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Happy Hair

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sign of a beauty parlor in Cambodia This morning, I heard on the radio that the musical “Hair” premiered on Broadway exactly 40 years ago today.

So if 1968 was the “…dawning of the age of Aquarius” – what is 2008? Its sunset? Or is this the deep dark night already?

According to “The Official Hair Website”, the show has been performed in countless countries across the globe, but apparently never in “…China, India, Vietnam, the Arctic and Antarctic continents as well as most African countries.”

Poor Eskimos.

40 years ago is closer than 10 years ago

I was too young to see Hair in the theaters when it first came out. My first encounter with the story was when I saw the movie ‘Hair’ by Milos Forman. I guess that must have been in 1979 or 1980.

Back then I thought the story was really dated and far removed from life at the onset of the 80’s.

The funny thing is that it’s probably closer to us today than it was in 1979.

Not only that the U.S. is once again entangled in an unpopular war. Also look at what people are wearing: psychedelic prints, frayed jeans, longish hair.

Been there, done that.

The difference between the original hippie fashions of the late 1960’s and today is that back then fashion was a political statement. These days, the torn jeans already look that way when we buy them at Abercrombie’s at an exorbitant price.

And the slept-in-hairstyle today is carefully coifed, blow-dried and gelled.

But as far as funky hairdos are concerned, nothing beats these ladies anyway.

Apsaras

They’re stone carvings of Apsara dancers at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple. And they were made in the 12th century.

Apsaras at Angkor Wat, Cambodia Apsaras

How’s that for avant-garde hairstyles?

Written by Thorsten

April 29, 2008 at 8:48 pm

New York – Still Almost the Same

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Lady Liberty I came across a music video clip in a blog the other day – and I haven’t stopped humming the tune since then.

It’s an excerpt from the song & dance movie “On The Town”, which was filmed in 1949.

In the clip, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munchin are sailors who have 24 hours on land to explore New York. For the three minutes of the song, they dance and sing their way through New York, seeing a lot of the major sights and attractions.

What I found really fascinating (apart from the music) is that almost sixty years after these scenes were shot, a lot of those backdrops are still around, still recognizable and still tourist attractions.

The pathway across Brooklyn Bridge still looks just like it did in the old film clip, so does the Stock Exchange at Wall Street. Chinatown still has vendors selling Asian stuff on the streets and Lady Liberty doesn’t seem to have aged much either.

Of course, some details have changed – for instance, the visitors’ platform on top of the Rockefeller Center, where the three sailors enjoy the view.

A few years ago, this platform was nicely done-up and rebranded ‘Top of the Rocks’. With a lot of added security like large panes of plexiglass to prevent people from jumping or throwing stuff down. Kelly, Sinatra and Munchin could have easily done that in 1949…

Granted, between 1949, when the movie was shot and today, a lot has changed in New York. The Twin Towers went up and came down. Frank Lloyd Wright built the Guggenheim, and many new skyscrapers now make up the skyline of Manhattan.

But still – I found it amazing that a three-minute video-clip from 1949 can capture so many of the things that are still on the agenda of visitors to New York today. They certainly were on my agenda when I was in the city earlier this month.

Just wish those three sailors had serenaded me on my long walks through the city…

Abercrombie & Fitch is Zeitgeist

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can I take him home? If you want to feel the pulse of NOW, go to the Abercrombie & Fitch store on New York’s 5th Avenue. I went there a couple of times last week and discovered that this place really embodies our Zeitgeist.

The first time I entered the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store, I was pretty irritated. It’s dark in there.

There are only a few spotlights on the clothes they sell – but these spots really aren’t sufficient to judge what color the t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans are.

You basically have to guess the exact shade or color. Or you have to drag the piece you want to another corner of the store in the faint hope that the lights will be just a little stronger there… (they’re not)

Mom will never believe these clothes are new

Ah, but what great things Abercrombie & Fitch has: jeans that are destroy-washed, t-shirts with stitched-on lettering that is artfully torn to make them look like they’ve been through a thousand washes and sweatshirts that look like a family of moths had a feast in them, so full of holes are they.

But that’s the style! And everyone wants to have it! The store was always packed whenever I visited it. And almost everyone who went in came out with huge shopping bags.Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag

Another thing that sets A&F stores apart from places like the GAP or Banana Republic is the music in the stores: it’s loud, it’s constantly upbeat, and it’s always the same!

On my frequent visits to A&F stores in New York last week, I kept hearing the same songs again and again. Which would really get on my nerves if I worked there…

All in all, the music and the scarce lighting make A&F stores feel more like a club than a clothing store.

And don’t forget the scent: that’s something else that is unique to A&F. Go near an A&F store and you’ll be able to smell the place before you see it. The whole shop smells of the A&F fragrance, which they spray liberally over the clothes. I guess they also use it as an air freshener and make the staff put it on.

Models pose as salespeople

And that brings me to the next point that’s so NOW about A&F: the personnel. I don’t want to call them salespeople, because that wouldn’t seem quite right. First and foremost, they are beautiful people.

smooth to the touch and nice to look at I guess their most important function in the A&F store concept is to model the clothes and to make the customers feel like they would look just as gorgeous if only they wore the same A&F outfits.

One day, for instance, all the store personnel were decked out in the same gray sweatshirt (needless to say that they all looked awesome in them). When I went back to the store the next day, I noticed that the place was completely sold out of those gray sweatshirts. I guess the modelling did the trick.

Watching how they do it

Out of curiosity, I then just sat in a chair in the store’s waiting area and watched the store personnel. (The waiting area consists of a couple of lounge chairs, where stressed-out husbands, wives, mothers or friends wait while their loved ones are still lost in the dark maze of the store trying to find just the right outfit).

I sat there for a while and observed what the store personnel were doing. Or not doing. Most of them just stood in pre-assigned places, smiled at the customers and said their hellos and good-byes. And, of course, they looked amazingly beautiful.

One of the salespeople was approached by a few customers and answered some questions, another one folded a couple of t-shirts. But apart from that, they were just a decorative element of the store. What a job…

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Smooth to the touch

But the most “zeitgeist” thing about A&F must be that they have a bare-chested guy wearing a pair of A&F jeans standing in the store’s entryway to welcome customers. Pure sex. A&F even supplies a photographer to take your picture with that half-naked hunk. And you get to keep the polaroid to take home.

The polaroid. Not the model.

get the picture

Abercrombie & Fitch Casting

Written by Thorsten

April 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Eating out With Famous Fat Dave

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Dave (right) at Katz\'s Delicatessen in Manhattan

Dave is a part-time taxi driver in New York and Dave loves to eat. He cares about good food and about places that prepare original food: the corner bakery, the traditional brewery or the little pizza place that’s barely surviving the competition with “Pizza Hut” and other fast-food chains.

So what does Dave, the taxi driver talk to his clients about? Food, of course. Dave usually asks his customers what eating joints they like in their neighborhood. He figures: if they live in that area, they will know the best eating places to go to. He tries them out and if they’re good, he’ll add them to his list of the best places in the city.

Eat your way through the city

At some point, Dave decided that he could make money by merging driving and eating: He started offering eating tours through New York.

Each tour lasts a minimum of four hours. During these four hours, Dave will take you through different New York neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Uptown or Little Italy. He’ll stop here and there at places that no ordinary tourist would ever find. Places that many a New Yorker will never have heard of either.

But Dave knows that this is the best place in the city for bagels, and that is the best place for pizza – oh and THAT has to be the best place for cannoli, little Italian pastries that are to die for.

H & H Bagels - home of the world\'s best bagels

We took a four-hour eating tour with Famous Fat Dave last week. Before we started, I thought four hours would be endless and that we’d be stuffed or bored after the first half of the tour. But the four hours were over before we knew it!

For one thing, Dave does a lot of driving on his tours – so that already takes up a lot of your time. And then, when you finally reach one of the places he’s picked out for you, you’ll only be eating a tiny little bit. Just a taste. A little Turkish salad here, some hummus there, or a slice of pizza and ice cream somewhere else.

Of course, you can always have seconds wherever you like throughout your journey. But I, for my part, was always worried I’d stuff myself too early and then wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rest of the tour…

In our case, “Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tour on the Wheels of Steel” ended at McSorley’s Old Ale House – an old bar with sawdust on the floor and an ancient cast-iron oven in the middle of the room. I would have expected this place anywhere between Dublin and Belfast – but never in downtown Manhattan.
McSorley\'s Old Ale HouseNightcap at McSorley\'s

Written by Thorsten

April 23, 2008 at 5:20 am

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