Wednesday, October 31, 2007

spooky furry things

Why should humans have all the fun? These fuzzy felines certainly look like they're enjoying themselves (mostly...). These poor pooches? Not so much. It's pretty amazing how hot of a fad commercial pet costumes have become recently. I was shopping for my kitty this afternoon (who, incidentally, was far more interested in chewing her lion costume than wearing it) at Trixie and Peanut, probably the poshest pet store in the whole of NYC. While I was there, three chihuahas and some sort of terrier all showed up (with their humans) in full regalia; one was a knight, another was a player for the Yankees, another was a ladybug, and the last was a princess. It was a little unreal! But, hey, I was there to partake just as much as they were, so I guess I shouldn't talk... Anyway, happy Halloween to all you furry four-legged friends out there! May your trick-or-treat bags be filled with savory snacks, and may your costumes not catch on some appliance you aren't supposed to jump on anyway!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the beauty of our waste

I recently stumbled on the work of Chris Jordan, a Seattle-based photographer who specializes in environmental issues. Jordan's photographs are nothing short of mesmerizing.

His two latest series deal mostly with the magnitude of our waste. The photo above is just one example of various scenes he's scoped out of dumps for very specific items - this one being old cell phones. Many of the topics Jordan photographs are rather mundane - shards of glass, pieces of scrap metal - but his many shots of consumer electronics trash, such as an entire field of old circuit boards, are a sobering reminder of just how wasteful a lot we Americans have become.

Jordan's most recent series, which uses digitally enhanced photographs to show in a small space the grandiosity of many of our seemingly small actions, is a little more manipulated, but it works to great effect. The images are similar to those Chuck-Close-style photomosaics, where hundreds or thousands of different photographs are used to represent individual "pixels"... For instance, in one shot, Jordan uses exactly 106,000 aluminum soda cans to reproduce Georges Seurat's iconic Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The 106,000 represents the number of soda cans used every 30 seconds in the United States. Most of the images in this series, though, look like white noise unless you're looking closely. But when you do look closely (Jordan provides three zooms for each shot in the series on his site), you can literally feel the enormity of the statistics his images visually convey.

Sadly, the Web isn't really the best place to view the largest of Jordan's images. To get the full scale, you have to see one of the pieces in person because most of them are actually 5 feet tall by 6 feet wide! (The second set of images here includes zooms of a 10' x 23' piece with 2.3 million prison uniforms, one for each person who was incarcerated in the U.S. in 2005.) Anyway, if you have a chance, go check out Chris Jordan's work in the flesh. But if not, his site is definitely worth a visit. In it, you'll also find some heartbreaking but astounding photos he shot of the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

eve curie labouisse (1904 - 2007)

Monday marked the passing of Eve Curie Labouisse, the youngest daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicists Marie and Pierre Curie. A resident of New York City, Curie Labouisse had an impressive career as a writer and journalist, and apparently also had considerable talent as a pianist. While her older sister Irene followed in their parents' footsteps and became a scientist, Eve spent her early adult life attending to her widowed mother in Paris, supporting her at home and often traveling with her abroad. After Marie Curie's death in 1934, Eve wrote what is still considered the preeminent biography of her mother, Madame Curie, which won her a National Book Award.

After WWII began, the intrepid Curie became a war correspondant after previously having been an officer of the women's division of the French army. She later published a second successful book chronicling her experiences on the fronts of WWII. She also became co-publisher of a Parisian newspaper, and would go on to serve as the Special Advisor to the Secretary General of NATO. In 1954, Curie married Henry Richardson Labouisse, who spent 15 years as the executive director of UNICEF. Curie, too, served the organization for a short time, as the executive director in Greece. You might remember carrying a trick-or-treat UNICEF box around during Halloween as a kid; the organization still distributes the boxes as a way to raise money to help needy kids, so before you make the rounds this coming week, make sure you get one for yourself!

Anyway, here's to the recently departed Eve Curie Labouisse; the world will miss such a talented and giving lady.

Monday, October 22, 2007

interweb shoutout: metal chik

Creative types with a flair for bling have a hip new place to hang out on the Web. It's called Metal Chik and it's all about trends in (mostly metal) jewelry making! The site is hosted by punk rocker-turned jewelry maker-turned art professor Victoria Tillotson, who happens to also be my prof at SVA this semester. She started Metal Chik a few months ago to give creative types and those into jewelry trends a place to learn and get advice. On Metal Chik, Victoria stars in her own little webisodes, which feature interviews with professional jewelry designers, sellers, and suppliers, as well as useful hands-on demos, and lots of examples of Victoria's work. My favorite webisode so far would be the punk rock jewelry - except, of course, for the part where they show a woman getting her nose pierced! Yikes! Anyway, whatever kind of jewelry you're into, there's a video for you. Plus, there are blog posts with more detailed step-by-step instructions in case you decide you just HAVE to have that ring, dahling. Here's a recent webisode on setting diamonds and their cheaper lookalikes, cubic zirconia! Enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

the (icky) business of halloween

Allow me to rant for a minute about the Halloween business here in New York City. First off, you should know that I love Halloween. Here's a holiday that everyone can get happy about - there's little pressure other than what costume to wear, you get to make a fool of yourself and be someone (or something) else for a day, and of course, there's the candy. But the business of Halloween makes me sick.

Here in New York there are a few specialty costume shops that are decent mom-and-pop stores. But the majority of NYC costume sales are made at the retail chain Ricky's, a glamified beauty shop for 11 months out of the year and a "Halloween superstore" in October. My first major beef with the costume shopping experience at Ricky's is the double-whammy of not being able to return or exchange any Halloween stuff and not being able to try the costumes on. You know, I do understand retail, and I understand the need to capitalize on a timely holiday. Ricky's doesn't want to be stuck with costumes people change their minds about at the last minute. But, it's incredible to me that you can't try stuff on. Of course the biggest reason anyone would want to try a costume on is that the sizing, especially for women, is completely crazy! And I'm a lot less likely to put money down on something that might not fit me. So I really don't get that whole situation.

Which brings me to beef #2: Women's Halloween costumes are essentially all pornographic! It's really scary. Almost every single costume that Ricky's sells for females over the age of 12 involves an ultramini skirt (the kind you mistake for underwear) and a glorified bra that you pretty much can't don anyway unless you're a D-cup. Clearly, Halloween is an inherently sexy holiday - when else can you dress like an actual whore and get away with it? But to essentially MAKE women dress like this is totally stupid. (And I'm not the only one who thinks so!) Seriously, just looking at the women's section at Ricky's makes me feel like I'm in a porn shop, and the skimpy costumes are pretty much all the choice I've got. The models all have serious cleavage, long, sexy legs, and a pouty look that's just begging for foreplay. This must be what the Victoria's Secret models do in their spare time! (To be sure, Ricky's is known for it's back-of-the-store sex toys, but at least those are hidden from all the kids.) Oh, and have I mentioned that Halloween takes place one day before NOVEMBER? In New York, at least, it's COLD in November. Why should women have to freeze their asses off on Halloween when the guys almost always get to wear a pair of pants and full shirt, if not some warmer, fuzzier outfit? Even traditional costumes seem overly sexed up. I mean, Marie Antoinette was a babe, no doubt, but I guarantee you her skirts were three times as long as the "replicas" you can buy for Halloween today. What's even more silly is the fact that Ricky's has a whole section of Playboy-licensed "sexy costumes." The way 99 percent of the women's costumes they carry look and fit, they might as well stamp "Playboy" on the whole lot.

That brings me to my last major problem with the Halloween business. Along with being sexy, most Halloween costumes - and I'm including all age groups here - are totally sexist. This year I thought it would be fun to be an astronaut, perhaps just straight up, or perhaps adding the Lisa Nowak diaper. But, wouldn't ya know it, there are only boy's or men's astronaut costumes! I checked out both and neither was going to work for a 5'4 woman; the boys' was too small and the men's was so big, I could probably fit two of me into it. How sad that so-called "girl costumes" are witches and princesses, while "boy costumes" are robots and astronauts... There was one set of costumes in particular that really got to me. You can buy a boy or man Ghostbuster outfit, but if you want to be a female Ghostbuster, can see the problem. Mostly, of course, I blame the costume manufacturers. But it comes from parents, too. While shopping today, I overheard a young girl asking her mom if she could buy superhero costume. The mom replied, "That's a boy costume. Pick something more girly." I had to restrain myself. I guess we still have a way to go as far as really accepting that girls can be whatever they want to be...

Anyway, I suppose the saving grace is that at least there's still the candy. The only part of the Halloween business I really like is being able to buy my sugary treats for half off the day after the main event!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

cats ≠ dogs

So the Cat Fanciers' Association had their annual convention at Madison Square Garden last weekend. In the year since I started thinking about getting a cat, I've decided that cat shows are almost as cool as dog shows—but not quite. The one main difference is that the cats don't really get to prance around and strut their stuff in front of a judge the way dogs do; they basically just sit in a cage, get manhandled for a few minutes, and are then put right back into the cage. It makes sense. Cats are a notoriously disobedient lot; they do what they want when they want, and not a moment before!

But then I found out about the new cat obstacle course! You might have seen dogs run through hoops, fly over stairs, and weave in between posts on ESPN, which occasionally televises dog agility competitions. But now thanks to the CFA you can see cats...uh...snicker at their humans' attempts to get them to run around like idiots! Yes, the CFA was going for popularity, but it has produced nothing but hilarity. So check out this video from The New York Times...and keep your eye out for the little white Japanese bobtail who's obviously got better things to do than chase a feathered stick!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

stuck in barajas? no problema!

I am writing this as I'm stuck in Madrid after a missed connection (*?@#ing JFK traffic), and I have to say that if there's an airport to have an unexpected layover in, this would definitely have to be in the top five. A word to the wise in case you've never been here: Madrid Barajas International Airport is the s***. Well, architecturally, anyway. It's true, their seats are actually not at all comfortable, there's nowhere to lie down in case you want a cat nap, and there are no work stations or even power outlets (although you can pay to surf the Web from very hip-looking kiosks). No, the awesomeness I'm talking about is the visual eye candy that is MAD. There are two main terminals, each a feast of silver mesh, glass, rainbow-colored support beams, and undulating wood (bamboo?) ceilings. The support beams are painted in hues that seemingly span the entire electromagnetic spectrum, which creates the illusion that you're in some sort of theme park. There are hardly any lights on in the place; with all the glass walls and circular pore-like holes in the ceiling, the airport is lit almost completely with natural daylight. At the center of the main terminal is an impressive array of shops and restaurants. Equally enthralling are the architectural details that make me wish I'd majored in industrial design: clear round-edged elevator cars that look like they belong in the Parisian Pompidou Centre; tapas cafes lit by giant eyes staring down from the roof above; and white robotic-looking contraptions that remind me of giant ET heads keeping watch over passengers as they wait for their luggage. (Oh, and by the way, the rain in Spain, does fall mainly on the plain - also, on the poor airport workers who are getting drenched as they report for cargo-buggy-driving duty.)

Anyway, if you ever find yourself needing to choose a connection city for your flight to Europe, and you have an eye for great industrial design, come to Madrid Barajas. It will make your five-hour layover suck a lot less.