Batten Sportswear is up there for my favorite new brand of 2011. Its first collection for SS12 was an intriguing mix of American made, vintage, retro outdoors and Japanese quirkiness. The man behind the brand — Shinya Hasegawa — is very much a one man operation handling design, production, sales and everything else all on his own. It’s inspiring to see the level of quality and detail that Shinya builds into each piece of the collection, which, at this point, is still fairly small. But bigger ambitions are there for sure. To me, it seems like Batten is sort of like the Engineered Garments to the surf/ retro-outdoor world. The styles may be recognizable, but the materials, fit and quality are all highly considered and superior to the retro re-issues that the outdoor world is turning out. Much like what EG does with work wear — more or less anyway. That said, there are definitely some companies out there that are making really nice retro-styled product of very high quality — Crescent Down Works springs to mind.
The ultimate vacation, for me, is the tropical getaway. I travel quite a bit for work, and love seeing new places, but rarely do I block five days and relax on a beach. That’s exactly what I did this past week. My girlfriend and I (she’s responsible for a few pictures here too, so you know) headed to Mexico to fully ensconce ourselves in the blood pressure lowering confines of the Viceroy Riviera Maya.
The resort is set up as a series of villas, tucked into a heavily forested part of the Mexican coastline. It’s like a well appointed Spanish speaking version of Swiss Family Robinson with an emphasis on delicious food and super attentive service. Everywhere you turn there’s a very pleasant Viceroy staffer happily willing to help get you a towel, clean your sunglasses or help you with anything you could possibly need. And it’s not crowded — and that is key. While we were on the property, we barely saw more than four or five guests. No lines for anything, ever. No trouble getting your preferred cabaña on the beach, no waiting for a table at one of the restaurants. Coming from the insanity of the city, this was crucial to the relaxation factor. We needed waves, sun and a salty breeze, not lots of people.
Some say Saratoga is America’s best looking race track, but my vote goes to Southern California’s Santa Anita Park. Every April, during the run-up to the Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita plays host to arguably the biggest West Coast race, the Santa Anita Derby. Since the track is in Los Angeles., it is generally a sunny and beautiful day at Santa Anita. This past weekend I had a chance to witness the spectacle of Santa Anita — with the folks from America’s Best Racing — in person for the first time. This is the derby: as it happened.
Kermit Lynch is not a name you forget—so it’s good that the man lives up to his moniker. Mr. Lynch imports wine, which sounds like something that’s easy. But it’s only easy for those who do it badly. For those, like dear Mr. Lynch, who do it well it involves trips, over decades, to dank caves and cellars (mostly in France) to taste wine directly from the barrel, and deciding if they’re going to be good over the course of their bottled life. Like many of the most important things, it’s a talent that can’t be taught.
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant is an establishment of good repute in Berkeley. Lynch leaves nothing to chance—he imports his wine in climate-controlled containers, and insists that stores around the country receive them in the same. No heat casualties, no excuses.
In 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government acquired 70,000 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee and established a secret town called Oak Ridge. The name chosen to keep outside speculation to a minimum, because Oak Ridge served a vital role for the development of the atomic bomb. The massive complex of massive factories, administrative buildings and every other place a normal town needs to function, was developed for the sole purpose of separating uranium for the Manhattan Project. The completely planned community was designed by the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and had a population of more than 70,000 people. Due to the sensitive nature of the work at Oak Ridge, the entire town was fenced in with armed guards and the entire place — much like the Manhattan Project in general — was a secret of the highest concern.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office recently started to digitize its collection of archival photos and share them through Flickr; and this group of images from the 1940s are part of those recently released. Amazingly, some people at the DOE are ACL readers and they passed along the link to all of these great pictures, knowing my curiosity for such things.
By now, Whit Stillman has achieved a unique cultural status, at once iconic and elusive. His films have such a specific, literate sensibility that devotees hoard favorite lines like beloved family recipes (‘I don’t think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind,’ remains very dear). And though he’s oft-quoted, Stillman has been a stranger for too long—he’s been executing his own Maneuver X, Barcelona partisans might say. After a dozen years, he’s back. Damsels in Distress, his university picture starring Greta Gerwig, opens in New York and LA today.
We spoke this week in a Madison Avenue hotel suite where Bloomberg News, of all things, was on the television in the background.
David Coggins: Is that Alexander Olch in the first shot of Damsels in Distress?
Whit Stillman: It is, and he also repeats, at the end, when they talk about cool people. His very recognizable silhouette goes through twice, kind of bad continuity. He’s wearing a suit and sneakers. I think you should talk to him about shoes.
DC: I will. It’s funny you mention coolness though, because in all your films there’s a distinction between people who understand what’s going on and those who are struggling to figure it out, and a lot of analysis about that fine line.
WS: I agree with the Violet character [in Damsels in Distress] in that debate, that if you really want to be cool, you have to tamp down your humanity a little bit. You’ve got to de-emote, depersonalize. But I tried to be fair to Lily’s character, and what she says does make sense, that yes, we need normal people so things work right.
For instance, I find dealing with Sony Pictures, I’m not so good with the deadlines, because I want it to be really right, but they need to get it by a certain time, so there’s a bit of a drama when ‘Whit needs to approve something.’ It’s been good, but I feel that the practical people get things done. And often I find there’s a conflict between a certain kind of particularism, and getting-it-done-ism. I don’t like to say perfectionism, because nothing is perfect, but if you want to get things in a particular way, that goes against getting it done on time.
Dr. John is one of those musicians that, admirably, has always just done his own thing. The performance of his that sticks in my head is always The Last Waltz — an amazing show and classic film. I remember seeing it for the first time and getting caught on those scenes with his music. Last year Dr. John performed at Bonnaroo with The Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach, and the performance went so well that it led the two musicians into the studio to collaborate on Dr. John’s newest album Locked Down, which Auerbach helped produce and was released this past Tuesday.