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“I’d rather create a miniature painting than a Taj Mahal of a book”*…

Kieran Wright has been in Los Angeles for only three years but has fallen head over heels for his adopted hometown’s landmarks. The 28-year-old from New Zealand spent this spring and summer meticulously crafting miniatures of some of his favorite L.A. places including the Tiki Ti in East Hollywood and the New Beverly Cinema in Fairfax. “I have this deep appreciation of Southern California’s iconic architecture,” he says. “I love driving around looking for old buildings.”

At the beginning of this year, Wright was furloughed from his job marketing Australia as a travel destination and was looking for something new. During his down time, he visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and marveled at the complexity of the 14-inch diorama of Disneyland. “I could stare at that for hours,” he said. “It inspired me to give it a go myself.”

A short time later he was having lunch with a friend at Rae’s coffee shop in Santa Monica when he was struck with the notion of recreating the 1958 restaurant in miniature and started photographing every canted angle and bit of neon in preparation for his first model…

The full story (and more pix) at: “This Man Has Spent Quarantine Making Ridiculously Meticulous Miniatures of L.A. Landmarks.”

Long-time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with minatures, e.g., Wright’s New York City compatriot.

* Mohsin Hamid

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As we muse on the miniscule, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series. In what became known as the “Black Sox scandal,” eight members of the White Sox were accused of throwing the series (in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein, Aiden Clayton and Aaron Nelson). The hit to baseball’s reputation was sufficiently severe that the sport appointed the ostentatiously-upright federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the first Commissioner of Baseball.

Landis banned the six players; and even after their acquittal at trial in 1921, refused to reinstate them. The punishment was eventually defined by the Baseball Hall of Fame to include banishment from consideration for the Hall. Despite requests for reinstatement in the decades that followed (particularly in the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson), the ban remains.

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Written by LW

October 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

“When you’re accustomed to wealth, you don’t show it, right? That’s why the white kids in school could wear bummy sneakers”*…

 

Chucks

The Converse Rubber Shoe Company’s non-skid All Star sneakers, from 1923

 

It was not until the 1920s that industrialization made sneakers widely available and affordable. Once an emblem of privileged leisure on the tennis court, the canvas-and-rubber high-top adapted to the new, egalitarian team sport of basketball. The Converse Rubber Shoe Company—founded in 1908 as a producer of galoshes—introduced its first basketball shoe, the All Star, in 1917. In a stroke of marketing genius, Converse enlisted basketball coaches and players as brand ambassadors, including Chuck Taylor, the first athlete to have a sneaker named after him.

Politics, however, fueled the rise of sneakers as much as athletics. As [Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the traveling exhibtion, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture] explained, “the fragile peace of World War I increased interest in physical culture, which became linked to rising nationalism and eugenics. Countries encouraged their citizens to exercise not just for physical perfection but to prepare for the next war. It’s ironic that the sneaker became one of the most democratized forms of footwear at the height of fascism.” Mass exercise rallies were features of fascist life in Germany, Japan, and Italy. But sneakers could also represent resistance. Jesse Owens’ dominance at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games stung the event’s Nazi hosts even more because he trained in German-made Dassler running shoes. (The company was later split between the two Dassler brothers, who renamed their shares Puma and Adidas).

When the U.S. government rationed rubber during World War II, sneakers were exempted following widespread protests. The practical, inexpensive, and casual shoe had become central to American identity, on and off the playing field. The growing influence of television in the 1950s created two new cultural archetypes: the celebrity athlete and the teenager. James Dean effectively rebranded Chuck Taylors as the footwear of choice for young rebels without a cause.

Sneakers became footnotes in the history of the Civil Rights movement. In 1965, I Spy was the first weekly TV drama to feature a black actor—Bill Cosby—in a lead role. His character, a fun-loving CIA agent going undercover as a tennis coach, habitually wore white Adidas sneakers, easily identifiable by their prominent trio of stripes. This updated gumshoe alluded to the “sneaky” origins of sneakers, while also serving as shorthand for new-school cool. Sneakers played a more explicit part at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where American gold medalist sprinter Tommie Smith and his bronze medal-winning teammate, John Carlos, removed their Puma Suedes and mounted the medal podium in their stocking feet, to symbolize African-American poverty, their heads lowered and black-gloved fists raised in a Black Power salute. The ensuing controversy didn’t hurt the success of the Suede, still in production today.

Around the same time, the jogging craze necessitated low-rise, high-tech footwear that bore little resemblance to the familiar canvas-and-rubber basketball high-top. But these state-of-the-art shoes weren’t made for running alone; they were colorful, covetable fashion statements. In 1977, Vogue declared that “real runner’s sneakers” had become status symbols, worn by famous non-athletes like Farrah Fawcett and Mick Jagger. Instead of one pair of sneakers, people needed a whole wardrobe of them, custom-made for different activities—or genders. Sneaker companies embraced women’s liberation as a promotional ploy, advertising shoes specifically designed for female bodies and lifestyles.

As the suburbs became overrun with joggers, America’s cities saw a rise in basketball players, particularly New York, where a bold new style of play transformed the game into a spectacle of masculine swagger. Like break dancing, schoolyard basketball ritualized a competitive physicality, which bled into mainstream (white) culture. “In the 1970s, New Yorkers in the basketball and hip-hop community changed the perception of sneakers from sports equipment to tools for cultural expression,” the sneaker historian Bobbito Garcia explains in the Out of the Box catalogue. “The progenitors of sneaker culture were predominantly … kids of color who grew up in a depressed economic era.” The 2015 documentary Fresh Dressed highlighted the prominent role of sneakers in the history of black urban culture—and its appropriation by whites.

The humble canvas sneaker, since the ’60s supplanted in the sports world by more ergonomic designs in futuristic materials, found new life as an everyday shoe. Over the next few decades, canvas sneakers came to embody youthful rebellion as much as athleticism. Beatniks, rockers, and skateboarders adopted them because they were cheap, anonymous, and authentic—not necessarily because they were comfortable or cool. Converse, Keds, and Vans got their street cred not from sports stars, but from the Ramones, Sid Vicious, and Kurt Cobain. (In 2008, Converse angered Nirvana fans by issuing special-edition high-tops tastelessly covered with sketches and scribbles from the late frontman’s diary.) The All Star, formerly available only in black or white, suddenly appeared in a rainbow of fashion colors.

The ascent of aerobics in the early ’80s left Nike, known for its jogging shoes, struggling to adjust. In February 1984, the company reported its first-ever quarterly loss, but that same year Nike signed basketball rookie Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal—arguably the birth of modern sneaker culture. Jordan wore his signature Air Jordans in NBA games, in defiance of league rules. Nike happily paid his $5,000-per-game fine, while airing ads declaring: “The NBA can’t keep you from wearing them.” And so when the first Air Jordans hit stores in 1985, the sneakers carried with them a distinct whiff of sticking it to The Man, despite their $65 price tag. But not everyone wanted to be like Mike. As Jordan grew rich off of his Nike partnership, he was accused of staying silent on political issues affecting the African American community. “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” he allegedly responded.

The growing popularity of sneakers on both sides of the political divide set the stage for a raging culture war over the shoes’ ties to criminality, or lack thereof. In “My Adidas” (1986)—one of many hip-hop sneaker shout-outs—Run-DMC defended their laceless Adidas Superstars against sneakers’ thuggish image as “felon shoes,” rapping: “I wore my sneakers, but I’m not a sneak.” (The band was rewarded with an Adidas endorsement deal, a first for a musical group.)

But Nike’s all-white Air Force 1 sneaker, released in the same year as “My Adidas,” may have merited the name of “felon shoes.” Having enough money to step out in “fresh”—i.e., pristine and unscuffed—Air Force 1s became a point of pride among street drug dealers. “Like the complicated icon of the cowboy, the drug dealer was also a symbol of rugged individualism whose fashion was hypermasculine and easily marketed … in ways that capitalized on both its American-ness and its exoticism simultaneously,” Semmelhack writes in the exhibition catalogue. The AF1, far from a public-relations disaster, became an instant classic…

Athletic shoes, a $65 billion global market, are about much more than athletics—conveying ideas about national identity, class, race, and other forms of social meaning: “Sneakers Have Always Been Political Shoes.”

See also “A Brief History of America’s Obsession With Sneakers,” “The Psychology of Sneaker Collecting,” “What’s driving retail’s sneaker obsession?,” and “The History of Sneaker Culture.”

[TotH to friend SL for pointing me in this direction]

* “When you’re accustomed to wealth, you don’t show it, right? That’s why the white kids in school could wear bummy sneakers; it’s almost like, ‘Don’t show wealth – that’s crass.’… As kids we didn’t complain about being poor; we talked about how rich we were going to be and made moves to get the lifestyle we aspired to by any means we could. And as soon as we had a little money, we were eager to show it…”   – Jay-Z

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As we tuck into our Chucks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that Austrian tennis player Onny Parun defeated two-time Grand Slam singles champion Stan Smith in the first U.S. Open match ever played at night.  Today Smith is probably better-known for the line of Adidas sneakers named for him.

stan smith source

 

“There is a sociology of horses, as well as a psychology”*…

 

ClubhouseTurn_CluhouseMezzMutal-1-700x500

Clubhouse Mezzanine

 

On a cool and sunny Wednesday afternoon in December 2013, I pulled into a massive parking lot in Inglewood, California. My plan was to photograph Hollywood Park Racetrack before it closed forever. At the time, I was a portrait photographer and had spent many years capturing the subtleties of facial expressions, watching carefully how happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise unfold in the muscles of the face. The work of portraiture is exhilarating but also profoundly exhausting, and I was interested in shifting my attention to buildings, particularly buildings that had been lived in and well worn. I liked the idea of working with less, and also working alone, and I was curious, too. What does a building reveal? How is a building like a face?

Growing up in Los Angeles I had spent many evenings right next door to Hollywood Park. I watched Lakers games, basketball at the summer Olympics, and countless rock concerts at The Forum. Although the neighboring track was enormous — 300 acres, a capacity of 80,000 guests — I had never paid any attention until now…

Photographer Michele Asselin spent the next several days intensively documenting Hollywood Park…

It was almost impossible to stop taking photos, but finally, on December 22, 2013, at 11:00 p.m., my hand was forced. The crowd filed out for the last time as the loudspeakers played “At Last” and “Happy Trails.” Some people were crying, some were singing, some were nonchalant. Those trying to filch a little piece of history — a sign or a doorknob — were stopped by a security guard. When the last person exited the grounds, the gates were locked. The horses were loaded into trailers in the coming weeks and moved across town or to Oklahoma, New Jersey, or Kentucky. The auctioneers sifted through what was left, and then, in 2014, Hollywood Park was razed.

After 15 days of circling the grounds, hauling my equipment from place to place, I was 12 pounds thinner and had hardly seen my kids. I had taken 25,000 photos. It would be a year before I finished sorting through them. I wondered what I had fixed in time. The end of something? Evidence of its existence? The traces of time? I tried to keep in mind what an arborist had once told me — that it’s okay to cut down a struggling tree as long as another is planted in its place. I hope that the same is true of buildings…

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 2.20.35 PM

Jay Cohen. Bugler.

From Asselin’s introduction to her new book, Clubhouse Turn- The Twilight of Hollywood Park Race Track.  For the full intro and more of her photos: “Say Goodbye to Hollywood Park: Photographing the Twilight of a Racetrack” and her website.

* Jane Smiley (Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and horse owner/breeder)

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As we place our bets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that the state legislature in Nevada legalized casino gambling in the state.  In fact, gambling had been legal in Nevada until 1909 (by which time it was the only state with legal gambling), when an earlier instantiation of the legislature outlawed it.

(Coincidentally, it was on this date in 1942 that Alfred G. Vanderbilt and number of horse racing luminaries established the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America.)

gambling source

 

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties”*…

 

referee

 

The motivation for using video review in sports is obvious: to get more calls right. This seems like an easy enough mission to fulfill, but anyone who has spent even a little time watching sports on TV can attest to the fact that the application of video review is not so simple. In most sports where it is applied, video review has actually created more confusion and less clarity. Why is this the case? Follow me into an examination of thousands of years of philosophical discourse, and we will find the answer together, my friends.

The root problem with video review is that it is so often used to make decisions based on rules that contain an inherent level of vagueness. For example, according to the NFL’s current catch rule (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3a) an inbounds player must secure “control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground” in order to complete a catch. The term “control” in that rule is vague. There are borderline cases of controlling a football, which means boundaries for when the term “control” can and can’t be applied are fuzzy ones.

Philosophers have been dealing with the problems posed by vagueness since at least the 4th Century BC, because the problems that vagueness causes aren’t limited to the NFL’s struggle with the catch rule. Vagueness also has important implications for metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and our understanding of the nature of truth and the foundations of logic…

Into the rabbit hole of certainty at “A Philosopher’s Definitive (And Slightly Maddening) Case Against Replay Review.”

* Francis Bacon, The Oxford Francis Bacon IV: The Advancement of Learning

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As we correct our concept of correctness, we might send antiseptic birthday greetings to Earle Dickson; he was born on this date in 1892.  Dickson, concerned that his wife, Josephine Knight, often cut herself while doing housework and cooking, devised a way that she could easily apply her own dressings.  He prepared ready-made bandages by placing squares of cotton gauze at intervals along an adhesive strip and covering them with crinoline.  In the event, all his wife had to do was cut off a length of the strip and wrap it over her cut.  Dickson, who worked as a cotton buyer at Johnson & Johnson, took his idea to his employer… and the Band-Aid was born.

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Written by LW

October 10, 2019 at 1:01 am

“But if you’re gonna dine with them cannibals / Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten”*…

 

hot dog

 

A select few athletes are so iconic, they’re known by a single name. Jordan. The Babe. Serena. Pelé. Tiger. Shaq.

And, of course, Kobayashi.

The godfather of competitive eating, Takeru Kobayashi burst onto the American scene at the 2001 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, where the lithe 5-foot-8 Japanese 23-year-old, using a revolutionary water-dipping technique and a body-wiggling maneuver known as the “Kobayashi Shake,” ate an astounding 50 hot dogs—double the prior record. That feat thrust Kobayashi to instant superstardom, and his subsequent five wins at the famed July 4th competition only solidified his standing as the king of the eating world—a title he’d only officially relinquish in 2007, when American Joey Chestnut dethroned him at the Nathan’s extravaganza.

The tumultuous saga of Kobayashi and Chestnut is the subject of ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” documentary, The Good, The Bad, The Hungry, which details the stratospheric rise and controversial fall of Kobayashi, whose reign was cut short by losses to Chestnut (winner of 11 Nathan’s contests, and a multi-world record holder), a falling-out with Major League Eating (MLE) and its co-founder George Shea, and an eye-opening arrest at the 2010 Nathan’s event…

More on this epic rivaltry at “The Rise and Fall of Kobayashi, Godfather of Competitive Eating: ‘They Were Making a Joke of Me’.”  Find The Good, The Bad, The Hungry here.

* Nick Cave

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As we go for the gold, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that sliced bread was sold for the first time, by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.

For more on this seminal development, see “What was the best thing before sliced bread?

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Written by LW

July 7, 2019 at 1:01 am

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