Friday, November 30, 2012

Running To Stand Still

I'm doing it because daylight savings time ended a month ago and my riding during the week is already extremely limited.  I'm doing it because the only thing I probably dislike more is riding my bike in the rain.  I'm doing it just so I can run with Sam on weekends.  For cyclists, running is one of those necessary evils of the off-season.  You do it to maintain some level of fitness over the winter.  Pound, pound, pound.  Foo Fighters on the iPod helps.  Quads aching for hours is bad.  Run. 30 minutes. Shower. 5 minutes.  Done.  Move on.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Is It, Really?

Chai is of Persian origin generically meaning "tea".  So Coconut Chai is, by definition, coconut tea. Yet, the subtitle says Green Tea.  To confuse things even more, the other description says "Assam Green Tea".  Assam is typically strong black tea.  Add ginger to the mix and I got my head spinning.  So what kind of tea is it?  It tastes closer to chai than any of the other flavors on the label.  Nonetheless, it is good. Bought from Sprouts Market for around $6.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Purple Homestead"

Something about this 8ft x 8ft painting by California artist Deanna Thompson appeals to those who love the desert (like me).  "Purple Homestead" is showing at the MCASD lobby under Acquisitions Highlight.  The piece seem to break every rule of composition -- subject smack in the center of the image and the horizon dead-center in the frame as well.  Yet it works in its simplicity and portrayal of the vastness of the landscape relative to the living structure.
Standing between 5 to 10 feet away from the painting, you cannot help but take a closer look to see what's inside the house.  Sure enough, there is a lot to see.  A simple horizon is interrupted by a beat down house so life-like in detail, I could see the way the wall studs are put together.  Abandoned or in the process of construction?
 ... the museum lobby's open, bright layout is the perfect way to show the piece.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quick, Find Some Paper!

I don't get bored easily with work-related discussions.  But on rare occasions, an all-day meeting is enough to push me over the edge.  By noon, I would have sat through at least 4 hours of discussions and I'm either looking for an excuse to get out of there or find a way to entertain myself while listening to all dialogue.  So I scrambled to my office during a break and looked for something to doodle on.  

Fortunately, I found these unused Thank You cards by Papyrus made of some textured card stock (and of course, I had my ever trusted gel pens).
Unfortunately, the meeting extends for another 8 hours tomorrow.

Fortunately, I have a stack of another dozen or so of these unused cards.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Have Pen, Will Doodle

Spent Thanksgiving weekend in Vegas with family and for the first time in a while, I forgot to bring a camera.  On previous trips, I would spend evenings in the hotel editing some photos taken during the day.  It's hard to suppress creative output for 3 full days so I had to make do with what I had in the hotel room -- a 4"x6" pad of paper.  As the kids were winding down Thursday evening, I started drawing and by Saturday, I've done about six of these doodles.  Thank goodness, I have several gel pens in my backpack.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Vito's Playhouse

When I wandered into the gallery, the first thing that caught my eye was the set of 4 American flags, framed with window cuts and thought, ok, another Jasper Johns variant.  After all, the American flag is the most recognizable and often, hated icon in the world today.  But I saw the system of pulleys as well and rope and swing.  Still, it didn't quite register.  I've seen these post-modern symbolic installations before -- yet another one, I thought, all subject to interpretation.  Holes through the flag in strategic areas.  I sat there for a few minutes trying to find a decent photographic angle.  The MCASD museum guard stood there watching me, as if wanting me to talk to him on this quiet Monday during Thanksgiving week.  So I asked, "Does it work?"
Heck yeah. Start by sitting on the left, he said and then rock toward the right and magically, each panel will start rising.  But little did I know what was really on the outside -- thinking it was just the reverse image of the stars and stripes.  Nope.  Hammer and sickle.  That's strange, the Soviet Union had been dissolved for at least a couple decades, so what's the relevance of the piece.  Of course, I didn't read the description of the piece until after I finished playing around with it.  Built in 1980, at the height of the Cold War, Vito Acconci's "Instant House" was a throwback to the days when everyone took sides, either inside or outside.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

La Jolla Beach in Late Fall

This is why I live here in California and not on the East Coast or in the Rockies.  While the rest of the country is pondering what the start of winter brings in about 3 weeks, we are enjoying 70 deg weather here.  I drove down to La Jolla on Monday to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and not only was the weather perfect, the availability of parking right on the beach was also a welcome change from how it typically is during the summer months.
The photo above was taken from the 2nd floor of MCASD overlooking the area where the sea lions sunbathe just around where the rocks are.  I cannot think of a more beautiful setting for an art museum.  Below is a shot of the Pacific Ocean from a window opening inside MCASD.  This window is actually the 2nd of 3 pieces by artist Robert Irwin titled 1° 2° 3° 4°.

Above is a photo of the access steps to the breakwater to get to the sea lions, just below a lifeguard tower.  I can't even imagine how many times this wall had been painted and re-painted as it is exposed to sun, wind and salt-water 365 days a year.  Below are some skimboarers riding the afternoon waves.  The water still seemed cold enough so they had wetsuits on.  The only indicator one would get that this is not a typical summer day is the empty beach in this world-famous tourist town of La Jolla.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Peterson and Sundays

I can't even being to tell you when this tradition started.  It couldn't have been more than 3 years ago (which is when I bought that tea cup by Colorado ceramicist, Cristine Boyd.)  Jazz had always been the most freeing form of music I've ever heard in my lifetime.  But the late great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, holds a special place in the way his music fills my house every Sunday morning.  Can't play a piano to save my life but I know timeless jazz piano when I hear it.  Oscar Peterson on vinyl, in particular.  Something about being mindful of when the music stops and taking the time to flip the record on the turntable every 20 minutes -- is what Sunday morning should be like, a time to slow down and reflect.  Being secular as I am, listening to Peterson while drinking a cup of green tea with roasted brown rice is as religious of an experience as it ever gets.

Skull Mat

The coolest bath mat ever designed! It's actually a Halloween item but I've adapted it to my man-bath for year-round use.  Target had matching towels but nothing is cheesier than matching bathroom accessories so this is all I got.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Mullet Christmas

1984 was the year.  The 80s was the decade.  The decade where the most popular music artists would get together, record a song or two or an entire album for a good cause.  In this particular case, proceeds of this Christmas EP went to assist famine relief in Ethiopia.  It was also the height of the popularity of bands like Duran Duran, which has several members pictures in this cover photo.  I was at Dr. Strange Records looking for some punk vinyl but instead found this while scouring the 25c pile.

Check out John Taylor's (Duran Duran bassist) mullet right next to Paul Young's competing mop.  Just to the right is the mullet-in-growth of Tony Hadley (of Spandau Ballet).
Good thing about losing your hair in the 80s like Phil Collins is that you can honestly say you never had a mullet -- ever.  Next to Phil, however, is Irish musician and political activist, Bob Geldof, who had a mullet/grunge hybrid and is the brain-child behind 80s gigs like Live Aid and Band Aid.  Geldof also produced this record.
Rick Parfitt of Status Quo also didn't do the mullet but keyboardist Nick Rhodes (who is 20% of Duran Duran circa 1984) sported not just a mullet but also the whole eyeliner thing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can We All Just Get Along?

I did this collage back in 2006 after finding an old LA County Thomas Bros. map for $1 at a yard sale.  I thought that despite our claim of a diverse Los Angeles, we, as a whole are still segregated demographically and economically who live in neighboring cities.  This completed collage (shown above) was about 3 ft x 10 ft but over time, the glue I ended up using didn't last too long and soon enough, my notional neighborhoods fell apart.  In general, only a true Angeleno will fully understand the pairings I did.  I titled the piece "Lost Angeles (Can We All Just Get Along?)"
 The neighborhoods of Bel Air, Temple City and some unincorporated parts of LA County.
 The neighborhoods of Bradbury, Baldwin Hills, San Pedro and El Monte.
 The neighborhoods of Montebello, Brentwood, La Habra and Inglewood.
Since El Segundo always had this long-standing issues with LAX, I thought it might be fun to put more airport (add Palmdale Airport) around them and replace the their coastal access with the city of Rosemead.
 The neighborhoods of Sierra Madre, Hawthorne and Hollywood.
 The neighborhoods of North Hollywood, La Canada Flintridge and East LA (Boyle Heights).
 The neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach, just west of Northridge and north of Lynwood.
The city of San Marino bordered by the cities of Maywood and Huntington Park.

Going West

I took this photo back in 2008 when I last lived in Pasadena.  As I left work around 5:20pm, I did notice the sky was just bright orange and luckily enough, I had my camera with me as I got on the 210 West from Vernon Ave.  I got even luckier when the highway sign told me how far away I was from home.  I thought it made for a decent photograph. With each passing day, I want to return more and more especially now that my brother and his family had move there as well, just above the Rose Bowl.  As soon as both kids are done with high school, I'm definitely headed back west.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Leaving The Comfort Zone

I had generally stayed away from celebrity photography.  The last book I ever bought on the genre was  "Individuals: Portraits from the Gap Collection" sometime in 2006 -- until last night.  Browsing at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, I found a clearance book by a German photographer, Olaf Heine.  Much of my distaste for photographing famous people is the fact that the celebrity icon on the image is easily too distracting for me to fully appreciate the merit of the artwork.  Besides, we all have preconceptions of who these people are so that photographs will often reinforce our biases.  However, Heine's "Leaving the Comfort Zone, Photographs 1991/2008" just grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go until I made my way to the cash register about twenty bucks poorer.  (I just can't believe I've never heard of him or his work before.)
  Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters
Kurt Cobain in a backdrop that looks like he's on fire with that Fender Mustang guitar.
 Snoop Dogg Samurai.  I don't even need to see the face, just his silhouette, which Olaf Heine exploits to the fullest extent.
The crazy James Hetfield of Metallica!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Catfish (2010)

What do we really want in life?  Ever since man could express himself in terms of language and written text, we've tried to tell stories of attempts to answer that question.  Films had represented the subjects of life choices, loneliness and living a life that doesn't belong to us fairly well ever since motion picture was invented.  Fast forward to the modern day age of internet and Facebook and coupled with a documentary-style approach,  "Catfish" (2010) tells of an unpredictable sequence of events that teaches us that people will go at great length to live a life they wish they had.  And when those around us uncover the truth, it is just as important to understand what drove the lie in the first place.  And in the grand scheme of things, it is people with dreams (and in the age of Facebook, people with alternate, fictional profiles) that make life a little bit more colorful for everybody else.

The memorable quote from the movie:

"They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They'd keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn't have somebody nipping at our fin."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Riding

Cycling during the months of October, November and December is at best, unpredictable. Two weeks ago was perfect -- 70s and sunny during the afternoon, calm.  Last week, the Santa Ana winds hit on Sunday and the hill I normally ride up to get home -- which I typically take at 10 mph -- I was barely moving at half that speed with a nasty headwind and 90 deg  heat.  Today, I took a short 17 mile ride around Rancho Cucamonga and I had to put on my knee warmers and wear a long sleeve jersey.  The air temp was 50F and with the wind chill, it was easily 40-45 deg temps.  Next week?  Who knows.  Rain, sleet or maybe a heat wave. Still, I wouldn't trade the unpredictability with the predictable snow and cold of the north and east part of the US.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No Harm, No Foul

A friend from New York visited last weekend and showed him around the studio including some of the drawing concepts I have started just a couple days prior.  I was explaining to him how some of these images come into being, how to interpret each piece in the eyes of the creator.  What he said next, I'm not sure whether to take as a complement or not but it did come through clearly.  He said that he enjoys hearing artists at gallery openings explain their work, the inspiration, the process and the product -- in spite of whether the work sucked or not.  O-kay.  Thankfully, he's a really good friend and we go way back and besides, I don't get offended by people not liking my art.  I think that's what differentiates people who do art because they like it from those who are more interested in self-promotion because they have to sell.  One seems to take criticism better than the other.

Above is an untitled sketch using gel pen on wide-ruled composition notebook I did during the weekly staff meeting at work.  I've evolved some of the structures primarily inspired by the process of cell mitosis -- which I learned about while helping the kids study for their science quizzes.  Isn't that how art is supposed to be anyway, taking inspiration from everyday life?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Last Oil

This is the last oil painting I ever remember doing. Maybe sometime 2006 or 2007.  I never dated my oils because they're never finished, right?  30"x48" and untitled.  Since then, I've focused mostly on drawing although I do miss the action of applying the consistency of oil on a fresh, empty canvas.  Nothing quite like it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yeah It's About That Time

With daylight savings time ending last week, it's about that time when the effects of Hawaii typically wears off and I'm craving to go back to the islands. Even a week-long quick Oahu trip will satiate the holiday blues.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Naked Lunch

I'd be lying if I say I completely get this movie.  However, I'm not sure the absence of my familiarity with anything William Burroughs-related is the root cause why.  I like Peter Weller in Buckaroo Banzai where he played scientist, test pilot, surgeon and rock star and Naked Lunch almost seems like a an offshoot of the Buckaroo script -- this time Weller playing a writer.  Maybe if I read the Burroughs' actual book, I might get the whole talking typewriter bug concept.  Or could it be director David Cronenberg's treatment that gives it an unsettling flavor to the narrative.  I'm fully aware of the controversy of this film -- where the topic of drug use and homosexuality is central to the creative process -- and how most red-blooded Americans would probably be turned away.  Hey, as long as they give me the choice whether I want to see it or not, who cares.  Naked Lunch feels closer to the other Cronenberg cult favorite, Videodrome (1983) although temporally, it is only a few years from the more commercial Cronenberg, Crash (1996).  If there is any movie that I would turn on any special features like a director's comments throughout, this is it.  Unfortunately, I already shipped this Netflix rental back.  If and when I find the time to actually read Burroughs' book, I will watch this again.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"The Scientist" by Coldplay

Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorryYou don't know how lovely you areI had to find you, tell you I need youTell you I set you apart

Tell me your secrets and ask me your questionsOh, let's go back to the startRunning in circles, coming up tailsHeads on a science apart

Nobody said it was easyIt's such a shame for us to partNobody said it was easyNo one ever said it would be this hardOh, take me back to the start

I was just guessing at numbers and figuresPulling the puzzles apartQuestions of science, science and progressDo not speak as loud as my heart

But tell me you love me, come back and haunt meOh and I rush to the startRunning in circles, chasing our tailsComing back as we are

Nobody said it was easyOh, it's such a shame for us to partNobody said it was easyNo one ever said it would be so hardI'm going back to the start
(I absolutely dislike Coldplay.  They try to sound too much like that famous band from Ireland.  I used to tell Maura how much I absolutely hate Coldplay.  She would play this the "Rush of Blood to the Head" CD and I would just cringe and mock Chris Martin's Bono sound-alike.  However, I just figured out how to play this song tonight and it is absolutely one of the most beautiful song I ever learned to play. The original has a piano backing the vocals but I figured it out on acoustic guitar and I guess some things take time to fully appreciate.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Now Why Didn't Bose Think of That

Skullcandy seems to have fixed a couple issues I've had with headphones for years.  Nothing sucks more than spending a couple hundred dollars on a nice sounding pair and at some point, usually after the warranty runs out, the headphone cable pinches and the wire breaks rendering my toy unusable.  The Skullcandy Aviator had a simple solution to that by putting a headphone jack on the unit so a pinched cable problem is just that -- a cable problem.  I can go to any electronics store and buy another cable.  Which brings me to the second problem this innovative design idea solves.  Cables that are not long enough.  Sure, I can buy some extender but with the Aviator, I just buy a longer cable. And oh, by the way, these sound better (to me at least) than all models I tried except for a $300 Sony.  The Skullycandy Aviator sells for $138 at Best Buy.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Untitled Drawing (2012)

Finally got some artwork going again.  Sometimes, I just need to grab my pen and start drawing anything.  Like they tell writers to just type a letter, a word, a sentence -- all I had to do was draw a line, two lines, fill in the space.  This is my second drawing this week.  So far.  Completed in 1 hour while listening to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, disc 2.  Miles always facilitates access to areas of creativity that are difficult to reach.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Type of Doodling

I had been maintaining engineering notebooks for as long as I can remember.  The habit started in college and I just carried the practice through my professional career.  However, I alway keep it a point to only write on the right side and leave the left pages for doodles and various notes.  I can almost recall what work meeting I was attending for every doodle I put down on paper.  The first drawing is from last week's program staff meeting followed by a teleconference with the customer.  The bottom two are from some boring training class I was sitting in on -- doodling ornate types was the only thing that kept me awake.