Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

San Francisco, Part 3.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Alcatraz! But first, other stuff.

On our first day in San Fran Ness-Ness took us to the Castro district for lunch. That is the historically gay neighborhood. I believe it’s referred to in the movie Milk (phenomenal movie, go see it). There were your standard gay area shops but there was also two naked guys wandering around. Older naked guys. Wandering around the streets being naked. To be honest they weren’t completely naked, they were wearing tiny sparkly cape over their parts. Not the eggs, only the stalk. And one guy’s cape was too short so his stalk was peekin’ from the bottom which somehow made it worse. Once the gentlemen had passed we went to a cafe for lunch. Please note the name. Keeping faithful to the area and its motif.

At first I was like those prices are kinda high and then they brought the food out and I was like never mind. The portions were big, the food was excellent, you should go there. The fruit crepe was dope as hell. A+ fruit crepe.

Another thing I saw whilst strolling the streets: a sign shop that does hand painting. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about anything with calligraphy or hand-painted letters (big big fan). Imagine my delight at seeing this. So many styles! So crisp, so even! Strong, purposeful brush strokes! I swoon.

Now, Alcatraz. Crickets loooooooves behind-the-scenes tours. Loves ’em. I do too but he did all the booking so we saw all kinds of secret magical things. One of those things was a tour of Alcatraz conducted by a person (the basic tour has you carry around a little tape recorder that instructs you where to go). I am now awash in knowledge. Allow me to share it with you.

As I said before I only took three photos at Alcatraz because I was trying to live in the moment but I will rely on the gazillion other people that have been there to provide me with pictures. Okay, so Alcatraz was a tortoise-back-shaped island until around the mid-1800s when it was made into a military fort. I think it’s been part of the U.S. Government (as opposed to San Francisco property) since then. I know it’s now considered a national park so when we went on our tour a federal park person accompanied us. She pointed out that since we were on federal property, even though we were only a mile from San Francisco, no one could use marijuana or marijuana-based materials at any time. (I do not personally partake in the healing weed but that point of it being illegal intrigued me.) Now, one might think it’s only a mile to San Francisco, why didn’t any of those escapees make it, and it’s because of the temperature of the water – very cold – and the current. There is a race to swim to San Fran every year but it was pointed out that these people had trained and, more importantly, were wearing cold water wet suits which insulated them. One of the first things the soldiers did when they got to the island was hack a chunk of the side of the tortoise back so there was a sharp cliff. That way invaders didn’t have a way to get up to the fortress. They also grew agave plants all over the side of the cliff because you cannot navigate through them, they’ll slice you right up. Here’s an oldey-timey picture where you can see the man-made cliff.

When the fortress was done fortressing it was used for holding POWs and the prison was built right on top of it. So when you’re standing at the base of the main building you can see massive stone chunks which then turn into cement and that’s where the prison layers begin and even those are visibly different, from the POW prison to the criminal prison. There are several other buildings on the island because the guards and their families lived in the same place as the prisoners. The guards had nice apartments and there were twelve ferries every day back and forth from San Fran so the wives could go and pick up necessities and the families could go see a movie or whatever, but they lived right next to the cells. Imagine being a little kid and growing up like that. Anyway, because of the guards being residents there was a social house and a school house and a power station, etc. Alcatraz was only the prison we know it as from 1930-something to 1960-something, not that long.

If I had to sum up my experience at Alcatraz it would be astonishment at how similar it was to Shawshank Redemption. I’ve probably mentioned numerous times how that is my favorite movie but I figured it was hyped up to make it a more interesting story. I was wrong. Apparently the new inmates came off the ferry chained together at the feet, were hosed down and given anti-lice powder and then were walked to their cells naked while the more experienced prisoners yelled “New fish!” at them. The cells at Alcatraz look just like they do in Shawshank (except that the walls are painted pretty shades of salmon and mint, which is weird). They had The Hole which I got to visit. The showers were all open with rows of overhead pipes and sprinklers. They showed movies twice a month. Heck, even look at this picture of the yard. It’s got the layout and same stepped area that is in the first scene where Red takes bets on who will cry first. The similarities are nearly endless.

More on The Hole: It is solitary confinement in the dark. It’s supposed to really break you down. In Alcatraz it was originally a leftover portion of the fortress underground.

There was a toilet off to the side for the guard to use and let me tell you that was the scariest thing I saw on the whole tour. If anything is haunted there it’s that toilet. I don’t know how to describe it but it was run down and the smooth white seat was cracked down the middle and I think it didn’t help that it was on the edge of a looooooong corridor that was dark (remember, we’re in the fortress here so many creepy corridors to be had) so if you were sitting on this toilet (no stall, out in the open) on your left were prisoners trapped in darkness and on your right was a tunnel leading to who-knows-what. POW corpses probably. Nightmare fuel, I tell ya. Eventually they moved the solitary confinement upstairs where it was sound-proof and in complete darkness. Here’s an article about it. Don’t read it, maybe. Because once something is known, it cannot be unknown.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11245414/My-19-days-in-solitary-confinement-on-Alcatraz.html

The SC cells looked like this:

I have to say the coolest part of the tour was showing how the cell doors opened and closed. I’ll try to explain it. At the end of the rows of cells is a large box. In that box is three levers. Over the all the cell doors in a massive bicycle chain with metal pins in it. The guard chooses to open cells 2, 5 and 13. The guard pulls the first lever to 3 (there’s a strip with numbers on the side of the lever so he knows where to line it up to). He pulls the second lever to drop the pin into the door of cell 3. He pulls the first lever to 5. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 5. Pulls first lever to 13. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 13. Finally, he pulls the massive third lever, those door with pins in them move with the bicycle chain and open. The rest of the doors don’t have dropped pins in them so they don’t open. I found a video showing you how it works. Start at 3:39.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbVMbdaz8ZI

The reason I know how all this works is because they have a section of the chain housing covered with plexiglass so you can see it in operation. It’s pretty awesome. There’s no electronics so it works in a blackout. Totally worth checking out.

Next entry: Muir Woods and other stuff.

Addendum: Cricket took a picture of the upsetting basement toilet. Horrifying. Enjoy.

It’s not all bad. Here is some internet to cheer you up.

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

1. At first I was like NOOOOOO and then I was like awwwwww.

http://tumblrsbest.com/post/178741208346/helthehatter-jessadamsdraws-hanitjemars

 

2. The moth meme, maybe the stupidest / fascinating meme of all time. If you’re not familiar with this I’ll take you through it. A man took a photo of a moth.

That’s it. A photo of a moth. The Internet for some reason I do not understand felt a strong kinship with this moth and decided to make, oh, a million or so memes about it. Some make sense, some don’t, some reference other memes, it’s a whole thing. Get ready.

      

Because rule 34 exists, there are sexy drawings of the moth.

And because people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, someone got a tattoo.

3. Any time a neural network tries to come up with something it always the straight-up best, and these paint names are no exception.

4. This doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I adore this picture. Not only is the frog the guardian of the sauce, but he also looks like vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup dripping down him. Everything about this picture is glorious.

5. This picture(s) of a lunar eclipse is awesome.

Some good design. And some less good design. One might say garbage design.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

I encounter a lot of design choices every day. Possibly no more than any other person, but I’m hyper-aware of them due to my career. I’ve talked about how I have binders full of design ideas that I collect in a folder and print out from time to time. So when I see good design it jumps out at me. And when it’s not good it also jumps out at me but it also vomits ectoplasm in my face like the ghosts in Ghostbusters. Let’s start with the good.

Some people have problems with their joints – they pop out, they’re too loose, they click and hurt. Normally they have to wear lame finger and wrist devices that are boring and sterile-looking, it’s an outfit-killer for sure. Which is why when I saw Silver Ring Splint Company I was impressed. Good for them, creating things of beauty out of necessity.

And now onto less good design.We’ll start with something light. I walk past a McDonald’s on my way to work and my distance eyesight is getting worse due to sitting in front of a computer all day so when I saw this sign I could not make out the “Our” smashed in between the “Join” and “Team.” I therefore read it in as a yelling Russian voice. “JOIN TEAM! YOU JOIN TEAM NOW!!” Until I walked up close to it and saw the “Our” I thought McDonald’s was getting a bit aggressive in their tactics.

Second unfortunate example: Whilst perusing Amazon or some such site I saw a banner ad at the top of my screen. I think they were going for a cloud with three bottles of Olay on it.

What I saw (because humans are predisposed to see faces in objects) was a wino who was down on his luck. Maybe just too many Christmases alone, or maybe his liver is finally giving out. I’ll zoom in so you can see.

Here’s a version I photoshopped to make it even clearer for you.

My point being my first reaction to this ad was not “I want to smear your fancy skin cream on my face” but more like “I am concerned about the homeless senior citizens is my area.”

The answer to this is easy: Never structure a group of products in anything that might be construed as a face. Three bottles in a row, decreasing in size. Simple. Non-facelike. I will make you a rough example.

See? That took me approximately fifteen minutes max and while it’s far from perfect you know what it doesn’t conjure in your mind? An alcoholic who looks like the physical manifestation of a defeated sigh.

Third and final failure of design: I also walk past Sax Fifth Avenue on my way to work and they change their windows up pretty regularly. Most of the windows are awesome tailored suits for women. I liked almost all of them. Look at this series of baller jackets and pants.

And nope. This is a hard nope right here.

Taking a shapeless garment and hot-gluing a bra onto the front of it with the hook parts hanging down ain’t gonna cut it. If one person says it’s fashion I will throw my shoe at them like that guy and President Bush, so intense will be my rage. C’mon now.

Everything’s the WORST.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

I watch a ton of Cartoon Network and Disney XD because those are excellent shows to have on in the background while you’re working on your laptop. They’re bright and fun and the plot’s not critical, they make great filler. Along with cartoons come commercials aimed at children, so a great many toy ads. Changing topics slightly: I understand the need for excrement in one’s life as a necessity but I cannot for the life of me understand the joy people find in turds – the poop emoji being a prime example. For some reason it really bothers me. Enter some of the toys I’ve seen commercials for recently, a.k.a. these atrocities that haunt my nightmares.

Flushin’ Frenzy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEtM1gwCkP8

Don’t Step In It:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjztIsqVI2Q

Doggie Doo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPQrTKoP8Zo

Poopeez:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6aUvDsTMRU

I can’t. I seriously can’t. I’m going to go back to watching women-killing-their-husbands reenactment shows where the commercials are mainly for Life Alert and debt consolidation. It’s too much.

 

Addendum: Poopsie Slime Surprise! Sparkly unicorn poop, for girls! That is a very catchy jingle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1p1nR6Fivk

New York musings.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

1. This past summer when The Moomins took me to all those concerts in Lincoln Center I noticed there were seats behind the orchestra for when there’s giant choirs. They were black chairs with with metal armrests which was fine when the lights were up.

However when the lights went down and the tips of the armrests caught the light they looked like creepy animal eyes peering out of the forest. I didn’t take a picture during the performance because I’m not a HEATHEN GARBAGE PERSON LIKE THE GUY IN FRONT OF ME DICKIN’ AROUND ON HIS CELLPHONE so I photoshopped exactly what it looked like. It certainly made the concert spookier which I consider a bonus.

 

2. I passed a pawn shop on 8th Avenue and the window was filled with the usual… and a giant tomato. I decided it was because the owner wanted the tomato to ripen or something, but it really drew your attention away from the merchandise.

 

3. I saw a really nice mashup of modern and retro. I was walking past a coffee shop and I saw what looked like one of the oldey-timey Edison bulbs, but the filaments were replaced by three rows of discs where the edges of the discs had wee yellow LEDs. It looked really cool. I highly recommend using it if you’re thinking about eclectic but environmentally conscious lighting.

I found a pic online. It’s called the Edison LED Fireworks bulb.

 

4. I don’t normally care much about fashion but Cole Haan has come out with sandals that look like lobsters. Not only are they lobsters, but they’re ombre lobsters.

I support this fashion movement and I hope that the spring fashion season is awash in color-blend sea creatures. See my previous three posts to understand my love of ocean beasties (it’s intense).

 

5. Closing with another weird store window: There is a sweet perma-Christmas store down the street from my job and they sell all kinds of charming trinkets as well as old hotel keys with the tags on them (I do love an old hotel logo). But in there window right now, monopolizing the whole left front section is a intentionally dirty handmade doll of the Statue of Liberty. I believe they were going for whimsical but it looks straight-up haunted. Haunted and stinky.

I can make you a badly sewn doll and then drag it behind me on a string through the streets of NY on a rainy day if that’s what you’re looking for in home decor. I don’t like to call people out for how they dress their homes but unless you’re running a Halloween Horror House and need to make a children’s room extra creeptacular I would say skip this one. You’re just asking for problems (and by problems I mean ghosts).

Cricket went scuba-diving! We’re gonna look at some dope fish, part 2.

Friday, August 24th, 2018

More fish! Excellent, magical fish. Get ready.

But first, anemonemones! Memonemones! Mnemonoes! Mahnahmahnah (doodoodoodoodoo)!

My favorite are the ones that look like little hands.

Big ornery crab.

Two very beautiful fish that resisted classification due to my ignorance of oceanography and whatnot.

A not-great picture of a boxfish but look at those patterns! Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about hexagons (I’m pro).

And a far better picture of a boxfish but without any hexagons (boo).

Trumpet fish. I think they should be called Flute fish because they do not flare out at the end but I wasn’t there when they were naming the fishes so I lost my vote.

Nurse shark. Nurse shark. Nurse shark. Shark skin. I like nurse sharks because they do not have those gross eyes that pull in to the socket when they bite. Ugh, those give me nightmares.

 

Cricket was attacked by a protective fish. “Attacked” is a strong word. He tried to bite Cricket with his little moopers again and again but sadly, due to the fact the Cricket is a thousand times bigger that AggroFish and wearing a wetsuit, the bites did not have the desired effect. However, Cricket appreciated the little guy’s tenacity.

Conches! It is pronounced “konk.” I’ve being saying it wrong for the majority of my life. They are similar to snails. Here are the trails they leave when they trot around on the sea floor.

The best part of the conch is their eyes. They peer out from under their shells with concern and anxiety and I always enjoy seeing them.

Brace yourself for some supreme cuteness. Wee bebbeh boxfish. He was extremely wee so Cricket couldn’t get a good focus on him. First, an example pic so you know what you’re looking at.

I know. Epic cuteness. Now Cricket’s photos. So precious. My heart hurts looking at it. I love you, tiny fren!

That’s it for now. Next entry: the final pics. Get ready to shriek with excitement (I did).

A light smattering of internet. Mostly nature-related.

Friday, August 10th, 2018

1. A VERY important article about the our friend the boxfish.

http://anklecrack.tumblr.com/post/174496481893/its-hip-to-be-square

 

2. I don’t know what ballet this is from but I REALLY need to see it. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can buy tickets asap thnx.

http://10knotes.1000notes.com/post/80231584492

 

3. Look at the beautiful pattern of weathering on this chainlink fence.

It reminds me of the graffiti artist El Mac and the circular patterns found in his work.

 

4. I love that the artist Alexis Pavlantos is making dung beetles with felted dung balls as jewelry. I went to the site and no items related to the dung beetle is being sold which is a bummer, but it’s still cool as hell. Maybe Pavlantos will bring back the poop-pushing jewelry line. Let’s hope.

 

5. The Audubon website recently had an article on the gorgets of hummingbirds. The gorget is the bib area and it is often really bright and metallic. This particular photo blew me away. I never realized that each of those little peaks and valleys is one feather, not the whole curved scale section. Those feathers are teeny-tiny.

 

6. Trees no want to make touch.

It’s so cool and no one has a concrete answer on why trees do it. Wikipedia has some theories.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_shyness

 

7. Uhhhhhh, I don’t know what kind of filter or video-editing program this is but I kind of want to edit everything to be like this. That is trippy as hell.

http://photoelectron.tumblr.com/post/133267929461/walking-down-a-trail-in-charlottesville-a-few

Cape May, NJ.

Monday, 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.*

Friday, 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.

Whipped Cream Ballet.

Friday, 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.