Cape May, NJ.

July 16th, 2018

Cricket’s family goes to Cape May, NJ every year and even though I’ve been with him for a decade and a half I’ve never accompanied him on this annual journey to reunite the soul with the sea, birthplace of all living things.

I decided to go this year and I have to say, I had an extremely pleasant time. I mean, I was outside a lot where the sun is located and I don’t care for that at all, but aside from that it was really nice. The best thing about Cape May is all the Victorian houses. So many painted ladies with porches and pretty landscaping. I took photos.

And here are more pictures I found on the internet taken by other people.

 

At night (when the sun was not out and I didn’t feel like Helios was trying to tandoori my skin off my flesh) I would walk around the streets and feel feelings about the architectural details and the occasional remaining stained glass window. The only time I felt unsafe was when I walked past one house and someone was playing a piano that sounded exactly like the piano from Westworld. Westworld takes modern songs and makes them sound like a tune you’d hear in a saloon in the Wild West. One the show you hear them right before something atrocious and violent happens so as soon as I heard it I was like, “Oh no, is everyone going to get shot? And disemboweled? Maybe a shot and disemboweled combo? Definitely booze bottles and knives will be thrown. I should take cover with the prostitutes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq364f4RGqE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNaaimFtMTg

Something that amused me nonstop was how they tried to make the street signs look Victorian but they just look vaguely goth as if 1990s Hot Topic designed them.

A+ for effort.

Our B&B where we stayed was designed in the typical 1870s-style with the doilies and the marble-topped pedestal tables, etc. Our room had a strip of decorative wallpaper with a repeating peacock motif that I thought was fine until I got up close and saw that the peacocks looked demonic and had angry skull faces and then I liked the wallpaper a lot more. The way to my heart is evil peacocks, unsurprisingly.

The majority of the two days I was there was spent at the beach splashing around in the water and trying to dislodge shell shards from my sandals. In the evening Cricket and I would go to the other beach about three miles away that faced in the opposite direction and watch the sun set.

This beach didn’t really have sand, it had awesome round smooth pebbles and horseshoe crabs mating like crazy. In case you don’t know what that looks like, a female horseshoe crab (which is the larger of the sexes because she is filled with thousands and thousands of eggs) climbs up on the beach and the male horseshoe crab glomps onto her tail so whenever she’s ready for love he’s there. She now has to drag him around the beach as she contemplates where she will make her nest. It looks like two mismatched frying pans moving slowly around in the shallows. Very romantic.

I also saw dolphins and a ray and a shark, it was a good weekend for seeing animals. I even enjoyed the seagulls. They were fancy, high-end seagulls with black heads and gray wings and elegant lines.

So since The Moomins likes the beach I am taking her back for her birthday at the end of August. We will eat ice cream and frolick in the waves (after 4:00 in the afternoon because the sun sucks).

The Internet is a gift.*

July 13th, 2018

1. The Bulgarian Kukeri Festival! Who’s coming with me?

The definition according to Wikipedia:

Kukeri are elaborately costumed Bulgarian men who perform traditional rituals intended to scare away evil spirits. Closely related traditions are found throughout the Balkans and Greece (including Romania and the Pontus). The costumes cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt. Around New Year and before Lent, the kukeri walk and dance through villages to scare away evil spirits with their costumes and the sound of their bells. They are also believed to provide a good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the year.

The kukeri traditionally visit peoples’ houses at night so that “the sun would not catch them on the road.” After parading around the village they usually gather at the village square to dance wildly and amuse the people. Kukeri rituals vary by region but remain largely the same in essence.

 

2. This earthworm is called a Fried Egg Earthworm. It is extremely well-named.

 

3. Everyone is familiar with The Bean in Chicago, yes? Big silver blobule in the middle of a plaza? People were setting up group meetings on Facebook and the poor Bean got roped into it. What did The Bean ever do to you, Chicagoans?? Leave The Bean out of your shenanigans! #BeanDrama

 

 

4. Badly placed quote marks range from not-quite-right to ominous to terrifying.

 

5. While I have no particular desire to go to Coachella I would have liked to have seen this wire building in person.

Here is an article on the artist. https://www.curbed.com/2018/4/13/17236160/edoardo-tresoldi-coachella-etherea-wire-mesh-sculptures

 

6. I think I got it. The bikers and dogwalkers yield to the hikers who yield to the horseback riders and all of them yield to the truck. Am I right? Did I win something?

*When curated well. Otherwise, it is awaaaaaaaaaaaash with garbage and nightmares.

FIFA World Cup.

July 8th, 2018

Can we all agree that the logo for the world cup this year looks exactly like something The Collector from the Marvel movies would have? Something with Power Jewels or Planetary Essence or some crap? Can we agree on that, please? Thank you.

   

Whipped Cream Ballet.

July 6th, 2018

I went to the ballet with The Moomins, y’all! It was my birthday present from her to me. We went to the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center, known for its profoundly awesome light fixtures. I have been going there since I was a wee tot and you’d think I’d be used to the chandeliers by now. I am not. I stare at them and greet them like old friends and God forbid one day I am allowed to touch one, I may lose my cool in an epic fashion. Fluids will come out of my face. There will be drool and tears.

I could buy a small one but I don’t feel like dropping three grand on it. Maybe one day. When I win the lottery. After I buy a ticket.

Anyway, culture and art. I own several books featuring the work of the artist Mark Ryden. I don’t know if I’ve spoken about him before, but he is a spectacular oil painter who predominantly paints three things: Lincoln, prepubescent girls, and meat. I don’t know why that’s his jam but it is. Regardless of his odd subject matter the quality of his painting, specifically the detailwork, is about as good as it gets. Here are some samples of some of my favorites of his.

     

Ryden is clearly influenced by one of my favorite painters Jan Van Eyck (famous for his mastery of the oil paint medium and all of his people lookin’ like Vladimir Putin.)

ABT (American Ballet Theater) has a artist-in-residence, Alexei Ratmansky, who decided to bring back this obscure ballet from 1924 called “Schlagobers” (“Whipped Cream On Top” in German). It was written because WWI had just happened and there needed to be some light and joy brought into the world. Alexei thought the only person who could capture the creepy saccharine quality of this ballet was this particular painter so Ryden made illustrations which were then translated into stage sets and costumes by professional set designers and costumers and it’s something else, I tells ya. Here’s a picture from the ABT website.

I was astonished by how faithful the sets and costumes were to Ryden’s original drawings. It’s perfect. It’s a ballet in two acts. The first act was lovely but kind of meh. Nothing particularly special happens.

  

The second act, however, is where the magic is. It opens with a hospital where a giant-headed doctor dances with nurses carrying giant syringes.

 

And then after they leave a parade of insanity saunters out on stage. I might have straight-up cheered. I could not find an adequate picture. Here’s Ryden’s original interpretation.

And that’s precisely what waltzed across the stage. Here are sections of it.

   

Here’s the best picture I could find from the end of the ballet.

Are you seeing this? Are you appreciating the giant two-person yeti? Are you appreciating the candy worm who drags himself across the stage on a little dolly and waves his tail around in support of the other dancers? Are you appreciating the tall thing with the ears which is called the Long Neck Piggy? The small children dressed as cupcakes who hop up and down with elastic suspenders so their cupcakes go boing boing boing? It does not get old.

In addition there were three anthropomorphic bottles of alcohol that get the doctor and nurses drunk so the main character can escape the hospital (don’t ask, the plot is not the strongest element to this ballet) and they were fantastic. You can see them in this photo – one guy was Vodka, one guy was Slivovitz (Eastern European plum liquor) and the girl was champagne.

I would recommend seeing this ballet because it’s amazingly weird and you know, Ryden. Here are a few other drawings of his.

 

 

A little amuse-bouche of charts to brighten up your day.

July 2nd, 2018

Recent side-project. NSFW maybe. Depends on where you work. Make a judgment call for yourself.

June 27th, 2018

I am a huge proponent of helping ladies doin’ their own thing so I’ll take on work pro bono for them in my free time. (Free time! Hahahahaha!) I’ve designed some logos for women starting their own businesses and presentations for masters’ theses, etc. A co-worker of mine recently started recording a podcast with her friend where they talk about sex and dating issues that women are dealing with today. It’s funny and light and positive and she needed a logo design. Since it’s a small industry I can get a little more loose and free with what I can create. I’ll explain. I created a very basic logo based on the name they gave me.

The reason I kept it so simple was I was inspired by the Absolut ads of my youth, where the shape of the bottle is the only constant from ad to ad.

So I thought it would be cool if for every episode the text remained the same and in the same position in the box shape, but everything around reflected the topic being addressed. Kind of a bespoke logo per episode, but still recognizable. I came up with some samples. I won’t specify what topics I was referencing because some of them are a bit blunt but you can guess if you’d like.

They’re all bright and cute and fun and not straight-out vulgar, more “tee hee” in nature. I was inspired by the webpage of the podcast Criminal.

I mocked up an example of what The Get Down Lowdown website could look like.

I also thought of the poster from The Dollop podcast where it’s the two hosts and a collection of characters they’ve discussed in the past.

I think it would be cool after The Get Down Lowdown is on for a while and I’ve made a large quantity of these individualized squares if I make a collage poster based on some favorite designs. Then The Get Down Lowdown girls can sell it or give it away to Patreon subscribers. There’s a lot of directions this could go.

 

Addendum: They’ve finished editing their first episode. And I have made their logo for them. It’s super-classy.

Black Mass and WOW the cocaine must have been good in the 80s.

June 26th, 2018

Movies! I saw Black Mass, the story of the real-life bad guy Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for twelve years, directly after Osama Bin Laden. Very naughty man. Mr. Bulger is played by Johnny Depp who does a bang-up job of being absolutely terrifying. Bulger got the nickname “Whitey” for having blonde hair and light blue eyes, so Mr. Depp, being sallow and dark, donned a wig and a nose extension and a janky front tooth and contacts and false eyelids and gosh darnit if he didn’t pull it off. I was definitely creeped out.

This film takes place between 1975 and 1981 in Boston where The Winter Hill Gang did all the things one associates with crime associations: drugs, racketeering, some light murder of enemies and/or snitches, money laundering, extortion, etc. The movie is extremely well done and aside from Benedict Cumberbatch’s appalling Boston accent (Seriously? Were no American actors available for that role? It’s not even a big or important role) it’s a pretty flawless film. My only complaint, which is my complaint about a lot of good cinema, is that I wish this was a miniseries so it didn’t feel so tight time-wise. My favorite aspect was how beautifully Black Mass was shot and colored. The composition choices were striking.

I mean, you look at this and tell me it’s not a Renaissance painting. I dare you.

Now we delve into some stuff from the 1980s. Growing up alone in a house full of forty-and fifty-year-olds I missed out on just about every iconic 1980s film. I’m only now catching up. So when I saw that The Running Man (1987) and Flash Gordon (1980) were playing on channels that don’t take out cursewords, violence or sex I DVR’ed both of them and then hunkered down to absorb the vintage magic and I have no regrets. I love a fine piece of cinema like I enjoy an exquisitely aged brie cheese, but I also love a garbage campy movie they way I enjoy that nacho cheeez that comes in the yogurt tubs at the movie theater. I have range. First, The Running Man.

1. I do not understand why we as a nation insisted on pretending that Arnold Schwartzenegger is a born and bred American when his accent is fooling precisely no one. His character’s name is Ben Richards. I mean, c’mon with that.

2.The film takes place in 2017 which always amuses me – when a movie tries to predict what the future is going to be like. It reminds me of these every time:

3. I learned that the film takes place in 2017 from the scroll of text at the beginning which was in what I assume is a futuristic font but is actually kinda hard to read. I had to rewind and watch it twice. The S looks like a B and the R looks like an A and the D looks like an O, it’s not a great time.

“TELEVIBION IB CONTADLLED BY THE BTATE ANO A BAOISTIC GAME BHDW CALLED”

I felt like I was reading an eye chart.

4. Uhhhhh, why did no one tell me Arnold looks so good with a beard and why didn’t we encourage him to rock that all the time? He looked smexy as hell.

5. Snorth informed me that there’s a song that sampled Richard Dawson’s lines from the film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKduhUXa0rg
I would have listened to this incessantly as a high schooler had I known about it. I might listen to it incessantly now. Again, my taste has a large range.

6. Who when they saw the name “Richard Dawson” in the opening credits thought that a British man was going to tell us there is no God and the definition of the word “meme”? Just me? Never mind.

7. Favorite part of the film: The Running Man dancers who were choreographed by Paula Abdul. I could have watched an hour and a half of them in their high-cut leotards and glitter-sprayed hair and I would have been content with that. And my favorite part of my favorite part was the dancer who lifts her leg up as Arnold is led by to his potential death. It’s like she thought, “That light is going to hit me as he goes past and it’s my chance to shine! Acknowledge my flexibility! Side split! Boom!” It happens at the 1:18 mark on this link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GytcPIpgDlQ

Also of note is the Martha Graham modern dance piece to commemorate the gruesome passing of two beloved killers. This movie is gloriously weird.

8. Second favorite part: Fat blonde man in a Lite Brite-encrusted clear plastic gladiator uniform who sings opera and shoots electricity to kill his victims. None of that is a typo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy8rT8oHCbI

I would recommend The Running Man because it’s not good but definitely not bad either. It’s “of a time” and should be seen as such. It’s a fun laundry-folding-while-you’re-watching kind of thing.

 

Then there was Flash Gordon. I knew the music from this film for a long time because I listened to a lot of Queen. I assumed (foolishly as hell it turns out) that if Queen was involved it would be a good film. Max Von Sidow’s in it! Dino De Laurentiis produced it! It had a ginormous budget! The aforementioned Queen soundtrack! It had to be good!

It was not good.

What was great was the sets and costumes. They were top notch.

If I had to sum up the costumes with one phrase, it would be “bugle beads.” HOLY CRAP the use of bugle beads on these outfits, I’m surprised any bugle beads are left in the world. In case you don’t know, a bugle bead is like a long glass seed bead often lined on the inside with metal for added reflectibility.

The costumes and headdresses were slathered in rows and rows of bugle beads. They were glued down. They were sewed on. It was out of control.

There’s an attempt at a movie around the sets and costumes. I won’t bother to sum it up. It’s boring and whatever happens and no one cares. I would recommend turning the sound completely off and having it play in the background a party for people to look at when they’re not schmoozing with other party-goers. That’s it. It’s not even worth watching with sound for the Queen music. Tres tres disappointement.

Kitchen progress.

June 21st, 2018

Good stuff regarding my countertop: I painted over the dark parts of the ripples, most of the background and two of the five fish. I have some photographic proof.

You’ll notice I made the fishies more fancy-like. I figured since I have to redo them I might as well upgrade them a smidge. The improvements that have been made are a stronger outline, larger eyes and graded dots on the top that create a sense of roundness and depth. Here’s a shot of the old style so you can compare.

So now begins the profoundly tedious process of painting around all those dark lines and around the edges of the rocks up against the wall. It’s nice though because it’s mindless so I can listen to podcasts and just zone out a bit. It’ll get done. I have faith.

I made a thing.

June 17th, 2018

Does everyone know about my ongoing feud with Russia? Specifically, how goshdurned good they are at crafting and how I feel compelled to crush them with my talent? I believe I mentioned it here. And here. In keeping with this quixotic quest I received an email from my sister K. with pictures of bead-woven necklaces from a Russian website. Even though I couldn’t read anything I looked at the pictures and I really liked the wildflower look of the pieces.

Specifically this one.

While viewing this unabashed awesome talent I got all huffy and was like NOT THIS TIME, RUSSIA. IT’S MY TIME TO SHINE. So I decided to make a lariat for myself using only beads I already own with leaves and seeds at the bottom. I found a whole bunch of really pretty twisted metallic / rose gold-like bugle beads so I worked off of that and made this. I think it turned out pretty great.

If you decide to make a necklace like this, might I recommend what I did which is build all the leaf / seed elements separately and then assemble them as you make the dangly components. That way if you make something that isn’t working (which happened to me) you can simply unravel the cord and remove the leaves and seeds, then fix it and put them back on. No harm, no foul.

Fun fact: I did a Google image search to find out the name of the artist of those wildflower necklaces and it is… Margo Fields. A woman from New Mexico. Not a Russian. I got all riled up for nothing. I don’t regret creating the lariat, it is a piece I will wear and it was a nice stretch for me, but perhaps in the future I should do research before I get a bunch of cyrillic bees in my bonnet unnecessarily.

 

Podcasts that are simultaneously fascinating and appalling. Enjoy!

June 8th, 2018

I had to build a massive project and I wanted something nice to listen while I was enmeshed in work hell so I went to Snorth for a list of podcasts to plow through like it was my job. The project is over and I’ve made it through a goodly portion of Snorth’s recommendations. She and I both like a good true crime podcast and here is the list of what I’ve listened to so far. Warning: these podcasts will not increase your love for your fellow man. Many, too many folks are made of paranoia and hammer claws. Every episode has me making this face:

Like, I get you have to kill that person. They wronged you, I understand. But did you need to do weird stuff with the body? Was that completely necessary? Cut them up? Shove the parts in a tree? Eat the remaining bits? It’s too much.

True Crime Obsessed. Here is the description from their site:

This podcast is a place for you to get even more information on all things true crime. We’ll be talking about podcasts, documentaries, movies (as in “Zodiac”), books, television shows, you name it. 

There is so much out there and we’re going to tell you about it in a knowledgeable and, let’s be honest, funny way. We will always be respectful but we’ll also sprinkle some levity in there because if we don’t we’ll all be miserable, depressed messes. These are the true crime conversations you’d have with your friends… if your friends didn’t think you were a total creep for wanting to watch “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane”… again.

It’s two people, Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle, two theater nerds who I believe host a Broadway  musicals podcast together as well. They are gloriously sassy and opinionated and they ring a bell when they like someone (“Hero Bell!!!”) or when they do not like someone (“Garbage Bell!!!”) (it really helps that they announce what kind of emotion they’re conveying with the bell because it’s the same bell for both). True Crime Obsessed predominantly covers documentaries but they’ll branch out to other mediums on occasion. They have a Facebook page where they take suggestions. It’s about as much fun as you can have listening to horrific stories about liars and cheaters and murderers. I definitely recommend it.

 

Criminal. Here’s the description from their site:

Criminal launched January of 2014, and is based in Durham, North Carolina. New episodes come out twice a month, always on Fridays. In 2015, we won a Third Coast International Audio Festival “Best Documentary” award for our story, 695-BGK, and were chosen as an iTunes “Best of 2015.” In 2016, we were featured in “Best of” lists in Wired, The Atlantic, USA Today, and Rolling Stone. We travel all around the country to interview people, and sometimes take the show on the road to tell stories live.

“A true­ crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive.”  –Vulture

This is a very NPR-y type structure. The nice lady who hosts, Phoebe Judge, has a strong case of soothing NPR voice which for some reason I find wildly irritating. I feel compelled to post Patton Oswalt’s bit about NPR whenever I mention NPR. However, I girded my loins and gritted my teeth and now I don’t even hear Phoebe’s vocal stylings at all. I built up a tolerance, I guess. It’s a well-researched show that interviews the victims (when possible because, you know, sometimes they’re dead) or the family members so it’s not second-hand. Unlike Serial each episode is its own entity which I did not realize until the third episode. I was SO confused. It’s an excellent podcast to listen to while you’re organizing files or color-correcting images. Interesting, engaging but not overly or unnecessarily dramatic. Also, someone draws a little descriptive sketch for each episode and I am a big fan of hiring illustrators in this day and age.

 

Small Town Dicks. Worst name for a podcast ever. Here’s the description from their site:

Small Town Dicks is a podcast about the big-time crime that’s happening in Small Town, USA. Each episode features the detectives who broke the case in their small town, and includes assets like jailhouse phone calls, suspect interviews and 9-1-1 calls. The show is anchored by veteran, identical-twin detectives Dan and Dave, and hosted by actresses, Yeardley Smith and Zibby Allen.

Do you recognize that name, Yeardley Smith? It’s because she’s the voice of Lisa Simpson. Let me tell you how weird it is to hear the voice of Lisa Simpson ask a police officer, “So, when you found the corpse did you run a rape kit or wait for the coroner?” Aside from the culture shock of Yeardley’s voice, it’s taken from the point of law enforcement and what see and encounter when they go to crime scenes as well as how they they interrogate the people of interest to sort out what happened and who’s responsible. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of cops and detectives on the crimes they experience.

 

Sword and Scale. This podcast is a grim one. Here’s their description:

Sword and Scale is an internet radio show and website covering the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it. The show and website were launched January 1st, 2014 and feature stories of murder, abduction, rape and even more bizarre forms of crime. It’s the purest form of true-crime where nothing is off the table. Everything from 911 calls to court testimony, interviews with victims and sometimes with perpetrators give listeners a 360 degree look at the entire story. Told from the narrator’s point of view, Sword and Scale goes beyond the news clips and the sensationalist headlines to give listeners the whole story and deeper insight into the cases it covers than any other medium.

They don’t cut corners. They don’t soften the details. You’re gonna learn all the facts no matter how upsetting. Sword and Scale plays a great deal of the 911 calls so get ready for unintelligible screaming. I do recommend it though, but don’t binge-listen like I did. It will give you a big case of the gloomies. Maybe alternate with a comedy podcast, or one on wine-tasting, something light and refreshing with laughter and pleasure.