Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Mexico 2019 Part 4.

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

More city center stuff! Before we delve into that, let’s look at a sign that made me feel a variety of emotions simultaneously – rage, despair, confusion, sadness, other ones. Here it is.

Now I spend my entire day creating signage like this so I have trained my eye to catch bad choices. Therefore the epic tragedy of this sign might not be immediately obvious to you. That’s why I made these helpful notes to bring you into my world of sorrow.

Ughhh. I know there are amazing designers in the country, go find one and rectify this.

I also wanted to show you the symbol of Mexico because it pops up periodically. You can see it on the flag. It’s an eagle holding a snake in its claw on top of a cactus with a indigenous thing under the cactus. I’m not being disrespectful. I asked numerous times what the thing was. It looks kind of like a pillow with thick twig branches. No one could tell me except that it was part of the pre-Hispanic era.

I looked on Wikipedia. It says the symbols are:
The eagle, in a combative stance
The snake, held by a talon and the beak of the eagle
The nopal on which the eagle stands; The nopal bears some of its fruits (tunas)
The pedestal, on which the nopal grows, immersed in the Aztec symbol for water
Oak and laurel leaves encircling the eagle cluster; tied together with a ribbon with the Mexican flag’s colors

Okay, so that’s more information than I had before. I still want to get clarification on the details but that’s good for now. Related: Since our tour ended near sunset I got to watch the folding of the giant flag.

CHARCH! We went to the cathedral. Unfortunately, like most places of conquest the cathedral was built on the site of the previous religion’s destroyed house of worship. These were the original steps.

Surprise: The churches and cathedrals, despite being build during the Baroque period which is the most gaudy period in ever, are surprisingly tasteful. I mean there are splashes of WayTooMuch but the whole interior is not bad. The only gold-encrusted excessiveness was the organ and the altar. The organ is very cool, it has organ tubes sticking directly out and it’s double-sided.

Here’s the altar. It’s very Baroque.

But the rest, lovely. Clean. Simple.

I saw a pendulum in the middle of the aisle. I’ve seen those before and they’re usually to show the rotation of the earth throughout the year but this one is different. Since the city is slowly sinking into the mud this one shows how much the cathedral is shifting.

The city has a lot of tilting, a lot of sagging. Near the end of the tour we saw a two buildings where they needed to spackle between them because they were ever so slowly sliding away from each other.

Outside the cathedral is the main square. The cathedral is a major center of Catholicism. It may seem obvious but it’s important. Directly in front of the cathedral were people sitting in front of blankets. I assumed they were selling trinkets but no, they had herbs and candles and other objects. And they were practicing pagan rituals taught down throughout the generations from their ancestors. I heard a sound that concerned me, it sounded like a man AGGRESSIVELY vomiting but it was one of the shamans doing a bark / growl combo. He was cleansing a woman of demons because she was possessed. This is real. Did I mention this was happening in front of the cathedral? And is that a child’s skull on that blanket? It was at that time that I left. I did not need that answered.

Time for candy and snacks. We went to a ye olde candy shop that sold traditional Mexican sweets. The interior and signage is intact and unchanged.

The guide Pau pointed out one particular snack, a brick of seeds. She said:

“You know, this was banned when the Spanish got here.”

Me: “?”

Pau: “It is amaranth held together with honey.”

Me: “Sounds nice.”

Pau: “But it used to be held together with human blood.”

Me: “Ok, there it is.”

After that we went past the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It looks like a glorious Europen turn of the century building.

But if you get up close there are smatterings of Mexican imagery. Like the man wearing the jaguar head and the snakes around the doorway.

See? If you’re not looking you could totally miss it.

There were a few other things we saw that were notable. One is the inability of the Mexicans to carve lions in the 1500 – 1600s. They had jaguars. They did great jaguars. Imagine a jaguar with a fluffy mane, right? Nope. Janky dog-monkeys for days.

Coming up next: Murals and craftsmen.

Mexico 2019 Part 3.

Friday, February 21st, 2020

I apologize for the tardiness between posts. My whole family thought my dad was DYING. We were doing the whole bedside vigil thing at the hospital which, as you can imagine, is very time-consuming. Over time we settled on Dying?? and then it turned into straight-up Not Dying and now he’s in a elderly care facility. I still split my time between working and helping my mom and there was no blogging. But now that he’s in a home and stable I can return to my regular activities. I would like to share my favorite picture from this whole ordeal and it’s when they transferred my dad from the hospital to the home.

Uhhh, that doesn’t look right, with the seat belts all higglety-pigglety like that. What is he, Hannibal Lecter? I sent the photo to Cricket who has locked many a person onto a stretcher in the same way and he simply wrote back “All of that is wrong.” I started laughing and couldn’t stop while I took this picture. Look at my father’s face. His expression says “Is this mockery absolutely necessary?” (It was.)

Before we get back to Mexico proper let’s look at some rando pics I have and wish to share.

Art Nouveau stained glass.

Extremely large cactus. The Moomins for scale.

Coffee maker. I had them explain how it works. You put water in the golden container on the right and light the little flame underneath it. The water boils and goes through the tube into the glass container with the coffee grounds in it. Then the flame is extinguished and the vacuum created causes the now coffee-infused water back into the golden container. You open that wee spigot in the front and you’ve got your coffee. I think it’s pretty cool.

Okay, onto the actual topics of the day. We went on a tour of the main part of Mexico City in the morning and then a tour of the murals in the same area. First we explored the center of the city. The guide (who’s name was Pau, she was awesome) said if we take one thing away from this tour it is “Don’t build your city on a lake.” There was originally an island in the center and then the island-dwellers made proto-islands all around that to grow crops and then they became legit islands and then the lake was drained and now everything is on squishy ground and is sinking down in the most inconvenient way. This is a major church in the middle of the city.

The property of the church is a solid four feet below the street level because it is heading on down and they can’t lift it up, churches are very heavy. So now there are stairs and that’s just how it is.

This is the city square. It is the third largest city square in the world: First there’s the one in Moscow, then Tiananmen Square in China and this one.

Off to one side was a section where someone was digging to create a structure and oh look it’s an archeology site and now we can’t dig anymore.

It was very cool. There was a snake, possibly a feathered serpent:

But the thing that I found the most helpful was a 3D map that showed all the islands that the original dwellers made to grow crops.

Hospital! Pau took us to a hospital, the most mundane-looking hospital you can imagine. If I had to describe it I would use the words “unexceptional and satisfactory.” Here’s a picture of a hallway.

I couldn’t fathom why we were there until Pau took us inside. Turns out the bleh hospital was built around a colonial hospital and that was secret-y and beautiful.

You can see a bit of the present hospital built around this courtyard.

Here’s the entry on Wikipedia about the history of this hospital.

The Church and Hospital are supposedly located at the spot where Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma II met for the first time in 1519, which was then the beginning of the causeway leading to Iztapalapa. Cortés ordered the hospital built to tend to Aztec soldiers wounded fighting with the Spanish.

In his last will, Cortés states that he wanted the hospital to be built for the sons of the Aztec warriors who had perished in battle during the Conquest of Tenochtitlan. This was not an institution for wounded Spanish soldiers.

In 1646, the hospital was the site of the first autopsies performed on the American continent, performed to teach anatomy to medical students of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. In 1715, the hospital published the Regia Academia Mariana Practica Medica to promote more professional practices in the field of medicine in New Spain. The building today continues to function as a hospital.

On the second level a class was being taught to the hospital staff. Did you know nurses still wear those WWII origami hats? I did not.

I was delighted to see that someone built anatomy models out of clay as opposed to buying fancy plastic ones. Crafts! For science!

Now, I came with The Moomins to Mexico City to see the murals by all the famous artists (there will be a post about them later). I am ashamed to say my favorite murals were the ones surrounding the outer edge of this courtyard painted in the 1970s by no one of note. I thought they were so smooth and magical, like a combination of Rousseau and Where The Wild Things Are. I found a photo of the panel representing the meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma.

The Wikipedia entry says that the strip above the mural is original from the 1600s and I’d like to believe that, but Wikipedia also says these murals were painted by the famous Mexican artist Orozco and that is definitely wrong. This is the mural.

And this is a typical example of Orozco’s work.

Yeah, no. I don’t care who you are, you can see that. So the entire second floor has this mural representing the typical life of  pre-Colonial and a bit of post-Colonial societies. There is symbolism everywhere. For example, the reason the little kid is holding a bunny near the moon is because the bunny represents the moon. I found that so cool because Japan has the same folklore. It’s amazing how distant cultures have the same mythologies.

This is a wedding. The bride and groom tied their garments together during the ceremony which Mexicans still do but on a smaller scale like tying handkerchiefs together. The elders on either side are whispering wisdom to each other and those marks coming out of their mouths represent talking. It’s so cool that they look like our speech bubbles but the pictograms were created hundreds of years ago and were translated when the Aztec Codexes were found. People have always been people.

This panel represents magic and occurrences that foretold the future. That’s what the comet represents as well as the conjoined twin.

In addition to corn, squash and beans, the food staples of the indigenous people, insects were and are a big part of the diet (as mentioned in an earlier post). The two big edible bug groups are grasshoppers and maguey worms. The woman is covered in maguey worms and no one knows what the artist was going for but the common theory is that she is the spirit and source of the vital protein.

Once outside again we saw a cornerstone of a Spanish building. When Cortés ‘n’ Crew arrived they wanted to convert everyone to Catholicism so the Spanish knocked down all the existing temples and scattered the stones so the temples could not be reassembled. After a substantial amount of time Catholicism was the official religion and the Spanish could ease up on the oppression of the local belief system. Someone found this cool stone and used it as the cornerstone, probably not realizing it is the head of the most important god of the original Mexicans, Quetzalcoatl the Feathered Serpent.

Coming up next: More Mexico City tour with Cathedral.

Growth and knowledge via the Internet.

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

I went to Mexico! To look at art! And Oakland California! Where I ended up looking at art! Now I’m back. While I go through my gross dirty laundry and my stack of photos please enjoy these informative treasures.

 

1. This is a long read but it’s totally worth it. I was blown away.

https://pricklylegs.tumblr.com/post/188456524966/synebluetoo-costumersupportdept

 

2. There’s a man who makes things and I delight in watching him work. His name is Bobby Duke and not only is he talented as hell, he is also charming and has a Southern accent. I do love me an accent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkbJemDY-00

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSFPG1ACz5g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taF0nY9GqMg

 

3. I saw a video where a gorgeous male elk walked reeeeeeal close to some men who I think were fishing. The elk was so majestic. He turned his face toward the camera and made his call which sounded… piercing and otherworldly. I don’t know what I expected an elk call to sound like but it wasn’t this.

https://pricklylegs.tumblr.com/post/188374421161

I thought this elk might have been an anomaly but apparently not

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20PET6-Hr_c

I think it’s pretty amazing. People compare it to the sound the undead tormented nazguls make in Lord of the Rings but now that I know it comes out of such a cool creature I don’t find it frightful at all.

 

4. No one think of the cameraman.

https://blizzardofjj.tumblr.com/post/188492221581/nobody-thinks-of-the-cameraman

 

Update: Apparently EVERYONE knows the sound an elk makes except me. I am disappointed in myself for not knowing the calls of antlered mammals but I guess you can’t know everything. Hopefully this disappointment will ebb.

Update on the update: It has not ebbed.

Binging on TV and I don’t feel bad about it.

Monday, August 26th, 2019

As I have mentioned before I make crafts ‘n’ art all the time as if mandated by Saint Anastasia of Sirmium, patron saint of weavers, healers, martyrs and exorcists. During the time that I am diligently creating these masterpieces I have the TV on and I consume programs like it’s my job. Let’s look at my viewing history, shall we? Rhetorical question. We shall.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 on Hulu. Ooooo, that show makes me clench my everythings. A plus this season: Bradley Whitford. That man can do no wrong. I love him. He’s adorbs, he’s a great actor, he’s funny and smart off-screen – flawless. His character is chewy and interesting and you want to watch him and see what he does next. Another plus: Chris Meloni. That man is one of the most underappreciated actors. You want funny? He can do funny. You want creepy? He can do creepy. More work for Chris Meloni. Give him all the roles.  A minus this season: June should be dead. She has pulled shenanigans that should have got her hung on the wall numerous times but she is not dead and that feels fake. Kill off her character, it’ll be okay. We can follow the nineteen other side characters’ stories, they’re all super-interesting. Remember the episode where they followed Emily and Janine in the colonies? That was great. Remember the things happening when Emily is reunited with her wife and kid? Remember when we followed the Waterfords and got to see what they’re up to (nothing good, they’re garbage people)? Also great. We don’t need June. Kiiiiiiilllllll Joooooooooooon. In addition: The Marthas are the real heroes. Those dames are phenomenal. They keep secrets, they have underground societies, they move vital contraband like medications and they clean HARD. Excellent aggressive cleaning. Team Martha forever.

The Boys on Amazon. The best review I can give on this is “Did you like Deadpool 1 & 2? The extreme humor and violence? Well, have I got a show for you!” The Boys is based on a graphic novel and the show does an excellent job of conveying that. The actors are terrific and if you don’t like one character that’s fine, there’s ten other people to like. Everyone is broken in the most engaging ways. The superheroes are gloriously atrocious. It’s only eight or nine episodes and I’m already looking forward to Season 2. Please don’t get cancelled.

Lodge 49 on AMC / Hulu. This is a weird show. I am still undecided on whether I like it or not. The plot is slow and I am not thrilled at the direction it’s going. The show is teetering on the edge of being silly and not in a good way. Some elements I do like: The characters. The lead is played by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s son and he’s a really terrific actor. I abhor nepotism but he does a great job. I can’t stop looking at his eyes and eyebrows. I don’t know if his eyebrows are naturally like that or if he waxes / tweezes but they are well-groomed.

The additional characters I like are the lead’s sister (played by a British woman who’s American accent is impeccable) and the lead’s sponsor at the lodge. I recommend watching the first episode solely for the set design and decorating. Clearly whoever did the set design / decorating cared deeply about creating a backstory and conveying a mood. Sometimes I couldn’t concentrate on the dialogue because I was looking at each aspect of background.

Homecoming on Amazon. I decided to watch this based on nothing. I saw it got good reviews, I figured it couldn’t hurt and I watched the whole show in one long night. I don’t want you to know anything either because going in with no previous information made it engrossing in a way it would not if I had had some info beforehand. I recommend it. It unrolls slowly and beautifully and Julia Roberts did a damn fine job.

Fleabag on Amazon. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. That’s it. Evocative story. Funny. Sad.  Great actors (I love you Olivia Coleman, thank you for being). My one complaint was that it was only two seasons. I hope they do another season later in like ten years catching up with the characters. More Fleabag! All the Fleabag!

Mindhunter Season 2 on Netflix. Everyone watched Season 1 of Mindhunter, yes? Season 2 picks up where we left off. The characters continue to interview serial killers that existed and again whoever casts the killers is a genius. The similarities in appearance is uncanny. And Ed Kemper actor is back! We love you, Ed Kemper actor! Keep on keepin’ on! The season mainly follows one real case and the fact that I knew nothing about this case is heartbreaking. It reinforces how crimes involving white people and crimes that involve people of color are treated entirely differently. Get ready to be disappointed by people.

 

ADDITION: I have only one episode left of The Boys and if Antony Starr (Homelander) doesn’t get nominated for an Emmy I will throw a fit. That guy’s acting is off the charts. Not only is he acting a very difficult role but he’s Australian so he’s doing it all in a different accent. Great, all around. I want to fling awards at him and watch him bat them out of the air.

I have seen things, virtual things.

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

1. Are you aware of this? So cool.

https://l-ile-des-confidences.tumblr.com/post/177811016113/erdal-enci-who-clones-multiple-recordings-of

 

2. This is the best art. I want to live in this place more than anything. I ache to rest my tired body in a giant cat, or a fox, or a bunny in an ice cave covered with orb-shaped blue birds. Make sure you click on Page 2 to see all of them.

https://ruinedchildhood.com/post/185958521684/illustrator-imagines-a-world-where-gentle-giant

 

3. Was this a necessity? Did the world crave this to the point it needed to be made? It’s very… specific.

4. This animation is stellar. The rotoscoping* of Cab Calloway as a ghost is particularly great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFBx3qYGxL8

 

*To rotoscope is to trace a live action film frame by frame to create an animation precise to actual movements and forms. A well-known example is the “Take On Me” video.

 

5. In the process of looking for A-Ha gifs I found this (make sure your sound is on):

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=503281129866329

Which led me to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv02k3blZZw

Which led me to THIS (which really has very little to do with the other two but is too great not to share):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDXIa8ivFEc

Now I’m following @Ghetto.Spider on Instagram. I may watch this video ten times in a row for I snort-laugh every time I see it. I want to be in that parking lot so bad.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByYaNEhh-Np/

 

I am a hero.

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Did everyone have a nice Friday? I did not. I had a Mission: Impossible Friday. Let’s start at the beginning.

I received a letter from the DMV. “You need to renew your license,” it said. “It’s going to expire. Come in so we can do the thing.” Okay. I got all the documentation. W-2 with social security number, passport, mail from ConEd sent to me with my address on it, etc. Cricket made an appointment for me at 10:45 am so I could zip past all that sadness that the DMV is famous for. I arrived at 10:45am with all my paperwork. I totally forgot that they take your photo and I didn’t have my hair done or any makeup on but whatever, I’ll get in and get out and that will be the end of that. Who cares if I have an janky license pic. The picture-taking woman handed me a number, told me to fill out a form and wait. It was B366. The screen was at B317. Not too bad. I sat down on those uncomfortable church pews and waited.

AT 2:15 IN THE AFTERNOON they got to B366. I had – foolishly, it turned out – parked at a meter that only lasted an hour because ha ha! I was only going to be there for the wink of a dog’s sphincter or whatever. So every hour I had to panhandle my way around the DMV. “Anyone got change for a dollar? Hey pal, can you spare some quarters for a sad lady who hasn’t had breakfast yet and whose phone is at 27%?” When B366 popped up on the screen I scraped the moss off of myself (there was no air conditioning, it wasn’t cobwebs, it was moss) and approached the counter. At last, my task will be complete! Hurrah! The guy looked at all my documentation and said, “Do you have a birth certificate? Or a social security card?” I was like, no but I have every other document ever issued to me in the history of forever, look at this heaping pile of documents in front of you and rejoice, sir. He said, “Well, all your documents say ‘Jessica N Rothman’ but nowhere does it say what the N stands for.” I said Nicole, it stands for Nicole. He said he needed proof that it was Nicole. I said, hey let’s look at that license y’alls issued me and the one before that and ooo here’s my learner’s permit, they all say Jessica N Rothman, clearly this office is super-cool with this so can I go now please. He said no. He said if I can get back to the DMV with my birth certificate by 4:00 that day I would not have to come in again and wait for another billion hours.

This would be the time to press play on this video and listen to it while reading the rest of this story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAYhNHhxN0A

I ran to my car, found the Port Chester Clerk’s Office on my phone (19 minutes away!) and drove there in great haste. I ran into their office (it was air-conditioned and for the duration of my time there I smelled less like an unwell donkey so that was nice) and asked for my birth certificate. I filled out the info. I gave the $10 fee. It wasn’t even 3:00. I was going to make it. And then all my dreams were shattered. The clerk that notarizes the printout wasn’t there with his punchy-punch. The clock was ticking. I told the Port Chester office people my sad tale and they called the notary and told him to stop doing what he was doing (I believe he was at Stop & Shop) and get back asap. He came back at 3:30. He signed. He punchy-punched. I now had 1/2 hour to drive about 20 minutes, not including traffic. I drove like I was powered by Satan himself. I may have honked at an elderly man to get out of the road. I pulled up to the side of the building, parked illegally and put on my hazards, tickets be damned. I ran up two flights of stairs and got inside the DMV at… 3:58.5. I did it with a minute and a half to spare. Now I had to stroll casually around the waiting area for a minute before dealing with my license because I was panting so hard and seeing black spots in my peripherals and sweating all down my back. I think the security guard thought I was going to die. Hell, I thought I was going to die. During my recovery period they indeed locked the doors and had I been late I would have had to come back.  After I collected all my organs together into a body-like shape I went up to a counter. I explained my predicament to the new guy and he said that I had all the things finally and I could get my new license. I might have wept with joy. It all was taken care of.  Then I saw my license photo and wooo it was unfortunate. I would describe it as somewhere between a walrus wearing a wig caught mid-blink and a cryptozoogical forest monster made of burrata with purple twigs where the hair should be. It’s not great. But it will forever remind me of the time I spent about six hours at the DMV and how grateful I am to not have to do it again for about a decade, praise the God of your choosing.

Treasures from the internet.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Seriously, how much garbage-y garbage do you see on an average day whilst surfing the web? I found a example of what most of my blinking ads look like:

It’s annoying. But there’s some great nuggets to be discovered under the detritus. Let’s delve together.

1. Ask a Mortician. Have you been watching this on YouTube? I mentioned the channel back in 2013 but only now have I truly sat down and watched many many oh so many episodes. Caitlin Doughty is incredibly informative and charming and I love her and would want to be her friend if she lived in NY (sadly, her home base is LA). I love the opening credits that feature her now-deceased Siamese cat The Meow fluttering like an angel.

The episodes I liked best so far:

Closing Mouths Postmortem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8RtdsKQYZg

What is the Oldest Mummy in the World? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF4vL7p-jI0

Vultures, Forensics and Border Policy – Why Migrant Bodies Disappear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNow5soA714

Adipocere aka Corpse Wax: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi0Gi0sqXwg&t=360s

Exhumation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0cvVyIEfHI

Iconic Corpse – Eva Peron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIwj0ybenmM

Caitlyn has some books and a blog and she runs a very nice mortuary, I like her. I know I mentioned that earlier but I feel the need to reiterate.

 

2. I have a HORRENDOUS sense of direction. Before map apps if something was happening below 14th Street I refused to go because it was off the grid and I would get lost immediately. I’ve gotten lost in my hometown, the place I lived in for the first eighteen years of my life, a town that is nine miles square. It is not a cute quality. But I would venture into all the wilds if penguins would guide me on my way.

https://www.geek.com/apps/japanese-aquarium-uses-penguins-to-make-the-best-ar-app-ever-1599745/

Hey, computer inventor folk! Penguin guides for everything! I will accept not-penguins but I still want animals to lead me places. Waddling animals preferred. Get crackin’.

 

3. Additional item that’s not really internet-related but I want to share it anyway: When I went to Mexico for my beading class I saw some truly stellar alebrijes. Click here for explanation and examples. The most drool-worthy artists are Jacobo y Maria Angeles, a community of artists who make the most phenomenal alebrijes. If you saw the movie Coco by Pixar you may remember the alebrijes, specifically the rabbit-frog who spoke to me on a deep level.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8wpoIZj9iM

Pixar got much of their inspiration from the Angeles art community.

The whole point of this recap is that I saw a piece by them and I want it. I want it bad. Three words: Gold leaf eyelids.

And the pattern. And the tail that wraps around the body. It’s all the greatest. After I spend all my money on this I will live in a cardboard box with my beloved… lizard? and it will be glorious.

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.