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!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Move over Magnolia... EVERYTHING FROSTED!

During the last decade, my compatriots and I (and a good portion of the city) began frequenting Magnolia Bakery, thanks to their crack-laden buttercream frosting cupcakes (and also, in part, due to being featured on Sex and the City). This began a somewhat ludicrous cupcake craze in the city and the rest of the country, with many a discussion on where the best cupcakes might be found in town. I never really took part too much - other than the aforementioned buttercream confection, there was never really a cupcake that I found I "craved." It's not my dessert item of choice. Give me a real piece of well-made cake/pie/mousse/souffle any day.

That said... OH MY F*CKING GOD, the cupcakes at Everything Frosted in Chinatown are AWESOME! It's a little second floor bakery, tucked away on a side-street between Mott and the Chinatown park on 105 1/2 Mosco Street.

In particular, the green tea cupcake with jasmine white chocolate frosting pictured above is SPECTACULAR! You pick a cupcake and a frosting and they customize it for you to order.

You go upstairs and it's an unassuming, clean, neat little light-green space with an open kitchen and a glass case with the cupcakes. On the other side of the room was a pastry chef taking photos of a completed Angry Birds cake!

And they give you a little stamp card that's a "Buy 5 - get 1 free" deal! (I may have immediately filled this card...)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Picture #35: The young cat was proving to be a more formidable opponent than he had initially imagined.

Having friends with young children makes for any number of good toy opportunities. I posted this on my Facebook and someone asked if it was a rice cooker - if only (it's a humidifier)!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picture #34: Some day.

Oh, expanding toys, you one-trick pony of the toy world. After they've grown, they don't really have a pleasing texture to them; makes them difficult to play with and not particularly great for display. So in the protective packaging poor Curt Connors remains. Until he makes his move...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Picture #33: "Yes, I love it too, but maybe not for the Passover soup...?"

I find that my love of baking powder and bacon makes me a really bad Jew. Also, my complete lack of being Jewish.

I do find seder cooking rather fascinating, in that I like the way modern Jewish cooks are determined to drag traditional Jewish cooking kicking and screaming into the realm of flavor. Mark Bittman's seder menu looked very interesting and appetizing, while remaining both simple and traditional. Kosher and tasty don't have to be mutually exclusive.

On the subject of cooking for the people of the Tribe, once, while dating a Jewish girl and shopping for a Hanukah present for her, I happened across a traditional Jewish cookbook in a small boutique shop in the Village. The shop girl sidled over and sort of murmured under her breath that the food in that cookbook was rather bland. When I told her my girlfriend at the time liked bland food, she looked at me inquisitively and asked, "Why are you dating her, then?"

It would turn out to have been a very good question.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Picture #32: "Very funny, fleshbag."

This, alas, is not one of my toys, but once again my roommate Rick's, who has a far superior collection of 80's sci-fi/robot toys. When he eventually dies trying to hang a fan out his window this summer, I'll be sure to surreptitiously move some down to my room before his family arrives.

This, of course, is the Autobot Transformer Blaster, designed as a counterpoint to Sound Wave, who was later destroyed and rebuilt as Sound Blaster, an odd bit of naming overlap, but who am I to question Japanese anime toy makers?

Also amusingly ironic is the fact that I'm making fun of Blaster's antiquated media format with an only slightly less antiquated media format.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Picture #31: "Yes, R2, I tried re-installing already."

This is actually the top of a Pez dispenser (which I'm supposed to send to someone, but I've been dragging my heels on - sorry!). I took it with me to the opening game for the Manhattan Mayhem last night, but couldn't think of anything particularly clever to do with it, so I waited until I was home to do something not particularly clever with him in the comfort of my bedroom.

The bout was really quite good, even though my team, the Manhattan Mayhem, lost. Here they are just before the bout began:

And here, new co-manager, Endless Justin, somehow is looking directly into the camera even though I'm in the nosebleed seats.

This is just another pre-bout picture of the team. I like both how standout transfer Davey Blockit is at the ready with her coonskin cap, and the way Fisticuffs is yawning (one can only hope that, if I happen to run into her on a dark sport court, she doesn't beat me up for posting this picture...)

After the bout, we went to Juniors for their amazing combo pastrami/corned beef reuben and their world famous cheesecake. On the way, this somewhat appropriate sign, lost in the rain-filled side street.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Picture #30: "Will you knock it off already...?"

Picture number 30... one month of these toy shots. I'm actually rather surprised I've kept it up. It certainly helps that they've usually been pretty easy setups. Not this one, of course. Hitting the timer and then moving into position while tied up attached to a Star Wars Snowspeeder isn't the easiest trick in the book; it takes a fair amount of futzing. Still, ultimately, I'm pretty happy with the result, so worth the 4am effort!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pictures #28 & #29: Things I did instead of filing my taxes...

Picture #28: Every garbage day with this...

Alas, this is not my toy, but my roommate's. Slave I really is quite a silly looking ship when it comes right down to it. It's a credit to how AWESOME a movie Empire Strikes Back is that we don't mind that it looks like a giant sucker fish. Also, Boba Fett's general badassiness in anticipating Solo's "float away with the rest of the garbage" ploy. Speaking of Empire, how ridiculous is it that "Serenity" beat out "Empire..." for io9's "Best Sci-Fi Movie Ever" poll? That is a classic example of user FAIL. I like Serenity and Firefly just fine, but better than Empire? Come on.

Picture #29: "Racer X!"

The live-action movie sucked, but it did result in an awesome glut of Speed Racer toy overstock at the local 99-cent stores. The models were excellent and came with detachable mechanical arms and weapons that fit on the front, sides or backs of the Matchbox-sized cars.

Racer X's "Shooting Star" car was awesome, but of course the Mach 5 is the real star of the show. I'm forced to remember, however, a time as a young kid of 3 or 4 when, for a block party, my mother was supposed to decorate my Big Wheel for me. She asked me how I wanted it to look and I told her I wanted it to look like the fabulous Mach 5!

She decorated it like a flower... Thus began a long history of my mother never listening to me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's that Netflix? Alien vs. Ninja? OKAY!

So last night I was browsing through the new arrivals on NetFlix Instant; Toy Story 3, Hot Tub Time Machine, From Paris With Love, etc... Wait a moment, what's this? Why, hello, "Alien vs. Ninja." And goodbye, 81 minutes of my life!

This movie is wonderfully self-aware of it's ever-escalating nonsense, hitting trope after trope of both the ninja and alien/horror genres. The increasing outlandishness of each scene is great, and the final battle is worth the price of Netflix admission. I mean, look at this picture above. Giant Buddha statues... wielding katana. Because nothing captures the essence of Buddhism like a giant sword.

Speaking of which, I think I'm going to add a Netflix affiliate link to my blog and YouTube channel. If I've figured it out, and you've been thinking of joining Netflix, click on the link wherever it is on this page and join through there! Thanks!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Photo #27: "How dare you, sir? How DARE you?"

The best part about this puppet is that it moos when you press a button inside the mouth. Or the worst part, depending on how many times you accidentally hit the button.

I'm not sure my joke is actually conveyed here, but I find this picture amusing nevertheless. The original idea I had was that I was out of milk and had just asked the cow for some - apparently uncivilized behavior. I think, instead, that this picture just depicts a sense of general outrage on the part of the cow watching me drink her milk.

Great... now this makes me want to reuse this puppet with me eating a burger.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Picture #26: "Some garden insects are beneficial. Others, however..."

A gorgeous, 70+F degree day here in New York City yesterday provided an opportunity for some spring gardening. And pondering which insects are beneficial to have in a garden, andwhich will eat all your Energon Cubes and turn on you in an instant when it benefits them. Damn you Insecticons!

For example, I found this guy in a previous season. Horned worm. Chomps on tomato plants. Bad guy, right? Kind of. See the little white eggs hanging off him? Wasp larvae. Unfortunately I stomped him before I read further in the article I was reading. Turns out when those larvae hatched, they would have eaten not only that worm, but hunted down any other worms as well, killing them off. So, bad move on my part.

And by the way, by gardening, I mean moving rocks from one spot to another. Literally. Last fall, some drunken/high, fellow broke my water garden/fish pond by stepping/falling into it at a party my roommate threw. Charming. Ironic, as my roommate typically hates functions with people who are getting drunk and/or high.

Speaking of the roomies, I'm wondering if my roommates and I have, amongst the four of us, 365 different individual and groups of toys for me to actually complete this project? Yes, we are a collection of men-children, but 365 might be stretching it. Friends with children are certainly helping, but already I'm concerned that I won't be able to do a different toy every day. Repeating toys is an idea I've been... toying with? Mwahahahahahaaa! Nah, I'll try not to repeat.

And when did this turn into a year-long project? Oh... right now, I guess. Dammit!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Picture #25: "The Mario Kart ninjas were always the most annoying to fight." or Photoshop Sucks

Fortunately, most of these DailyBooth pictures actually happen pretty quickly. I look around the apartment and a toy will both catch my eye and give me an idea for a picture. This picture was much the same, except I figured I'd draw a few fading lines in afterwards in Photoshop to convey a sense of movement. How long could that take?

Answer? FOUR HOURS. Photoshop sucks. It's lack of lay-user friendliness is incredibly frustrating.

As for the toy itself, it belongs to my roommate, a present from an ex of his; for a good long while our household was obsessed with Mario Kart, as evidenced by this shot from our first annual Mario Kart tournament (I came in second behind the roomie in question).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pictures #22-24: Cheating at BEDA

If I'm a day late for posting a daily blog during BEDA, I don't really mind backdating. Because my internal clock is really messed up, for one, so I feel as though I'm in a different time zone. Also because, it's a BLOG POST.

Picture #22: "But, remind me again... WHY are we stalking the broccoli?"

This Tigger was another present from my good friend Wendy. After she lent me her childhood Piglet doll to use in a video (and to help me sleep), I had it for a good long time, and after I finally returned it to her, she got me this Tigger to replace it; I had always been her Tigger to her Piglet anyway, what with my bounciness and her adorableness.

The broccoli is one of the things I love about gardening - when a plant weathers a brutal and long winter, survives and keeps growing (only to be destroyed shortly by the gnashing of my teeth!)

Picture #23: "Well that's a horse... of a different murder."

My tribute to both the cheesiness of David Caruso's CSI Miami opening lines, and the awesomeness of my friend's daughter's modular horse erasers.

Picture #24: "Someday, Zac Efron... Someday."

Once again, my friend's daughter's toy chest provides the guest star in this day's photo. I actually have never seen any of Zac Efron's "work," I only know that the poster for his movie, "Charlie St. Cloud," made me want to punch the poster for "Charlie St. Cloud."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Picture #21: "Yes, I know... you shot first."

At a certain level, the corporate group think erases any sense in the toymaking executive's mind of what a child wants and appreciates. This is especially true when it comes to adding muscles to characters - a blunder often found in Halloween costumes and action figures, as seen here. The corporate toy exec is under the mistaken impression that by making Han Solo more Schwartzenegger-esque, they are somehow enhancing the heroic characteristics of that character. But what a child REALLY wants, or any fan of character toys for that matter, is an action figure that LOOKS LIKE THE CHARACTER.

The Hollywood toy executive also fails when designing a Halloween costume. For although the muscles PERHAPS make the costume closer to the character, the design failure is this: a child (or adult-child) doesn't don a costume to look more muscular, they don the costume to BECOME that character. As a kid, I didn't want a frakkin' shirt with a picture of Spiderman on it with a flimsy plastic mask, I wanted an actual Spiderman uniform!

Sigh... the wrong kids grow up to be toy makers...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Last day to vote in YouTube NextUp Contest!

Hey all, it's the last day (April 8th) to vote for me in YouTube's NextUp Creator Contest! If you haven't already today, please click the link and vote one more time (or two more times, depending on your time zone...)

As a bit of editorial on this contest, I think this "community voting" round of judging is a bit wonky and unfair. The contest is open to YouTube Partners with under 300,000 subscribers, but how is the playing field even remotely level between a user with a few thousand subscribers, and a channel with 50k, 100k or even over 200k subscribers?

For example, there's one channel in the semi-finals with well over 220,000 subs, that's been around for less than a year, run by guys who already have the technical and special effects expertise, HD camera equipment and video making know-how to grow their subscription base. Plus, if they've managed to garner over 200k subscribers in just 11 months, they clearly don't need help. How is some kid shooting vlogs/sketches in his basement on his iSight webcam supposed to compete with that? Or even me, for that matter?

I could be imagining things, but I seem to recall the original rules stating that second round would be a combination of user votes and a third party judging panel; this would have at least balanced out the voting curve and given users with smaller viewerships a chance. (I know for a fact they changed other portions of the official rules after the contest had begun, I just don't know if the judging format was the same.) It just seems a shame that such a wonderful opportunity is being marred by inequities in the voting system.

That said, once again, GO VOTE FOR ME!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Picture #20: "They mostly come at night. Mostly."

This photo was taken at my old family apartment. It was trashed by some deadbeat, squatting sub-letters. I've been trying to clean it to renovate it, but they spread diatomaceous earth all over the apartment in order to make it seem as though they had to have an exterminator come. Unfortunately, a real pest control operator wouldn't have poured the DE in large piles all over the room, as it's a respirator hazard when misused in that way (it's supposed to be lightly brushed on areas that won't be disturbed). As a result, I can't spend more than a few hours at a time in the apartment without a respirator. Annoying... plus they stole and wrecked a bunch of stuff.

But at least they left the Slinky...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Picture #19: "Some late night research on the family tree."

Even as poor a Thai as I am, I still have a certain connection to elephants. And so, I enjoyed helping these two look up their ancestry.

As with the rest of this week, I'd love it if you could go and vote Thumbs Up for me in the YouTube NextUp competition:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Do You Hear (that I'm a NextUp Semi-Finalist?!) VOTE FOR ME!

So, I entered a video into the YouTube NextUp Creator Contest and made it into the semi-finals. Now it's on to public voting and I could use your help! Please click through and VOTE for me ONCE A DAY on the contest page at this link:

There are 25 slots available for a $35,000 grant and 4-day creator camp at YouTube headquarters, as well as lots of support from YouTube to help grow my channel here, so it'd be a tremendous opportunity! Please tell your friends and social networks as well!

Just to confuse the issue, I made a musical video ABOUT the video I made as an entry, as well. Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Picture #17 & #18: Found Toys

This weekend's shots consisted of toys that have been acquired semi-intentionally - the Tiny Scientist is from a KinderEgg and the Catepillar is from the fabulous Gay Monday Night Bingo hosted by Drag King and Queen legends, Murray Hill and Linda Simpson.

Found toys often find their way into garbage cans and land fills. But I like it when they fill little slots and corners in an apartment, little treasures waiting to be rediscovered.

Picture #17: "The long-haired one would regret stumbling on to his fiendish plot."

Picture #18: "Soon would come the harvest... and destruction."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Picture #16: "Eat up kids, while the Protoculture's HOT!"

I find myself rather tickled by this photo, not just because it uses some of my favorite toys ever (which I extracted from a box being thrown out by a friend's parents more than 20 years ago), but just because I think I accurately channeled my actual pleasure in serving food to my friends and loved ones.

But back to the toys - Robotech toys did it up right. I mean, how awesome is a toy that lets you suspend your disbelief so effectively as to believe that a transforming giant robot/plane might actually work!?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

BEDA: Blog Every Day in April

I suppose if I post my "Toy-a-Day" photos up on my blog every day, it'll automatically qualify me as participating in BEDA (Blog Every Day in April).

It seems to be the season of my discovering new social media networks. Just stumbled across VYou today (, a cross between DailyBooth and YouTube, where you post quick vlog answers and responses to people's posted comments. I think you can post questions from Facebook and Twitter, but I haven't really explored the site yet. Still, looks like it might be a good additional creative exercise along with the DailyBooth photos to try to whip my psyche into shape.

So if you have any questions you want me to answer quickly via video format, go to VYou and ask me!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pictures #13 & #14(15): Scrabble with Aliens and Writing with Monkey

"Aliens are not particularly gracious losers."

"Clarence was having trouble with his first solo writing project..."