The Japanese Traditions of Sashiko & Boro: The Centuries-Old Craft That Mends Clothes in a Sustainable, Artistic Way

The state of our troubled planet dictates that disposables are out.

Reusables are in.

And anyone who’s taught themselves how to mend and maintain their stuff has earned the right to flaunt it!

A quick scroll through Instagram reveals loads of visible mending projects that highlight rather than disguise the area of repair, drawing the eye to contrasting threads reinforcing a threadbare knee, frayed cuff, ragged rip, or moth hole.




While some practitioners take a freeform approach, the most pleasing stitches tend to be in the sashiko tradition.

Sashiko—frequently translated as “little stabs”—was born in Edo period Japan (1603-1868), when rural women attempted to prolong the life of their families’ tattered garments and bedding, giving rise to a humble form of white-on-indigo patchwork known as boro.

While sashiko can at times be seen serving a purely decorative function, such as on a very well preserved Meiji period jacket in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, its primary use was always one born of necessity.

As Austin Bryant notes on Heddels, a news and education website dedicated to sustainable goods:

Over generations of families, these textiles would acquire more and more patches, almost to the point of the common observer being unable to recognize where the original fabric began. As they recovered after the end of World War II, to some the boro textiles reminded the Japanese of their impoverished rural past.

Keiko & Atsushi Futatsuya are a mother-and-son artisan team whose posts on sashiko and boro go beyond straightforward how-tos to delve into cultural history.

According to them, the goal of sashiko should not be aesthetically pleasing rows of uniform stitches, but rather “enjoying the dialogue” with the fabric.

As Atsushi explains in an Instagram post, viewers seeing their work with a Western perspective may respond differently than those who have grown up with the elements in play:

This is a photo of a “Boro-to-be Jacket” in the process. This is the back (hiding) side of the jacket and many non-Japanese would say this should be the front and should show to the public. The Japanese would understand why it is a backside naturally, but I would need to “explain” to the non-Japanese who do not share the same value (why we) purposefully make this side as “hiding” side. That’s why, I keep sharing in words. One picture may be worth a thousand words, but the thousand words may be completely different based on their (free) interpretation. In sharing the culture, some “actual words” would be also very important.

To try your hand at sashiko, you will need a long needle, such as a cotton darning needle, white embroidery thread, and—for boro—an aging textile in need of some attention.

Should you find yourself sliding into a full blown obsession, you may want to order sashiko needles and thread, and a palm thimble to help you push through several weights of fabric simultaneously.

You’ll find many patterns, tips, and tutorials on the Futatsuya family’s Sashi.co YouTube channel.

via Vox

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem Dances Through the Streets of NYC: A Sight to Behold

It’s nearly impossible to find an unblemished square of pavement in New York City.

Unless the concrete was poured within the last day or two, count on each square to boast at least one dark polka dot, an echo of casually discarded gum.

Confirm for yourself with a quick peek beneath the exuberant feet of the Dance Theatre of Harlem company members performing on the plaza of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building during the 46th annual Harlem Week festival.




For obvious reasons, this year’s festival took place entirely online, but the Dance Theatre’s offering is a far cry from the gloomy Zoom-y affair that’s become 2020’s sad norm.

Eight company members, including co-producers Derek Brockington and Alexandra Hutchinson, hit the streets, to be filmed dancing throughout Harlem.

Those who gripe about the discomfort of wearing a mask while exerting themselves should shut their traps until they’ve performed ballet on the platform of the 145th and St. Nicholas Subway Station, where the dancers’ pristine white shoes bring further buoyancy to the proceedings.

The City College of New York—in-state tuition $7,340—provides the Neo-Gothic stage for four ballerinas to perform en pointe.

The Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge serve as backdrop as four young men soar along the promenade in Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park. Their casual outfits are a reminder of how company founder Arthur Mitchell, the New York City Ballet’s first black principal dancer, deliberately relaxed the dress code to accommodate young men who would have resisted tights.

The piece is an excerpt of New Bach, part of the company’s repertoire by resident choreographer and former principal dancer, Robert Garland, described in an earlier New York Times review as “an authoritative and highly imaginative blend of classical vocabulary and funk, laid out in handsome formal patterns in a well-plotted ballet.”

The music is by J.S. Bach.

And in these fractious times, it’s worth noting that only one of the dancers is New York City born and bred. The others hail from Kansas, Texas, Chicago, Louisiana, Delaware, Orange County, and upstate.

The group seizes the opportunity to amplify a much needed public health message—wear a mask!—but it’s also a beautiful tribute to the power of the arts and the vibrant neighborhood where a world-class company was founded in a converted garage at the height of the civil rights movement.

Contribute to Dance Theater of Harlem’s COVID-19 Relief Fund here.

via @BalletArchive/@TedGioia

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Watch the Serpentine Dance, Created by the Pioneering Dancer Loie Fuller, Performed in an 1897 Film by the Lumière Brothers

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.   Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Win an Argument (at the U.S. Supreme Court, or Anywhere Else): A Primer by Litigator Neal Katyal

Do you like being right? Of course, everyone does. Are you successful at convincing others? That’s a tougher one. We may politely disagree, avoid, or scream bloody murder at each other, but whatever our conflict style, no one is born, and few are raised, knowing how to persuade.

Persuasion does not mean coercion, deceit, or manipulation, the tactics of con artists, underhanded salespersons, or stereotypically untrustworthy lawyers….

Persuasion is about shifting others’ point of view, respectfully and charitably, through the use of evidence and argument, ethical appeals, moving stories, and “faith in the power of your ideas,” as Neal Katyal explains in his TED presentation above, “How to Win an Argument (at the U.S. Supreme Court, or anywhere).”




Katyal’s job as a Supreme Court litigator makes him an authority on this subject. It may also distract you with thoughts about the current Court power struggle. Try to put those thoughts aside. In places where reason, evidence, and ethics have purchase, Katyal’s advice can pay dividends in your quest to win others over.

In his first case before the Court a “handful of years” after the 9/11 attacks, he represented Osama bin Laden’s driver in a suit pressing to recognize Geneva Convention rules in the war on terror and to rule Guantanamo unconstitutional. His opponent, the Solicitor General of the U.S., had argued 35 cases before the court; “I wasn’t even 35 years old,” Katyal says. He won the case, and he’ll tell you how.

His most important lesson? Winning arguments isn’t about being right. It isn’t about believing really, really hard that you’re right. Persuasion is not about confidence, Katyal insists. It’s about empathy. Oral arguments in the courtroom (which judges could just as well read in transcript form) show us as much, he says.

When his legal expertise was not helping in preparation for the big trial, Katyal felt desperate and hired an acting coach, who trained him in such techniques as holding hands while making his arguments. What? Yes, that’s exactly what Katyal said. But he did it, and it worked.

Holding hands with the Justices isn’t an option in court, but Katyal found other ways to remind himself to stay close to what mattered, wearing accessories his parents had given him, for example, and writing his children’s names on a legal pad: “That’s why I’m doing this, for them. To leave the country better than I found it.”

Once he had established his private reasons for caring, he was ready to present his public reasons. As the old saying goes, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The facts absolutely matter, yet the burden of showing how and why facts matter falls to the persuader, whose own passion, integrity, commitment, etc. will go a long way toward making an audience receptive.

This advice applies in any situation, but if you’re wondering how to move Katyal’s advice online…. well, maybe the ultimate lesson here is that we’re at our most persuasive when we’re close enough—physically or virtually—to take somebody’s hand….

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Learn the Stories Behind Iconic Songs: The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” REM’s “Losing My Religion,” Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” & More

There was a time when pop lyrics did not exactly spark curiosity, doo-lang doo-lang doo-lang.

They may have tapped into some universal teenage feelings, but rarely inspired further thought along the lines of “Hmm, I wonder what—or who—inspired that.”

Dutch station NPO Radio 2’s interview series Top 2000 a gogo lifts the veil.

Each entry reveals the origin story of a well known song.




The late Bill Withers, above, intimated that every woman he’d even been involved with thought “Ain’t No Sunshine” was about her, when really, the inspiration was the miserable alcoholic couple played by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses.

Dancing in the Moonlight,” the enduring, incredibly catchy hit for King Harvest, paints an endearing picture of carefree, cavorting youth, but as recounted by songwriter Sherman Kelly, the event that led to its creation is deserving of a trigger warning. Rather than leaning in to the darkness, he conjured a lighthearted scene far different from the one he had endured, a switcheroo that the universe saw fit to reward.

One need not be the songwriter to be at the center of a song’s hidden history. Gloria Jones, preacher’s daughter and eventual soulmate to T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, was a teenager when she recorded Ed Cobb’s “Tainted Love,” a song she disliked owing to the implications of “tainted.” The song became a hit in England, thanks to a series of misadventures involving a sailor swapping a .45 for ciggies—a development that could have had an impact on Jones’ career, had anyone bothered to inform her. All this to say, Soft Cell’s 1981 cover helped put MTV on the map, but it couldn’t have happened without the teenager who held her nose and recorded the original.

Top 2000 is unsurprisingly full of deep and touching revelations, but Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s refusal to take things seriously is also welcome. Talk to Mick Jagger if you want confirmation that “Miss You” concerns the frustrations of stardom. According to class clown Wood, and his straight man drummer Charlie Watts, the song was a solid attempt to go with the disco flow. The frustration arose from being caged in a Paris recording studio, barely able to duck out for escargot before task master Keith Richards cracked the whip to summon them back.

Bittersweet is not the adjective we’d choose to describe this historical moment, but it gave us all the feels to see Alan Merrill, whose “I Love Rock n Roll” was a response to the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll,” as well as a breakthrough hit for Joan Jett. Merrill died of complications from COVID-19 at the end of March.

Explore more songs—over 200—on Top 2000 a gogo’s YouTube channel.

Multi-linguists! Contribute translations to help make the videos available worldwide.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Here latest project is a series of free downloadable posters, encouraging citizens to wear masks in public and wear them properly. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Dear Facebook, This is How You’re Breaking Democracy: A Former Facebook Insider Explains How the Platform’s Algorithms Polarize Our Society

Is this what we want? A post-truth world where toxicity and tribalism trump bridge building and consensus seeking? —Yaël Eisenstat

It’s an increasingly familiar occurrence.

A friend you’ve enjoyed reconnecting with in the digital realm makes a dramatic announcement on their social media page. They’re deleting their Facebook account within the next 24 hours, so shoot them a PM with your email if you’d like to stay in touch.

Such decisions used to be spurred by the desire to get more done or return to neglected pastimes such as reading, painting, and going for long unconnected nature walks.




These announcements could induce equal parts guilt and anxiety in those of us who depend on social media to get the word out about our low-budget creative projects, though being prone to Internet addiction, we were nearly as likely to be the one making the announcement.

For many, the break was temporary. More of a social media fast, a chance to reevaluate, rest, recharge, and ultimately return.

Legitimate concerns were also raised with regard to privacy. Who’s on the receiving end of all the sensitive information we’re offering up? What are they doing with it? Is someone listening in?

But in this election year, the decision to quit Facebook is apt to be driven by the very real fear that democracy as we know it is at stake.

Former CIA analyst, foreign service officer, andfor six monthsFacebook’s Global Head of Elections Integrity Ops for political advertising, Yaël Eisenstat, addresses these preoccupations in her TED Talk, “Dear Facebook, This is How You’re Breaking Democracy,” above.

Eisenstat contrasts the civility of her past face-to-face ”hearts and minds”-based engagements with suspected terrorists and anti-Western clerics to the polarization and culture of hatred that Facebook’s algorithms foment.

As many users have come to suspect, Facebook rewards inflammatory content with amplification. Truth does not factor into the equation, nor does sincerity of message or messenger.

Lies are more engaging online than truth. As long as [social media] algorithms’ goals are to keep us engaged, they will feed us the poison that plays to our worst instincts and human weaknesses.

Eisenstat, who has valued the ease with which Facebook allows her to maintain relationships with far-flung friends, found herself effectively demoted on her second day at the social media giant, her title revised, and her access to high level meetings revoked. Her hiring appears to have been purely ornamental, a palliative ruse in response to mounting public concern.

As she remarked in an interview with The Guardian’s Ian Tucker earlier this summer:

They are making all sorts of reactive changes around the margins of the issues, [to suggest] that they are taking things seriously – such as building an ad library or verifying that political advertisers reside in the country in which they advertising – things they should have been doing already. But they were never going to make the fundamental changes that address the key systemic issues that make Facebook ripe for manipulation, viral misinformation and other ways that the platform can be used to affect democracy.

In the same interview she asserted that Facebook’s recently implemented oversight board is little more than an interesting theory that will never result in the total overhaul of its business model:

First of all, it’s another example of Facebook putting responsibility on someone else. The oversight board does not have any authority to actually address any of the policies that Facebook writes and enforces, or the underlying systemic issues that make the platform absolutely rife for disinformation and all sorts of bad behaviour and manipulation.

The second issue is: it’s basically an appeal process for content that was already taken down. The bigger question is the content that remains up. Third, they are not even going to be operational until late fall and, for a company that claims to move fast and break things, that’s absurd.

Nine minutes into her TED Talk, she offers concrete suggestions for things the Facebook brass could do if it was truly serious about implementing reform:

  • Stop amplifying and recommending disinformation and bias-based hatred, no matter who is behind itfrom conspiracy theorists to our current president.
  • Discontinue personalization techniques that don’t differentiate between targeted political content and targeted ads for athletic footwear.
  • Retrain algorithms to focus on a metrics beyond what users click or linger on.
  • Implement safety features that would ensure that sensitive content is reviewed before it is allowed to go viral.

Hopefully viewers are not feeling maxed out on contacting their representatives, as government enforcement is Eisenstat’s only prescription for getting Facebook to alter its product and profit model. And that will require sustained civic engagement.

She supplements her TED Talk with recommendations for artificial intelligence engineer Guillaume Chaslot’s insider perspective op-ed “The Toxic Potential of YouTube’s Feedback Loop” and The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think by MoveOn.org‘s former Executive Director, Eli Pariser.

Your clued-in Facebook friends have no doubt already pointed you to the documentary The Social Dilemma, which is now available on Netflix. Or perhaps to Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Read the transcript of Yaël Eisenstat’s TED Talk here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Frida Kahlo’s Venomous Love Letter to Diego Rivera: “I’m Amputating You. Be Happy and Never Seek Me Again”

Painter Diego Rivera set the bar awfully high for other lovers when he—allegedly—ate a handful of his ex-wife Frida Kahlo’s cremains, fresh from the oven.

Perhaps he was hedging his bets. The Mexican government opted not to honor his express wish that their ashes should be co-mingled upon his death. Kahlo’s remains were placed in Mexico City’s Rotunda of Illustrious Men, and have since been transferred to their home, now the Museo Frida Kahlo.

Rivera lies in the Panteón Civil de Dolores.

Other creative expressions of the grief that dogged him til his own death, three years later:

His final painting, The Watermelons, a very Mexican subject that’s also a tribute to Kahlo’s last work, Viva La Vida

And a locked bathroom in which he decreed 6,000 photographs, 300 of Kahlo’s garments and personal items, and 12,000 documents were to be housed until 15 years after his death.

Among the many revelations when this chamber was belatedly unsealed in 2004, her clothing caused the biggest stir, particularly the ways in which the colorful garments were adapted to and informed by her physical disabilities.

Her prosthetic leg, shod in an eye-catching red boot was given a place of honor in an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.,

These treasures might have come to light earlier save for a judgment call on the part of Dolores Olmedo, Rivera’s patron, former model, and friend. During renovations to turn the couple’s home into a museum, she had a peek and decided the lipstick-imprinted love letters from some famous men Frida had bedded could damage Rivera’s reputation.

In what way, it’s difficult to parse.

The couple’s history of extramarital relations (including Rivera’s dalliance with Kahlo’s sister, Christina) weren’t exactly secret, and both of the players had left the building.

One thing that’s taken for granted is Kahlo’s passion for Rivera, whom she met as girl of 15. Tempting as it might be to view the relationship with 2020 goggles, it would be a disservice to Kahlo’s sense of her own narrative. Self-examination was central to her work. She was characteristically avid in letters and diary entries, detailing her physical attraction to every aspect of Rivera’s body, including his giant belly “drawn tight and smooth as a sphere.” Ditto her obsession with his many conquests.

Not surprisingly, she was capable of penning a pretty spicy love letter herself, and the majority were aimed at her husband:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.

Her most notorious love letter does not appear to be one at first.

Bedridden, and facing the amputation of a gangrenous right leg that had already sacrificed some toes 20 years earlier, she directed the full force of her emotions at Rivera.

The lover she’d tenderly pegged as “a boy frog standing on his hind legs” now appeared to her an “ugly son of a bitch,” maddeningly possessed of the power to seduce women (as he had seduced her).

You have to read all the way to the twist:

Mexico,
1953

My dear Mr. Diego,

I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you? You believe I was furious about Cristina, but today I confess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve never been able to understand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. Forgive my not going to your house to say this in person, but given the circumstances and my condition, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom. It’s not my intention to make you or anyone else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.

Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,

Your Frida

This is a love letter masquerading as a doozy of a break up letter. The references to amputation are both literal and metaphorical:

No doubt, she was sincere, but this couple, rather than holding themselves accountable, excelled at reversals. In the end the letter’s threat proved idle. Shortly before her death,  the two appeared together in public, at a demonstration to protest the C.I.A.’s efforts to overthrow the leftist Guatemalan regime.

Image via Brooklyn Museum

Once Frida was safely laid to rest, by which we mean rumored to have sat bolt upright as her casket was slid into the incerator, Rivera mused in his autobiography:

Too late now I realized the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida. But I could not really say that given “another chance” I would have behaved toward her any differently than I had. Every man is the product of the social atmosphere in which he grows up and I am what I am…I had never had any morals at all and had lived only for pleasure where I found it. I was not good. I could discern other people’s weaknesses easily, especially men’s, and then I would play upon them for no worthwhile reason. If I loved a woman, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.

via Letters of Note and the book, Letters of Note: Love.

Related Content:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

If Werner Herzog Reviewed Trader Joe’s on Yelp: “Madness Reigns. The First Challenge Your Soul Must Endure Is the Parking Lot”

I like the Internet for various things, but it’s limited. I’m not on social media, but you will find me in the social media. There’s Facebook, there’s Twitters, but it’s all not me.

—Werner Herzog in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter

The night before his 2016 documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World premiered at Sundance, director Werner Herzog declared himself “still a liberated virgin” with regard to his reliance on the Internet:

I think we have to abandon this kind of false security that everything is settled now, that we have so much assistance by digital media and robots and artificial intelligence. At the same time, we overlook how vulnerable all this is, and how we are losing the essentials that make us human. That’s my advice … Cook a meal at least three times a week. Play a musical instrument. Read books and travel on foot.

That said, he’s not immune to the rejuvenating effects of random cat videos at the end of a tiring day, as he told Studio 360’s Kurt Andersen during a promotional visit for 2018’s Meeting Gorbachev:

Perhaps guessing that Googling his own name is not one of Herzog’s preferred online activities, Anderson took the opportunity to hip his guest to comedian Paul F. Tompkins‘ Teutonic-inflected recitation of a notorious Yelp review of Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake.

To the untrained ear, Tompkins’ Herzog is pitch perfect.

The spoof’s subject suggested that the accent could use improvement, but agreed that the text is “very funny.”

And it is, especially given the pedestrian tenor of the same Trader Joe’s other 5-star reviews:

This is the best Trader Joe’s location I’ve been to! Been coming here since I was a kid! (I’m 25 now) I’ve moved out of this area but still come to this location just because it beats the rest of them. – Debbie G

TJ is the best!! I’ve been coming here for many years, and the food is great!! The employee’s are awesome! Some of the many things I love to purchase here are: salmon balls, smoothies like the chia seed strawberry, protein almond butter drinks, coconut smoothie, cashew yogurt, south western salad that comes in a bag is BOMB.COM! – Raymond M

Tompkins tapped Herzog’s fascination with man’s animal nature and the brutality of existence for another Yelp review, awarding three stars to San Francisco’s Hotel Majestic and attributing it to Werner H:

Tompkins clearly savors the opportunity to channel Herzog, logging 16 appearances for the character on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, including episodes wherein he discusses working with Tom Cruise and his desire to be cast as a clueless suburban husband in an appliance commercial. Find them all listed here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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