Thursday, November 26, 2009

On the Street: Montreal

This beautiful leather suitcase, strapped to an equally beautiful bike, was parked just outside our hotel in Montreal. Its owner had just taken its twin that'd been strapped to the other side. The New York plate conjures up the vision of our perfect weekend getaway to our favorite city up north.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shopping: Amoskeag XX

This overalls maker has a strong passion for the history of their namesake, thereby elevating the mystique behind the 18th century Manchester, NH brand, once world-famous for their riveted denim until it all became lost during the great depression. Inspired by the craftsmanship of that original label, Amoskeag XX features a tight focus on a simple collection of denim overalls, undershirts in a choice of two different weaves, outerwear and bags.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shopping: Unis

Celebrate Unis' 9th birthday at their Nolita location today. They're offering a 30% discount all day and drinks between 6-8pm. Everyone is carrying Happy Socks now, including Unis.

226 Elizabeth Street, NYC

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vintage Robert Redford

We just saw The Candidate with Robert Redford and his display of indelible, yet easygoing, cool. It came out in 1972 and he'd already played the Sundance Kid, showing us how good a mustache can look. However, he'd yet to reach the summit of his career and range of style. From bearded and fringed out Jeremiah Johnson, reminding women of the great hazards of kissing facial hair, to pinstriped conman Johnny Hooker to Jay Gatsby in those crisp summer whites, not to leave out Denys Finch Hatton making colonial safari garb fashionable. Note the color shot of him wearing Oxfords and bearing his fur-laden chest on the beach in Cannes. And we heard table tennis was back in.

Tim Burton at MoMA

We grew up with his funny way of looking at the world and embraced his dark, imaginative spirit with affection, while others showed their faith to his art by getting sleeved with his creations. Finally, a tribute, complete with film and art exhibitions and a monster mouth to indulge ourselves and get back into the mood. We forgot to tell you about yesterday and today's tours and book signing at the MoMA, because, well, sometimes haircuts are more important. But there's still tomorrow (and Saturday). Special events are going on for members (super incentive). The installation (Special Exhibitions, 3rd floor) runs through April 26, 2010.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Docket: Meandering...

SATURDAY: Carroll Gardens has been so incredibly lovely this Fall. Take a walk down those brownstone blocks lined with trees and littered with dead, fallen leaves. Stop into Smith+Butler and warm up inside the Modern Alchemy-scented room filled with antique pieces. Try on the oversized Filson cloth hunting jacket and the Randolph Engineering Aviators. Then nab the last pair of Quoddy Trail black canoe shoes before stepping down into the Unis menswear outpost where Red Wings line the shelves and the concrete floor shares space with a vintage motorcycle (yes, that too is for sale). If you're late to the game or have never walked down boutique-laden Smith St in Bkyln, take note: this store was inspired by the kind of characters made so famous by Dean and Brando and is reminiscent of the biker shops on which co-owner Jay Alaimo had been transfixed. 225 Smith, Bklyn, NY 11231

Pop in to Clover Club north along Smith St. and share some punch or grab our favorite Sour Cherry Fizz along with spiced almonds, then learn the difference between a mule and a buck. 210 Smith Street, Bklyn, NY 11201

SUNDAY: Weekly Pig Dissection at Joseph Leonard

Spoiler Alert: Not for our veggie friends who've already admonished the vegetarian options on the JL menu for being a bit after-thoughtful, nor those who are at least halfway through Eating Animals.

This West Village restaurant (what's a less vivid word for 'dissect'?... oh what the hell) dissects a pig and portions it out on a first come first serve basis into a six dish meal, including parts that are off the beaten menu. Their first week commencement will include gnocchi with braised pig shoulder and pork-butt meatball egg-drop soup. [Post Script: Joseph Leonard joins those dear ranks of vintage, rustic, 19th-century, Danish furniture and flea market lovers.]  
170 Waverly Place, NYC, 10014

Friday, November 13, 2009

Opening Today

We were too tired to drag our weary bones downtown to Tribeca earlier this week to catch the Q&A (and we love us some Q&A's) with Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman. That does not diminish our aim to see Fantastic Mr. Fox within the first week of its release. Despite preferential Time Out NY only giving this film a mediocre three out of five stars, A.O. Scott of the NY Times was not so much forgiving as much as he was able to articulate so eloquently the reasons why this film isn't meant for everyone. Its intrinsic beauty lies in the idea that if it was "it would not be nearly as interesting as it is." Furthermore, "some people will embrace it with a special, strange intensity, as if it had been made for them alone." It's hard not to succumb to Scott's argument. He appreciates the film's "wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents. " Read his full review, in which he ties in the strengths of Anderson's craftsman-like ingenuity- the very stuff we fell in love with the first time we saw Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums.
Also, listen to the commentary by Wes Anderson here.
Read how the puppets were made in Vanity Fair.

Shopping: Boerum Hill

They're right across the street from each other. Two stores: one, an homage to the pragmatism of industrial mid-century design; the other, a vintage inspired menswear haberdashery turned clothier. When we first walked into Darr, the former, we were drawn inside the seemingly cluttered, tight and narrow space by the worn, industrial task lamps; the impressive taxidermy mounted against the vintage wallpaper; the mouth harp; the dozens or so decorative eggs, one of which was broken. The damaged egg was pointed out by Sam Mendes in defense of one of his little kids, whose mom (ahem) quietly attempted to scoot out before being noticed in the increasingly crowded shop. 

On the opposite side of Atlantic Avenue stands Hollander and Lexer, also owned by the folks at Darr and named after two early 20th-century plastic surgeons. Aptly named? Maybe, as they've taken the proverbial scalpel to their own new collection which debuted at their Williamsburg outpost. But their line of old-world crafted layering button-downs, ticket-pocket blazers, and light tweed peacoats are far from being bound by the Brooklyn borough. They recently launched their menswear line at San Francisco's A-B Fits (1519 Grant Ave).

Darr - 369 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217
Holland and Lexer - 358 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mixtape: The Rural Alberta Challenge

If you haven't heard us wax rhapsodic on the virtues of all things Canadian then stick around long enough. We've mentioned this band before, but they bear mentioning again. I could not describe this band any better than they describe themselves:

The Rural Alberta Advantage play indie-rock folk songs about hometowns and heartbreak, born out of images from growing up in Central and Northern Alberta. They sing about summers in the Rockies and winters on the farm, ice breakups in the spring time and the oil boom’s charm, the mine workers on compressed, the equally depressed, the city’s slow growth and the country’s wild rose, but mostly the songs just try to embrace the advantage of growing up in Alberta.

They play two shows at the Mercury Lounge (same night): Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mad About the Men: Shut The Door, Have A Seat.

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 13:

So much of this season has felt like the prelude to a disaster. Last week we passed through the eye of the storm and last night, for the first time in such a long time, Mr. Weiner allowed us to let go of our breath, sink back into our chairs and finally, enjoy it all a little.

For now, at least, the worst is over. So let’s all eat Trudy’s cakes and sandwiches and remember why it was we wanted to get into this business in the first place.

Much criticism has been leveled at this third season for walking away from the office dynamics in favour of the crisis on the home front. Last night it struck me that this was most probably all part of the masterplan (duh). As Don lost his way, so did we, as he became increasingly disinterested in work and arrogant in his approach to it - alienating Peggy, Roger and feeling Cooper’s bared teeth - the day-to-day business of Sterling Cooper receded into the background. It just didn’t seem to matter as much any more. But last night Don was forced to make a decision, to stake his future on a job he’s shown brilliance at performing, but an inability to commit to. Last night, Don wasn’t too good for advertising any more.

As that song most eloquently puts it, ‘When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.’

Last night was about letting-go and starting again, with his family falling apart, Don grappled to put, ‘everything back the way it was,’ at Sterling Cooper, but learned that sometimes the best you can do is start from scratch. Thus, Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Price was born. Roger and Don were re-united once again, Peggy and Don reconnected and Joan, oh Joan! was back to save the files and the day! Sweet sweet release!

The building of this new dream team had all the cinematic excitement of the training montage in Rocky IV (and I mean that as a compliment). First the four key players aligned on their dastardly scheme, then Peggy threw a curve ball in Don’s arrogant face, and we got another dose of comedy genius in the form of a Pete Campbell all tousled (and dare I say it looking damn fine) in a bath-robe and suit pants with Trudy listening in from the bedroom. The emotional denouement was delivered via Peggy and Don, with Don making the kind of heartbreaking plea to Peggy he was ultimately unable to make to his wife. The entire arc was littered with comedy gold, from Pete forcing Don to articulate his ‘talents’ to his face, to the look on Campbell’s face when Peggy walked through the door on Sunday afternoon and her subsequent refusal to get Roger coffee. I am Peggy, hear me roar… then go f**k a duck (god, I can’t believe I only just thought of that now.)Seeing Don finally let go of Betty was the thing we didn’t realize we’d secretly been wishing for until it actually happened. Thank. God. While I still seriously question the motives and integrity of Henry, seeing Don and Betty finally give into the inevitability of the ridiculousness of their match, was like being released from a set of handcuffs. Again, the woman was icy and immovable, letting Don call her a whore without uttering a word to him of his own frequent indiscretions, but their final phonecall, filled with weary resignation said it all. ‘I hope you get what you always wanted,’ Don said to Betty – because all she ever wanted was certainly not Dick Whitman. Don is a broken man - in the same way Peggy is a broken woman – he will save his fight to rescue someone equally damaged, or damaged in the same way as he is.

And so it all came full-circle; the death of Don’s father, Betty on a plane to Reno, Don moving into his new apartment and his new life, Sterling Cooper half-empty of talent and a new little family born in a suite at The Pierre… all to the lilting tones of the incomparable Roy Orbison

“Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba, means the future is much better than the past,
Shahdaroba, Shahdaroba in the future you will find a love at last.”

That means you Roger and Joan.

Until next time. This has been, Mad About The Men.
Line of the week: Roger on Jane: “Most interest that girl’s ever had in a book depository.”

Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photos by Carin Baer

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Tonight Wes Anderson (at right) and Noah Baumbach will be at the New York Public Library to discuss their collaboration on their stop motion-animated Fantastic Mr. Fox, adapted from the Roald Dahl book. The film releases this Friday 11/13 in NYC.

Celeste Bartos Forum, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Ave. & 42nd St., (212) 930-0800. 7 p.m. $15 students, $25 general.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Alex Carleton and L.L.Bean

Two weeks ago in Hells Kitchen (art gallery, wine, Anderson Cooper) L.L. Bean showed off a glimpse of their next generation: LL Bean Signature. The collection, which launches in March, is a full line including 200 pieces ranging from evening attire to requisite buffalo plaid shirts, camp dresses and Maine-ified sailboat or buoy patterned pieces. Nothing exceeding $150. The new collection is being compared against J.Crew and Rugby and is headed up by creative director Alex Carleton— the man behind Rogues Gallery, our other favorite Maine-based clothier. Their long term goal: free-standing stores.

Photo of Alex Carleton by Jennifer S. Altman for The Boston Globe

Mad About the Men: The Grown-Ups

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 13:

Let’s start at the end shall we. It seems appropriate somehow.

This week’s episode closed with an old time fave of mine, Skeeter Davis’ 1963 classic ‘The End of the World’. And so it seemed, the world did indeed, if not end, at least stutter to a halt as JFK lost his life in the motorcade and Betty told Don she doesn’t love him any more.

Metaphor and double entendre plaited around each other like the braids in Sally Draper’s hair, as every time Don and Betty spoke they were talking about the death of a president, and about themselves.

I lost track of the number of times someone said ‘it’ll be OK’, ‘everything’s going to be fine’ or some other cold, useless platitude. I kept thinking of that line by Joan Didion when she says, ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to survive.’ Don Draper tells stories for a living, but for a while now, and especially this week, he lacked the smooth phrases to convince or reassure. He was the man who gave us the Kodak ‘carousel’ back in those heady early days when we were still drunk on our love for him, now he’s almost monosyllabic, unable to find the right words, or any words at all.

As we watched the shockwaves ricochet through the lives of the characters, who among us did not think of September 11th 2001? All of use glued to our TV screens, watching it play and replay over and over; the same shocked faces, the same talking-heads stuttering out statements of disbelief, the same phones that stopped ringing…

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.*

And as the centre collapses, doors start to open, exits we have been looking for become available and catastrophe itself becomes the reason, the motive, the justification for doing that thing we’ve been too afraid to do before the world turned on it’s head and nothing mattered anymore.

So, personal agendas were quick to bubble to the surface. Betty had the permission she needed to flee into Henry’s arms and give a voice to her true feelings towards Don; for Pete and Trudi it was grist to the mill of their bitter ambitions and petty dissatisfactions – Pete’s manipulation of Trudi, convincing her to skip the Sterling wedding was masterful as was how he railed about a lack of ‘justice’ for Lee Harvey Oswald, quite clearly talking about himself and his own situation at the office with Ken Cosgrove. Dastardly Duck’s priorities were also all too clear and watching him quickly unplug the TV when Peggy arrived for their ‘nooner’ so she wouldn’t be distracted by the news, was utterly repellent.

So leave it to Joan and Roger to provide what was, for me, the one true emotional moment of the episode. There was more warmth and love in that phone conversation than in any of the physical interactions we observed all episode – hey, maybe all season - especially Betty and Henry’s dead-fish kiss in the car. Just as Don’s stories failed him, so too did Roger’s humour. He’s a man who was born to give a father-of-the-bride speech, caught in a situation where a joke wasn’t going to cut it. As Joan said to him, ‘there’s nothing funny about this.’ And when there’s nothing funny to say, where does that leave Roger? With tears in his eyes on the phone to the woman he loves while his silly drunk wife is passed out on the bed beside him. The people we choose to reach out to in times of crisis, say a lot about where our hearts really lie.

Mad Men is as good as it is because the past never feel like a curio or a museum piece, these people aren’t aspic-pickled day-players in a Masterpiece Theatre special, they are viscerally relevant to us. Their struggles are our struggles, at work and at home. Their costumes are not costumes they are clothes. They don’t speak lines from a script, they have conversations. The past of the characters and the present in which we watch them are inextricably linked, the weight of history, the manner in which we are seemingly doomed to repeat ourselves, JFK, 9/11, the death of love, the death of a president, the death of idealism, none of that has gone out of fashion, and ‘I don’t love you,’ will always mean the same, devastating thing.

Line of the week:
Trudi: Have you been drinking?
Pete: The whole country’s drinking.

Next week: The end. Say it ain’t so!

*W.B.Yeats ‘The Second Coming’

Diligently construed by E. Nolan
Photo by Carin Baer

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Please Kill Me

We just got back our well-loved copy of Legs McNeil's oral history on the origins of punk in New York City and beyond. We pass our copy along like the family bible, evangelizing its uncensored, gritty details that have spewed forth form the likes of Iggy, the Asheton Bros, Jim Carroll, Bebe Buell, Wayne Kramer, Malcolm McLaren, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone, Lou Reed, Nico, and on and on... It's hilarious yet tragic. It felt like a third of those, to whom we found ourselves emotionally attached (that's you, Johnny Thunders), never made it out of the proverbial Bowery alive. It happens to be a perfect companion piece to Rotten's Filth and the Fury. However, Legs likes to set the record straight that punk, in every sense of the word, was born on this side of the pond despite continuing debate.