Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Saw this cool poster recently on Copenhagenize.com as regards the way Rio de Janeiro Brazil feels about transportation Infrastructure.  I’m in sort of a big bike advocacy mood as of late… so I thought I would repost it here.  The City of Sao Paulo Brazil is reworking their complete infrastructure with the help of Copenhagenize.  Rio is along for the ride too.  Anyone interested in bike infrastructure around the world ought to be tuned into Copenhagenize.com

Opposite land.

In Opposite land the roles of bicycles and cars are reversed.  Every street is a bike street.  Every house has a bike garage and bicycles dominate the transportation environment.  There are elevated commuter trains over grand central Bike stations with tons of bike parking and restaurants and showers and mechanics on staff.  Roadies ride through towns on Bike Freeways with onramps and offramps.  There are large beautiful country bike loops to wineries, cafes and b and b’s in the surrounding hills.

There is a Bikotel… or “bike hotel”.   The first in the nation.  There are arterial streets for faster riders… and local streets for slower riders. There are “bike up” windows at hamburger places.   Tourists flock to the area from Europe and Japan… and Portland.   Bike infrastructure receives 98% of transportation funding…

There are cars in opposite land too… and there is a growing automobile enthusiasts network that make this “alternative transportation” choice.  There are some class one “Car-Paths” and a few decent class two “Car-paths”. But they usually end just when you need them most… before big intersections.  There is also a plan for the City to Sea Car Path… but “CalBike” is being a stick in the mud by requiring a huge Car Bridge over the CALBike freeway that nobody has the funds for.   Two of the most innovative Auto infrastructure items are the unique “Car traffic Signal” on Santa Barbara St. and the six block long “Car Blvd.” on Morro Street (which is closed to bikes in this area!) Both of these Car infrastructure improvements have been featured in automobile advocacy magazines.  Indeed… Automobile usage has been widely promoted in many circles as greatly beneficial to the public at large

But in Opposite Land… the general public says that cars are just not useful for regular people who actually go to work and need to buy groceries.  They are too difficult to get around in and too dangerous…. They just don’t make sense.

So the Opposite Land “Automobile Coalition” aims to change this.  They visualize a multi modal transit infrastructure that serves all users equally.  They have signs that say “share the road.   They explain that with more Car paths and car routes car usage would go up… dramatically.

 Yet even with advocacy… Opposite Land automobile infrastructure receives less than 2% of transportation funding.

What is it going to take to change this?  How can we convince Opposite land government that Automobiles usage is up and climbing… and deserves more than 2%?

full disclosure: BikeSnob NYC already panned Opposite Land years ago in his blog as a “parody of itself” (the author here thinks it’s important to note that Bike Snob took 6 weeks off work to drive to Opposite Land on truckroutes though… with a group of other “dieseltourists” from NYC in a Peloton of Dodge Double cab dually pickups and as such dismisses BSNY’s earlier appraisal)

BTW… the bike in the photo up top was built by John Cutter in San Luis Obispo… for the 2011 Oregon Manifest.  It received honorable mention… but probably should have won instead of that beachcruiser with a radio.

My friend Dan Sullivan (who I have named “the barometer of hip”) wrote me an email dissing brands and the surf clothing industry a while back…  It is a topic he and I chat about often… branding, trends, style, culture etc.   Here is what he wrote…(in one huge long single sentence with 17 commas… classic Dan style…) and it succinctly sums up what many people feel about the marketed “surf culture”  and “action sports”… or truly… about brands in general.

Dan wrote:

“Since ESPN and Orange County apparel and footwear peddlers coined the act of surfing, skating, riding a dirt bike, or snowboarding  an  “Action Sport”,  these activities, which use to be about fun, personal enlightenment and self challenge, have deteriorated to just another over-marketed activity that requires “specialized gear”, which  former surfers, skaters and snowboarders of Orange County, will gladly sell you, at inflated prices, even though the goods are the same quality as a a Wal-Mart garment, and sewn in the same factories in China, so they can live in faux Tuscan Villas, drive Range Rovers and keep their wives in shoes, handbags and sunglasses, purchased at South Coast Plaza.”

I love his comment.  Dan and I have been friends for many decades and have watched as surf culture was absorbed by large brands… and as action sports was born.  Indeed I am guilty of helping create the monster as creative director of the first “skateboard clothing” company: Vision Street Wear…. and via the  shoe brand I built Simple Shoes.(Full disclosure… Dan was marketing director for a while)

So I will just come out and say it… “there is no such thing as surf clothing”.  Surf clothing is a bathing suit.  That’s it.  Birdwell Beach Britches may be an authentic surf clothing company I suppose… all they sold was trunks back in the day… and pretty much only to surfers.  But the list is damn short after them…. a few Authentic Hawaiian shirt companies are authentic.  Everyone else in the category today called surf or action sports including me pretty much made up what we now call surf style or action sports.  These days there are even re-issues of classic (made up) surf style.  There are even re-issues of classic skate style from the 1980’s…  but it wasn’t original then… it was just made up.

Dan would say “it is all bullshit”.   And it is true… it was bullshit then… and it is now.

Think about it…. WHY ON EARTH should you PAY to wear somebody’s name on your shirt?  In all honesty… they should be paying you to wear their name.  Why pay to have a surf clothing company… or any company for that matter… on your shirt?  It is ridiculous.  But marketers have been making up stories about how the cool kids all wear  “X” and so if you want to be cool you have to wear “X”.  They pay pro athletes to wear “X” and or really incredibly beautiful girls to wear “X” and people buy it.  Over and over.

THIS IS CRAZY!  WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Why have we allowed ourselves to be defined by what we wear… what we drive… etc. It is NOT who we are.  It is a dream… a false reality.  You are not cooler because you drive certain kind of car.  You are truly just a sucker.  You are not cooler if you wear some branded article of clothing. Again you are just a sucker.  There on only so many hours in a day to work to earn money… don’t waste it on stuff you have been fooled into thinking will make you cool.

I suppose it has to do with fitting in… not wanting to be the outcast.  But when you think of the truly interesting and cool people you have known… did they wear branded merchandise and was that what you remember… NO WAY.  Does anyone give a crap what pants Pablo Picasso was wearing.

DEFINE YOURSELF somehow… you are not the sum of your possessions or your wardrobe.  The people with the cool new clothes from the cool new store are not cooler than you… they are sheep.

Trends are all born from trend forecasters who watch truly cool individuals doing things that are different than the norm.  Those different things… when they occur randomly… are noted by trend forecasters and photos are taken and various style trend books note the oddity.  These style trend books are then sold by the trend forecasting agencies to the fashion houses for HUGE sums of money… the fashion houses research the trend books accuracy by sending their designers out around the world to verify the trend within certain core constituencies and at a certain threshold of adoption amongst “alpha”  examples.  Once it is fairly obvious that a given trend is going to become mainstream enough for the fashion house to be able to sell this to the dept store, surf shop etc it is given the greenlight to go to production.  So they copy the idea and sell it and it is part of their “forward” collection at first… until it proves itself for a season.. at which time it then gets put into the regular line.

You will never see the truly cool people wearing the branded products unless they are being PAID to wear them.  Think about this.  Does the coolest person you know wear brand t-shirts?  Probably not.

Most brands are vultures preying on our lack of self confidence and our desire to be cool.  But truly cool people don’t wear brands.

Yes… there are some exceptions… where a company makes something that is truly useful or performs in a way that other clothes don’t.  Smartwool socks for example… They are warmer than cotton socks and they wear well.  But these are just socks… they are not surfer socks or action sports socks.  So if some surf brand slapped their label on wool socks would they be better… nope.

Branded clothing is probably less than about 150 years old.  Somehow we humans seemed to survive without wearing big logos on our chests for millions of years.

So be brave… be original… find a truly unique style that is your own.  Be the one that the trend forecasters take the photo of.

and yes I did design and sell action sports clothing… and action sports shoes… and am thus a hypocrite I suppose… The nicer amongst you will notice that I no longer sell fashion clothing or shoes though… and simply call me a sell out.  The very few of you left that haven’t called me a hypocrite or a sellout probably actually know me and will simply snicker quietly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry  Thoreau:  “avoid all activities requiring special clothing”

Hippie modernist lighting

I’ll admit it… I am usually not a big fan of can lighting. But I take exception in this case.  This is an old coffee can… opened on both ends and then spray painted blue.  It is screwed to the wood… surrounding a galvanized exterior light socket.  The astute amongst you will have noted that the wiring is actually speaker wire.  ( I don’t recommend this)  This lamp was built circa 1967 by a Cal Poly Architecture student named Todd Stoutenborough.  (now he designs colleges and office parks… I wonder if he misses building lights out of scrap).  I’m gonna call this style “hippie minimalist”.  Most hippie architecture is just scrappy… but this particular piece was actually pretty cool back in the day.  Now however… 44 years later… it is looking a tad saggy and rusty around the edges.  Probably time to get a new can at least.. and maybe some regular wire.

You can build this yourself…The can is free… the wire you can swipe from something else probably…. and the galvanized bits are probably less than 12 bucks at the hardware store.  Spray paint is around 6 bucks.  I can visualize this project in an old issue of popular mechanics back in the day… but today I suppose it would be in “make” magazine.

Below is a short story I wrote in 2000 about living in Montecito CA (Santa Barbara area)… where we lived for a few years in the 1990’s.  We left in 2001 and moved back home to downtown San Luis Obispo, CA.

—–

On living in Montecito…
Despite what you might think… well… Montecito is just a pretty odd place to actually live.  There are houses here and there… usually on at least 2 acres… but I somehow don’t have any neighbors really.   I know, I know… what about Oprah and all the movie producers etc etc.  Well,  it is not exactly as it seems.

 I was one of the lucky ones… or so everyone thought anyway… I looked lucky after all… I had sold my company… I had lots of funny cool shoes from Europe and had a new Audi wagon and a cool small 50’s modern house with a nice view and old oak trees.  My wife and I were young… in our thirties… we had nice bookcases with interesting books and we had some nice paintings.

But nobody really lives in Montecito as it turns out.  This was somewhat disconcerting at first.  You’d really never know it for all the activity going on.

Anyway…

I was walking across San Ysidro Rd. one day… at the corner of East Valley… on my way over to Pierre’s (the deli) when I noticed that all four cars at the intersection were Range Rovers… probably all Realtors…all talking on separate cell phones… and even the passenger of one of the Range Rover’s was talking on a cell phone… (that’s 5 phone calls at a 4 way stop). I had to hurry so as not to get run over by one of them (no doubt discussing the proper spelling of “Palladian” with her assistant).

So I was pondering about realtors and real estate as I walked over into the parking lot at Pierre’s.  It was a normal day… I noticed nobody noticing Christopher Lloyd having coffee.  Nobody noticed Sandra Bullock either… I’m pretty sure it was her… I was trying hard to be cool and not to gawk.

I got my coffee and I began ruminating on the fact that the house next to mine has been remodeled three times in the last five years… and all the while it has never been lived in.  It sold for 1.2 about three years ago… then 2.2 about a two years ago… and now I expect it will be 6 to 7 as the most recent remodel involved scraping the entire old structure (a somewhat odd but fine old house) and building a new 5500 square foot palladian (there’s that word… see) villa. Basically this house has been more of a business for developers than a home.

It is one of 5 houses in my neighborhood that have recently become palladian villas.  In fact I would say that most of the houses in the area have been going through some sort of Tuscanization process of one sort or another constantly since we moved here. (save three that are owned by people who are so old that they still keep horses on the property)

The house two over was leveled and got built into a 10,000 foot mansion a few years back.  It sold just over a year ago for around 8.  The new owners are adding on… they needed another 1000 feet.  I have yet to see them… no sign of them anywhere.   Up the hill a bit is another.  It was modern…now it’s been hispanificated and sold… then sold again.  Another sold on the first day at 9.9.  One magazine article from LA calls these houses “white piles”… the subcontractors call them “big dick” houses.

The house across the street sold to a corporation before anyone knew it was for sale.  It’s now the latest in the “scrape it and build a huge mansion on it” category.  Montecito ABR reviewed it and declared it will be beautiful enough (preserving the character you know).  New landscaping will replace existing landscaping.

I have never hired a building contractor but I know all of them some how… Paul… Doug… Rick…. Mark… Mike.  Always a four-letter name.  Anyone who actually lives here knows them too.  You see them all the time… over various fences…  they are quite similar to neighbors actually.

Montecito may not be a place people really live I guess… it is just the impression of a beautific enclave… a well disguised business for Realtors, gardeners, and home builders… except maybe on Sundays… but during the week it is major earthmoving equipment of one sort or another… with a light topping of leaf blowers and chainsaws… punctuated by the din of “tres million watt” Mexican radio stations (the guys building all the walls around the houses nobody lives in).

So meanwhile back at Pierre’s some LA producer type drives up in his new Aston Martin.  He’s probably here to look at some houses.  He’s not staying at the Miramar mind you because despite whatever Schrager’s Gucci wearing team of PR people are telling Wallpaper… there doesn’t seem to be much construction going on.  He’s probably staying at one of the “Beanie” hotels owned by Ty Warner (Beanie Baby fortune… why does that sound so goofy)

Anyway… he gets out of the car and it’s horn beeps as he locks it…  never mind that the only other cars in the lot are a whole slew of BMW’s, a Mercedes 600CL, a Turbo Porsche with ceramic brakes, four or five Mercedes wagons (the Montecito Taurus), the aforementioned RRR (Realtor in a Range Rover) and an Audi wagon (the dot com influence you know)… and the only people sitting there that would possibly steal anything from his $200,000 car are six or seven old timers and a smattering of young retired entrepreneurs in huaraches, old shorts and scrappy t-shirts quietly arguing about how the cinnamon rolls used to taste better.

So… after my coffee I walk to my car in my huarraches… and yes… it is the Audi… parked at Pierre’s even though I went to the Pharmacy (hey I did buy a coffee and I would have bought a cinnamon roll except… well you know)  I drive over to the Post Office and park in front of Tecolote book store, quietly kicking myself for buying that last book on Amazon.

On the way home I drive by an open house (It’s Wednesday… caravan day for the RRR’s)  It’s a decent older modern house with a terrific view of the mountains.   I’m told it “might have been designed by somebody famous”.  Most agents are calling it a scraper.  It’s priced at 3.5 on 2 1/2 acres.

Later that evening my wife and I go to “the Ranch”… to the Plow and Angel restaurant… because it is only about 1500 feet from our house.   Bill Gates and his wife were eating dinner at the table two over.  The last time we went to the Plow and Angel Oprah was there… although at that time I didn’t know that she was buying the Bacon Estate.

I do suppose all this construction will have to die down a bit someday.  It can’t go on ad infinitum.  Harry Dent says the Boomer earnings peak is between now and 2007 or so… So I ponder my future… and meanwhile it is a great place to live… especially on Sundays.

I feel compelled to mention we bought an older house downtown in San Luis Obispo, CA… We don’t live there now of course… it just sits empty.  I pay gardeners to keep it up.  We’ll move back there eventually I suppose.  After a remodel.

Love what you build.

I am a big fan of special architectural details.  This sidewalk is a perfect example.  It takes just a bit more work… but it is so much more fun in the end.    Don’t just do something like it has always been done… make it something special.    Every aspect of building can be made special in some way… and the more special details you have… the better you will love what you build.  This sidewalk took a bit of form work… and some extra acid washing… but just look at it!  It is awesome.

patina and restoration…

There is a quality of patina… that is impossible to describe.  The effects of weather, of chairs sliding on the floor, of cracks in the concrete, edges worn by use, stains from the wine bottle, and the worn area on a threshold from thousands of visitors footsteps.  I love this quality.

It is often difficult to convince people of this beauty.  But this quality took decades to acquire.  It can easily be erased with a careless restoration.  What is lost is truly the soul of a thing.  While a new restoration creates a facsimile of the old structure… all the experiences and acquired character are lost if you rebuild the patinated areas with new. The story of a place is in its flaws.  You remember the time that the wine spilled… the day your brother crashed his bike into the wall… and the day your dad scribed your height onto the closet doorjamb writing your name and the date next to the pencil line.  Can you imagine painting over all those height marks… from your youth?

Be careful when you restore things.  Try your best to notice what is damage… and what is life and history and soul.    The difference between an historic design… and a brand new design… is only the character of time that has been imprinted on something.  If you eliminate this character of time… you have destroyed the context of the thing.

a shoe for the creative class?

This was a limited edition sneaker Scott Milden, Coleman Horn and I  did in 2005 with Dwell Magazine.  They sold out immediately.  Our company was called Medium Design Group. We also did collab’s with Adobe and House Industries (a font company).  I loved the concept of Medium… but we were a tad too design elite.  The Creative Class as a target audience was a unique demographic though… and the concept still has merit.  Medium was sold to Pentland group in 2006.  They did not move forward with it though.

Scott and Coleman had worked with me at Simple.  Medium was primarily their baby.

Boat wheelhouse for sale

I saw this on the side of the road for sale… in Moss Landing, CA.   It is the wheelhouse from an old fishing boat. Now it is haunting me… it wants me to buy it and make it into something fun.  I could stick it into the roof of something perhaps… or build it into a shed in an ocean of long grass…

This is a napkin drawing idea I have for a steep “tv dinner tray” type hillside home…  a simple white modernist box on powdercoated orange steel stilts… with huge powdercoated steel webbed feet on the bottom of each stilt, orange painted deck out front and two round blue glass windows.  It could be called birdHaus, duckhaus or maybe quackMod.  I have to build this someday… just to make people smile.  I call this style “storybook modern”.

Don’t worry… I’m not actually gonna build it…