I like American Music.

Posted in culture, fashion by johnsnavely on February 1, 2011

If you ever been to my house (maybe for a Salon or something) you know that I am a bit hypocritical. I’m a designer, supposedly I care about how things look. Supposedly I make them look better.

But I haven’t taken much care with my own living quarters. There’s a mish mash of things I like, but not a true sense of style. I’ve been thinking more about making/designing some furniture for K and I and I’ve started collecting images in my never-used tumblr account. There’s a furniture company called bddw which has nailed it, imho. The look is distinctly American, drawing from the Shaker tradition with the furniture, but really a melting pot of patterned rugs and minimalistic decor. Here’s a few images:


Ghost in the Shell

Posted in culture, fashion by johnsnavely on July 21, 2010

Back to the Future

Posted in art, fashion by johnsnavely on January 21, 2009

These illustrations by Mattias Adolfsson are lovely! Baroque Starwars = awesome.

The Deathstar (now my wallpaper) and Stormtrooper are my favorites.

More here.

Success for Dress

Posted in fashion, friends by johnsnavely on January 10, 2009

This is a shameless plug for my cousin, Dorothy.

I just noticed that her line of clothes can now be purchased at Jasmine Sola and the Tannery. My friends in Cambridge/all two of my female readers can shop happier.

I am eagerly awaiting a Men’s line.

Petit Mode

Posted in culture, fashion, sports by johnsnavely on August 20, 2008

My brother sent me a link to an article on Naomi Yotsumoto, a young Japanese table tennis player who wears outfits of her own design. She’s in the Olympics playing TT for Japan.

image from Imprint Blog.

She’s a pretty talented player and also pretty, which are great reasons to watch her. Ping pong could use a little more style in the uniform department. I’m glad she’s taking this on.

Ping pong, as I read in the NY Times last Sunday, is on its way out–its popularity has slowly decreased over the years and there’s a little worry that we might not see it in a few Olympics down the road.

I used to play on the team at Dartmouth and for a few shameless semesters filled in as the team captain. My borther and I both have fond memories of going to the “Church of Ping Pong” when we were in highschool in Western Mass. There was old church (in Bathesda I think) with a gymnasium where some really awesome players would gather to play in the evenings. Like old boxing clubs where a shabby outpost might indicate a lonesome enclave of quality play by a washed-up old star, there are ping pong clubs like this all over the United States. I went to one in Windsor (and even played in a tournament there.) I found another one when I lived in NYC in Manhattan on the upper west side. I got to hit a few (literally) with a former olympic player. I’ve been told there’s a club somewhere here in Seattle but I’ll have to find it.

Wearables and Usability Pt I

Posted in art, fashion, technology by johnsnavely on August 3, 2008

The blogosphere has probably contributed more to the culture of complaint than most other forms of media. I feel guilty for participating in it. What I’ll try and do instead is complain real quick and then talk about stuff I like.

So, continuing off the last post, what’s not to like about wearables and usability ? First off, let’s define terms.

A wearable is short for wearable computer. Generally, the term refers to electronics (sensors, input devices, displays, etc) that have been integrated into a garment that can be worn.  A simple example would be the calculator watch. I think of it loosely as the intersection between fashion and technology. Wearables might also include prosthetics, but I’d like to keep them separate for now.

Usability is a term best defined by its wikipedia entry because wikipedia not only shows the popularity of edits to the entry but also the resulting blandness of its definition. Ostensibly, usability is both a rule-set and a metric for good “user-centered” design.

So wearables, computers and clothes–two of my favorite things–should be awesome, right? Let’s start with the fact that technology and fashion were never separate entities. Why does the term need to exist? Often I see it butressing some “toaster dress” looking thing which does a disservice to the technology and doesn’t look pleasant to wear either.  I have a whole book of “art projects”, many of which are wearables, done by architecture students. I am completely guilty of this bs too. There’s a point where sticking an RFID tag inside a sock (or whatever) and having it connect to a social sock network seems like a good idea that will distract your critics from realizing that nobody wants to be sock friends. But since “social networking”, “RFID” and “Wearables” are all cool words you’ll be ok.

I’m not sure who I spoke to who to, (I think it was M), who told me about meeting with some VC’s. VC’s invest something like 90% in technology (software) and biotech. The split for one firm, as I recall, was 60% software, 30% biotech, and 10% for all the other products and startups out there (including M’s). Since we’re in a bubble, the VC’s were particularly sensitive to tech jargon: to get funding just describe your company as the “youtube of blank” or the “facebook of blank“. While this word game might have value, at some point it’s too superficial to actually generate good ideas.

Anyway, sorry for the digression. The idea of wearables is that they provide a better UI for many computing tasks than the traditional computer. But clothes have a very limited interface; with some exceptions, they aren’t like tools. On the other hand, clothes are great place to embed sensors, to gather data about a persons body, like heart rate, temperature, posture, focus, etc. And since much of what we’re looking for in the future is a more contextual UI, we’ll need to know context from more clues than just a pressure sensitive keyboard. The other place where wearables might be successful is if they dropped the usefulness idea all together. Hussein Chalayan has made some very beautiful, useless works.

(Go to 0:40)

(Go to 8:05)

If usefulness isn’t a concern, but how awesome a wearable looks is, there’s also the question of which “technology” you use. Just like every science fiction novel could be mapped to a particular kind of science (Ender’s Game/child psychology; Dune/Political Science; etc), a looser view of what’s “tech” could lead to something “fierce”, like these Barney-esque works by Lucy and Bart.

(images from

I’d like to see disposables (the sustainable kind) make their way back into the technology we hold closest to our body. I want a cell phone that I can throw away when it’s not new. (Sounds like heresy, but it’s what we do anyway…only those phones aren’t biodegradable) If there was a bluetooth headset integrated into my french cuffs, with a dongle in the cufflink, that I could dispose of as easily as a shirt I’d be happy. Or a display that washed off in the shower. (I think they might be doing something like this with makeup….)

Anyway, I’m tired so, Part II: Usability will have to come later this week.

D-D-D-David Helfgott

Posted in fashion, personal, technology by johnsnavely on June 16, 2008

I’ve had a dreamy weekend.

It was sunny here in Seattle, which doesn’t happen often. And although I’ve been living in this house for over a week, I haven’t really gotten a chance to explore Fremont (my neighborhood in Seattle).

Well, I did this weekend and it was freaking sweet. There’s a canal connecting Salmon Bay to Lake Union 3 blocks away where I can take Mattie swimming. We watched a tug pull a house boat into the city and were wierded out by some really aggro birds. (I’ll have to take some pictures… it’s Hitchcockian.) Along the canal is the Burke Gilman trail which has super running paths along the water.

In town, there’s a bunch of great bars, restuarants, and little shops. On Sundays there’s a market that takes over a street next to the canal.

And get this, 2 blocks away there’s a chocolate factory, that has free tours… with samples. A Chocolate Factory.

Anyway, today I feel like I won the golden ticket.

Even though I was out-of-doors I spent a lot of time on my computer. (Nerd-ho). I played a bunch of chess. (I had been trying to quit- ha) I came across this great site which has videos of chessgames narrated by FIDE masters. It’s really amazing stuff to hear someone who knows how to play talk about what they were thinking. This video, in particular, was great. (It’s an hour long, so not for the faint of heart.) It wasn’t an amazing game by any means, but to hear explain their decisions and show the lines they considered relevant that didn’t make it into the game is really fascinating. At one point, the narrator, Dennis Monokroussos, describes the board as being still “in theory” and shows a Karpov game in the 90’s from the position (15:30). Amazing.

I’ve never really though of chess as a spectator sport, although I know in some countries/tournaments it is, but I’ve actually thought of it more as an annotated sport. And with digital tools and digital games becoming more the norm. I’d like to see more of these annotated events, but perhaps for content you wouldn’t ordinarily expect.

For example, I’m a big fan of facehunter, a “street fashion” blog. Think the Sartorialist, but for hipsters. Now that they’ve got a facehunter show, I can get my fix all the time. But it’s a tragedy that there’s not annotation or commentary that shows how they made their decisions (which aren’t random… look at the men’s pants on the facehunter blog).

A playback that included commentary on a shopping trip may seem like retail pr0n, but shopping is precisely one of those activities that has a hundred tiny decisions that, here and there, could be made explicit. Although, a call for annotation is not to say that we should be all academic about it, S,M,L,XL and Cathy Horyn (ty, Adrian) have done and are doing that just swimmingly.

Informal annotation and augmentation could be really helpful and even entertaining; for shopping online, the best we have right now is the rating, recommendation and reputation systems of ebay,amazon,etc; wouldn’t it be great if those systems could be read in a more narrative fashion?

Kanye’s blog is pretty much a shopping blog, informality check (He’s such a style monger that he’s even started “shopping” for women. Seriously, he’s a cultural force, but like P-Diddy before him– I’m not a fan.) But no narrative.

There’s thingsI’veboughtthatIlove, with Mindy Chockalingham of Dartmouth and The Office fame contributing. Some narrative, but not from experts and not really a good choose-your-own-adventure type story.

The closest thing I saw was on America’s Next Top model, where the models go look at Japanese street fashion, then have to paraphrase it with purchases at select businesses all around Tokyo.

I’m getting off topic. Time to sleep.

As Pie

Posted in architecture, fashion by johnsnavely on May 8, 2008

Not sure how I missed this. But it’s great.

Images from

Victor and Rolf’s new store in Milan has just one simple concept, executed perfectly. Designed by architect Siebe Tettero with SZI Design in Amsterdam, the store is just killer.

Recently, I saw this site called geosim philly.

Virtual Philadelphia is a leading 3D online virtual city mirrored off the Center City of Philadelphia, PA, full of historical landscapes and buildings, hundreds of years of culture and one of the most beloved US cities.
Today, Philadelphia is a vibrant city cultivated with restaurants, boutiques, museums, nightlife, modern residences and developed commerce – definitely a premier place to live in or to visit.

GeoSim compiles gigabytes of aerial photos, street images, laser scans and geodetic measurements of Philadelphia to build an accurate 3D city model, capable of providing a genuine life simulation of the physical streets, buildings and urban landscape with the “look and feel” of a real city.

I don’t know much about how this project actually works. I have this feeling that it’s cooked up by the Philadelphia tourist board. After hearing architects get all “schweaty” over Secondlife and having it not pan out into anything that dramatically impacted design, I’m reluctant to call this stuff relevant.

So it may not be relevant… but it seems to be an interesting way to ride the Bilbao effect. I think they’re going for a Digital Bilboa Effect. It’s a less expensive and less risky way to draw tourists into the spaces of the city’s downtown area. I wonder what will happen when a new building is built. Will the proposals be vetted through the digital downtown?


Posted in art, books, fashion, programming by johnsnavely on March 23, 2008

First, an addendum: The Van Cliburn YouTube competition is for 35 and older only. Double poo! My praise has been redacted.

As reward that I had been planning for a very long time, K and I had dinner last night at TW Food. It was restaurant week in Boston, but their special menu was so abbreviated, that it seemed a travesty not to hit the seven course Winter Grand Tasting. We tapped that. It was the best meal I’ve had in a looong time. Three hours of delicious food and great wines. Awesome.

In other news, has updated their viewer. Now, while watching a game (like a movie), you can pause and play out different lines of the game yourself, in the position of Byrne or (sigh) Bobby Fischer. I wish more media experiences incorporated the idea of the “choose your own adventure”.

A long time ago, when I worked at AMNH, we recorded a fly-thru in the known universe with cue-points that allowed a user to get off the “spaceship” and look around. (Not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but an interesting experiment.) While this type of thing may be considered a “non-linear” narrative, the novelty of the experience is actually how the user would construct a very linear pathway through the interactive. In fact, the user wants linearity as much as possible in order to organize and understand what they are seeing.

These days we’re brainstorming a project whose main conceptual twist is an audio and video with two seperate narratives. The video is an idealized world; the audio, the purgatory of a mundane life. The problem with fashioning such a “non-linear” (or duo-linear) narrative is that a viewer automatically tries to rectify the two stories into a single understandable story. For example, showing a radio alarm clock, but playing a ringing bell, makes the viewer think that there’s another alarm clock off-screen; not that the audio might tell another story.

Even as it’s foiling my plans, there’s something fascinating about this desire for single, linear, understandable narratives. According to K, Ricoeur has a crapload to say about Time and Narrative. I guess I have some reading to do. In the meantime, here’s a lovely quote that aptly describes what low brow books I am actually reading.

Then, too, narration includes prophecy in its province to the extent that prophecy is narrative in its fashion.
Paul Ricoeur

Continuing my quest to have some sort of aesthetic position on “the future”, I’ve been reading a fair amount of science fiction. Of course, the reading list includes the Hugo-Nebula award winners, but also some pulpy losers from the 60s and 70s. The fonts, graphics, and yep, even the writing are nuts.

A Hugo award winner, for instance Dune (one of my favorite books– and Lynch films– of all time), has one of the traits of a timeless work of art, namely that it is timeless. Reading it today, it is as fresh and unusual as when I read it 15 years ago.

Sci-fi pulp, on the other hand, is of its time, and has many recognizable idiosyncrasies of the culture, time, and place in which it was written. Perhaps this just creates some sort of hot tranny mess, but maybe, when we’re looking to sample styles, the obviousness of these expressions is an asset. (Prada’s gorgeous new look isn’t about the subtle 70’s.)