3. The Paper Hound book shop. Like Pulp Fiction, this store is designed to make you want books. Unlike, say, Chapters, which is designed to make you want matches. And gasoline.
4. The Farmer’s Apprentice. Every detail of this restaurant, from its compact menu to simple seating to two windowed off tables, has been thought through to such a degree you’ll feel like a genius for spending money there. Also, it’s excellent. Hat tip to Jian for insisting.
5. Ice Cream Social at Fox Cabaret. Take an old porn theatre and gut it out, adding a small stage and long bar. Have a no cover dance night on a Monday to start the week off right, make it only three hours, play awesome, actual dance music, cheap beer - really, there’s no reason not to go. Hat tip to Åsa.
6. 33 Acres and Brassneck. Best places to drink beer, hands down. I’d venture to call 33 Acres the perfect place, but I’ll stop short of really, really great. Is it still a pub crawl if you just bounce back and forth between two venues?
7. Pho at Lam Hoa Quan. Possibly the best in the city. The broth sets it apart.
8. Tsuku-men ramen at Ramen Santouka. Opinion on ramen in Vancouver is divided when it comes to the best. My vote goes for this particular item at Santouka - the noodles are so good they brought a single tear to my eye.
9. Apple pie at The Pie Shoppe. The young lady that runs this place has the best attitude - we sat happily shovelling pie into our mouths after the shop had closed and she was making tourtières. Excellent coffee, too.
10. Crispy skin chicken and ma-po tofu at Gain Wah. Gain Wah will never win any awards, and is likely going to be subsumed by the wave of coffee shops marching steadily east. Before that happens, order the ma-po tofu and half a crispy skin chicken. What will you pay for this handsome meal from the gods? $16.
The Five Worst Things That Have Happened Since I Left
1. Closing of Little Nest. When one of the best businesses in Vancouver gets shut down by a 50% hike in rent, you know something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Little Nest was a kid-friendly cafe run by a beautiful woman (who happened to make our wedding cakes) and is now little more than a memory. In its place? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Infuriating.
2. The owners of Truong Giang moving back to Vietnam. If you never went to Truong Giang you not only missed out on the best banh mi in the city, but on seeing two salt of the earth people run a successful and, dare I say, socially ethical business in the heart of the downtown eastside. Part gracious eatery, part social work experiment, Truong Giang was a service to the city that we didn’t deserve. Alas, the restaurant is still there, with only the name scrubbed off, and the menu, while unchanged, is in the hands of lesser practitioners.
3. The luxury ghetto that is Gastown. Hypocrisy klaxon BUT how many coffee shops/cool stuff stores does one tiny area need? I love Japanese titanium camping gear as much as the next guy, but a little variety goes a long way.
I am lucky, I don’t have aches and pains. I do Pilates regularly which is a series of stretching exercises and I recommend it to anyone of my age because the temptation is not to exercise when you get older.
Well, you should. I always walk up the escalator on the Tube and I live in a house with a lot of stairs. That’s good exercise.
“We have to start winning games at the major league level, and the way you develop a winning culture is by winning major league games," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It’s time for us to start winning at the major league level.”—Royals Manager Dayton Moore explaining how to win Major League games at the Major League level.
Why are men so hard to buy for? Cosmo has asked celebs and real men what box they want to open this Christmas. So now you can purchase the perfect present for your boyfriend… - Cosmopolitan
Guys can be hard to buy gifts for, but shopping for the man in your life this holiday season shouldn’t have to be a nightmare. - Today MSNBC
Which begs the question—why is it always such a daunting challenge to shop for dear old dad? - Forbes
If your man is hard to shop for, I have some advice for you: he’s an asshole. If receiving a gift moves someone to mope, or get angry, or stare straight ahead in a tight-lipped stupor, that person isn’t “hard to shop for”. That person is an asshole.
When did this become an acceptable character trait? Being hard to shop for is a ridiculous thing to be proud of. It’s equivalent to bragging about being a picky eater, or quick to anger, or incontinent.
Handmade sweaters, pairs of socks, books that reveal a lack of knowledge about our person…sure, I guess. People pay hundreds of dollars for handmade sweaters, but by all means laugh them off. And socks. If you want an iPhone, socks are a bit disappointing. For anyone else not delusional or insane, socks represent one less thing you need to buy, and everyone is always in a perpetual state of either needing or about to be needing to buy socks.
On any other day if someone gave you a pair of socks you’d be pleased, or at least bemused. Try that move on Christmas and lives are ruined.
So, this Christmas, don’t be hard to shop for. Accept whatever is given to you with grace and humility. Be known as a person for whom buying a gift is a joyful experience. Not sure if you are? Answer this simple question - when some asks me what I want as a gift, I say _______. If your answer to that question is anything but “Whatever they want”, see preceding. Asshole.
“With Nash, there really was no way to know that a haircut would change the entire meaning of his face. You’re embarrassed to notice him now. Unlike the other side parts, Nash’s seems proportional to the rest of him. Unlike the other side parts, Nash’s has a nickname. Indeed, Kobe Bryant got a load of the hair and the suit and skipped the obvious putdowns — calling him, say, a Freemans Sporting Club zombie — and dubbed Nash “Gatsby.””—Andrew Bynum and the meaning of NBA hair - Grantland
“There’s a sense of curious energy here that you don’t get anywhere else in the world, and that’s London’s most valuable asset: to never settle down and feel at ease but always push forward and explore. Another aspect that makes London unique is the mixture of craftsmanship and attitude; London is both the birthplace of punk and the home of Savile Row tailoring: I think that’s a great combination!”—Document | Dazed Digital
If someone wrote about fashion shows in the way good writers tackle sports or popular culture, they could attract literally tens of readers.
In September of this year, while I was living in the city, London hosted its fashion week, and, as far as I can tell, this had no bearing on my life whatsoever. There was a time when I might have cared, might even have gone through the various shows and picked out looks that I liked and, god help me, write about them, but even then it was less aspirational and more “This is something that should interest me.”
Except it doesn’t. At all.
When I was 14 I went to the Vancouver Auto Show. Even in the early 90’s when car shows were depressing I remember feeling a sense of wonder at these machines that, not a decade later, I would come to hate. I read car magazines. I understood, to a degree, what cars did. And going to a car show or, probably better, looking at pictures of the bigger shows like Detroit and Tokyo, was an important part in my understanding and finally appreciation of cars.
I don’t think I know a single man who feels that way about fashion shows. And I know some very fashion-conscious men, men who read blogs or even write them, men that care about what they wear and where they buy it and even on occasion how it’s made. But I’ve never been around a group of men anywhere at anytime and had one of them reference in any way a menswear show. Ever.
Which raises the question (but does not beg - it does NOT beg - it never, ever begs): why are menswear shows, at a time when it seems the male awareness level of style has reached a high not seen since Beau Brummell's times, so completely irrelevant to almost all men?
It’s easy to think that, for the vast majority of men, money must be an issue - fashion shows are seen largely as a parade of things most men could never afford. But then you wouldn’t sell many issues of Motor Trend if every cover shouted about the Top 20 Most Affordable Cars. Even on GQ the fashion shows are buried deep at the bottom of the style page, a reluctant provision to their existence; by far the most interesting part of GQ’s fashion show coverage is its street-style sections, including the still legendary Yo, Your “Street Style” is Buggin’.
I haven’t looked at a runway show in years, partly because I stopped writing about style, partly because I couldn’t tell why I would bother, and, even more partly, by which I mean more and not less of the parts, I couldn’t find a site that had them viewable by anything other than a slideshow designed by sadists playing with Flash the way a young child plays with the wings of a fly. Do fashion shows not want us to look at them? Why are the pictures organized so poorly? Why is the complete show view always in 24x36 thumbnails? Why is nothing given any context other than a blurb about the existential crisis at the heart of cotton?
I think if someone took it upon themselves to create a fashion show site organized like Devour or The Verge, that men would continue to ignore it but eventually become curious, curious enough to wonder why an entire industry seems to have developed so close to them without needing their interest or wanting their concern. I think if someone wrote about fashion shows the way Grantland writers tackle sports or popular culture that such a person could attract literally tens of readers, and maybe, just maybe, draw us into contact with this thing, this preening mass of limbs and double-breasted blazers, that does its best to ignore us.
I am the worst sort of hypocrite - every day I check The Sartorialist to look at his photos. And if all he did was take photographs, the world would be a much better place. But no. Occasionally—and, maddeningly, more than occasionally in recent years—Mr. Schuman will take the time to voice his opinion on things. And his opinion, whether of himself or young bloggers or the way one eats lunch, is always, always wrong.
How can someone’s opinion be wrong? When it’s attached to the kind of blowhardiness Donald Trump finds off-putting. In a recent interview with BlackBook he proves once again why nothing should ever come out of his mouth by comparing himself with photography legend August Sander.
Your images are rooted in fashion. Do you consider yourself a fashion photographer?
August Sander was a strict photographer but because he captured such interesting elements of life at that moment, now a 100 years later you can’t help but look at the fashion in these photographs. The only difference with me is I have a chance share a fashion experience for a contemporary audience with my photographs.
Emphasis is my own, but don’t think he wasn’t thinking those italics.
EDIT: Not really an edit, but something I thought today while in Shoreditch - Schuman photographs people because he likes what they’re wearing; Sander photographed people because he liked people. I don’t know about you, but when I look at Sander’s collections the last thing I’m thinking about is fashion.
The summer I turned 20 I worked as a counsellor for a camp for youth with mental and physical disabilities. I had never done this type of work before and didn’t know what to expect. But I enjoyed working with kids, loved summer camps where I’d volunteered the past three summers, and assumed I’d be a good fit for the job.
There is a certain popular narrative going around about people with mental disabilities that tends to focus, rather oddly, on how happy they are all the time. (If you haven’t, I urge you to read Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s account of life with her disabled son.) Even if you’ve never significantly interacted with mentally-disabled people I’m sure you can see how this assessment is limiting, insulting, and narrow-minded. I suppose people have their reasons for thinking this; some, I’m sure, even see it as a generous assessment of a positive quality we’d all like to possess. More on this later.
It only took a few days before I started to wonder if I was possibly ruining the campers’ summer. My chargers were not, on the whole, happy. I was failing them, it seemed, failing them in a spectacularly uncool fashion. It probably didn’t help that I was nervous, so nervous sometimes that I found myself standing in the middle of the main field, on my way somewhere, stopped by a train of thought that dead-ended in doubts. I talked to a few veteran counsellors who assured me I was doing fine, that for god’s sake I needed to relax, that I should try to just go with whatever was happening at the moment. If it wasn’t illegal and no one was being injured, what did it matter?
Here is the truth I learned about providing care - you can’t make it about yourself. My concerns in the beginning were about how other people would perceive me. I wanted to be the hip, new counsellor, god help me, that all the kids immediately liked better than anyone else. The more I tried to be that person, the less useful I was to the campers.
So I stopped trying. I let things happen. I forego control and a sense of order for the sort of amazing chaos inherent to a summer camp, and especially prevalent at this one. Here is my favourite memory of that time:
At some of the camps it was important for counsellors to stay with their campers essentially 24/7. However, at some of the teen camps you could spend time wandering around and interacting with the other campers. This is how I met Kevin.
Kevin was a fan of Kenny Rogers, and had become deeply concerned that Kenny’s manager was up to no good, particularly from a financial standpoint. Kevin wanted to write Kenny a letter, a warning of sorts, but I suggested that a song might be more appropriate for the gambler. Over an afternoon Kevin wrote out what he wanted to say to Kenny, and then I came up with a tune, and together we sang it hoping Kenny could hear us. The only lines I remember are one about how the manager is out to get you, get all your money, and then the epic chorus of “Run, Kenny, run”.
If the internet had existed in any useful way back then I would have a) filmed it and b) tweeted at Kenny about his predicament. As it stands, this entire event only exists in my memory, aided by the photo.
I don’t want to speak ill of the organization that funded this camp, because I do believe they do good work and are, on the whole, helpful, so I’ll refrain from using any names. But there was definitely one part of that summer that bothered me and the other counsellors - the annual board member picnic. This was when members of the board of the unnamed organization would drive up to the camp and have lunch in the outdoor eating area.
Nothing wrong with that - most of them had donated large sums of money for these kinds of privileges. What bothered us was that they then requested certain campers be brought by to meet them and pose for photos. I suppose it could have been worse - the campers could have been asked to perform, maybe a rousing rendition of “That’s What Friends Are For”. There was also a lot of gossip as to how the campers were chosen, that lead to some very inappropriate statements made about what is probably just a group of generous men. (And they were all men.)
After the camp I went to work for one of my campers as a part-time caregiver. He was a young man with cerebral palsy, confined to a wheelchair, and also one moody, cantankerous bastard. He was also, by turns, funny, charming, sincere, and brutally honest. In other words, he was as complex as any other human being, and this complexity was singularly unmitigated by the fact that he couldn’t talk.
For the entire first day at camp I was certain he hated me, or, at least was having a really bad time, until I noticed a slight smile creeping over his lips whenever he thought I wasn’t looking. It was then I realized that he wasn’t having a bad time but, like almost anybody, he didn’t like being taken for a fool. I had been talking to him almost non-stop, worried that he’d feel neglected (or, if I’m honest, worried that I’d look like I was neglecting him.)
But as I got to know him I understood how having someone just talk at you and, worse, pretend to answer for you is pretty insanely annoying. So I stopped and just watched him when I wanted an answer to “How are we doing?” or “What do you want to do?” and generally, I think, I got what he was saying. I lost track of Peter a few years after I stopped working with him. I like to think he’s giving someone else the same kind of wonderful grief he gave me, and that that someone is a beautiful woman.
In which I walk from East Dulwich to Brixton on the hottest day (so far) in London.
Weather-wise, it has been a summer to forget. By trading one water-logged city for another I realize I’ve resigned myself to countless more earnest conversations about the weather, and where this summer stands versus all previous summers (“the worst”), and what we all are for putting up with these 13-degree, permanently moist if not actively raining days (“crazy”).
Of course, now that the Olympics are almost here, the officially sanctioned perfect days of cloudless skies have arrived, turning London into a swamp of sweaty, sun-addled lobsters. Which is the perfect time to forgo public transit and walk from my home in East Dulwich to the market in Brixton.
I read recently that not knowing where you are in a city simply requires ignorance, whereas getting lost demands a real sense of purpose. It’s not hard to get lost around the south of London, with its streets eschewing any sense of a grid or pattern, and its rows of houses dead-ending without warning, making it the perfect place to have a wander.
I’m fading hard, which is embarrassing and shameful. In my defence it really is ridiculously hot after weeks and weeks of cool and drizzle. I’m going through my water like the crazy guy on a life raft; I’d be drinking sea water if I was on the ocean.
No, seriously, this is terrible. This is why people don’t walk anywhere. No public water fountains. No public shade. I’m standing on a street corner melting into my shoes and there is no one about anywhere. The most beautiful day of the year in London and not a single person is out (or they’re all at the lido, or beach, or eating delicious ice cream in some sensibly shaded area).
I’m not lost, since I’m following the 37 bus route precisely, but I’m hot enough to think I might be lost, and yes that makes no sense but that’s how amazingly hot I am. Did I mention I’m carrying a DSLR? I’m carrying a DSLR.
No more water. Send dogs with balms of nectar.
Vancouver prides itself on being an exceptionally green city, which is a little like Venice being proud of being underwater. Sure, Vancouver is green, but it’s Vancouver, not Phoenix. Maintaining a park in Vancouver is about as labour intensive as watering fish in a lake. In London, every park is being used, and there is an amazing number of parks, most small and comically statued, but many large, the size of neighbourhoods, and filled with families, musicians, and that shirtless guy doing one push-up every five minutes.
I take shelter in a park and lean against a tree. I whisper to it that it’s a very good tree, in the hope it will share some of its moisture. It does not. Nature is selfish and cruel.
Brixton. Mother-loving, ice-cold drink-vending Brixton. There are people everywhere, and all these people are drinking beer. Parched with thirst and on the verge of singing show tunes in a fountain, I realize now why the great explorers of the past tried to walk across Australia.
When I was four or five years old I would wake up every morning and eat oatmeal with my dad. I have only vague images of this, which are themselves probably simulations based on stories my parents told me many years later. That said, the feeling of heading down the stairs to share oatmeal with my dad remains in that space between true recollection and fabrication, and is one of my favourite stories about me.
Apparently, I was a voracious eater of oatmeal.
There’s nothing more boring than someone extolling the virtues of eating breakfast, and I’m happy to say that the fact that it’s The Most Important Meal of the day and Vital for a Healthy Lifestyle does not factor at all into why I love it so much. Breakfast could be linked to cancer and I’d probably sneak two or three a week.
What a proper breakfast signifies—and here by proper I mean something that resembles a meal, and not a bar of compressed nuts covered in yogurt—more than anything else is the availability of time. Unless you’re the type to wake up two hours before you need to leave the house, a proper breakfast is probably beyond you on most working days. But on holidays, or when gainfully unemployed, breakfasts offer the kind of decadence I associate with jackets worn indoors and afternoons playing ridiculous sports.
With the kind of time I’ve had over the past eight weeks I’ve produced breakfasts of such dense amazement sometimes I just sit in front of the plate almost weeping. I’ve discovered the delight of duck eggs, of cooking tomatoes slowly in a pan, of scrambling eggs with butter by taking the pan on and off the heat. When I have significantly less time on my hands, as dictated by bank accounts and bills, its breakfasts I’ll miss the most, although I have a sneaking suspicion kippers and eggs will start making their way onto the dinner menu.
If music has any power left in it (of course it does, surely it does), it won’t be found in detailed discussions of the music industry’s descent into obscurity. We talk about music like we can trade it for chips in Vegas, and not like it lives and breathes and pulses and babies know about it the moment they’re born.
And while you will have to pry my iPod from my cold, dead hands, curved perpetually to its scroll-wheeled demands, music is still best experienced live, which is where The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Mattson, takes his music and drives it directly, unerringly, into your soul.
Mattson is the kind of artist so in love with his audience that he’ll play a free set to people who bought his album literally minutes before he’s meant to take the stage for a paid show. It’s one thing to render judgment of music as it comes through a set of headphones, quite another when you’re faced with Mattson’s profusely sweating brow as he almost melts in Rough Trade’s stale, unmoving air.
Recorded live at Rough Trade East, Brick Lane, London, 2012.
The world’s oldest public electrical clock at Greenwich, England.
There’s something inherently sad with the world’s once-proud industrial powers being reduced to using “Made in _______” as a marketing catchphrase, yet we’ve undoubtedly reached that point. In the cases of the U.S. or England it’s even odder that the few goods still made in those countries, invariably items of clothing, are valued more abroad then by their own populaces (see: Japan).
These New Balance 420s are made in the Flimby factory, which, judging by the website, is a twee, eccentric place straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. While employing some 210 local craftspeople is undoubtedly a good thing, the question has to be asked - why pitch this as such a gimmick? Unless the Flimby factory is being operated at a loss, it seems you can make shoes in England without having to charge more for them.
I suppose profit margin really does make all the difference. If you can stand the terrible music this video offers a nice look inside the factory.
The British are Coming, and They're Better Dressed
When I came to visit London in December and help my wife move in, she said that she had figured out why men in London were so much more stylish than men in Vancouver (or even New York and Paris).
Oh yeah? Why?
The men of London are exposed at a much younger age to quality items, from bespoke tailoring to umbrellas that don’t turn inside out. But if I had to list one thing that separates their look from most other cities, other than perhaps Tokyo, it would be the shoes. London men wear better shoes.
I don’t mean the shoes are necessarily better made, at least not at the price point most of us shop at. I’m not even sure that they have more access to better-looking shoes, although London is obviously a much larger city than Vancouver. But what is clear, especially walking through the financial district, is that London men make more astute shoe buying choices - the shoes look like they were chosen with the outfit (which are themselves so much nicer. But that’s a different post.)
Man, life sure gets busy, doesn’t it? What with work and hobbies and keeping in shape, things just back up on you. Take me, for example. This morning I left the house and I totally forgot to eat. Just plum forgot. And you, well you clearly forgot to cut your toenails.
I’m going to guess this is something you normally do in the morning, because if it was something you meant to do last night I assume you’d have taken care of it by now. Or, you were all set to cut them, realized the lateness of the hour and that 8:00 surgery you were expected at, and rushed out of the house clippers still clenched firmly in your hand.
What you didn’t do, what I refuse to believe you did, was come to the gym intending to cut your toenails. Intending to cut your toenails while sitting on the one bench in this washroom/changeroom that has literally 12 square feet to stand in. I know you didn’t do that, because then I’d have to move to a hut in the mountains.
You do realize you’re cutting them onto the floor, right? The floor where, unless we want to stand in the showers or balance on our shoes, one of us is later going to put our bare feet?
Because this is David Rees, and because it is about $15 pencil sharpening, it’s impossible to watch this video and not think “This is a giant ironic something and I should view it ironically”. But it’s much better to watch it and think, this guy really loves pencils.
It reminds me in some strange way of Robin Sloan’s app essay, “Fish”, where he persuasively argues that the internet has hit us with so much awesome that it just flows right over us.
Ethiopia has a thriving shoe-cleaning culture – sit at a cafe for more than 5 minutes and someone will offer to clean your shoes – offering something to rest your feet on whilst you wait. Cleaning crews sit around big bowls of sudsy water scrubbing shoes back to perfect whiteness. Clean shoes as a signifier of status.
1. There will be a rash of style blogs featuring photos of men wearing t-shirts and sweatpants. Or maybe only one. If only one, this person will get a book deal. The book will be sold in Urban Outfitters and called I Dress for Success.
2. The blog Ryan Gosling Wore This will be created and also be turned into a book. Just to mess with us Gosling will take to wearing a lot of plaid and funny hats.
3. Men will wear pants cuffed so high sock garters will come back into fashion. Eventually the garters will attach to the moustache.
4. More pink.
5. The indoor scarf will meet its natural partner, the indoor animal fur undershirt.
Looking around Vancouver, with its fleece and GORE-TEX and endless glass condos, it’s hard to imagine it’s the same city that captivated Fred Herzog to shoot in colour. His photographs, slightly revolutionary at the time when people still believed all art photography should be black and white, seem to capture a bizarro Vancouver, one we’re unlikely ever to see again.
Particularly heartbreaking are his photos of a vibrant, beautiful Chinatown, long since replaced by the dingy pallor of people fighting to hang on.
Club Monaco is easily my favourite mall brand - in the last five years it’s become the only store of its kind that I’ll even bother browsing. Most of my shirts, for example, are from Club Monaco. A Continuous Lean has just posted about his collaboration with the brand, for a line of pieces that are made, as per his calling card, in America.
No offense to Michael Williams or American workers, but considering the brand was started in Canada I’m wondering why they’ve never tried this with a Canadian designer and Canadian garment workers. Naked and Famous has proven that Canadian-made clothes are a viable business model.
Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades. Indeed, they were so skilled at making jeans, it was the very last jeans factory in Britain to close.
David Hieatt is the man behind the Do Lectures and, as such, knows a little bit about getting things done. And one of the things he’s getting done is reviving the denim industry in Cardigan, West Wales.
Hiut Denim is the dream, and to that end they’ve bought a factory and a farm and outlined a noble if ambitious business plan.
2, No debt. We will raise money for working capital by selling shares in the company. No loan to repay. No bank to answer to. We have to understand the importance of this. If we fritter our money away now, we will not forgive ourselves later.
If there’s one thing I like, it’s a good story. And Hiut has a good story. Best of luck.