Monday, December 31, 2007

Stay Away, Sweeney Todd

A first for the follicles: After hundreds (thousands even?) of electric razor shaves since my teenage years, I shaved my face for the first time with a safety razor. Not the straight-edge barber kind, but just the kind of razor that the rest of the world has used for decades. I suppose I belong to a generation which has never needed to use regular razors if they don't want to. How perfectly Gen Y. But not yet Generation Entitlement, in which I would have to feel like I deserve a new electric razor every month and I'd just throw a perfectly good one away. Why? 'Cause my parents are off in Bora Bora and I have the McMansion to myself, and I can do what I want.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jesus with the Rockettes

Here's a wintry scene I made a couple years ago made up of collaged papers including that old advertisement for some liquor involving random Rockettes or Vegas-style ladies dressed as snowflakes, falling down from the sky. Lovely. I kind of like the pictorial aspect of this, though- it is so much more difficult to rip up papers in the shape of something, rather than just going for abstraction.
There's also a star in the night sky, probably a photo that I painted on. Maybe it's pointing out Bethlehem over there beyond those construction paper hills of snow. If I were a King-slash-Wise Man, I wouldn't have any problem following falling Rockettes from the sky toward a giant star made out of twigs and paint. After all, I am a king and a wise man, so what I say goes. And I say we are going to go over this hill whether you like it or not. All in a day's work, I'd say. Well, we've come this far searching for Rockettes that we might as well rest our chunks of gold, frankincense and myrrh here in this ol' barn. Oh look! A baby.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

lolcats christmas

Sally and I updated a tacky holiday card. It's so much better now.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mahler on the Subway

Alex Ross, writer of the fantastic book The Rest is Noise tells that when Mahler was appointed the conductor for the NY Philharmonic in 1909, he'd take the subway system to work. At that time, the NYC metro was only a couple years old, and I can imagine the novel excitement of commuting underground to your destination. Which I'm sure was, for Mahler, more glamorous than some of the stops I've had to get off at. (Why can't all the stops be designed by Squire Vickers?) However, Mahler being Mahler, I can only imagine the thoughts running through his nervous, energetic head while he's riding the subway. Naturally this image came to mind- even in the middle of the day, Mahler rides alone on a train. He thinks to himself, "This train is a machine of death. Don't die don't die don't die. It's taking me to Hell. I have to conduct my symphony tonight. My children are dead. WAGNER!! Oh, here's my stop."
It also begs the thought that perhaps he might have one day gotten around to writing Transitodenlieder. Songs on the death of transit. Or maybe Das Lied von der Metro? Song of the Subway? Luckily Mahler survived his commute, and Mahler's symphonies are preserved in even better condition than those hundred-year-old tunnels beneath this beautiful earth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

46 Menorahmobiles Led the Big Parade

Last Sunday I witnessed a parade down a busy shopping street of 46 vehicles with PVC-pipe Menorahs strapped to the roofs. 46. Some were gold, some silver, but almost all had working lights which I assume are powered by God. Or cigarette lighters. The parade was accompanied by police cars, who kept other traffic from getting in the way of Hanukkah. The picture to the right is copyright URBANPHOTO and shows a nice wooden menorah, which has not yet migrated to Pittsburgh. Being behind the times in fashion, we still have plastic and metal rooftop accoutrements.
Those light-up menorahs, by the way, are on full candlepower today Hanukkah ends tonight at sundown.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hidden Giraffe

This is a collage in the vein of Highlights magazine, the children's magazine of choice for all doctors' and dentists' offices. On the last page there was often a pen and ink drawing, with a bunch of things hidden within a face, or a woodland scene. As in, 'Can you find these 10 kitchen appliances hidden in this picture of a bear?' and sure enough, there was a blender, tucked away in the bear's paw!
The differences between Highlights and my collage are that this collage is totally obvious and there's only one thing to find. Can you spot the giraffe hidden in this sahara tree? I bet you can't!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bodies and Souls

It's eleven o'clock. Do you know where your spleen is?
I went to see the traveling exhibit 'Bodies' this past weekend with Jess and Bobby. Not only did I discover what my spleen looked like, but I discovered several items inside my body that I did not know I had. One, the jejunum, which is apparently part of my intestine. Two, a tissue-papery wall covering my stomach and internal organ area. There were some squeamish moments for me, especially in seeing an entire human skin spread out on a table, and then seeing diseased organs (this is your lung after smoking for years...this is your kidney on crack!) but overall, I was more inquisitive than grossed out. I thought I would be affected by seeing fetuses in various weeks of development (all were miscarried) but I was curious as to the growth of a baby inside of a person as the weeks progress. But overall, the exhibit was thoughtful and many things were even quite beautiful, like the circulatory displays of arteries, which were dramatically lit and bright red, down to the tiniest gossamer capillaries.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this exhibit, especially in the lack of documentation of exactly who these people are. All of the organs and bodies are real people, preserved through a polymer process called 'plastination', developed in the 1970's. I kept having to remind myself that was I was seeing was not fake: it's a real spinal chord and ribs in which everything else on the body has been removed, and a real baby, and a real brain. This leads me to unanswered questions about huge issues: being healthy, self-awareness, sexuality, death, and the necessity for the preservation of our bodies if we do not need them when we're done with them. It also speaks of the resilience of our bodies, and how dynamic our insides are! I also thought, 'this is going to make me a hypochondriac'. One little bruise and I'll start to feel bad for my capillaries having to do so much work. It also reminds me of the Renaissance, when 'science' and 'religion' were less separate- my brain conjures images of dark mysterious findings in secret basement meetings, where little was known about how our bodies looked on the inside. If only da Vinci could see this show.
I seriously didn't plan this on purpose, but after we went to check out or bodies, we checked into our souls with a Service of Lessons and Carols. What an appropriate combo! It wasn't the most spectacular-filled event, but it got us into the Christmas spirit with candlelit readings and choir hymns, and afterward, there was a huge candlelit reception with loads of baked goods (naturally, I think the key to a good church is in its baked goods). I try and attend a Lessons and Carols service every year; not only does the event have good music, and great ambiance, it gives me a sense of community, no matter what faith I belong to. It's also refreshing to hear non-tacky 'holiday' music after listening to so much Christmas Crap on the radio. Added bonuses: 1. seeing two organists switch off mid-phrase, as one just scooted off the bench and began to conduct, while the other didn't even miss a note; 2. the choir director there is letting me write a piece for his bell choir. And 3. the crumb cake was heavenly, as were several other pieces of cake which I sampled from the baked goods. My stomach certainly had no complaints.

Cake courtesy of