Saturday, January 31

late to the party -belle and sebastian

Hate to admit but ignored all Scottish pop after Teenage Fanclub sort-of-didn't-make-it. Only time I heard these guys before last month was in the movie High joke. Joke is on me though... they are so damn good. My loss. Big ups to Chris for the gift of cd's and heads up...; Peel/BBC Sessions NEVER disappoint. This takes late to the party to a ridiculous level I know... Your gran' can probably sing along...

bold faced name -sean connery

Friday, January 30

white house farmer

Last fall Michael Pollan wrote a fantastic article titled Farmer in Chief, calling for the White House to lead by example and nominate a White House 'Farmer' in addition to White House 'Chef'. You may have read it already. The White House Farmer nomination process was not started by the Obama administration (started privately, read the AP release here) but is definitely gaining traction.

My vote happens to be for Shepherd Ogden (more here); a gardener/entrepreneur/tough and tough to describe character from Landgrove Vermont (now living in the DC area), who started the Cook's Garden mail order seed company in 1983, forging a path/choice for homesteaders. Further achievements as long as your arm (sidenote: also turned the lawn on the Mall in DC into an organic lawn).

"Shep Ogden was the founder and President of Cooks Garden seed company, he is a very experienced Market Gardener, a top speaker on gardening and organic subjects and the author of Straight Ahead Organic among other titles. He has the gardening ability, the people and management skills to carry a position of this importance. Shep has approved this nomination and also supplied references: USDA Ext Agent for DC, Sandy Farber Dir US Botanic Garden, Holly Schimizu Chief Hort Guy for Nat’l Park Service NW, Rob DeFeo Chef (organic) Nora Poullion." Taken from his nomination profile.

Anyway, if you like the idea, please visit and read around. And you must vote before January 31st.

Thursday, January 29

omil takes japan -final chapter

Part 4. Back to Tokyo

"So after heading back to Tokyo, I was feeling a little under the weather, mostly gassy, but nothing to worry about, or, so I thought...

Booked a killer room in Kyoto, really hard to get a traditional Japanes hotel room these days - tatami mats, sliding screen doors etc - but my sidekick managed to track one down for a mere £66 pp/pn, and in a killer central location. straight away it's noticeable that Kyoyo is nowhere near as manic as Tokyo, but it was a welcome relief from Fukuoka which was kinda dead. We spent the day walking around, checking out the main drag and the old school Gion district. This is where the mythical Geisha girls can be found. Myths to dispel about Japan #1: you don't see Geishas, flying cars and ninjas on every street corner (but I did see a dude wearing those wooden clog things and the lone wolf straw hat). Geisha are mercurial creatures and, you have to see them move to believe it, but I've never seen anyone so small, with such small steps, move so damned fast. I caught of a whole convoy of them in Kyoto station, such a delight (enough to impress my companion's parents - 8 in one go is extraordinary). This almost counterbalances the one bad memory I have from the whole trip...

After feeling a bit rough post-Fukuoka, it turned into something full blown nasty at the end of our first night in Kyoto. We'd been out and had coffee, but no dinner.
...I was feeling a bit weary from trolling around the place and had a sudden jones for food. 5mins later queasy, 30 mins later = purge. After 24hrs of pure hell, I finally took my companions advice and ended up in A&E (brit speak for ER -ed.) the following night.

Even that cloud has a silver lining because the place was so cool and calm (unlike British hospitals, which are noisy, full of dangerous drunks etc) and the staff did everything they could to make me feel comfortable, throwing in bits of high school English here and there to make me feel part of the whole thing. Fell asleep with a drip in my arm and was discharged that night to sleep it off.

The following day, 1,000,000% better but still less than 50% peak. Did my best to soldier out to see a beautiful old temple (I am truly crap at remembering the names of these places, sorry!) and it was worth it because I would've felt doubly sick if I'd gone back to Tokyo and only really seen the inside of a Kyoto toilet bowl.

This place we went to see was built around 600 A.D., just an amazing temple overlooking the city. Fortuitously, the weekend we were there was just before the big coming of age festival that all 20 yr olds in Japan celebrate. This meant lots and lots of young folk wandering around in kimonos...
As well as the young uns, I saw a few blokes around my age walking around in kimonos, rocking the wooden clogs. In a way they were even more impressive than the women because they looked so imposing (and, when you think of someone weaaring a kimono, it's usually a lady wearing a beautifully patterened bit of fabric, not a shaven headed geezer who looks like he'll gut you soon as look at you). Couldn't manage the full wooden sandal thing but I bought a pair of simple Japanese slippers.

Back to the Yakuza thing: as I said, when you know, you just know. I've seen enough Takeshi Kitano films (i.e. all of them -ed.) to know what these guys look like. I know it sounds lame but let me present exhibit A ("Paid his dues").
The owner of this damaged hand, was wearing a fairly sharp suit and didn't look like he's just finished a shift at a local butcher's shop. Penance for a mistake in the Yakuza isn't demotion, it's the sacrifice of a joint from your finger, starting with the tip of the little finger. Being uber careful taking this snap...if someone can cut off the tip of their own finger (or willingly let someone else remove it for him - whatever) call me a coward, but I really don't want to rile him.

I took a few more shots after this but visiting the temple really took it out of me so I limped back to Tokyo Saturday afternoon, had another attack of the trots, worried about how I'd survive a 12hr flight, but pulled through just enough by Sunday night to take my flight home Monday morning. Very, very sad to go home.

I can't say it's got something for everyone, but, after around 15yrs of foreplay - reading about it, watching films about it, eating the food, learning the language etc - it wasn't at all anticlimatic.

I'm doubly determined to re-start studying the language and I'm really looking forward to receiving some visitors in London so I can extend the same warm hospitality I enjoyed there to them at my home.

The only thing to top it since? Obama '08.

Huge thx to Andrew for sharing the pics and write-up. Our man in London.

Wednesday, January 28

add some geography to your sock drawer

One of the few things I have purchased on Etsy. Vermont Balsam Sachet. 100% lavander free. Super potent and fresh, straight from the Green Mountains. Bit of a special order by New Duds but bet they would consider repeating...

omil takes japan -more more photos

Part 3: Taking a break from Tokyo for a moment.

'Shinkansen'...which is the proper name for the bullet train. These things are just incredible. Great value for money, more legroom than you get in business class, hostess service, plentiful toilets (cue "Engrish" signs) and LITERALLY punctual down to the second. Seriously, I reset my watch by the departure of one train, they're that good. Imagine what a shock it was to come back to London's dilapidated excuse for a massed transport system.

Went to Fukuoka, down south. I'd planned to visit Hiroshima when I was down there but timing just didn't work. I was crashing on a cold floor and was missing the relative comfort I was enjoying in Tokyo so I headed back after one day. Hardly worth the 12 hr round trip but I plan to do more exploring in the region next time I visit the country. Whilst down there, however, we went up the Fukuoka Tower (view above looking out, (awesome pic -ed.) and had a look around some kind of robot village, full of every possible variant of Sony's lovely Aibo digi-pets.

The train journey back was fairly chilled but notable for my first encounter with real life Yakuza. Long story, but I'm pretty sure they were the real deal. More on that angle later...

Saw the sign with the bagpipes and thought of you. Ok, so I was bored. Let's move on...

Back to Tokyo in the next, final, Part 4.

omil takes japan -more photos

Part 2.

There's a fair amount of those 'only in Japan' moments to be had but I didn't spend too much time in those areas packed with freaky crumpet. I'm crap with remembering the names of places but I'm pretty sure this was in Shibuya, as close as it gets to freakshow central and surely home to one of the most incredible pedestrian crossings in the world (See ACL video here). This girl was happy as larry, just a joy to behold. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I saw my wife/sister/mother/daughter dressed like this but she gets both thumbs up from me for not sparing the horses in the pursuit of cute. love it.

Snapped on my camera phone on the subway system (bit of a misnomer there because most of it, like all those cables and freeways, is dangling precariously overhead). This sums up the 'only in Japan' thing as much as any amount of neon etc. Hong Kong has neon, China has chopsticks but only Japan knows how to rock the tabi sock look.

What can I say? Toys for the boys! It is car lovers heaven over there.

I'm not even remotely ashamed to say that one of the highlights of being there was seeing several of the new model Skylines (yes, I'm that shallow - bragging rights, baby, bragging rights). My very patient tour guide was, I think, slightly perplexed by my sudden squeals of delight as yet another high performance vehicle came within line of sight/earshot. She soldiered on bravely, trying her best to (literally) drag my mind out of the gutter and show me some of the many lovely temples etc that are dotted around all over Tokyo. but, er, I forgot to take any shots of those so you'll have to take my word for it...

The 'legend' says that this was modelled on the Eiffeltower .. if I was that interested I'd look it up on wikipedia or something. This was New Year's Eve when we were walking around. We got to the tower just as it hit midnight... only to find out the info we'd got had been wrong and the celebration (balloon release etc) was around 1km away *sigh*. Needless to say, there were more than enough drunk 18-20 y/o Americans around to remind everyone that the party was indeed 'on'. Understandable. They do the same anywhere alcohol is freely available to under 21's without ID. The concept of alcohol also being available in plentiful supply on cornershop vending machines must have been truly mindblowing for these bright young things. Bless.

Shows how the screens in these places give punters some privacy in what otherwise is a huge open plan space. Also means the space is endlessly flexible if seating areas for large parties are needed. These guys have got it sussed.

Part 3 and 4 to come.

lead beehive

Title says it all really. Pops has a bunch of lead farm animals and soldiers from his childhood, finally unboxing them (cue unboxing video...). Prob not PC to let kids play with cast lead now... that were painted with lead paint no doubt... chipping all over the place. They feel so heavy and quality though.

Pops does infact have 2 actual beehives, and yes we have had a few colony collapses (and once the queen just zoomed off then they swarmed/moved.) Great older bit below from Eddie Izzard, 'Covered in Bees'.

Tuesday, January 27

snow = no curling

We had built up a crappy curling lane in the backyaahd. 4-6" coming tonight will put an end to that.

omil takes japan -finally the photos

OMIL just sent some pics from his Japan trip and some classic bylines. No doubt been/seen for those that have made the trek, but may amuse.

On the way into town from the airport, captured this dude (and a dude he well and truly was) driving like he was in a video game. At the lights he LIT UP the rear tyres and shot off into the horizon. Easy to see how I fell in love with the place...

One of the first things I noticed about Tokyo (aside from the fact that they deliberately stand on the left side of escalators and it's not just something they do to piss Londoners off after all) is the amount of cable hanging in the sky. It's like some kind of man-made forest canopy. "Let's put a skyscraper here, and mega shopping mall there, smother it all in neon, then ... oh, wait, we forgot to put any electricity or telecoms cables in" complete afterthought to it all. Brilliant

I think this was shot somewhere like Shibuya? Street upon street of the most amazing neon displays .. retina searing. Always thought those guys walking around at night wearing shades we total cockmeisters... now I realise, there are parts of Tokyo where you NEED shades at night. Seriously, the lights at street level are stadium bright. Amazing levels of light pollution (and radiation? ed.) good stuff.

From one temple to another - come worship at the house that denim built. There's a little Evisu store around the corner that does stuff European buyers have modded plus ladies and kids wear. Has to be seen to believed but, for a nation of people who are reknowned (notorious, even) for snapping everything in sight, these guys were a little camera shy. Fair play to them, I asked before I shot but it was a feast for the eyes (check the loom). The jewel in the crown, however, is the stash room upstairs. No signage, back door job, 5th floor, aladdin's cave. This is just a glimpse into the showroom but there are 3 rooms on the 5th floor alone, selling suiting, outrageous shirts that would make Versace gag and all the Evisu branded huntin' fishin' shootin' gear a boy could ever dream of. I bought a pair of painter pants with an embroidered pocket (pic to follow). The best bit for me? Seeing guys at various counters, using down time to hand-paint the logo onto the pockets of jeans. They do a full customising service where you can order a design and have it hand painted. next trip ... ;-)

-part deux tomorrow.

late to the party -andrew bird

Clip from Bonnaroo 2006. Andrew Bird & Martin Dosh - "Simple X".

Never heard of this guy Andrew Bird till today, so raking through his stuff. Like violins, like whistling, and def' like this guy's personal style. He has a new album out, Noble Beast. Don't want to oversell here but some nice stuff.

image from

I tend to whistle a lot, ('Carol of the Bells' for some reason) and Pops is a constant whistler. I often think of this Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne in True Grit) quote; "Damn a man who whistles."

'Late to the party' is a new segment... new finds for me that are probably old news to others.

rebeldata -cleveland library

Recent post from the great RebelData blog, Louis B. Stokes Wing, Cleveland Library. Welcome to my underground lair.... Couple more library/lairs here and here.

tintin -update

If slashfilm are excited, then you can be too... Full Paramount/Sony pressie from yesterday here.

Greatest hits:
Title- The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Director -Steven Spielberg
Tintin- Jamie Bell
Red Rackham -Daniel Craig
Captain Haddock -Andy Serkis
Thom(p)son Twins -Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure are the eleventh and twelfth books in the series but also the first two parts of a four book cycle that continued with The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun (read, movies 2 and 3). Still think they are missing out not using The Black Island.

Monday, January 26

guilty pleasure -carhartt vests

Love Carhartt's older denim stuff in general, the slim western shirts, even the western cut jeans if you get them a little long... Anyhow, have rocked a vest over the top of my jacket for a few years, great for adding a couple of pockets. Nice example above, with the much older blanket lining. Just $20 so far.

tweed messenger bag -panhandlehandmade

In the Etsy shop of panhandlehandmade, recently spotted these Basil Rathbone-tastic tweed messenger bags.

[Update: see The Tweed Run, thx ACL.]

Sunday, January 25

burns night -in the books

Our Burns celebration this year was centered round an excellent church service in Dorset, VT. Homemade haggis. That is a first for me. Not at all bad. We just ate it spread on oatcakes, with a cup of coffee, no booze in the church basement before noon... The rev' did a fantastic "Address to a Haggis" from memory though. Great stuff.

Interesting sidenote to the Lincoln bible in use on Tuesday.
"The Bible upon which Barack Obama swore his oath on Tuesday was that of Abraham Lincoln. That Bible lay on the bedside table every night that Lincoln spent in the White House, but it was not alone. Beside it lay his copy of the collected works Robert Burns, many of which Lincoln knew by heart..."

Robert Burns Park, Boston, MA.

Wednesday, January 21

burns night -the kilt

Not discussing the literal "how to put the kilt on", as others have done that already (see Matt Newsome's blog here), rather just a few tips and observations.

1. For single men, wearing a kilt to any function (wedding, Burns Night, inaugural ball...) is like chum to the sharks. Hugely recommended.

2. Slide your sporran to the side when dancing vigourously.

3. Any solid shoes/brogues will do really. Ghillie brogues (open lacing that goes up the leg) not necessary, though not overdoing it atall if you have them.

4. Sgian Dubh, fine. I don't wear one. Great example of a friend at his country wedding below, stepping it up with a dirk. BTW these are fantastically sharp, and not 'for show'. (Carrying a small kilted child is optional, they do get heavy after a while though.)

5. Flashes (garters) essential, and a notch up if matching the kilt, though often plain green or red.

6. Bowtie or long tie? Black bow tie does not go with a tweed jacket atall, otherwise either one. Long tartan tie looks great below.

7. How long/high should the kilt be? If you kneel down, the edge should skim the ground. It will probably hit you mid-kneecap when standing.

8. Can anyone wear a kilt? Which tartan? To paraphrase myself "hey we have a black guy from London wearing a kilt... I think you can too." You can wear any tartan associated with the family (father or mothers side) but Black Watch is standard issue for anyone.

[Bonus thought: when you travel, roll the kilt vertically, i.e. with the pleats, and slide it into an old pair of tights. Keeps the pleats all crisp.]

Tuesday, January 20

why physical libraries needed -1

See that book. You can't download that.

Many are right in saying today echoed Lincoln. And that the times may call for an echo of FDR.

FDR argued that a "Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future."

All that was true today.

this land is your land

Going back to Sunday's Inauguration Concert. Genius idea to have Pete Seeger on at the end. (There is a recent American Masters series on him that I need to see.) Don't have cable so missed the HBO aired concert, but was alerted by a tweet (right?) on twitter. Anyway, Pete included all the lesser heard verses... Goosebumps time.

A great high wall there, tried to stop me
A great big sign there, private property
On the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me.

robert burns -to a mouse

I had to recite this poem while in primary (grade) school after having moved to Scotland from Vermont. This was for a Robert Burns contest at the school (everyone had to enter) and 'To A Mouse' was the least daunting. My American/New England voice trying to speak Scots must have been like nails down a chalkboard. After a year or so I picked up quite a few colloquialisms ( th' morn, i dinnae ken, etc...) but my Scots grandpa once asked me to just stop trying... it sounded so rough. I am teaching our boys these words now. Not waiting.

Wee sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an chase thee,
Wi murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion.
An fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve:
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma request;
I'll get a blessin wi the lave,
An never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An naething, now, to big a new ane,
O foggage green!
An bleak December's win's ensuin.
Baith snell an keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an waste,
An weary winter comin fast.
An cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro thy cell.

That wee bit heap o leaves an stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble.
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o mice an men
Gang aft agley,
An lea'e us nought but grief an pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An forward, tho I canna see,
I guess an fear!

Sunday, January 18

smell like the woods -burts bees

Hard to browse to from the front of the site, but yes they still do it. This schoosh makes you smell like the woods. Love it. Details: Sage, Lemon and Lavender. Burt's Bees.

Friday, January 16

felt crusher

A New England fave with the old boys, and the blaze orange is perfect in case you need to walk in the woods come late autumn. Re-introduced by Lexington Outdoors, the site really says it best...

"These hats were made of tough boiled wool felt and worked great in any weather. You could fold it up, stuff it in your back pocket and pull it out when you needed it. They kept their shape and definitely were way more than a fashion statement in the woods of Maine. This was THE HAT you wore when you went in the woods to hunt, fish or work. It took a while to track down the original maker, and we are proud to bring back this legend of the north country. Still made in America and still a must-have piece of gear for anyone who works or plays in the great outdoors. You'll love this hat. Ken Johnson, Lexington Outdoors, Inc."

Also available via Johnson Woolen Mills. I got mine at the home of all good things, H.N. Williams in Dorset, VT.

burns night -gravy

I am getting chewed out over at the London Times for suggesting you indulge in a little gravy to help choke down your haggis. And getting eviscerated for choosing baked over boiled... Sorry, soggy, boiled oats and wet ground meat just don't attract.

So I should do this? "...simmer on a low heat for an hour, all the while skimming off the grease..." Yum.

Thursday, January 15

bookshelf -oliver finds his way

From author Phylis Root and illustrator Christopher Denise comes Oliver Finds His Way. i love the cub's outfits honestly haha...but the boy loves the story about getting over a fear, and yelling 'roar' at increasing volumes.

the new tenner

It is quirky and wonderful that Scottish banks get to produce their own notes, leading to the colorful and eminently foldable larger bills. New banknotes have been designed by Clydesdale Bank (to replace the current notes) to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns and the Scottish Tourist Board's new effort called "Homecoming 2009". (With slightly Highlander-ish undertones, dubbed "The Gathering". Sidenote, the website is always down... woops. And the advertisement is pretty horrendous.)

Bonus of having Scottish notes is pulling them out to spend while in England. You get odd looks, but they are legal tender, so they have to take them haha.

[Update 1/25/08, Burns Day, article on BBC about this Emotive Topic]

Wednesday, January 14

burns night -to a haggis

From the Scottish Screen Archive, via the National Libary of Scotland, (above is a still only, click here for the link) is a great example of an address 'To a Haggis'. (Made at the 145th Burns Supper of the Irvine Burns Club.) Note everyone is in black tie, not kilts. 70's sophistication perhaps? Burns Night is January 25th get practising.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

guilty pleasure -carhartt hoods

Carhartt hoods. Love picking these up. The old camo pattern is out of production but H.N. Williams store in Dorset, VT still has them (and tons of other treasures). Snap on a hood and take your Detroit jacket to another level. With a little digging (i.e. ebay) you can always find a finsh (duck, sandstone, extreme) and lining; arctic (black or even better discontinued red), or blanket lined to match. That's not too matchy-matchy is it??