Friday, April 3, 2009

A Specific Voice

Gravure Magazine has a really good interview up right now with Kate Mulleavy, the designer behind Rodarte, along with her sister Laura. There are few designers, fashion or otherwise, with as many varied sources of inspiration – and even fewer who can continuously translate their inspiration into consistently beautiful work.

Here's an excerpt:
Rachel K. Ward: In another interview you mentioned that one of my favorite films Metropolitan (1990) was an inspiration for you. What about that film, or other things, inspire you?

Kate Mulleavy:
This last collection was inspired by the idea of site specific and earth art, someone like Robert Smithson. Laura and I really thought of the aerial view looking at the Spiral Jetty (1970); it looks like a fossil. This is the idea of ruins, a futurism that instead of it being about a robot, is the future where what is left are these kind of fossils or skeletal forms. We explored a lot of science fiction like The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) or even something like Donnie Darko (2001), which was a huge inspiration on the collection, so there were varied films that came into play in relationship to this idea of earth art. In my mind the connection was this incredible movement with earth artists not that long after the first Apollo missions, which was the first moment that anyone saw the earth outside of itself, which was a huge intellectual shift for an entire world. There was an immediate link in my mind about space travel...we tied in films like THX 1138 (1971), and different science fiction films that were interesting to us....

In terms of the film Metropolitan, that is a good example of trying to create your own world. I like the kind of claustrophobia of it and the interior world, that is what is interesting with it. I guess a film like that has a lot of influence for us for the fact we really love it so we will probably do a collection that has really big poofy '80s dresses and striped teddy bears.

Read the rest of the interview at


[ click images to enlarge ]

Your Weekly Mr. Littlejeans

[Jeans explores the top of the cabinets and refrigerator.]

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wonderful Witches

A little more new music – well, new/old music. Cauldron, the 1967 Limelight release from San Francisco's Fifty Foot Hose, was recently re-issued on 180g vinyl. I found a copy many years ago at a garage sale; it has the distinction of being the only record I've ever listened to home alone that freaked me out to the point that I had to turn it off.

Fifty Foot Hose Fantasy (excerpt) mp3

That little clip is pretty tame (and also really, really good) but trust me, there are moments later on in the record that are like straight-up witchcraft being performed on your turntable. Hippies can be scary.

This particular band of them formed in 1966 after their leader, Louis "Cork" Marcheschi, constructed a homemade electronic instrument using (rumor has it) a fuzzbox, a theremin, a whole bunch of tubes, and a speaker from a World War II bomber. Fifty Foot Hose toured extensively and released Cauldron in 1967. Aside from the scary stuff, the album also has some lighter moments, such as this cover, with Nancy Blossom on vocals:

Fifty Foot Hose God Bless the Child mp3

The band broke up in 1969 when most of its members joined the cast of the San Francisco production of Hair, though they have reformed at various times, even releasing another album in 1996. Some members of Fifty Foot Hose went on to form the avant-electronic band Kwisp.

Cauldron is or should be available on CD from your favorite music store, and you can hear more sound clips and buy the newly re-released vinyl at Turntable Lab. Just have a buddy with you when you drop the needle.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sometimes It Snows In April

On our way to and from the coast last weekend we listened to a bunch of new music. The stand-outs were I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, the new album from Julie Doiron (pictured above), and two other albums I picked up by a group from Texas called Balmorhea: Rivers Arms, released in February 2008, and All Is Wild, All Is Silent, which came out a couple weeks ago.

I have mentioned Julie Doiron previously and have been a fan for quite awhile, but this new album is maybe my favorite of hers. Here's a video for "Heavy Snow."

She has a really strong command of when to make a song quiet and when to make it loud, which I like a lot. Check out for more info and a bunch of downloads from past albums. No Seattle tour dates are listed but she's playing at good ol' Union Hall in Brooklyn on April 25 if you're there. (And it looks like the Cave Singers are there tonight, fyi.)

Balmorhea was playing in Bimbo's the other day and I asked the multi-talented person behind the bar what it was. It's perfect music for a gray-weather drive on the coast – the songs all meld together and become a kind of lush environment. Turns out it's also perfect for walking through yet another freak snowstorm; I listened to this song twice on the way to the office this morning:

Balmorhea The Summer mp3 (from Rivers Arms)

It's all kind of like that, I love it. Get more info and buy Balmorhea records here.

I'm always looking for recommendations on new stuff so let me know what you're listening to lately too.


[Driving by some cranberry bogs on Long Beach peninsula last weekend]

Me: Hey, that's where they make those Ocean Spray cranberry ads where the guys are standing in the cranberries.
Emily: What ads? I haven't seen those.
Me: Yeah you have, everyone's seen those.
Emily: I haven't.
Me: Whaaat?! HA HA. I'm gonna find that ad and post it on the blog and tell everyone you haven't seen it. You will be humiliated.
Emily: Well that seems like a good use of the blog.

[Driving by another cranberry bog]

Me: Wow, there are cranberries everywhere.
Emily: We should have brought some vodka and a straw.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Hope of Spring

This past weekend on a whim, Emily and I decided to skip town and head for the coast.

We didn't really have a plan and the weather wasn't great – it snowed on us all the way through Olympia, Montesano, and Aberdeen.

No matter – the ocean is still nice when it's gray out, and there were signs it was going to clear up.

The Washington Coast is not that far away from Seattle (it took us maybe two hours to get to Grays Harbor) but feels really big and remote. It's yet another totally breathtaking feature of the Northwest.

We ended up staying in Astoria, Oregon (this is the view from our motel, looking North across the Columbia River to Washington).

First up, we stopped in at the Fort George Brewery for a beer (I recommend the IPA). The guy who renovated this 1924 building sat next to us at the bar and drunkenly gave us all the details. He also told us that adjusted for inflation, John Jacob Astor (for whom Astoria is named) would still be the third richest American of all time.

Mary Todd's Workers Bar & Grill was right across the street from where we stayed (The Dunes) and while their beer selection was shite, it's still a cozy little spot. I found a bunch of records next door last time I was in town, maybe 12 years ago or more.

That section of Astoria is called Uniontown and is or was apparently populated largely by Finns. This is their union hall.

On Sunday, with the weather a little improved, we drove around and explored Astoria a little more.

Certain occasional readers of this blog will be interested to know that The Goonies was set here. There are a ton of cool old houses, some perfectly restored and some boarded up, like this one.

Atop the tallest hill there's this big spiral engraved with the story of Lewis and Clark's journey.

There's a nice view of the river and there were a bunch of big bald eagles chasing each other around in the wind (you can't see them in this picture though).

After that we headed back to Washington and drove through Ilwaco on our way to check out Cape Disappointment, where Lewis and Clark ended their journey.

The beach at the Cape is huge and spectacular. It was windy and the waves there are some of the biggest on the West Coast. Tons of boats have sunk trying to navigate that area.

We walked out on a long jetty and sat there for at least an hour in the sun, looking out at the water.

There were a bunch of sea otters and some porpoises hanging around.

It was one of the cooler things I've experienced since we moved back to the West. We never did make it to the lighthouses but I'm sure we'll be back this summer.

Monday, March 30, 2009

‘‘To be thrifty is clever . . . the crime is to look it’’

Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, ca.1930's,
from the Vince Aletti Collection

Former long-time Village Voice fashion critic Lynn Yaeger (laid off a few years ago at the same time as Nat Hentoff...shows you what direction that paper was headed) had a good piece in The New York Times recently on depression-era fashion advice from magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and this past weekend Kurt Anderson at Studio 360 spoke with her about the article. Click to listen:

More images and the full story here.

Also: Lynn Yaeger wrote about her own very unique personal style ("The world's oldest French orphan, circa 1930") in this fascinating 2005 article for T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

Lynn Yaeger photo by Elinor Carucci for The New York Times