It's Almost Over

Do you know what makes me happiest about the end of 2005? That I'm one year closer to never having to look at any variation of these again:

2010, I'm SO looking forward to you.

ADD or Just Boredom?

I hate repetitive tasks, I always have. Ask my mom or any of my grade school teachers about trying to teach me multiplication tables and I'm sure you'll get a story or two. To this day I still can't instantly call up some of the more... uhm... esoteric... multiplications. The 8's give me a lot of trouble.

The set that I am currently working on has had a LOT of repetitive tasks. 12 trees that had to be assembled and painted in three steps. Branches that had to be covered in glue, then glitter. Lengths of fabric that needed rings sewn across the top. A painted pattern that took multiple passes of a template. While working on these tasks for the last few days, (Yes, even Christmas day, thank you transit strike!) my hatred for the repetitive nature of them was in full swing. Id make a pass or two with the template, then assemble a tree. Then I'd sew a few rings on, Then I'd glue some glitter on branches. Eventually I started dividing tasks into segments. 48 branches became three 16 branch groups. Then I'd move on to trees. 12 trees became 3 groups of 4 trees. Dividing this stuff up seemed to make the tasks more palatable. I'm sure if anyone else had been working with me it would have driven them crazy.

After three days of this the set is complete, and I couldn't be prouder. Of the sets that I've seen for this particular theatre I am of t he opinion that this one one of the best. Using a little bit of stock scenery, a LOT of donated fabric, and tons of Christmas ornaments purchased at clearance prices in the floral district I think I've managed to pull off something quite stunning. It was a lot of fun too. It's a children's show so I had a good deal of leeway in the design and was given the freedom to make some fun and exciting choices. I'll be taking pictures later in the week. Tonight though I'm headed to bed, hopefully I won't dream about working in an assembly line or something similar.

Christmas Memories

Inspired by Paul Madonna this morning, some random Christmas memories from my family.

Waiting for the lights on the giant cedar in my great aunts front yard.

Ornaments with our names and birthdays hand-painted on by my mom.

My aunt's green jello salad.

My dad winning a gigantic stocking at a work raffle.

My grandmother insisting on reading us the biblical story, though none of us really paid attention.

Fighting with my cousins over ornaments made from rolls of Lifesavers and yarn.

Scouring the Sears Wishbook for just the right toys. He-Man, Crystarr, Weebles, Super Powers.

Trying to figure out who drew our names at the big family gathering.

Driving through the country with my mom, searching for just the right place to pull off and begin the hunt for our Christmas tree.

Subway Sketches Part LXXX

Subway Sketches Part LXXIX

Happy Holidays

Whatever your holiday flavor of choice, I hope that yours is warm, happy, cozy and the stuff of future good memories.

The Strike is OVER!

As of 3pm today the Transit Workers Union has officially ended the strike. There will not be full service until after midnight tonight, but I'm happy to see that things are moving again.

Governor Pataki came out yesterday and told the TWU that he refused to allow state mediation until the TWU sent their workers back to the lines. In the end he did allow mediators to go in, but the Union agreed to send workers back without a contract and get the city moving again.

It put a pretty big kink in my work schedule this week, but working freelance allows me to shift things around quite a bit thankfully. The next few days are going to be rough for me, trying to catch up with the work that I've put off though.

Thanks to everyone who wrote me, or commented here, expressing concern for me, and my fellow NYers during this. It was much appreciated.

Subway Sketches will return soon!

Strike Diary

The MTA continues to refuse to concede and return to work. This morning it was imperative that I actually go to work. As a freelancer, I have a particular leeway, as long as the job gets done on time, and on budget no one really cares about the details of when I did it, or how much time it took, but besides being behind schedule on the show I'm currently working on, I also had an interview for a new project. The two are in the same neighborhood, so... off I go. The following is recreated from notes I scribbled as I walked.

8:30am, Home: The art director of a project I am up for calls and asks if I can be in his office on Canal St. by 1, with my portfolio. I say yes. I estimate that this will take me 2 and a half hours of walking, so I decide to sleep a bit longer.

9:15, Home: Awake and showering, getting ready to leave. See previous post.

10:07am, 145th:
I'm headed down Broadway carrying a jigsaw in a case, and a backpack full of art. Four Blocks from home I realize that when I transferred everything from my usual bag to my backpack I didn't take the keys to the theatre. I go back to get them.

10:30am, 125th:
I debate briefly crossing town here and getting on Metro North to shortcut to Grand Central. I decide against it, which later proves to be a mistake.

10:55am, 99th: Out of the triple digits. My chills have been replaced by sweat. My chest and head seem particularly warm.

11:00am, 96th: I reach the "HOV4 Barrier" just as the police begin taking down the barricades. From 5am to 11am no cars are allowed beyond this point without 4 people inside. Lots of people have been willing to pick up strangers at this point if they had less than the required 4. I would have been willing to get into a car here, but now it isn't necessary so no one offers.

11:15am, 86th: My iPod dies. I've been debating replacing it for a while now, it's a second generation, and the battery life is a LOT shorter than it used to be. This makes it official, I'll likely replace it within the week.

11:20am, 82nd: After fidgeting with my iPod for a few blocks and confirming that the battery is indeed drained I put it away, and realize that somewhere in the last few blocks I've dropped my right glove, removed while I worked with the iPod.

11:45am, 74th:
I stop off and buy a cheap pair of replacement gloves. I notice at this point that my knee is beginning to feel twingy. I haven't worn my brace lately, as my knee has felt fine the last few months but this walk is definitely taking it's toll on my joints.

12:00pm, 54th:
Roommate K works in this neighborhood, and has walked this far twice now. He said last night that I'd never make it to Canal, I'm beginning to wonder if he isn't right. I'm averaging 50 blocks an hour, about 2.5 miles. The web tells me that the average human can walks 3 mph. I guess I'm below average.

12:15pm, 42nd:
Times Square is as crowded as ever, I guess the tourists are able to make it this far at least. The TKTS booth seems more barren that usual. Less than a dozen people in line. All of this is probably doing a real number of Broadway.

12:40pm, 10th:
I'm considering taking a cab at this point. My knee has moved from feeling twingy to hurting. I'm so close though! I pick up the pace a little, hoping I can make the final stretch in 20 minutes.

12:55pm, Canal:
I'm on the street I need finally. Now I just have to figure out where the building I need is.

1:05pm, Canal: Found it! I'm a little late, but it turns out to be okay. The artistic director I was to meet is also late.

1:40pm, Canal:
Back to the street. Having been still for a half an hour has allowed fatigue to really set in, and my knee is stiff. I'm limping a bit, but I got the job!! A really exciting project that is scenic design, but entirely unrelated to theatre. It's a strange project, but an amazing opportunity, I can't wait to get started on this!

1:45pm, Walker: Lunch. The strike is the talk of the town, everyone at the resaurant I stop at is discussing the possibilities of it. No one seems to be taking the TWU's side though.

2:00pm, White:
I arrive at the theatre. I'm so happy to put this damned saw damned I can hardly describe it. It only weighs about 7 pounds, but carrying it over 150 blocks has made it seem like it weighs 700.

5:30pm, White:
I've done a lot less on the set than I should have really, but it's dark and getting colder by the minute, so I decide to start the trek home.

5:45pm, Grand: I call Roommate K to see how he's getting home. He intends to stay downtown, see a show then head home by cab. My plan at the moment is to get to the numbered streets, find a cab to Grand Central and take Metro North to 125th.

6:00pm, 10th:
My powers of coincidence kick in. A friend from home who is planning to move to NYC soon is in town for a job interview and wants to meet up. He's in Jersey City but he has a rental car. He says he'd be happy to come over and pick me up. Traffic is a huge mess, but I thankfully agree.

6:45pm, 13th:
While waiting I take a pit stop at Rite Aid and pick up Advil, and Therma-Care heat wraps for me knee. I know I'll need these later. My ride arrives about this time.

7:00pm, West Side Highway: Now this is how travel was meant to be. I'll be home in less than 20 minutes at this point.

7:30pm, Home:
Home! A full two hours sooner than I really expected to be. My knee is killing me, and I have a headache, but I did it. I managed to navigate my day regardless of the obstacles that the TWU set before me.

I am NOT looking forward to the prospect of doing this tomorrow. The producer of the theatre I'm working at has offered me her apartment for the weekend, which is very close to Canal and the theatre. It's a bit odd to think of staying in a relative stranger's apartment, but I was willing to get in a stranger's car so I don't suppose this is much worse. I probably won't take her up on it until Friday, but if this doesn't break soon it will probably be a necessity soon.

Goin' Walkabout

I took yesterday off in hopes that all of this would get resolved somehow over night, and I wouldn't have to walk, but it doesn't seem that that is likely to happen anytime soon. The strike still rages, and so do New Yorkers. The Mayor, the newspapers, the international headquarters of the Transit Workers Union, and a growing majority of New Yorkers are pissed as hell at the transit workers. The Mayor called them criminals. The papers have called the rats and worse. The international union has politically distanced themselves from it all. There's an infamous clip of a guy in Penn Station yesterday screaming that the workers should be fired.

I can't delay going to the theatre anymore, I have to get some work in, not to mention I have a meeting for another job in the same area today, and so I'm bundling up, and heading out. Mapquest says that I have an 8.5 mile distance to travel. There are some options to shorten how much of this I actually have to walk, including picking up a ride at the 96th street checkpoint (no cars are allowed past that point without 4 riders), or walking over to Metro-North and riding the last few stops into Grand Central.

I wanted to begin hiking... I guess now as good a time as any.

Subway Sketches: STRIKE!!

As of 3am the Transit Workers Union, Local 100, have walked off the job.

There is no news as to when the union and the MTA will be going back to the negotiating table. The last time that the union actually walked off the job was 1980 and they lasted 11 days before going back to work. Of course that strike was during the summer, not the day before the first day of winter. We'll see how long the city holds out THIS time.

So, I guess this means that Subway Sketches is also on strike for the time being. Maybe it's a silly thing to worry about since this means that in order for me to get to work this week I'll have to walk over 150 blocks, but still, I'll miss my subways for lots of reasons.

At the moment I'm waiting for the car that we booked for my family to get to the airport at 7:45. After they get out and are safely at the airport I'll be less worried about all this.

Family Matters: DAY FOUR

Another sedate day. We decided to cook breakfast at home this morning, and my mom taught me her basic method for making biscuits from scratch, a skill that I have long envied. I didn't do too poorly. They tasted great, but looked a little unpolished. She says I'll get better with practice.

The evening was spent with another theatrical experience, this time Dog Sees God. Not quite as enjoyable as The Color Purple, but a show that I had wanted to see for quite sometime.

Tomorrow is a work day for me, so I think the family is going to hit a museum.

Subway Sketches Part LXXVIII

Excuse the current infrequency of these sketches, with the family in town I ammostly conversing on the subway at the moment. It's hard to sketch with a "command audience" there to see you doing it, ya'know?

Family Matters: DAY THREE

After another leisurely morning the family and I decided that a museum would be fun. We had tickets to Top Of The Rock at 4:30, and it was noon by the time we got really motivated so I thought that a smaller museum would be more useful. To that end I chose The Cloisters. My sister and I both love Medieval art, so it seemed like a natural choice for us.

While the family toured the museum, taking in the unicorn tapestries, and the saints icons, I sat in one of the side chapels and sketched a bit. I love the Cloisters, and have been there many many times, but never sketched there. Maybe I should suggest it for the next Sketchcrawl? Though, it is very small, a large group of us may overwhelm the place. There is lot's of interesting architecture and art there, and out on the ballustrade views of New Jersey and the cliffs across the river. The Cloisters are an amazing trip back in time to see Medieval and Gothic architecture that has been collected from all over the world and cobbled together into a patchwork-like building on a cliff in northern Manhattan. There are tons of tiny details that make this a complete experience, very different from seeing these items out of context as they are in the main body of the Metropolitan downtown. as many times as I have been there I always discover new things when I go back, sculptures at the capitals of columns, and in the delicate stonework all around the museum.

After that it was a quick trainride to Rockefeller Center and an even quicker elevator ride to The Top Of The Rock. We had purchased tickets in advance for this, and I had asked Jessica to try and time the tickets so that we would be on the observation deck at sunset. Once we reached the staging area though, they corralled us into groups and kept us in the area watching films on the history of the building and it's construction and impotance to culture (blah blah blah). I was afraid that by the time they released us to the elevators it would be dark already. Turns out that we had timed it just right though. While we explored the three observation decks the sun sank slowly and lit up the views of the city spectacularly. This observation deck offers views of Central Park, all of the bridges, and something that you can never see from the Empire State... The Empire State! The design and presentation of the viewing decks are top notch. I recommend this to anyone considering a trip to the city.

Family Matters: DAY TWO

The MTA strike looms. If they walk out tomorrow... well, let's just say that I'm happy I bought a Scrabble board before the family arrived.

Today I had two events that drove what the family could possibly get up to: a meeting in Chinatown, and a Mystery Date that I had planned with my mom months ago.

Luckily enough Chinatown was one of the places that the family wanted to see, so I lucked out. After a lunch at the apartment we headed out for a walk through the crowded streets. Mott Street, Mulberry Street, Grand and Broome, it was fun to show off some of the widely varied ethnic culture of my home. We finished off the afternoon with a visit to Pearl River.

After my meeting we had intended to grab a little dinner in Chinatown, but the meeting ran long, and time ran short so instead we grabbed something quick at a deli in midtown.

I wrapped my evening with the event that spurred this whole trip. Months ago I asked my mom to come and see me in the city. I had a plan in mind, but wouldn't tell her exactly why, or what the event was that I wanted to share with her. She had never seen a Broadway show, something that I feel everyone should do, so when her favorite book (and movie) The Color Purple was adapted to stage, I knew that it had to be her first show. Being in South Carolina I doubted that she would hear much, if anything, about the show, so I had hoped that it would be a total surprise. I underestimated the Oprah Media Machine a bit, and she had figured it out by the time we arrived, but it was still a wonderful evening. She greatly enjoyed the show, we both cried our way through the second act. I think it was a great first Broadway experience for her. (You can catch my full review of the show here.) I loved experiencing it alongside her.

After the show we made our way home through the impending snow and and the already falling icy rain, dreading the idea of walking anywhere in this tomorrow. As of this writing the trains and buses are still running, but the negotiations are still going on. It remains to be seen exactly how much of a New York experience my family will receive.

Family Matters: DAY ONE

The family arrived on my doorstep this morning about two hours before I thought they were scheduled to. I was in the process of washing my bedclothes, and was on the way out the door to the laundry. I got to my stoop, and there they were, stepping out of their taxi from the airport! Oh well, so much for a perfect presentation of the apartment.

After they settled in, and we toured the apartment, we headed out to the big city for a little fun and tourism. There really wasn't much of a plan in place for this first day, so everything was done a bit on the fly. I took them down to the subway and gave them a quick tutorial on navigating the system, they'll need to be able to do this without me in a day or two (provided it's running of course). Then we took a jaunt down to Times Square. I showed them around that area a bit, taking a moment to pick up this week's comics at Midtown, and grabbing a couple slices of pizza. We walked down Broadway to Macy's to take in a New York instituation: the Macy's Christmas Windows. The windows this year are very sweet, six motorized pop-up books that each show an iconic New York holiday moment. They include the Thanksgiving Parade, Santa at Macy's, the Rockefeller Center tree, The Rockettes, the Nutcraker and, New Year's in Times Square.

The family was cold, and tired having walked almost 2 miles. I'm always amazed at how much further I can walk after living here for a few years, but I have to defer to the family, so we decided to cut things short and head home for the evening. Once there I gave them a short primer on Project:RUNWAY, because of course I HAD to watch it. They were sucked in too, since it's an excellent show.

Tomorrow is Chinatown, (and a meeting for me) and my Mystery Date with my mom. A bit more of a planned day.

Today's Nagging Worry

In a little more than 24 hours my family arrives for a 5 day Christmas visit.

In little less than 72 hours the New York City Transit Authority is scheduled to go on strike.

I live more than 100 blocks from any decent tourist destinations.

My Art Weekend, Day Two

Day two of my weekend of art started early. I was on the train by 9:15 for an early arrival at the Museum, hoping to avoid the lines at the ticket counter. I arrived at 9:45 to find that the museum doesn't open until 10, so I wandered around the neighborhood, collecting a bit of breakfast and some supplies. Breakfast was pear nectar and carrot muffin, and I bought a bag of cashews and a bottle of water to smuggle into the museum to keep me going over the day.

10:15 found me inside, but no one else was supposed to be there until 11, so I did a bit of solo sketching, and took in the Hall of Ocean Life, with that great Blue Whale sculpture that dominates the space. Nothing else like it to make you feel small. The museum was oddly empty considering that this is the height of the tourist season in New York, and that it's a favorite destination of families when they visit.

At 11 I turned the corner into the appointed meeting place, the North American Mammals Hall. Danny and his son Jack were there already, and sketching away. I introduced myself and sat down to join the group. The Sketchcrawl itself was a bit scattered, no one seemed sure if we were sticking together, or scattering over the museum, or just staying in one place, or what, so things became a bit disjointed, but I had a few great conversations, one with Danny about figure drawing groups in town, one with Rick about the great ethnic diversity of New York City, and sketching on the subway.

After an hour or so in the Mammals hall Danny took Jack to the cafeteria, which pretty much signaled the end of the group. I ended up chatting with Jason, another sketcher, the last one left in the room with me. Jason was a great guy, and he and I had some fun discussing music, web design, and the joys of freelancing in NYC.

When Danny returned from lunch he, Jack, Jason and I made our way to the fourth floor, deciding that maybe it was time to sketch some of the infamous dinosaur bones in the museum's collection.

The dinosaur room was of course much more crowded. Lots of kids about, and those marble floors don't do nearly as much to dampen the sound as the wooden floors of the lower rooms. Sketching in a room full of kids got me some attention, lots of kids coming over to see what I was doing, and to compliment my work. Oddly it also seemed to make me an instant expert on dinosaurs. I had three different people ask me questions regarding the exhibit that I was drawing, (BTW Jess, why DON'T bronto hip bones have a ball socket? How did they work?). I was a bit offended by one mother's response when her child asked me a question, "Honey, he doesn't know, he's just and artist." Just?! Har-umph!

The disappointment of the day was that I didn't get to meet Enrico. I didn't think he had shown up at the museum at all, but he has pics from his day over at his blog, so obviously he was there somewhere. Maybe we exist in parallel universes?

Danny and Jack cut out of the museum about 2, but Jason and I stayed for a while longer, migrating over to the Hall of Advanced Mammals and concentrating on a couple of mammoth skeletons.

I did a couple of pencil sketches, but mainly I worked most of the day in brush pen, a skill that I'm trying to get better control over. It's a lot easier to sketch with it in a stable setting than it is on the train. I'm especially happy with my mammoth sketch.

Thanks to Danny for suggesting the museum, and to Jason for keeping me company! It was a great day, and a nice capper to an artful weekend.

Christmas Time Is Here

Sorry for the relatively crappy camera phone shot, but here's your first peek at our beautiful Christmas tree, all decked out. At the moment we lack a "topper" but we are pretty pleased with it regardless.

My Art Weekend, Day One

Through no intention of my own this weekend has turned into a weekend full of art and adventure. For a while now Roommate K and I have been discussing the possibility of attending the life drawing sessions at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Chelsea. Drawing on the subway and around town is great, and has improved my eye quite a bit in the last couple months, but there's no substitute for nude figure drawing to really get the creative juices bubbling, and your eye retrained. So early this morning K and I set out for the Center, sketchpads and assorted pencils in hand, ready for some drawing. The session is modest, there were about 15 people there, mostly men, sitting in folding chairs around the model stand and sketching with an assortment of tools and a wider assortment of ability levels.

The session rotates through 20 minute segments, with 5 minute breaks, beginning with ten 2-minute poses, then four 5-minute, two 10-minute, etc. culminating in one 40 minute pose. It was a quiet group, not a lot of socializing, though it did seem that most everyone there was familiar with each other.

I decided to work mostly in conte today, leaving my ball-point pens in the bag for once. It's been quite a while since I drew with conte and re-learning the medium was interesting. It was my preferred medium back in art school, and it was quickly apparent why. Conte has a great buttery texture that glides on a page, and is soft enough that you can get a variety of line weight out of it. There was something nostalgic and comforting about having that little square stick between my fingers, and the stain it left on the edge of my middle finger made me very happy for some reason.

Sketching today brought back so many memories of art school. All through the session the voice of my figure drawing teacher Zdzislaw Sikora was ringing in my ears.

"Draw hands, not MITTENS!"

"Any drawing from behind starts at the occipital."

"Any drawing from the front starts at the the sternal notch."

"Draw THROUGH the body to see limbs that are blocked."

I've forgotten, or at least gotten rusty on a lot of my old figure drawing skills. I had trouble maintaining proportion over a drawing, finding that I distorted size as I travelled across the body. I've also gotten rusty with my foreshortening, which this model seemed to fall into poses that highlighted foreshortening quite well. Hopefully I can make this a regular event and rebuild that skill level. Zdzislaw always praised former students (rarely current ones) by saying that they could "Draw like a machine." In my own mind I had acheived something close to that by graduation, but now 8 years later the machine needs a good oiling.

It was a challenging session, much different from what I've been doing lately. Tomorrow is an entirely different kind of drawing. Danny Gregory has announced a Sketchcrawl for NYC sketchers tomorrow at the Natural History Museum. Enrico Casarosa, who originated the term and practice of Sketchcrawling will be in attendance as well. I can't wait, another day of sketching. This time though I think I'll be channeling John Ruggieri who taught me a seminar in art school on sketch journalism, quite a different animal from figure drawing.

To Be Continued...

A New York Christmas

Roommate K and I decided that since my family was coming here next week, and this is the first Christmas season in the new apartment that a tree would be in order. Last week we bought a bevy of ornaments, courtesy of the Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart, all color coordinated and pretty of course. Today we decided that it was time to get a move on and get a tree to hang them on. An artificial tree is out of the question, as we have no storage space as it is, so adding a large box in a few weeks would have simply cramped things further. So we settled on a live tree. We bought it from a street vendor, this particular one being in midtown. What made it a unique NYC experience though was the fact that we bought it at midnight, and carried it home on the subway. The subways are notorious for people carrying oversized objects, (I once saw a guy with a 5' Chippendale chest of drawers that I have no idea how he negotiated onto the train in the first place) so no one really looked twice at us. We carried it about 100 blocks uptown, and situated into our little apartment.

The vendor was a Canadian with a thick accent that assured us that the tree was cut within the last three days from a farm in Nova Scotia then driven to the city. He explained that it was the finest quality tree that could be found in the city. (Of course, should we expect less at midnight on a street corner?)

It's sitting out there now, resting, and settling in from it's trip, the branches settling back into a natural shape that we'll decorate tomorrow. It's a cute little tree, about 5 feet, and very fat and round. I can't wait to see what it looks like all decorated and decked out.


Well, that's what a SCAD education gets you.

It's (not) hard for me to hide my (not so) secret glee at the fact that the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) graduate was the first cut from this year's Project:RUNWAY. I've never had a problem telling anyone what I thought of The Evil Empire. Parents, if you are considering sending your kids, kids if you are considering going, please, PLEASE, PLEASE do your reasearch. Talk to some students, and NOT just the robots that the recruiters will put in front of you. At the very least email me.

Ahhhhh. SCAD defeated. This is what heartfelt joy is like. I could get used to this.

Okay... moving on. I was nervous that Project:RUNWAY was going to be a one shot phenomenon, and that this season was going to be a sad shadow of the beauty that was last season. It looks like I was wrong. The first two episodes were engaging, and fun, I love the new designers, and the clips of what was coming up this season? Well... I can't wait. Thumbs up from me Bravo. You got me hooked again.

Fun With Sound

Gothamist had a link this morning to a fun little tool/toy that provides a way to experience the soundscape of New York City. It was produced by the Tenement Museum.

The idea is that by linking 5 of the available recordings, which then play on a recursive loop, you can create a piece of "music" based on street noise. You can arrange whether the sounds play from the left or right speaker, and what volume they play at compared to the other sounds. It's great fun! Go play with it here.

I recommend Mrs. Davis, The malfunctioning Microphone, Under FDR Drive, Busker in Spring St Station, and "Keep It Tight!" as a great combination.

Subway Sketches Part LXXVII

The 12 Gifts of Christmas

Some of you may remember that I began a project a while back geared towards alleviating my family's complaints that I am a difficult person to shop for. I got one post into that project before life got in the way and I never went back to it.

BFE Michelle has gently nudged me to remind me that it was still in limbo, and I have a dozen bookmarks on my computer waiting for it... so I've decided to boil the project down to the best of what I had in the wings, and re-dub it:

The 12 Gifts of Christmas

1:Gay Merit Badges

I know that I have a jacket or hat that is screaming out for one or two of these badges. Some are more subtle than others, and a few have a more European flavor than American, but their design sense and styling is very attractive, and the meta-textual poke at the Boy Scouts' enforced discrimination cannot be denied. Buy one for your favorite homosexual!

2:The Perfect Alarm Clock
Anyone that has ever lived with me will attest to the fact that I have an almost preternatural ability to ignore an alarm clock. I think this might be the answer. The Puzzle Alarm not only has the classic alarm noise, but has a four piece puzzle that it fires into the air at the appointed time. The alarm cannot be turned of until all four pieces of the puzzle have been located and returned to their resting place on the top of the clock. I do believe that crawling around on the floor looking for puzzle pieces is something that I won't be able to sleep through.

3:Worn Again Shoes

These shoes are made by British designers using materials rescued from thrift stores, junk yards, and surplus depots. They might include old suits, army blankets, parachutes, or old car seats. And they are gorgeous! For the record I prefer the "Jack" style over the "Escape." That button-down flap on the tongue is just ridiculously cute. I love these shoes!

4:Little India by Ghee Happy

Illustrator Sanjay Patel has created this children's book dealing with the gods and mythology of India. The illustrations are adorable, and the mythology has long been a fascination of mine. Either the book or prints of the individual gods, (Ganesh would be the perfect place to start if you're shopping for me) would make great gifts for art lovers, or children that might be interested in a wider range of mythology.

5:The Frogpad

I've never been what you would call a traditional typer. My right hand takes the majority of the work. My left hand is usually responsible for only they half dozen or so keys to the furthest left, while my right handles the space bar and everything else. So this new style of keyboard seems perfect for me. The whole keyboard is designed for one-handed use, left or right-handed styles are available. The designers claim that users can type faster and more accurately with less stress on their hands with this design. Plus it eats up a lot less desk space, which is always a plus for me.

6:PANTONE Colorcue
This nifty little device is the PANTONE Colorcue. It works in much the same way that the paint color matching machine at your local hardware store does. By placing the electronic eye of this handheld device over a color sample the Colorcue scans the information, stores it, and converts the scanned information into PANTONE numbers. These numbers are a universal color matching system that allows Photoshop and Illustrator to match those colors when used in a design created through those programs. It would also allow me to match paint colors, wallpaper samples, and much more when I need to replicate them on a set. A handy little tool.

7:Turn Your Head

The ultimate in narcissistic art! This company takes a specially prepared photo, processes it, and runs it through a lathe to create something that they call a "pirolette," a three dimensional wooden sculpture that combines two of your profiles into an art object. Similar to the old optical illusion that moves between a pair of faces and a candlestick this object creates a record of your, or your loved one's face frozen in time. Elegant and appealing to the narcissist in all of us.

8:Big Tiki USB Drive

Tired of USB Drives that look like little grey boxes, and not much else? The Big Tiki changes all that. This 512MB drive is a stylish and attractive way to dress up your desk and store information. Plus, when you plug it into your computer to transfer information, it's eyes light up, as well as a mystical flame that comes from the top of it's head. And it's a TIKI!! How can you go wrong?

9:Dirty Linens

This product from Dirty Linens might be a bit difficult to describe, or to get anyone else to understand. First you'd have to know the art of Tom of Finland, (as a warning to those who don't that link contains nudity) who was a gay erotic artist in the mid 20th century. Then you'd have to know what toile is. Then the hardest part... understanding the irony of combining the two into a single image, and putting it on bedclothes and boxers. The gay sensibility can certainly see it!

10:The Sushi Pillow

Designers Cindy Tomm and Mel Maghuyop are two actors who are currently touring with Miss Saigon, but as a side business they have created the magnificent Sushi Pillow! It's exactly what it sounds, and looks like: pillows made in the shape and style of various different forms of sushi. Pictured is the Ebi Nigiri style, but you can also get California Rolls, both flat and "unsliced," salmon or tuna in nigiri style or roll style... the mind boggles.

11:Pee and Poo Plushes

I won't belabor the point on this one. You know you want a set too. Get them here.

12: Tetran Cable Winders
One of the only complaints that I have about my iPod is that the earbuds often end up as a big tangled wad in my pocket, especially on a day when I'm shopping or doing a lot of on-the-subway, off-the-subway type errands. Taking the earbuds out when I am dealing with a salesman or what not gets them all tangled. Enter this little guy. Tetran is a cute key-chain style monster that can hang from your bag or jacket or beltloop and provide a way to wind your iPod chords and keep the earbuds safe and tangle free!

So that's it. Sorry to cut the project short, but I hope that these items help with your shopping... for me or for your own loved ones. Happy Holidays!

Subway Sketches Part LXXVI

Subway Sketches Part LXXV

Is It Winter Already?

Tonight New York City is going to plunge into temperatures in the 20's, and we had a brief snow flurry earlier. I find myself asking why, and I believe I know the answer.

Christmas Decorations.

I believe that the global ecosystem is punishing us as a society for celebrating the premier winter holiday too early. I heard Christmas music and saw decorations before Halloween this year. Two months early! It's my opinion that the weather has seen this, and decided that if we are so damned anxious for winter, then we can bloody well have it.

I'm sure it's too late for this year, but remember this next year and keep the wreaths in the boxes. Maybe we can actually have an autumn for once.

Subway Sketches Part LXXIV

Holidays, An Essay

Holidays are one of those things that everyone loves to hate, or maybe hates to love. In that spirit I thought I'd offer some writing by someone far better at it than me, Christopher Durang. Here is his take on holidays, from Act 2 of "The Marriage of Bette and Boo."

"Holidays were invented in 1820 by Sir Ethelbert Holiday, a sadistic Englishman. It was Sir Ethelbert's hope that by setting aside specific days on which to celebrate things-- the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, Beowulf's defeat of Grendel-- that the population at large would fall into a collective deep depression. Holidays would regulate joy so that anyone who didn't feel joyful on these days would feel bad. Single people would feel bad that they were single. Married people would feel bad that they were married. Everyone would feel disappointment that their lives had fallen so far short of their expectations.

A small percentage of people, sensing the sadism in Sir Ethelbert's plan, did indeed pretend to be joyful at these appointed times; everyone else felt intimidated by this small group's excessive delight, and so never owned up to being miserable. And so, as time went on, the habit of celebrating holidays became more and more ingrained into society.

Eventually humorists wrote mildly amusing essays poking fun at the impossibility of enjoying holidays but no one actually spoke up and attempted to abolish them."

Enjoy your holidays everyone!!

Subway Sketches Part LXXIII

This young woman had the most pronounced cheekbones I have ever seen. When I first glanced at her I thought that she had the mumps, or a bee sting on her face. I was so happy with the arrangement of her face and hair that I decided to forego sketching in any details about her clothing, it was just so perfectly framed.

Subway Sketches Part LXXII

My Love/Hate Career

There are days when I really hate my chosen career. This week being one of those times. The show that I am currently working on is in it's last week of rehearsals, which means that I have to attend every night. This show has a very simple set, so the set has been completed for a few days now. There are no changes to the set during the run of the show. If there were then part of my job would be helping to choreograph the changes, making sure the actors knew how the mechanics worked, etc. None of that this time though. So essentially I am having to attend rehearsals to do... not a lot of anything. Tonight I spent the three hours sorting through the songs I have in iTunes and removing duplicates. After I finished that I started creating a 'zine version of my subway sketches to mail to some friends. I'm glad I thought to take my laptop with me. I still have to do this two more times!

At the same time if I wasn't in this career I would miss the opportunity to hear people, with a perfectly straight face, seriously say sentences like "Well, I put it over my head and pretended I was dead and I could breathe just fine."

Subway Sketches Part LXXI

I'm Sorry, Do I know You?

Yesterday at Pearl Paint I was standing in front of the glues, trying to decide which one was useful for what I needed, when a woman reached over in front of me to grab something for herself. In the process, she bumped into me and so we locked eyes for a second. She smiled and said, "Hey!" in a way that seemed to indicate familiarity. It was the sort of greeting that you'd give someone that you met once, six months ago, at a friend's birthday party.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a good memory for names. Working in theatre exacerbates the problem because for every show I do I meet six or a dozen actors, with whom I become passingly familiar. Quite often I see people on the subway, or in passing on the street that I recognize. It usually takes me a few minutes to place exactly how, but it usually winds up being that I worked with them on a show in some capacity.

With that in mind I responded the way that most anyone would, with a non-committal greeting that acknowledged that I knew her, but didn't directly use her name. It went along the lines of "Hey! How have you been?" Her face went immediately slack, to a sort of neutrally pleasant expression, and she responded, "Uhm... Fine." Her smile never wavered, but the words had the tone of dismissal. She turned and walked away. It was then that I realized that, in fact, I didn't know her at all, but that she was Rebecca Cole, from the television show Surprise By Design. Obviously I had misread her original familiarity, and the reality show nature of her series had added to the feeling that I knew her from somewhere. I tried not to look too embarrassed.

Today in Borders I looked up from the art books I was flipping through, and at the other end of the aisle was a man who had a very familiar face. The embarrassment of the previous day still fresh in my mind I chose not to say anything to him. He hadn't noticed me anyway. I turned my back and tried to figure out who he was, afraid to say hello, in case he was a contestant from Survivor, or a former Real Worlder or something. After a minute or two it came to me, he had been in a show that I costumed last year. I turned to say hello, but he was gone.

Every couple of days I stumble across a celebrity, or a pseudo-celebrity at least, and then of course the people I see who I actually DO know. New York is really just a small town, with a lot of people crammed into it after all. My faulty memory just means that I don't even know the people that I know.

Now THAT'S A Show!!

Wrapping up my week of theatre Roommates K & M and I saw "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" tonight. So much more satisfying than my previous theatre going experience.

Here is a show that shouldn't work at all. Set in a trailer park in Florida it liberally mixes rock, country, and Broadway musical styles, for songs about huffing cooking spray, the joys of watching Sally Jesse Raphael, and what to do when a stripper is sleeping with your husband. Polyester and fake wood paneling are both featured heavily in the design. Somehow though, it all gels. The show is funny, touching, and a pleasure to watch.

The set design features such authentic touches as a tire cover with a naked girl riding a horse airbrushed onto it, an oversized satellite dish on a camper, and a rusty water tower overlooking everything. The designer was clever and innovative in finding ways to shift to other locations, and moving inside and outside the various trailers. Good old fashioned scenic design, that worked.

The plot and execution of the songs was spot on perfect in the show as well. How can you resist a show with lyrics about spray cheese, road kill, and pole dancing? The phrase "Like a nail, I will press on" will forever be a part of my language now.

THIS one, I'll recommend to anyone who'll listen.

Subway Sketches Part LXX

The Woman In What Now?

Tonight I had the inestimable honor of seeing Andrew Lloyd Weber's newest theatrical endeavor "The Woman In White."

If I believed in God I would have prayed to have this abomination struck from the face of the Earth with a fury not seen since Sodom and Gomorra were obliterated.

This show, in the simplest terms is BAD. The songs are boring. The acting is overblown and melodramatic. The set is ill-conceived. The plot is barely discernible. The characterization, where it exists at all, is inconsistent and the character choices are illogical. The single best thing in the show is (I shit you not) a white rat who performs tricks during one of the songs. The rat doesn't come on until Act 2, so if you get tricked into seeing the show don't leave during intermission, even though you'll be tempted to, because you'll miss the rat. I promise you, you'll want to see the rat after sitting through Act 1.

This appears to have been adapted from the Victorian era novel by Wilkie Collins, but from reading articles on the book it seems that all the good stuff went out the window. Gone are the comedic characters of the nurse and the maid, gone the detail that one of the sisters about who this story centers, the smart one naturally, is supposed to be gargoyle ugly, and the other pretty, but dumb as a bag of hammers. Also gone seems to be most of the plot. What we are left with is, unfortunately an idiot plot that could have been cleared up early in Act 1 if either of the girls had thought to press their uncle for information on the title character.

The set. I applaud innovation in scenic design, and theatrical presentation. Really, I do. The scenographer responsible for this set conceived a set of semi-circular moving walls that could reconfigure and revolve around the stage. 99% of the scenery is computer generated and projected onto these walls. This allows for movement within the scenery, almost instantaneous shifts between location, and would seem to give the opportunity for dramatically different looks for each location since the only limits would be the imagination of the artist doing the computer renderings. In reality the whole thing looks like something artistically on par with the first generation of Doom type games (and I was really wishing I had my shotgun). It looks doubly bad when very realistic furniture and costumes are put in front of it. There were also inexplicable oddities in the renderings. Why for instance would a designer choose to render some of the objects grossly out of scale with the people on stage? Occasionally the audience was confronted with fireplaces that were 12 feet tall, and books on shelves that were 3 feet tall. One scene played out in front of the exterior of a pawn shop for no reason that I can figure out. Being outside made the dialogue seem forced and unrealistic, and in the end the scene didn't make sense. They had to render both the exterior and interior of the shop. It would have cost them nothing to play the scene "inside" why not do it?

The most annoying thing about the show was the blocking. (The movement of the actors for those not familiar with the jargon.) The center of the stage was a revolve, (a circular floor that "revolves," get it?) and the walls were roughly circular, making the whole show seem like it was happening inside a hat box. All this circular stuff meant that the actors spent an awful lot of time running... in circles. I could not begin to count the number of times that the actors, singularly or in groups, literally jogged in circles around the stage. Or walked. Or danced. Or (again, I shit you not) skipped. In circles. I get it, we were supposed to be, metaphorically, watching the show through a zoetrope, the Victorian equivalent of animation, but it would have been SO much more satisfying and affective if the director could have figured out a way to break the pattern and work both within and against the shape of the set.

I won't speak directly to the songs, or the singing, or the acting because I don't really have the authority to do so, being neither a director or a singer. Other of course than saying that I didn't enjoy them. I will say this: you know that you are in trouble when at the pivotal moment of the performance, when the audience should be most enraptured and absorbed... they giggle.

This show cost $8.5 million. I'd have given them a better design for half that.

Subway Sketches Part LXIX

I spent an INORDINATE amount of time on the A train tonight, traveling almost the entire length of the line. It was made worse by the fact that the train was having some troubles, and seemed to be pausing at almost every station for a lot longer than normal, so I had over an hour to work on this. It started with her, and grew and grew the longer I was on the train. This is the longest subway sketch that I have ever done, and the first one that grew over a two page spread in my sketchbook. I'm pretty sure that the guy was aware that I was sketching them. Over the course of the hour he met my eyes several times. He never let his companion know though, at least not while on the train.

My Theatrical Week

Three times this week Roommate K and I have had a conversation along the lines of: "What have you been hearing about show A?"

"Good/Bad/Indifferent, but I really want to see it."

"Yeah, me too."

All three times, within 48 hours of that conversation, one or the other of us has been offered free tickets to the show that we were discussing. (My amazing powers of coincidence at work again.) So within a week I will be seeing three Broadway shows: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Woman in White, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. None of these shows have gotten great reviews, in the case of Woman in White Roommate K and I spent about 20 minutes brutally dissecting a sampler CD that he received in the mail, mainly trying to figure out what the hell the plot might be.

We've already seen Chitty. The effects were AMAZING, even beyond the flying car the show was full of effect driven moments that were alternatively funny and breathtaking. The show itself... kind of a yawner. The songs were good, but weren't "big" enough for the stage. The story and especially the songs seemed subsumed by the visuals. It was a fun show though, and I was happy to have seen it, if for no other reason than I got to see what Disney money can do onstage.

Tomorrow is Woman in White, the show I'm anticipating the least. The songs I've heard sound like something that would have gotten cut from Phantom, and as I said, I cannot discern what the plot is supposed to be either from the commercials or from the mailer that they sent with the CD. But again, I'm happy to be going. Maybe I'll luck out and it will be one of those shows that are so bad that they loop back around to being good again.

Subway Sketches Part LXVIII

Subway Sketches Part LXVII

Subway Sketches Part LXVI

Subway Sketches: METAPOST

Turns out that I'm not the only person in the world that sketches on public transportation. In the past few days I've become aware of several other people that share my peculiar hobby.

Miyuki posts her sketches from the Toronto Metro system to a Flickr set that can be found here. She has a lovely, soft, feminine style with just a touch of manga/anime influence. She makes me want to expand the colors of pen that I carry around with me.

Tom posts his sketches to a blog, along with his other work. He gets tons of sketches on a page, I'd love to be as fast as he must be. From reading his posts it seems like he has a whole crew of other subway sketchers that get together regularly to troll the trains looking for interesting subjects. He too is sketching in Toronto.

I'm not sure where Omwo is sketching from, but he has several sketches from the train and bus system on his blog. He uses pencil for his sketches, something that I haven't seen a lot in any of the other subway sketchers. He's also come up with the odd sport of sketching people from behind while follwoing them down the street. Observing, sketching, and walking sounds like a HUGE challenge.

Still no one else from the NYC area that posts their sketches online, at least not that I've found yet. I've bumped into a few on the train though.

Subway Sketches Part LXV

A Small Family Album

I've been thinking a lot about family lately. I'm not sure why. The influences and small factors that they add to your personality that you may never even be aware of.
From my mother I've taken far more than I'm willing to admit to... a tendency to procrastinate, a certain unwillingness to confront people, an internal clock geared more towards evening than morning. But she also fostered in my sister and I a love for education and the knowledge that we could be successful at anything that we tried hard enough to do. I also hope that I'm as willing to give of myself as she is.

From my paternal grandmother I also carry positives and negatives. Her tendency to carry a grudge was balanced by her unwavering loyalty when she felt it necessary, and her occasionally heavy handed way of dealing with her family never seemed to get in the way of rescuing one of them if it was needed.

I can't find any photos of my maternal grandmother to scan but I know that I carry on her curiosity about family roots and beginnings. I wish that I had the knowledge of those things that she had, and took to her grave with her.

My paternal grandfather is also absent from these pictures, but thing I most often associate with him is his unwillingness to complain, and his total acceptance of circumstance. I can't remember ever seeing him flustered over much of anything.

My father has been outside of my life for so long that it's hard for me to view him objectively and to see what pieces of him I might be burdened with. I do know that I see his face in my mirror some mornings, and have a general body shape similar to his. I hope that I've learned from his mistakes.

Something else that I have my parents to thank for... a superb sense of fashion.