Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Old Man ...

... doesn't mess around with Knick-knack-paddywack.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jolly Old Saint Prick

Christmas Eve.  I grew up with no Jews around so I never thought to call the holidays anything but Christmas even though I didn't think about Christ on the day after I was six.  Merry Christmas.  Sounds nice.  Comforting.  All this Festivus shite is exactly that.  Shite.  More made up shit.  I'm not bagging on Kwaanza.  I went to a celebration a couple of years ago and it was touching.  I try to say nothing but Happy Holidays these days.  In my mind that means Christmas and New Year's rolled into one, but I'm coming to an understanding that the world is wide open and there are many iterations of the winter holidays occurring near the Solstice.
I've spent many a Christmas Eve in bars around the world.  And in a Midnight Mass or two.  I've shacked up with Jewish girls that had Christmas trees in their New York apartments.  And once when I was stranded on a layover there was another old girlfriend that was a non-Christmas observing member of the tribe that picked me up from the airport.  We drove around San Francisco taking pictures of empty laundromats and walking around the streets of the Mission that were quiet for once.
I have kids now, so there's a tree in the living room and some stockings hanging above the hearth.  There's a big stack of presents in the garage that I wrapped a week ago from Santa.  Tonight we'll put out some cookies and milk for the fat man.  We'll read The Night Before Christmas.  We'll eat bagels and lox tomorrow morning and open presents one at a time, going around the room until every gift has been received.  It will take a long time.  We won't talk about Jesus.  We will say thank you several times and express our gratitude for more than the gifts we open.  We'll eat roast duck as has become our family tradition.  I'll assemble some toys in between skimming some of the books I'm likely to receive. Later I'll watch some basketball.  The Blazers are playing.
Christmas hasn't always been a holiday that I've cherished or celebrated with joy and reverence.  I had some disappointing ones as a kid.  Jokey cards from convenience stores containing IOUs.  Drunkenness.  Violence.  Stark reminders that all was far from well.
I've experienced a few odd ones.  Like the time I was stranded in an apartment in Germany with a drunk Klansman from Missouri.  It was my German girlfriend's place.  Petra was a student at the local art college.  She was away with her family, but let me stay there to get out of the barracks over the holiday.  The redneck came with some friends that stopped by earlier and stayed behind when they left for some reason.  The other guys were supposed to come back but there was a snow storm or something.  In between telling me maudlin bigoted stories, he suggested that we put on Petra's underwear and just lounge about in them.  It would be funny, he said.  Finally, to shut him up about it, I let him call his family on her phone and listened to him blubber about missing them so.  When the beer was gone I drank a bottle of Jagermeister that she had under the sink.  It was the old style, regular shaped clear bottle with a hunter on the label.  This was long before it became a craze in the U.S. and as far I'm concerned it should have stayed under the sink.
I'm never lonely on Christmas anymore.  I don't talk to any of my friends.  Or even think about them much.  Some of it is having a family of my own that demands my attention.  And the other is having four hundred of them just a few taps of my iPhone screen away.  Facebook has taken a lot of the mystery and the romance out of old friendships.  Reading holiday greetings in the form of status updates prompted some frustrated feelings in me earlier today.  The festivus shite.  But also the attempt at warmth through such a cold medium.  Doesn't feel right somehow.  Every time I hear the text alert on my phone I dread one of those mass holiday greeting texts.  They make me feel lonely.
We went to the Nutcracker last night.  Thankfully most people still dress up for it.  My son was relieved he didn't wear a tie for nothing.  He told me he thought it was going to be like when we went to the White House, that we would be the only family dressed formally, as he calls it.  I tried to explain that we were dressed almost casually in comparison to dress a hundred years ago.  I was thinking while watching the dancers that such a spectacle is less profound when we carry portals to almost every imaginable visual stimulation in our pockets.  It isn't the same as a living breathing company of ballerinas twirling and leaping to a live orchestra on a beautiful designed stage, but it does diminish it a bit.  I don't want it to, but it does somehow.
My children are excited to get a bunch of gifts and spend a couple of days with both mommy and daddy home.  It's a special time for them and I'm glad to be a part of it.  It's how I feel about most things religious; why do you have to make such a big deal out of things?  The Natural World is amazing; do we really need to attribute it to God whipping it all up in a week?  Talk about diminishment.  Did we really need to invent this whole babe in a manger hoohaw just to get people to stop all the regular life stuff and have a feast and share some gifts?  We do need tradition and ritual in our lives and I do suppose I've oversimplified things.
Anyway, I just needed to ramble a bit.  Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Les Dragsters

I couldn't imbed this awesome video that Ray Gordon shared with me for whatever reason.  Tous jaillissent, le link ést icí.  Appreciéz si´l vous plaît.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Art Therapy

This guy in Upstate NY was brain damaged in a bar fight a few years back.  He built a miniature fictitious WWII era town called Marwencol in his backyard populated by figures representing people from his life and his imagination. He took pictures of his scenes like the one above.  His photographs were discovered by a NYC gallery which led to a documentary film.  Marwencol the film is supposed to be damn good.  Sounds it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time Marches On

The projects I've yet to finish were filmed longer and longer ago.  Honestly the only progress I've made of late is to not fret about it too much.  I don't like that they're unfinished.  Most involved have moved on.  As have I in many respects.  It feels pretty crappy to have such big projects that so many invested so much time, energy and good feelings into go neglected.
I've picked up the ball and tried to move toward the goal line only to fumble it so many times over the past few years.  I'm lacking the heart to pick it up again.  I try once in a while, but something invariably comes up.  I'm weary of bugging people.  Unanswered phone calls.  Canceled meetings.  I'm not really blaming anybody.  I understand it's the nature of such a project.  I enjoyed some of the process and learned some things along the way.  One of which is that I don't want to go through something like that again.
Time may well be marching on, but the nagging feeling I have about Dangerous Writing in particular is not likely to go away until I manage to see it through.  Even though it seems there's no joy left in it for me, I am committed which is why I'm putting it out there again.
But why is it that I would rather go the dentist than do the remaining work on this worthy little film?  Can it be that when it's finished it can be judged?  Or that it may be a final reminder that I failed as a filmmaker?  I'm both terrified and bored by such questions.  Moving on is what I would like to continue to do.  Unfortunately, there's only two ways to do it - finish the films or don't finish the films.  I don't seem to truly want to do the work to accomplish the former and I can't bring myself to accept the latter.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Shoe Dog

I love the Brannock Device.  So simple yet I've always approached the Brannock as if not just anybody is qualified to operate it.  I worked as a shoe dog for a bit back in the 80s when I was 20 and 21.  Started at JC Penney and then moved up to Nordstrom.  Though we had a few Brannock's around, we generally took the customer's word on their size.  I was never able to look at a person's feet and know their shoe size, thankfully I didn't sell shoes long enough to acquire that power.  There was a man at JC Penney called Mike that had been selling shoes for over twenty-five years.  Mike could do such things.  I remembered him from when my parents took me to get shoes when I was a kid.  He liked that I remembered him until I started outselling him and then moved on to Nordstrom.
Actually, initially I worked in Men's Sportswear at Nordstrom and that was much easier than selling shoes.  Stand around the sales floor folding a few lambswool v-necks until someone needs your help.  After a few months I took a job as the assistant manager of the Annual Shoe Sale.  That wasn't really selling as much as organizing.  After the sale, I was fed up with retail and worked as a bike messenger for a while.  Then I moved to San Francisco and after a lousy couple of weeks as a messenger there, I got a job doing window displays at Macy's.  For a short while I went back to Nordstrom's at San Francisco Center.  My girlfriend at the time worked there and Macy's had laid me off while the Holiday decorations were up.  Nordstrom offered me a full-time job after the holidays and the half-yearly sale, but I told them I had to go back to Macy's.  Though I never did go back to Macy's for more than a couple of days here and there.  The next few months I was poorer than poor.  Man.  It was bleak.  My girlfriend moved out and took the bed with her.  My friend moved in but he didn't have any furniture nor any money.  We slept on wadded up clothes.  We walked all over the city or sat around our empty apartment reading books and listening to punk records, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea.  We found a case of MJB coffee packets in a dumpster and took a break from tea.  We didn't eat much.  Top Ramen.  We got really skinny.  But we always paid our rent and our bills on time.  I started working in nightclubs around that time and eventually started living right again. 
I never worked in retail again.  I probably wouldn't mind it.  I was always good at selling, earning top commissions in my department.  Never pushy,  just attentive, suggesting things that I honestly thought would be something the person might like.  I doubt I would want to sell shoes again, though I notice that, in general, shoe salesmen don't provide the service they once did.  It's rare that they'll slip the shoe on your foot anymore.  That's how we did it.  Up and down, back to the store room, up and down some more.  Stacking the boxes and restocking them.  It was serious work being a shoe dog, an appellation in which we took pride.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flat Track Saturday Night

I'm producing a photography show for Ray Gordon called Throttle that's going up at W+K in February.  We went down to the State Fairgrounds in Salem last night to see the indoor flat track races and get some images.  Mine is the camera behind the camera.  You'll have to wait until next year to see what Ray grabbed.
It was cold and loud.  I was impressed by the speed and bravado of some of the top riders.  I liked many of the vintage and custom bikes.  I was charmed by the little kids and the women, even though admittedly most of them could out ride me.  Even the abundant and garish Moto-X Fox apparel had its appeal.   The crowd was very mixed and visually interesting.  Big Saturday night.  That's three big Saturdays in a row for me.  The Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui two weeks ago.  Last weekend it was poker with some of Portland's political elite and this week it was dirt bikes with a bunch of gearheads and rednecks.

Mugs & Mirrors

The Tedious Genius

The only Orson Welles film that I like is Touch of Evil.  I love the Third Man, but Carol Reed directed it.  Citizen Kane – oh, I see its profound merits, but I could take it or leave it to be honest.  Orson Welles doesn't really have my admiration.  I find him mostly sad and his relentless commitment to his own ideas is mind-numbing and leaves me cold.  But this photo is a beauty.  I find Welles the most charismatic when he's frozen in singular moments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh Yeah, Happy Veteran's Day ...

... to me!  I'm a veteran of the Cold War.  The longest war in American history, spanning seven US Presidents.  Ronnie Reagan was my commander-in-chief.  While you were sitting around back here in the homeland listening to Dire Straits and Steve Winwood, I was one of the soldiers waiting to defend the Fulda Gap from an invasion of Soviet tanks.  And now the only thanks I get is a consistently incredulous, "You were in the Army?"  Yes, I was and I served with pride.
I did, actually, and though I was being a bit cheeky above, the threat from the Soviets felt very real at times.  Seems long ago and almost totally irrelevant now, but it was a wonderful time in my life.  One of the best things I have done for myself.  While half of my friends were at the The University of Oregon, a slightly more enhanced version of high school, and the other half were safely cocooned in elite institutions of higher learning around the country, I was learning a technical job in addition to being a soldier alongside young guys from all over the country and its possessions serving under men that had fought in Vietnam.  I spent my weekends in Paris, Berlin, Munich, Venice and many other cities.  I skied the Alps.  I drove my Mercedes on the Autobahn daily.  I dated women from all over Europe aged 16-30.  And for just two years of my life, that was hardly a prison sentence as I've outlined, I received almost $30,000 for college.  In the early 90s, that paid for two years at a private school or four plus living expenses at a public university.
Since 9/11 and the mockery of all that we've been doing in the Middle East, I'm a lot less patriotic than I once was.  But there was a time that I put a mean spit shine on my boots and a starched crease in my BDUs.  As I stood at attention holding a salute at reveille each morning, I did so with intense pride.

Tasseled Loafers and a Flashback to 1993

The Alden tasseled loafer.  A classic that's been around long before 1993.  Though that's when this NY Times article was written about the politicization of the shoe.  It renders that moment in time rather quaint.
In '93, I was in college wearing black suede Pumas or a pair of Red Wing work boots that I still have and wear.  I'm sure I had at least a few more pairs of shoes than that, but it certainly was a time that I traveled much lighter.
I didn't wear these things in '93 nor any at other time in my life. The closest I had was a cordovan kiltie loafer that I bought at a thrift store in the 80s.  Though I don't recall wearing them much.  Anyway, like many men's shoes, the tasseled loafer exists in a sort of no man's land for me.  They're traditional, but not classic.  Truth be told, I don't really like any men's dress shoe without a heavier brogue sole.  A running board they used to call it.  Otherwise they look too dainty, especially on anything over a size 11.  Slightly effeminate without taking too much risk.  Middle of the road and ho-hum.
They really do look like the perfect shoe for legions of lawyers in off the rack suits that have too much break in the trouser legs.  Now, if I had nothing but time and money on my hands, I might consider this shoe with a bold plaid cuffed trouser worn just a little short with no break.  Maybe a fine pair of bright yellow socks, like the pair I bought at Harrod's over ten years ago that still look brand new.  I could see sitting at an outside table in the summer, crossing my leg over my knee and letting one of these slightly ridiculous shoes just hang there for all to see, giving them pause to wonder if I'm serious or not.  Were I to wear a short sleeve shirt, they might get the wink and the nod.  Or they might turn and run.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Please Refrain

These phrases make me cringe:  "Get 'er done", "Just sayin'", "Beyotch" and "Really?"  Not cute.  Unoriginal.  Very overused. 
I also realize why soccer will never ever appeal to the lowest common denominator of sports fans in the U.S. – American fans are truly disappointed when every pass isn't a touchdown, every swing of the bat isn't a homerun and every shot doesn't go in the basket with an and-one.  Last night at a Blazer game I could hear a collective groan after the visiting team scored in spite of rabid chants of "De-fense".  This apparent disappointment less than ten games into a long season in a game that the Blazers led by ten or more points for much of the game.  I can understand having a visceral response to the other team scoring when the game is on the line, but to be disappointed whenever the opponent scores is troubling.  The lowest a team has scored in a single NBA game in the past fifty years is 49, the lowest season long average is about 82. 
Really, sports fans?   Do you really think an NBA team isn't going to score?  Really!?!  They're the best players in the world.  They go out every night and get 'er done, beyotchJust sayin'.
Unfortunately, writing that has just caused me to shiver in shame is all to common in the snarky cool cultural garbage bins of social media and the blogosphere.
I need to go take a shower now.

Friday, November 05, 2010


"Sometimes nuthin can be a real cool hand."

Rising Sun

Oh so 80s ... oh so 40s ... oh so Meiji Restoration ... oh so Karate Kid ...

The military flag of the Imperial Navy was banned at the end of WWII only to become le graphique de rigueur of New Wave fashion.

I love that I see it on tee shirts from the 80s and in the Pacific Theater war movies with which I've lately been obsessed.  I'm not so keen on its use in the Karate Kid promos.

What an amazing graphic.  Flags are awesome.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pictures of the Floating World

This is a nineteenth century Japanese woodcut of the green grocer's arsonist daughter, Oshichi, by Utugawa.  Oshichi is character from the Edo period in the seventeenth century.  Legend has it that she fell in love with a temple page she met during a fire and started another fire thinking she would see her love again.  She was caught and burned at the stake.
It's from the Library of Congress collection of pre-1915 woodprints.  One could do a very beautiful blog reposting images from any one of the LOC's collections.  The WPA/Dorothea Lange stuff is among the most notable, but there are thousands of noteworthy images. 
I love the historical photos, but these Japanese woodcuts really thrill me.  I love the patterns and the use of space.  The term floating world refers to the ethereal topics of the prints.  I wonder if it also refers to the floating images in the composition as well.  I will try to do some research.  I remember learning a bit about these in Art History, but the focus seemed to be more on their influence on Modern painters such as Cezanne, Matisse and van Gogh.  I don't know, they didn't turn me on back then as they do now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sawdust Mountain - Eirik Johnson

I came across Eirik Johnson on 20x200.  I think I've said it before, but for so much of my life I wanted nothing to do with the Pacific Northwest.  There was a sign on a North Beach storefront in San Francisco when I lived there in the late 80s and early 90s that read "I'm dying to get out of Portland, Oregon".  Every time I saw it, I read it with the joy of someone that feels as if he is finally in the presence of someone who understands. Oregon offered me nothing, worse than nothing actually, as far as I was concerned.
My attitude started to change about twelve years ago, coinciding with the death of my mother – gee, I wonder if there's a connection.  Since returning to live here about six years back, my appreciation for my roots has continued to grow.
Seeing collections of photographs like Johnson's hits me in various ways – simply as nostalgia and as affirmation of my feelings of displacement.  I am attracted to the charm exuding from these landscapes and portraits, feeling both an appreciation of their vintage as well a deep familiarity with their subjects.  At the same time I'm reminded of my feelings of never feeling a part of this place.  Which at this point in my life is more of an affirmation than estrangement.  I really felt like I didn't belong and these photographs confirm that perhaps I didn't, but I was here nonetheless.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I just did this on my phone.  Not sure if it's the name of my new blog.  Or if I'll use it in any way, but it's very cool to have a tool like this.

Here are a few other quick drawings I've done getting familiar with the app.  I'm not sure why I would be hesitant to share as I wrote in my last post.


This blog is cool.  I've been using the same drawing app on my iPhone for a couple of days.  It's a lot of fun.  Not quite ready to share any of my drawings, let alone start a blog of them, but I'm enjoying it.  It's made start to see the world in ways that I haven't for a long while.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Geronimo - What You Think You Know

When I hear this man's name it sounds so familiar that I am certain I must know a lot about him.  But the truth is I do not.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sore Fingertips

I read in the past few days that ninety-some percent of the sewing in couture garments is done by hand.  That knowledge combined with my appreciation of sashiko and a hole in my favorite jeans has led to very sore fingers from hours of pulling and pushing a needle and thread over the past couple days.  What have I gotten myself into now?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


A Japanese hand-stitching technique traditionally used by fisherman and farmers to repair holes in fabric.  Also used decoratively as embroidery and for quilting.  So beautiful and meditative.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The White House

For the past couple of months I've been in communication with my Member of Congress trying to arrange for a tour of the White House for my family during our trip to Baltimore and Washington.  I've been anticipating it with some anxious fervor I must admit.  Our scheduled time was at 8am today.  We got up very early, made even more difficult by the fact that we haven't adjusted to this time zone.  Normally a three hour difference isn't a big deal, but with small children it's an issue.  My son and and I wore ties, he in a blazer and me in a suit.  The ladies wore dresses and pretty shoes.  We ate breakfast at our hotel and arrived about a half hour early.  It was important to me to not be harried and especially to not be that American family on vacation in togs that I would not wear to mow my lawn.  We weren't the only family to take some care with our dress, but we were in the minority to be sure.   In and around the White House people took notice of us.  There didn't seem to be any judgment, but it struck me that a family dressed semi-formally is so outside of the norm.
The tour itself was fine.  Limited to the social areas of the East Wing, there was much talk of wallpaper, chandeliers and paintings.  It was all very beautiful and if I tuned into C-Span more often I would probably recognize the rooms we visited more readily.  Our guide was a Secret Service agent that was very articulate and took great pride in his presentation.  I was a history major in college and have always had a fascination with the Presidents.  His many anecdotes were familiar and I enjoyed seeing all the original paintings.  All but George Washington lived there over the years.  (Washington was instrumental is the design and location of the residence however.)  Yet, it seemed more museum like than haunted with their presences.  I didn't really get the sense of the many great men and women that have lived and visited the White House.   Maybe it was the ropes cordoning off all but passageways through the rooms and the many tourists, orderly but numerous.
I was impressed by the view of the south lawn from the Blue Room, the oval room whose shape is said to be suggested by George Washington so that no one could hide in its corners and the model for the Oval Office in the West Wing.  We exited out the main door under the north portico.   I had a feeling of elation as we did so and also an exhale of all the expectancy and anxiety I've been experiencing.  Because of all the anticipation this is likely one of those experiences that will reveal itself to me over time.  I've learned not to be too critical of my adventures that were fraught with angst as they approached.  That written, I realize that I was present for our visit, so there's an even better chance that the experience will unravel for me over time.
Or perhaps it was no big deal and I'm just hopelessly middle-class.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Charm City

We're in Baltimore this weekend and it's incredibly difficult not to be on the lookout for characters from The Wire. Then I recall that many of them were killed in action and then I sort of remember that it was all a fiction.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

MCM - Mid-Century Maniac

Neal Cassady

From the Toil of the Hand - Bleeding Madras

 The following is something I found buried on Land's End's website.

This essay appeared in the January 1989 issue of our catalog. Venture with us to the heart of India, where the ancient tradition of handweaving cool, cotton Madras plaids continues... as we approach the 21st century.


Madras. Beauty from the toil of the hand.

By Don Carlsen
In all the world, there are but precious few handwoven fabrics left. Our Lands' End Madras is one of them. And photographer Archie Lieberman and I flew halfway around the world (after being "shot" with most every antibody known to man) to bring you the story of how it's made, and the people who make it. Madras (the city) lies approximately 10,000 miles east and west of Dodgeville, and 12 degrees north of the equator, in southeastern India, on the Bay of Bengal. It's the capital of the federal state of Tamil Nadu, which is nearly the size of Wisconsin, and has been the center for the handweaving of cloth in India ever since there has been cloth woven there.
The first Madras fabrics.
Cloth historians (a "lot" very difficult to pin down) say that the first cloth handwoven in (or near) Madras was made of yarn spun from the tip-skin of ancient trees, and was called "karvelem patta". Many centuries later, about 3,000 B.C., Madras cotton assumed its rightful place as king, and bore the name "gada". Sometime during the 12th century, gada, not adorned with a stripe, or stripes, caught the fancy of Africa and the Middle East, and was exported to these lands to be made into headpieces. And, in the 1500's, a much refined Madras cotton was first block-printed by hand with floral or temple designs, and became the traditional garb of Madras villagers until plaids came into vogue in the 1800's.
The Scottish connection.
Many people I talked to in Madras said that we have the Scots to thank for today's beautiful plaids. (Or "checks", as all of India calls them.) They believe that the native handweavers simply copied (with some modifications) the tartan patterns worn by the Scottish regiments that occupied southern India in the 1800's. And, certainly if you whip out one of our catalogs, and compare our authentic Madras plaids and our authentic tartan plaids, you will see a striking similarity. Also, the basic and traditional colors of both plaids are much the same: blues, reds, yellows, browns, greens and whites.
If ever I was in mortal peril in India, it was on the road to and from Panapakam, where drivers put the pedal to the metal, and pass at will, with fearless disregard for the people, cows, bullock carts and other vehicles coming from the opposite direction. I can't begin to tell you how many close calls we had, but I can tell you that I feel lucky to still be on this planet. (Or, was it just dumb karma?)
Remember bleeding Madras?
The bleeding Madras fad of the 1950's and '60's, brought the world's attention to Madras, both the cloth and the city. And in the cloth's heyday, over 150,000 new plaid patterns were fashioned, using homemade vegetable dyes that bled, ran and blended to create a stunning effect. ("Cool" was the word we used, way back then.) Today, of course, Madras no longer bleeds, because it is dyed with man-made, color-fast dyes.
But this, really, is the only difference, between then and now, in the making of the cloth.
The making of Madras.
Madras is hand-dyed, hand-warped, hand-woven and hand-finished in almost 200 tiny Tamil Naduan villages. And all these precious, time-honored crafts are encouraged and protected by the government of India, which should make hand-weaving buffs the world over sleep easier for years to come.
First, the cotton.
The chief variety of cotton used to make our Madras yarn is "Varalashmi", and it is grown all over Tamil Nadu. It has a very short staple — 1" to 1.25" long. And it is very soft and fragile. So much so, that if combed, it most likely will break. Consequently, after ginning the cotton to remove the seeds and dirt, it can only be carded before being spun into yarn.
Lack of combing gives our Madras cloth one of its more distinguishing and charming features: slubs. "What are 'they'?," you ask, uneasily. They're "bumps," tiny thickenings in the yarn that endow our shirts with an unexpected texture and character. And, along with slight misweaves, are a signal to the world that our Lands' End shirt has been truly and authentically made of cloth handwoven in Madras.
More about yarn.
While I am on the subject of yarn, it seems only right to mention that we specify a higher count for our shirts than most others do: 80 very fine "60's singles" yarns to the inch in the warp (the length) and 80 fine "40's singles" to the inch in the weft (the width). (Lesser shirts usually have but 60 "40's singles" to the inch, in both directions.) Our higher Lands' End count "packs" the fabric, and makes it sturdier, while also giving it a softer hand.
On the road to Panapakam: the story begins, and almost ends!
Panapakam is the village we visited, for three days running, to watch the dyeing, warping and weaving operations. It is about 40 kilometers southwest of Madras, has a population just slightly smaller than Dodgeville's, and like Dodgeville, is situated in the middle of farm fields. (Maize, sugar cane and cotton.)
Our Madras yarn may be dyed with the latest, commercial, color-fast dyes, but it's still dyed the ancient, time-honored way: by hand and by eye, by the hank. I watched as Sundram, a venerable masterdyer in the village of Panapakam, worked on a shady, smoke-filled patio at the rear of his house. The smoke came from a pungent wood that fired a vat of steaming spring water. Sundram first dipped water from it into a container. Then, he added and mixed salt, soda, fixing agents and, finally, the dye — an indigo. When he judged that the color of the mixture was right, he dipped a pure, white hank of yarn into it, over and over again, and as the yarn "took" the dye....
It bloomed into a beautiful, pale, pastel-blue!
With obvious pride, Sundram held the dyed hank in the sunlight, and showed me how perfectly it matched the hanks he'd already dyed. Dyeing is a skilled craft, perhaps even an art. And, in Sundram's family, the "how to" of it had been passed down from father to son, for several hundred years. Sundram told me that when he was younger, he had made vegetable dyes the ancient way: from indigo, thathiripoo flowers, alampha bark, rice skin and various roots. And, he'd mixed them in earthenware pots made by his wife. Before we left, he found a pot in his attic, for us to look over.
On the road again.
The next day, we arrived in Panapakam at dawn, and watched a warp being made in the coolness of a grove of tamarind trees. Warps are always made in the early morning, in Panapakam, and usually in the shade, because hot sunlight will fade the warp yarns. The warpers first set up a bamboo warp frame, then attached dyed "60's" yarn, a strand at a time, to the beam at the foot of the frame, then "walked" it 60 feet to the head of the frame, and sleyed it in one of two reeds there.
No way will the warpers beat the sun, I thought.
Honestly, I didn't see how they'd make it. Our pattern called for a 50-inch wide warp, with 80 yarns to the inch. According to my math, that meant 4,000 yarns would have to be "walked" from one end of the warp frame to the other, before the sun grew hot. No way!
But by 10 AM, the warp was finished.
Then it was inspected, and frayed yarns were replaced, and broken yarns were tied with weaver's knots. Next, starch sizing was slung on the warp yarns with bristly brushes, and burnished with bamboo sticks, to give them a smooth, even finish for weaving. And finally, the warpers tied off the yarns by colors, rolled then up on the beam, and carried it to the master weaver's cottage. Warping is arduous, painstaking handwork. But in Panapakam, it is work that is done with care, and poise and dignity. And these are qualities that most certainly show up in the Madras shirts on the pages of our catalog.
"Time out!"
At this time, after spending two days in Panapakam, I was beginning to feel that it and Dodgeville could almost be "sister villages". Both are neat, clean and sit smack in the middle of farm fields. And the people of Panapakam, like the people of Dodgeville, are country folks: straightforward, helpful, friendly. There are more similarities, too. They take what I'd call a simple, Midwestern kind of a pride in their work. And they spend their afterwork time with their families, or playing cards or talking with the neighbors, while the children play. I remember leaving Sundram's house that first evening, just as the sun was setting softly on the fields. Spices and cooking smells were in the air, because it was supper time. And the streets were quiet, peaceful — just like they are in Dodgeville, after a long day of hard work.
The weaver's trade.
The following morning, we went back to Panapakam, to watch the handweaving of our cloth. And Mudaliar, a tall, thin bespectacled man of about 40, was the masterweaver I interviewed. He lived in a small, whitewashed brick cottage, among a cluster of brick cottages that all had handlooms built right into the foundation, benches and all. The size of Mudaliar's wooden loom surprised me. It was huge: about 12 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet high. And he told me, proudly, that his grandfather had built it from scratch. When we had first walked into the weaving room, I had noted that the loom had already been dressed with the warp that we had seen being made in the grove of tamarind trees. And, as I watched now, Mudaliar spread water on the yarns with a wet cloth to make them more "workable." Then, he sat down on the bench, put the first shuttle into place....
And he began weaving.
It was my first look at handweaving, and I was fascinated. Pushing foot pedals attached to the harness, Mudaliar raised and lowered the warp yarns, while he sent the shuttle flying and weaving through then, with his hands. The room and the cottage were filled with a rhythmic "clack-clack, clack-clack" made by the flying shuttle, and the reed stick packing the yarns. And I watched in wonder as beautiful, colorful cloth for a Lands' End Madras shirt was created, and grew, right before my eyes.
Beauty from the toil of the hand.
Mudaliar and his wife Ammal, taking turns at the loom, wove enough cloth for many Lands' End shirts that day. And I wondered who, in America, would be lucky enough to order one of them.
On to the banks of the Arani!
The next morning, our last in Madras, we traveled north for the first time, to the Arani River: "the washing place." The pure, spring water of the Arani is reputed to give our Madras a special softness and texture, because (as one Madrasan told me), "It lies light in the hand." And I don't know whether it was the power of his suggestion or not, but the water actually did feel unusually light when I held it in my cupped hand.
Fresh, pure, spring water bubbled up, and filled a hole in the dry river bed.
The washers had dug the "washing hole" that morning, and I watched as they spread 25-foot lengths of cloth in the water and let them soak. Then they worked the cloth back and forth with their hands and bare feet, cleaning and finishing it, while they sang.
I sure hoped that Archie's pictures turned out.
After the cloth was washed, it was spread out to dry on the river bank. And at day's end, the bank was totally, colorfully covered with hundreds of lengths of Madras cloth, drying in the hot sun. "Beautiful" was the only word I could think of. And all Archie could say was, "Ahhh", as he shot roll after roll of film.
Goodbye, Madras.
Our assignment in Madras ended as we left the banks of the Arani, knowing that the Madras cloth we'd left drying there would go on to further assignments of its own. More washings. Travel to our shirtmaker in Georgia, for his fine touches. Countless inspections by Lands' End Q.A. folks. And finally, hopefully, delivery to your home, and others, where I know that it will be warmly welcomed, greatly admired and comfortably worn. To be sure.
And, now, if you will allow me a short postscript:
On the plane headed homeward, sometime after midnight, and somewhere over Russia, I started thinking back about what I'd seen on my trip. And, mostly, I thought about the people, and their skill in the making of our Madras cloth. "Making clothing remains essentially an art form." Gary Comer has said. And, maybe, nowhere else on earth is this more true than in Madras. There, I'd seen people dye, warp, weave and finish cloth with their hands, eyes, and hearts, giving it pattern, grace, beauty — and most assuredly, "life". And, I knew that I would think often of these people, who lived and worked in the middle of farm fields, when I was back home working, in the middle of farm fields.

Ranch Truck - Southeastern Oregon

Bandanna Watchband

I made this watchband out of a bandanna scrap this weekend.  It took about five minutes.  For now I just tie it on with a simple knot which is easier to do with one hand than I thought it would be.  It's very light, soft and comfortable.  I've noticed a lot of people checking it out this week.  Nobody has said anything, but I'm not taking that as a bad thing.  I'm sure it's been done before, though I haven't seen anybody else rocking it.  Yet.

Learning to Sew

I made this drawstring bag out of scrap fabric in a sewing class last week.  It was good practice for creating seams, a hem and a buttonhole.  It was also nice to create something tangible and usable within a very short time.  One of my daughters has already claimed it.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Keeping Pace

I mentioned starting a new blog and I continue to explore the possibilities.  One of the things I'm trying to do differently is to slow down and allow myself to be a beginner.  One of the reasons I've been holding off on launching a new blog is to make sure I know what I want to do and to do it at a natural pace.  I really want to launch it fully formed and mature.  Which is completely unrealistic.  So I'm trying to ease my expectations of myself.  And remind myself that I did a good job with Finding Fellini - over a thousand posts over five-plus years with dedicated readers from all over the world.  All without any promotion.  Last year was fairly dormant around the time I first thought it time to move on, but otherwise it's been regularly updated.  I read a lot of blogs and most are not very well maintained.
I have a lot of ideas about the new webblog, which essentially will be a style blog.  I've been reading fashion and style blogs avidly since last spring.  There are many that I like, some that I find overrated and others that seem quite brilliant.  I like the street fashion photo blogs like Street Peeper, which is international, and Urban Weeds, here in Portland.  I want to do some of that.  I already do street casting for photo shoots, which I really enjoy.  But I like to write, so I'm pretty sure that I won't be doing that exclusively.  I'd also like to do it on the road, so some of the people I would feature might not have a clue that they're fashionable at all.  Mister Mort mixes in the unintentionally fashionable in his style blog.  He also mixes it up between street fashion shots and other writing.  One of his stated agendum is to help men develop their style.
Personally I want to steer clear of any teaching.  I think my filmmaking career would have been better off had I resisted the call to teach at least a bit longer and perhaps indefinitely.  No regrets, just want to learn from my experience moving forward.  I want to be very clear about it.  I like teaching and often people suggest that I'm good at it, however I want to make sure that whatever I might teach next comes only after I am well established in my field. 
Anyway, I'm checking things out around the internet, in my own head and a little with my feet and hands.  It's slow moving for a guy like me that usually throws himself into things.  There's a talent to that, but it also comes at a price.  Like spending years on film projects that really should have been finished within a few months or a year at most.  I attribute that to spreading myself too thin, being too keen on the next thing and, of course, plain old fear.
I really like the name Red White and True and I could certainly do that .blogspot or .typepad, but if I wanted my own URL, it's already taken by true.com, a web dating service.  Why they had to snatch up the former, I'm not really sure.  Anyway, red, white and true has the obvious American connotations I embrace, but it's also a nod to the land of the rising sun.  The Japanese are skilled and devoted keepers of the flame of American vintage fashions, of course.  We'll see.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


There's a little town in Cuba that will forever hold my attention.  For three days I was the Pied Piper of Matanzas.  I would have stayed longer had I not met a musician from Havana called Orlando.  I was staying in the private apartment of two sisters and though they had asked that we not bring girls back to their place, one night we did.  What started with the simple intentions of hanging out on the roof with two girls that we met while riding our bicycles, ended with the usual parade of followers, this time in the living room of the two sisters.
Being the head of the snake takes its toll.  Were we in America or Europe or Mexico, the endeavor to hang out on the roof with a couple of young ladies would have been much more discreet.  An invitation to the girls with an explanation that we were staying at someone's apartment and we needed to be mellow would have yielded something along those lines.  Were we with a bigger group, a polite goodbye would have sufficed in breaking off on our own.  Not so in Cuba.  The tail of the snake lingered in the hall outside the apartment, persistently knocking on the door asking to see us.  The sisters would then come to the window and call up to the roof to let us know the others were anxious to know what we were doing.  Then the girls with us got in a screaming match with the sisters.  My girl was very insistent that we meet the next day so I could buy her a new electric fan.  By the end of the night we had to shove people out the door and down the stairs telling them to scram and in some cases hitting them off with a couple of bucks.
Quietly watching all of this from the sofa was Orlando.  He had a great smile.  He was there to play a gig the following day.  He suggested we leave for Havana the morning after that. 
The rest of our time in Matanzas and getting to Havana is another story.  Orlando hooked it up, though not without the usual Cuban shuffle of getting in and out of a few cars and vans.  He took us to a great old house to stay in in Vedado, the nice old residential area of Habana.   We had the whole top floor to ourselves with a terrace and a semi-private entrance for twenty bucks a night.  Orlando introduced us to a woman that lived above the music school where he taught just down the street.  She cooked breakfast everyday and occasionally other meals for three or four of us for the next couple of weeks.  Some of my happiest memories of Cuba were the meals we ate in her kitchen.
Orlando took us to rumba parties where we were the only foreigners.  He showed us hidden places in old Havana.  Not places where Hemingway used to hang out (though I did visit Finca Vigia while in Cuba), but little passageways that seemingly led to nowhere. At the end of which he would knock on a wooden shuttered window.  He'd then ask me for three dollars and hand it off when the window opened.  A few minutes later the window would open and three tiny cardboard boxes packed full of congri were passed from the darkness.  Dinner.  Three bucks for three people.  That's very cheap even by Cuban standards.  Especially for foreigners who are expected to eat only at state-sponsored restaurants where a tasteless hamburger is ten dollars.
But there are great private restaurants run out of the back of apartment buildings and homes all over the city where you can eat well for about three or four dollars per person.  You just have to know how to find them.  And be willing to walk through someone's living room while they're watching television. There are jineteros all over the place trying to hustle you to guide you to places where they get a kickback.  Thankfully we could ignore those annoying bastards.  Orlando introduced us to his best friend and his sister, who were both dancers.  The five of us went all over Habana day and night, usually by bicycle.  Orlando's sister often rode side saddle on the top tube of my bike.  She was the only woman I hung out with in Cuba that didn't ask me for money.  Of course we paid for all of her meals and drinks when we were together as we did for Orlando and Jose.  It seemed only fair - they were always showing us a good time for less money than we would have spent had we not been with them.
The last night we went out to ice cream at a place in Vedado.  It was a celebration.  I wasn't drinking alcohol at the time, but the other three guys were sharing a bottle.  They got a little drunk.  They had bought us little Che Guevara key chains as gifts.  I still have mine.  We walked back to the music school and continued saying our goodbyes.  I ran over to my room to get my Persols to give to Orlando.  He had lost his sunglasses - some cheap pair - earlier in the week.  I think I had the case with me, too.   He and his sister were standing on a staircase just above me.  I passed the sunglasses over the bannister to him.  He was thrilled and put them on immediately.  Then he pushed his sister toward me and told her to kiss me to thank me.  He was drunk and it truly was the only creepy thing he had done the whole time I had known him.  I liked his sister and normally I would have liked to kiss her, but it wasn't right.  She and I exchanged a look that let me know we understood each other.
A few minutes later we all hugged and said our final goodbyes.  A year or so later a friend of mine went down there from New York.  I gave him their addresses and some gifts to take.  He met up with our friend that cooked for us.  She told him that Orlando had gotten out of Cuba and gone to France.  He defected while on tour.  I'm sure he's doing fine wherever he is.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Set at Liberty

I moved offices a couple of months ago, emptying my latest studio of all my film gear.  I'd been there for over two years, almost three.  It was a sublet and my landlord was vacating the building.  Even so, it had been time for me to move on for a while.  As I did so, I noticed that what I really wanted to do was be rid of it all.  Even though I continue to earn a mostly passive income on rentals, that wasn't the thing preventing me from letting it all go.  I dreaded sitting down and categorizing each item to be sold on eBay - too much history.  Too many feelings of grief.  Yes, grief.  I made films for a long time.  And I spent the decade before the decade that I made films wanting to make films.  That's twenty years of an emotional connection to something.  And let me tell you, or remind you if you know something about filmmaking, it's a very consuming endeavor. 
I haven't talked to my father in years.  I don't miss talking to him.  I have given up hope that talking to him can be anything but painful, that the best I could hope for is polite indifference.  Nonetheless, one day he's going to die and when I learn of it, I will be sad with grief.  And that's how I feel about filmmaking - I know we're done with one another and I accept it, but it isn't without some remorse and heartache.
And yet, there is a profound feeling of liberty to be set free from one's own inertia whether it be familial, vocational or otherwise.  This last week I arranged to sell my entire gear package in one go.  I've got a check for half of the agreed upon sale price in my wallet at this moment.  And believe me, I will cash it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Filmmaking Update

Went and watched the almost finished Lumberjack Storytime short that I wrote and directed.  It's an outtake of sorts from our feature film Made Crooked.  It's Tara's story that she tells to get a reaction out of her father and brother about having wanton sex with two burly lumberjacks, which is acted out humorously in costume by Tara, Travis and me.  We shot it in a warehouse, but it looks like it's in a cabin.  I covered the props with foamcore cut to the shape of the original furniture in the cabin, we then projected images of the cabin onto the set.  It was fun to do and I dig the results.  Gave Jordan a few notes on the sound design and we discussed the titles.  We shot it so long ago that we were having trouble remembering who worked on it for the credits.  Moody?  No, we hadn't even met him yet.  Et cetera.  Funny.
It's almost finished and we discussed what to plug away on next.  I wanted to finish another short, but I had to admit that we really need to get back to Dangerous Writing.  It's so damn close.  So tonight's the night.  Expect some updates soon.  Soon as defined by Neal and Jordan that is.  So don't hold your breath, but do count on us to stick with it until the damn things are finished.

True Grit

Love the movie.  For about fifteen years I've been contemplating getting TRUE GRIT tattooed on my knuckles.  Have yet to read the book.  Think I will, but I'll be buying a vintage copy as the latest printing has something to do with the Coen Brothers remake of the 1969 film starring John Wayne and Glen Campbell.  I'm not mad at the Coen Brothers for their remake.  I might even go see it.  And I understand the movie tie-in covers in order to sell more books.  But just from an aesthetic point of view which book would you rather have on your nightstand and, or in your satchel for a week?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get Low

I'm not sure this was the best film I've ever seen, but I enjoyed it.  I'm much more forgiving of matinees in general, as we saw it earlier this afternoon.  There were many long stretches where I was all in, a couple moments where it dragged and some sort of a rush to bringit all to a not so tidy end.  I liked the acting and the much of the story.  Bill Murray always distracts me as most comedians tend to do in dramatic roles.  As charismatic and talented as many of them are, they cannot seem to take on the role as an actor can.  As Robert Duvall can and does in this film.  There are films, more often in supporting roles, that Duvall remains more himself than his character, but Get Low is not one of them.  The kid from Sling Blade was very good.  Sissy Spacek pretty good, too, though her character didn't have that much to do.
The sets and the costumes were amazing.  A lot of period films get the styles well, but the clothes as if they either brand new or in tatters.  I have a pet peeve of seeing the bottom of a pair of shoes propped up on a desk in a film and it's obvious they're straight out of a box never worn outdoors.  Bill Murray's shoes have a hole in them, which is perhaps taking it too far, but actually a very telling detail that isn't revealed until late in the film.


List of rationed goods during WWII.

Noms de New Blog, etc.

Once again, I've been thinking it's time to move on from Finding Fellini.
I really don't want to make movies any more, and the storytelling I want to
do just doesn't seem to feel right alongside all this other stuff.
And if I were to promote a new blog, I'm not sure I want all the baggage on FF.
The new blog will likely be along the lines of what I've been posting lately –
men's vintage and heritage clothing, Americana, fashion, Indian robes, travel.
I do think Fellini was intent on finding the beauty and mystery of our lives and exploring
the above things is certainly along those lines, but it feels like a new direction that merits
a new template.
I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to write fiction of any sort.  Which doesn't mean
that I don't want to write or tell stories.  Storytelling is a very broad term.  At least in the ways
I term it.  Pictorial artists, designers of all ilks, nightclub promoters,teachers, musicians, bloggers – we all tell stories.
The great thing about a blog is that it's so free-form.  You can go in any direction your heart desires.  But for it to be relevant to those that might enjoy it, it needs to be focused and consistent.  There are those that might enjoy traipsing all over the place with me, but I get the sense that it's the exceptional reader that's game.
Also I don't want to kill certain elements.  The progress meter for Sway - the novel I started but am unlikely to ever pick up again - is something I want to preserve.  I don't want to kill it.  I'm okay with it being frozen in time.  But I don't want to answer for it.  I don't want to put myself through talking about when it might be finished or what it's about.  I enjoyed writing it (perhaps typing is better, as someone once famously criticized Kerouac's On The Road), but I don't necessarily want to go back and review it or try to improve upon it.  That's all I have to say about that.
It's better for me this way.  And if it's better for me, I think it's going to better for the internet.


Red White & True
Original Glory
Proven Classics
Hooligan Sailor
America Indeed
John Brown Chronicles
Rockabilly Hero
Three on a Match

To be continued ...

Friday, September 24, 2010


According to Esquire, the buzzword in men's style this fall, with most every brand exploring its archives and trumpeting craftsmanship and authenticity in its collection.

As an avid follower of such things, I wholeheartedly agree.  I happen  to enjoy seeing companies like Levi's and L.L. Bean go back to their roots.  I have a closet full of L.L. Bean Signature.

Proven Classics

Portland Outdoor Store
Brooks Brothers
J. Press
Paul Stuart
Red Wing
Lee Storm Rider
L.L. Bean
Ben Davis
Harris Tweed
Florsheim Wingtips

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Waxing Silly

It's Fall, so the fashionistas are really going for it.  When I lived in New York City it always made me laugh to see all the slaves trying to wear the cashmere sweaters in the IT color of the season when it was still very warm outside.  Or when Uggs were the thing - women couldn't stop themselves from wearing shearling boots in the heat of early September.  One year my mother bought me a beautiful leather car coat that was insulated for my birthday, which is in late August.  I'll admit it was very difficult to wait until it was properly cold enough to wear it.  I'm sure I pushed it.
What would be the fun of fashion of one didn't push the limits.  I have suffered much judgment since early high school for my daring to step outside the mainstream.  Living in Portland, one can hardly leave the house in anything but jeans without being accused of dressing up for a fete.  I miss living in NY where people check each other out, but rarely offer any verbal comment.
There's a little company called The Hillside that makes ties, pocket squares and scarves out of chambray and other unlikely fabrics for such items.  I have one of their chambray ties in charcoal.  But, the IT item of the fall amongst the fashion types that I follow on the web (some of their links can be found to the right) seems to be the waxed cotton tie.  There's no way I'm going for it.  I love the idea of waxed cotton, but don't really like clothing made of the stuff.  I don't like the smell when it gets wet nor its stiffness when it's wet or dry.  A necktie is unlikely to get very wet, but the idea of stiff, unforgiving waxed cotton around my neck makes me bristle.
I had a waxed cotton Barbour barn jacket that I got in Scotland several years ago, but I finally gave it away after trying so hard to like it.  Then a couple of years ago I couldn't resist buying a Filson Tin Cloth Logger.  I love the look of it.  And I've worn it during a downpour on the deck of a sailboat and in the Oregon woods without getting wet or cold.  I can't always say the same for gore-tex.  But the Filson is most often unwearable.  Maybe I'm not going about it very well.  I seem to spend more time going out to dinner or coffee on rainy days than sailing or standing around in the woods.  It's super stiff, though not as smelly as my Barbour.  You have to take it off before you get in the car.  In my Bronco or pickup it was okay to sit down, but steering felt way too cumbersome.  I've had it for three years and it's as stiff as the day I bought it.  Lately I've threatened to sell it on eBay.  I don't think that's going to happen.  I just need to get a jacket or coat that I can wear in the rain that isn't a parka made of some sort of modern technical fabric and save the Logger for appropriate occasions that are neither indoors nor sporty. Unlike my fellow Portlanders, I can't bring myself to wear gore-tex or fleece when I'm not engaged in the activities for which they was designed.  An early spring trip up the Columbia on a sailboat - Filson.  Skiing on Mt. Hood in January - North Face. 
Even so, you will not see me wearing a waxed cotton necktie anytime soon.  The tie paired with a white oxford and the Filson logger would make quite a statement.  But it would be very uncomfortable and I don't care how cool some very cool people say it is, if you can't wear clothing effortlessly, you shouldn't wear it.

Butterflies and Demon Pirates

Sailor Jerry is to traditional tattooing as Matisse is to 20th Century painting.  So good that you almost look past him.  And because prints of his work have seen many commercial applications.  Like listening to the Beatles in an elevator, the genius of the melody transcends the cliche.  I love Sailor Jerry flash as I love Matisse and the Beatles.