Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! (Picture #290: I'm not ready yet.)

I'm not ready for 2012, yet.

2011 was quite the year: dictators and terrorists died and fell, the geo-political landscape has changed drastically, celebrities did stuff, gay civil rights advanced and the economy actually has been slowly crawling back from the brink, despite most people's best efforts to ignore it because they were busy being "disillusioned" with Obama.

Things of great pith and moment happened this past year. But not for me.

This is not to say nothing fun or exciting happened last year. My romantic life took a major turn for the better. My social calendar was filled with fun and quirky things. I reconnected with my estranged father after a 20-year silence, not in any substantial or particularly fulfilling way, but it provided some measure of closure (as well as opening up new issues).

But in terms of moving my life forward, achieving goals I've set for myself or facing my own personal demons, 2011 was one big holding pattern for me. My own doing, I'm afraid. I've been hiding from dealing with the repercussions of bad decisions I made in 2010 and rather than dealing with my problems head-on, I've danced around them. Literally (started taking ballroom dancing classes in 2011).

And thus, I don't feel as though I'm ready for 2011 to end, as I haven't really accomplished what I set out to do for the year. It's sort of the same reason I'm a night owl - I put off going to sleep because I have the sense that I haven't finished all my appointed tasks for the day. So I end 2011 with some feeling of disquiet.

On the other hand, our society has come up with a handy little reset button known as "New Year's Resolutions." Convenient. Sort of a Yom Kippur for everyone. We can wipe our personal slates clean and head into the new year with a renewed sense of hope and vigor.

And as soon as I'm done being sick, I'll get right on that...

P.S. With Obama's signing of the Indefinite Detention Bill, I'm thinking of joining the ranks of the disillusioned...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picture #203: "Best toy ever. Thanks, Steve."

I was a PC guy.

I'd used both PC's and Apples growing up. I remember playing Temple of Asphai on my dad's Apple IIe when I was a kid, and I remember when my mother brought home that first boxy Macintosh home from her university to write her thesis; Lode Runner, good times... good, frustrating times.

But after college, I'd pretty much had it in my head that PC's and Windows were the place for me.

"What do you MEAN there's no second mouse button?"
"What do you MEAN there's no eject button?"
"Why can't I...etc?"

Macintoshes, to my mind, were idiot boxes, for people who were afraid of hidden files and MS DOS. And once web browsing became part and parcel of having a home computer, there was no question - let's face it, Macs SUCKED at web browsing pre-Intel chip. I could never understand why they loaded pages so slowly. There was nothing an Apple could do that a PC couldn't do better.

Then Steve Jobs came back on board at Apple. Gone were the ugly tan boxes and, in their place, something... intriguing. And EXPENSIVE. So no way, Jobs, I'll stick to my functional, fast and cheap PCs. Occasionally, there'd be a bit of Mac functionality, aesthetics or software that I admired, but for the most part there was nothing a Mac could do that I couldn't find for PC. For a while, anyway.

Slowly, Macs began becoming more and more robust, and I found myself struggling to emulate in Windows what I could get automatically with Mac OS; Adobe Premiere did pretty much what Final Cut did, and with Audacity and about a dozen other freeware downloads I could approximate GarageBand... but not really. But it was fine, because Macs, despite their much vaunted benchmark testing, still felt slow - they still sucked at web browsing. But there was... yearning.

Then three things happened. Apple dispensed with the PPC chips and switched to Intel. Microsoft released Vista. And finally, my workhorse of a laptop, the Dell Inspiron, finally died. But even then, I still bought another PC.

My new Dell arrived, powerful, stacked, shiny, bulky, covered with packaging. And it SUCKED. I would plug this thing in while it was running and it would, inexplicably, shut down. Vista was awful, stopping me every 5 seconds to ask me a question about what I was doing, like an over-protective, religious-crackpot parent. After 10 days of this nonsense, I was done. I sent it back, and bought my first Macbook Pro. Which was promptly stolen 6 months later. But then I bought another, which I'm typing on right now.

Sure there have been problems. These late-2008 models have notoriously awful batteries (I'm on my third one now, down to 20-minutes of life, if I'm lucky), and Apple's customer service blow-off of "water damage" is one of the biggest scams in the computer industry. I've had workers at the Genius Bar actually break my computer while opening it up and then try to blame it on said water damage.

"What's that? It rained in an adjacent state? Clearly your computer has been exposed to moisture, which cancels out the Apple Care warranty."

But those morons aren't what Apple's about. Those are the kind of idiots that Steve Jobs ignored, chose to never work for, chose to walk away from, to do his own thing. There are going to be people and problems like those at every company and field, in every walk of life - the rat race, the status quo, the conventional wisdom.

And then there are the Steve Jobs of the world, who, in the words of his own ad campaign, choose to "Think different," and drag the rest, kicking and screaming, into the future.

So thanks for the lesson, Steve. I'll work on it. Rest in peace.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Picture #196: "What are you... BAD DOG!"

Google "dog porn" and you will get a slew of really awful visuals. Google "dogs humping" and you will get, unsurprisingly, a bunch of dogs humping... AND this thing; The Hot Doll, the self-proclaimed first sex toy for dogs. From France. Because apparently, French dogs are just more worldly than American ones.

Or ARE they? Apparently a Brazilian company is manufacturing another toy, the Doggie Love Doll, which they claim is also the world's first dog toy.

Which came first? And more importantly, who gets to clean these toys out afterwards?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Picture #185: Rubber Duckie Tea Infuser

"Rubber duckie tea infuser, you're the one.
You make tea time lots of fun!
Rubber duckie tea infuser, I'm awfully fond of you!"

There's a very dangerous store on the outskirts of Chinatown called Pearl River. It is dangerous because they have all manner of devilishly intriguing knick knacks, clothes and home furnishings. Things such as robot-shaped ice cube trays, bio-degradable bamboo dishware and... this. A floating, rubber-duckie-shaped, tea infuser.

Did I need it? No. I even told the person I was shopping with NOT to let me buy the thing. And yet, somehow, it ended up in my shopping bag. Because it was meant to be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Halfway There/Picture 183: "Smart-assed trivia"

It's weird to realize that the 90's have a Trivial Pursuit edition dedicated to them. And that it was long enough ago to be slightly arcane knowledge. It's also weird to realize that no one plays Trivial Pursuit anymore.

On a separate note, this picture marks just passing the halfway point of this little year-long Toy a Day project. The original purpose, to sort of exercise my creative muscles daily to develop self discipline in creative and other areas hasn't quite kicked in as much as I'd like it to, but I am seeing some small changes. I suppose it's like losing weight - maybe you're not dropping 5 pounds a week as though you're on some reality game show, but even if it's just a few ounces here and there, it's still progress.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories of September 11th, 2001

It's hard to believe 10 years have passed since the planes, since we ran down 6th Avenue towards the crumbling spires, into a cloud of dust, death and despair, even when the ache in my limbs and lines in my face remind me that it's true. I find myself in South Street Seaport, in the downtown area of Manhattan, a lot these days, and when I glance down Fulton I see the "Freedom" Tower slowly, finally, rising into the sky, and it seems to me that the thing should have been completed YEARS ago, not, appallingly, still in the midst of construction 10 years later.

But here it is, and rather than allow myself to be consumed in morbid
memorials and maudlin shows of sentimentality as the 24-hour news networks, politicians and, ultimately, our enemies would have us do, I'm going to go on about my life, thankful for it and trying to make the most of it.

That said, a tribute is necessary, a moment of remembrance and a bow to the heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed to help the people of this city and country in those shocking times. There have been some touching ones, simple and poignant, and I'm glad for them. This is mine, or rather, ours:

Back in 2001, my friend and now roommate, Luke Crane, was publishing a magazine called "New York Fucking City," or "NYfC," and for that month's issue, he collected all the emails and messages from our circle of friends from that day, that we had sent out to friends and family to let them know we were okay and what was going on in the city. He also included pictures taken that day, while we went down and tried to help. And he crossed out the "F" on the cover, making it NYfC, which I've always thought was just right.

So here, in tribute to that time, is that issue. There's a lot there - my own entry starts on Page 25 - but it is what it is.

Best wishes,


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Picture #174: "Damned zombie stormtroopers..."

These telescoping lightsabers came out with the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy back in the late 90's. Aside from the awful Lucas' tweeks (e.g. Greedo shooting first, etc...), it was great seeing the original films on a big screen again, especially at the Ziegfeld here in NYC, a gorgeous old movie house, which for many years was the largest screen in NYC and by far the best sound system. And the digital restoration really did improve the movies visually in many ways. Add to that the release of what is one of the BEST TOYS EVER MADE, and it was a grand time for the Star Wars franchise.

And then Phantom Menace came out... ugh.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Midnight in Paris, Picture #151, and Rememberence of Things Past

Picture #151: "... and may we always keep in mind, that the remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they wer... Wait, remind me, what the hell are you supposed to be again?"
Last night I went to see Woody Allen's latest flick, "Midnight in Paris." It's one of his best in years, and I continue to marvel at his prolific imagination and gift for whimsy. Not wanting to give anything away, as I went in knowing very little and was very happily surprised by the twists and turns the movie took, I'll just say it's a film about our perception of the past in relation to the present. The protagonist in "Midnight" romanticizes the past, relegating his present to the far back seat like an unwanted child. I'm quite the opposite, myself; I tend to take a very dim view of the past and find more hope, however unfulfilled, in the possibilities of the present and the future.

I went into the movie with a certain amount of dread. I had been to Paris for the first time in my life just over a year ago with my now ex-girlfriend, where we had what might be honestly remembered as a mixed and bittersweet experience. I was a mite leery of being reminded of that time by the setting of the movie. On top of that, this was my ex's birthday weekend, so she had already been on my mind before I decided to go see "Midnight" (in our few years together, we'd had some rather unfortunate birthday communication, or lack thereof).

Fortunately, the film was so thoroughly charming and clever that it did what movies are supposed to do; it provided an escape from the worries of the past and present, and gave me hope for the future.

Still, as the actual birthday came and went, I was left at the end of the night with a bit of melancholy. I hadn't contacted her, not wanting to disturb her on her special day, even delaying sending a gift (that I hope will give her a chuckle) until after it had passed. Things had not ended well, and no one should be reminded of such things on their birthday.

But amidst all this Francophilia and angst, I was reminded, appropriately, of a quote by Marcel Proust (an author whose works I've never been able to stomach in their long, long entirety): "Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." As I said before, I tend to take a very stark view of the past. I'm glacially slow to forgive and have a very long memory. But that said, I am very acutely aware that I, with very few exceptions, definitely give more weight to the bad than the good in my recollection of things.

And so I thought, on her birthday, I'd toast one of the good things. She had knitted this Godzilla doll for me one Christmas years ago; I believe I actually may have blogged about it at the time. It remains one of the finest presents I've ever received, imbued with thoughtfulness and love, if perhaps not proportion. And, in fact, that lack of proportion was the source of much shared laughter and joy between us. There were lots of those moments, lots of good memories.

Does this change things between us? Not really; I still hold a lot of resentment over a number of things that went on, but that's something that aging will deal with - and after those waves of time wash over and over the rocks of my memory, I can only hope that wisdom's waters leave shiny, happy pebbles on the beach of my mind.

Anyway, go see the movie, it's a great little flick.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Utter failure.

I went jogging late tonight, 10 or 11pm, which is actually a lovely time here in Astoria. Down by the water in Astoria Park the lights of the city glisten along the East River, providing a beautiful view and cool breezes along my run.

At the halfway point of my jog I ran past an attractive, young lady crouched on the ground with the contents of her purse spread out on the sidewalk, slowly putting them back into her bag. I stopped and asked if she was okay; she was dressed up in all black as if to go on a night on the town and looked as though she had had a bit to drink and a little something else. (At one point, she even pulled a small airline-sized bottle of Jack out of her bag and asked me to open it for her.) She said no and then asked if she could go running with me. I said sure, but probably not in those heels, to which she replied by promptly taking them off.

I asked again if she was okay and if she lived nearby or if I could help her get home. She again said no, that she was from Florida and had nowhere to go. Now, as this line of semi-coherent conversation was going on, she finished up putting her things in her bag and then began taking off the rest of her clothes. I gently suggested she didn't need to undress, but she ignored me, slipped off her black jeans, pulled her top off, gathered her belongings, and, in her matching blue panties and bra, started off jogging, at a surprisingly fast clip. I ran alongside.

People along the promenade stared and some made catcalls and comments. I continued trying to convince her to put her clothes back on and see if there was anyone in the city that she knew that we could contact, someplace she could stay. She wasn't particularly responsive. She seemed really intent on running, actually. And trying to keep her bra up. Unsuccessfully.

In short order the realities of jogging in underwear, bare feet and intoxicated caught up to her and she slowed to a stroll. She handed things for me to hold, some cash and some pills ("Xanax," she told me) while she re-arranged herself, but refused to get dressed again. She felt "more comfortable" that way.

A group of four motorcyclists and a car full of guys pulled up and immediately began cat calling to her. She told them she was looking for someone to give her a motorcycle ride. Emboldened, they shouted for her to join them, to jump in the car. She started to, then turned to me and asked if it was a good idea. I said I didn't think so. She then asked, "Are you going to let me sleep at your place tonight?"

At this point I hesitated. I have roommates and bringing a complete stranger, both intoxicated and probably high, into our household would be, in my mind, a violation of their safety and security, not to mention mine. I began to say this to her, to which she simply turned and hopped into the car, and the guys drove off with her, hooting and hollering, into the night.

So... utter failure on my part. I shouldn't have hesitated. I should have just said yes. I should have brought her back here, let her sober up and just stayed awake until she slept it off and was ready to find her way to her people or back home. Now this girl is possibly in danger and I had a chance to help her steer clear of that.

I'm not sorry I considered my roommates. And I realize she made choices to get herself into that situation. But I am disappointed in myself that I didn't think more quickly on my feet to come up with a safe solution for myself, the people I know and for this stranger who was balanced on the precipice. All I can do is say to myself, "Next time... be better."

It's not much consolation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Picture #120: "Chère Mademoiselle Hannah..."

"Paris, le 14 juillet 1789

Chère Mademoiselle Hannah,

Le licenciement de M. Necker a donné lieu à beaucoup de sang versé ce jour. De Launay et le prévôt des marchands de Flesselles mensonge tué dans les halls de la Bastille. Je ne peux qu'espérer que cela conduit à l'augmentation des droits de l'homme et à la fois du citoyen.

Je me languis de vous revoir. L'amour, C'est la salutation des anges aux astres.



Happy Bastille Day, everyone! These little bits are from an Hannah Montana stationary set won at Gay Monday Night Bingo, a fabulous free bingo night here in NYC emceed by drag king and queen extraordinaire Murray Hill and Linda Simpson. Better entertainment you will not find in New York. And the tchotchkes are to die for!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Where to continue...?

Back in April I did the BEDA exercise (Blog Every Day in April) and it worked out nicely. It even continued, unintentionally, into May a bit, and that was lovely. I really felt my writing muscles starting to develop. Then, of course, I stopped... and got it in my head that I needed to go back and write entries for every day I missed before continuing in the here and now. Which is, of course, a ridiculous notion and a very slippery slope. So I'll just pick it up from here and back-fill a little for time-sensitive events that I wanted to write about (Gay Pride Parade, etc...)

As for the Toy a Day Picture postings which were giving me a nice structure to write around, I'm not sure about those either. The pictures are going strong, but it's now almost 2 months since I've written about one of them. We shall see.

But for now, I'm going to get back in the saddle... again.

UPDATE: I'm backdating Toy a Day photos just so I can have them line up better with when they were shot.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Picture #62: "So, they get lunch boxes, but we can't even get pants?"

I've always had a fondness for the Affirmative Action Superfriends, though poor El Dorado gets excluded even from this collector's edition featuring Black Vulcan, Apache Chief and Samurai.

The depictions were often incredibly stereotypical, but at least there were depictions. Baby steps... baby steps.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo #61: "I told you to wipe your wheels before you come inside!"

This is, of course, the MSE-6-series repair "mouse" droid from Star Wars. Obviously. And it's making a mess.

We have a pretty eclectic collection of toys here at Fortress Astoria. Most of mine are largely more current acquisitions of things I enjoy, and my roommates fill in with toys from our collectively shared Gen X childhoods past. There's no huge array of Star Wars or Transformers toys here, but there's enough from each genre of iconic toys of the 70's and 80's to make it fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pictures #60:"Not so fast, spaceman..."

Just as a note: I've decided to backdate my posts to when I took the shots, just so I can create a more accurate archive of my posts.

A small child of 7 outwitted me in a game of hiding this Buzz Lightyear in each other's bags and drawers. So naturally I had to seek out solace in ice cream... and ray guns.

I was a little torn using the ray gun, because it's an awesome tin toy Futurama Zapp Brannigan ray gun that really deserves to be featured in it's own shot, but it worked too well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Picture #59: Her love was a forbidden one... but she didn't care.

These toys are pretty much designed to make a kid feel adored and happy. Almost creepily so. It's like having an adorable, cuddly little stalker.

Update: Have you seen THESE?!?!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Picture #58: "Stop taking my shoes...!"

What a ludicrous ship the Cloud City Two-Pod Cloud Car was... and yet we accepted it, because of the general awesomeness of Empire Strikes Back. I always thought it looked like a shoe tree, and so... here we are.

On a separate note, I'm COMPLETELY cheating on my blog dating. Granted, April is over so I'm under no BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) onus, but still... a little sad. Particularly since no one reads this thing...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Picture #57: He didn't recall the "Laser" setting from his childhood...

First off, I love how this picture turned out. Not bad lighting for a clip light and a piece of spare orange/red lighting gel.

Secondly, this fire clip has served me so well over the years. It's a still from a bit of fire video effects composite footage from Detonation Films which has a large selection of free special effects clips, such as bullet hits, gunshot discharge, blood spurts, and, yes, fire and explosions. Great stuff for amateur filmmakers such as myself who are too lazy and/or cheap to buy Video Co-Pilot or learn After Effects.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Picture #56: "Quite safe."

This is, of course, the Han Solo in carbonite from the Slave I toy I featured in a previous photo. Boba Fett, it seems, thought additional cold storage would be a good idea.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thor (in 60 Seconds)

Well here it is, the excuse for my dropping $20 on a rubber hammer toy with pretty lights. Want to revisit the magic of the Thor movie, or experience it for the first time? Here you go:

Here's the thing - I actually REALLY liked the movie! I thought all the necessary acts were there, they got Thor's powers and hammer use dead on, the acting was excellent, and the script was actually quite witty and amusing. Were there certain acts that could have used more fleshing out? Sure! Thor's development of humility on Earth certainly receives short shrift, and he definitely goes from being a favorite son to exiled prodigal in the blink of an eye. But overall, I thought it was a really good adaptation of what has proved for Marvel to be an extremely tricky title and character.

The 3D version, however, is utterly POINTLESS and, in fact, detracts from the movie by making certain scenes too dark to watch without straining your eyes. It also suffers from the ridiculous Disney fake 3D nonsense of looking like a ViewMaster toy from the 1950's - layered flat images do not three dimensions make. Save yourself the $5-6 bucks and go see the 2D version.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Picture #55: "Do you mind?"

I don't drink, but I've always liked the sensation of drinking out of tumblers. As a kid, I would sometimes put a bunch of ice in one and pour a little cola over it and sip away, pretending I was drinking some manner of adult drink like whiskey or bourbon. So really, this is two bits of childhood come back to life. Bath toys and ginger ale in a liquor glass. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Picture #54: Thor Hangs a Picture

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally acquired the Hammer of Thor, a life-long ambition. For years I'd been popping into Halloween stores, only to be told that the surprising inexpensive comic book adaptation model ($20) was sold out.

Sure, I could have ordered it online, but there's a certain fun searching things out in brick and mortar shops - online shopping seems like cheating, at times. So when I saw this beauty sitting a shelf in the Disney Store in Times Square after seeing the movie on Friday night, I knew I'd succumb. Fortunately, Toys 'R Us had it for about $5 cheaper, at $20 as well.

It's actually a really well-made and pleasing toy. You can't really tell, but it's made of soft, smushy rubber, hollow inside, yet the thing still has a nice heft to it. Much less damaging than my mother's meat tenderizing hammer, and much more pleasing! It lights up and makes thunder sounds at the press of a button, and also has a dorky foam missile that can shoot out of the top, which I will never use. And aside from being too narrow in the hammer portion, it doesn't condescend to kids by being too toy-like - it looks and FEELS right. My only other complaint apart from the narrowness is the lack of a strap. No doubt a safety concern... which I shall promptly ignore by making it a strap.

Anyway, I figured since I had the intention of making a Thor summary video, I'd be saving myself the time it would take to make a hammer out of cardboard and paper. Unfortunately, that time was then taken with me running around my apartment pretending to be Thor. Eventually I did get around to cobbling together my Thor costume seen above... Which I found myself horribly tickled by.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Picture #53: "Did you eat that whole #@*%ing thing?!?"

This is my roommate Luke's awesome Galactus toy (with planet drill) that was released in the 90's, I believe. It's a great, simple, iconic adaptation of the character.

Literally the day after taking this shot, I walked into Toys 'R Us to get a Mjolnir toy I've been wanting ever since I saw it on the shelf for the Thor movie tie-ins (and really, a toy I've wanted ever since I was a kid - I remember using a meat tenderizer mallet as my makeshift Uru hammer), and when I walked into the Marvel section, low and behold I saw this!!!

It's a little bigger, has more detailing in the way of bits of Kirby-esque circuitry and whatnot, talks and comes with a Silver Surfer figure, not to mention a very nice display box. That said, I wouldn't say it's superior to the older version - just different. And it doesn't have the planet drill.

Fortunately/unfortunately, buying the Thunder God's hammer (and perhaps some Godzilla figures...) left my toy budget tapped for the month (and really, for the next several months), so I left the Devourer of Worlds on the shelf. Someone else will have to deal with his cosmic hunger...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Picture #52: It'd been years since visiting the psychedelic sock shelter, but he'd still never gotten used to being woken up like this.

This is part of the collection of my friend's daughter. She has an enormous plastic bin stuffed with, well, stuffed animals. It's apparently made of socks from a certain sock company.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

About my Mother

If you've been reading along with the class, you know that I was recently in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA dealing with my estranged father of 20 years. And while this certainly led to a good deal of reflection on my dad's life and our relationship, it also reminded me of the choices my mother made for herself as I was growing up, which were, ultimately and for the most part, good ones.

My parents divorced when I was 5-years old, a growing trend at the time in the US but certainly more unusual for the Thai culture they both had come from. The reasons for this have been a bit fuzzy over the years, but suffice it to say neither of my parents were particularly happy in the situation and my mother made the wise decision to extricate herself from the marriage, taking me with her.

Over the next decade my mother proceeded to simultaneously work several jobs, go to school and raise me, eventually getting her Ph.D. in Child Education and Development and leaving Pittsburgh for greener pastures. In the years that followed she worked as a senior writer and researcher for Sesame Street here in NYC, where she received an Emmy. She then taught as a professor at Albright College in Reading, PA, where she founded their highly successful primary education program and, after 7 years of hard work, was promptly denied tenure for her efforts. After a rather miserable year of trying to teach in Spartansburg, South Carolina, she went on to serve as the headmaster of two prestigious international schools in Chiangmai and Phuket, Thailand, and then followed this up serving as Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Bangkok. She now works for a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving education in Thailand and the region.

Don't get me wrong... my mother drives me CRAZY. For example, when I was 3, she asked me how I wanted my Big Wheel decorated for the neighborhood fair and, after I said I wanted it to be Speed Racer's Mach 5, she promptly ignored me and made it a giant crepe-paper flower. This was the beginning of a long, lifetime run of pushing my buttons. Granted, I clearly still had a good time, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT!

"Evidence of the crime!"

The point is that she's traveled to more places around the world than everyone I know combined, met heads of State and celebrities and made a palpable difference in the lives of countless people. She's lived a tremendously full life, through good times and bad, and even though she makes me face palm in almost every conversation we have, I have the utmost respect and love for her. She's pretty amazing.

So Happy Mother's Day, mom! Love, Shy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pictures #50 & #51: Flying and bouncing

Picture #50: Just one... more... second...

Remote control hovercraft technology has come a long way since this wonderful little styrofoam device. Today at Brookstone I saw a four-rotor, wifi-operated hovertoy that was operated by an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app using it's accelerometer and gyroscope. And during brunch, a salt shaker with a built-in spring lid! We live in the FUTURE!

Picture #51: While not nearly as mesmerizing as it's perilous cousin Palantír, the Sparkly-Ribbon-Ballantír is somewhat entrancing in it's own right.

I only discovered afterwards that this ball, when bounced, also lights up. Sigh... missed opportunities.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Madison Square Park

Every spring/summer here in New York, Madison Square Park (not to be confused with the events venue, Madison Square Garden) at 23rd and Broadway features a different outdoor, installation artist for the warmer months. Some years have been truly awe-inspiring, such as the silver tree sculptures they featured a number of years back; several beautiful, flowing tree shapes in reflective metal, gracefully wending their way skyward. Others, such as the taxi cab one artist just plunked in the middle of the park, not so much.

This year's, however, is truly astonishing and captivating. The pictures don't do it justice - if you live in NYC, you really should stop by the park and take a look. The Asiatic image, inspired by the myth of the Greek nymph Echo, takes on a photo-realistic quality despite it's elongated aspect and it almost feels as though you're looking at a computer generated projection rather than an actual sculpture. It both floats above and perfectly integrates with it's surroundings. Truly remarkable.

It's also fascinating to watch the way people interact with the sculpture. The first instinct is, of course, to stop and stare, take pictures, consider and examine the work. But very quickly, due to it's very organic nature, people begin to treat it as part of the regular landscape. It becomes shade, something to lean against, much like the ancient ruins of Rome or Mexico City, lying in the hearts of these metropolis, something to be studied but then accepted into one's everyday existence. Take a look at it both in the day and night time. Really great stuff! And like the trees, it'll be sad when it's gone.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Picture #49: "This is my favorite part!"

I've always had a fondness for Winnie the Pooh toys. There's a wonderful simplicity and innocence about both the toys and the characters. Plus, an ex of mine had a wonderful, home-made Piglet doll that had some fantastic stories attached to it, and when she moved away she gifted me a lovely little Tigger doll as a stand-in. So coming across this Pooh doll in my friend's daughter's toy box, as well as this vintage edition of Winnie the Pooh, sort of made this day's photo a no-brainer.

Oh, and Happy Cinqo de Mayo everyone!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Picture #48: "I thought you said you were MARTIAN?"

This Marvin the Martian figure, as well as his matching K-9 statuette, were just gifted to me by a friend who pulled them from the garbage of her building. Still with the store tags on them.

Granted, I just came back from a very pointed object lesson about the dangers of hoarding, but it still both amazes and distresses me how much we as a society produce and then just toss away.

But back to the picture - I'm quite fond of this particular pun I managed on the spot.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Picture #47: He'd never laugh at the idea of wearing a "nose condom" ever again.

During my trip back to Pittsburgh, while walking down Penn Avenue in the city's downtown, an anti-abortionist was walking around handing out these little 10-11 week "preborn" fetuses, along with a little literature.

I didn't read the literature.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Picture #46: LEGO delusions of grandeur.

This is a LEGO toy I made for a fantastic tabletop game called Mechaton, a fighty giant robot game using line of sight, dice and robots and obstacles made from everyone's favorite childhood modular plastic building block system. The first time we played, we only had an old box of our roommate Rick's LEGOs that had been laying around, with a hodgepodge of pieces. I was quite proud of the assortment of mechs we managed to cobble together, and this one was by far my favorite creation.

Speaking of creating, I didn't even realize it, but BEDA (Blog Every Day in April) came and went and I actually completed the task (more or less). At the same time, I've actually managed to keep up on this Toy a Day photo project, granted with varying degrees of quality and cleverness.

I can't quite tell if it's having a positive effect in other areas of my life yet, as intended. Time will tell, I suppose.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Picture #45: The line must be drawn here!

I wonder/worry sometimes that people might think that I'm either a vegetarian or vegan, as I seem to have the occasional anti-dairy theme in my photos. Not even remotely true.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sakura Doom

Spring is here at last
Cherry blossoms are falling
Claritin, save me!

I wandered Saturday evening, my eyes red and puffy, my skin begging to be clawed from the bones of my skull, throat raw, looking forward to getting home and disappearing under a protective shield of running water. For I had realized, as tissue after tissue fell before my runny wrath, that the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom festival was this weekend. And with said festivities come... pollen.

Into the great indoors with me.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Picture #44: Two late-night cravings... one pint of ice cream.

Upon arriving home, I found myself in need of both sleep... and chocolate. Preferably in the form of dairy. But the polar bear had other plans...

Got in late from Pittsburgh after extracting myself from an unfortunate bit of last-minute drama, separate from my family issues. Megabus' internet access is spotty, at best, so writing and posting from the road was a bit annoying. Still, internet on a bus - we live in the future. All this to excuse my COMPLETELY cheating at BEDA and backdating this post a few hours ;)

About said family issues, I'm not entirely sure where I left things with my father. We certainly parted on good terms, but whether my reconnecting with him will have a positive effect and get him to start taking care of himself and living life, time will tell.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Picture #43: The rider locked eyes with the giant fox wolf, as blue twilight broke the stillness with the twinkling of stars.

Continuing the theme of using the toys of the children of my childhood friends. Sort of a simultaneous recognition and denial of getting older. This wonderful hobbyhorse, bedroom, bandana and dog all belong to the 11-year-old daughter of a friend of mine from junior high, Rob.

Things continued to move forward with my father today. Started him on a path towards taking better care of himself, I hope. Spent a large portion of the day clearing paths through his home and trying to get his financial situation squared away. We'll see...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Picture #42: While a firm believer in collective bargaining, he found the union's demand for removal of the salary cap completely unacceptable.

While in Pittsburgh, my oldest childhood friend, Mike, has been extraordinarily gracious and supportive, putting me up in his home and ferrying me back and forth to my father's house and various supply shops for necessaries, even taking me to Game 7 of the Penguins-Lightning Stanley Cup Playoffs series. (We lost... @%$^!@*!!!)

Despite the onerous reason for my visit, I've been really glad to see Michael again after all these years. I'm immensely proud of and happy for him - he has a beautiful, loving family and is doing right by his family business. His daughter (whose toys I have stolen in the dead of night for this picture) is a bright, wonderful, charming little elfin creature who was shy around me for all of 10-seconds before energetically sharing her Bernstein Bears book collection with me. His wife, also a childhood friend, is lovelier than ever and is balancing work and family with grace and aplomb. It's everything I could have wished for him and more.

It's a shame he's going to hunt me down and kill me when I post the home videos we made when we were adolescent morons...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Picture #41: Even at the Shaler Police Department, crime never sleeps... for the Batman!

After arriving on the redeye bus from NYC and meeting a friend in downtown Pittsburgh for breakfast, we headed to meet with the officer from the Shaler Police Department that had contacted me. After missing our bus stop and walking several miles dragging my luggage back to the police department (through scattered thunderstorms) we finally found ourselves at the precinct waiting room where I took this picture. I can't believe I didn't take one, but there was a pamphlet entitled "Stalking: Questions and Answers."

Shortly thereafter, met with the officer and a crisis intervention team and headed out to speak to my father to see if there was anything we could do to help. It's a bit much to discuss in this forum at this time, but suffice it to say... things are not good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Picture #40: Swimming upstream

Picture #40:
"Where are you headed?"
"Going back to Pittsburgh to deal with my estranged father who I haven't had any contact with in 20 years."
"Dude, I know how you feel."

I'm writing this on the redeye Megabus from New York City to Pittsburgh... a bus from the FUTURE!

I grew up in Pittsburgh and my father still lives there. My father and I haven't spoken in nearly 20 years, since he disowned me. But last year the neighbors contacted me through an old neighbor and family friend, Mrs. Hoburg, saying that my dad had become a shut in. When the police had come to shovel him out during the blizzards of 2010, he refused to come to the door. Not really know what, if anything, I should do, I left a few messages at whatever numbers I had left that worked, but never heard from him.

Fast forward to the beginning of this April; I was contacted by a sergeant in the Pittsburgh Police Department with pretty much the same situation. Except that this time, my father had fallen in a shopping center parking lot, cut his head, but refused to be taken to the hospital. He still refuses to answer his door for any social services assistance, hasn't paid utility bills, etc...

That last one was odd because last I knew, my father, formerly a cardio-thoracic surgeon, was rather well off. I realize there have been several stock market crashes in the last 20 years, but dad was always savvy when it came to holding on to his money, so I'd be shocked if he'd somehow lost it all.

Anyway, the very kind police officer thinks he'd be more likely to answer the door for social services if a friend or family member showed up as well. I couldn't find any information for anyone else, so, hence, my trip to da 'Burgh.

So why am I going? Well, speaking to my mother, she told me that it would be the humane and compassionate thing to go and try to help him - and this is a woman to whom my father was NOT particularly nice. I figure, if she can ignore his trespasses and suggest I reach out to him, I can certainly do the same. Not for him, but just to be a decent human being.

Of course, she's not on a bus reeking of bathroom sanitizer at 3 am...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Picture #39-#36: Easter picture and a little backlog.

Picture #39: The egg coloring was about to take a turn for the messy.

Picture #38: Wilbur was being taken to a special farm, way out in the country, to a loving family with a big backyard, where he could eat as much as he wanted and play all day...

Went with a friend to Jersey and grabbed their daughter's piggy bank - I'm not above stealing/borrowing children's toys and money to further my own ends - and took this shot in the car. What I love about this shot is that this drive into Jersey now is so iconically from "The Sopranos." The theme song just kept running through my head over and over.

Picture #37: "All in? Affirmative!"

Dedicated to the memory of #Elisabeth Sladen - R.I.P. #Sarah Jane Smith. Doctor Who's robot companion, K-9, in this resetting of Casino Royal.

Picture #36: Old school.

Just me and my old Atari 2600 (still works), playing a game of Mario Kart. He's gone old school to school the new school!