Friday, January 30, 2015

Bottle Of Bourbon Obscured By Religious Artifacts For Old-timey Effect

General Burnside and his whiskers peek between Sabbath candlesticks.
As I've noted previously, our family doesn't rank high on the old-timey scale. I don't hunt, plow, swim in a wool union suit, macrame owls, or play racquetball.

But we, as a family, collectively yearn for a simpler time, a time when...well, a time when stuff wasn't a bunch of plastic crap and a guy could get botulism from eating a pickle.

We have a glass-fronted cabinet where some of our religious items are kept. Adding to this sanctimony is the somber visage of the original Mr. Keep-Portland-Weird, Ambrose Burnside, staring at us from a booze label inspired by his daguerreotype.

We keep the bottle behind the candlesticks and next to the Passover plate as a first aid measure should religious observance in our home cause a calamity requiring a good, stiff drink.

I realize that Slivovitz should be the bottle in the cabinet, for that at least takes into account our Eastern-European ancestry. We'll have to pass on that until some hipsters in town start distilling the stuff and selling it with a cool old-timey graphic.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Laura Ingalls Wilder Would Be Shocked And Dismayed... Or Wildly Happy

LSS recently organized the pantry to reveal meager supplies.
I am not prepared for the apocalypse unless you mean zombie apocalypse, then we are well prepared, at least in philosophy (first stage: scrounge food from the city, then when it is clear there is no Internet move to the country and learn to grow crops and squint at strangers when they approach).

I grew up in Minnesota where classmates' parents "put up" fruits and vegetable they had grown themselves. 

No such talents on our parts.

Should the grocery store run out of food we most likely would survive about 15 minutes, then we would face the void of a larder stocked with hot sauce and canned tomatoes.

I can't help but ponder what a person who lived in America 100 years previous would think of our lifestyle -- probably be like, "Cantaloupe in February? Forget all that pioneer crap, sign me up!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

British Travel Documentary "Idiot Abroad" Hits Big With 10-year-old

Karl Pilkington on assignment.
Because this is a British production it is a "documentary" rather than "reality TV." The premise is that the producers, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, send Karl Pilkington, who hates travel, traveling around the globe for non-stop misadventure.

Karl complains at every new place, strange food, odd custom, no doubt to the delight of audiences everywhere who share his Homer Simpson sensibilities. Toilets, weird edibles, odd dress, nothing is off limits for this everyman.

The 10-year-old really loves this show, somehow Karl's observations jibe correct with the kid.

Karl, however, is not an employee at a nuclear facility or a coal miner or barkeep, rather an English radio and television personality, travel show presenter, actor, author and former radio producer. He has a calm deadpan that could be a good influence on an excitable child.

At least he's introduced several unusual destinations to the kid, such as America, giving him an outside look at our nutty culture.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kid Continues To Move Around The House Looking For Improved Productivity

My workspace has been invaded!
The 12-year-old has a history of being a seeker, a searcher, a restless spirit who desires the functional, yet spiritual, place where homework assignments can be done with minimal mental stress.

The dining room has been tried, as has the kitchen table, her bedroom, our bedroom, and finally my own workspace.

She might comment that each place has its own special merits.

I'm happy not to sit in front of my PC in the evening, even happier if the space helps brings a mental state of flow.

One of our projects is to help her design the "ultimate productivity center" in her own room, investing in a full-size desk, chair and all the accoutrements. I suspect we will start this soon.

Until then watch your step!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Kid Expands His Fan Base -- Well Done!

Nothing succeeds like success!

The 10-year-old has been making several videos each week. Too many now to showcase on this musty, boring blog.

More important than total plays of each of his videos, of which there are many, is that his fans are making promotional videos for his channel.

Behold some fine work:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Innovative New Tortilla Chip Policy Solves Age-old Conundrum

Viva los munchies!
What happens when the bag of tortilla chips is depleted and all that remains are small chip bits at the bottom of the bag?

Usually those bits are discarded as they are unusable for dip or nachos or other traditional tortilla chip applications.

We now put those chip bits into a bowl and they become parent-approved pre-dinner snacks. These "mini-chips" disappear quickly as other snack food becomes off limits in the 45 minutes before dinner.

Waste is reduced and joy increased! This is how we roll.

You're welcome!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Warholian Video Art Takes Hold Of Family

A still from Andy Warhol's "Empire."
Back in the day I had a friend who was a serious fan of Andy Warhol. My friend wasn't a collector or a party-goer at The Factory, but a serious exhibitor of art who was thrilled with the conceptual flights of Warhol.

My friend staged a Warhol film festival which showcased many of his works. Several of the films appeared as studies of a singular activity, such as "Man Eating A Mushroom."

The crowning achievement of the festival was a screening of "Empire" -- a silent movie, filmed in slow motion, of the Empire State Building in New York City. The film runs eight hours and five minutes and has a few seconds of action when a blurry Warhol walks in the foreground a few times throughout the film. Abridged showings of the film were never allowed, and supposedly the unwatchability of the film was an important part of the reason the film was created.

Back when I was cool I sat in the theater marveling at the audacity of using motion picture technology to render a static object. I sat for over an hour staring at the screen, my mind running through permutation after permutation about what type of message, art, legacy Warhol strove for.

Whatever my conclusions they've long evaporated except for the thought that the film still stands a marvel as a playful, subversive work.

So when my 10-year-old filmed 16 minutes of him hitting a discarded pager with a hammer, I immediately thought of Warhol's films.

I thought I don't want anyone to be bored or have to face the void of conceptual art. With that in mind I cranked up the speed to 400% of normal for a more concise video. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Family Movie Night Video

So what is it like on the weekend when all of us can watch a movie together?

Here is a small slice of our life:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kid Releases Magnum Opus "Dr. Chicken"

Selfie M.T. Freezer took this summer at camp.
The 10-year-old made two videos this weekend. "Dr. Chicken" is the second and perhaps the most thematically challenging of his recent works, bringing a controlled, yet ebullient, spirit to this rousing short.

As his YouTube channel is a subsidiary of my account (minimum age 13), I see the comments his classmates post on his videos. Whatever the adult world may think of his work, he is hitting big with the fourth-graders, keying in on the zeitgeist with style and verve.

Here is "Dr. Chicken":

Monday, January 19, 2015

From The Mind Of A 10-year-old: Video Experiments Continue

The kid's creativity has been unleashed!

As a result of watching many YouTube videos the 10-year-old wants to do it himself and break big on his own channel.

My role is to help the kid get his ideas filmed, edited, and uploaded.

I'm trying hard to confine my help to the technical ("Might need some light in here") rather than be a story editor. So far the kid is satisfied I am taking direction appropriately. Not only has he scripted the dialogue but he also is very specific where the edits should be.

Here is the first work from the weekend where the kid is doing a parody of a video blogger. From the mind of a 10-year-old to you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reflections on France, A Life Well Lived, And Music Videos

Eugene Smith and Thelonius Monk jamming in 1959. Note: This photograph is for illustration only and does not represent the French movie industry, students, or cats.
Seeing so many images of France lately brought me back to the Spring of 1983 when I graduated high school and purchased a ticket to Gatwick Airport, outside London, and a Eurail Pass for a few months.

I traveled all over Europe that spring with two friends and now laugh at myself when I think about the things I said, did, believed in. But such had to be for a life well lived.

Still it was a fantastic trip that was to launch many life pursuits. One of the things that the three of us all agreed on was that we needed to travel alone for a while. I don't remember if this was because the others had itineraries I didn't think were important or they just needed to flee my cloying presence. I immediately saw this "alone time" as my own vision quest -- what would happen if I had nowhere I had to be, had all the time in the world, and was able to easily move myself around Western Europe. Such freedom reiterated that my life was my own and I would spend it as I saw fit.

So what did I actually do?

Sure I saw the Louvre, the Prado, the Uffizi Gallery, but also spent serious time playing video games and trying to find movies in English of the Fast Times At Ridgemount High sort.

In Paris I went to a scruffy university neighborhood and found the shabby theater showing an American movie. In the square near the theater was a statue of an 18th century nobleman, judging by his dress, that someone had dumped a bucket of orange paint over -- certainly a strident protest of something.

Before the main movie was a black-and-white ten-minute short of jazz musicians playing which looked like it was made in the 1950s. The film cut back and forth between the musicians and slow-motion footage of cats being dropped behind a translucent screen so only their silhouettes were visible. The bebop jazz, the cats gracefully writhing through the air, made for something that in my mind was unequivocally French, artistic, and beyond the scope of gross American culture.

There was no mention of who the musicians were, or even who made the film -- it appeared to exist only to give illustration to the beautiful abstraction of the music. I had certainly seen music videos before, but such were obviously intended to promote the band and sell records. The minimal edits, the stationary camera, the beauty of the airborne cats, all seemed to exist only to give the viewer pleasure.

I looked for this clip on YouTube and was unable to find it. I was again brought back to that smokey theater when I saw this clip. Sure it has good production value and is by a famous artist, but the style harkens back to my jazz-cat experience in thematic simplicity. Enjoy:


Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Really Do Live In Portland: Finally A Friend Opens A Bike Shop

Recumbent PDX: Coming to 2025 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard soon.
I've been called a poser many times in my life. For failure of style, attitude, manner, and deportment. I take it in stride. I realize I am a special snowflake.

Occasionally events happen that cause me to challenge such beliefs.

Recently a friend announced he planned to open a (recumbent) bike store. Ahhh, I do live in Portland! 

I have long suffered at parties where the guests regale each other with twee anecdotes about their colorful bike-shop-owning friends, while I sat in a corner stymied and glowering.

No longer!  

I plan on earning the coveted "Most Annoying Customer" award by hanging out way too much when the doors finally open. I'm not going to let this opportunity go to waste.

More on this story as it develops.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day Of The Dead Comes And Goes And I'm The Last To Know

The older kid made this sugar skull -- almost zombiesque!
All sorts of things get done. And does anyone bother to tell me? Noooooo!

I suppose the kid made this "last year" and "forgot" to show it to me. What respect do I get? I'm just her father.

Still it's pretty cool and and if I were a dead ancestor of Mexican descent I would be pleased.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Eternal Struggle -- When Will The Pizza Arrive!

Stoic, fearful, sometimes petulant, these patient kids waited a full 20 minutes for the pizza to come to the table without exploding in anguish.
I freely fess up to being a lover of pizza, both fair and not-so-fair. But if I have to choose, I'll take the good stuff.

A moment of delicate emotions occurs when the family comes out of a rainy Oregon night, labors collaboratively to choose the toppings, then is forced to wait a spell until the dinner arrives.

Those first few minutes when everybody is eating, talk is minimal as the hot cheese and pepperoni reminds (the Jewish pizza eaters) that life is not only samsara, but we can catch glimpses of nirvana, especially when really hungry and eating a fine slice.

A good pizza experience can turn the impossible task into merely a challenging chore.

I get comfort from many types of food, but pizza is particularly joy-inducing.



Monday, January 12, 2015

10-year-old Sets Sights On YouTube Stardom

The other kid made this image of M.T. Freezer. All M.T. needs is a bicycle pin to complete the look.
This past weekend I helped produce M.T. Freezer's latest video.

Like many aspiring YouTube stars, M.T. made a study of popular videos and formats and then scripted (yes, we used a hard copy) his vision.

Here it is, your moment of concern entertainment.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Neat Toy Area Reflects Growth Of Children

I might not have ever believed I would see the floor in front of the toy area.
I am a father to a 10-year-old and an almost 13-year-old. I knew things were changing when I straightened up the toy area and a week later all is still in place.

I have received permission from the younger kid to pass on some of the toys -- but not the weapons.

The plastic halberds and foam swords will no doubt be used in a video production. The younger kid is set to be a famous Youtuber.

I'm trying to encourage the older kid to use this space as her PMA, a place to pile her crap when she comes home from school instead of spreading it around other parts of the house.

More optimistic members of the household hold faith that the kid can learn to put things away. I embrace the theorhetical possibility of such an event but find it unlikely.

A curated PMA that holds its boundary works for me.

"Powerful Sloth Energy"