Thursday, April 30, 2009

Klein Tools

New favorite functional bag. So functional that Home Depot sells it. Klein Tools


Also new discovery: Beckel Canvas bags! Thick canvas with leather reinforcements. Great names, like War Bag and Possibilties Bag. Now I'm sad that I went out and impulse bought a small AA duffle for traveling this weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

STP Alternatives

The newest trend in heritage bags especially is potentially confusing, because you might end up looking like a middle-aged person who has owned their authentically-aged canvas luggage for years, or just a snobby wealthy jetsetter. That's the trick of a trend- it borrows or steals from existing non-fashionable looks. What's classic and somewhat outdated is now the latest great. To prove this, here are some worthy items from the discount super store, Sierra Trading Post (functional and outdoorsy only) that could easily be worn by a hipster. It's all so ridiculous, but we're bored so we play the game.Australian Bag Outfitters Bushman Angler bag - $76.95 (orig $130). See AC's post on fishing bags
Australian Bag Outfitters Brumby Duffle bag - $99.95 (orig $170)
Bric's Cargo Duffel Bag - $170.95 (orig $345)

Sandstorm Kenya Canvas and Cowhide Laikipia bag - $169.96 (orig $290)

Sandstorm Kenya Canvas and Cowhide Explorer bag - $199.95 (orig $340)

Friday, April 17, 2009

2 F's

Thought-provoking short article about how social networks like Twitter and Facebook are really a way in which power controls us. Everyone sort of knows this in the back of their minds, but most people do not really care. Entertain us because boredom is the worst. Wish I read more Foucault in college. But if I did, I'm sure I'd be much more afraid of living in this society.

Social media tends to be understood as a kind of freedom to express ourselves in a new way; interactivity liberates us from one-way communication and affords us the opportunity to speak and participate. But this “freedom” can function as a kind of compulsion, as part of what Baudrillard et. al. called the “fun morality.” Foucault insisted that power is both decentralized (not a matter of some authority telling you what you must do) and productive (it allows more things to have a kind of social being, not fewer; creates more data, not less). In an interview in Power/Knowledge,
he says, “What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse.” Various modern technologies have brought about what he calls “a new economy of power” that allows “the effects of power to circulate in a manner at once continuous, uninterrupted, adapted, and ‘individualized’ throughout the entire social body.” In other words, there is no way to sneak around power because we are basically bathing in it, breathing it in and out at all times.

The Meaning of Hipsterdom

Hipsters hate being labeled as such, and they sure hate being discussed. I will just go ahead and say that I am included in this group, I guess. More so than any other group?

I revisited Marginal Utility, and found some juicy new articles up. Some excerpts:


“Hipsterism,” as I tried to argue in this post, is more a fear of irrelevance or phoniness than it is an aesthetic one would purposely adopt. It is the shadow that passes over us when we begin to tentatively plan to do something unconventional, the chill that tells us that maybe it would be safer to do nothing rather than become one of them, trying for cool but failing. That is to say, “hipsterism” is the term for that sinking feeling that cool is at stake in any endeavor, and that nothing can be pursued for its own sake anymore. Of course that is not true, but it often feels like it is, and the image of a stereotype arriviste hipster is there to personify that feeling. And the final twist is that once we begin to fear becoming hipsters, begin thinking primarily about the way what we are doing will be perceived by others who somehow can see through us to the roots of our motivations, we become at that very moment hipsters ourselves.

And, why do we even talk about it?

It boils down to a question of where a generation of educated, privileged, creative class sorts of people are ending up. As a group, those who wind up being hipsters tend to have a good deal of opportunity, so if hipsterism is a kind of psychological/cultural zombie state (suggested by the Time Out New York article, and the Adbusters article from a couple years ago “Hipsters: The Dead End of Western Civilization”) then there is a vast amount of potential being wasted.

Those of us who routinely write about “culture,” including cultural ephemera, do so exactly because we’re trying to figure out what (if anything) its impact will be on wider society and the way we live our own lives. Culture routinely has a more immediate impact on us than politics does, but it’s often harder to pin that impact down because it’s more subtle and variable (which also means that people are more likely to disagree on what’s important based on where they live, who they interact with, etc.) It’s a vicious cycle, to a certain extent: when no one is aggressive in calling attention to something in culture and explaining what its significance is, people get progressively more resistant to the idea that anything cultural is really that lasting or important — because they certainly can’t see what its significance could be!

I think the way out is to grow out of it. Once you have a family and kids, assuming you take your roles seriously, you really don't have much time to care about identity by way of interests, fashion and particular tastes. I look forward to that freedom, as I feel like I'm running a race that isn't worth it at all. It's the easy thing to care about- it makes me world so much smaller and managable. It's especially not worth it to even be aware of this culture, I think. Find a way to feel good about yourself, and then move on, because there are so many other issues outside of yourself! And those hipsters who really, really love culture could hope to become successful and influential tastemakers. Do it for a job. But that is a highly unlikely outcome for most.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Clarks Desert Boots

New trends always consume me at first (Americana/Heritage anyone?), but then I have to remember to treat my wardrobe as a more permanent portion of my possessions. With that said, I really love Clarks Desert Boots. Soldiers wore them in WWII, your parents probably wore them in the 70's, and all sorts of people wear them today. I am very impressed by all the collaborations they have done (too many to list, but mostly successful). I have been putting off getting a pair for a while because I have only seen them on men (stylin', of course), even after convincing my brother to get a but after reading the blog of Lesli Larsen (Archival Clothing- I have never been so thrilled to find a kindred spirit, who shares the same unabashed admiration for mens clothing as I do), and seeing a girl friend of mine wear the same Clarks Desert Treks as B, I decided that it was more than OK to wear what I want to and not be hindered by socially determined gender norms or whatever.

Going along with the waxed fabric craze, I am particularly impressed with the new waxed taupe version of the Desert Boots offered in the Spring 2009 line. Being leather and waxed, they will age beautifully. Too bad the smallest size is mens 8! (I wear 7.) Edit: I found a size 7, amazingly enough, on the amply stoked Wooh!

Sorta look like 90's Doc Martin's eh? Often imitated, but can never beat!

Img sources: high snobiety, hypebeast

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So Far Around the Bend

This song has been on my mind for weeks. It features such a light and pretty arrangement by Nico Muhly, but the lyrics are starkly gloomy. It's sad because it's so true, eh? Song for all the alienated hipsters who have not found anything real in the big city. I mean, that describes a lot of people who listen to the National. It's scary to think that this also might have described me in a highly probable alternative life.. leaving church, pushing away people, immersing in culture... being alone. But now I have B and I know that it'll never happen to me.


I know you're a serious lady
Living off a teacup full of cherries
Nobody knows where you are living
Nobody knows where you are

Take a bath and get high through an apple
Wanted to cry but you can't when your laughing
Nobody knows where you are living
Nobody knows where you are

You're so far around the bend
You're so far around the bend

I'll run through a thousand parties
I'll run through a million bars
Nobody knows where you are living
Nobody knows where you are

You've been humming and I think it's forever
Praying for Pavement to get back together
Nobody knows where you are living
Nobody knows where you are

You're so far around the bend
You're so far around the bend

There is no leaving New York
There is no leaving New York

-The National

Monday, April 13, 2009


So I get an email last weekend from Sarah about a theme for Jeni's birthday party on Saturday. 1976. A week is not a lot of time to prepare! Wearing 70's clothes is out of the question, so I resolved to find a political pin of that year (a suggestion was the American Bicentennial) in less than a week. Did a search on Ebay and found some pretty neat looking ones. Check em out:

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Boredom Quotes

For musings.

Nothing is so stifling as symmetry. Symmetry is boredom, the quintessence of mourning. Despair yawns. There is something more terrible than a hell of suffering -- a hell of boredom.

VICTOR HUGO, Les Misérables

Life is never boring but some people choose to be bored. The concept of boredom entails an inability to use up present moments in a personally fulfilling way. Boredom is a choice; something you visit upon yourself, and it is another of those self-defeating items that you can eliminate from your life.

WAYNE W. DYER, Your Erroneous Zones

I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored.

ERICH FROMM, The Dogma of Christ

Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.

WALKER PERCY, Lost in the Cosmos


OK so I freely admit I have very little knowledge or interest in "old" music, especially old school funk/soul. The beats, style, and crooning never really appealed to me and the music just sounds too dated (production-wise). I had the impression that only older people who were alive back in the day, uber-serious audiophiles, and young people with loose and lazy taste in pop liked that kind of music. But in the past few weeks, I've come across a stellar, catchy, standalone track by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, which is found on the Dark Was the Night compilation. And this morning, someone was filling on for John Aielly, and played this fabulous and interesting instrumental, which I enjoyed on my way to work. Looked it up later- The Menahan Street Band, which is also comprised of some of the Dap Kings. Hear em!

Inspiration Information (Shuggie Otis cover) - Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Contender - The Menahan Street Band

Img source: St. Louis Today

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Boredom: 1 of the 2 curses of life

The Arts Pastor recently posted:

The playwright Samuel Beckett says we have only two options in this world: suffering or boredom. We get to choose which. As he puts it:

"The pendulum oscillates between these two terms:
Suffering—that opens a window on the real
and is the main condition of the artistic experience—
and Boredom."

Weakly Constituted

Ugh, why do I feel nauseated after eating? Like right now I do. This reoccurring symptom has recently prevented me from enjoying dinner, like the chicken pot pie I slaved over on Monday. I am also a super light sleeper and normally wake up a few times a night- too cold! snoring. cat snuggling. loud sound. nothing. B sometimes laughs at me for being a "pansy." I wish I didn't have such a weak constitution. Makes it harder to survive.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Camping: Pace Bend

This was the first time that Brook and I went camping together. I knew that he grew up doing outdoors activities with his Dad, like archery, hunting, hiking and camping, but his current self certainly doesn't seem like it likes being outside all that much. He prefers to watch a show on his computer, read, play DS or just lounge around with Boyd (who is not allowed outside at all, also all doors and windows need to be closed so he doesn't escape). I think that he would stay indoors all his life if he could. Which is sad, because the weather has just now started to turn agreeable, and sometimes lovely. It only stays like that for a tiny fraction out of the year, during so-called "Spring," right before it turns into the long, sweltering, wretched Texas summer. So, all the more reason to take advantage of this good weather before it disappears.

I, being somewhat dissatisfied and bored with my lifestyle, recently wrote down a few things I have either always wanted to do or fun things haven't done in a long while, and decided to get a start on it. One of the things on the list was camping. I've been camping a smattering of times in college with my friends, and I have very good memories (and silly pictures) of them. I went a few times with my friend Rachel (pre-marriage), who is a die-hard outdoors enthusiast. She had led backpacking trips before and had all the gear. Lightweight tent, backpack, pots, water filter, matches that light underwater- you name it. Before graduating with her degree in Advertising, she was deadset on getting a job in the outdoors. (Now she is married and is doing an internship with the church. Her blog, "The Life of Mountain Pie" is linked on the right.) One time I went camping and paintballing with her family on her Dad's plot of land somewhere in the middle of nowhere, TX. Her dad has constructed a cabin on the spot and even built a suspension bridge over a ditch just for fun.

Another time, I went with Rachel and Kristi to a small camp spot of Travis Lake, past the quaint boating town of Volente. We did primitive camping, but had a nice fire going. As we arrived at dusk, the view of the silent lake was gorgeous in the dying light. Another time a big group of us girls went to Pace Bend (Me, Rachel, Kristi, Erin, Jennifer) and had a great cookout. Rachel had her first cigarillo, and her and I woke up in the middle of the night because it was raining and we covered everyone's things. We were going to make pancakes for breakfast, but when we woke up, we saw that raccoons had ransacked our bags of food we stupidly left out. It was still sort of funny. The earliest camping trip I remember was with Sara (now married and living in St. Louis) and Courtney. We went to Muleshoe Bend and they drank whiskey in lieu of dinner. I had no idea where any of these campsites were when we went, as I didn't plan or drive, so each time I relished being in the unfamiliar hillcountry and the mystery of never really knowing where I was.

So last week I told B about my list and how I wanted to go camping and he was all for it. The first thing we did was get basic camp supplies from REI (blogged about in an previous post). Fortunately, we didn't need much in the way of dishware, because I had 2 sets of vintage enamelware plates and cups, from when I was obssessed with collecting them for a while. Then he tried to make a reservation at Enchanted Rock and Pace Bend, the former of which was filled up, and the latter he botched up anyway. We invited some friends to go, but due to bad communication and general lameness, it ended up being the two of us. We went last Friday to Pace Bend and after driving around the improved camping loop a few times, B almost throwing in the towel and driving us to his backyard, we managed to secure a spot. This was mistake #1, as we didn't really need bathrooms, and we took the last spot there. Expecting some solitude and a wide open space, we were actually surrounded by the chatter of families in their giant, multi-roomed tents nearby. There was even an RV next to us! (That's not camping.) Oh, another thing we found out as we drove in was that there was a fire ban, so we couldn't use the firewood we bought. I left B to set up the tent, and drove back out to the nearest gas station and got some charcoal to make dinner with. We had fajitas at about 9:30, considerably later than I expected, with the fuel fiasco and also the chicken took a long time to cook since we put it over the grill instead of directly over the coals, which we only figured out later. We made some s'mores over the coals, but it wasn't the same as having a campfire. Maybe I just don't really like s'mores anymore- too sugary! After reading for a bit, we put the rainfly over the tent for some privacy (it is see-through mesh otherwise), and hit the sack. B had some trouble falling asleep, because he was sick and noisily congested, and I kept hearing some stupid teenage girl yelling and complaining about something or other to her male companion. It was probably 1 AM by that time. What a bitch.

In the morning, the heat woke me up. I was forced out of bed by 10:30, as the tent was not breathable enough for comfort. B made gooey eggs (not for me) and Canadian bacon on the skillet, and I cut up some fresh fruit. The cast iron skillet was pretty shot by the time the eggs were done, as it was not non-stick anymore. Gotta figure out a way to keep it seasoned. After breakfast we packed up and stopped at the side of the lake. The water was very cold still. Then we drove on west to Marble Falls ('for a weekend, NOT for a lifetime'), tried to go to the Bluebonnet Cafe but gave up upon seeing the line out the door, took a random detour to Horseshoe Bay, went back on 71, stopped at a roadside picnic table for lunch, stopped by Spicewood Vineyards for a tasting after passing the sign for a second time, and headed back to town. All in all, a good weekend adventure in the hillcountry. B surprised me by saying he had a really good time, so we are going camping again this weekend. I did my research and picked Sandy Creek Park, the spot past Volente, because it didn't require reservations. All the big parks are fully booked on the weekend for the next few weeks.. do you think people are camping more because of the recession? I ended up spending more money than I thought, since fuel is expensive and food cost more because we bought more. For some reason, being in the outdoors makes you hungry. And we didn't even hike!

Things to remember for next time: Purell! It was gross not having soap. I definitely washed my knife when I got home. Chairs! This is B's suggestion. I'm fine with sitting in the tent, but he wanted someplace to lounge otherwise. I just ordered a set of Lafuma camp "director's" chairs from Backcountry. They got great reviews and can act as porch chairs when we're in town. Cooler! I had a small one that was sufficient for a one-night trip, but the ice was melted by the next afternoon. Don't want to get food poisoning from eggs or meat that aren't properly kept cold. Light! We both got a headlamp at REI before heading out, as I lost my Petzl Zipka (during the move? I blame all belonging disappearances on that). That was convenient at night, I think we'll invest in a lantern too. I'm trying really hard to not get gear-obsessed, as we are not hard-core (yet). We'll see how long this lasts. It'll get really hot soon enough and end our camping adventures for a while. Then we'll probably check out Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool, and maybe even the Greenbelt for some swimming. Actually, our next dream trip is out to far-out West Texas, which should involve Marfa, Chinati Springs, Big Bend (backpacking?), or some combination of that. Honeymoon, maybe? Haha. Or a group trip. It's been a nice getaway from the comfortable and humdrum of house living though. I'm thankful for that. And work is not going to get exciting anytime soon, so it's nice to have something to look forward to on the weekend. Makes the week seem faster too.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tin Cloth

Favorite plain and rugged duffle bag ever. By Filson. Only $142. Their goods make everyone want to be that much more outdoorsy. Even B loves them, and he does not love being outside all the time. Function rules! Mens fashion is so fun!

Goodreads Fail

And this is why you don't accept random invites on GoodReads. Idiotic tweenies ruining the Internet, filling it with dumb questions and comments. (Sorry for the crappy screenshots. Windows is dumb at resizing. Click on the images for true size)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Philip Pullman in-depth

Philip Pullman 2000 interview in The Third Way more clearly spells out his views of human existence. Here are some quotes I want to think about:

The kingdom of heaven promised us certain things: it promised us happiness and a sense of purpose and a sense of having a place in the universe, of having a role and a destiny that were noble and splendid; and so we were connected to things. We were not alienated. But now that, for me anyway, the King is dead, I find that I still need these things that heaven promised, and I’m not willing to live without them. I don’t think I will continue to live after I’m dead, so if I am to achieve these things I must try to bring them about – and encourage other people to bring them about – on earth, in a republic in which we are all free and equal – and responsible – citizens.

Now, what does this involve? It involves all the best qualities of things. We mustn’t shut anything out. If the Church has told us, for example, that forgiving our enemies is good, and if that seems to be a good thing to do, we must do it. If, on the other hand, those who struggled against the Church have shown us that free enquiry and unfettered scientific exploration is good – and I believe that they have – then we must hold this up as a good as well.

Whatever we can find that we feel to be good – and not just feel but can see with the accumulated wisdom that we have as we grow up, and read about history and learn from our own experiences and so on – wherever they come from, and whoever taught them in the first place, let’s use them and do whatever we can do to make the world a little bit better.


I’m amazed by the gall of Christians. You think that nobody can possibly be decent unless they’ve got the idea from God or something. Absolute bloody rubbish! Isn’t it your experience that there are plenty of people in the world who don’t believe who are very good, decent people?

Yes. I’m just curious to know where it comes from.

For goodness’ sake! It comes from ordinary human decency. It comes from accumulated human wisdom – which includes the wisdom of such figures as Jesus Christ. Jesus, like many of the founders of great religions, was a moral genius, and he set out a number of things very clearly in the Gospels which if we all lived by them we’d all do much better. What a pity the Church doesn’t listen to him!

His Dark Materials

This cool embossed edition only available at Book People, I've found.

I finished the last of the 3 books in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. No more nights of running to Book People at 10 AM to pick up the next book. It was a tremendous read, full of adventure, love, and loss. And it is a book for children! Those are the stories I swallow best. The theological and philosophical content in the book couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. It was as if the book knew..

“When you stopped believing in God,” he went on, “did you stop believing in good and evil?”
“No. But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that’s an evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.”
“Yes,” said Lyra firmly.
“Did you miss God?” asked Will.
“Yes,” Mary said, “terribly. And I still do. And what I miss most is the sense of being connected to the whole of the universe. I used to feel I was connected to God like that, and because he was there, I was connected to the whole of his creation. But if he’s not there, then…”


““What work have I got to do, then?” said Will, but went on at once, “No, on second thought, don’t tell me. I shall decide what I do. If you say my work is fighting, or healing, or exploring, or whatever you might say, I’ll always be thinking about it. And if I do end up doing that, I’ll be resentful because it’ll feel as if I didn’t have a choice, and if I didn’t do it, I’ll feel guilty because I should. Whatever I do, I will choose it, no one else.”
“Then you have already taken the first steps toward wisdom,” said Xaphania.”

Img source: Amazon