Monday, May 21, 2012


This week, I've been spending some time in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

BK Tech Talks was hosting a lecture on whether or not Bitcoin could (or should) be considered a currency.  This sounded interesting to me so I headed out to the Etsy Labs to have a listen.
I was SO excited to be anywhere near Etsy HQ.

 I really enjoyed the lecture, but economics being dry as it is, I headed out to find a place to wet my whistle.

 Maybe a local bar with a show? A contortionist or two?
Maybe a tiny taxidermized mermaid?

Wait, What kind of bar is this?

 This bar is known as The Counting Room, and tonight it was hosting the "Pop-Up Sideshow Bar."  These steampunk enthusiasts use their flair for the dramatic to market the historical fiction graphic novel The Peerless Prodigies of P.T. Barnum.

They had lots of free goodies to give away, and I'm always a fan of swag.
 But later that week, I was right back to Etsy Labs.  The feel of the "Church of Craft" meet was a lot different from the "BK Tech Talks" meet, very estrogen rich.
 This time I was ready for a little crafting.
 This is the start to a kanzashi project I'm working on.  I didn't get very far.  Etsy closed shop at 8pm.

Next time: more food, sightseeing and art!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Soho and Williamurg: The Face of NYC's Contemporary Art Elite

It costs me $11 every day to make the trek from New Jersey to New York City to earn $0 at my internship.  To ameliorate this travesty, every evening I attend an event of some kind.  There's always a book signing, comedy show, gallery walk or lecture I could attend and often for free.  Everyone's selling SOMETHING here.
This particular afternoon leads me to McNally Jackson, a bookstore in Soho.

They hold a monthly series called Real Characters wherein comedians read from their newly published books or tell hilarious stories off the cuff.  Some of the comedians presenting this evening had worked on shows like SNL or Flight of the Concords.  It was PACKED.  I sat on the stairs.
True to the sense of humor here in NYC, the stories I heard involved one man's brush with herpes, a gay man's thoughts on the mystery of the vagina, and one woman's secret terror that her vibrator might be discovered by a film crew as they documented her for an Oprah home makeover.
This amazing mural was right outside the bookstore.
Later that week I attended a gallery opening at the ISCP studios, a three story, white-walled industrial-era building that houses young, foreign artists. 
Here, my friend Maryam, a Professor of Astronomy at NYU, stands in front of a huge repetition installation made of black twist-ties.
This artist filled a room with dirt and placed a wheel in the center that would send the soil churning high into the air as he shoveled.  I'm sure it symbolized capitalist oppression or something.
The highlight of the evening was a performance piece entitled A Woman's Mind Might Resemble a Room.
Jennifer Tee is a Netherlander that fabricates geometric rugs and displays them with a dancer.
A mechanical droning of atonal ambient music(?) beat on in the background as the dancer moved slowly from one strong gesture to the next.
The dancer Miri Lee executed the choreography with such strength, grace and sensuality.  The performance may have lasted five minutes or thirty, but I wouldn't have known.  I was lost in the atonal buzzing and the deliberate formations of the dance.
Rose Eken was one of my absolute favorite artists of the evening.  I can't get excited enough about her work!  Those texture splatters you see hanging on the wall are inspired by the impact stain left on used drum heads, and this crazy woman free-form hand embroiders the pattern with exacting detail.  This Danish savant is super nice to boot.
And then there was Takahiro Iwasaki.  This young Japanese miniaturist was more than willing to get down on the ground and excitedly explain his work and his process.  He extracts synthetic fibers from things like towels and toothbrushes and constructs tiny towers and Ferris wheels.

Next time: Etsy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Cinderella Day: The Met and The Met

Let's talk immortal femme fatales, shall we?
This is Tomie, one of the most recognizable characters in Japanese Horror Cinema.  Tomie has a videography stretching nine films.  She is essentially a fetishy excuse to chop up a school girl over and over and over.  The plot follows a young girl, Tomie, who is accidentally murdered by a teacher who grows obsessed with her.  She returns again and again after that, and if you are unlucky enough to meet her as a vengeful spirit, you will undoubtedly lose your mind.  You will kill her, kill each other, kill yourself.  Jealousy, obsession and madness follow Tomie everywhere, and men undo themselves, spending every cent of their earnings on her while never feeling satisfied in a relationship with her.  After the man in question is all used up, murder/suicide often follows and jaded little immoral Tomie picks herself up and does it again.
 If Tomie were a Czech Opera, it would look like this: The Makropolus Case.  Bizarre occurrences follow the savant soprano, Emilia Marty, everywhere she goes.  Men in their eighties fall at her feet after shows, claiming that she hasn't aged a day, selling their wife's jewelry to run away with her.  Men profess their love left and right, but Emilia stopped getting that involved years ago.  She is a cynical, promiscuous drunk, laughing as men attempt to murder her, stating that sometimes she feels like God created her to be murdered by men.  Emilia languidly fusses with her hair as she hears news of suicides caused by her beauty.  All the obsession surrounding her seems so trivial and adolescent to her.  This opera was one wild ride, climaxing as the entire stage burst into flames to the sound of somber Gregorian chanting.
I bring this up because Timour was able to get Met Opera tickets for my friend, Kim, and I.  The stage design carried a German Expressionist feel to it (ie.The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), huge and asymmetrical.
Also, I had brunch!
Smoked Salmon over poached eggs and pumpernickel.  I had never had alcohol with breakfast before so that bubbly pink mimosa mesmerized me.
Now, my friends, enjoy the breathtaking architecture of the Metropolitan Opera House.
Wandering these stairs during intermission was half the fun.
I love this shape.
And these star burst chandeliers were really glamorous.
Kim and I were on a culture-high so after the opera...
...we went to the Met!
I was surprised that the armory ended up being my favorite section.
But these wheel-mechanism guns kept catching my attention.
Peacock lute!

The Met is expansive, and really does have something for everyone. My companion, Kim, can flit from room to room, reveling in the colonial craftsmanship of Neo-Classical furniture.  I'm not fond of furniture in general or the gaudy (worse than Rococo) stylings of American Neo-classicalism.  It has tasteless "New Money" written all over it.  There is nothing worse than a sun-yellow oriental plush chamber pot.
Conversely, I could buzz around holy art all day - gorgeous, other-worldly Madonnas and Guan Yins outstretching their robes to offer peace and mercy to all who would worship their feminine ideals.  These statuaries are the highest art form to me, but Kim dislikes their non-practical nature.  To her, the highest form of art is one that can endure daily use.  I really enjoy the company of some one so different from me.

Next time: Pretentious Studio Openings! Prosecco and "A Woman's Mind is Like a Room".

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Frustrations at the Resistor (or The Best Idea I've Ever Had That Went Nowhere)

Two weeks ago, I had an idea.  This idea burned white hot in my mind, and consumed my thoughts.  I couldn't ignore it, so I put it in motion.  I wanted to put a functional QR code on a cookie.
The resistor has a beautiful laser!  It's getting in to see it that proved difficult.  I never got more than thirty minutes at any given time, and I ended up having to return three separate times to experiment with media or improve my design.
 The acrylic was too heavy right off the bat, but each time I reinforced the design, it came out more whole.
This young artist oversaw my first visit's cut.  I hadn't taken the laser class at the resistor, so it's all training wheels for me.
In the meantime, I prototype two cookie recipes: double chocolate and butter shortbread dipped in dark chocolate.  I need a dark, smooth surface for the positive of my design.  The negative will be a layer of powdered sugar.
Having decided on the dipped chocolate cookies, I go to work preparing over 200 baked goods.
The recipe had a whole dozen eggs and 11+ cups of flour.  I felt like I was shooting an episode of Epic Meal Time.
Oh no! Hot surface = man down!
And the cookies start piling up.
Lily works in the other room as I bake.
It took two days to bake and hand dip each cookie.
Card stock proved to be an improved medium, but the oil of the cookie disintegrated the stencil after one attempt.

The third time I went in to laser cut, I was ready.  I was confident in the lightweight durability of my .030 PETG medium. The line for the laser was long, and I waited  a nervous two hours for my turn.  Again I needed laser supervision.  There was no wiki reference for my material, so I hungrily accepted my new laser partner's first.  Soon it was clear he suffered from a very common nerd pandemic: negative know-it-all-itis.  He repeatedly told me what I was doing couldn't be done, needed a simpler code, etc.  He wasted my time holding my medium up to light and critiquing its flaws.  My PETG sheet could fit twenty proofs, but he only let me try two before he stopped me.  I was wasting the time of REAL hackers who were in line behind me.  The next member in queue was already impatiently setting up her file on the computer as I experimented with the machine.  All the fine detail of my vector code had held up, but in being so careful, I never even cut completely through, only scoring the medium. 

I will pick this back up upon my return home to Dallas, which now has a set date.  An improvement I intend to try will be using airbrushed white icing in the place of powdered sugar.

Next time: Nezu gets a little culture in her life.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Excursions Into Flushing, Queens: Live Octopus and an Old Friend

I am an adventure eater.  This is not news to anyone that knows me, so when I heard that there was live octopus (like writhing, sucking on to the inside of one's cheek, live) to be had at Sik Gaek in Flushing, I was there.  It didn't hurt that this restaurant and dish came recommended by Anthony Bourdain on an episode of No Reservations either.
I didn't take this footage.  I couldn't get a good enough shot before the tendrils were completely devoured!  So I stole a shot from youtube (same restaurant and dish).
The real draw to this event was the GIANT seafood hot pot: squid, snails, hermit crabs, mussels, clams, crab, lobster, and more octopus all boiled in a spicy broth.
The lovely Miss Lily accompanied me.
Not even a week went by before I was back in Flushing for more Korean fare, this time for bulgogi and bibimbap.
And whose this handsome devil?
That's right!  Gus came to visit me during his business trip.
We went out after work with his coworkers, Sheila and Doug (I hope those are their names anyway).
Being that Gus was in town, I _had_ to bring him to the Way Staition, a Doctor Who/Steampunk themed pub.
 I really dug these 360 spinning cage fans.
There was a Tardis in the center of the bar (seen above) and inside was a very large bathroom with Dr. Who muraling.
Later I decided that two excursions out to Flushing just wasn't enough.
Another day, another bulk Korean candy shop wonderland (inside J-Mart).
What's this?  A tea cup baring the likeness of all Forty-four American Presidents?  I may yet go back and purchase this.
The best part of the center surrounding Flushing's J-Mart is the food court.  Here I ordered lo mai gai, a combination of barbecued pork and peanuts at the center of glutinous sticky rice steamed in a lotus leaf (my favorite dim sum dish); some pan-fried pork buns with saucy, gingery meatball centers; and a piping hot, gelatin-rich cup of beef gumbo.
Here you can see the lo mai gai (also called zongzi) while it's still encased in lotus leaf.  Lily told me that the dish originates from an old Chinese folktale wherein the poet Qu Yuan drowns himself in a river as a form of political protest.  He was so loved by his country that the villagers prepared and packaged zongzi and tossed them into the river so the fish would not eat the poet's corpse.
This is definitely not your average food court.  Yes, it is inside a mall.  Yes, it is cheap, fast food; but how many food courts have hand-pulled noodles..?
...or live lobster?
Being that I was in an Asiatown, I had to visit more toy stores.
I am so predictable.
But how can you resist cartoon animals printed on plastic food?
Oh how I love the Japanese!
These Sanrio-centric shops look so much like the bedroom of an eight-year-old me...Oooooor a twenty-six year old me.
Angry Pirate Octopus Nigiri Plush.

The sun was setting and two for $2 bubble tea sounded way too good to pass up.
The tea shop also made fresh waffles to eat on the go.  I love the idea of waffles as street food.
Two Jasmine milk teas with boba: one for now, one for later.
The sun was really low on the horizon as I sipped at my bubble tea and looked out over the familiar sight of grafitti from the 7 train.  I had a long, wonderful day.
They really went to town on this building.

Next time: self promotion and a lot of baking.