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I interviewed Yvon for The Vertical, a special publication with Patagonia
Yvon Chouinard has been wearing the same flannel shirt for 20 years. The 74-year-old conservationist, out-of-the-box thinker, athlete, and craftsman is also a business leader who is always pushing Patagonia, the company he founded, to find solutions to the global environmental crisis. We asked Chouinard what he thinks his legacy will be—turns out he "couldn't really care less." But we speculate it will be measured not by what he encourages (be in nature, be personally responsible, simplify) but by what he discourages (buying, spending, polluting). In short, Chouinard wants us to stop being consumers and start being thoughtful global citizens. Below are the six life lessons we learned from the avid explorer.
1. Optimism is a waste of time
I’m not optimistic at all. I’m a total pessimist. I’ve been around long enough, traveled around enough, and been around a lot of smart people to know that we’re losing. In every single category, we’re losing. In the [United] States, I think saving the planet was number 19 on peoples’ priorities, and now I hear its number four again. Number one is personal security. We have a nation of… scary people. Look at all these conservatives that want to arm the whole country. They want to be able to walk in restaurants with their guns and that’s because they’re cowards.
Every empire collapses. The American empire is probably on its way to collapse now. Nature doesn’t like empires. It doesn’t like accumulation in one place, it doesn’t like monoculture. It’s always trying to make diverse species. It wants to spread everything out. And we’re constantly trying to hold everything in.
I think what's important is to raise a grandchild so they have a life with nature. You protect what you love. And if you love nature, then you'll want to protect it. And that's one of the problems that we have, this nature deficit disorder. We have gang kids in New York City that are afraid to go to Central Park because of the squirrels there. They're so divorced from nature. So the best thing I can do is make sure she has a life as much in the outdoors as possible.
2. Keep it simple
One of the things I really believed in is the idea of simplicity, that life should always be moving towards more simplicity rather than more complexity. And when I see somebody, you know, riding a finless surfboard and surfing better than 99 percent of the surfers out there, I think, “This is fantastic. This is the way to go.” We've gone from tow-in surfing to now paddling into those same waves. And that's the direction we should be going, rather than more toward technology. In the '70s there was a thing around that “he who dies with the most toys wins.” That's wrong—it's the opposite. You want to replace all that gear with knowledge and experience. And so in sports I'd love to see the people who are simplifying their sport. I've done like six routes on El Capitan and Yosemite—and some of those routes that took us 10 days to climb are now being soloed with no rope by guys in their gym shorts. And they're back down before lunch. I think that's absolutely fantastic. Glad they're not my kids, but that's the direction we should always go.
3. Climb every mountain
There are climbs I've never attempted that I wish I had done, particularly in the Alps. I used to climb in the Alps a lot. You know, like the north face of the Eiger? I wish I had done that climb. To me it's kind of personified everything that I really like about climbing. I have regrets about that, but as far as the failure, I don't look back very much.
4. Cheaters never prosper
We all want to cheat. In climbing, there are so many ways to cheat. You can do a route that's been done 50 times and all you've got to do is follow the chalk marks that tell you exactly where to put your hands and feet. I can't stand to do a route like that because I can't stand to have people tell me what to do. I want to figure it out myself. I look at people climbing Everest—there's a guy back in Austria that gives them a weather report every day that basically tells them to go or not go. It's hundreds of ladders in place, thousands of feet of fixed ropes, Sherpas in front pulling and another one behind pushing. In surfing, there are very few ways to cheat. Tow-in surfing was one way to cheat, but that's passé now. So I think it's the purest sport there is, and the most difficult too. I don't know of any other sport that's more difficult than surfing.
5. Consumerism is killing us
The reason why we won’t face up to our problems with the environment is that we are the problem. It’s not the corporations out there, it’s not the governments—it’s us. We’re the ones telling the corporations to make more stuff, and make it as cheap and as disposable as possible. We’re not citizens anymore. We’re consumers. That’s what we’re called. It’s just like being an alcoholic and being in denial that you’re an alcoholic. We’re in denial that each and every one of us is the problem. And until we face up to that, nothing’s going to happen. So, there’s a movement for simplifying your life: purchase less stuff, own a few things that are very high quality that last a long time, and that are multifunctional.
I drive old cars, all my Patagonia clothes are years and years old. I hardly have anything new. I try to lead a very simple life. I am not a consumer of anything. And I much prefer sleeping on somebody's floor than in a motel room.
6. "Slow" travel is important
You remember the trips that lasted for a long time. The way people do trips now, they take a week, they go to Europe—you don't remember those trips very much. Or you go surfing in Indo for a week. But if you had to go over land or take a boat, it's really different. That trip [to Mt. Fitz Roy] lasted six months and in that time there were a lot of adventures on the way. From sleeping on the ground in Guatemala and waking up to a gun to our heads—there was so much going on. It became a really important trip in my life.
On assignment for VSCO in collaboration with Marriott Hotels, I traveled to Cairo, Egypt. There I partnered with the amazing local photographer Nour El Refai to create a city guide with five must-see spots.
Check out the guide and Nour's awesome imagery HERE.
More about the project HERE.
To celebrate International Day of Peace I spoke to activist, artist, lover, and legend Yoko Ono for GOOD Magazine. For the Day of Peace she took over New York's Time Square to screen her film entitled "Imagine Peace" hoping to spread her message of world peace and nonviolent action.
Yasha Wallin: "Imagine Peace" aims to spread awareness and encourage the community to take responsibility and promote world peace. How can we turn that message into something tangible that we can do on a daily basis?
YOKO ONO: As you know, your thoughts create reality. The most pragmatic way to create world peace is to use your power of visualization. Think Peace, Act Peace, Spread Peace, Imagine Peace. Your thoughts will soon cover the planet. The most important thing is to believe in your power. It works.
YASHA: The Imagine Peace campaign encourages people to send in their wishes. What are some of the most memorable wishes you've read since the project's inception?
ONO: We don't read people's wishes. The wishes are suppose to be direct communication to the Universe. Your interception will weaken the power of the wish. All wishes create an upswing line when it is manifested. Therefore, together, it becomes an incredible upswing of power, whatever you wished. Of course, the more high level wishes, which covers the whole human race is stronger than wishing for getting ice cream for your dessert!
YASHA: How did your upbringing and some of the hardships you experience as a child propel you be involved in the peace work you do today?
ONO: I was not too aware of the connection, but the fact that I and so many of us of our generation, have experienced cruelty and severity of war and it's violence during the Second World War, must have been the basis of my feelings for the urgent need to create a better world.
YASHA: You have nearly three million followers on Twitter. Do you think social media and the advent of new methods of communicating are helping us or hurting us as a society?
ONO: What you call the "new method" if it is an effective one, is an ancient way we all know in the depth of our beings. As the mass understanding, it has been forgotten for many centuries. But now, because of the urgent need of our planet, we are starting to remember it, and bringing it out as pragmatic peace action.
YASHA: You've said growing up you always felt like an outsider, and you've been famously misunderstood artistically. Do you still feel that both of those things are true?
ONO: I still have the outsider's vision, which is creating wisdom I can share with the world. The fact that I am misunderstood has always given me an added impetus to work on communication to bridge the gap.
YASHA: You work across many mediums; do you have a particular allegiance to any?
ONO: I love all media.
YASHA: How do you feel feminist art has changed since you began producing work, and what do you think the female artist might still need to address?
ONO: We are still living in the male society. Many women, particularly in the Middle East, are suffering the life without human dignity and justice. We have still a lot of work to do.
YASHA: Who are some of your heroes?
ONO: Lately, so many activists sprung out in the world and they are doing incredible jobs that need much courage and daily effort. I respect and love them all, and the ones who have yet to bring out their potential activism.
YASHA: Aside from your vision for world peace, what are other issues that you are passionate about?
ONO: To have world peace, we all have to have a healthy understanding of what is necessary to bring World Peace. It's not something that will be dropped on our laps. We have to work for it. Until we get World Peace, I think my strongest passion stays in the effort to get it.
YASHA: What would be the one wish you'd write down today?
ONO: For us all to heal the damage done to our planet, it's life and our soul.
Read the interview with Yoko Ono on GOOD HERE.
The Beastie Boys’ Michael Diamond, AKA Mike D, needs no introduction. The New York icon, musician, father, surfer, curator, coffee-connoisseur and creator of all things awesome, splits his time between Montauk, New York City and Malibu, CA , where he lives with his wife and two young sons. But just because the legendary lyricist is now a proud family man, doesn’t mean he’s slowed down—he’s been busy dishing out hot meals in the Rockaways, curating exhibitions and searching for the sweetest swell. I spoke with Mike D for Issue 4 of The Usual x Patagonia, read it all HERE.
The cry that Berlin is “over,” made by countless news sources this year bemoaning that the city once known for cheap rents and underground parties has grown unaffordable and boring. This proclamation might have led Berliners to start defending the city’s honor. Instead, the multicultural mix of Germans and expats who have shaped Berlin's diverse landscape in the 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell have been too busy reveling in the city's thriving art, music, foodie, and tech scene to care. Some may be lamenting this new era, but others are embracing it. Exactly 25 years after the wall came down, there’s nothing "over" about Berlin; rather, it's a city of innumerable new beginnings. For GOOD Magazine, I wrote about Berlin as part of the GOOD Cities Index, with Berlin ranked #15 out of the 50 Most Inspiring Cities in the World.
I interviewed Daan Roosegaarde for GOOD Magazine. The Dutch artist’s ambitious work marries existing systems in nature and technology, acting as a kind of adapter between the unpredictable and the futuristic. Roosegaarde believes that by spanning the gaps between aesthetic, natural, and technological advancement we can intuitively advance into a better and more efficient future. From Shanghai to the Netherlands (Roosegaarde’s bases of operation) and everywhere in between, the artist’s concepts offer cities and citizens innovative approaches to evolving landscapes—or, at the very least, a lot of food for thought. Read the full interview HERE.
The Drift was a collaborative newsprint publication between The Usual and Patagonia to celebrate all things snow. I was the issue's Editorial Director, and wrote several of the features that included interviews with Patagonia ski and snowboard ambassadors Caroline Gleich, Josh Dirksen, Gerry Lopez, Kye Petersen, Liz Daley, Pep Fujas, Forrest Shearer, Taro Tamai, Alex Yoder, and Aidan Sheahan. Check out the issue online.
This feature appeared in Art In America
Chuck Close says he's not a fan of public art—which should come as a surprise considering the American painter has just unveiled his most accessible endeavor to date, a fleet of New York City taxis bearing his imagery. It's estimated to be viewed by over five million people. ART ADDS is the brainchild of Art Production Fund and John Amato, an avid art collector and president of Show Media, a company that owns nearly half of the city's taxi-top billboards. As a holiday present to himself and art lovers, Amato donated ad space on 500 yellow cabs, valued at approximately $100,000, to host the work of Close and the painter Kehinde Wiley through the month of January.
One of the most visible artists of our time, Close became well known for his photorealistic, large-scale portraits. For his contribution to New York's city streets, he selected details from black-and-white photographs of his friends, the artists Lorna Simpson and Lucas Samaras. The concept was to take the areas of the face that would normally be covered by a black bar on television, if the intention were to disguise someone's identity. In Close's version, this area is displayed in reverse, showing only the subject's eyes and mouth. In Samaras' case his moustache highlighted, which Close finds amusing. "A lot of people are going to think it's a vagina—an old school bush," he says. The images were captured years ago, but endured for the artist: "There was this intensity, especially with Lucas staring out in this almost Svengali-like mind control and also Lorna's eyes are poignant."
Close, who suffered a paralyzing spinal injury in 1988, has a wheelchair-accessible van, but he's pushed to have his work atop some of the handicap cabs. And while Close is enthusiastic about his work riding around Manhattan—where he opened his first solo exhibition in 1968—his trepidation with public art is rooted in the belief that everyone should make their own decision to see it. "When you are bumping into art and you're not in the mood for it, or not interested in it, or can't stand it, then art can become sort of an irritant," he explains. "Duchamp said that the artist only had 50% of the responsibility and that was to get the work out, but it's not complete until the viewer returns it to the artist. That is a social contract in a sense."
Nevertheless, with ART ADDS, Close is happy to engage a wider audience. He hopes the photos, replacing those of advertisements, will make people think about the nature of commerce. "One of the things that's so shocking about seeing this [project] is that you can't figure out what it's selling. We're so used to anything in an advertising context promoting the sale of something that you're actually thrown for a loop if you don't understand why it's there."
Nothing is glamorous about his billboards. The subjects are presented just as they are—crow's feet and all, and that's exactly the point. If the 30 degree weather weren't enough incentive to hail a cab in the month of January, a chance to see one world's most renowned artist's work might give a whole new meaning to the term "moustache rides."
The Usual is a creative team of myself and Emily Anderson. We specialize in smart, irreverent branded content. We are storytellers, global connectors and enthusiasts, working across a variety of platforms. The Usual began in 2011 as a “love letter to Montauk”—a collectible newsprint publication focusing on the small New York surf town we call home. Check out our site to learn more theusualmontauk.com.
From Flaunt Magazine | The Trust Issue
The petite, energetic Anna Kendrick greets me, waving a frozen Milky Way bar in one hand, and offering me a handshake in the other. She’s gushing about the candy bar’s delicious constitution, making junk food seem like poetry. In between bites, the sugar high that is her personality rises up from her miniature frame, lighting up the dark, cavernous lobby of New York’s Bowery Hotel. We make our way to the outside terrace to enjoy the sunshine, something I can’t imagine she’s had much time to do in the last year. As she beams at me eager to begin, it’s clear that she tackles press with the same amount of passion and intensity that she does her acting roles.
Kendrick is in New York for a whirlwind 72 hours, promoting her latest project Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a fast-paced comic book adventure, where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat seven evil ex-significant others in order to be with the woman he loves. Kendrick might possibly be the movie’s biggest fan. “I love this movie,” she gushes, “your mom would love this movie, kids would love this movie.” Her enthusiasm is in no small part due to the actors like Jason Schwartzman, Alison Pill, and Kieran Culkin that she filmed with. “It’s such a great cast,” she continues. “There’s not a single person in it that’s a weak link on screen or a weak link off screen. We all kind of sit back and think how did we not get one crazy person on the film? Maybe that’s me and no one is telling me.”
Kendrick plays Stacey Pilgrim, Scott’s younger sister, who can’t be bothered hearing about her brother’s pathetic love life. She knows the role well. “I didn’t realize it until I started doing press,” she offers, “but I’m completely playing myself. Like, I didn’t do anything to work on this because I know this role, I know who she is. Done and done.” When Kendrick was younger, she would ride the bus with her older brother from Portland, Maine to New York City to attend auditions. They’re close, but they’re not your typical siblings. “We’re more like brothers than brother and sister,” she says. This is the dynamic she channels for the role. “Stacey tries to reach out to Scott and say, ‘You know I’m here for you,’” Kendrick says in her sprightly way, “and then right back into, ‘Well, your hair looks stupid or whatever.’ And that’s exactly the way my relationship is with my brother—you can only go so far before you call him a douchebag.”
As she’s talking, I glance at her half-eaten candy bar. It’s now dueling with the sweltering sun for survival. Just minutes before its slow death, Kendrick had breathed life into that chocolate ice cream bar, effortlessly bringing me into her magical world where a Milky Way bar has a personality. She’s been doing this with acting roles ever since she was an overachieving 12-year-old, performing in her first musical, High Society, for which she was recognized as the third youngest actor ever nominated for a Tony. She’s played precocious, fearless teenagers in indie films like Camp, Rocket Science, and The Marc Pease Experience, which she says “went very wrong.” She plays people like her—clever girls, who guys want to date and girls want to hang out with. Her part as Jessica Stanley, the know-it-all best friend of Bella (Kristen Stewart) in the fluff-fest Twilight trilogy is a departure, but her portrayal is so sharp it doesn’t compromise her past indie achievements. “I run my mouth, and people think it’s amusing,” Kendrick grins. For it is as Jessica Stanley that Kendrick plays the girl in high school that she would have despised. “I don’t know who exactly Jessica comes from,” says Kendrick of her inspiration in preparation for the teenybopper fare, “but there was one girl in particular from my high school. And she was a nightmare.” There is an assertion that as a teenager she “was a little weirdo,” not a cool girl, not a ditz.
It was last year’s smart girl performance as the ambitious Natalie Keener, stealing scenes from George Clooney in Up in the Air, which earned her an Oscar nomination and propelled her into the public eye. For everything it did for her career though, she’s glad to be done with the shock that her system took from the instant fame and respect. “Sometimes I feel like I got thrown into the deep end,” she says, “and I feel like nothing will ever be as crazy as that was and I feel like I can handle anything.” She also insists that despite all the attention, things “haven’t really changed, which is great. My favorite part of events and premieres is when I come home and I sit on my bed—my really truly crappy Ikea bed—and I pull up The Daily Show on Hulu, and I’m sitting in the post-premiere aftermath, looking at how ridiculous it is that I’m wearing thousands of dollars worth of clothes and jewelry… I’m the same human being, I’m just wearing nicer clothes. And they’re not even my clothes.” She deserves every bit of the success, but you get the sense that she feels as though if she acknowledges this, the roles will stop coming, so she plays humility well, “I have a pretty pathetic existence actually. I just, like, walk to the video store. And walk back.”
In her next, as yet untitled project, she plays Catherine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “very well-meaning, but not very talented social worker,” who talks Gordon-Levitt’s character through a cancer diagnosis. “Catherine is much more vulnerable [than other roles I’ve played]. And I liked that about her because I was in an awards season labyrinth and I was feeling really vulnerable so I was happy to go and shoot that immediately.”
In a week, Anna Kendrick will turn 25, and she’s having a bit of a quarter-life crisis. “I was thinking about driving across the States,” she says, “because I’ve never done that. That’s something you’re supposed to do, right?” But there’s a little sadness in her tone, and you realize she’d actually rather be on set than playing the part of a carefree girl in her early 20s. “Now I’m in a place where not working is the thing I’m supposed to do, when working is what I really want to do. But you just have to be careful so you can work for the rest of your life. You can’t say yes to everything, I guess.” As she says this, I see that the Milky Way is officially melted, it’s lost the showdown, and it’s time to let her go. I go to turn the recorder off and Kendrick asks, “Was that okay?” She cocks her head. It’s apparent this interview was just another performance in her promising career—one that I’ll remember every time I reach for a Milky Way ice cream bar.