Considering the cacophony of late from recession to politics to terror, much like any brand we all need a little white space to gain perspective. A certain barometer of the times, NYC's Village Halloween Parade couldn't have a better-timed theme: Ghost. How's that for back to basics?
"A white cotton sheet with two holes for eyes floats before you. It is the first and the simplest of masks. The sheet defines an absence, or rather an invisible presence, made perceptible only by its earthly veil.
"Beneath the veil lies the sum of our hopes, fears, and memories..."
Twice a year Manhattan takes on the effect of a modern day Stonehenge (where large vertical rocks were found in in the Salisbury Plain of England, the sun rises in direct alignment at the summer solstice.) For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes on Thursday, May 29h this year, one of only two occasions when the Sun sets in exact alignment with the Manhattan grid, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight. The other day is Saturday, July 12th. These two days give you a photogenic view with half the Sun above and half the Sun below the horizon—on the grid. The day after May 29th (Friday, May 30th), and the day before July 12 (Friday, July 11) will also give you Manhattanhenge moments, but instead you will see the entire ball of the Sun on the horizon—on the grid. My personal preference is the half-Sun.
Summer tends fuel omnivorous thinking. Two seemingly disconnected things came together for me as thought that I would love to see come to life. The main thought comes from my involvement over the last year in the Community Board 2's Omnibus Committee related to the demolition and redevelopment of St. Vincent's Hospital - a huge and highly politically charged redevelopment project of Greenwich Village that has many people fearing the end of the city they remember and love.
Second thought came from watching a rerun of Knocked Up. In the movie the brotherhood of burnouts scheme to start there own online version of MrSkin.com. The site gives users access to a comprehensive archive of nude scenes search-able by actor names.
OK....how are these connected? It is all about how we rebuild and how we see our relationship to time and place. Our quickness to tear down and start over comes because we forget the stories that live in the buildings and environment around us. How they have shaped what we do and believe. We are losing a sense of the narrative of urban (and suburban) environments because we don't remember and have disconnected to what the architecture means to us. It is easier to bulldoze instead of reuse if we don't connect to the historical narrative inherent in these structures. Perhaps the intersection of analog and digital can help to keep the connection going and help inform better how we grow the story going forward.
These buildings and locations live on film in the history of cinema. Thousands and thousands of locations that were chosen and immortalized in the history of film. Perhaps geo-tagging (a la Mr. Skin) the hundreds/thousands of scenes to the geographic map would grow this perception of this relationship between place and identity in the minds of people. The mundane locations that we walk by day after day have been the context and backdrop for so many films. Slices of time and evolving narrative.
The problem with maps is that we tend to think of them as simply tied only to the present. The reality is that they are obsolete the moment they are published. The broader idea of maps as a series of layers by which we experience place - past, present, future - virtual is far more powerful in plotting the relationship between space and identity. The evolution of technology seems ripe to bridge this gap.
Brooks Brothers will be joining the growing number of luxury retail brands on the transformed Bleeker Street in the West Village with their new Black Fleece concept launched last year with guest designer Thom Browne. The first Black Fleece by Brooks Bros. freestanding store will open in mid-October at 351 Bleecker Street on the corner of 10th Street. Brooks Bros. men's suits range from $600 to $2,400, whereas Black Fleece men's suits start at $2,700, with plaid suits being the bestseller. (via WWD)
I'm back on my Tricross and getting in some great city riding... finally.
I have a a love-hate-despise relationship with the brand known as Sex & the City. In that progression. It has been an evolution, a slow realization that what was an innocent TV show diversion has snowballed into something far more hideous and damaging to other far more important brands. Namely Greenwich Village and NYC. Let me explain.
I'm like a lot of people. I enjoyed tuning in ten years ago to the simple little stories while ordering my Blockhead burritos on Kozmo.com and waiting for the Internet bubble to burst. But there are people who really bought into this particular myth tied to the trend in "neo-urbanism". It has been the hook that has made city living cool again for so many people. I've lived in Greenwich Village for about 25 years and it seems slightly paranoid to say - but unfortunately true - that many people who are now living an existence embodied by Carrie Bradshaw. Fifteen years ago, conversation about shopping and getting your nails done would be an odd fit for the brand of Greenwich Village - but now it seems to have gobbled up a lot of that original meaning. The Village was the creative refuge from the commercialization and commodization of post-war fifties conformity. It is the birthplace of the modern bohemian. Economics and the price of real estate has now made the neighborhood the new badge-du-jour to show off - and the show and now movie gives amplification to this unfortunate development. A direct correlation can be made to the rise in property values and the perception that has driven up that value. It is fueled by a fantasy cooked up on HBO.
Why care? Because the brand of Greenwich Village is infinitely more important than a TV show. To let the original meaning of the Greenwich Village brand migrate based on property values to the Lower East Side, then to Brooklyn and then possibly even Philadelphia. Perhaps it is a challenge for New York to reclaim that meaning. When I see recent ads for NYC it seems that the branding has become a view from the outside in. The recent Just Ask the Locals campaign speaks to this re contextualized/prettied-up view. Yes, these are people who live here (partly) - but are they what define the real DNA of the city? Or are they just telling us what they think we want to hear. NYC is a city that needs to brand from the inside out. We are telling stories that we think people want to hear - rather than making people come to terms with our own complex truth.
The dream years in New York City for me was when I first came here in the early eighties - because I felt part of a small group of people who new how to decode New York's true meaning beyond the decay. It challenged me. I look at some of the current challenges that New Orleans faces as it rebuilds. Should development and commercial narrative trump the inherent narrative of that city? We need to think more deeply about the idea of sustainability and bring this to what we do with brands. Sometimes it is too easy to write stories that fail to challenge - to package and put a bow on things too quickly. The Sex & the City myth has been that convenient packaging device.
However, perhaps the fact that I am writing this shows that we are a a point that we are finally cycling out of this empty approach. Perhaps the myth birthed in late nineties optimism has finally run out of steam. Like the SUVs that now sit in the car dealer lots with no buyers - maybe we are at that point that we can cycle into a new more interesting context of what it means to live in New York City, Greenwich Village and cities in general. I'm an optimist - I do live in Greenwich Village after all.
Closing day seven of New York fashion week on Thursday, Feb. 7, Zac Posen's Fall 2008 tour de force featured sources of fetish and fantasy for both men and women, from schoolgirl uniforms to fairytale ball gowns.
"It's all of a woman’s fetishes," said Posen post-show. "That's the direction we're going to keep pushing [the collections]."
"Undone-done feels really good right now," he quipped.
Maila Nurmi, whose "Vampira" TV persona pioneered the spooky-yet-sexy Goth aesthetic, has died. She was 85. Friends plan to transport Nurmi's casket in the same hearse she rode in when she served as grand marshal in a procession of hearses sponsored by Los Angeles' Petersen Automotive Museum -- a vintage 1951 vehicle that appeared in a scene of "Ed Wood." (Read more from CNN.)
Vampira played with her pet tarantula, gave gruesome recipes for vampire cocktails and bathed in a boiling cauldron. With a knack for the double-entendre and the requisite blood-chilling scream, Vampira was a hit.
The character won Nurmi short-lived fame and a dedicated cult following. Nurmi claimed Vampira was also the uncredited inspiration for later ghoulish yet glamorous female characters in film and television, including Elvira.
The unconventional came calling in 1953, after Nurmi attended a Hollywood masquerade ball dressed as the ghoul of Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons. In creating Vampira, Nurmi said she went beyond the Addams cartoon, developing an alter ego influenced by beatnik culture and her experiences as a child of the Depression.
"The times . . . were so conservative and so constrained," Nurmi said in a video interview that was posted on her website. "There was so much repression, and people needed to identify with something explosive, something outlandish and truthful."
Read more from the LA Times.