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February 21, 2010

Michael Swaine: He sews real good for free


It's amazing what putting a sewing machine in a public place can do.

Here's Serge Debrebant's wonderful "First Person: Michael Swaine" feature from the January 30, 2010 Financial Times.

Above, Swaine and his machine.


First Person: Michael Swaine

I’ve always liked clothes that had a life before me. Most kids hate having to wear hand-me-downs, but I was different. I thought my brothers’ trousers were cool. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I’ve been mending people’s clothes for free for nine years now. Every 15th of the month, I set up my self-made sewing cart at a corner in San Francisco and hem trousers, patch jackets and sew on buttons.

It all started when I found an old treadle sewing machine lying on the sidewalk in a well-to-do neighbourhood. I’m a ceramics artist, but I was also into sewing. I got excited immediately, put the machine in my truck and took it to my studio – as it turned out, all it needed to work was a new belt.

In 2001, a San Francisco art college invited me to take part in an exhibition about generosity. I bought some wheels, metal frames and fabric and built a sort of ice-cream cart, except that it had the old sewing machine on it. I also added an umbrella and a neon sign with the blinking word “sew”. 

For a week, I pushed the cart through the city. In addition to normal clothes that people asked me to mend, I fixed a kneepad for a dancer and a sleeping bag for a homeless man. And I talked to them. Sewing, it turned out, was the perfect entry point for conversations.

Then the Luggage Store, a non-profit arts organisation, asked me to set up my sewing cart in the Tenderloin, a rough area with drugs, street crime and prostitution. Occasionally, I would watch drug deals go down. Once, a guy ran by, put something under a van in front of me and ran away. When the police came and reached under the car, they found a gun. It was a scary moment. But apart from that, I like the Tenderloin and feel safe. It’s one of the liveliest areas in the city and certainly the one with the best food.

But it wasn’t easy at first. People were suspicious of me – until some of those same people remembered that they had some trousers that needed fixing and ran off to get them. And Tony, a big, friendly guy who is a sort of unofficial mayor of the block, was so happy with my work that he started telling people about me. Slowly, I built trust.

I wouldn’t have kept up with this project for so many years if it wasn’t for the people. Mending time is story time. It’s amazing how many honest conversations I have had with strangers who would normally just walk on by: a street kid with a broken backpack, a man with the jacket of his best friend who had passed away, a woman whose daughter was pregnant and who wanted a sweater altered to fit a big belly.

I started my mending as an art project, but today it’s something different. My cart has created a little community. For a while, I gave sewing lessons to Antoine, a neighbourhood kid. Merlin, a musician, joined us and played the violin, and Eric made coffee. One day, a businessman, a homeless man and a minister stood in front of my cart and discussed their memories of sewing machines. It was one of these beautiful little moments that reminded me that we are all from the same thread.

My most loyal client is Veronica, a woman in her thirties. She comes every month with a big bag of clothes. Once she brought along a newspaper photo of Jackie Onassis, her fashion favourite, wearing a fur-trimmed jacket. Veronica wanted to imitate her outfit and asked me to sew fake fur on to the hood of her pink velour jacket. I did my best.

One day she said, “I really like coming here because you listen to me.” I looked at her pile of clothes, and it hit me. Sure, she needed clothes mended, but more, she needed someone to talk to. 

February 21, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

February 21, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Even a TechnoDolt™ thinks up something useful every now and then


Reading Kit Eaton's February 19, 2010 Fast Company story about possible upcoming Apple products with near-field wireless syncing capability (NFC), I couldn't help but recall something I read two years ago in some TechnoDolt™'s blog about using the iPhone itself as a click-in-and-out touchpad for Apple computers.

That doofus wrote, "There's no reason whatsever for the iPhone's future iterations not to simply click into a dock in the keyboard section of a Mac laptop and be the computer. In fact, what with the convergence of the iPhone's touchscreen and the new MacBook Air's touchpad, there's really no reason not to simply use the iPhone's screen as the future computer's touchpad once it's locked in place."

Just goes to show how any idiot with a keyboard and a screen can put stuff out there.

The fool concluded, "Sure hope this doesn't cause Apple's formidable team of patent/copyright/trademark lawyerbots to come pouring out of their Cupertino hideyhole."

Lucky for me I'm not even visible on the big screen, so the legal eagles stayed put and did other stuff.

For example, as detailed by Patently Apple, "In November 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that revealed various concepts behind a newly advanced application in development code named Grab & Go. The new application discussed in the November patent would allow users who live in the fast lane to transfer data quickly between devices like their desktop and iPod by simply tapping their iPod against an iMac, for example."

February 21, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rainbow in your hand — by Masashi Kawamura

From the website : "This book started as a personal project in summer 2007, and was soon published by the Japanese bookstore "Utrecht." It's a flipbook but rather than animation, it creates a 3-D rainbow in your hand. Since being published, it has been featured on Japanese TV, newspapers, major news sources & blogsites like Yahoo News, Coolhunting and fffffound. This book won this year's NY ADC silver cube."


[via Milena]

February 21, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Meet Takahiro Omori, Japan's greatest bass fisherman


How good is Omori (above)?

He won the Bassmasters Classic in 2004, becoming the first foreigner ever to capture the title.

Here's Ray Glier's February 19, 2010 New York Times Sports section article with the amazing back story about how this determined man achieved his dream.


Bass Fishing Tour Is a Life Journey for Takahiro Omori

The rap of knuckles on the car window could come at any time of the night. A hotel security guard would discover Takahiro Omori asleep in the back seat of the worn Chevrolet Suburban and there was no sympathy for an angler in a pinch.

“They said, ‘Can’t sleep here, go,’ ” Omori said. “Sometimes, in the country towns, they are also fishermen and they let me stay in parking lot.”

For three years, from 1993 to 1995, Omori would try to dodge security guards or the local police in hotel or shopping center lots, which was a challenge because it was difficult to be discreet while pulling a bass boat. He had come from Japan without sponsors and without the blessing and support of his family, trying to survive on the professional bass fishing tour. Often he did not have enough money to cover the fee to stay at a campground.

Last weekend, as Omori stood on the deck of his boat on Lay Lake here in a 30-degree chill, weather more suitable for ice fishing than bass fishing, he did not have to explain more than once how he could bear the cold.

“I can do nothing else but be the professional angler,” he said. “I want to do nothing else.

“I came from nothing and I do not want to go back to nothing. It took me so long to get here that I want to stay, so I practice. This cold is not that difficult.”

Omori, 39, will be one of 51 competitors in the $500,000 first-prize Bassmasters Classic, which starts Friday. ESPN is televising the three-day event. Omori, who won the Classic in 2004, was the first foreign champion, and his goal is to win this year’s Classic and begin a march toward the angler of the year title.

It is impossible to distract Omori from his goal because he insists he has no options beyond fishing. For the first hour of a nine-hour practice this week, Omori discussed fishing as if it were a tyranny over him.

“I have to stay out here and find the fish,” he said. “My father worked the same job for 40 years — 40 years! Boring. I escaped. What else in life is there than this?”

But as the day progressed, the satisfaction of what he does for a living washed over Omori and the pressure seemed to ease. The bass, lethargic in the 40-degree water, were not biting, but he enthusiastically used his fishing rod as a flipping stick to get under the brush and along the shoreline and in possible nests of bass.

While trolling along a bank, he spotted the small holes made by crayfish. He took his foot off the trolling motor and flipped his plastic bait in the water below the holes. The bass know where to find a 24-hour diner.

Omori is a power fisherman who uses a braided line to fish into the shallows, and has skills that have helped him finish in the top 10 in 34 tournaments. He has secured sponsors like Ranger Boats, Yamaha and Daiwa, the reel maker, so he no longer has to cook his rice in the Suburban.

Omori’s devotion to the sport is remarkable even to veterans who are similarly devoted. Kevin Wirth, who has been on the bass tour for 16 years, said he remembered a time when Omori would fail to make the cut at some tournaments, and then get a news media pass and a boat and follow around Rick Clunn, one of the sport’s icons.

“He would take pictures of everything Clunn did, every bait, every technique, and Tak would take notes, and go home and study the notes and the pictures,” Wirth said.

“I don’t know if he actually had a Japanese fishing magazine to work for, but it shows how much he is a student of the game. He doesn’t want a family; he just wants to fish tournaments. ”

Omori has made approximately $1.2 million on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Tour, which enabled him to buy a house in Emory, Tex. The house has a pool; Omori does not swim in it.

“It is my test tank,” he said. “I like to see how different lures behave in the water. I put some fish in, but they die.”

Omori still sleeps in his vehicle on the tour, but these days it is a motor home. His room this week at the full-service hotel in Birmingham is paid for by the tour, and even with temperatures in the 20s, he asked to be allowed to stay in his motor home by the lake, but he was turned down.

The cold reminds Omori of being huddled in the back of his Suburban sleeping. He was so accustomed to it that when he would first stir in the morning, he could tell if the sky was clear or cloudy without looking.

Omori shrugs at the cold now, and he shrugs at the solitary nature of his life. He has friends on the tour, like Wirth, but mostly he skips along the water oblivious to most things above the water because he is focused on what is going on below.

Omori was asked if he knew what day it was. He did not and was told it was Valentine's Day.

“Oh, that’s right, it is,” he said. Then he turned back to the water and peered down, focusing on the one thing that is important to him.

February 21, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

CD Kiss


"Prevents scratched CDs resulting from simply leaving them on the desk or work surface."

Red, Green, Blue or Black aluminium.



February 21, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Candy Button Paper — Three Schools of Thought


Boy, does this bring back memories....

I loved this stuff.

February 21, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



"The Flopclock is a timepiece which appears to be peeling off the wall it's attached to."



February 21, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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