Friday, January 15, 2010

This week

1) On Monday Stephanie came over for Peanut Chicken. We watched the movie “Gerry” which was crazy. Barely any dialogue or action, mostly just really long shots of two guys wandering around the desert/other remote landscapes. I don’t think I could ever create something so deliberately vacant. My work tends more towards teeming. It was an interesting change of pace, considering all the action movies I’ve seen lately. I don’t think I’d recommend it though. We also continued playing through the King Game which continues to be awesome.

2) On Tuesday Bert and I went to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and had Wow Bao for dinner. The Imaginarium has some very obvious seams and plot-holes, which makes sense since one of the main actors died during production, but it is my favorite of the movies I’ve seen in the theaters lately. There are some great performances and some fantastically imaginative scenes (like a bunch of cross-dressed British Police officers singing and dancing about how great violence is). It’s unlike anything else out there right now.

3) On Wednesday we went to Crew with a bunch of his friends for a special on drinks and appetizers followed by the GayCo show “The Audacity of Nope” a couple doors down (also part of the special). The show was good. I could have done with fewer songs (though I keep finding myself humming “Hamballs”) and less political commentary, but what do you expect from a LGBTQ themed sketch show? I think my favorite bit was the boss announcing to his staff that he is about to become a she and then fielding their awkward questions. The punchline “Will you make 1/3 less as a woman?” had just the right amount of punch in my opinion.

4) On Thursday I went to Paul and Stephanie’s for Egg Lemon Soup, peanut noodles and the first episode of the HBO miniseries, John Adams. Paul Giamatti is great, as is Laura Linney. It’s been a lot of fun remembering little bits from history class and lining them up with the references in the show. I have never been so excited about the Constitutional Convention.
Also Stephanie and I watched “The End of Time Part 1” The master is awesome. I’m glad he will be all over the place in the next episode.

5) On Friday night Bert came over and I made him Mesquite Chicken and Pasta Salad. We watched Paranormal Activity which he had rented. I agreed to watch it even though I had no interest in it on the condition that he would have to watch something I wanted to watch and wouldn’t be able to veto. I then made him the first episode of season 5 of Angel, because he keeps mocking it & Buffy. “It wasn’t as bad as I expected” was his assessment. Paranormal Activity on the other hand was just as bad as I expected. It gets a D.

6) I also made these amazing Banana Bread Cookies, which Jess Brock gave me the recipe for.

I produce the recipe here exactly as I received it.
"Banana Bread Cookies. They're super easy and SUPER delicious.

- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup mashed overripe banana (about 1 large)
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together both flours, salt & baking soda in a bowl.
2. Put butter and both sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer (with a paddle attachment, if you've got it); mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.
3. Drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets half way through, until golden brown and just set, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on the sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to the racks alone.

A word of caution: after you make these, you may find yourself thinking any of the following things - "These are fucking delicious!" or "Jess Brock is full of good ideas!" or "I want these to have EVEN MORE banana"
All of those thoughts are good and decent, but every recipe has it's limits, and baking is a delicate balancing act. So if you, like me as a young lass, were inspired to add another half of a banana to the cookies, don't be surprised when it comes out a little fucked up. It's hubris to try to get more banana in these cookies. You, like Icarus, have been warned."

7) Work was fine. Renee was back, so things like hiring more people could move forward.

8) Bert and I had a very busy Saturday. We first went to the LEGO Discovery Center – “The World’s first Indoor Legoland.” Having been to LegoLand California, I was unimpressed, as this is just a watered-down tiny version of that. We were done in half an hour. The best part was the Chicago Miniland. We did get a couple pictures with the big sculptures, though.

Then we went to Ikea where Bert got a shelf/counter for his kitchen and I got a lamp, a frame, a plant and a couple bowls. Ikea is fun
Then we went to the Woodfield mall. I showed Bert what a real Lego store is like (as opposed to the disappointing one they had at the Discovery center) and picked up a few sets I wanted and hadn’t found at the Michigan Avenue store. We walked around the mall a bit more, but I was tired and overwhelmed by the crowds and convinced Bert we should head out. He drove home and I fell asleep in the car almost instantly. He saw my creepy half open sleepy eyes.
After I woke up we put together his Ikea shelf, ordered pizza and watched a couple episodes of Firefly.
9) The next morning we went to Pauline's again for breakfast. This time he got the French toast.

10) Sunday afternoon was full of hulu (Dollhouse, 30 Rock, Community) and putting together my lego and ikea stuff. Sunday night Bert and Max ad I had dinner at DMK. Wonderful.

Bonus) Here are some pictures I found on my Iphone:
Fall on campus

Winter on my street

Where I wait for the bus some mornings

A ridiculous hairdo

Saturday, January 9, 2010

That week

1) I had an amazing retail experience at the LEGO store on Michigan Avenue on Monday. I’ve been going to that store on a somewhat regular basis for a couple years now and I recognize most of the staff by now, since I usually go in knowing exactly what I want, and am generally a self-guided shopper it’s rare that I talked to any of them though. Since moving up to Lakeview my visits to the store have become more regular, since I’ll often stop there on the way home from work. The store is pretty quiet at these times, and so there are usually as many employees as shoppers and so I have started interacting with the staff more.

In particular, I’ve bonded with this one girl Katy who’s almost always there on weeknights after work. I now get disappointed if she’s not there. She helped me use a function of the store I didn’t even know existed. We’ll always talk about my latest projects and she give me suggestions for what to buy (especially in areas I’m not as familiar with like Bionicle) which have always been helpful. So Monday I went in and I picked up a couple things from the front displays and then ran into her. I pulled out my laptop and showed her what I had finished of the anti-green commercial (everything but the part that says “Green is the worst color ever!”) and I explained that I was stumped as to what exactly I was going to do for that part. “Maybe I’ll have a bunch of really fast vignettes of green monsters/disasters?” She expressed her regret that they didn’t have the Army Soldiers set in stock and then she lit up and said “I think I have something! I’ll be back in a couple minutes.” And then she ran off to the back of the store. I browsed for a little while and then she returned with a veritable bag of delights. She handpicked these awesome green parts from the spare parts they have lying around in the back room. Many of these pieces are rare, everything on the right was new to me. It would have been very expensive to buy these pieces through bricklink or through the sets they come in.

I then got to fill up the rest of bag with the regular Pick-A-Brick pieces and then paid $8 for the whole thing. That’s an amazing deal - best shopping experience of my life. I guess it pays to talk to store employees. And of course, armed with those incredible pieces it became immediately clear what the last bits of the animation would be. Thanks Katy!

2) Jenny and Leo got me this Dark Chocolate Dreams LINK peanut butter for Christmas. I finally got around to tasting it this week. I bought a bag of mini-bagels specifically so I’d have something to spread it on. It’s amazing!! The bag of mini-bagels was gone by the end of the week.

3) This week was the first week our student employees were back in the office since before the move so I got to play tour guide half a dozen times. I quickly honed my spiel and was soon telling the same jokes and gesturing in the same ways each time. It was fun to be the one to show off the swanky new office.
Dana stopped by the office one afternoon so I gave her the tour as well and we sat around and chatted for a while too. It’s a bummer she’s back in LA now, but Bert and I will be seeing her when we’re out there in March so no need to fret.

4) On Tuesday Bert came over for dinner I introduced him to the joys of Potato Flag and 30 Rock. Mmm… Potato Flag.

5) Had a good phone call with my parents in which my mom recounted the crazy trip she took with Jenny to take Isaiah to a pediatric foot doctor in which she was throwing windshield fluid on the windshield using a little plastic water bottle every few minutes. I also need to publish a retraction, in an earlier blog post I said than my mom kept “bringing up Bert’s age like it’s a problem.” I was mistaken. She really had just forgotten, she went on to say how her father was 11 years younger than her mother, so if anything there’s a precedent for that in the family. Also, apparently my Dad’s parents were engaged for 19 years before getting married!? Who knew?

6) Went to Bert’s for dinner on Thursday, he made Shake and Bake Porkchops (and I did indeed help, despite just waking up from a nap on his couch, there’s a terrible photo somewhere to prove it) greenbeans and cornbread muffins. It was all good, but I ate about a dozen of those delicious muffins. Then we watched the Hangover, which was funny than I expected, and only reaffirmed my desire never to go to Vegas. Then I help Bert take out his Christmas tree. And I do mean “take out,” his apartment looked like a murder scene when we were done. There were pine needles all over the floor leading from the dining room to the back door and a Christmas tree shaped impression in the snow below his balcony (the outline was also covered with pine needles). We tried to kick snow to cover the evidence but I’m sure that much like Bart Simpson our crime will be revealed when it melts.

Then I had him help me record Sound Effects fro the Anti-Green commercial. He voiced the kittens, one of the little kids, half the green villains, the Dwarf, the guy getting his face sucked off, half the alien chorus behind Facesuck McGee and the slime bombs (my personal favorite). Just another great thing about him.

7) On Friday we went to CafĂ© Baba Reeba, which was new to both of us. It was also incredibly delicious. It’s a Tapas style restaurant so we got 6 different dishes (not counting dessert). The spicy potatoes were my favorite, but everything was delicious. Then we went back to my place and I introduced Bert to The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. I guided him through the first part and he got about a third of the way through the first dungeon. Man that game is awesome. It’s very exciting to watch him discover it for the first time. Hopefully he liked it enough to keep playing.

8) I had to work on Saturday, but it was not too bad thanks to Bert being awesome and lending me his car for the day, the client being awesome and organized and relaxed, the Marriot AV staff being responsive and helpful, the other 3 CMIGers who were helping me out being good independent workers and I got a fancy lunch because I was also participating as an Alumni in the creative arts.
Taking the Next Step is a program for 2nd and 3rd year students where a bunch of successful alumni come and talk about their career path. I had to film the Finance and Consulting panels and was so glad that my current job was nothing like the ones they described. Talking at the lunch table with the students and other creative alums made me realize once again how awesome my job is, even though I worked a 6 day week and stuff like that.

9) Stuff I watched/read this week. A couple cool creative projects by my friends and some other stuff:
  • Lindsay B Champion wrote a short story inspired by the Lovesong of J Alfred prufrock (dare I eat a peach?): Song of Spaghettios I quite like the part about the Upple middle class of attractive and desperate tone of the whole thing.
  • Jonh Schwartrz stars as Eurydice in this stop-animated gender-swapped tale of Orpheus & Eurydice which was completed in 48 hours
  • Tiffany tipped me off to this awesome blog that records the sleep mumblings of an englishman. You should read them all. Some of my favorites are ""Where do you think YOU'RE going, hmmm? I knew it. The cupboard. You and your cupboard." ""So this is what it feels like to be a gummy bear... I can't walk though, I have to rock... I think i'll call myself BerNARD. Not BERnard. BerNARD. And I'll be a golden gummy bear.""
10) Anti-Green commercial!
I launched this on Saturday morning before heading off to Taking the Next Step. I followed the comments on my iPhone in between sessions, but did not see the viewcounts going through the roof until that night. The video got mentioned on The Brothers Brick, which gave it a huge boost in views and got it noticed on some other blogs. By the end of the weekend it had more views than any of my other NNN videos (even though most of those have been up for months. To give you more perspective here is a chart of views per day on my NNN youtube account for the past two months

A lot was the week after I released On the Street with Steve Deepsea. At the time it was the most views per day I'd ever received on this account.

11) Read Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem. I'd previously read a novel by him, Gun, with Occasional Music, which was one of the big inspirations for The Franky Job. This was a collection of short stories and I think better suited to some of his wacky ideas. Here are a few of my favorite parts.
This is a ridiculous poem from a story about two people who don't know each other, but keep meeting at odd places over the years.
"Oh Vivian Relf! Oh eclipse, oh pale penumbra of my yearning!
Pink slip, eviction notice, deleted icon, oh!
Stalked in alleys of my absent noons, there's nobody knows you better than I!
Translucent voracious Relf-self, I vow here
Never again once to murk you
With pallid tropes of familiarity or recognition
You, pure apparition, onion---
Veil of veils only!"
The part where he calls her onion always gets me. This next bit is an excerpt from a story involving a sheep that induces suicide in other animals.
"The Dystopianist suddenly had a vision of the Plath Sheep wandering its way into the backgroud of one of the Dire One's tales. It would go unremarked at first, a bucolic detail. Unwrapping its bleak gift of global animal suicide only after it had been taken entirely for granted, just as the Dire One's own little nuggets of despair were smuggled innocuously into his utopias. The Plath Sheep was a bullet of pure dystopian intention. The Dystopianist wanted to fire it in the Dire Utopianist's direction."
And this last one is when the author interview a giant crab who was the main character of a sitcoms in the 80s.
"Don't worry, Lehman, we'll still need historians of television comedy, or rather we'll need them again in a few dozen centuries, when crabs develop television. Your work won't be in vain."

Anti-Green Commercial

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thus begins 2010

1) I got the new album by Muse, “The Resistance” and have been listening to it on repeat most of the week. Muse is fast becoming one of my favorite bands. This summer when I was riding my bike to work a couple times a week I would listen to “Black Holes and Revelations” without fail on the ride south. It was upbeat and a good length, I would measure how long the ride was taking by where I was on the trail when certain songs came on.
Anyway, “The Resistance” is awesome, here’s the review that convinced me to buy it (along with hearing “Uprising,” my favorite track on the album). It’s dead on. I am lover of excess. In one song the singer goes on a 2:15 minute parenthetical tangent while in the middle of a word. How could I not love it? There are a couple moments in the album where the band seems to be stealing something (a chord, a beat) directly from Queen. Not really a problem, if anything I’d like to hear more bands attempting to emulate one of the greatest bands of all time, we could all use some more bombast.

2) On Tuesday Bert and I went over to Paul and Stephanie’s for dinner with them and Dana, who’s in town for about a week. We had Thai Curry and played this castle building game that’s simple and a lot of fun. Bert won the second time (color me proud). Mostly we just chatted and laughed and had a good time.

3) I guess there was a work week in there? I was doing a lot of unpacking & organizing while listening to Muse on repeat, so it barely even registered.

4) Then Bert and I spent two great days together. On New Year’s Eve he drove down to Hyde Park and picked me up at work. We went to Calypso for lunch (delicious!) then we went to my apartment and took a nap so I would stand a chance of staying awake to midnight. Then we met Bert’s best friend Christopher at DuChamp, a fancy restaurant in Buck Town. We had a four-course meal. The first two were good, I got some lobster mushroom pizza and then steak and a tiny quiche. The third course was a cheese plate that barely registered and the last course was a small array of desserts that ranged from poorly executed to meh. So the food was a bit underwhelming (especially considering the price of the meal), but the company was nice. I don’t think I’d go again.
Then we took a cab (it was really cold) to Clark/Division/thereabouts for the New Year’s Eve cocktail party we’d been invited to by Ben who I know from the LGBT Alumni Committee. It was pretty cramped (about 40 people in a studio apartment) and we almost left at 11:30 because I was feeling sleepy, but we met a couple new people and generally had a good time. And I was glad we decided to stick around when we all went up to the rooftop to ring in 2010. It was super cold and windy, but it was a great view of the skyline and hopefully the pictures will show that. It was a fun 10 minutes. It was nice to have someone to celebrate with. Here we all all dressed up:

5) We slept in on New Year’s (which is the whole point of the holiday IMO. Then we went to see Sherlock Holmes, which was entertaining, if not exactly what I wanted. It’s definitely an action film with a Sherlock Holmes veneer, I was hoping the trailer was misleading and had packed all the action in to those 3 minutes ala V for Vendetta. Alas this is not the case. Still, RDJ is in top form and the few moments where he is really Sherlocking it up are superb. We gave it a B-
Then we went to Target because Bert has a car and can just decide to go to Target on a whim like that (something I’m still not used to). Among other things we both got new toothbrushes so we don’t have to lug them back and forth all the time. Then we got Thai food for dinner near his place, had our first argument (which ironically was about me not being optimistic), and then talked through it. Back at his place we watched Drop Dead Gorgeous (cute an funny, Loretta is my favorite) and then I started playing through God of War on his PS2. There’s nothing quite like lying around with your boyfriend while playing through a new videogame. :)

6) January 2nd – We went and got breakfast at a place near him, “Pauline's” I think. The orange juice and French toast I got were amazing. The potatoes were okay. Then he drove me home and thus ended our amazing 2 days together. We didn’t get on each other’s nerves so I think that bodes well.

7) JJ came over that afternoon and we watched “Adventures in Babysitting” for the first time. It was gloriously campy. I think the moment the movie really came together for me is when the babysitter and her charges are on the run from a couple of generic mobsters and stumble into a Blues club and end up singing about their adventure thus far. Though the scene with Thor the auto mechanic was great too. Also when Brenda is berated by the man who lives in the telephone booth.

8) Throughout the day I watched the last disc of Angel season 4 (the last episode got me really excited for season 5) and worked on building an animation puppet for a music video I am working on in my sparest time. I copied the style from David Pagano’s Playback video. You can see a drawn version of the character in this video. The song I’m working on is Go Kartin’ from the album 93.

I spent most of the time on the head and I think my work really paid off.

9) Once I had exhausted Angel I started watching through the top ten animations of 2009 from the Animation Blog. Which is a misleading, since there are many more than 10 and they were produced in a variety of years, but just reviewed by that blog in 2009. Anyway of those, here were the ones I liked the best.
Stay in my Memory – I don’t like the song, but I love the pop-up book effect.
The Terrible Thing of Alpha 9 - Monsters are awesome.
The Year of the Dear – I’d already seen several pieces by Georges Schwizgebel, my favorite of which is still The Man without a Shadow, I think his work is best when grounded in a narrative, but I find all his stuff mesmerizing.
Lovesick – A cute little stop animated piece.
Jam Session – The clay work in this is fantastic.
Bolero (Part 1/Part 2) – An awesome video in the vein of Fantasia that’s vaguely about evolution.
Watching these filled me with all sorts of ideas for future projects (as if I didn’t have enough of those already) I did this last year too. It’s my favorite New Year’s tradition.

10) I spent a good amount of Sunday cleaning the apartment. I did the dishes, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom (even the shower/tub) and also organized some things like my cds/dvds and lego instructions. Feels good to start off the year clean. Then I did a little animating, the end result of which you will see very soon.

FYI, I was listening to “The Resistance” the entire time I composed this post (which I now do during my commute).

Inside my doppelganger's studio

We know he's the evil one since he has a goatee.