Posts tagged ‘Philadelphia’

The things I chose to keep to myself

– posted by russellmania3000

To the best of my knowledge, I had thought Sam was either in France or dead of bowel cancer, and for my intents and purposes, there isn’t a big distinction between either scenario. But she’s back States-side and if I know her at all she’ll be riding the I-hate-it-here wambulance for a spell, so I guess we’ll see if any further contributions from her are forthcoming. I’ve been terrible busy and working on and off on a long-form piece on Jim Henson, but this is more temporally pertinent, and if I were to go another week without writing anything, I may as well give Redikulus up for keeps.

Until earlier in March, I hadn’t gone to see anything on First Friday in several months; all too often I’m too late getting there or too disillusioned from the last time I went so I skip the galleries and go straight to the bar. This month, I avoided Old City altogether and opted for a few spots I’d never visited, which didn’t really help with the disillusionment but at least it wasn’t ass-to-ankles crowded.

First stop: Juanita & Juan’s for the launch of Megawords issue 10. In case visitors didn’t want to physically handle a zine, a copy had been unbound and the pages had been tacked to the wall, which really deprives you of the experience of paging through 112 pages of in crowd ego stroking that “reflects upon the exhibition’s thirty-one days as a physical outlet for creativity in a melange of color and black and white photographs, reproductions of storefront plans and proposals, and written reflections about the project.” In other words, a scenester scrap book, in effect a publication whose subject is itself. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was perhaps not their strongest issue.

Second stop: Vox Populi had a exhibition called Bivouac which included: creepy drawings of Snow White; photos of constructivist/readymade-ish sculptures; film of guy telling molestation story while molesting wad of clay; film of naked Juggernauts; film of hands paging through book. There was also a performance/installation piece called Rented Time, consisting of: balloons; giant cigarette carton spinning on wall; guy in Halloween costume making funny noises, breaking in and out of character. Also three really scrawny guys talking about their weightlifting routines in the corner. Next please.

Third stop: Tiger Strike Asteroid. No link for this place, not a huge surprise, because the name should be a dead giveaway that it was just some art students’ loft. In one room they had hung what looked to be someone’s projects from a freshman year design curriculum, over-performing homework assignments but under-performing pieces of art.

Fourth stop: Toy Factory. Again no link, but again this was just another loft apartment with a name, and in some extra space adjacent the kitchen were a couple found object sculptures and some pseudo-Giger-ish drawings with Game Boys, Transformers and a smattering of other pop culture ironies-du-jour. The antique movie camera converted into a music box was a hugely redeeming factor to an otherwise lackluster display.

I should also mention something about the ambiance of these last two places. As if going into smaller spaces doesn’t already sometimes feel like you’re intruding on a private engagement, entering these last two spots, glorified residences as they were, definitely felt like I inadvertently stumbled into the wrong room. Tiger Strike Asteroid was confined and crowded and full of chatter, the place was pretty sparse, most signs of inhabitation had been tidied away, and there were definitely, like, senior citizens there, presumably done with Vox Populi and just poking around, so that wasn’t so jarring. But Toy Factory was far more awkward in that the place was larger, emptier (of people) and had all the trappings of a very cozy, comfy home. Lived in, is the phrase. A small crowd was to one side and speaking quietly amongst themselves if at all, lounging about rather than huddling together like you do when in unfamiliar territory, and one guy was in an adjacent living room watching a skateboard video like it was Tuesday. And there was a blind dog with cataracts the size of dinner plates. It felt too personal for comfort.

Contemporary art, like much of all art, is self-indulgent to an extent, but usually it comes off as an adverb, as in “this piece self-indulgently but successfully renders so and so” or “this guy paints really well, albeit a little self-indulgently.” But this month more than any other I can remember, the work I saw seemed to embrace self-indulgence in a new and profound way, as sort of the object noun/central thesis/raison d’etre. You know violence for violence’s sake or sex for sex’s sake? Well…yeah. How exquisitely postmodern. More on this to come.

Bonus round: Khmer Art Gallery. You know how in like every kung fu movie there’s some smarmy Brit who’s stealing truckloads of Chinese artifacts and selling them to “the institute” for major ducket? This place is like that dude’s hideout, only substitute Chinese for Cambodian and smarmy Brit for portly, middle-aged hippy lady. I mean, their collection is so extensive it feels pillaged.

Bonus round 2: More recently I popped over to the PMA, because, you know, what the hell, can’t be worse than First Friday. They have an exhibition on called Cézanne and Beyond which is quite possibly worth the $24. Among others, there’s some lesser-known works by Picasso, Matisse, Jasper Johns, Max Beckmann, Giacometti, Gorky, Braque and Mondrian, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was also some Japanese photography and a small Gehry exhibition, which is neat if you’re into Gehry.

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March 18, 2009 at 12:01 AM Leave a comment

A conversation we have all of us had

– posted by russellmania3000

It begins something like this:

Act I, Scene I: The scene opens to the cold light of dawn. Two middle-aged men exit a makeshift trading post/tavern made of rotting beechwood located on the desolate main drag of a lonely rural mining town. Their skin is leathery and worn full of crevices such that a close-up photograph of one of their cheeks might look like a topographical image of the Himalayas. They walk together, blowing steamy breath into clenched fists and speaking in hushed tones. They wear silly fur hats.

Dmitri: What is this, this Sonic? Day after day I see their advertisements on the moving picture box, teasing and tempting me with their patties of ground beef, and slushie happy hours, and tots! Oh, the tots! But here, in the frozen wastes of the Urals, such an establishment there is not. Believe me comrade, I have looked, for my eyes long for the sight and my tongue for the taste.

Vladimir: They are places of legend, my friend, for in all my wandering I have happened upon nary a one for many moons. You will not find Sonic and her fresh bounties within 500 leagues of this place. But I have many fond memories of a carefree childhood in Omsk, for it was there that my family took my sister and me weekly to market and, after a long day of trading and peddling our wares in the village square, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos and onion rings. Those were happier days. But here in the mines of Narodnaya, for us there is only sweat and dust and the meager root stew.

Dmitri: But why, Vladimir, tell me, why do they mock us with promotional messages for goods which we cannot procure? Surely such a ruse is not worth the price!

Vladimir: It is a strange and cruel fate that we should be cast so from the light and warmth of the simple pleasures we desire most.

Exeunt Dmitri and Vladimir stage left. End scene.

Or in 3-panel strip form, if you prefer it.

Like many of you, for years I have seen Sonic ads on TV, shaken my fist at the heavens, spat at almighty God and persevered. Or just went to Five Guys. I don’t want to make pithy banter with a balding friend or dumpy-looking wife or chubby Paris Hilton lookalike and even more busted female. And by busted I don’t mean she has nice mammaries or resembles a plaster cast from the shoulders up. I mean that when photons bounce off her body and are recorded by a camera, and this recording is played back so that more photons in the pattern of her visage scurry in the direction of my ocular cavity, the net result is an unpleasant sensation in my cerebellum. No, I just want a burger.

Last week some coworkers and I took a little 20-minute excursion up I-95 to get to the nearest Sonic, which was out in Bensalem in a run down industrial area that I would have no reason to go to otherwise. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon for us; we’ve driven a half hour to get to an Arby’s because, let’s be honest, time out of the office is time out of the office any way you slice it. Sonic’s website says “[t]here are more than 3400 SONIC® Drive-In locations across the country.” Just none where you live. Especially if you live in a city. Bensalem is not a city. In any case, if you haven’t been or even seen one (both my seeing and tasting cherries were popped with one thrust), Sonic is indeed delicious, though it would have been more delicious if a girl on roller skates brought out our food on one of those trays that hooks onto the car door.

But all this skullduggery does have an explanation, and a method behind the apparent scattershot advertising strategy. National cable advertising is, at certain volumes, cheaper than regionally targeted advertising, so that’s a no brainer right there. But the genius of the whole thing is that it drives people mad with wonder and envy. How flabbergasting it must be, as say, a resident of metropolitan New York, to find yourself jealous of some yokel from Georgia or Tennessee or where-bumblefucking-ever because they have a Sonic and you don’t, and you have to pay out the ass for McDonald’s in NY. They’ve stumbled upon the holy grail of marketing, sort of. They’ve achieved the kind of viral, word-of-mouth-driven national discussion that everyone wants, over the subject of “where the fuck is there a Sonic,” simply by advertising something that’s not available. Now, whenever they open a new joint, they get all kinds of media coverage and blog hype and lines around the block because they’ve been advertising for years to people who want to be customers but can’t.

This is not a new strategy or phenomenon. Companies have been doing this for decades in areas where they plan to launch. You’ll notice the ambiguous “Respekt” outdoor ads for Cricket mobile phone services around Philadelphia presently. They’re not available here yet, but they will be soon, and at that point they’ll start to demystify their messaging and identify that top-heavy K with their wordmark/logotype (a befuddling design choice). The difference here is Cricket isn’t offering any specific deal or even saying who they are, which is…I don’t know, who cares. But Sonic is offering free tots and gigantic slushies for under $1 to anyone in the nation lucky enough to live by or drive by one and that’s apparently been pretty rabble-rousing. The more significant difference is that Cricket’s hype/awareness campaign, and most things of that nature, will last maybe weeks or months. I’m not positive but Leap, their owner, has indicated they hope to that by the end of this year they will have rolled out service in all 27 markets they won bids on in the 2006 FCC auction. By contrast, Sonic has been advertising in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas for years and have yet to announce any new locations there. In fact there may never be a Sonic in Philly. But their incessant advertising has given them a legion of customers-in-waiting who are ready for a cross-country road trip, or like me, the opportunity to take an extra long lunch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a marketing guy, I am delighted that a protracted campaign designed to frustrate and drive people bats might actually work really well. It would sure be fun to try.

PS: holy balls.

February 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM Leave a comment

It’s bigger than hip-hop

– posted by russellmania3000

Damn, son. Fuck coffee, I’m awake now, ready to go 12 rounds. My employer is a professional sports franchise that will go unnamed, whose mascot is an outsized mutant rabbit named Hip-Hop and he has a supremely gay theme song. I’ve been trying to get it changed to Dead Prez for a while, but to no avail. Something about being family-friendly or whatever, I hear them talk about kids and I tune out. By the way, in our office we can use “gay” as an epithet as much as we like without being sent to sensitivity training or whatever. So if that’s your beef, I really don’t want to hear it.

I work in interactive marketing so I check out the Google competition for anything I’m involved in, just for kicks. I checked for Redikulus a while back and there used to be a lot more that has since dropped off the face of the nets. There was a pretty cool clothing company that I can find neither hide nor hair of anymore. But there are two interesting things of note.

this image's file name is Blexican.jpg. Really.

The first result, regrettably, is for a misspelling of Ridikulus, a Harry Potter spell. Christ, we are in poor company. But more importantly, as luck would have it, there’s a rapper who goes by same, and why shouldn’t there be? We really asked for it when we chose this spelling. Listen Mr. I Started Rapping At 6, I don’t care if your pops is in jail or what part of Las Vegas you’re from. I watched CSI and it seems like a goofy as all hell kind of place. If you so much as even think about purchasing redikulus.com, you will be in for a world of hurt, mon ami. No wait. What I meant was: perhaps we can come up with a business arrangement that will benefit both of us…

Dag, yo! Hodag!

The other and infinitely more compelling item of interest with which we share a name is Redikulus Dae, an annual street fair/shopping festival in Rhinelander, WI. Sweet crackers, there’s even a second annual Hodag Roaring Contest. I am so there. Back up a minute. Hodag, you say? Yes. Think of it as a Midwestern chupacabra. There’s not enough drugs in this city for me to make up shit like this. American folklore is truly fascinating and batshit crazy.

Anyway…as you were.

February 8, 2009 at 10:50 PM Leave a comment

Adventures in consumption

posted by russellmania3000

We are apparently in the throes of a recession. I wouldn’t know. But I have little doubt that at this point we’re mostly doing it to ourselves. Forget whatever weak housing markets or flawed “financial instruments” or incorrect models you’ve been told of to explain away why. You know what causes a recession to continue? Talking about the recession every goddamn day.

I find it odd that people respond to economic downturn by saving more money, since our economy is defined pretty much by how much we spend, not how much we have. The funny part – as in funny strange, not funny ha ha – is that, if you buy into the Paradox of Thrift, by spending less we actually save less than if we were to spend normally. I know that seems illogical but that is why something like this is called a paradox rather than, say, a law.

Though Sam has lately been on some sort of crazed anti-consumerist crusade, I haven’t personally felt the recession, at least not yet, so I recently posted on some of the newly purchased artwork that I’ve hung in my home, and today I’d like to continue giving props to the creative individuals who have tricked me into giving them my goddamn chips, but this time for neat things that cannot be framed and hung on walls. It’s not my intention to turn Redikulus into some kind of NOTCOT-ish celebration of materialism. I’m simply doing my patriotic duty to stimulate the economy.

By the way, “stimulus package” is my new favorite sexual euphemism. Try that one on and see if it doesn’t tickle you ever so slightly, you gigglepuss you. Okay here we go.

Books

Malfunction - Eric Joyner

I’m currently trudging through Infinite Jest and I have Sidewalk, Collapse, and Godel Escher Bach waiting in the wings. I know, some light recreational reading. So I picked up some lighthearted fare to refresh me when I need a break. I found this Giger book at a local comic shop and it’s way cheaper than any other Giger book you’ll find but just as comprehensive, good quality reproductions and all that. While I was there I picked up Flight Vol. 5 and Eric Joyner’s Robots & Donuts. Flight is without a doubt the most gorgeous and heart-warming series of comic anthologies I’ve ever seen, an absolute joy to look at and read. And Eric Joyner is a terrific painter, even if you’re not into robots or vintage toys.

Kobe - FreeDarko

But far and away the best book purchase I’ve made lately is FreeDarko‘s Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. This book has been getting a lot of good press from every angle, but I’m not sure about this “you don’t have to like basketball to like this book” idea that a lot of reviewers have been floating. I work in the NBA so whether I like basketball or not isn’t really up to me, but the Almanac makes me like it more but for bizarre, twisted reasons. The book is an otherworldly amalgam of gorgeous illustration, inventively hilarious charts and sports writing that intelligently weaves in science, history, art, and mythology to paint players as cosmic archetypes of style and super- (or sub-) human feats. Their blog is good, but doesn’t even hint at the analytic onslaught the reader is in store for. And the authors occasionally, though more so in the blog or other writing, let the fact that they’re Jewish peek through, which is … what’s the word I’m looking for … charming.

Clothes

Candy Floss

My man Gene, who works up at Dock Street where they make delicious beer and pizza, has a fledgling clothing line going called Candy Floss, and their stuff ain’t cheap but it’s quality. FreeDarko and Damon Soule also make classy shirts in addition to their prints, books, toys, etc.

World of Goo

Games

At a younger age, I used to insist that video games were an art form, but now that this idea is largely accepted and I’ve moved on from wanting to design them for a living, I’ve stopped evangelizing on this. With more demands on my time and better things to do, I don’t really have as much interest in games as I used to. But every now and then, a game comes along that reminds me of both why I loved them so much and the creative potential in the medium. Right now that game is 2D Boy‘s World of Goo. It’s also gotten press and a few award nods lately, though some of you may have been hip to this thing back when it was Tower of Goo at Carnegie Mellon’s Experimental Gameplay Project. You won’t do much better than this for $15 (Wii) to $20 (Mac/PC). It’s got intelligence, humor, charming visual direction, strangely touching music, memorable levels and a well-designed progression of difficulty and physics-based play mechanics. I do so hope 2D Boy makes fleshing out The Swarm their next project. Also, though it’s not by Kyle Gabler and it probably wouldn’t make a good finished product, On a Rainy Day is pretty great batty fun.

Music

It’s been over a month since I attended Blip but I’m still sort of on a chiptune/electronic music kick, though much less than in the days immediately following. Except for a few rare instances, I haven’t been in the habit of paying for music for many years. So as luck would have it, most of these 8-bit artists are total computer nerds and put out a lot of their music for free online anyway. Of the guys I haven’t already given nods to, recently I’ve been favoring Trash80, Stu, and Nullsleep. Speaking of which, Nullsleep is playing 8static (who knew there was a Philly scene for this stuff? Not I.) on Feb 7, and Starscream are no slouches either so I’d consider showing up if I were you.

January 19, 2009 at 4:47 PM Leave a comment

Got the look

trends of a feather

Russ and I went to First Friday a few months ago, in order to see the Todd St. John show. He is the brains behind HunterGatherer. I really loved his work, and was even happier to have a design show to see in Philadelphia. Although, a friend left the show unimpressed by his work.

I recently discovered that I tend to notice trends, either that or I’m OCD and find mundane connections between unrelated topics. Other people, like my friend, blaze their own trail and make trends. Maybe it’s my eye for pop culture. I’ve noticed what looked cool to me since I was 13 and started listening to the Smashing Pumpkins. I even owned a pair of silver pants. That said,  I’m an illustrator who hasn’t quite found her style, but loves to draw and create, I pay extra attention to what I like when I see it.

I’ve liked Charley Harper for a few years.  A classmate recommended looking at his work, as well as that of the local Eleanor Grosch. It was helpful because they love birds and I was illustrating The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde. (I highly recommend it for you pessimists out there) I loved what I saw from these two, and Eleanor states she draws inspiration from Harper. I recently noticed how this style is everywhere now. The style of simplistic shapes and retro fitted colors seems to be on everything.  Todd Oldham (who is already the cat’s meow) has put together the first complete retrospective of Harper’s work. Another big book I truly can’t afford but would love to own. Even if this is on it’s way to jumping the shark, I’m going to argue for it.

This “minimal-realism” style is getting good looks from everyone. And has been for a few years now. Yet those who are on the brink of the next wave are those who are stepping further away from the computer. Whether it’s the addition of textured brushes in Illustrator, or just scanning in a penciled drawing for an illustrator line. Hand-done quality is going to grow in popularity. As the computer grows, and the increased belief that anyone can use Photoshop, appreciation for quality hand skills will inevitably be produced. I really like where awesome people like Mike Perry and Damien Correll are taking this boat. Mike Perry also made some cool books, slightly more affordable than the Harper book.

A teacher of mine once told me that it was important to do what your happy with. He lived through the trend of 1980s and 90s airbrush. He refused to trade in his ink pen for the airbrush to get work. It’s now becoming retro and almost vintage, but for now, it’s still ugly.  Harper is a retro classic, and we’ll see what outlasts the next wave.

-posted by samsquared

December 17, 2008 at 7:55 PM 1 comment

Something to see, who’s comin’ with me?

Photo by Mike Mergen for the NY Times

Photo by Mike Mergen for the NY Times

There’s a little place in Philadelphia called the Rosenbach Museum. Now, I haven’t been there yet, although the women I e-mailed with was very cordial. You see, I was trying to get in to a members only event, Sendak on Sendak. No, I couldn’t come and have food and drink on the Rosenbach without being a member that night, but there were plenty of hours in which I could come and see the show. I sincerely hope you aren’t asking yourself who Sendak is, because you, my friend, are about to be a bandwagon fan. Oh yes, that’s right, with the advances in computer animation, a Where the Wild Things Are movie is going to be released that is going to be awesome. The only place to have a clip of this still is Gawker. It’s old, but still poignant news for the rest of you.

Get ahead of the times and get your copy of Where the Wild Things Are. If you lost it over the years, invest in the book, because those stocks are going to go up come next year. In spirit of awesome artists whose work appealed to me as a kid, here are some more artists you may have forgotten about:
My numero uno over the years was Keith Harring. Just look at that picture, if he came back today he would be the hugest hit with the hipsters at Urban. His work was fun and being that we came from the same town, he was a hero to me. He was taken too early by AIDS. He still has an awesome store in NYC, and I recently saw a great heavy book that provided a collection of his life’s work. He also made a children’s book or two that I own and love, called Nina’s Book of Little Things. This is a book for you to paste little things into, a sort of guided sketchbook for kids just getting started. (I’m in my twenties and still getting started, lay off the young.)

Chris Van Allsburg was insane (and I believe under the influence of an
earlier form of aderol, or maybe just a really smart brain). Everyone
liked him when we were little, although his work has been forgotten by
most people who don’t have a child. All of his books have some serious
dark humor to them, almost as Charles Adams does, but with much more
subtlety.

Which brings us to Charles Adams, and I swear my friend was raised by
invisible friends who were all characters of Charles Adams’ twisted
world. We can also thank that man for his heavy influence on Tim
Burton as Burton himself created a large part of our childhoods with A
Nightmare Before Christmas and books like Melancholy Death of Oyster
Boy and Other Stories.

Please add your favorite youngster types. Get on Shel Silverstein and comics. Archie? Anyone? Bueller?

-posted by samsquared

December 10, 2008 at 5:59 AM Leave a comment


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