Saturday, April 30, 2011

sir ken robinson on the importance of creativity

Last summer my wife found an excellent set of CDs from the library to listen to on our trip to Ohio, based on Ken Robinson's book "The Element". I have to say, it has been one of the most important books I've read or listened to in ages, up there with Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind". So, it was a pleasant surprise to me when, at the beginning of our school year in 2010, we watched this video at one of our first faculty meetings. While this briefly sums up Ken's book, I strongly recommend reading (or listening to) it if you're interested in public education, as well as the arts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

beans: "down by law" & "superstar destroyer"

Yes, Beans is back! It was so good to hear and see some new Anti-pop Consortium in 2009, and now we've got a new solo effort from hip-hop's chief poet extraordinaire in 2011.  During a long period when APC's fate was in question, Beans kept churning out quality material, paving a fertile solo trail of freestyle future-funk-laden lyrical musical mini-miracles for labels such as Warp, Thirsty Ear, Adored and Exploited, and currently the awesome Anticon.  Beans isn't for the weak of ear however, or for those who like their hip-hop with a hint of vanilla. I listened to some tracks from his latest, the boldly titled "End It All" and can't wait to pick up this CD and give it a spin in both the home system and in the car, bass levels turned up a notch or two.  Below is the track "Superstar Destroyer" from his latest, and I love the vibe and flow of this one, and the album cover art is a big win (as all of his album covers have been). Above is the lead single from his second album, "Shock City Maverick", released on Warp, entitled "Down By Law", proving Beans can rock the party just as good as he can knock around the cob-webbed rocks in your skull.  It's always a good day in hip hop and the music world when APC and Beans step up to the mic once again.  In the meantime, if you're in the DC area, be sure to check out his live show at DC9 May 9th!

Monday, April 25, 2011

spring break adventures in pittsburgh

Is my spring break really over already?!  After a week in Pittsburgh, PA, here we are in Northern Virginia once again. It's a bitter sweet feeling to be back, but I feel like Kris and I got to spend some quality time with family and friends, as well as get some time to explore the city for a couple of days. It was cool and rainy most of the time, which was fine. At least, we did get some sun all day last Thursday, which was saved for the South Side of the 'burgh. Our first stop however was the Cathedral of Learning in the Oakland portion of Pittsburgh (pictured above). 

My dad worked here and my brother went to school here, and it's been a little while since I've last visited the place. It blows me away that students get to study, hang out and take classes in this amazing structure. Strangely enough, the cool, dark, wet weather was perfect for a visit to the Cathedral. 

The main reason we visited was to check out the Cathedral's Nationality Rooms. There are roughly thirty rooms open to the public earlier during the day, dedicated to the many cultures who migrated to the local region many years ago. I took a lot more photos but have a lot of work to do on some of them. Below is a small sneak peek at some of them in the meantime.  

My favorite was the Chinese room, mostly because of the artwork inside. Mind-boggling how good the work in this room was. As with all of the rooms, and the Cathedral in general, you have to visit this place, and take a lot of time to really see it to believe it. 

Later, after a good lunch down the street, we went to the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. A lot of people have their signature place they think of when they visit Pittsburgh. For me it is the museum. This is where I discovered science as a small boy, and fell in love with the dinosaurs, like most young boys. I later got turned onto modern art when we'd take field trips to this place in high school.  With the exception of the amazing Andrey Avinoff exhibit, we didn't see much art, however we did check out the fairly new dinosaur set up, which blows both New York and DC's exhibits out of the water, hands down. 

Fortunately, there weren't a lot of people at the museum Tuesday afternoon, with the uncanny exception of a large crowd of Amish folk.  This made it easier to wander around and check out the skeletons from lots of different angles. 

One thing I really appreciate about the dinosaur hall, and the entire museum overall, is the thought and consideration put into space. Nothing looks too crammed or forced. I highly recommend a visit to the Carnegie - it has one of the best dinosaur bone collections in the world, and the art is always excellent, and thought-provoking, and occasionally dazzling, many times going beyond "safe" and what is expected.

I had to take photos of some of the backlit geodes, which made for a great photo montage. This was Kris' favorite part of the museum by far - especially the gemstone collection.

After Oakland, we made a brief stop to the Bloomfield part of Pittsburgh, if not for the wonderful treasure trove of tunes that is Paul's Compact Discs. I freakin' love this little place, and that's an understatement.  They carry all kinds of music, including a huge jazz selection. They focus mostly on the more underground stuff - the good stuff, both rock and electronic and everything in between. It's been way too long since I've been to Paul's, and they sure as sh@t better stick around for an even longer time. If you live in Pittsburgh and like good music, well get off your behind and support this joint. If you don't live in the area but are passing though, don't miss it!

Thursday turned out to be a far sunnier, shinier and happier day. This day was set aside for the wonder that is Pittsburgh's very own South Side. To me, this is what the 'burgh is all about. It's a nice little conglomerate mix of feakshow, hipster, art-head meets gritty, old-school, yinzer. Sure, there's some yuppification going on in the area, but that's not all bad, as long as it doesn't infiltrate the true character and spirit of The South Side. City Books, South Bank Galleries, Groovy, Slacker, Dave's Music Mine and of course, the Beehive are all essential stops, to name a few. 

City Books was our first stop, and it was nice getting there early and having the whole place to ourselves. What a beautiful old independent book shop. My favorite part is the top floor, where you can kick back and get lost in the pages of a good book for a little while. Kris found an excellent recipe book like new, for only five bucks here. 

The pic below is my favorite part of the store. I could live here in this room, if it weren't for my allergies. 

Next stop, Groovy!! I've been into selling and donating a lot of things lately, and even years ago I sold a bunch of Garbage Pail Kid trading cards to Groovy. Still, with a collection of toys this immense, I couldn't resist buying a couple. Thanks to nostalgia, I snagged two little Go Bots for only five bucks each, both in real good shape and once owned by yours truly many moons ago. They've got tons of Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, Barbie and more here. The selection is endless and the place is like walking into a beautiful time machine.

A visit to the South Side is never complete without a stop to the Beehive, just in time for some lunch. One of the biggest and most unique coffee houses on the planet, The Beehive was once rivaled only by another, equally awesome Beehive in Oakland, which had two floors and boasted a great concert hall and movie theater. Unfortunately, that closed down around the time I moved out to Virginia, due to poor money management, or something to that effect. Luckily, the South Side original is still around, after over two decades. My only wish is that they'd get an Artomat back in the place.

Oh man! An original Shepard Fairey on the side of the Beehive! He did more work across the street as well! The 'burgh has truly been blessed by artistic brilliance. 

Kris and I also took the T, Pittsburgh's little subway train, from Station Square to the Cultural District Downtown, where we dropped by the Space, 707 and 709 galleries, all boasting very good art exhibits. We briefly hung out with a friend who works there then dropped on by the big transformer sculpture, made up of Pittsburgh's bridges. I'm not sure who made the piece, but it's a treat for both Transformer fans and art-lovers alike. Nearby you'll find a couple of clever magnolia tree sculptures, which blend in with a couple of real ones, which have to be seen to be believed.

So, we only scraped the surface of this great city full of many hidden and some not-so-hidden treasures. We'll be checking out more in July, so expect another Pittsburgh post then! While it was good to be back in the 'burgh, it's also good to be back home. Looking forward to next time!

UPDATE: From my friend Chris in Pgh:

Glenn Kaino is the artist who did the transformer made out of bridges. He also had a recent exhibition at the Warhol.

Tony Tasset is the artist who did the magnolia trees made out of bronze.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

lymbyc systym: "pittsburgh left" and "birds"

Several years ago I saw a couple of bands open for The Album Leaf in DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel. One was Relay, now Arc in Round, from Philly. They blew me away. The other band was an instrumental duo of young brothers from Arizona called Lymbyc Systym, who were equally incredible. Unfortunately, I've been somewhat of a slacker with regards to picking up their releases, only owning one rare live CD. So, I've got some catching up to do, however, luckily the CD I do have features two of the songs featured on this post. The top video is some great live coverage of the band performing one of my favorites "Pittsburgh Left" in Florida, while the bottom is a track called "Birds" from their first full length release. If you enjoy good instrumental music along the lines of Tortoise, Mogwai or Godspeed!Youblackemperror, you'll definitely get into this band. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

a crow and a panda

Above are a some crow and panda sketches I've recently worked on in my sketchbook Moleskine. I love using black china markers for these types of drawings. The sketches are for a project I'm working on, which naturally involves a crow and a panda. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011


For mom.

                             mixed media on 6" x 4" watercolor paper, edited in Picnik, 4/2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

signaldrift: "and yet..." & "yesterday's tomorrows"

Some of my favorite music releases are CDs I've found for a dollar or two while searching for new sounds at the local record shop. Usually it starts with the album cover art that grabs my attention, then the artist name and title, and sometimes I'll recognize the label. Track or song names and titles would draw me in even further. I can't imagine a better way to discover new music and I feel bad for the younger generations, who will most likely from now on, experience a very watered-down version of finding out about new music, pushing a few buttons to download some mp3s. It's convenient, and it's sad and kind of lame actually. Ok, extremely lame to be honest. I'll save that subject for a whole other post someday perhaps. In the meantime, Milwauke's own Signaldrift is one of those artists whose music I found in the dollar bin - a promo for his first full-length "Compass", which, after only sampling a couple of tracks in-store, I held tight onto this diamond in the rough. I was soon grabbing up every Signaldrift release I could find, including one of my favorite albums of any genre "Set Design", which is awesome beyond words. After a while, it seemed like Signaldrift vanished from the face of the Earth, but sometimes we all need our downtime to make good things happen, and such is the case thus far with their (now a duo) new release "Two Agents"(Audraglint 2010). Once again, another one I missed from last year! Below is a sample from the new one called "Yesterday's Tomorrows", while the song above, "And yet..." is just a very short snippet from "Set Design" from several years back. Without a doubt, Signaldrift is one of the most underrated names in electronic music. Despite this, all of their stuff is well worth picking up.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Many avian duets have much to do with mating rituals, some songs more complex than those sung by human beings. In the case of the Puerto Rican Parrot, the survival of their species can depend on their song.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

matias aguayo : "ritmo juarez" & "rollerskate"

Thank goodness for my local library's CD collection. Over the past couple of years or so, I've found some real gems - stuff I may have likely passed over if I had not decided to take a chance on it. Case in point is the most recent full-length from Matias Aguayo, "Ay Ay Ay". I had read and heard some things about this release, but nothing yet prompting me to really check it out. What intrigued me was this very Spanish-looking artist and title on German techno label Kompakt.  That alone made me check it out. That said, I'm glad I did, because it was like discovering a whole new world of sound.  At first I wasn't too sure, even hating some of the tracks. Yet, as in many cases, albums like these that beg for another listen or two soon become one of my favorites for quite a while.  Thing is, Matias is no newcomer or stranger to electronic music or techno, and his style had mutated and changed with his travels and own personal interests. "Ay Ay Ay" is the sound of a one man band getting back to his roots - a human beatbox/noise-making machine, merging extreme organics with forward-thinking electronics, the ancient and tribal with the new and futuristic.  Most of all, it's a bucket-load of fun. Above is the hilarious and clever music video for the track "Ritmo Juarez". Like the sounds on this one, all the people you see in the video turn out to be Mr. Aguayo himself, in various zany incarnations.  The bottom track is another from "Ay Ay Ay" called "Rollerskate", accompanied by a fan-made video featuring clips from the Lords of Dogtown movie. The footage goes very well with the music and overall captures the vibe and excitement of skateboarding.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

saturday adventures

Is the weekend over already? They called for rain for a good portion of Saturday, but that didn't stop Kris and I from getting out of town, even if it was only DC, for a bit. The sun did eventually stay out for most of the evening, though the temperature was still relatively cold. It made for some brilliant light while checking out the cherry blossom trees. One surprise we encountered while in DC was the Museum of Unnatural History, which reminded me of the Superhero Museum in Brooklyn. Entry fee was zero, and this small space packed in a lot of fun.

We later made our way to the nearby award winning Sticky Fingers vegan bakery and deli. The place was packed and the cupcakes were the best we've had in a long time. Can't wait to return again!

We also had some excellent fro yo at Frozenyo, which was right around the corner.  We ended up hanging out there a while as we waited out the rain, which was coming down pretty hard at this point. 

Soon, we decided to brave the traffic and head into the National Mall area, which wasn't too bad at all, surprisingly.  Kris was blown away by the Botanical Gardens, and we both ended up taking way too many pictures before they finally kicked us all out at closing time. I was glad she finally got to see this place. 

We finally made our way to the cherry blossoms over by the tidal basin. The traffic was pretty thick but moved along smoothly. We lucked out and found a good parking spot, after almost deciding to go back home.  I'm glad we found a spot, because it turned out to be a beautiful (though chilly) evening. Unlike last Spring, when we saw the pink blossoms in Bethesda, MD, this year they were very white.

There were some ducks hanging around as well, not too threatened by the hoards of human visitors.

We also saw a flock of seagulls, who put on a spectacular show.

After all that walking and sight seeing, we dropped on by our favorite place to eat, the Sunflower vegetarian restaurant in Vienna, VA. 

Not wanting the night to end, we made one last final stop by the local Borders books on the way home. There we found some amazing deals. Kris found some great cook books while I snagged some excellent art books from Chronicle Books, by far my favorite book company. We also picked up some great free cards, pins, and stickers from the store from Seattle's Best. I almost forgot to mention the awesome bird postcard set we bought at Pleasant Plains Studio in DC, featuring the work of artist Elizabeth Greaber.

So, it was good to finally get out to DC again. It's been far too long since we've last visited! Looking forward to getting back out there soon, when it gets a little warmer.

Sunday, April 3, 2011