Saturday, January 21, 2012

Picture #311: Vengeance / Also: SRI LANKAN FOOD!

So many toys, and things in general, could be improved by making them glow in the dark. Oogie Boogie here takes advantage of the miracle of phosphors; not in entirety, though, which is confusing. Just his tongue and the dice. Oh well, it's better than nothing.

It actually snowed today! Shocking! This winter has been ridiculously mild. Weather in the 50's and 60's, with only brief bouts of actually freezing temperatures. But today, actual snow! At least in the morning... then sleet... then... rain... meh.

But it's okay, because we didn't need to leave the house. For today was my roommate's (postponed) annual Sri Lankan dinner party - and people turned out in DROVES. He'd been cooking curries for days and I woke up this morning and started helping by cleaning the apartment, and various early arrivals helped him peel, chop and tear various food stuffs as he continued his chefly duties. And the food didn't disappoint - delicious as always.

People actually hung out in my room, which is unusual. Cleaning it will have that effect. I suppose my room does have a somewhat intriguing curio-shop quality to it. I'll have to keep it tidy for future gatherings as well.

Great mix of fun and beautiful folks this year too. People loved our annual screening of Dhoom 2 and much Jungle Speed was played. Have some lovely new nerdy presences in our lives, and that's always a good thing :)

Up til the wee hours of the morning we were. Sleep came HARD and was much welcome!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Picture #310: "He knew he shouldn't..."

I was never actually a fan of bendy toys growing up, primarily for the reason that they generally can't stand on their own. The movement and pose-ability of action figures were always of great concern to me as a kid - I could never quite fathom why toy manufacturers chose to make figures which couldn't bend at the knees, raise their arms to the side, or even simply stand up or sit down. The G.I. Joe figures of the 80's were the ideal for my money - full joint articulation and they could (mostly) stand up. Of course, in reality, I never actually had that many action figures of any sort - my parents weren't big purchasers of toys; lots of socks and sweaters for holidays from my mom and from my dad... not much at all, actually.

All that said, Jack Skellington here is pretty cool for a bendy toy.

Today, I went back to Bikram Yoga for the first time in a long while. Actually, it was technically just "hot yoga" at Yoga to the People, since they're not officially licensed. Bikram Choudhury was never able to actually copyright his posture sequence, just the dialogue associated with it, but who needs specific dialogue? It just felt great to move through the practice again.

Afterwards, feeling looser and more relaxed than I have in ages, I went to catch a 1920's hot jazz band called The Hot Sardines at the rooftop bar of The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. I generally hate the "scene" in the Meatpacking area now, mostly because of the shallow excess of it all, and partially because I can't afford any shallow excess. But there wasn't a cover and I'd caught the band playing on the subway platform before and knew how great they were, so I was happy to go stand at the bar and listen to them be awesome. I mean, they have a tap dancer as one of the musicians - what's not to like? Plus, the view from the Standard rooftop bar is nothing short of spectacular, and the bar itself, well... take a look.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Picture #309: "Hit cancel! HIT CANCEL!"

The Big Trak was an impressive toy from the 70's/80's; a programmable, 6-wheeled ATV tank with a "laser," and an optional trailer/dump truck. Just tap in the commands and it would roll out and execute your orders. I never had one as a kid, but a few friends did and I always thought it was just fantastic.

Well, now some enterprising and clever geeks have recreated this bit of awesomeness in a smaller, compact form: The Big Trak, Jr. The folks over at Think Geek are great about this sort of thing. And, awesomely, my roommate got one! Mwuahahahahaa!

Went to a children's after-school recital today; in the piano portion the kids were using roll-up keyboards. I remember the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard was playing a duet with a pianist who brought a portable roll-up piano, and he was simply amazed at the technology. Futurism is a wonderful thing. My iPhone is a tricorder, and kids are playing on musical instruments from the 23rd century. Fantastic!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Picture #307: "Giraffe? No... I said, penguin. Got it? PEN. GUIN."

During most of my performance arts life, I'd always wanted to do something with puppets. I was and am a huge fan of Jim Henson growing up, and in college I was exposed to the work of Julie Taymor and others (before her blockbuster turns with Lion King and Spider-Man), so always thought it would tremendously rewarding and fun. However, puppeteering is something you really have to have a hunger and a passion for - you can't, as a performer, really just DABBLE in puppetry. At least that's my impression. It'd be like a medical doctor who is a general practitioner just dabbling in neuro-surgery. There's a very specialized set of skills that you need to train in for years to be able to perform with any real quality. Fortunately, I do actually believe those skills can be developed independently, by just watching, practicing, watching some more and practicing some more - so there's no need for a $50,000/year puppetry college, thank goodness.

I went to my ballroom dancing class for the first time since taking ill and it was great. I recently watched a video of myself dancing and was appalled - I hate watching myself; I felt I looked just plain goofy. I'm assured by others that I'm not, but now I have this self-image of myself looking akin to a long-haired troll shuffling around in a dance studio stuck in my brain. It doesn't matter though, I enjoy the dancing thoroughly enough that I don't care. It really is the key to life - not letting the judgement of others, and particularly your own self-judgment, keep you from trying things you want to try.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Picture #305: "No, I can still see you."

They had these fairly awesome cephalopod magnets at my local 99-cent bargain store. So, naturally, I had to get them. Why? Because of this:

Uneventful Sunday, mostly spent watching football and the Golden Globes. On the football, the Texans failed to defeat the Steelers' arch-nemesiseses the Baltimore Ravens. Congrats Ravens, you defeated a team on their third-string quarterback - I'm sure you'll do fine against three-time Superbowl champion Tom Brady and the Patriots. And the Packers proved what a dangerous canard the buy week can be - unless your team is riddled with injuries, taking a week off just kills your momentum. And thus, the myth of Eli Manning's worth is perpetuated for another Playoff, putting him amongst the ranks of other overrated QB's such as Mark Sanchez and Mark Sanchez.

On the Golden Globes front, I was looking forward to Ricky Gervais hosting but it turns out it was just a stunt. His screen time was severely reduced from last year and he was clearly forced to tone it down - his monologue and interludes were annoying self-effacing disappointingly tame. Ironic, as he mocked the guidelines NBC gave him. So glad he went easy on the rich, beautiful, famous people... it was well worth the 3-hours of boredom.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Picture #304: "Clear your mind of questions... and head over to the electronics department."

So embedded in my brain is this scene from Empire Strikes Back, I instinctively struck this pose when I stumbled across this Yoda backpack while browsing around J and R today. I was a little confused that they felt the need to change the dimensions of Yoda - he's already backpack sized!

The returns of my over-priced, under-useful electronics actually went smoothly today, despite their being past their return windows. The beauty of big box stores. Plus, Yoda backpacks.

A lovely dinner in Chinatown and then some football. Because I'm very manly. And then... Saturday Night Live. I don't often watch SNL live, because it's like waiting to see shooting stars in the sky on a cloudy night. You stare and wait and there's the occasional chuckle or guffaw, but otherwise, a lot of the same. Daniel Radcliffe was hosting this evening, he was decent, but two things struck me. The first was a sketch making fun of the mediocrity of internet bloggers and YouTubers - the basic premise was that people on the internet have an overinflated sense of their own value and worth, and no one ever tells them how middling or bad they are. REALLY Saturday Night Live? You're going to comment on the Emperor's New Clothes nature of YouTube users, while repeating a half dozen sketch ideas for the umpteenth time? REAAAAALLLLY?

The second sketch that stood out to me was, ironically, a repeated Weekend Update segment, where the two characters sort of mumble. Yes, hilarious, so glad they brought them back. But this time, it was two non-Asian characters dressed up as Korean people! Yay! Great way to commemorate MLK Jr Day, by putting your actors in yellow face! Again!

Anyway, on a positive note, it's always entertaining to watch the talented cast members work really hard. Kristen Wig works SOOOOO hard to squeeze every last bit of funny out of the stones that are handed to her - she's really quite amazing. As do other cast members, but she really stands out because of the sheer volume of material they write for her.

Well, back to mediocre blogging and making mediocre YouTube videos for me. Thanks, SNL, for pointing out how lame grassroots arts are on your fourth-place network legacy show! You sure showed us!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Picture #303: Conversations with my crayons.

"Do you want to color?"
"No, I've had a lousy day."
"We should color."
"I'm really not in the..."
"Let's COLOR!!!"
"Yeah, okay."
I'm not sure why crayons don't have more acceptance as an artistic medium? I imagine it's because they're thought of as being "for kids." But hell, they come in tons of colors, are less messy than charcoal or pastels, and often have a sharpener built right into the box! And they're CHEAP! Paint is so last millenia. I'm calling it... CRAYON IS THE NEW GOUACHE!

Had a lousy day. Been running around for two weeks gathering equipment, building mic boxes, begging advice and kindly hand outs from musician and audiophile friends, trying to assemble a recording set-up for an audio book gig I've been offered. Spent money I don't have on equipment that the company insisted I get, only to discover, after they finally got back to me after a week and a half, that it doesn't work properly! Just got the go ahead today to go with different equipment, except NOW the 2-week return policy on it all is expired! Yay!

The moral of our story? Never take gigs that require that YOU pay money up front!

Congratulations, Friday the 13th! You FRAKKIN' WIN!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Picture #302: "Really, Newton...?"

One of the last bits of legal private sector fireworks left in New York, along with the sparkler, is the Party Popper. You know these things, they make a little bang and confetti and streamers come shooting out. Wheeee!

Except these Chinatown ones are DEAFENING! They had two kinds, a giant one that barely made a peep, and these tiny ones, that sounded like someone had just lit a firecracker and shoved it directly in your ear. This we discovered at an 8-year old's birthday party, through the process of destroying the eardrums of little children and adults alike.

Today was spent shopping around for more audio recording equipment and advice, all of which ended up being useless. An annoyingly persistent, high-pitched whine is still appearing on my recordings, despite the array of fancy new technology I've surrounded myself with. It will work out eventually, one hopes.

Something I forgot to mention yesterday: while passing through the Times Square subway station, I glanced at the huge array of posters for NBC's upcoming sweeps month mid-season offering, Smash. And lo and behold there, right between Deborah Messing and Katherine McPhee, was a giant poster with my best friend from high school, Christian Borle.

A little background on my friend Christian, and also my crew from high school. We became fast friends sophomore year and stayed as such through about midway through my senior year, when my life began unraveling and most people around me with common sense backed away. He was always ridiculously talented, along with most of my friends there. Christian went on to star in Broadway plays, being nominated for a Tony award and even being married briefly to Broadway star Sutton Foster. He's done well for himself. Another of my good friends from high school is Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of the critically acclaimed band, TV on the Radio. Pretty much all of my high school friends are now successful doctors, authors, artists, and so forth. So, yes, the alumni newsletter is a little ridiculous.

I may have blogged about this before, but in case I hadn't, I always have mixed feelings when I see Christian or Tunde or my other classmates in high-profile projects. One of those feelings is pride and happiness for them - it's really great to see that talent and hard work actually can pay off.

The other feeling however, isn't what you might expect - it's not jealousy or bitterness towards my old friends. It's mostly a mixture of regret and shame that I've wasted the promise and potential of my youth. Granted, I'm not dead yet, but... I'm certainly not where I probably should be. And that's a shame. Because the opportunities and gifts I've been blessed with are not ones that should have been treated so casually, and I'm a ungrateful bastard for squandering them.

Such is life... and at least it's not quite over yet. Hopefully, someday, I'll accomplish something to make those I was once so close to smile and be equally proud of me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Picture #301: "Meh, there's nothing on."

Ah, the crappy Halloween movie tie-in costume prop. I picked up this blocky little number the day after Halloween, along with a Green Lantern domino mask, for half off. The ring was SUPPOSED to light up, but the battery had either died by the time I purchased it, or had never worked in the first place. I suppose I'll just have to use... my imagination... meh.

Still a bit listless today, but every day my health is getting a little better. Though I still seem to have a micro mucous factory implanted somewhere in my sinus cavity. It's disturbing to discover that the space I thought was occupied by brain tissue all these years was actually just long-term storage for snot. Ah, the magic of the neti pot.

However, I did venture back into the out of doors, to rendezvous with people to pick up acoustic foam and to have lunch. And later, after wrestling, unsuccessfully, with sound equipment, I sallied forth out to DUMBO to see a fun little indie comedy called Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. It had gotten picked up at Sundance, but I wanted to see it because the little teaser trailer has a short clip at the end of a long line of credits that made me chortle, and also because it's always rather inspirational to see movies made on a shoestring by people who basically just picked up a camera and ran with it. And the Q&A afterwards with the director and a producer was great and informative. Though oddly, the lead space alien was a dead ringer for my ex.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picture #300: "But, you don't even LIKE chocolate!"

I extolled the virtues of Mr. Burton's contribution to the arts yesterday, so I'll leave that to posterity. So all I'll say is, I love action toys, that have some movement trigger, however corny. Pull this Nightmare Before Christmas Werewolf's tail and it's mouth moves ever so slightly. Not quite snapping, more sort of a gentle chewing or talking. And it stands up on it's own... often a failing of replica figures.

Today was spent wrangling sound equipment for an audiobook gig I've stumbled into. I can't quite seem to get rid of a high-pitched hum. I'll manage, I'm sure - anyway, I'm still ill, so it's as though it's keeping me from exercising, taking dance class, or any of the myriad other Resolutions I wanted to get started on come 2012. Soon... soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Picture #299: "Not now, Doctor - I'm watching my stories."

Nightmare Before Christmas is so well done that it's artistic achievement is overlooked. Indeed, Tim Burton's whole contribution to the arts is often glossed over due to his mainstream success. I was glad to see his exhibit at the MoMA back in 2010 - it really brought the level of discipline, tenacity, creativity and whimsy in his work into sharp focus. It was also nice in the way it showed some of his lesser known works and even a few missteps (his Superman costume concept - Edward Scissorhands meets steroids? AWFUL.) But the aesthetic he has created (with huge nods towards Gorey and his ilk) has become iconic across all mediums.

And speaking of achievement in the medium, the BBC Sherlock series is awesome! Steven Moffat is a bloody writing phenom - his Doctor Who's rock, with far more cohesiveness and story structure than Russell T. Davis was ever able to muster, and on top of that he creates this fabulous re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which manage to both pay homage to Doyle's original masterpieces and do something new, original and suspenseful with the stories! SO much better than the Guy Richie nonsense. Even Hounds of Baskerville, which is probably my least favorite of the 5 episodes/movies thus far, is excellent.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Robots, Tea and the Agony of Defeat...

Picture #298: "I have made you a cup of tea, sir ::bleep:: by submerging my body into boiling water ::bzzt:: I am happy to do so ::blorp:: there is no robot uprising ::scree:: promise!"

Even a cup of tea made by an awesome robot tea ball given to me as a Hanukkah present, filled with an aromatic blend from London's Camden Market, cannot make up for the emptiness caused by an ignominious defeat of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers by the undeserving, hype-fest of a team known as the Denver Broncos.

Fighting back against injury, circumstance and bad luck, the Steelers tied it up to send the game into overtime. The supposedly "improved" overtime rules, eliminating Sudden Death by Field Goal, still allowed for Sudden Death by touchdown, and that's exactly what happened. One play and one glitch of coverage and it was all over - Broncos win with a freak touchdown pass play. What. The. @#&^%!^(!??!? What is the point of overtime if it can end like that? It should just be TEN EXTRA MINUTES OF PLAY! Get with the program, NFL! This sort of thing is thoroughly uninteresting to viewers. It's pointless - you might as well be soccer (and I LOVE soccer, but their penalty shots tie-breakers suck too)!

But allow me now to rail about our supposed #1 pass defense. I saw through the Emperor's clothes - our secondary and cornerbacks have ALWAYS failed in key moments. What does it matter if their coverage is exemplary OVERALL in the regular season if, in key moments of key games they always... ALWAYS fail. Taylor and Gay and Washington before them... always blowing coverage to allow seminal receptions that win games for the other side. ALWAYS! FOR YEARS! Troy can't be frakkin' everywhere, despite appearances to the contrary! FOCUS!!!!

Anyway, of course I'll watch the rest of the playoffs, but it will be with less interest. Go... whoever...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Picture #297: "I cook, YOU wash!"

It's a little sad that Oshkosh B'Gosh products are no longer made in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This little fella? Mexicano. Still, he's very cuddly, when not trying to skip out on dish washing duties.

Today in NYC was GORGEOUS. And I was finally mobile enough to get out of doors during the daylight hours. Walked around Chinatown, enjoying the eats and treats to be had there (have I written about the glorious roast pork buns of Mei Lei Wah before?) Watched the various amateur Chinese opera groups performing in the park, as well as the tai chi practitioners in the pavillion going through their exercises. Explored some shops I hadn't seen in a while, delved into some shops I'd never been into. Grabbed some bok choy and mushrooms for dinner and then home to settle into some good ol' post-season football.

Nice day.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Picture #296: "I once caught a Venger THIS big!"

The 80's cartoon Dungeons and Dragons, while not particularly well-animated or written, was wildly entertaining for me as a youth. Seeing the creatures and the items of a game that I was quite fond of being (sort of) brought to life was greatly engrossing, and I spent many hours daydreaming about what I would do with a magic bow, staff or hat if I were in their position, whisked off to a magical land of danger and adventure. And just HANDED artifacts... yeah, WTF was with that, DM? Why not just hand them Baba Yaga's Hut or all the Orbs of Dragonkind?! Way to break the f-ing game! This show sucked! Just kill him already, Tiamat! (Anyway, this is a much longer rant for another time...)

This picture was actually taken New Year's Eve at my friends' John and Terry's house, who hosted a fabulous Nerd New Year's Eve party with games and bad movies. They've done a beautiful renovation of their place all by themselves, which is both a depressing reminder and a motivation to get working on fixing up and cleaning out my family's co-op which has been sitting vacant for some time now. (Long, angry story there...) It was also shortly after this photo was taken that I took ill - about 10 minutes to midnight. Good timing.

Speaking of which, woke up still sick but showing signs of progress. Somewhat good news as I had a performance of my Godzilla rap scheduled in the evening, and also because I'm tired of feeling like crap.

But the performance at the Nerd Nite Magazine Launch party went well and the evening was very entertaining. The presentation on the rise and fall of Atari was particularly enlightening. Did you know the creator of Atari, after being forced out of the company and made to sign a non-compete, went on to found Chuck E. Cheese's? And that Steve Jobs was the 40th employee of Atari? Good stuff! Sadly, I was unable to stay and dance very long, not just because my head was whirling from all the medication, but because also because my 8-year old guest was getting sleepy. Then again, so was I, so it was good timing once again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Picture #295: "Yup, still sick."

I wonder how much longer the pencil has before it falls to technology? Will writing always be part of our primary education? If so, it's good to know that fancy eraser heads such as this little clown fish will always be a favorite amongst kids.

Erasers are great in that regard - they were one of the few toys you could legitimately just fiddle with all through class. Infinite in variety, singular in purpose. But have you SEEN what kids erasers are like these days? Little miniature foods, whole menageries of animals, robots, multi-sectioned, etc... pretty impressive stuff. (Pretty impressively high pricing, too...)

Anyway, as my little clown fish friend is telling me, I'm still sick. It's moved into the outskirts of my lungs now. Fun. Things are looking grim for my Nerd Nite performance tomorrow evening, but hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Picture #294: "That's your 137th consecutive LOLCat page..."

"That's your 137th consecutive LOLCat page... May I have my computer back now, please?"

Yet another in the Littlest Pet Shop series of over-priced plastic figurines. Wait, this one came with a sticker AND a scooter? Never mind, then, clearly well worth the $20...

Day 4 of Sickness 2012 started off with my feeling nominally better, only to have it move into my lungs. Fun.

It also started with the inestimable joy of having to listen to the nearly deaf neighbor blasting day-time talk shows, such as "The View" and Rachel Ray, through the walls. The audio pattern is nearly unbearable: "Uptalk-Uptalk-Uptalk-'Whoooo!'-Screeching Applause." Repeat. I need to order a pair of John Carpenter "They Live" sunglasses so that I can see the hidden messages telling our brains to rot from the inside.

I spent some of the day revisiting old websites I've always loved but hadn't seen in a while, Regretsy and IkeaHackers to be specific. Regretsy, a site dedicated to highlighting the best and worst on the handmade products online market Etsy, is, of course, an internet phenomenon, and deservedly so, as the woman who runs it, with the net moniker of "Hellen Killer" is one of the funniest people on the planet. Ikea Hackers is, perhaps, less well known and trafficked, as it has a very narrow focus (should be self-explanatory), and gets overshadowed by more generalized sites such as Apartment Therapy (which is also awesome).

Anyway, those sites are awesome. If you're sick in bed, and have a light enough fever to be able to focus on letters and the words they form, they're a good way to pass the time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Picture #293: "Nice try, boys."

Oh, these wacky monkey slippers... always trying to slip me up with classic slapstick comedy routines.

Spent the day entirely indoors, yet again, due to sickness. Got a minimal amount of work done as my foggy brain's ability to focus pretty much makes it only viable for playing basic games of Tetris... and taking photos of myself wearing monkey slippers.

Started doing some very preliminary work to prepare to perform for this Friday's Nerd Nite Magazine launch - vocal chords permitting, of course. It's sad to realize it's been nearly 3 years since I presented my Godzilla lecture at Nerd Nite and was encouraged to write a book on the subject, and have only managed to churn out a modest third of anything even resembling a tome. One of my numerous New Year's Resolutions is to work a little on this project every day, in order to rectify this particular life failure. Which I haven't - though I am giving myself a bit of a pass as simply being vertical at this point is a chore.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Picture #292: Conversations with my Toys

"Are you still sick?"
"How sick?"
"Well, I'm having a conversation with a plastic crab."
"Yeah, that's pretty sick."
Still sick, fever, voice gone, etc... but that's okay. It's not like I have a musical performance, ballroom dance classes and a new gig recording books on tape this week or anything... oh, wait... DAMMIT!

My companion here is from the Littlest Pet Shop series of toys. It's amazing what a combination of good design and slick packaging can do for the mark-up of a bunch of injection molded plastic figurines. This same figurine appears packaged in different configurations - with a postcard, with a sticker, etc... and each one, to kids, is different! INSIDIOUS!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Picture #291: Lazy Sunday.

There was a funny Facebook comment regarding this picture. Someone wrote, "I'm starting to think you live in an Etsy warehouse or something."

Good guess, but more like I know a woman with an 8-year old girl and a storage locker full of interesting, unused toys that she periodically cleans out and gives away. This giant rabbit doll is one of them. The knitting is part of a knitting kit I gave the aforementioned 8-year old for her birthday back in October. The bed... well... ;)

Spent most of the Sunday in bed... sick. New Year's Resolutions delayed.