Monday, February 28, 2005

the jordan issue!

Anyone even remotely interested in the Air Jordan sneaker series should make an effort to pick up the latest edition of Sole Collector magazine.

In honor of the release of the Air Jordan XX, the magazine has collected knowledge and accolades form a wide variety of sneakerheads, basketball fans, and historians to create the best Air Jordan retrospective anyone can buy for only $7.99.

If you like 'em, worn, unworn, pristine, trashed, loved, lauded, or anything in between, you will find something to like about this Sole Collector special edition.

lyrics | Cha Cha Cha by MC Lyte

The very round-sounding bassline brings back memories of riding through Friendly Center in Greensboro around Christmas in 1989 with my family shooping. I think we stopped at Woolworth's. From the album Eyes On This.

[Kick this one here for me and my DJ]

You can cha-cha-cha to this Mardis Gras
I'm the dopest female that you've heard thus far
And I do get better, the voice gets wetter
Nobody gets hurt (as long as you let her)
Do my thing with an '89 swing
The dopeness I write, I guarantee delight
To the hip-hop maniac, the Uptown brainiac
In full effect, MC Lyte is back
And better than before as if that was possible
My competition, you'll find them in the hospital
Visiting time, I think it's on a Sunday
But notice they only get one day to shine
The rest of the week is mine
And I'll blind you with the science that the others have yet to find
So come along and I'll lead you the right way
Just clap your hands to the words I say, come on...

[Kick this one here for me and my DJ]

I've got the power to spread out and devour
At the same time I'll eat you up with a rhyme
But I'll let you slide cuz you accidently hopped on the wrong side
Now come on, that's suicide
Hypothetically speaking
Ok, let's say you didn't know what you were doing
You're new in town, and you're looking around
For another name to ruin, and it's me that you're pursuing?
Well well well, I'll be damned
I might as well tell you who I am
I am the capital L-Y-T-E
And it's shocking I'm the one you're mocking
Oh yes, I've been watching you watching me
And like the fat on your back it's plain to see
That you're a wannabe, but you can't be what you're not
So you better start living with what you got

[Kick this one here for me and my DJ]

Yeah, DJ K-Rock when you hear a scratch
Now it's time to kick a rhyme out the batch
And you're the receiver eager as a beaver
Time to convert the non-believer
That I'm a roadrunner leaving you in the dust
I can adjust to the times and at times I might just get quicker
Than the ticker of your pacemaker
More tender than a roni but harder than a jawbreaker
So don't ever second guess me
And if you're wondering who could the best be
Think a second and recollect the worst whipping you ever had yet
And I'll bet that I did it
My fingerprints are still on you
How many times I gotta warn you
About the light? It'll blind your sight
But the rhythm will still guide you through the night

[Kick this tip...Kick this one here for me and my DJ]

Federated Agrees to Buy May for About $11 Billion, Executives Say


Federated Department Stores, which owns Macy's and Bloomingdale's, agreed yesterday to buy May Department Stores, which owns Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's, for about $11 billion, executives involved in the negotiations said.

The deal, which is expected to be announced today, would transform Federated, already the nation's largest department store company, into a retailing giant with more than 1,000 stores and $30 billion in sales.

As big as the combined company will be, however, its sales will be far exceeded by the discount retailing juggernaut Wal-Mart, which had sales of $262 billion last year.

The transaction is the latest retail merger in an industry that is rapidly being redrawn as the traditional department store faces mounting pressure from rivals on all sides: discount giants like Wal-Mart and Target, specialty stores like Gap and Victoria's Secret and upscale retailers like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

Late last year, two other famous names in retailing, Kmart and Sears, Roebuck & Company, agreed to merge in an $11 billion deal.

Some retail and fashion executives lament that such consolidation has left the industry devoid of department stores that were once landmarks, like Gimbels in New York, Bullock's in Los Angeles and Wanamaker's in Philadelphia.

Lost too, the executives suggest, are the industry's personal touches, like its "merchant princes" - buyers for department stores who traveled the country spotting the Ralph Laurens and Calvin Kleins before they were household names. And even more retail mergers may be in the making.

Wall Street analysts and fashion industry specialists have been buzzing in recent weeks about the deal prospects for Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Fortunoff and Barney's were sold last year.

Federated's deal with May is a long time in the making. Two and half years ago, the companies held talks but failed to reach an agreement after a dispute over which executives would run the combined company. Last month, May's chief executive, Gene Kahn, was ousted by the company's board, which created an opening for Federated to resume negotiations.

The companies have been negotiating off and on for several weeks, the executives said, and a deal was approved by both company boards over the weekend.

The deal is subject to approval by regulators, who are not expected to block the transaction, but may press Federated to sell stores in cities in which it has a stronghold.

Analysts predict that Federated, based in Cincinnati, will probably close a significant number of May's underperforming locations, perhaps as many as 200 stores. Federated may also give the Macy's name to many of May's regional stores, discarding the familiar names that have been known to generations of shoppers in those areas. Besides Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's, which are likely to go untouched, May owns Famous-Barr, Filene's, Foley's, Hecht's, Kaufmann's, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May and Strawbridge's, among others.

"Together, using the Macy's name, a powerful national franchise could be established," Bernard Sosnick, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Company recently wrote in a note to investors. "This, we believe, is the compelling force behind a possible merger between the two, along with cost reductions due to the elimination of redundant activities."

Thousands of layoffs are also expected, although other merchants, including Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Nordstrom, are reportedly already lining up to take over some of the locations that Federated may jettison.

May, which is based in St. Louis, is expected to keep some offices there, but there will be layoffs.

Spokeswomen for Federated and May declined to comment.

Some analysts worry that the deal is marrying two companies facing critical challenges. "There may be back-office synergies," Joshua R. Goldberg, a managing director of Mercantile Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Manhattan, said last week. "But will a combined May-Federated be more attractive and effective with customers than each is now?"

Still, Terry J. Lundgren, Federated's chief executive, has received high marks for being a disciplined executive, refusing to overpay for acquisitions. When Marshall Field's came up for sale in the last year, he walked away and let May buy it when he thought the asking price had become too high.

And in his negotiations to buy May, Mr. Lundgren was similarly tough. While May's board had been holding out for more than $40 a share, he was able to talk them into selling for $35.50 a share in cash and stock, executives involved the process said. Shares of May closed on Friday at $35.35. When Mr. Kahn stepped down, before speculation began swirling about talks with Federated, May's shares traded at $27.84. Federated is also expected to assume about $6 billion in debt. May was in a tough position, analysts say, but there no other natural buyers.

Same-store sales for Federated grew by 2.6% last year. May, which has not had sales growth for four years, had a same-store sales loss of 2.4% last year.

In acquiring May, Federated will have to decide how May's 501 department stores and more than 700 specialty stores like the David's Bridal chain will fit into the merged company.

The new company is expected to wring hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, which Mr. Lundgren is expected to outline today.

Mr. Lundgren has been praised marks for imposing an innovative streamlining on his 458-store chain since he took over the company two years ago.

He is pushing to increase the amount of creative private-label fashions, a way to allow stores to differentiate themselves from other chains and discount stores.

The Federated consolidation began in 1929, with the combination of Abraham & Straus; Filene's; F&R Lazarus of Columbus, Ohio; and Bloomingdale's of New York City. Federated, in its fact book, said it created the idea of "pay as you can" credit policies, as well as grouping clothes by size as opposed to color, brand or price.By 1964, Federated had combined 14 store chains. In the 1970's, it began developing shopping centers, bought Rich's and built a new headquarters in Cincinnati.

But the 1980's brought trouble: Robert Campeau, a Canadian real estate developer, in a highly leveraged takeover, laid claim to Federated in 1988 and two years later, the company went bankrupt, emerging in 1992 as a public company. Two years later, it bought Macy's, a triumph, and Fingerhut, a dismal and very public failure.

The year after Mr. Lundgren became chief executive in 2002, he began adding the Macy's name to its regional store chains, creating Bon-Macy's, Burdines-Macy's, Goldsmith's-Macy's, Lazarus-Macy's and Rich's-Macy's.

The next year, after what he said was extensive customer polling, he decided to remove the old names, and Federated began concentrating on its two marquee names: Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Besides Marshall Field's in Chicago, which Federated has coveted for years, the company will acquire valuable Robinson-May locations on the West Coast and Foley's locations in Texas. Lord & Taylor, particularly, will be closely watched. Jane Elfers, its chief executive, is in the midst of a turnaround, and has closeda third of her stores to concentrate on sales and profits at the rest.

Ms. Elfers has been mentioned as a successor to Mr. Kahn, the recently ousted May chief executive.

Yet by the weekend, new speculation surfaced that Nordstrom had put in a request for Lord & Taylor's grand Fifth Avenue flagship.

To pay for the acquisition, most retailing specialists say Mr. Lundgren will sell one or both of the company's credit card operations. Over the weekend, they also were speculating that Mr. Lundgren was likely to shed David's Bridal, the successful wedding apparel chain. May also owns After Hours Formalwear and Priscilla's of Boston, an upscale wedding gown retailer.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sneakers may have started in Colchester

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A now-defunct Colchester factory may have gotten the very first jump on basketball shoes.

Gary L. Pifer, a California vintage clothes collector, said he owns a pair of 113-yer-old handmade sneakers manufactured by the Colchester Rubber Co.

"It actually changes basketball and sneaker history," Pifer told The Hartford Courant. "Colchester was always No. 1, but no one knew it."

Pifer, 48, of Oceanside, Calif., said he found the rubber-soled shoes in the closet of a house being emptied for an estate sale in San Diego County in December and paid $2 for them. The shoes carried the insignia of the Colchester Rubber Co.

After researching the company on the Internet, Pifer said he learned Colchester Rubber closed in 1892, one year after James Naismith invented basketball. The first recognized pair of high-tops, made by Converse, debuted 25 years later, Pifer said.

"It didn't compute," Pifer said. "(Converse) sneakers came about 1917. They have always been the first basketball design ever."

A phone message was left Saturday for a representative of the North Andover, Mass.-based Converse Inc.

The Colchester shoe has pivot points and rubber soles consistent with later designs.

Pifer suspects that the Colchester Rubber Co. may have created the shoes as a prototype for Naismith, who invented basketball in Springfield, Mass., about 50 miles north of Colchester.

Matt Zeysing, historian for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, said that scenario is possible.

"Certainly, Naismith at that time was approached by different companies," Zeysing said. "It was the companies doing stuff with rubber that came up with the concept for basketball shoes."

Zeysing said that before Converse, the Spalding Co. had introduced a shoe in 1896 that could be used for basketball. But the Colchester Rubber Co. shoe would predate them all, he said.

Pifer said whoever owned his $2 sneakers took care of them, storing them carefully in a Victorian-era chest along with other belongings. He doesn't plan to resell them.

"They are priceless," he said.

Pifer wants to dedicate the shoe to Harry Lew, the first black pro basketball player, who played with a New England league in 1902.

Pifer said he might donate the sneakers to the Basketball Hall of Fame after he has copies made. He'd like one of the first pairs to go to Colchester.

"I think we would definitely take advantage of it and be very proud of it," First Selectman Jenny Contois said. "What a wonderful thing we would be known for."

country grammar

Toby Keith

I like all kinds of music. A lot of people tend to make statements like that to make it sound like they’re agreeable people, only to later admit that they don’t listen to such and such because of whatever. But I really like a little bit of everything.

It comes from growing up in a television culture, where almost any style of music is featured, whether seriously or as a joke, in shows, commercials documentaries, what have you. Before the era of market segmentation, broadcast music was even freer than it is now. Luckily the internet has taken up some of the slack, meaning that two random people from two random cultures can be into the same music and download it from the same place.

The closest I come to making myself a hypocrite on the love of all music is when it comes to country; specifically modern country. My dad is into country, and sometimes as I ride home from work I get to hear it on his car stereo. Maybe it’s the stress of work, or being tired otherwise at the end of the day, but modern country comes the closest as a genre to pissing me off as I listen to it.

Despite some real talent like Tim McGraw, Brad Pasley, George Strait, Martina McBride, and LeAnn Rimes, the majority of the acts favored by country radio are simply variations on the same theme. Poverty is celebrated, so is the past. The message is seemingly always ‘Nothing is right in this world except the rural lifestyle and even that’s not as good as the old days,’ and the message only stops for commercials twice an hour.

As if the sentimentalism and sepia-colored past weren’t enough, then there’s the attempt at patriotism. I love America, and I don’t want to live anywhere else, but many country artists’ worldviews are so simplistic that cartoons offer more depth. You can be proud of who you are and where you live without looking at everyone else who isn’t you as heathens, but you won’t get on country radio thinking that broadly.

In the old days, the great artists like Hank Williams, Sr., Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and Tammy Wynette could talk about the world abroad and their lives and not seem so self-righteous. Love was cool, but true love was fantastic. Being cool and innovative was a goal, but they weren’t so caught up in being cool and innovative that they consciously chased it.

The old-school country acts were singing their convictions and joys and sorrows and it was real. The last guy to truly do that in modern country was Garth Brooks, and marital troubles and an edgy, but poor selling, alter ego named Chris Gaines forced him to go home for a few years.

The new guys talk about life and love and getting laid, but it’s just not real, despite the conversational tone of most lyrics. The language isn’t poetic anymore, and the music is largely an afterthought. The idea that someone is talking to you through the radio in simple language and catchy hooks seems neat at first, but too much unfiltered, uncreative commentary of modern life is boring and trite. They sound like your neighbors or cousins, but soon you realize your neighbors and cousins would sure sound boring set to fiddles and unfunky backbeats.

Then again, maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because country artists don’t generally write their own music these days. Maybe big radio stamps out other more interesting messages form more interesting artists. Maybe other genres of music are just as guilty of their own sins. Whatever it is, it grates on my nerves and I can’t help but dislike it.

Okay, so I’m a hypocrite, too ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

this is me, then | 1991

Look at the light-dark contrast on this picture! This is your friendly neighborhood blogger in 1991, in a bad picture from high school.

attention kmart shoppers

Kmart's a place that doesn't get much love from shoppers thses days, and considering some of their goofiness and unresponsiveness over the years, it's understandable.

Still it's an American icon. It was an aspirational, state of the art store in the '60s, a staple of shopping (and late night talk show jokes) in the '70s and '80s, and an innovator in the '90s, along with being one of the biggest retail turnarounds of the 2000s. Who'd have thought they'd have bought Sears?

Here's a couple of pictures from Kmart's past:

A Kmart label from the '70s, found on a vinyl record at the Goodwill.

A Kmart-anchored shopping center in Lima, Ohio with a rarely photographed Kmart Foods adjacent. Many of the first Kmarts had seperate Kresge-operated supermarkets next door to their discount stores, but the practice was discontinued in the mid-to late '70s. (Ohio Grocery)

Another Kmart with Kmart Foods attached, from the mid-'60s. Fort Saginaw Mall, Saginaw, Michigan (Lost Michigan)

Kmart, Bay City, Michigan (Lost Michigan)

Kmart at Crossroads Mall in Roanoke, Virginia. It's located in a former Woolco store.

Die-hard sneaker fans still like Mike's Nikes

Junior Coloma, right, and Blake Ganac wait at the head of the line at Seattle's Niketown store for the $150 Air Jordan Retro 13 shoes to go on sale. (February 25, 2005, Joshua Trujillo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)


Blake Ganac will have waited outside of downtown Seattle's Niketown for more than 57 hours by the time he gets his hands on a pair of Nike's latest pair of sneakers -- the limited-edition Air Jordan Retro 13.

Rainier Valley resident Ganac, who already has more than a hundred pairs of sneakers, is at the front of a line of young men slumped in foldable nylon chairs along the sidewalk, languidly stretching out their Nike-clad feet.

"I am trying to buy all the shoes I couldn't afford when I was a kid," said Ganac, 18, a hip-hop artist who goes by the MC name Newsense. "It's a way for me to get my childhood back."

Very clever, Nike: Recycle old designs, this one a 1998 number that is now black and green. Send only 60 pairs of the $150 shoes to Seattle's Niketown, and scatter a few pairs in other shops. Watch the buzz grow before they go on sale at midnight tonight.

The Oregon-based shoe giant, which releases a couple of Air Jordan Retro styles per year, faced a lot of heat in the 1990s for marketing shoes that were too expensive for many teens.

The original Air Jordans were so coveted that some people were mugged for their footwear. Now, those shoes are being remarketed to the public as retro, hitting the market in extremely small quantities.

Representatives from Nike and its Jordan brand division were unavailable for comment and declined to say how many of the shoes had been sent to retailers nationwide.

"Nike has always created that iconic image with Michael Jordan," said Jennifer Black, of Jennifer Black & Associates, an analyst who covered Nike for 15 years. "They are trying to create a buzz around their brand."

It works -- Jahi Rankin, a 16-year-old junior on break from Renton High School, actually got his mom to wait overnight with him Wednesday.

Rankin owns 120 pairs of shoes, which he refuses to wear more than three times each ("creases make your shoes look bad"), and is the beneficiary of a unique deal with his mom: shoes for good grades.

Rankin's shoes, all in mint condition, could be worth a fortune on eBay, where the Retro 13's are already being auctioned for up to double their retail value of $150.

Asked by a reporter if Rankin and Ganac would consider selling their collections on the online auction site, the answer was a resounding no.

"I have to keep them -- they are so rare," said Rankin, who sounded vexed by the very idea of turning a profit with his beloved shoes.

"I'm not in this for the money. I'm in it for the love," agreed Ganac. "They don't look like much, but they are beautiful to us."

let's go krogering!

A vanishing icon of grocery retailing: the classic four-sided Kroger sign tower, popular during the '70s and '80s. Photo taken by your friendly neighborhood blogger in Hollins, Virginia, Friday, February 25, 2005.

Here is the Roanoke Valley's newest Kroger, opened February 22, 2005 at Cave Spring Corners in southwest Roanoke County. It replaced a 30 year old store in the same shopping center and was built on the site of a former Ames discount store. (Eric Brady/The Roanoke Times)

Here's a little goofy music to take you where I am when I see these signs and the Kroger stores of the era: Can You Feel It by The Jacksons

Friday, February 25, 2005

May and Federated Talks Resume

Discussions for a $10 billion buyout of May Department Stores from rival Federated Department Stores are getting closer to reality, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The merger is a topic of much discussion in the apparel arena. One analyst pointed to the possibility of a good-better-best approach for Federated, if it goes through with the acquisition. According to Wendy Liebmann, WSL Strategic Retail, the new Federated could operate with Macy's as good, Bloomingdale's as better, and Marshall Field's as best.

"The 'best' tier would potentially give the corporation a better chance of picking up all those high spending 'affluents' that are now driving much of the U.S. department store business," said Liebmann. "Whether this scenario is viable depends on a number of factors, the most critical of which is whether Marshall Fields is the brand to achieve national 'best' status."

If the shoe fits, don't stop looking

Shoe sale

By Matt Sussman
February 23, 2005

Shoes -- they separate us from the barefoot. Since the inception of the shoe, there has been one celebrated event by women.

Shoe sales.

The very phrase "shoe sale" invokes a feeling of thrill among all women. It ranks right up there with "fat free cheesecake" and "Stay tuned for an all new 'Desperate Housewives!'"

To understand the phenomenon of shoe sales doesn't take much. All a man needs to do is suck in his pride, turn to his significant other and mutter, "Baby, let's go to the mall."

And the fun begins.

Before I continue, I must explain to my women readers (Mom) that men are shoe illiterate. We stick with a pair of shoes as long as CBS sticks with a daytime game show host -- until five years after his estimated death. The soles may be worn, discolored or completely separate from the rest of the shoe, but it doesn't faze men because the shoe still fits, and there's nothing duct tape can't repair.

Before entering the mall, the man takes one final look at the outside world. It may be the last time he sees the sun. When he resurfaces, odds are the skies will be tarnished by nuclear winter. But the end of the world won't end the sale of shoes.

Once inside, the man trails close behind his female counterpart. He is now a leashed puppy, for he fears wandering away and getting lost in a sea of Gymborees and jewelry kiosks.

Suddenly, the female sees the sign: "SHOE SALE." Her jaw drops. She can't believe her eyes, despite the other 17 shoe stores in the mall also have shoe sales.

And the fun begins. Finally.

The girl thumbs through the shoeboxes, looking for that perfect pair of footwear. With male three steps behind, the girl becomes frustrated and unable to find the shoes she wants.

"They don't have my size!"

"It's the wrong color!"

"This shoe's full of gravy!"

Although she already owns 317 pairs of shoes, she feels dejected and unsuccessful. The woman exits the store, although the male is quite proud of his "gravy in the shoe" gag.

Shoe shopping is halted in lieu of browsing in clothing stores. The woman scouts out all the dresses -- evening gowns, prom dresses, astronaut suits -- while the guy (still trailing three paces) is afraid to even touch the clothing racks, as if the hangers were used tampons.

As the girl visualizes herself in each dress, a peculiar event happens. The man turns around and sees one of his own -- another guy trailing a shopping girl. The men lock eyes for a moment, but nothing is said. As if by telepathy, the profound yet brief message is relayed through testosterone: "I feel ya, bro."

Meanwhile, the girl doesn't buy a dress because every time she pictured wearing it in public, she had 10 extra pounds and everyone noticed. Fortunately, she smells something in the air, like a trained bloodhound. No, it's not the weird guy at the mall who speaks to God through his wristwatch and never showers. It's another shoe sale.

And the fun begins. Part deux.

The pandemonium is comparable to the scene from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" where Veruca Salt (the bratty girl) demanded her father make all his workers unwrap chocolate bars looking for the golden ticket. The difference is, however, at least someone found the golden ticket. None of the women find the shoes they imagine in their mind.

This is because the "perfect shoe" doesn't exist. Shoe corporations purposely make every shoe just a skosh off the mark. Every loafer, sneaker, pump, flip-flop and bunny slipper are "just OK." According to womankind, "if only this one [insert shoe flaw] were just [insert improvement to said flaw], then I'd be [insert feeling women get when they wash their hair like in those shampoo commercials]."

To be fair, men feel the same angst when rummaging through a used video game store. Dreams of striking gold on a cheap, used copy of "Madden 2005" turn to ashes when all they have are one- and two-year old versions. They're the same basic games, but, according to guys, "They're one- or two-years old. Du-uh!"

As the couple leaves the mall, both the man and woman feel a sense of emptiness. The woman bought nothing -- and the man used up all his gravy.

Hip parental tastes rub off on babes

By janet smith
Publish Date: 24-Feb-2005

What happens when a generation obsessed with the aesthetic appeal of iPods, Barcelona chairs, and vintage Air Jordans decides it’s time to start breeding? Forget about Disney figurines, teddy-bear crib sheets, and eyelet-trimmed lamps: increasingly, offspring-minded urbanites are outfitting baby rooms with the same keen eye they apply to the rest of their homes.

Local boutiques catering to the tastes of Wallpaper*-fixated parents are now popping up in neighbourhoods known for funky clothes shops and hipster-friendly cappuccino bars. Baby versions of the grownup’s “lifestyle store”, these shops specialize in carefully chosen collectibles that cover everything from décor to duds.

The newest of the bunch, Dandelion Kids (1206 Commercial Drive), sits beside the packed Havana patio. Standing in the studiolike space, which has
lanterns hanging in the window, Stefanie Missler ponders the buying habits of today’s new mothers and fathers.

“It’s such a design culture now; it’s pervaded our society to a whole new level. We define ourselves by finding the perfect sneaker or whatever,” she explains. “It’s a different generation of parents, and children are an extension of their parents’ tastes—up to a certain age. By now my son’s five and he knows he wants Spider-man shoes.”

In the past, nurseries were generically pretty. Now parents are accessorizing them with the kind of high-design Euro pieces, retro toys, and one-of-a-kind handmade items that Missler carries in her store. “There are the throwbacks to the really traditional wooden toys that last for more than a generation—the kind you’d want to have in your trousseau,” says the mother of two, who has an art-history background.

Her partner in the business is Maria Livingstone, who also works as a costume designer for film and television.

A few of Dandelion Kids’ imported offerings bring to mind the shapes and colours of Italian homeware lines like Alessi: from Vice Versa, which hails from the same country, come stylized neoprene and soft-silicone accessories, including suction-cup hooks emblazoned with stylized baby heads ($10 to $16).

Alongside such boldly modern designs sit pieces with a nostalgic appeal. Fans of the classic children’s storybook will love the Petit Prince blackboards ($34.95). France-based Vilac’s hand-painted wooden bookends and pull toys have old-fashioned springs attaching the bobble heads to wiener dogs, ladybugs, and frogs (about $44.95). And for the real pintsize culture vulture, splurge on one of the label’s artists’ collections: the red wooden pull-toy shark designed by mid-century sculpture star Alexander Calder ($200) is likely to stay displayed on a high shelf.

Missler and Livingstone didn’t have to search overseas for all their unique finds; some of their edgier handmade items are from here in town. Check out Project Danger’s rock ’n’ roll sock monkeys, which sport everything from fur-lined minis to skull-motif sweaters ($68). (“We’ve sold them almost completely to adults so far,” Missler says with a laugh.) The same local label has faux-fur–lined baby pillows with velvet hearts and tattoolike designs ($30). Elsewhere, no two of Erin Boniferro’s Pocket Bears are the same: adorably lopsided and made of neutral shades of cushy fleece, they’re based on drawings by children as young as four ($25).

Up the Drive and around the corner at 1706 East 1st Avenue, another of the city’s newer additions, Chickpea Children’s Boutique, is tapping into young parents’ penchant for all things retro, whether it’s reproduction tin toys by Schylling or carefully chosen classic hardcover books.

“When people walk in here, they say there’s a warmth to it; it brings so much back for them. It reminds them of their grandmother’s place or something,” says owner Sarah Hoivik.

A hit for nurseries are her own Chickpea label’s vintage-look print linens, bearing funky ’40s-style cowboys, airplanes, and robots for boys and paper dolls, poodles, and polka dots for girls.

They come in throw pillows ($39) and blankets of all sizes, some with cushy chenille or velour ($49 to $139). Or decorate a wall with the same fabric sewn over cork into memo boards ($65). Scatter old-school alphabet cards by New York’s Eeboo ($45) over the wall or display pastel-painted ABC blocks by Victoria’s T.?J. Whitneys Traditional Toys on a shelf ($59) to complete the room. Hoivik stresses the décor of today’s nursery is “vintage but still modern, with a clean look”. Think crisp white walls as a backdrop to a patchwork crib blanket and pillows.

Whether it’s in-the-know blasts from the past or ultramodern accessories, the question remains: does surrounding your bundle of joy with all this hip design mean junior is destined for the Parsons Institute or the pages of Architectural Digest? Only time will tell…

Nike fans fail to just queue it

Nike Pigeon Dunk
Gary Younge
Thursday February 24, 2005
The Guardian

New York police were forced to intervene when a "sneaker riot" broke out in Manhattan on Tuesday, with shoppers queueing to buy limited-edition Nike Pigeon Dunk skateboarding trainers.

Despite the presence of a bouncer, fighting broke out when people tried to barge ahead of those who had camped out for up to 48 hours. Only 150 pairs have been made, with just 20 - which bear an exclusive pigeon mark on the heel - on sale in New York.

Explaining the pigeon motif, Jeffrey Ng, founder and creative director of the company that designed it, said: "It's innate to New Yorkers. No other bird in the world will let you walk that close to it. It's tough, and it's brave."

Gabriel Paulino, 22, of Jamaica, Queens, told the New York Post he waited for two days, driving home only once to change and eat, and still didn't get a pair.

The recommended price was $69 (£33) but the shop in question was selling them for $300. There were no arrests but one man was handcuffed in the melee.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

tiny shirts

The slim cut Lacoste polo shown with the standard cut polo beneath it. Both are size 3. (Josh Rubin:Cool Hunting)

I'm wondering if anyone has the answer to this question: with Americans growing increasingly obese and the world's people collectively getting taller and bigger, why is it that designers insist on making their clothes smaller and smaller?

I'm not advocating a return to oversized silhouettes or people walking around dressed liked Bedouins (or Bea Arthur on "The Golden Girls," circa 1987) but there has to be a limit at which 'slim-fit' is slim enough.

The graphic above shows the new, even slimmer fit Lacoste retro polo shirt for the spring. It's the pink one. I know very few poeple who, if they bought it in their size, that would look fashionable in that tiny shirt. The old shirts (the green one behind the pink one) already have been downsized because they were considered too billowy, and now even that is too much.

Luckily, the old Lacoste shirts will still be sold, but it still begs the question...

When is the fashion industry going to learn that making clothes smaller won't create demand? Nobody I know that skinny wants to wear clothes that tight, and those of us who aren't that size can't fit into the clothes. What's more, the skinny guys can alweays downsize to get the look they want in that area; big people can't. The big and tall are stuck wearing the same crap from Casual Male that's been in there for years.

Abercromibie & Fitch started shrinking their tops a few years ago and sales have never truly recovered. Why go down the same path again and again?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Goodwill hunting

A vintage find from Goodwill.

There’s nothing better sometimes than a good deal. As a major shopaholic, I understand fully the need to acquire, but I’m no fool. The best price does matter and has to matter; otherwise you don’t get to go shop as much.

Because of this, I’m a fan of Goodwill stores. The various Goodwill organizations always been a great cause to support; they even helped me find a job one time, but they used to run very dingy, nasty thrift stores with that strange smell that anyone who’s been can recognize. In the past few years however, Goodwill has spruced up. Most of the new stores are clean, bright, and carry things people could actually use, rather than the old broken castoffs from a generation ago.

The Roanoke area is home to a Goodwill organization that operates a network of retail stores throughout Southwest Virginia. When a number of drugstore spaces came on the market after the consolidation of several local chains, Goodwill began a major expansion push into a number of 5,000 to 10,000 square foot spaces in strip malls. Some of those locations became so popular they had to move to bigger spaces, like the Hollins store I visited today, which moved form an old Eckerd store to a bigger former Food Lion next door.

The new Hollins Goodwill, complete with fairy tale-motif exterior design.

The relocated Hollins Goodwill store opened today, and due to both enduring popularity and extensive newspaper advertising, it was packed. Although many of the sections of the store were well-picked by the time I arrived in the afternoon, the music section was still kitchen clean, well at least as clean as a typical new Goodwill.

I didn’t come close to the record-setting purchases of the other day, but I did pick up a few LPs from the recent past, along with a couple of 45s, all for the low price of $2.00 total:

Eddie Murphy - Eddie Murphy
Kenny Rogers – Eyes That See In the Dark
The Harmonizing Four – God Will Take Care of You
Barbra Streisand/Barry Gibb – Guilty
The Oak Ridge Boys – Elvira/A Woman Like You
Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream/ I Will Always Love You

Impressed? Like I say, nothing like a good deal. Especially for a good cause.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Winn-Dixie Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. said on Tuesday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection in order to address the "financial and operational challenges that have hampered its performance."

The supermarket chain said the company and 23 of its U.S. subsidiaries filed on Monday voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Winn-Dixie said it had lined up an $800 million debtor-in-possession financing facility from Wachovia Bank.

Shaq cells his new shoe phone

He clowns around during the debut of his dual-use footwear.

By Chris Perkins
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2005

DENVER — Shaquille O'Neal was at his clowning best this weekend, and nothing topped things off as well as his shoe phone.

Yes, he's actually had a cellular telephone imbedded in the sole bottom of one of his size-22 sneakers, the ones he wears in games. It has an antenna that extends from the toe, and he debuted it in the locker room before Sunday's All-Star Game.

When someone inevitably asked about the device at his side, O'Neal picked it up and showed it off. Then he'd say, "It should ring soon."

Then it would ring. It happened at least twice during the 30-minute pre-game interview period.

Not so coincidentally, Michael Lissack, who is on the Heat's media relations staff, was seated beside O'Neal holding a curious package of wristbands. Of course, the package was big enough that it could conceal a cellphone programed to call the O'Neal's fancy shoe.

O'Neal revealed two marketing ideas for the shoe phone.

"I wanted to wear it in a game," O'Neal said, "and I get fouled and I wanted my father to call me on the free-throw line and I'd say, 'Yes sir. Follow through? OK.' "

His other idea was to pretend he twisted his ankle and while he's on the floor in mock pain in front of the television camera have his wife call and urge him to "suck it up" and "get back in the game."

But the shoe phone hasn't been practical. A bad thing happened to the phone when he wore the shoe at his house.

"I stepped on it and crushed it," he said.

Locker room lackey

While working as a visiting team locker room manager at Washington Wizards games over the last five years, University of Maryland junior journalism major Tim Rumpff has collected various sneakers from NBA stars. (PETER J. CASEY--THE DIAMONDBACK)

Student serves NBA players, coaches
By Brendan Lowe

WASHINGTON — An hour before a recent basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards, Tim Rumpff stood next to former NBA All-Star Elton Brand in the Clippers’ locker room with all the poise of a Secret Service agent perched next to the president.

While some people would have clamored for the star’s autograph and attention, Rumpff laid low. To him, Brand was simply a guy, just like himself.

Of course, Rumpff is someone who has fetched coffee for Michael Jordan, collected shoes from Tracy McGrady and formed an acquaintanceship with Washington Redskins’ star linebacker LaVar Arrington, who recently gave his cell phone number to Rumpff.

The perks are abundant for the junior journalism major, who has served as visiting team locker room manager at Washington Wizards games for the last five years.

The tale of how the 21-year-old acquired his job is a testament to persistence and inquisitiveness.

“When I was 12, I read something in Sports Illustrated for Kids about guys who worked in the locker room,” Rumpff said. “I thought it sounded awesome so I wrote a letter to the Bullets [now the Wizards]. The guy who is my boss now called and said, ‘You’re too young now, but call when you’re 16.’”

Four years later, Rumpff returned the call. After an interview and a rebounding drill, he was one of three applicants chosen out of a pool of 30.

Rumpff wasn’t catering to NBA players immediately. He spent his first year mopping the floor and cared for the referees his sophomore season.

In his third year, Rumpff was promoted to visiting team locker room manager, which gives him more player access, more responsibility and more money.

Rumpff makes slightly more than minimum wage from the Wizards, but don’t despair for the Gaithersburg native. The visiting team pays Rumpff $50 a game per league regulations.

Then there are the tips.

Several years ago, 14-time NBA All-Star Karl Malone wanted some barbecue Fritos. Rumpff offered to run down the street to CVS. Malone gave him $4, which left Rumpff feeling glum about his tip prospects. Then Malone came back, put something in Rumpff’s hand, and said, “This is for you.”

That something? A $100 bill.

According to Rumpff, Malone isn’t the only high roller; Shaquille O’Neal once gave him $50 for getting a bag of popcorn.

On average, Rumpff pulls in about $75 a game for six hours of work. His career high came last year from the Los Angeles Lakers, which pooled $300 in tips.

Before a recent game against the Clippers, former Terp and current Clipper Chris Wilcox was the rare voice that said locker room managers do not do much for him.

“Nothing, man,” he said. “I handle my own socks, shoes and shorts.”

What Rumpff didn’t do for Wilcox, he did for other players.

At halftime, he went to McDonald’s to get chicken fingers for guard Kerry Kittles. Before the game, Rumpff ran to Starbucks to grab a Strawberry and Crème Frappuccino for rookie Shaun Livingston. In between, he shuttled tickets for players’ friends and families from the locker room to the box office.

About once a game, players ask Rumpff to get a woman’s phone number, which is what the players really pull their wallets out for, he says.

“Those are the biggest tips,” Rumpff said. “They pay more money for a girl’s number than a plate of chicken.”

Though he won’t name names, Rumpff says players often seek the numbers of cheerleaders or women in the first few rows of the crowd. And digits mean dough — anywhere between $10 and $100.

While the duties locker room managers carry out may seem small, Clippers forward Elton Brand says players appreciate the workers.

“They’re a big help,” he said. “It seems just like little things, but they help when you need tickets taken up, or when you want food they always get what you need.”

For fetching players things, Rumpff gets what he wants — sneakers. Over the years, Rumpff has assembled a collection of sneakers left behind by, among others, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Antoine Walker and Gilbert Arenas.

In the university intramural basketball league, Rumpff sports a pair from Mike James of the Milwaukee Bucks.

“They seem to help; I had 22 points in the first game.”

There are downsides to the job. He says his life is at the whim of the NBA schedule. Also, Rumpff’s work environment is full of large, sweaty, naked men.

“If it’s something you want to see, you can, but it’s not something you want to,” said Rumpff, who, let the record show, has had a girlfriend for more than three years.

In the future, Rumpff sees himself exactly where he is. Once he graduates, Rumpff hopes to get a job in broadcast journalism and work for the Wizards at night.

“I’m planning on trying to hold onto this job as long as I can.”

washed up? not quite.

Caryn Midler, People Magazine

Hit TV shows, Oscar nominations and critical buzz prove that Teri Hatcher, Matthew Fox and 10 other stars of the past are back and better than ever.
  • TERI HATCHER -- "I couldn't have been a bigger has-been," Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher said upon winning a Golden Globe in January, referring to the drought years between the 1997 end of her last hit series, Lois & Clark, and her current runaway success. During that time, the single mom (to daughter Emerson, 7), 40, toiled at commercials and forgettable TV movies.
  • MATTHEW FOX -- Lost star Matthew Fox joined an L.A.-area theater company after his FOX drama Party of Five finished its fourth and final season in 2000. "I was very distrustful of people. I was isolating myself," he says of his time between series. These days the 38-year-old married father of Kyle, 7, and Byron, 3, is back on the small screen as a hero to a group of castaways on the hit ABC show.
  • THOMAS HADEN CHURCH -- Life came close to imitating art for Sideways star Thomas Haden Church, who earned his first Oscar nomination this year for his portrayal of a washed-up actor. After two successful sitcoms in the 1990s (Wings and Ned and Stacey), the 43-year-old Texan almost sank into obscurity, appearing in quirky, barely seen films such as 2000's The Specials.
  • KERI RUSSELL -- "I needed to get my life back," Keri Russell told the Copley News Service of the yearlong break she took following the 2002 demise of her TV drama Felicity. But the single 28-year-old actress is back: After earning critical praise for her Off-Broadway turn in Fat Pig, Russell will appear with Kevin Costner in The Upside of Anger, opening in March, and costars in Steven Spielberg's miniseries Into the West, airing this summer.
  • JASON BATEMAN -- Former teen pinup Jason Bateman has conquered the curse of many young actors, gaining success (and a Golden Globe) as an adult for his role in FOX's Arrested Development. But it didn't come easy: After Bateman, 36, starred in '80s shows such as Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family, he spent a decade floundering in short-lived sitcoms and movie flops. "Most people retire after 25 years in this business," says Bateman, who is married to actress Amanda Anka. "I got to start over."
  • ELISABETH SHUE -- After garnering a Best Actress Oscar nod for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, Elisabeth Shue retreated to smaller film roles (such as narrating the 2002 teen romance Tuck Everlasting) in favor of raising kids Miles, 7, and Stella, 3 (with husband David Guggenheim), and finishing her bachelor's degree in government at Harvard. Ever the overachiever, Shue, 41, is back in Hide and Seek, which opened in January at No. 1.
  • DURAN DURAN -- More than two decades after Roger Taylor, Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Nick Rhodes released their last studio album, the original members of Duran Duran are kicking off a tour Feb. 8 to support their new CD, Astronaut. Following a formal split in 1986, the five 40-somethings became dads and dropped out of sight. Says Roger, "I was burned out. So I lived the country life for a while. I kept horses and chickens."
  • VIRGINIA MADSEN -- After years of sexy roles in movies such as 1990's The Hot Spot, Virginia Madsen figured it would be fine to slow down to raise son Jack, 10 (with former flame Antonio Sabato Jr.) – but it proved difficult. "To come back was really hard ... I didn't think doors slammed until you were 40, which is ironic because this is now when they're opening," says the 42-year-old, who is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Sideways.
  • KIRSTIE ALLEY -- "If I'd known it would be this easy to resurrect my career just by getting fat, I would have done it three years ago," says Kirstie Alley, 54. After taking time off to rear kids William, 12, and Lillie, 10, the sitcom veteran (who starred in Cheers from 1987-1993 and Veronica's Closet from 1997-2000) debuts her Showtime series Fat Actress in March.
  • JENNY McCARTHY -- The flamboyant host of MTV's mid-'90s dating show Singled Out practically disappeared after the demise of her 1997 sitcom Jenny, but this spring Jenny McCarthy returns to television on the UPN series The Bad Girl's Guide. The 32-year-old mom to Evan, 2 (with husband John Asher), also wrote as well as starred in the romantic comedy Dirty Love, which debuted at Sundance.
  • ROB MORROW -- It's been 10 years since Rob Morrow, star of the highly rated midseason crime drama Numb3rs, enjoyed TV success with the quirky comedy Northern Exposure and acclaim for his role in the movie drama Quiz Show. Between the bookends of his successes, the 42-year-old dad to Tu Simone, 3 (with wife Debbon Ayer), flopped in movies (2000's Labor Pains) and the blink-and-you-missed-it 2002 TV series Street Time.
  • PATRICIA ARQUETTE -- After "a couple of years off just to really mourn some things," Patricia Arquette scored a home run as psychic mom Allison DuBois in NBC's midseason hit Medium. Before her small-screen success, the 36-year-old mother to Harlow, 23 months (with fiancé actor Thomas Jane), and Enzo, 16 (with musician Paul Rossi), was known mostly for offbeat roles in films such as 1993's True Romance and 1997's Lost Highway.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Chat | D.M.C.of Run-D.M.C

Kathy Orton, The Washington Post

Darryl McDaniels, 40, aka D.M.C. of Run-D.M.C, wanted to play football or draw cartoons.

Instead, the powerful, blunt and clever raps he and Joseph Simmons, aka Run, created with the turntable wizardry of Jason Mizell, aka Jam Master Jay, became the anthems of the hip-hop generation.

Along with "Walk This Way," "King of Rock" and "It's Tricky," one of the songs Run-D.M.C. is best known for is "My Adidas," the group's tribute to their kicks. In honor of the 35th anniversary of its Superstar shoe, Adidas will host a benefit for the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music on Friday in New York. Mizell was murdered in 2002. His widow, Terri, formed the foundation to assist public school music programs.

Why Adidas? Why not another brand?
They look good. They're real cool. It was a childhood tribute to the sneaker you loved as a kid. Back in the day, we used to wear Converse. We used to wear Pro Keds. You remember those? We used to wear Puma, Ponys. But Adidas was the one that lasted longer. It had more flavor, more personality. It just looked better. When you think of hip-hop, the first thing you think of is Run-D.M.C and you think of those sneakers on our feet.

If you were doing a rap about a sneaker today, which one would you pick?
Adidas. There's no other sneaker in the world that looks good on D.M.C.'s feet. I don't know why. It was a match made in heaven. The only other thing you'll see on my feet, I'll keep it real, is Timberland boots.

Did you play basketball?
I played a little bit of basketball. I was more into football. I went to Catholic schools all my life, but Catholic schools never had football teams, so I had to play on the basketball team. Once I really got into basketball, my father put a rim in the backyard on the garage. That's actually how I met Run. He would come over after elementary school, and we would play one-on-one together. He was better than me, I'll keep it real. I was a forward. He was a guard. I beat him every now and then because I had height on him. He would kill me with his left hand. He was left-handed, so I couldn't get the matchup right.

What position did you play in football?
I played running back and linebacker, defensive end now and then. I was big, but I wasn't really big enough. I'd get pushed off the line. I really wanted to be a receiver. I wasn't a showoff. I just did my thing, laid the ball down and went back to the huddle. If I never started rapping, I was going to be a football player or I was going to be a cartoonist or architect because I could draw.

You went to St. John's. How about the game against Georgetown yesterday?
That was a rivalry back in the day. Y'all slain us many a nights. When we had Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson, we were running things. I'll give it to y'all. Georgetown represented very well.

College or pro basketball?
I'm really getting into college right now. I like Illinois. I love when they get a team so focused like that. They play as a team. It ain't like you got one guy that's doing it. They play as a team. I like teamwork.

Sneakerheads compete for rare Nikes

Associated Press

DENVER - Some people collect baseball cards, some collect cars. Ruben Santamaria collects shoes - Air Jordans, to be specific. He spends about $2,000 a month adding to a collection that already takes up three-fourths of his bedroom. There's just enough room left for the bed and path to it.

"Sometimes I go without eating or toilet paper. Even my girlfriend, she wants to kick me out of the apartment," said Santamaria, 27. "It's kind of ridiculous, I know."

This week, he drove nonstop for two days from San Antonio to Denver for a contest coinciding with the NBA All-Star game. The prize for the best collection of rare, pristine Nikes - from Air Jordans to Air Force 1s - was a one-of-a-kind pair lasered with the winner's name.

Ten competitors, chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide, displayed a total of 150 pairs of shoes. The collection was worth $70,000 to $80,000, said Steve Mulholland, publisher and editor of Sole Collector magazine, the contest sponsor.

Santamaria garnered bragging rights as Friday night's winner.

"I got a lot of respect from sneakerheads. I'm glad I made it out here," he said.

For collectors, such contests are a chance to gauge how their kicks stack up to the competition, and to connect with others who understand the passion for sneakers - a phenomenon linked to the hip-hop scene of the early 1980s and former NBA star Michael Jordan.

Jordan signed with Nike in 1984, and introduced the world to Air Jordan shoes.

Lany Bru, who flew from New Jersey for the Denver contest, said he was about 10 years old when the first Air Jordans came out.

"At that age, you basically want to wear the phat sneakers. I wanted to have those sneakers when they first came out. My parents couldn't buy it for me for that Christmas," Bru recalls.

"Maybe that's what sparked the whole thing. I couldn't have 'em."

At 29, Bru has roughly 200 pairs in his collection. He wouldn't say how much he spends.

"I don't even want to discuss it. It'd probably make me sick," Bru said.

Santamaria's love of Nikes started young, but it wasn't until about three years ago that he began seriously collecting.

This year, his girlfriend missed out on getting a diamond bracelet for Valentine's Day after Santamaria spent $2,500 on eBay for a rare pair of Jordans.

"He made it up to me, but I was disappointed," Dee Sisneros said.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

"surviving" crap

Jolanda Jones, the third person voted off "Survivor: Palau," from the website for her failed 2003 bid for Houston City Council.

It's sad to say this, but I saw my first ever episode of "Survivor" last night on CBS. I was at my grandfather's place and he had it on. This turned out to be a repeat of the first episode of "Survivor: Palau," where twenty contestants try to survive in the wilds of a Pacific island paradise. With cameras, of course.

I've generally avoided reality television because I think there's very little real about it. True to my original hypothesis, the whole thing was about as real as Cheez-Wiz. To it's credit, at least Cheez-Wiz tastes good. The whole ordeal of this first episode left a bad taste in my mouth.

From the comfort of a yacht in the episode I saw, host Jeff Probst announces the first challenge before the 20 contestants have even reached shore in their rowboat. With a mile to go, the first man and first woman to reach shore win immunity. Also waiting for them is a map to water and two machetes.

With that, he sets their rowboat on fire. Ian and Jolanda win immunity by getting to shore fastest.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. After swimming to shore, the group makes camp, finds water, and even traps a wily bag of shoes. The group's street clothes (?) turn to tatters on cue in the wilderness, leaving Coby, the token homosexual, in an improvised pink sarong with a high split (??) and leaving Jolanda, the black lawyer, without her inexplicable high heels, which were broken in an attempt to apparently make the people seem even more stupid. Stilettos have steel shanks these days, dumbasses.

Quality television so far, huh?

Fast forward to Day 2: Jeff Probst opens the polls. Ian and Jolanda are team captains who will in turn pick one person each, who in turn picks another and so on. Last two left are going home: Wanda, an older lady who made it a point of singing on the boat ride over and, surprisingly, Jonathan, a blond, blue-eyed white guy (?). Jolanda's tribe is called Ulong, Ian's is Koror, both replete with classy "Survivor" logo scarves. Give me a break!

The first tribal immunity challenge is a jungle obstacle course/boat race. First team who finishes wins immunity, plus whatever heavy crates (fire-making tools, flour and rice, two empty water canisters, a tarp) they drag with them. A team could win empty-handed or lose with everything.

The young guns of Ulong fall behind when Jolanda wants to them to carry as much as possible. Ulong falls further behind when members end up paddling off course. Koror wins in a yawner, taking the immunity idol, the fire-making tools and a map to a new tribal site.

That turns out to be a hollow victory as Koror manages to flip its boat en route to its new home, losing the fire-making tools. So much for brains over brawn.

Meanwhile, Ulong quickly selects two scapegoats: Angie, because her tattooed presence isn't contributing much; and Jolanda, she of the strong personality. But at tribal council, the final vote in this blue state is 6-3, sending Jolanda packing.

I want my hour back!

the floor show

I did something I've never done before this weekend. I installed a new sheet vinyl floor.

My mom decided that she needed a room for all the china at her country club, so we've been renovating two former walk-in closets into a rather large butler's pantry. One step we did when we first got the building was to remove the wall between the two closets, but we hadn't taken it any farther until a few weeks ago. It was then that we decided to build some shelves and fit them into the room

The room needed a new floor badly, so I got drafted to install it. We had picked up some sheet vinyl on clearance at The Home Depot a few weeks ago, so all we had to do was put it down.

Putting a floor in isn't as much trouble as it would seem at first, but I learned quickly that dimensions matter a lot. And proper amounts of adhesive. Too much can ooze out; too little won't adhere the floor properly. My hands got a little goopy from the glue, but it washed off with soap and water.

Overall, considering that I'd never done it before, I thought it went well.

Remember Real NY Hip-Hop


2/19/2005 10:02:21 AM by Robert,

Remember when hip-hop was more about B-boys than bling? When the Rock Steady Crew was winning emcee battles in the South Bronx, and Run and DMC were kings of Queens?

The rap artist of today remember those old-school days, and they're bringing them back, says Jeff Chang, author of a new book, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation."

"There's definitely a nostalgia factor going on," Chang tells The Post. "Things have come full circle."

Whether it's in art galleries, hip downtown boutiques or even the Brooklyn Public Library, 1980s hip-hop is back.

Get the look:

If you need any evidence of old-school influence on fashion, just stop into any of your local streetwear shops, says Emil Wilbekin, the former editor of Vibe and current vice president at Marc Ecko.

"I see the '80s influence in almost every store, from A Bathing Ape to H&M, Macy's, even Barneys," Wilbekin says.

"Back then, everybody used to wear Adidas tracksuits or jeans from Calvin Klein, Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt or Sergio Valenti," he adds. "They'd crease the jeans and bleach the creases."

If you're looking for your own old-school look, Barneys Co-op, 236 W. 18th St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues, (212) 593-7800, carries many of the '80s designer jeans - often pre-creased and bleached - as well as retro T-shirts with designs by quintessential '80s New York hip-hop artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

For rare, vintage, mint-condition Nikes and Adidas kicks, try the Lower East Side sneaker boutique Alife, 158 Rivington St. at Clinton Street, (212) 375-8128.

Or check out a Japanese hipster twist on old-school design at A Bathing Ape, SoHo's hottest new contemporary urban streetwear shop, co-owned by Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes, 191 Greene St. between Houston and Prince streets, (212) 925-0222.


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sneakerheads show off devotion to rare Nikes

DENVER (AP) — Some people collect baseball cards, some collect cars.

Ruben Santamaria collects shoes — Air Jordans, to be specific. He spends about $2,000 a month adding to a collection that already takes up three-fourths of his bedroom. There’s just enough room left for the bed and path to it.

“Sometimes I go without eating or toilet paper. Even my girlfriend, she wants kick me out of the apartment,” said Santamaria, 27. “It’s kind of ridiculous, I know.”

This week, he drove nonstop for two days from San Antonio to Denver for a contest coinciding with the NBA All Star Game. The prize for the best collection of rare, pristine, uncracked Nikes — from Air Jordans to Air Force 1s to Dunks — was a one-of-a-kind pair lasered with the winner’s name.

Ten competitors, chosen from roughly three dozen applicants nationwide, displayed a total of 150 pairs of shoes. The collection was worth $70,000 to $80,000, said Steve Mulholland, publisher and editor of Sole Collector magazine, the contest sponsor.

Contestant Lany Bru, 29, an apartment manager from Ringwood, N.J., flew to Denver mailed his shoe entries.

“I don’t want to get to Denver and find out somebody removed them from my suitcase. Some of my shoes are valued at $500 to $2,000,” Bru said.

Bru has roughly 200 pairs in his collection, including a special edition LeBron James Air Force 1 Chamber of Fear pair he bought at an auction in New York. He wouldn’t say how much he spends.

“I don’t even want to discuss it. It’d probably make me sick,” Bru said.

For collectors, contests are a chance to gauge how their kicks stack up and to connect with others who understand the passion for sneakers.

“People think I’m crazy. Even my family,” Bru said.

Bru was about 10 years old when the first Air Jordans came out.

“At that age, you basically want to wear the phat sneakers. I wanted to have those sneakers when they first came out. My parents couldn’t buy it for me for that Christmas,” Bru recalls. “Maybe that’s what sparked the whole thing. I couldn’t have ’em.”

Santamaria’s love of Nikes started young, too. He couldn’t afford expensive shoes on his own. Neither could his father, a carpenter and carpet installer, or his mother, who stayed home to take care of five kids.

It wasn’t until about three years ago that he began seriously collecting. This Valentine’s Day his girlfriend, Dee Sisneros, missed out on getting a diamond bracelet after Santamaria spent $2,500 on eBay on a rare pair of Air Jordan I black toes he had long coveted.

“He made it up to me, but I was disappointed,” said Sisneros, who made the trip to Denver with Santamaria.

Santamaria has kept his hobby quiet, but he finally told his co-workers when he asked for a week off to go to the Denver contest, his first competition ever.

“Not too many people understand your hobby,” Santamaria said. “They just make fun of you. It’s not something you want to talk about. They don’t understand.”

Shaq's closet

By Michelle Kaufman

You have an important business trip. You pull your suitcase out of the closet, throw in your nicest suit, your nicest shoes, a couple of dress shirts, undies, socks.

Shaquille O'Neal is on an important business trip. The Heat center is playing in today's NBA All-Star Game in Denver, where the best basketball players on the planet will show off their silkiest moves on the hardwood and finest threads at the after-parties.

But O'Neal didn't pack. Not a single sock. Instead, he called his personal tailor, Lamar Gayles, Sr., in Chicago and told him he wanted a new wardrobe for the weekend.

Gayles and five members of his 15-person staff got to work immediately. They rolled out 7 ¼ yards of the finest wool-cashmere blends and made O'Neal a suit and a matching hat (a typical man requires only 4 ½ yards). Then they made another. And another. And another. And another.

With French-cuffed shirts, fat-knotted ties, and custom-made socks to go with each one.

Four-day weekend. Five suits.

''Mr. O'Neal does not duplicate,'' explains Gayles, who has been O'Neal's tailor for eight years.

It can get chilly in Denver this time of year, so Gayles made O'Neal two chinchilla jackets, two cashmere top coats -- one black, one camel, and a few quilted leather vests. For down time, Gayles made O'Neal six new ultra-suede warmups, a couple of denim outfits, and four casual shirt-pant combinations. O'Neal likes to have at least one outfit in Heat colors (black and red) and one in his fraternity colors (Omega's purple and gold).

Thursday afternoon, Gayles hung all of O'Neal's new clothes on custom-made hangers, put them in a half-dozen wardrobe boxes and shipped them to his client's Denver hotel. Gayles then flew to Denver to meet the clothing and lay them out in O'Neal' s suite.

''When Mr. O'Neal gets to his room, all the clothes will be there, laid out with the matching shirt, tie, socks and shoes,'' Gayles said. ``He makes suggestions, but mainly, he trusts my judgment. In eight years, I've made him hundreds of suits, and there were only four pieces he didn't like and two that didn't fit.''

O'Neal is equally particular about his shoes, and could give Imelda Marcos a run for her money.

He's not sure exactly how many pairs of shoes he has lining his two closets in his Miami Beach mansion, but he ordered 200 pairs of Donald Pliners last year alone, and estimates he has 200 pairs of sneakers from his signature line. Over the years, he has also purchased hundreds of pairs of shoes from Friedman's shoe store in Atlanta, which specializes in big sizes and exotic skins.

O'Neal wears size 22 EEE, and all of the shoes are custom made.

''We have a custom mold for him in our two factories in Tuscany, and he orders 150 to 175 pairs a year,'' said Pliner, who is also O'Neal's next-door neighbor on Star Island. 'He just loves shoes. He'll come in the store and say, `I want 10 of those in different colors, six of those, 12 of those.' He buys so many that we even make a custom box for them. He's a great customer.''

O'Neal couldn't say how much he spends on shoes (``I never check the price tags.''), but considering the shoes he buys retail for anywhere from $300 to $2,000, the NBA star's shoe collection is probably worth at least a quarter of a million dollar s. He takes good care of the shoes, and keeps them in color-coordinated rows in his closets. Once in a while, when he tires of a pair of shoes, he donates them to large-footed teenagers whose parents have asked O'Neal for his hand-me-downs.

''I've got the blacks with the blacks, the browns with the browns, the reds with the reds, and all the wild shoes in one area,'' he said. O'Neal has one closet in the master bedroom, but that isn't big enough for his jumbo-sized wardrobe, so he turned half of his media room/theater into a closet.

''My wife [Shaunie] got the bigger closet because she's a woman, so there really wasn't enough room in my one closet for all my stuff,'' O'Neal said. ``I have hundreds of pairs of shoes. I'll have about 10 pairs with me for All-Star Weekend, five black and five brown, and maybe a couple of others, too.''

Why does he need so many shoes?

''It's not a matter of need,'' he said. ``I just like shoes, like the variety.''

He has the same attitude towards clothing. O'Neal likes to wear new clothes and stay ahead of the trends. He says he has gotten more conservative in his old age.

''I used to dress a lot wilder, with bright colors and wild designs and derby hats, because I wanted everyone to notice me,'' O'Neal said. 'Half the people said, `Oh, that's beautiful,' and half said, 'Oh, that's horrible,' but at least they wer e looking, and that's what I wanted. Now that I'm more corporate, I dress classier. Black, brown, navy, beiges. I wear three-piece suits, fat-knotted ties, classy hats, The Godfather look.''

He keeps Gayles busy. Five of Gayles' employees at Phenomenal Designs by Lamar work exclusively on O'Neal's account. O'Neal met Gayles eight years ago through a mutual friend, and the tailor was so honored he made O'Neal a customized leather jacket that included patches of the L.A. Lakers, O'Neal's fraternity, his alma mater (Louisiana State), and Superman, O'Neal's favorite comic book character. The jackets retailed for $7,000, but Gayles insisted O'Neal keep it is a gift.

''He just flipped with that jacket, and asked me if I do suits and other clothes, so I told him I'd be happy to be his full time tailor, his valet, whatever he needs,'' Gayles said. 'That's how the marriage began. He definitely had his own style, which we called `Shaq-a-Style.' He'd wear long jackets, derby hats, loud colors. But now, he looks really sharp, classy suits, Homburg hats.''

At the beginning of each season, O'Neal sits down with Gayles and they go over the basketball star's calendar. He likes to have new suits for every awards show, charity dinner, and major party. He also likes to find new clothes on his hotel room bed when the Heat is on the road.

''The concierges in every NBA city know who I am because I'm always shipping Mr. O'Neal's clothes,'' Gayles said. ``Once in a while, he'll send me a photo of a suit or outfit he likes, and I'll make it for him. Other times, his wife tells me there 's some color she'd like to see him in, so we find fabrics in those colors. He's been really fun to work with.''

In addition to making and shipping the clothes, Gayles said he helps O'Neal get ready for functions and appearances. ``If he's going to do a Nestle Crunch appearance, I'll pick out an ultra-suede outfit for him, and then if he has to go from there to an NBA fashion show, I'll have a suit and tie waiting for him at the next venue. I take care of all Mr. O'Neal's clothing needs.''

O'Neal buys underwear, t-shirts and some casual wear from Big and Tall shops such as Rochester and Casual Male, but most of his clothing is custom-made. Neither Gayles nor O'Neal would say how much he spends on clothing per year, but Gayles said, ``Mr. O'Neal is our most faithful client and our business is doing well.''

Friday, February 18, 2005

steve 3000

I went over the 3,000 visitors mark this morning. As always, this could not have been achieved without your help as vistors and friends. I'm glad you've chosen to stop by and and I hope to keep giving you reasons to visit steve's blog.

oh, just buy them already!

Federated-May Talks Back On
The Wall Street Journal reports the on-again, off-again merger talks between Federated Department Stores (Cincinnati) and May Department Stores (St. Louis) have resumed.

The Journal -- which two days earlier ran a story saying negotiations between the two retailers had apparently ended -- is now reporting the talks are back on and "are reaching a more serious stage." The two sides have been negotiating via phone, the Journal reports, and were about $2 a share apart on a deal price.

A Federated-May marriage would create America's largest upscale department store chain, with about 1000 stores and revenues of more than $28 billion

Dressed for innovation

Inventor thinks he's found the Holy Grail of footwear

By Robin J. Moody
The Business Journal of Portland
Updated: 7:00 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2005

No matter how well-designed a shoe is, it will never fit every type of foot. It's a truth that has long plagued big sneaker companies.

"For me, the appeal of having a way to customize for individual's functional needs is the Holy Grail of research and development. When R&D people get together for beers, this problem always comes up," said Ned Frederick, a former Nike Sports Lab research director and now a consultant with New Hampshire-based Exeter Research.

But a local inventor, coach, author and athlete believes he has the answer to the quandary of how to make customized shoes that can still be produced affordably on a large scale.

Rob Lyden, founder of Q-Branch Inc., has been refining the concept for nine years, and has accumulated a broad portfolio of patented intellectual property to support the project. (The Q in Q-Branch stands for Quintessence.)

Now he is seeking $750,000 in stage-one investor capital to make his vision a reality. He plans to use the money to produce samples not only of running and soccer shoes, but of light shoe insoles, a wheeled skate, and several pieces of custom-fit sports equipment, including a shin guard, that could use the same technology as the insoles.

The samples would be used in sales presentations, and would pave the way for a second round of venture funding once the company has the sales orders to finance production.

Lyden says he has several prospects, but no one has yet agreed to fund his business.

"I've taken it as far as I can by bootstrapping. I've been able to invest in patents, and it's now beyond proof of concept," said Lyden, who holds more than 30 patents.

The prototype shoes have several unique components. Insoles filled with polymer are designed be light-cured in less than two minutes to conform exactly to an individual's foot. The light-curing would be done at a point-of-purchase display inside a retail setting, Lyden said. The same light-cure technology can be used for individual-fit shin guards and other personal protective equipment.

The sole is then inserted into the shoe, which has a visibly different design.

Rather than a traditional sole, Lyden's "spring sole" has a gap between the heel and the bottom of the shoe. The advantage of carbon-fiber spring design is improved shock-absorbing capability, among other benefits.

"One thing about Rob's shoes is that they have a unique look. It may or may no be fashionable, but at least it's different," said Peter Moore, who worked at Nike Inc. for about 10 years, including a stint as its first creative director.

Moore, who also briefly served as the president of Adidas America, added that the design of Lyden's shoe "returns energy" to its wearer -- another elusive goal of performance footwear designers.

Lyden contends that in head-to-head tests, his shoe returned more energy, better reduced shock to the wearer, and provided better stability than today's top-selling running shoes.

Market forces may also be aligning in ways that could support Lyden's products -- if he can land the money to get the enterprise off the ground.

Retro styles have dominated the market for years, said Fredrick, "but technical is coming back."

However, no products have captured the imagination of consumers the way the Nike Air line did decades ago, Fredrick and Moore agreed, although Nike Shox created some buzz.

"There's been a lot of marketing noise, but nothing all that interesting or earth-shattering," Moore said.

All-Stars and new footwear a perfect fit

By Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY

The players in the All-Star Game won't wear makeup. They won't face wind machines meant to give them extra glamour. But at least when it comes to selling shoes, the players will be runway models — for shoes about to become available to the masses.

When it comes to selling sneakers, the NBA All-Star Game isn't just an exhibition.

Says Brian Povenelli, a Reebok marketing vice president, "It's a battleground for the industry."

That's partly because the event is a congregation of the kind of players who are used prominently in sneaker marketing or even have their own signature shoes. And marketers don't face restrictions on color schemes in shoes worn in the All-Star Game — unlike the usual NBA rule that players wear shoes that are mainly black or white.

Because consumers have come to expect the All-Star Game to give them their first glimpses of new shoes, it's become a launch pad for new looks. "It's an event where a lot of eyes are on the product," Nike spokesman Rodney Knox says.

Nike's fashion statements in the All-Star Game will include LeBron James, who usually wears black shoes, modeling gray and blue versions of his signature Zoom LeBron II shoes, which hit retail stores last weekend.

Kobe Bryant will wear gray, red and blue Nike 2K5 sneakers, a shoe that also will come out in three more color schemes in March.

Nike also will shod Vince Carter in red, white and blue versions of his signature VC IV shoe. Jermaine O'Neal's All-Star version of the Shox Bomber will have a similar color scheme. Versions of the Shox Bomber without the All-Star color scheme go on sale in March; Carter's All-Star kicks are available this weekend.

And what would a sneaker story be without a pair of Air Jordans? Seattle SuperSonics guard Ray Allen will unveil a special pair of AJXX's, marking the 20th anniversary since the shoe first hit the market.

"It's always been more than just a shoe to me," Jordan says. "I'm honored that, even after 20 years, my loyal fans and friends have continued to support me and the legacy of Air Jordan."

The special edition Allen will wear won't be available in stores; however, a version of the shoe will be in stores All-Star weekend. The motorcycle-inspired design of the AJXX (Jordan owns a motorcycle team, Team23 Racing) includes a laser-etched strap that features more than 200 icons that were done to create a tapestry of stories connected to Jordan's career.

Players modeling new shoes for Adidas include Tracy McGrady, wearing his laceless signature shoe, and Antawn Jamison, in an AQ sneaker that will launch in March. The company is counting on long consumer memories: Tim Duncan will be wearing a D-Cool shoe that won't be available until July.

But nobody is counting on longer memories than Reebok. Using the feet of Allen Iverson and Yao Ming, it will resurrect its Pump sneaker, which sold from 1989 to 1992 and was Reebok's best-selling sneaker ever — more than 20 million pairs.

"It's the first time I've ever worn a pump shoe," Iverson says of the trip down memory lane, "but I loved it. I loved it."

It's coming back, suggests Povenelli, because "right now there's a huge void in the (sneaker) marketplace for technology."

But the sneaker marketplace will never suffer from a lack of hype and hustle.

Consumers, as Adidas spokesman Travis Gonzolez says, have been trained to look at the All-Star Game for shopping tips. "Shoe companies do more with the All-Star Game than they did in the past," he says. "The weekend just seems to be a time when kids get hyped about the game and want to buy shoes."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

my vinyl romance

I love collecting music. My CD collection is teetering around 500, and I’ve got a nice pile of cassettes and LPs that I can be (mostly) proud of. One of the things I learned early is that if you deal in volume, you need to try to buy your music as cheap as you can. That in mind, I got into used music early and bought so much at the Blacksburg Record Exchange store in college that they started setting stuff aside for me.

LPs are the most fun to collect in my opinion, because they’re quirky, nostalgic and nothing matches their sound. You can make music clear as a bell with digital technology, but for sheer warmth and presence, you can’t beat a slightly crackly LP turning at 33 rpm.

Even if the music doesn’t scream classic, LP packaging is a distinct and fun class of product design. It’s fascinating what designers did with these 12x12 canvasses, and regardless of musical genre, the covers offered a telling description of that day’s culture.

I went to the Roanoke Record Exchange and hit a motherlode of LPs for only $1.00 apiece. I got excited and bought 20!

Along with my bargain basement finds I grabbed a couple of slightly more expensive LP classics: Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones (complete with the unusual zippered album cover) and Two B’s Please by The Robbin Thompson Band, a surprisingly solid 1980 release from the Richmond-based rockers.

What else did I get, you ask:

Al Jarreau, Jarreau
Al Jarreau, Breaking Away
Aretha Franklin, Aretha
Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees
Chick Corea, The Leprechaun
Daryl Hall & John Oates, Voices
Electric Light Orchestra, Discovery
George Benson, Livin’ Inside Your Love
George Bensson, 20/20
Gino Vannelli, Nightwalker
Heart, Dreamboat Annie
Jerry Clower, Mouth of Mississippi
Pete Townshend, Chinese Eyes
PM Dawn, Paper Doll (12” single)
Rick Astley, Whenever You Need Somebody (still factory sealed!)
Smokey Robinson, Being With You
Smokey Robinson, One Heartbeat
Steely Dan, Gaucho
The Doobie Brothers, Minute by Minute
Walt Disney, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day


A couple of new tests for y'all.

I am 47% Metrosexual.
Not Too Metrosexual, Sugar!
I may own more than two pair of dress shoes, and maybe a designer suit, but I don’t mind going to the grocery store in sweats. And I may even go a day or two without a shower.

I am 21% White Trash.
Not at all White Trashy!
I, my friend, have class. I am so not white trash. . I am more than likely Democrat, and my place is neat, and there is a good chance I may never drink wine from a box.

saks could split, federated wants neiman-marcus


Saks Inc. has held discussions with Federated Department Stores about the sale of its middle market department stores, The New York Post has learned.

The talks, which have taken place over the last few months, are said to have cooled in recent days, because Federated has "bigger fish to fry," according to one executive familiar with the situation.

The conversations are the most recent example of the retail roulette playing throughout the industry, as potential acquirers try to line up the ripest targets.

Federated had been holding simultaneous discussions with Saks and May Department Stores Co., and its lessening interest in Saks caused some observers to speculate that talks with May have intensified.

Another possibility is that Federated is taking a close look at Neiman Marcus Group, now that its controlling shareholder, the Smith family, is considering a sale, sources said.

Federated CEO Terry Lundgren once ran Neiman Marcus and has made no secret of his desire to take Federated in a more upscale direction.

But any acquirer of Neiman Marcus, a top rate player in luxury at the height of a luxury boom, would likely have to pay top dollar, something that Federated is typically unwilling to do.

The conversations between Federated and Saks, which could still be revived, show that Saks, which in addition to its mid-tier department stores also operates namesake luxury stores, is serious about splitting itself into two companies.

Such a plan is expected to be discussed at a Saks board meeting scheduled for the first week in March, sources said.

Julia Bentley, a spokeswoman for Saks declined to comment.

Lundgren is good friends with Saks executives and spent Super Bowl weekend playing golf with Brad Martin, the chief executive of Saks Inc., and Ron Frasch, the chief merchant of Saks Fifth Avenue, sources said.

For now, at least, Saks is proceeding with a plan that would allow it to concentrate on the most promising part of its business, the Saks Fifth Avenue division, encompassing 58 namesake luxury stores, and 52 Off 5th outlet stores.

Saks Fifth Avenue would likely be spun off to shareholders as a separately traded company, allowing for the sale of the 241 department stores, under names like Parisian, Proffitt's and Carson Pirie Scott, to private-equity firms and regional retailers, sources said.

Depending on whether they are bought as a whole or split up, the department stores could fetch $2.1 billion to $2.8 billion, analysts said.

Saks, which was created by the 1998 takeover of Saks Fifth Avenue by Proffitt's, tried to split itself in 2000, but the plan was derailed by the slump in valuations for luxury retailers following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Since then, luxury retailers have been on a roll and today are some of the most sought after properties in retailing.