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Jones Snowboards' Mountain Surfer

Surf the white winter wave with this handmade, binding-less piece of equipment

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 31 October 2014

Handmade, Innovation, Snowboarding, Snowboards, Sports, Surfing, Winter, Wood

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It's safe to say no name is as linked to backcountry snowboarding as Jeremy Jones—so much so, his name is rarely seen without "Big Mountain" preceding it. Under his eponymous brand, Jones Snowboards, he has designed and released a wide array of heavy terrain-specific snowboard designs. Though his latest offering (and undoubtedly most unconventional) is what's caught our eye this time around. The Mountain Surfer is a snowboard in its purest form: a binding-less plank of wood for surfing deep powder. At 4’6“ (139cm) in length, it's the result of design collaboration with legendary California surfboard shaper Chris Christenson, and offers a new experience on snow, whether that's charging the steep and deep in Tahoe or a backyard stash in Vermont.

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In recent years, a slow, nearly silent resurgence of riding binding-less snowboards—called noboarding—has been underway. As one can imagine, riding sans-binders takes serious skill and practice, leaving those involved in the movement few and far between. Jones' Mountain Surfer aims to make the act of returning snowboarding to its surfer roots more accessible. Two metal foot hooks and a foam pad improve board control and traction, making it easier to ride and able to be ridden in less than waist-deep conditions. Simply remove the hooks for the full snow surfing experience.

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The all-wood construction certainly limits the board's tech aspects, though Christenson's craftsmanship still shines through. Drawing on inspiration from speed-focused surfboard shapes, he designed the Mountain Surfer with a contoured base with a slightly tapered, subtle concave channel in the body and near the tail with a rounded convex spoon nose. The reverse camber (rocker) aids in keeping the nose aloft in powder while the sizable width helps create a loose, surfy feel. The handsome, Austrian-made Mountain Surfer, goes for $349 at. For more information, visit Jones Snowboards.

Images courtesy of Jones Snowboards

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Alfred Steiner's "Likelihood of Confusion" Exhibition

Iconic logos reconstructed through found imagery at Joshua Liner Gallery

by David Graver in Culture on 31 October 2014

Art Installation, Exhibitions, Galleries, Joshua Liner Gallery, NYC, Logos, Alfred Steiner, Trademarks

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There's something uncanny about Alfred Steiner's latest exhibition "Likelihood of Confusion," now on display at NYC's Joshua Liner Gallery. There's an element of deep recognition and familiarity to each work, but an exploration within reveals numerous components that add further dimensions and question the piece as a whole. Steiner had a view in mind to tackle the pervasiveness of media and advertising. And he did so by taking logos and trademark imagery and building something similar based upon found photos. Steiner calls iconography into question across 12 works of watercolor on paper, two oil paintings on medium-density fiberboard, and a new piece within his celebrated “Anti-Paparazzi” series—from their resonance and value to the very idea of trademarking.

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There's a lot to be said about titles of exhibitions, and with this show, Steiner hints at his background in law. "Likelihood of confusion is the legal standard used in trademark infringement cases," he shares with CH. "If potential customers are likely to confuse one business' trademark with the pre-existing trademark of another business, then the owner of the pre-existing trademark (or senior user) is entitled to stop the later (or junior) user from using the trademark on its goods or in connection with its services." Delving further into the legal nature of such a title reveals how Steiner's art is protected and also hints to other interpretations viewers may have. "Two primary factors used to make this determination are the similarity of the marks themselves and the relatedness of the goods or services. As used for the title of the show, 'Likelihood of Confusion' carries the superficial suggestion that the compositions of the works are structured by trademarks, but it may also signal other things, like the perplexity that viewers may face when trying to understand the works or when trying to understand contemporary art more broadly."

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"I was one of those kids who was always into art. I took as many art classes as I could in middle school and high school. In college, I shied away from majoring in art after my first art course took more time than all of my other classes combined, coupled with my perception that my parents, who were footing the bill, would have frowned on such an apparently impractical course of study," the artist notes, regarding his background. "I went to law school because my other choice was to start work on a Ph.D. in the philosophy of mathematics, and that sounded too abstruse and solitary. In law school, I drew a cartoon for the Harvard Law Record called Reasonableman, featuring a title character who was anything but reasonable." Steiner has never stopped painting or making things since.

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"Law and art have been in most ways separate spheres for me. But there's no question that the study of law has influenced my work," he continues. "When I was deciding to go to law school, one of my friends suggested that I might be interested in intellectual property. I got a book about it from the library and I was hooked. The types of questions that come up in copyright and trademark law often parallel questions in art. Because I am familiar with the law in those areas, I often see possibilities for projects that might not occur to other artists.

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As for what facilitated the artist's desire to alter logos and imagery that have become globally recognizable, he shares that "using pre-existing imagery to structure my compositions began as a way to channel improvisational drawings. At first, I used geometric figures and then I moved on to iconic art-historical sources. But I found that the sources that produced the most interesting results were graphic or stylized—cartoon characters, trademarks and the like. And it seemed to me, as it still does, that dissecting these pervasive graphic images the way I do might serve some valuable form of visual research, however nebulous and indeterminate."

Steiner, inspired by the pull of graphics, begins by dissecting them. "I look at my source image, say the Starbucks logo, and I free-associate based on the shapes it contains. Some possibilities readily occur to me, but with others, I might draw a shape over and over, invert my sketchbook and even ask other people what a particular shape reminds them of." From there, the internet takes over. "Once I have an idea in mind, say a Greek vase for the body of the Starbucks siren, I do various image searches, looking for something that will best fit the contours of my image. Sometimes, I have to abandon an idea because I can't find a good model."

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Using such found images also toys with the idea of copyright. There simply aren't a lot of color images in the public domain, but Steiner is never seeking an image as whole, but rather independent elements within. "What I am looking for are essentially visual facts—an apple, a bottle of whisky, an alligator skull. When divorced from the rest of a photograph, whatever creative element the original photographer added becomes difficult to identify—there are only so many ways to photograph an apple in a matter-of-fact manner. And once these visual facts are organized in my composition, their aesthetic import changes dramatically. I'll say they are 'transformed' to use a copyright word that has come to dominate the fair use discussion."

"Likelihood of Confusion" will be on display through 15 November 2014 at NYC's Joshua Liner Gallery.

Images courtesy of Joshua Liner Gallery

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Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

The design-minded hotel offers a sophisticated, luxurious stay that brings forth the best of Japanese culture

by Nara Shin in Travel on 31 October 2014

2020 Olympics, Andaz, Hyatt, Japan, Tokyo, Boutique Hotels, Hotels, Luxury Hotels

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On the 47th to 52nd floors of the new Toranomon Hills skyscraper is one of Tokyo's newest hotels. Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills—the Hyatt-owned brand's second property in Asia—is aiming for a sophisticated yet simple approach to a luxurious stay, removing much of the over-formality and international approach commonly found among its fellow five-star compatriots in Tokyo. As we saw with Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, the boutique hotel chain makes commendable efforts to incorporate the local environment and culture (whether it's Savannah, Georgia or Shanghai, China) into its design and service. One of the key takeaways: the Japanese take their baths seriously.

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Two different designers were brought on board for Andaz Tokyo: Taiwanese-American designer Tony Chi (who left his mark on NYC's Andaz 5th Avenue, Park Hyatt Shanghai and other locales around the world) took over the communal lounge, restaurant and guestrooms, while Japanese designer (and a chef who owns two restaurants) Shinichiro Ogata was tasked with the rooftop bar, event spaces ("Andaz Studios"), wedding chapel and the spa.

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It's immediately apparent that Chi's vision for the 47th floor was natural materials, as walnut wood from Hokkaido is found everywhere—from the low tables to the walls (complemented by Charlie Whinney's massive steam-bent hardwood sculptures that are suspended from the ceiling). The elevators also feature washi paper artwork in the shape of fish.

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The 50 square meters that comprise the standard guestrooms, designed by Chi, are divided equally between the bedroom area and the bathroom—a reflection of Japan's dedicated bathing culture. Soak and relax in the circular tub, cleanse off in the rain-shower, and slip into either a fluffy bathrobe or specially made yukatas (light kimonos) afterwards. But the high-tech toilet is what captured our hearts during the stay; aside from the programmable bidet and heated seat, the automatic lifting and closing of the seat (and flushing) means you'll never have to touch a toilet again—until you return to "civilization," that is.

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The movable partitions by the bathroom and foyer are a reference to shōji, the sliding doors between rooms found in traditional Japanese homes. The carpet in the bedroom area feels like an out-of-place Western touch at first, but the mossy yellow green color echoes the idea of stepping into a serene garden, and being in direct touch with nature. Out of the 164 guestrooms, only eight are suites—and the distinguishing factor between the remaining standard rooms is the view: whether you prefer Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, or the lit-up Tokyo Tower at night. And with the low bed facing the sizable window, not a flatscreen TV, the view of the city serves as a constant reminder that yes, you are indeed in Tokyo.

The mini-bar is stocked with Japanese beverages, like Ito En green tea and Suntory Hakushu single malt whisky; like any Andaz property, the non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary and so are the local snacks.

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Once you've tired of your personal bathtub, the 37th floor awaits. Though a mere elevator ride away, stepping into the AO Spa and Club is akin to entering a different universe, separate from the hotel itself. Ogata, who cites Italian architect Carlo Scarpa as an influence, describes his concept for the spa as "yin and yang." Men and women, back and forth, stillness in the baths and motion in the pool, the sun then the moon seen through the windows—there are a lot of contrary forces that become carefully balanced through Ogata's concept of achieving harmony.

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In lieu of a reception desk, the spa staff invites guests to sit at an apothecary-meets-farmers-market table, dubbed the "Blend Bar." Here, guests select herbs like mint and thyme (growing right out of the table), locally sourced fresh and dried fruit, spices and oils—many which change alongside the seasons—to incorporate into their personalized spa treatments, from massages to facials to body scrubs.

The fitness center is actually substantially more than just a few treadmills, stocked with our favorite Technogym equipment from Italy. Non-hotel guests who wish to use the pool or fitness center must purchase a day pass (¥10,000) or sign up for club membership. The only danger here is that one could easily spend their entire stay in Tokyo on the 37th floor and forget to actually leave the building.

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The building itself is located in a historic central area of Tokyo—Toranomon, or the "Tiger Gate," was one of the gates to Edo castle (now the Imperial Palace) where shoguns resided from the 17th to 19th centuries. Today, the area is quiet and business-concentrated. It's a short walk to the orange Ginza line, which connects you directly to Shibuya, and 10 minutes away by car to Ginza as well as the world-renowned Tsukiji fish market. The completed construction of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper this past summer, however, is just the beginning of ambitious development plans, led by its well-known owner, Mori Building—especially with Tokyo hosting the upcoming 2020 Olympics. A new wide boulevard (funnily enough, planned since 1946) connecting the central Tokyo area to eventually, the future Olympic Village and stadiums in the Tokyo Bay area, is in the works; one section has already been completed and links Toranomon Hills to Shinbashi.

To make a reservation, visit Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills online; standard room rates start at ¥40,000 (not including tax and service charges) during the low season.

Images of exterior, lobby and pool courtesy Andaz Tokyo, all other images by Nara Shin

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