateboard ministry experiment has reached at least a few kids.

    "We needed to win the right to speak to them first," he said, "because as much as these kids need pavement, they need Jesus, too."

September 17, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's most stylish oil can — for the batterie de cuisine that knows no bounds

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Why?

Because we can.

From the website:

    Stainless Steel Oil Can

    Made in Germany of heavy gauge stainless steel for a lifetime of table- and oven-side use.

    Cap is silicone-lined for a snug non-leak fit, with an angled spout for dripless pouring.

    10 oz. capacity, 9" tall.

$19.99.

September 17, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mooers' Law

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Say what?

In 1959, six years before Gordon Moore came up with what would become Moore's law, computer pioneer and entrepreneur Calvin Mooers formulated his:

"An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it."

    From the book "Ambient Findability" by Peter Morville:

    Sometimes we don't want new information, he [Mooers] argued — less is more. [Mooers] coined the terms "information retrieval" and "descriptors," wrote some of the earliest interactive programming languages, and founded the Zator company to develop and market his ingenious automatic punch card information retrieval system. But despite his significant contributions, Mooers is little known outside the information science community, and neither is his law.

    Even within this small community, Mooers' Law is often misinterpreted as a maxim about the importance of information system usability. In the words of online information industry pioneer and Dialog founder Roger Summit, "Mooers' Law tells us that information will be used in direct proportion to how easy it is to obtain." Though this insight is accurate and important, it's not what Calvin Mooers had in mind. Consider the author's explanation of his own law:

    "It is now my suggestion that many people may not want information, and that they will avoid using a system precisely because it gives them information.... Having information is painful and troublesome. We have all experienced this. If you have information, you must first read it, which is not always easy. You must then try to understand it.... Understanding the information may show that your work was wrong, or may show that your work was needless.... Thus not having and not using information can often lead to less trouble and pain than having and using it."

    Unfortunately, nobody pays much attention to Calvin Mooers these days. And yet, Mooers' Law only becomes more relevant with every advance of Moore's Law. Fast, cheap processors powered a personal computer revolution and enabled the information explosion we call the Internet. Half a million new libraries the size of the Library of Congress. That's how much new information we create in a year — 92% of it stored on magnetic media. It's time we shifted our focus from creating a wealth of information to addressing the ensuing poverty of attention.

    Because Moore's Law doesn't apply to the human brain. In fact, we haven't upgraded our wetware much in the past 50,000 years. Technology moves fast. Evolution moves slow. In recent years, the friction between these layers has given birth to usability, user experience and user-centered design. Make it simple. Make it easy. Don't make me think!

    Calvin Mooers reminds us that design of a useful information system requires a deep understanding of users and their social context. We cannot assume people will want our information, even if we know they need our information. Behind most failed web sites, intranets and interactive products lie misguided models of users and their information-seeking behavior. Users are complex. Users are social. And so is informaton.

.....................

You could find worse uses for $19.77 than getting your own copy of "Ambient Findability."

September 17, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Official bookofjoe™ Cutting Board

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Designed by Mark Sanders and selected for the Museum of Modern Art's Collection.

"Chop foods on this multi-purpose cutting board and then fold it into a chute to transfer ingredients without spills."

Made of polypropylene and dishwasher-safe.

15.25"L x 8.75"W x 1.5"D.

Also available in White.

$14.

Quick and dirty bookofjoe alternative, developed out back in the skunk works in Milwaukee when I was a boy: use a paper plate for your cutting surface and get the same result.

Bonus: No board to wash when you're done slicing, dicing and julienning.

September 17, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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