a Dorchester tradition

Every year that we've lived in Dorchester (it's hard to believe, but we're already working on our fourth winter here), I've wanted to blog about the Christmas lights and decorations displayed by a house a few blocks away. But the end of the semester was always followed by a frantic week or two of catching up before we headed west each year not to return until after the New Year. This year, however, we stayed put and, maintaining a childhood tradition, drove around on Christmas eve to check out the neighborhood displays. But before we get to the house in question, here are some other highlights.

Check out these old-school chunky lights:

The snow on the streets was already, for the most part, looking like shaved ice with a little mud on top, but things did look picturesque in the twinkle of the Christmas lights:

And the grand finale:

I don't think these images do justice to the insane display these folks put on each year. The front of the house, all the way across the lawn to the fence near the sidewalk, is completely covered in lights and other holiday paraphernalia. It's nuts.

I'm not sure I'd ever go all out like this, but you have to give them an A+ for effort. Honestly, some people are so lazy with their decorations, you have to wonder why they bother. We passed one house with a string of lights haphazardly wrapped around a flower box. That was it. If we were grading on a curve, they definitely would have failed miserably.


bah humbug...I mean, happy holidays

After almost four days of barely leaving the apartment, thanks to two days of snow followed by a bit of rain and temperatures that resulted in a "flash freeze", I decided to venture out today to do a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping. "Big mistake. Big. Huge!" I went to one store in one strip mall in the delightful town of Braintree, just south of Boston, and spent almost an hour creeping out of the parking lot. That's what I get for trying to cure my stir-craziness.

The good news is I'm completely done with my holiday shopping. The bad news is I'm still waiting for a couple of items from Etsy so none of my packages to family and friends on the west coast will make it out before Christmas day, let alone in time for the holiday. Even my cards will be late, if they make it out at all. I ordered custom note cards from Snapfish, scheduled to arrive by today, and neither Snapfish nor FedEx can tell me where my package is.

Bah humbug, indeed.

At least the tree has been topped. Here are some lovely pics, most of which were taken by Neal a few nights ago, to cheer us all up.

That's better. I guess the silver lining of giving in to being late with gifts and cards this year is that I can relax tomorrow and hopefully the lines at the post office will be shorter on Friday.

In the meantime, have a super holiday!


snowed in

Keeping with the traditions of this blog (blogging about birthdays and first snows, for example), I thought I'd post a few pics from the weekend of pretty much non-stop snow we've been enjoying here in Boston. Like last year, this isn't actually the first snow of the season but it is the first significant snow event. Here's an image from the first dusting we received a couple of weeks ago:

All of this snow melted by the end of the day. The snow from this weekend, on the other hand, is likely to stick around for awhile. Here are a couple of images taken from our bedroom window yesterday evening:

And today? It just kept on snowing, adding to the 9 or 10 inches we got yesterday.

Look at that tree! Doesn't it look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book? Anyway, the snow today seemed wetter and by the end of the day had turned to rain. The temperature is well below freezing at the moment, meaning we'll have a pleasant sheet of ice to contend with tomorrow morning.

So what does one do while all that snow is falling? Make ice cream, of course! Actually, Neal makes the ice cream; I eat it. And blog about it. Neal had the brilliant idea to make ice cream inspired by peppermint bark.

Initially I think he was going to make peppermint ice cream with white and dark chocolate pieces but then changed his mind and decided to make the ice cream white chocolate flavored, using this recipe (minus the ginger), and added in candy cane pieces along with the chocolate bits. More like peppermint bark this way. And indeed, it really does taste like the ice cream version of the tasty, seasonal treat. Yum.


faux fir

This being our first Christmas in Boston (every year since we've been here we've returned to California for the holidays) we decided to get a tree. Growing up, from second grade on - I'm assuming because finances were a little tight that year and because we moved around a lot - we invested in a fake tree that we'd assemble every year. After high school, I continued the tradition with a small tabletop tree that my Dad gave me for my first Christmas on my own. Neal and I continued to decorate that little tree each year until we made the cross country move; then the tree was left behind in the garage sized pile of things we sold on Craigslist or donated to Goodwill. This is our first tree as a family, our first tree in Boston, and my first real, live tree in about 24 or 25 years!

So where do you go to get such a tree? My hair stylist recommended we go to Lambert's, a produce market just down the hill from us that makes tasty sandwiches year-round and sells Christmas trees during the holidays. So we bundled up and made our way to the parking lot full of color-coded trees that ranged in price from $30 to $70. The experience was a little anti-climactic, I have to admit. I'm not sure what I was expecting; it's not like we were trekking into the woods to chop down a tree ourselves. I guess I thought we'd walk around, hot cocoa in hand, until we found the perfect tree, just knowing it was our tree the moment we saw it. They'd sold out of smaller trees the day before and since it was a smaller tree we wanted, we were advised to choose a less expensive tree and have them chop off the bottom foot or so. The cheaper, pink-tagged trees weren't even on full display but stacked against a fence at the back of the lot. It was all kind of boring, actually, and I spent the several minutes it took the guy to trim, package, and strap the tree to our car checking out their other holiday offerings.

Now that the tree is trimmed, however, I find myself enjoying it more than I thought I would. As for decorations, if it were up to me, I would have gone with clear lights and very minimal decorations. But Neal prefers colored lights and if you're going to decorate for Christmas, you might as well go all out. So colored lights - in the shape of pinecones no less - and a set of red and green, some with glitter, balls it is. We have a shoebox full of ornaments that we've collected over the decade plus we've been together and a vintage tree topper on its way, from this Etsy shop. I'll post a pic when the tree is officially finished, which will likely be right before Christmas day.

On a sidenote, when I was searching for Lambert's website, I came across this restaurant of the same name in Missouri, known for its "throwed rolls." Here's a video that shows a guy throwing rolls at the restaurant's diners.

Weird, huh? Apparently, they throw rolls at you in the Midwest.


cha ching

The economy may be in bad shape but I made three whole bucks today! Actually, I've yet to receive payment, but one of my chick flick note cards was purchased, reminding me not only that I have my own Etsy shop but also that Etsy is a great place to go for handmade and vintage Christmas gifts. Within about an hour of browsing I went from having only half of my list figured out to a collection of "favorites" that could easily take care of all holidays and birthdays through 2009.

If it's note cards, crocheted coasters, or latch hook pillows you seek, you know where to go.


0.6 per cent

That was the approximate success rate of the publicity for my class's exhibition/workshop/swap the other night, if you compare the number in attendance (a dozen or so, and that's being generous) with the number of flyers we distributed (2000 hard copy plus various forms of digital press). Some possible reasons for comically low attendance? It was cold outside, the Mission Hill gallery is about a 15 minute walk, uphill, from the main SMFA building, other stuff was going on that night, and/or nobody wants to see or make artist trading cards. In conclusion, art students are lazy, pre-occupied with their own work, and prefer to stay indoors.

Just kidding.

I'm not any more bitter about the difficulty of getting folks to interact than I was before the show; I feel like I've experienced this several times before, specifically at the Museum School, but I'm almost certain it happens elsewhere. And it makes some sense, I guess. Maybe artists, despite an evolving image of what it means to be an "artist", really do just want to hang out in their studios and make their own work. But if you can't get a group of art students to attend an art opening, good luck getting the rest of the world to show up.

Anyway, all that said, I was really happy with the show and had a great time at Monday night's event. All of my students over the past three semesters hold a special place in my heart, but I have to say I was really impressed with the work produced by the current group. I was impressed not only with how they interpreted and worked within the framework of artist trading cards but also with the varied ways in which they chose to display their work for the show.

For the reception, we dragged a long table into the middle of the gallery space and covered it with brown paper then scattered artist trading card materials and bite size candies over it. Visitors were invited to have a seat, make a card, and enjoy some chocolate.

Most of the folks seated at the table in the image above are students in the class whose work is in the show. The handful of outside visitors mostly hung out at Eric Erdman's poker table:

and at Jessica Scott-Dutcher's Learning Area:

where they made their own flashcards by creating visualizations of the sometimes very odd juxtapositions of words printed at the tops of dictionary pages (inedible | infant, for example, which you can see illustrated in the blue card at the bottom of the image below).

With just one class remaining, I'm already mulling over my syllabus for next semester, my final chance to mold the minds of Museum School youth before my post-grad teaching gig officially comes to an end and they kick me out for good...


best thing since lolcats

Was it pure coincidence that I enjoyed a third (or fourth?) visit to Babycakes on the day I discovered this site? I'm not sure what made me laugh more, the pics of cakewrecks or the blogger's hi-larious commentary.


good times for a change

I don't usually blog about politics, but drastic circumstances call for drastic measures...or something like that. Actually, I guess it would have made more sense to blog before the election, so that all seven of my readers might have been swayed to vote one way or another. But I probably would've been preaching to the choir, and anyway it doesn't matter anymore. Let's just say I'm a lot happier today than I was after the past two elections. I don't think I'll be mildly depressed for the rest of the week as I was four years ago.

And I suppose the economic situation trumps the arts, not that the arts ever figure all that prominently in an election in this country, but I do feel optimistic that Obama will be a much better advocate for the arts than Bush was or than McCain might have been. At least Obama included some thoughts about the arts in his platform, a topic that was pretty much absent from McCain's rhetoric, at least as far as I could tell. You can read all about Obama's arts policy here, in fact.

Just one lingering question: What will all the political artists do after Bush leaves the office??


bite size art

I've been sadly absent from this portion of the blogosphere lately. But I finally have a bit of pertinent news to share. My class is having another show. This semester they've been making work around the sort of sub-genre of Mail Art known as Artist Trading Cards. Their work will be on display in one of the Museum School galleries from the 11th of November through the 23rd, with a reception taking place on the 17th. In addition, the class is hosting an ATC workshop/swap during the night of the reception, with oodles of cardstock, collage materials, and other stuff provided to make and trade your very own ATCs. Anyway, here are the specs:

Bite Size is an exhibition of Artist Trading Cards made by students in SMFA's Text & Image Arts class 'Art from Ephemera: Mail Art and the Internet.'

Students in this intermediate level multi-media studio class investigate the emerging art form of Artist Trading Cards, one example of the many ways Mail Artists exchange ephemera using the postal system and the Internet. Artist Trading Cards are individual art miniatures that are traditionally traded, not sold, and are created as unique works or small limited editions. The only restriction is that they measure 2 ½ by 3 ½ inches.

Artists whose work will be on display include: Alexis Avedisian, Keina Davis Elswick, Omer Elad, Eric Erdman, Max Falkowitz, Maryn Leigh Kaplan, Jessica Scott-Dutcher, and Roxy Sperber.

Bite Size will be on display in the Mission Hill Foyer Gallery at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from November 11 to 23, 2008.

A reception for the artists will be held on Monday, November 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will also be a workshop and swap held at this time where you can make and trade your own Artist Trading Cards. Cardstock and other materials will be provided; bring your own materials and supplies to share.

SMFA's Mission Hill Gallery is located at 160 St. Alphonsus in Boston.


gone apple pickin'

Me and the fam' went apple picking this weekend. We've gone with my brother and his family in Connecticut but never on our own here in Massachusetts. And it seemed like a good New England autumn thing to do. I'm told the best time to go is mid-October, so we were a few days late but there was still some good pickin' to be had. We tossed a few apples from about five or six different varieties into a couple of bags with the intention of eating a few and baking the rest into a delicious pie. I'd forgotten which varieties were which by the time we got home, though, so the pie is sure to be an interesting (and hopefully tasty) mix...that Neal, not me, will be baking, of course.

For this apple pickin', we drove about an hour north to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Mass., close to the New Hampshire border. The farm offers a hay ride of sorts to where the apple trees are, pumpkins, raspberries (and other produce at other times of the year, I assume), and a store/bakery where you can get hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, pies, pumpkin butter, etc. But no bathrooms, just porta potties. Overall, it was a good time but I'm not sure it was totally worth the drive. I'd probably try for a closer orchard next time.


like, seriously

While turning 31 isn't as much of a milestone as turning 30, or even enjoying that final year of one's 20s, because I've written about birthdays the past few years, I thought I'd maintain the tradition. When I was a teenager people always thought I was actually much older. I once convinced a couple of guys that I was 18 after they guessed I was 25. I was 16. And I don't write this to brag but it seems like over the past few years that trend has reversed slightly. So I thought I'd share my secrets to maintaining that youthful glow. For starters, over the past ten years or so I've always been at least 5 to 10 pounds over my ideal weight (i.e. high school varsity soccer playing runnin' around for two hours a day weight). If I compare passport photos - one taken right after high school, the other taken just a couple of years ago - I actually look thinner in the more recent photo even though I'm easily 15 pounds heavier than the earlier photo. Your face tends to get downright gaunt as you age, but you can offset this if you pack on a few extra pounds. A couple of extra pounds of fat would easily take half a decade off Madonna's face, for example. Secondly, I wear very little make-up. And finally, I say like. Like, a lot.

Here's to another year.



Boing Boing had a post about Berkeley Bowl a couple of days ago. Berkeley Bowl is the famous supermarket (mini-chain? Aren't there a couple now?) that has inadequate parking, overpriced grocery basics, and amazing produce. The latter is the reason we occasionally shopped there when we lived in Oakland...That is, of course, until I decided the amazing produce no longer outweighed all the things I disliked about the place, not to mention the fact that it was a bit of a commute. One thing the article points out that I find questionable, however, if my memory serves me well, is the store's "one-strike-and-you're-out-for-life policy against people who sample without buying." I could absolutely count on encountering at least one person every trip who was standing in line munching on a loaf of bread that was sold by the pound or sampling an olive from the gourmet olive bar. Then again, it's been many years since I've been to the Bowl so perhaps they've cracked down on these shoppers during that time. Here's a quote from the article: "Raphael Breines, who was ejected last year for eating on the premises, said he couldn't decide between two types of apricots, so he sampled both." Seriously?! What's wrong with you people?!

Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, I feel compelled to mention, since I blogged about it previously, that I am not in fact teaching a class this semester at Emerson. It's a long story that I don't need to go into; just felt I should take it "off the record," so to speak.


what I did on my summer vacation

It's hard to believe it's been eight weeks since my last real post, easily the fastest two months of my life. Every day's different and yet every day is the same, just a slightly different sequencing of feeding, diapering, entertaining, and soothing one of Boston's newer residents. In the beginning we lived from one cycle to the next, then from day to day. Now the days seem to blur by the end of the week, weeks which have been flying by. It's hard to believe we're well into August, and that the fall semester is just around the corner. I'm actually feeling somewhat prepared for the two classes I'll teach, again at the Museum School (the same class I taught last year, although I'm mixing it up this semester to focus on a smaller category of Mail Art: Artist Trading Cards) and a new class (for me, at least) at Emerson. It's funny how earlier this year I blogged about how I wouldn't mind teaching at the latter. It's sure to be a hectic semester, the little one not even three months at the start of the semester, but I'm looking forward to the experience. There will be another exhibition in connection with my Museum School course so stay tuned for details on that, later this fall.

Otherwise, I've spent the summer prioritizing which t.v. shows to keep up on in my precious spare time. I did manage to keep fairly current on So You Think You Can Dance, not to the point that I could actually vote each week but I was usually caught up by next week's episode. In short, I enjoyed the addition of choreographers Tabitha & Napoleon more than Sonya, although I tired of the choreographer love fest each week during judging. I found both Wade Robson and Mia Michaels' routines to be a bit tired and predictable, and missed more regular input from hip hop faves Shane Sparks and Dan Karaty (did DK choreograph anything this season?). I think all the choreographers should have to dance at some point during next season. In the end, Katee was my favorite, but I was happy that Josh won.

When we weren't sneaking in snippets of that show, we try to keep up with new episodes of Weeds. And that's about it. I'm a little bummed I haven't had time to watch this summer's season of Big Brother; I've heard it's pretty entertaining. And we've had the same three Netflix titles sitting next to the t.v. since mid-June. But when you've been up for the day since 5:30 a.m., and you only got about 5 hours of sleep the night before, it's hard to justify staying up much past when the person dictating your schedule finally calls it a day. Forget "sleeping through the night;" when do kids start hitting the sack at 7 p.m.? I worry about what will happen to Neal if he doesn't get to watch a movie soon...



It's been quite some time since my last post. A couple weeks of SYTYCD, I believe. I'm a little preoccupied and probably will be for awhile, although I am finding a bit of time here and there to blog about the latest adventure taking up all my time. It took us a full week to watch the June 25th and 26th episodes, in little chunks of time here and there while our latest collaboration either slept on his own or in our arms. Either way, I'm a pretty distracted viewer. I thought we'd have tons of time to watch t.v., being on "house arrest," as it were, but for now at least, even sitting down for our evening veg time is a challenge.

So I'll probably be signing off for a bit, but I hope to be back later this summer...or maybe sometime this fall! Somehow, I need to find time to transition from CS2 to CS3 (and brush up on my Flash skills) before I teach a class on the topic beginning in September. Should be an interesting summer!


exuberating banoodles

Okay, so "exuberating" is a word, but I'm pretty sure "banoodles" is not. It is a dance competition, after all, not a vocabulary quiz. But the "banoodles" bit pretty much set the stage for some annoying judging on last night's episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Ignoring Mia, Mary, and Nigel for a bit, though, here's what I thought of the nine couples. Overall, I didn't enjoy last night's episode as much as last week. I thought there were a handful of good performances, but much of the judging turned into a choreography love fest, which is almost always code for the dancers somewhat butchering what's probably not a stellar routine to begin with...without actually saying that.

All that knocking on wood couldn't save Chelsea and Thayne from a lackluster performance of probably my least favorite routine choreographed so far on SYTYCD by Mandy Moore. As a couple they just weren't as good as last week, but, as much as it pains me to write this, I don't think they were given the greatest choreography either.

Chelsie and Mark did some "meaty dancing" in the style of the Argentine Tango. I thought they did better than last week. Mark was a bit hunched throughout but that didn't bother me; his "quirkiness" is usually a plus, but Chelsie still hasn't quite grown on me. I felt like there were a few things she actually did better in the rehearsal footage.

Finally, a routine I can get excited about. I enjoyed Cecily and Olisa's hip hop routine, danced by Jessica and Will. I think the judges like Will a little too much. I really hate when they start predicting the top four dancers this early in the competition. That said, I do think Jessica will be eliminated before him and it's going to keep him near or in the bottom three probably more often than he deserves. She did better than last week but she's like the goofy guys this season. She needs to find some edge, especially given this kind of choreography.

Kourtni and Matt did a fox trot choreographed by the always entertaining Jean-Marc. Yay, ballroom. This is so not my thing, but I thought they did a pretty good job. Matt's actually growing on me a little, I'm not sure why.

And finally, a performance I can get a little excited about. I thought overall, Courtney and Gev did a pretty good job. I'm a fan of Mandy Moore, in case I hadn't already mentioned that, and even though I thought this was done better than the first routine of the night, it reminded me too much of something Mia Michaels might put together. Courtney was a little shaky here and there but I felt like there were a few moments that really worked and their chemistry overall was great.

As with Kherington and Twitch last week, I think I groaned a little when I heard that one of my favorite couples so far would be doing a Broadway routine. But like last week, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Another solid performance from Katee and Joshua, easily the tightest couple of the bunch, for me at least. Watching that clip again, though, I didn't realize the first time around how excited Nigel was at the end. I think all the judges were on a little crack or something last night.

Anyway, moving on to Susie and Marquis, who did a salsa routine. I wouldn't know the difference between street and non-street salsa, so that doesn't bother me necessarily. And I can't quite put my finger on it, but I just don't care for Susie. The girl can dance better than me, that's for sure, but I don't really understand how she's made it this far in the competition.

Another groan when I heard that Kherington and Twitch would be doing the Viennese Waltz. But I actually enjoyed it, and of course Jean-Marc's personal impetus for the routine certainly didn't hurt. Kherington is just lovely and Twitch continues to impress me. That said, I hope they get something a little edgier next time so Kherington can go at least a week without the wavy, feathered 'do. I mean, it's a perfectly fine hairdo, but the girl is barely out of high school. Why do they keep giving her mom hair?

The night ended with what I thought was a mediocre performance by Comfort and Chris, especially considering how excited I was to hear that they'd be doing a krumping routine put together by L'il C, Comfort being possibly the best female hip hop dancer they've seen on the show. But then I remembered that as much as I enjoy hip hop and I like when some krumping makes its way into other kinds of choreography, I rarely enjoy these routines. It's like listening to a song without melody or something, it just doesn't work for me.

Man, I'm such a negative sap this week. Oh well. At least we have a Shane Sparks group routine to look forward to tonight. And hopefully the judges are back on their meds.


more stuff that will probably never sell

I've been crocheting coasters like mad the past few days. Actually, that's not totally true since I can get through an entire coaster in less than a standard-length pop album. So they haven't really been taking up too much of my time, but I have managed to crank out two sets (one set of four that I blogged about here and a second set of six, pictured above). For kicks, I put them up for sale in my Etsy shop. As much as I enjoy the interface and having a shop, I have a feeling Etsy is a bit like Cafe Press was back in its day. A few shopkeepers make a lot of dough but for the most part, you're lucky to get a sale here and there. On the other hand, it motivates me to finish projects and it's not like any of it takes up much storage space or costs much to list.

I've yet to get to the exciting stuff, i.e. doilies (in case you weren't sure what I meant by pairing the word "crochet" with the adjective "exciting"), as I mentioned in the previous crochet-themed post. I'd like to use up all this leftover yarn before I buy any more supplies, but hey, I've got all summer...


what happens when a contemporary dancer goes hip hop

Well, it was nice to finally meet all of the top 20 last night on the first real episode of So You Think You Can Dance. I've read a few recaps here and there and it seems there was some disappointment overall. There was a range, certainly, but I think it's a pretty tight group. Every season the top 20 seems to get stronger. That said, I limited my voting to my favorite three couples, only one of which I didn't particularly care for as a couple but voted for because I think one-half of the team has a lot of potential. And I made three calls to my most favorite, two calls for second place, and just one call for the runner up. But before I get into who I just loved, here's my take on all the dancers.

I liked the routine Tabitha and Napoleon came up with for Jamie and Rayven (seriously, who named these kids?). I thought their performance was just "a'ight", to borrow from another talent competition reality television show, preferring Rayven's dancing over Jamie's, but feeling like after all that talk about "pulling faces," Rayven was actually the one guilty of this in the end. No votes for you!

Susie and Marquis danced what has to be my least favorite genre - the smooth waltz. The only time this works for me is when the dress is nice and flowy (which it was) and the song is somewhat contemporary (like the show's use of Enya last season...or was that the season before?). I don't think they should get bonus points for it being "difficult choreography" - the dancers should be and I think are challenged regardless of whether they get something super technical like ballroom or something less traditional like hip hop. As for Nigel's comments, I don't know much about the smooth waltz but even I knew they messed up that lift. Who's to say the disco routine at the end was technically any easier than this one? But more about that later. And not to be petty, but the discrepancy between the color of Susie's hair and eyebrows bugs me.

Ah, 12 feet of dancing talent! I loved Mandy Moore's work last season so I was super excited to see Kourtni and Matt dance her first piece of the season. I think Kourtni has the look for Moore's 80s-infused (at least as far as song choice goes) choreography (according to the many names the judges threw at her, she looks like any famous blond chick), but Matt was just a bit too goofy throughout. I thought it was pretty good, but not great. Definitely room for improvement here and this is one of several couples who might take a couple of weeks to get beyond awkward. But I'll be keeping my eye on Kourtni.

Chelsea T. (two Chelsea's and two Courtney's, albeit different spellings, in one season...again, strange baby naming trends for the late 80s and early 90s, no?) and Thayne (see what I mean?) did a salsa routine that I had to watch twice to make a decision as to whether or not to vote for them. Their performance continues to grow on me, and in the end, I was convinced that Chelsea is hot enough for the both of them, and Thayne did a decent job himself (by the way, skip ahead about two minutes in the clip above to see actual dancing, or 3 minutes for the really hot stuff).

Chelsea H. and Mark did a Mia Michaels routine that has kind of done the reverse for me as the routine above. What's the opposite of "to grow on"? I've watched it again and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if not all of Mia's routines quite live up to her Emmy-winning reputation. My main complaint last night, however, was Chelsea's poofy wedding tutu. Every time Mark had to lift Chelsea or drop her down in the always graceful jackknife position, the dress completely obscured about 90% of her body. I'm not a dancer, so what do I know, but that would seem problematic to me.

And how funny is it that my early favorites were paired together? Initially I was apprehensive to hear that Kherington and Twitch were doing a Tyce Diorio routine (not a big fan of Broadway), but they are definitely one of the few couples with a lot of chemistry early on and I thought they both did a great job. A lot of fun to watch. Two calls for couple number 6 (again, you'll have to watch about two minutes of introductory material in the clip above before you get to the routine itself).

I really can't wait to see what Comfort can do (and yes, she is the dancer Nigel claimed to be perhaps the best female hip hop dancer they've had on the show but have shown only snippets of her audition and Vegas performances) but I wasn't terribly impressed with the jive she and Chris danced. Why are so many of the guys so goofy this season? I'm sure he has more personality than a tree but I haven't seen much to get too excited about just yet.

Three calls for couple number 8. For me, this - a second Tabitha & Napoleon routine danced by Katee and Joshua - was by far the best performance of the night. I too have a loved one in Iraq and I'm just a little pregnant right now, so maybe I'm biased, but I even teared up a little at the end (and had chills right from the start). Katee reminds me a bit of Sabra from season 3 - something about the way they both, being contemporary dancers by trade, do hip hop. There's a flexed foot here and there and a general lightness that worked for Sabra and I think will work for Katee as well, especially paired with Joshua, who definitely lucked out with hip hop on the first night. Not that I don't think he's capable of other stuff ("I've had ballet training a little bit"...uh huh) - he definitely has a lot of potential - but the routine benefited from his particular talents as much as it did from Katee's performance and T&N's choreography.

I barely remember Jessica and Will's tango. All I have written down (yeah, I take notes, so what?) is that the judges were too generous with them.

On the other hand, even though I didn't love Courtney G. and Gev's disco, I thought Nigel, at least, was too hard on them. Like the smooth waltz, there's just not much that's contemporary about the disco routines we see on this show, from the choreography, to the music, to the wardrobe. I enjoy watching it, but it's been mocked one too many times. That said, I thought Courtney definitely had the look and worked it out, but as a couple, they've got some work to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the bottom three tonight.



I've been wanting to use up the leftover yarn from the blanket I blogged about awhile ago and initially thought now would be a good time to finally learn how to knit. Right before Christmas I bought myself a "I taught myself to knit!" kit and as a gift a few weeks later, received a half-year subscription to Creative Knitting magazine. Since then I've made a couple of attempts at mastering the knit and purl but I have to admit - it's a lot harder than I thought it'd be. It's been awhile since I gave it a go, so I forget at exactly what point I get confused, but let's just say I'm stuck at knit. It feels a lot more awkward than I thought it would, I remember that much, and the row kept falling off my needle at some point. Maybe I'm just a one handed kind of crafter. Which is why I returned to crochet to use up this leftover yarn. The only problem is every project I wanted to start involved working in rounds. I know I've done it before, but for the life of me I could not figure out what they meant by working directly into the center ring. I looked at about a half-dozen online tutorials before I finally stumbled across the Dummies page for this particular task, which explained what I was trying to accomplish, step by step, with very clear illustrations. It was incredibly frustrating that I wasn't just picking it up again, but I was determined and spent quite some time to finally crank out one coaster.

What I really want to make, for some mysterious reason, are doilies, but I thought making a few coasters would be a good warm-up. Stay tuned as the crochet/knit drama unfolds over the summer months. I wonder, how many crocheted coasters can I produce during one season of SYTYCD?


let the show begin

If you haven't been watching So You Think You Can Dance because, like me with American Idol, you find it hard to get through the first couple of weeks of auditions, you'll be happy to read that the top 20 competition gets down to business next Wednesday. The Vegas episode aired last night, when the judges whittled the group down to, as Cat says, 10 boys and 10 girls. Curiously enough, there were quite a few guys and gals in the top 20 who have yet to get much air time at all (not sure if she's in the top 20, but, for example, why would you include a clip in which you tell a girl she's possibly the best female hip hop dancer you've seen on the show but not show her audition?), but I am already looking forward to a few dancers in particular, including Twitch and Kherington (funny, they were a couple of the few who did manage to get some decent air time during auditions and Vegas week).

I'll admit that I'm biased, but I do think the SYTYCD auditions are so much easier to get through than the same intro to American Idol. They show the bad and the downright crazy, but they show a lot more talent in those first couple of weeks. What I don't understand is the seemingly random process by which they send some dancers to choreography and others straight through to Vegas. Poppers and breakers almost always have to wait until choreography, and yet not one, but two tap dancers made it straight through (and then both got cut, of course)! Maybe there's something I don't know about tap, but I don't follow that logic. I can kind of understand, on the other hand, why most of the good ballroom dancers go straight through, since so much of the show requires an ability to follow choreography and partner, which, if they're any good, they've obviously already got down.

As for Vegas week, I enjoyed seeing a preview of choreography to come. I'm a little burned out on contemporary, I have to admit (especially the male contemporary dancers...they just all seem the same to me), but I do love Mia Michaels' work. I'm curious to see what husband-wife hip hop team Tabitha and Napoleon have in store, and hope the show brings back old faves like Shane Sparks, Dan Karaty, and, perhaps my absolute favorite from last season, Mandy Moore.

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly has a pretty good wrap-up of last night's show, with bits about dancers who were altogether MIA (like Philip Chbeeb) and those sassy few who talk back (and at least one of which went home because of it). Maybe it's just me, but I'd have to disagree with his claim that Katee's response to the judges that she wouldn't necessarily try a third time if cut again are going to be a handicap for her on the show in terms of gaining votes. I mean, seriously, how endearing were those matching onesies? That alone should gain her back some points for personality.

And in closing, the Snuggle bear must be growing on me, because at the end of the show last night, I was actually considering submitting my own pregnant happy dance. How hilarious would that be, especially if I actually won tickets to the finale. Can I bring my colicky newborn along?


keepin' it local

Deciding to stay in Boston at least another year after grad school, and in the neighborhood of Dorchester specifically, I've experienced a renewed interest in exploring more local services lately. And by local I mean avoiding Boston proper and north of Boston altogether. We live in a very residential area, which hasn't really been a big deal for most of the past three years since I spent some part of just about every day crossing town to go to my studio or across the river, through Cambridge and Somerville to get to a class at Tufts. But now that I'm not making those commutes on a regular basis (not to mention insane gas prices) I feel the need to seek out the occasional haircut, burrito, and cupcake a little closer to home.

Dorchester has its own pockets of commerce here and there, but for the most part, it seems like I'm finding what I need in Quincy (locally pronounced Quin-zee), just south of our neighborhood and technically outside of Boston, the very northern part of the "south shore." The websites for various businesses are decidedly more sophisticated in Boston and points north. But ultimately, the goods and services have to match whatever design savvy the business-owners might have. In the last few weeks, I found a new hair salon (one that I was pretty happy with on the first visit but the real test will come with the return trip later this summer), a few breakfast joints (none exceptional but good to have nearby), an alternative to summer cravings for Dairy Queen, and next week, Chipotle will open a new restaurant just a five minutes drive from our place (I know, I've clocked it already). They've opened a couple of restaurants near Tufts over the past year and we go whenever we're in those neighborhoods. To be honest, I'm not that crazy about the place (if only Cactus would open a franchise in Dorchester), but they do make a decent burrito, one that'll be even more tempting when it's just a few minutes away.

And for dessert, I can drive just a little further into Quincy and pick up a few "babycakes". Since Chrissa blogged about Somerville's Kickass Cupcakes, I've made two trips (again, when I was already near Tufts or Davis Square). On the first excursion I got the Lucky and three special edition cupcakes to share with Neal. I remember enjoying the more basic Lucky but feeling like the special edition varieties were too intense in their creative flavor combinations. But I enjoyed them enough to return, vowing to keep it simple and bringing back one chocolate chocolate, one vanilla vanilla, one brownie-like cupcake, and one special edition that involved carrots and ginger in some way. I was fairly disappointed in all four; the cake was dense but dry and the frosting kind of has the consistency of toothpaste. Babycakes, on the other hand, is a somewhat simpler experience. They still experiment with flavors, offering four or so daily varieties in addition to the staples, but they seem to have a more classic take on the cake and frosting. On this first visit, we tried the bakery's namesake (the "babycake" is kind of like a Hostess cupcake, but better), vanilla vanilla, lemon coconut, and chocolate raspberry. The chocolate cupcakes were good but really intense (dark chocolate cake paired with ganache); I would have liked to sample the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting but they appeared to be out by the time I arrived. The vanilla and lemon cupcakes, both with fluffy buttercream frosting, were delightful. I've still had better, but let's just say I'll be sticking with Babycakes for my local cupcake fix, and it's not just because they're closer.


Georgia on my mind

After well over a year in progress, I can finally add my Georgia O'Keefe latch hook pillow to the list of recently completed projects, like the "six-year" afghan I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I decided to open an Etsy shop, which motivated me to finally finish her off earlier today.

I'm pretty happy with the finished product and wouldn't mind keeping the pillow if it never sells. I have a few other images prepped, so this may turn into a series, although I'm not sure I want to make each one into a pillow. I'd also be open to custom orders, which I'm hoping the Etsy shop will help facilitate. At any rate, it's nice to have an outlet to show off my hand-made stuff. Also in the shop are the "chick flick" note cards I made a little over a year ago and wrote about here.

What other projects can I finally complete and put up for sale??


happy dances

"Show integrations." That's the term for advertisers' annoying tactics to get viewers of shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance to buy their lame-ass products, like Snuggle fabric softener, and Wrigley's chewing gum, two examples of this particular brand of sponsor for the current season of SYTYCD. According to this article, "Happy Dances are fun, spontaneous moves that release the freshness of Snuggle." "Happy Dances" also release a lot of anger and frustration in a viewer like me who understands that there's a time and place for advertisements. They're called commercials.


did you love it?!

I'm not sure I can keep this up all summer, but I figured I'd get off to a good start at least and post a few thoughts about last night's premier of the 4th season of SYTYCD. Admittedly, I enjoy dance rejects a lot more than bad singers. Call me a hypocrite, I don't care. I think it's pretty entertaining how amused the judges are by the bad dancers, brought to tears by the personal stories, and just generally pretty honest with everyone. You can feel good about poking fun at a guy who is clearly in love with himself.

It does bother me a little when they humor someone who's obviously a little unwell, like Sex (also featured in the clip above) or the Golden Inferno (that guy seriously creeps me out). Turns out his style of dancing is legit for those who aren't already familiar with Belgian Jumpstyle. Neal found this clip last night:

I actually find it a pretty entertaining style to watch, kind of like, as Neal pointed out, watching someone play Dance Dance Revolution. Ultimately, however, I agree with the judges. It's just not right for this particular competition, you know? And what's with that mask, anyway?

Otherwise, I thought Los Angeles produced some pretty excellent dancers and the producers decided to show a decent variety of styles, throwing in a couple of ballroom couples along with several poppers, some jazz, a few contemporary, etc. Unlike the judges on American Idol, generally speaking, the judges on SYTYCD lead me to believe they know what they're talking about. The only thing that bothered me about the premier was the Snuggle bear dance thing. Commercial breaks aren't enough anymore? Are the viewers of reality dance competition television shows really the target audience for fabric softener? Please, Fox, don't ruin a good thing...


man vs. boy

Yeah, I watched the American Idol finale, but only because there was nothing else on when I got home from my "Newborn Essentials" class last night and I needed something to watch as I inhaled a bowl of popcorn. We watched the just-recorded version, which allowed us to fast-forward through the commercials, hard at times to distinguish from the show itself. I wouldn't be surprised if Randy and Paula's decision to both wear red was somehow written in to their Coca Cola stained contracts, not to mention the gazillion times they reminded us that they were in the Nokia theater. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see some SYTYCD 2007 alumni helping the hopeless singers out with their choreography. "I Got Rhythm"...yeah, not so much. I'm assuming the summer tour will be much like last night's show, and I can't imagine sitting through an entire live performance of that. I mean, honestly, how bored did Amanda Overmyer look?

But, anyway, enough complaining. Between the two Davids, I was surprised but pleased that Mr. Cook took the title, although even I was shocked to be enjoying young Archuleta's performances so much last night. At least he was kinda into it and I assume his awkward dancing is out of inexperience, not sheer boredom or embarrassment. In the end, though, whitey tighties trump briefs every time.

Needless to say, despite sticking out the season, I won't be returning to watch again next year. I'll stick to shows I know I'll enjoy, like SYTYCD, the 4th season of which premiers tonight at 8 (I can hardly wait! I'm not a big John Mayer fan, but I got excited when his "Waiting on the World to Change" came on the radio yesterday, because it made me reminisce about last season, minus the mid-song scream, of course.).

In other news, the wallpaper I produced for a group exhibition last fall will be included in another variation of the show (which will include the work of 15 artists altogether, some returning as is, like myself, some re-worked, some new) opening in Chicago tomorrow night. In fact, curator Janine Biunno is probably busy installing it as I type. If you're in Chicago, you can find the show, organized in affiliation with Harold Arts, at Heaven Gallery. As soon as Janine has returned and has time to distribute photos, I'll post a few here and on my website. I gotta say, it's nice to have one project included in two separate shows!


so you think you can sing

Having departed from the "art and stuff" posts to write a bit about cats and crafts, the next logical thing to catch up on, of course, is television. I haven't blogged much about my viewing habits of the past semester, but not to worry, I've been watching, and believe me, I've had my opinions. As any regular reader to this blog knows, I've never been a big fan of American Idol. But with the writer's strike coinciding with the need for some mostly mindless entertainment just about every evening, I decided to give it a go this season, bypassing the first three weeks of rejects, of course. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would for the first half of the season, I'd say. As the show was left with fewer and fewer contestants each week, though, I noticed my interest waning. I felt committed to watching for some reason, so I've stuck with it. There always seem to be a few contestants on competition-based reality shows that lose steam for one reason or another. You kind of forget what it was that made them interesting in the beginning (there's usually a very dramatic example of this on ANTM each season), but for the most part, the pool of contestants strengthens with each elimination. That's the idea, right? But on Idol, it seems almost completely widespread. The only contestant I can think of who I didn't get a little bored with, who actually seems to have improved over the course of the show, is Syesha, and she's probably the only reason I'm still watching. The thing that really gets me is how unfair the judges seem to be with her, telling her a particular song-choice is just not contemporary enough (is there anything even remotely contemporary about David Archuleta??) or criticizing her for doing something other than just standing there and singing. She's the only contestant who's even remotely interesting to watch, her rendition of "Fever" being a great example of her capabilities as a performer. Honestly, I think my main problem with this show is that I find watching people sing, particularly once they've been completely neutered by the show's totally bloated and over-commercialized production, incredibly dull. That's the great thing about So You Think You Can Dance (and I have more to say about this in a bit); you get the only enjoyable part of Idol, that is, listening to a familiar tune, but sung by the original, probably more talented artist, and, as a bonus, you get to watch a couple of hot dancers pop their booties to it! Anyway, as for all my other little gripes about the show, the reviewer in last week's issue of Entertainment Weekly was pretty much spot on, at least as far as I'm concerned. If all we're left with after tonight are the two David's, I'm not sure I'll bother to watch the finale next week.

What I will be watching, of course, is the two-hour premier of SYTYCD on Thursday. How the same channel and many of the same producers put out such vastly different shows is beyond me. Doesn't the teaser above simply give you chills? To each his (or her) own, I guess. Which reminds me, whenever I mention my love of SYTYCD to someone they assume I also watch Dancing With The Stars (which I most definitely do not, no offense to any readers who might). Well, I just happened to catch an episode a couple of weeks ago, which confirmed everything I was pretty sure I didn't like about that particular dance show. For one thing, it's all ballroom. I like ballroom as much as the next person, but the diversity of styles is definitely something I enjoy on SYTYCD. Not to suggest that the two shows are even comparable. Honestly, Dancing With The Stars is to SYTYCD what the slot machines in a roadside gas station in Fallon are to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. If you get my meaning.


leisure activities

With my final paper (perhaps forever?) completed and handed in by early this afternoon, I had some time to finally put the finishing touches on this crocheted afghan I started just about six years ago.

In a way, this blanket represents my journey from one art degree to the next, having started it right after my college graduation in the summer of 2002 and finishing it just a week before the conclusion of my grad studies. Yeah, that's an awfully long time to work on one blanket. I started it with the intention of giving it to a person who, well, months after I began, no longer seemed to really deserve a gift that was clearly going to take hours and hours of effort. I don't mean that in a bitter way, either, just that our relationship had gone from professional, to rather friendly, to almost obligatory until we no longer needed to relate. Why give someone like that a gift at all, let alone one that took so long and so much effort to produce?

So I guess it'll be a throw for the home now. Or a blanket for an extra long twin bed...I'm not so good with gauge, I think it is, so it's really long and narrow, easily 8 or 9 feet by about 3. I could always try and sell it, although at 6 years in the making, even at a non-profit arts job pay scale, I'd have to ask a six-figure sum to make it worthwhile.

And there's more where that came from. This blanket is the first in a series of projects I'm feeling motivated to finish now that I'm finally done with school. Stay tuned!


getting ready for summer

Once again this spring we decided to preemptively have Sophie clipped in anticipation of another hot and humid Boston summer; her long, cottony fur will be matted within the first week of consistently warmer weather. We decided this time, since we were going to the trouble of taking one cat in, to have Xander groomed as well. He doesn't mat at all, really, but he does seem to shed endlessly, all summer long. And not that cats need baths all that often, but it's been a long, long while for him.

So this year we took them to another local vet's office, one that has a handful of groomers who offer more than just an uneven clipping. Both cats were bathed, nails clipped, ears cleaned, and Xander received a thorough comb-through and "sanitary clip" (like a bikini wax for the boys), while Sophie got the works. We let them give her the full-on "lion clip" this time, blending into the fur around her face and tail (rather than the more extreme version of the popular style that results in a creature that looks more like a poodle than the feline you dropped off).

Here are the results:

Sophie looks like an entirely different cat. Initially I feel kind of sad to see her like this, but I really think it makes her feel much better, even before the heat and humidity kick in. And I think it would look more extreme if she hadn't put on so much weight over the past year, since we transitioned from controlled feedings (healthy weight, neurotic cats, but crazed owners) to self regulating (much happier owners, with fat cats). She looks slimmer without all that fluff, certainly, but it also reveals how much flab she's accumulated, which is bad for a cat, no matter what, but it appears to be interfering with her ability to keep her nether regions clean.

Here she is at the source of our problems:

It had been six or seven hours since she'd last eaten...Anyway, Xander's transformation was not nearly as dramatic.

His coat does feel a little thinned out (I haven't checked yet to see how his "sanitary clip" went...he's such a metrosexual), but he looks more or less the same.

Anyway, I feel like we did the right thing having them groomed and clipped, but it has revealed that perhaps the self feeding is not going so well. We recently cut out all wet food, but I'm just not sure it's enough to whip these cats back into shape. On the other hand, I really dread going back to controlled feedings. Man, if it's not one cat, it's the other.


(If you're curious, here's how she looked after a rather choppy clipping last year. And here's an image of Sophie in lighter days; this post also recounts the crazy food chronicles, if you're interested. Ironically, Xander, the cat seemingly the most obsessed with feedings, plateaued after a couple of months of self-regulating, while Sophie has continued to pack on the ounces.)


very nearly done

I had my final art history class one week ago, which more or less capped off the semester (aside from the 15 or so page paper I still have to write in order to graduate). The last three classes were devoted to student presentations and all of the art history students (the MFA students made up at least a third of the seminar) essentially read their papers for about 15 minutes, set to a dozen or so images that rotated every minute or so. A minute is a long time to look at one image, or, as an alternative, stare at the person reading. I'm not a big fan of being read to, so that gave my mind some time to wander and contemplate this practice of reading papers for presentations. I went to two public lectures this semester as part of this class and they did it, too! Even Howard Singerman read his presentation to us, from his upcoming book on Sherrie Levine. Talk about disappointed. This is the guy who wrote Art Subjects, a book about the history of formally educating artists that I read while applying to MFA programs (and yet I still decided to pursue this degree!). I ate that stuff up, and yet I was bored to pieces during his lecture. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of Sherrie Levine's work, but I have to assume some of my lack of interest was caused at least in part by being read to.

Not to suggest that the MFA students were far superior; my presentation, for example, went over a bit, despite talking way too fast, and was fairly scattered. And I did have my presentation typed out, but more in a bulleted outline style (or "dots," like in the first episode of The Wire, which we've just started watching). And I read a few quotes. But I had 51 "slides" to entertain my audience while I gave my presentation. 51! At least they had something new to look at every 20 seconds or so. I don't know...Maybe I'm just cranky because now I have to write this thing and all the art history students clearly have their papers mostly typed out already.

Anyway, one of the ways I've put off writing this paper was a weekend trip to New York, to catch the Whitney Biennial and a few other shows. We took the bus down on Saturday morning, making our first stop, as usual, at the Doughnut Plant. Is it just me, or have their donuts gotten even tastier?! We shared four donuts, including the Valrhona raised (or "yeast" as they call them), the jelly filled (which was okay - the jelly was too much like the organic preserves I buy at Trader Joe's...probably better than the typical jelly donut goo but not what I was expecting), the "Blackout" (a chocolate cake donut with chocolate frosting, some sort of chocolatey bits on top, and filled with a pudding-like chocolatey filling...yum!), and the tres leches cake donut (I've never had the actual cake that is known as tres leches, but if this donut bears any resemblance, I can't wait to give it a go next time I'm at a good Mexican restaurant). From there we got settled at our home for the night and headed back out to Chelsea by way of the Mail Art show at the Center for Book Arts (I posted some pics on my class blog, as well as some commentary and comparison between that show and the next on our itinerary). There were two shows that seemed to cover both the hand-made and digital components of my class but, as I write in the class blog, I was fairly underwhelmed by the second, Maya Stendhal Gallery's From Fluxus to Media Art. It just seemed to have a focus that was not at all described in the show's press materials, which seemed odd.

I was already beat by this point but carried on, heading to Eyebeam for Leah Gauthier's Sow-In. I was really glad we stuck it out and went. It was so refreshing to sit in the large window area of the gallery, folding origami boxes from recycled newspapers and potting soil and herb seeds. Our herbs have yet to show much activity, but the exhibition and closing night event were immensely enjoyable. There's even evidence of our attendance on Leah's website.

From there we bid adieu to our Belgian companion up to this point and headed to Times Square to eat at Chevy's. Authentic Mexican it ain't, but we miss this "Fresh Mex" chain, so common on the west coast. With good Mexican food a rarity out here, we tend to take what we can get. And it's funny that visiting New York for me is like visiting a foreign country; I tend to feel guilty if I consume anything purchased from a chain restaurant. I find, however, that I'm caring less and less about that kind of thing the older I get. And New York is still America. Kind of.

Most of Sunday was devoted first to finding something for breakfast and, once our bellies were full, to the WB. I really should have blogged about it sooner because most of my observations from the three or so hours we were there are pretty vague now. We got the audio tour again, which I find really helpful - even when the Whitney posts a blurb below the basics, it tends to be incredibly formal. I can see that what I'm looking at is an installation composed of wooden 2x4s, broken mirrors, and paint, thank you. I like to take work in on my own, but contemporary art usually needs a little help in the context/meaning/intention arena. I'm not sure it's possible to get it all from the visual or physical impression of a work, nor is that even necessarily ideal anymore. I like to know why what I'm looking at is an installation of wood, mirrors, and paint. Sometimes the artist doesn't even know, but the museum's wall labels will rarely give any clues.

Otherwise, I vaguely recall a certain low-tech vibe as far as craft and construction go (think William Cordova, for example), and an embracing of failure mentioned by a few artists in the show (as in Ellen Harvey's Museum of Failure). I'm down with both of those trends, if you can call them that. As Neal pointed out, Photography kind of got the shaft this time around. On the other hand, there seemed to be a decent helping of various print media (including Matthew Brannon's installation, poorly represented by the website's one image). And I always enjoy a good replica (like Lisa Sigal's recreation of her old studio space). Some things I just loved (like Charles Long's sculptures, inspired by the flattened splatters caused by falling bird poo); and of course, some artists I felt were overrated by being included in the WB (I won't name any names but just point to this guy, for example, and this guy...I feel particularly justified with the second guy, having met and heard him talk about his work and feeling seriously underwhelmed by it all; I think I liked his work better before he came to talk about it). Film and video were sufficiently represented, but I didn't feel like I'd given myself enough time to watch it all. A proper tour of the WB really requires at least a full day; better to spend a few days, scattered out during the show's two and a half month run, but that would require living in New York or multiple bus trips, and I'm not sure I can handle the Chinatown bus experience more than once a year. Maybe one day I'll feel willing to cough up the $140 or so it takes to ride the train there and back...

Until then, I guess I should finish this paper so I can graduate already.