Family Firsts

In the research I'm doing on my family I'm starting to find some interesting things.

I've discovered my first immigrant ancestor, John Conner Shehee, who came from Ireland sometime in the mid 1700's. Almost all the branches of my dad's side of the family have been in America since at least the Civil War, and a few since the Revolutionary War. I have very few of my Mom's ancestors back that far yet.

I've discovered the first official slave owner. Balaam Bentley left the following decree in his will dated 1816: "To Vincy I give the Negro girl Rast that is now in her possession and to Kizziah the Negro boy Peter and to my son John I give my boy Harvey and my son Benjamin is to have a Negro from the increased use of this estate." That was to be expected coming from the south I suppose, but it's still pretty distasteful to know that my blood was directly involved. I had always hoped somehow that my family had been too poor or something to own slaves.

I have several Civil War soldiers, and now at least two Revolutionary War soldiers, John Conner Shehee fought in the Revolutionary War, as did Balaam's father William Bentley.

I've found a man who had 40 children by two wives, the first born when he was 17, the last when he was 71.

I've found a man who married his own step daughter (and was prosecuted by the state for adultery for it.)

And I may have found a relative who sold the Confederate Army 61 pounds of soup. Or possibly soap. It's hard to read, and I'm not sure it is my ancestor yet. But I just like to think about this guy selling the army 61 pounds of soup.


So perfect... so good.

Look at the statue in the background! Someone on the art direction crew remembers that the Sleestak are a fallen species, that used to have an advanced society but devolved.

The costumes are still creepy but evoke the costumes of the past show. They've even updated the concept so that instead of using those silly cross bows that fired over sized crochet needles the Sleestak's primary weapon will be spines drawn from the ridges on their backs. I'd be so happy with this.

Until I remember that Will Ferrell is in it.

Until I read that there won't even be children in it, that it's about three adults.

Yes, I'm going to continue to whine and complain about this. No, I don't think anyone in Hollywood cares.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Brooklyn Bombshells Chibi

Been quite a while since I posted one of these, but I thought I'd post a new one.

Genealogical Good Deeds

Long ago, before I started researching my own family I developed a fascination with old photos and papers, diaries, general ephemera. I have a fairly large collection of that sort of thing.

I have a large diary of a teacher from upstate New York, full of newspaper clippings, love letters, even a list of the grades that she gave her classes on semester. I have 5 years worth of diaries from another gentleman that detail everything from his daily life, including his sex life (he was a college student in the 40's for most of the time that the diaries cover.) I have boxes of photos, including one very large box that was literally found on the street in Manhattan. It contains over 200 photographs going back 50 years or more.

Now that I'm researching my family I realize what a treasure trove this stuff would be for a researcher. So I've started gathering what information I have from the items and researching those people, in the same way that I have looked at my own ancestors, and trying to contact the families that might be interested in these old treasures. Some of the people are turning up easily, mostly names from the photos, others are proving a bit more elusive. I haven't found anyone that would seem to be worthy of the diary (I'd like that one to go to a direct descendant if such exists) and no one seems to be researching the family that the large box of photos belongs to. I've made a few posts in message boards here and there, and contacted a few people who have published research about the pertinent people. No one has responded yet.

I hope this works as sort of a genealogical karma. I could use a few hints on some of my own research.

Derby Makes Newsweek

Gotham Girls Roller Derby has made the big time! Towards the end of last season a lot of videographers started attending the bouts, I never really new why, but at least one of them has popped up in a rather unexpected place: Newsweek!

I can't figure out how to link the videos here, if I can, but you can check out Part I and Part II by clicking those links. It includes some game footage, some practice footage, as well as some interviews with girls, (including Kid Flash's best friend Raggedy Animal).

The Last Pope Post

This is the last Pope post, I promise, I just saw this show of our "set" for the Ground Zero visit at a slideshow at the New York Times. That's my boss and officemate in the lower left corner of the shot, they say this was taken about 8 am, a few hours before the Pope and his entourage came down to the site. Isn't it a stunning photo?

Phone Surreality

The extension to my office phone is 121. Which means that anyone in the office who forgets to dial 9 to get out and is calling a Manhattan number gets me instead. (1-212...).

Recently a whole new problem has begun. the company that provides our phone must have some master switchboard in their office that routes calls to all of their clients, so that people who forget that pesky 9 get me... even if they are in a completely different office building on the other side of town.

The really interesting part is that if you dial an extension directly on the system the phone on the other side doesn't ring. A voice just pops out of the speaker phone.

So a few weeks ago a voice from my phone says "Hello?" After a few minutes of surreal conversation we discover that she was at a doctor's office on the upper east side, and had been trying to call a patient to confirm an appointment. She thought I had simultaneously called her and she had just picked up the phone before it rang, to find me there.

And so it goes. Law offices, a pizza place, a magazine. Once or twice a week someone new and weird pops out of my speaker phone, always confused as to what is happening and why they aren't speaking to the person whose number they thought they had dialed.

They've offered a few times to change my extension to eliminate the problem. (It never happens to anyone else in my office.) But I've decided to keep it. It kind of adds a little spice to my week.

Just keepin' it surreal, y'know?

Pope Round Up 2

Some more Pope-y type stuff that I was responsible for, again in the realm of last minute fabric purchases. That grey band of fabric behind the flowers was also velvet that I dashed around to find on Friday, and then took a trip out to JFK to put in place.

This time however the Jews that I bought the fabric from didn't really seem to give a shit if it was for the Pope or not. Too bad they didn't have a nice grey at the other location.

I also designed some red velvet bicycle rack covers (they were used for crowd control barricades) that were in place at the St. Joe's Seminary events, unfortunately I can't track down a photo that shows them, alas...

Subway Sketches Part CCXI

Pope Round Up 1

This is the Pope at Ground Zero. I did a lot to help with this little production. Sketches, research, drafting... the design choices that I got to make early on were eventually cut by the archdiocese (because they were too "designed"). But one very tangible thing that I can call my own here is that yellow square just above and to the right of the Pope's head. That is a gun barricade that the Secret Service asked to have in place. Basically an inch thick piece of steel that they could throw the Pope behind if someone started shooting. On Friday the designer in charge of this load-in called me frantically because the barricades were ugly, and needed to be covered. My job was to hit the fashion district and find 25 yards of yellow velvet. I was given the Pope's PMS number, (yes, there is an official Pope Pantone Color) and sent shopping.

In case you ever wondered 25 yards of bright yellow/gold velvet is not actually easy to find. After exhausting the fashion district I hopped a subway to Chinatown, and to some closeout type fabric stores that I know there. In the third or fourth I found what I wanted. The small Hispanic lady who helped me asked why I needed so many yards of such an unusual fabric. After some language difficulties I pointed to a picture on the front of the paper she had laying on the cutting table. She screamed in delight, "Il Papa! Il Papa!? My fabric for Il Papa!!" She gave me two dollars a yard off, and a huge smile when I left.

Radio City

In case you ever cared or wondered (or wanted to live out a Liza fantasy), this is (sort of) what it's like to be on stage at Radio City. Minus of course the saw horses and that truss of lights hanging over the seats in the middle. Huge doesn't begin to describe it. (Oh, and I got yelled at by the security guard for taking these. Dunno, why, but he wasn't happy with me.)

This was our presentation from out in the house. That screen in the middle is 18' tall and 32' wide. That's bigger than the proscenium in half the houses on Broadway. It is in fact the exact size of the proscenium on the first stage where I ever designed.

And just because I think it's cool here are the controls for the famous curtain. Look at the previous picture, see where the curtains gather? Those little knobs on the left of this shot control those gather points. Each point has a corresponding knob here and you can change the shape of the curtain by moving those. All the little marks underneath the knobs are position markers for various shapes of the curtain during the Christmas Show. The whole thing is pretty steampunk looking, huh?

Another Load-In

While my compatriots are out at JFK preparing for that international dignitary's visit, I got to spend my day downtown at Radio City Music Hall dealing with the load-in of a completely different show (it's a busy week for us). This was my first time in this legendary house and to stand on that stage was quite a treat. And it's such a different place than anywhere I've ever worked. There's a room, a whole floor to ceiling tiled room where they keep the camels for the Christmas show. The Animal Room. It was also fun to stand onstage and watch the tour groups come through and snap shots of us assembling the set. We weren't doing a thing that would seem like it was in any way interesting to a tourist, but we were standing on the stage of the RCMH and I guess that was enough. Tomorrow it's back to the hall for the actual show, then back to JFK for the final push at that location. I won't have stepped foot in the office once this week by the time it's over.


Three head of horses valued $160.00
One head of cattle $5.00
Six ploughs $6.00
Three pair plow gear $3.00
Seven head of geese $3.50
38 head of hogs $60.00
One pot, one oven, one spider $4.00
2 spinning wheels $3.00
2 Bee gums $3.00
3 chairs $2.00
1 table $0 .50
Plate, dishes, knives forks and mugs $3.00
3 hoes $4.00
2 iron wedges $2.00
I iron tea kettle $1.50
6 old barrels $1.00
4 axes $2.50
Total $264.00

That's a list of everything that my great x 5 grandfather John owned in 1819 when applied for his Revolutionary War Pension.

A bee gum is just a bee hive, and a spider is a three legged cast iron skillet, in case you are wondering.

I found this list yesterday during my research on my family. It is the most stunning piece of family history that I've found.

This Is My Life

Imagine a room nearly 300 feet wide, and over 600 feet long, with a 90 foot ceiling. Two 747's can park in this space nose to nose. Other than pipes on the walls and the occasional coil of fire hose the room is utterly empty. The company I work for has been charged with taking this room, and turning it into the staging area for a certain... let's say "international dignitary" that is visiting New York next week. Easy, right? You'd think so, except we have to answer to four governments, two at a national level, one state, one city, three different governmental bodies, four different police and military bodies, and a host of personalities that serve under the dignitary. And while a giant empty room might seem like the ideal canvas on which to paint, this room really does have NOTHING. Places to hang lights from, stages, chairs, curtains, these thinsg we'd anticipate bringing in. But bathrooms, drinking water, food to feed the crews, even electricity... we gotta bring all that too. Now take this giant room and put it 500 yards behind the walls of one of the most secure areas in New York City. Getting all that stuff in and out of there is pretty damned difficult. I enjoy my job, and some of the stories I'm building out of this assignment are going to make for great bar fodder for years, but I sure do hate going out to this particular aspect of it. And if my suspicions prove true, and I end up having to actually ATTEND this event... my ability to be circumspect and not directly talk about this may be compromised, that's all I'll say.

The Family

The DVD of season one of Meerkat Manor was my birthday gift to Kid Flash. I'd seen the odd episode here and there of this series... the drama you can get out of 30 or so foot tall rats is quite a surprise.

I will say that Sean Astin is not exactly the best narrator, and watching the short episodes back to back points out some poor timeline management. (Has it been 4 days since Shakespeare got bit by the snake? Then why has it only been 3 days since the pups emerged from the burrow?) They also have a tendency to flop the film for some bizarre reason. Yousairan for instance is described as having a scar over his left eye, but it often appears over the right.

But those damn babies sure are cute. And some serious geeks named these animals. (Zaphod?) The drama can be very intense, Will the baby die? Will the rival troupe kill the animal who got left alone? Will the snake bitten Meerkat survive the night? But the funny and fun moments are just as high. We watched 3 of the episodes from the first DVD tonight, and I gotta say, I'm hooked already.

12 of 12: April

12 of 12 time boys and girls! Gather round! 12 of 12 is a project started by Chad Darnell, you can see all of the participants here. 12 photos on the 12th of each month to document the day. Let's begin!

Breakfast! I actually had a lot of things on the agenda today, so I got out of bed with Kid Flash. He was headed to school and I was off to wander the city.

First stop was Kinkos to pick up a print I had made for the theatre, across the street is this little flea market/antiques fair so I stopped by there as well. I can't resist such places.

At the theatre I have to drop off the prop I just picked up and repair the giant scissors that an actor broke during the week. Here's a glimpse at my set. This is how I spent last week, loading ths in and making it pretty.

Giant scissors all repaired and replaced in the props area with the other oversized props I created for this show. I actually got stuck backstage because as I was working on the scissors the house opened and there was audience in place. I had to stay there for the whole show. Luckily it's only about 40 minutes.

Lunch! Not the most appetizing looking in this photo, but it was pretty tasty.

My subway shot this month, going down from Canal street into the Q/W/N stop. I just love all the crazy angles in the photo.

Next stop was the hinterlands of Brooklyn. I wanted to visit the LDS Family Research branch library to see if they could help me with my genealogical research. They turned out to be spectacularly unhelpful. There was an enormous language barrier with the librarian, and the amount of material that was at the library was actually quite small. In the end I decided that since they would be borrowing everything from the main library at Provo anyway I could just do the research online and if I need to physically see anything I can get them to borrow it and go back.

A shot from out in Brooklyn. I just loved the juxtaposition of text and visual in this shot.

Spring has sprung for sure now! On the way home I stopped by a director's apt. to pick up a script that I'll be designing in July. My first off-Broadway credit in a while. Right outside his apartment were dozens of these tiny purple flowers, they were so pretty!

After that I swung through Central Park to drop off a few geocoins that have been in my bag for far too long at a geocache that I like near this area. The park is so pretty in the spring!

My dinner before...

And after. Our friend WJ came by to eat with us and to discuss the comic book project that we are all working on together. SUCH a good meal! And there you have it. I was all over the city today, and actually ended up with 17 shots that I had to edit down to my faves, a first for me! I'm usually struggling with the last shot or two before posting. See you next month!

Lots of Boxes of Books

Way back when I started this blog I was in the middle of moving into a new apartment in the city and trying to learn how to fit my life into my freelance lifestyle. I swore then that the next time I moved it would be because I was moving in WITH someone, romantically I mean.

I'll be moving in June.

Ted Declares War

I haven't done any catablogging in a while so I thought I'd update you.

Ted continues to be happy and healthy and is growing up to be quite a big kitty. His newest wrinkle though... he's declared war.

On toilet paper.

It started innocently enough. He'd unroll a couple feet of TP and roll around in it. Then he discovered that he could sharpen his claws in it so we'd often wake up to a roll with a claw mark or two.

The past few days though, it's been shredding, eating, ripping, clawing, digging, chewing and generally killing. This morning I discovered that he has affectively chewed and clawed a whole side off the roll.

A decision was made to start storing the TP inside the sink, and I went in search today of a new holder that I can mount there. When did TP roll holders become the height of chic? I just want a $5 piece of plastic that I can mount inside my cabinet door with double sided tape, but all I saw in the shops today were $35 piece of brushed aluminum designer swoopy wires that would require quite a bit to attach them to my tile bathroom wall. What is going on in the bathrooms of America that this has become the standard?

Subway Sketches Part CCX

The Shape of Personality

Kristen at mediatinker has suggested an interesting bit of introspection, and with my birthday just passed a little introspection seems like a good idea.

Her concept runs like this: Charting the Big 5 Personality Traits on a spiderweb graph against age should form a conceptual shape revealing your personality changes over time.

She admits that it has flaws, but it is a work in progress, and one that intrigues me right now, so I thought I'd give it a try.

In case you aren't familiar, here is a rundown of the Big 5:
* Openness - appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience.
* Conscientiousness - a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behaviour.
* Extraversion - energy, positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation and the company of others.
* Agreeableness - a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
* Neuroticism - a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability; sometimes called emotional instability.

With that in mind, here's my chart.

Openness The sample openness items are like a description of my life! This is by FAR my strongest personality trait I think. At least the one that tends most towards my positive attributes. I rated myself fairly high at all points in my life for this trait, but highest in my 20's when I was in art school and at my highest creative output. I was also swimming in ideas at that time and constantly searching for new outlets and concepts. I waffled just a bit on the rank for the present, almost dropping it to a 7 because in some ways my current creative output, and my quest to be creative has diminished a bit. Signs for the next year are looking good though. With my comic book project and a few other new creative outlets growing... it didn't feel quite right to drop it just yet.

So let's follow that up with the trait that reflects most negatively on me. I mean, look at these traits! I'm messy. Chaotic in my lifestyle. I can't keep a schedule to save my life. Yeah... bad. I've gotten somewhat better about it over the years, peaking (if you want to call it that) during the period that I was living with BFE Michelle probably. It will likely go up again if/when I ever move in with Kid Flash. But for now... low.

Extroversion I'm just on the positive side of the fence with this one. The traits are certainly not my strongest. I'm not the most outgoing. I am awkward in social situations with strangers or people I don't know well, and it has only gotten progressively worse over the years. That ability to chit-chat and interact with strangers is something that I've long envied in other people.
Agreeableness Again, a fairly strong set of traits for me. I think this is the area of my life where I've fluctuated the least. I've always been a fairly empathic person, with the ability to understand other's feelings almost to a degree stronger than my ability to understand my own. I'm more likely to cry when someone wins on a game show than I am for something that happens to me personally. At the same time I have a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth sometimes, and to insult people without meaning to, so I can't rank myself TOO highly here.

Neuroticism I'm not neurotic. I don't worry. I don't stress. I'm even keeled. I don't get depressed easily. I had a slight boost in that towards the end of grad school which is why I ranked that era slightly higher, but all in all, I've never been much for excessively dark moods or worry.

As an exercise... an interesting one. I agree with Kristen that I'm not sure this is the ideal way to measure this. So after some tinkering in Photoshop here is another look at the same chart.

Shifting the traits to the flat sides of the chart and coloring in wide areas shows me something more like a progression, where I as stronger personality wise at certain points in my life, and where I was weaker. The 10 Year Blue is completely subsumed, as I guess you'd anticipate, personalities become stronger over time. And the Extroversion trait shows the expansion ad retraction that I've mentioned, peaking at the 20 Year Old Purple, an dthen retracting by decade to the current green. It is now easier to see that I was both more neurotic and more conscientious in my 30's (yellow) and both of those traits have relaxed as I've aged through them.

Fruit Loops

Statuary Rape

Bronze statues patina to a nice deep brown color. They aren't the familiar golden color unless they are cleaned with some pretty harsh solvents, or unless they get touched a lot. When you look at a bronze statue the gold parts are the parts that passersby touch most frequently.

What does it say then about New Yorkers that of the two 12' tall bronze nudes that stand in the lobby of the Time Warner Building that the female statue looks like this:

But the male looks like this?

Celebrity Day

I used to see celebrities a lot around the city. When I first moved here and I was working at Lincoln Center it seemed like I'd see someone famous every day. It's been a while since I saw anyone really, but yesterday was the day. My sightings may have been a bit B-List, but I spotted three "celebs" in one day!

On thee way to work I saw this guy. He didn't try to poison me though, so I feel okay about it. (You HAVE to know that reference right?) He's actually TINY. Less than 5'6", and he has a tiny little dog that he was walking down the street I work on.

Since no NYC celebrity sighting would be complete without a celebrity TV wash-out I bumped into this chick at the bank. (Ohmigosh! She TOTALLY uses the same bank as me!) If you don't know she was one of the last people eliminated on Bravo's Make Me A Supermodel. She's tiny too, but that super super skinny model way. And cuter in public than she was on TV.

But my biggest thrill of the day, in a while actually was seeing Dan Savage right outside the theatre where I was working. Writer, sex columnist, podcaster, and activist and one of my favorite people in the world. He really made me squeel (internally thankfully) and it was all I could do not to have a fanboy moment and run up to him. I'm a New Yorker now though, (with a freshly minted license to prove it) so I just watched him pass and then went about my business. Maybe my celeb spotting days aren't over after all.

No Water Please

You want to read something mildly amusing? A while back I got some advice from a friend that I should try ordering my Chai Lattes from Starbucks without water. I tried it and was instantly converted. It had always been sort of thin tasting and a REAL chai is a very rich and thick drink. So, even without the water it isn't perfect, but it's better. Of course there are the Starbucks faithful who say that I am actually shorting myself because the drink REQUIRES water in order to be good. There is a whole rather lengthy discussion of the issue here that has been going on (I kid you not) for a year. The baristas and the cultists defending their company's methods, and others denouncing them. I spent FAR too long reading through this this afternoon.

As a good viewer of Alton Brown let me just lay all this to rest. Spice requires a medium to convey it, and the perfect medium to do that is fat or oil. Water contains neither obviously, so the addition of water adds nothing to the flavor of a chai. Chai is a tea based drink, yes, but Starbucks mixes it from a concentrate so it does NOT need to "steep." That's just a dumb argument.

If you are in the city and are blessed enough to be near one try the Chai from the Mud Trucks. THAT is what chai is supposed to taste like.


My license expired on my birthday, which I didn't discover until a bank teller pointed it out to me. So, since I was taking a personal day from work anyway to do some work at the theatre I decided that I should take care of that as well. I downloaded and filled out the forms. I took my passport as back up ID. I waited in line. But I was denied a license because I didn't have my Social Security card with me. Keep in mind that I had had to present said card in order to get the passport. And the passport includes my Social Security information. Never mind that the passport is supposed to be the supreme form of ID issued. Never mind that the passport was issued by an authority larger than the NY State DMV. Because of a silly rule I have to go back again.

At least it wasn't as bad as the guy in front of me. He had his Social Security card but they denied him because his card was laminated.

I'm serious.

A Birthday Treat

My mom sent me a slightly belated birthday gift that arrived at my office this afternoon. Most of it was food related, a bounty of southern treats that I can't get in this area. First was a jar of Duke's Mayonnaise which seems to have become the gift stand-by for my loved ones. I guess maybe I made a big deal about it here on the blog or something? But she also included two jars of Chow Chow, one hot and one sweet, some peach licorice, some cornmeal, gravy mix, Peeps, and that Southern standard combo a Moon Pie and an RC Cola. Most mysteriously was a block of vacuum packed cured meat. The label pronounces it "Side Meat" but it looks like an uncut block of bacon. I'll have to come up with a tasty use for that soon. Thanks, Mom! I'll be eating well for a few days at least!!


Okay Internets. Enough. Not even school kids "celebrate" April Fool's Day anymore, so stop it with the fake posts. This morning I've already read a dozen crappy joke posts, some from former favorite sites of mine who haven't posted in weeks or months, but who dredge themselves out of bed long enough to make a joke.