More designing with food-Orbitz
This is part of my continuing series of decorating themes with food. Every once in a while you just find this perfect combination of style and cool and just works out better than you ever could have imagined. I've had this bottle of Orbitz (the drink) since at least 1997. I was living in a dorm room and noticed someone had placed a bottle above a swinging lamp that was in every room. Voilá, instant lava lamp.
So naturally I copied it for my own dorm room. After I left the dorms I just had this bottle hanging around. It still looked cool, but I didn't really have a way of duplicating the lamp in my dorm room. So for nine years I just have been carting the thing around, putting it on ledges and window sills for effect.
But last weekend at IKEA I saw these Kubbo lamps. It completely duplicates the instant lava lamp without actually having to sit on a real lamp. It's so perfect and cool looking its like the Kubbo lamp was made just for Orbitz bottles. That's actually a picture of my nine-year-old bottle sitting on the Kubbo lamp.
Oh yeah, I never ever tried the drink. Rumour had it as very nasty, like drinking something super-sweet with phlegm in it.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
An evening with your Congressman-Jim Moran
Okay, I know this post is going to sound kind of dorky, but I had sort of a cool evening last night. I've been getting more and more involved in the local Northern Virginia Democratic party stuff and about a month ago a woman who runs one of the party positions mentioned that our Congressman, Jim Moran VA-8, likes to have little intimate gatherings with constituents every once in a while. Groups of about 30 people with beer, wine and snacks. So this woman asked if I would like to be in charge of getting the beer, wine and snacks part? (Of course the office of Jim Moran would pay).
I know this is going to sound like a minor thing to do--buy food and booze for 30--but I took the whole thing kind of seriously. I mean, it was for a United States Congressman for goodness sake! I know there's 435 of them (and 100 Senators) but he's still kind of an important guy. Certainly the most important guy I've ever been asked to do anything directly for.
God I already sound like a teenager about this but, yeah, I was kind of impressed. I don’t know why though because I live in Arlington and it’s not like you don’t come close to people of power nearly every day in anyway I understood that no one was going to be saying "Great Scott! Those snacks were excellent, let’s give that girl a job!" That actually almost happened.
So basically I went to Trader Joe’s and Safeway and bought $130 worth of food and beer plus hummus, brie, dip, carrot sticks & celery, crackers & pita bread, and brownie bites. Not all *that* special but I gave up 2-3 hours of my life getting the stuff (and more time stressing about it for some reason).
But I have to say it was definitely worth it and kind of an interesting evening altogether. Only about 15 people came for reasons not worth getting into (ironically a “rival” Democratic group sort of, uh...stole people away who might have attended our event.) So you could say it was even a more intimate evening with the Congressman with only 15 people milling about. It was a little like having a small dinner party.
So it was kind of, inspiring in a way to get to know a Congressmen over the course of a few hours. Jim Moran’s politics is pretty close to my own but he’s got a couple of votes that progressives such as myself don’t understand. One is the bankruptcy bill two years ago and the other is CAFTA. Moran was asked about both votes and it was interesting to hear him speak about them. What I got from his answer about the bankruptcy bill was there was something in it he’s been wanting for a while, namely universal treatment in bankruptcy court so that people’s cases aren’t subjects to the state whims in bankruptcy court, and while there were some ‘bad’ things in the bill he voted for it because he thought its good still outweighed the bad.
I’m sorry that bill is a total dog. Even terrible bills are going to have some silver linings but that bill was just god-awful. Of course he’s not the only Democrat who voted for it, but that doesn’t make the party’s catering to the banking and credit card industry any better.
All that aside, I was impressed by the guy. I already knew that politically he was very "blue" (so is his district) but on a personal level he seemed very personable and engaged. Maybe that's just his "politician's demeanor" but it worked. I was chatting with his outreach coordinator (who’s younger than me!) and I know about real politick. Even your 'friends’ in Congress don’t vote with you 100% of the time, sometimes for cynical and sometimes for practical and sometimes for personal (for them) reasons.
But what I guess I wanted to convey was how, nice, it was to spend some quality time with an actual elected official. You can start seeing what people mean when they talk about someone being a ‘bit of a politician’ in the way they handle social interactions. I’m so awkward and unpolished sometimes it was kind of interesting to observe someone who is actually good at that.
Of course by observing closely you can kind of see some of the little tricks. Moran sounded a lot like a teacher or a father praising some of the questions and calling people ‘smart’ or ‘sharp’ for raising them. And as much as the cynical part of me wants to reject such flattery for its insincerity another part marvels at how well even *I* responded to it. I’m not saying Moran was ‘fake’ in the way high school girls call each other ‘fake.’ To some extent that’s just how people who are good at interacting with others behave, with elaborate courtesies and praise. But it has to be handled well or you start sounding like Steve Carrell on The Office. I guess the opposite of the politician demeanor are those people who go around all the time saying ‘they’re too real’ and other people can’t ‘handle it.’ So, you know, jerks who feel it’s okay to say insulting things because they are just being ‘real.’
And what impressed me about Moran was he seemed to genuinely enjoy the room’s conversation and totally outlasted the participants. He stayed and stayed and stayed. If he had wanted to duck out after an hour he clearly could have.
For myself I had a nice couple of moments with Moran. There was a moment where he was getting some food and he'd run out of water so I fetched him another water bottle. He seemed really happy I anticipated his need. Then I mentioned the net neutrality issue, and I sensed he was really happy someone brought it up. I wanted to impress the Congressman (with my food if not my brain) and as far as I know I succeeded. Or it was just flattery. But if it’s flattery that feels real how am I to know the difference. And does it even matter if you respond to fake flattery that feels real to you? (Again, there's the philosophical graduate degree slipping in, if fake things serve as good as real does it matter they are fake?)
I almost felt like a *ringer* in the room. Like it was supposed to be just this place for average constituents, not politicophiles like myself. But then again, it's not like at the moment I have an actual job in politics so I’m just as ‘average’ as the next person I suppose.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Urban Outfitter-IKEA-Crate & Barrel style envy
So I finally got a temp job to start Monday at a large nationally famous non-profit known for helping people out in disaster areas (who's symbol and color is also its name). After not working for three weeks I was about ready to tear my hair out. Not that staying home and playing video games aren't fun. In fact I sort of settled into playing Civilization IV as my only means of keeping me from panicking about my financial situation. I also read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the fifth time. (Re-reading Harry Potter is sort of the equivalent of "comfort food.") As it is, I've already borrowed $300 from my family and will have to borrower rent money--but I intend to refund at least the $300 right after I get my first paycheck. I won't get paid until the same day rent is due so it's more about the timing than the money.
But I find it odd that my mind is already cashing checks I haven't even earned as I slowly start surfing furniture and design stores again. In supreme irony, Ikea seems to have stopped selling the Gottfrid chair I was obsessed over (and which I used my birthday money intended for the chair to sign up with Weight Watchers). Guess I'll have to find another chair to obsess over. I was planning on buying it when I hit my 10% weight loss goal (when you lose 10% of your body weight, which for me is 23 lbs.)
But now that I have a new roommate moving in, (if you read this blog all the way through, in March all I do is talk about my roommate search. I have a lovely girl who's 8 years my junior moving in but I don't intend to talk about her in case one day she reads this blog. But she was pretty much my first choice and the only one I felt in sympatico with when I showed the apartment off the one weekend. And I wasn't even stoned that day.) I'm becoming more and more obsessed with fixing up my apartment, style-wise.
My first roommate and I really worked together to come up with a kind of color scheme. We had a sort of gray, black, white, dark blue and red theme going on. I won't say it was perfectly designed or anything, but it felt like the apartment really "hung" together stylistically. Then when she moved out, she took out her art from the common areas (natch) and my second roommate, other than adding a broken clock and a Dali painting, never really tried to fix up the room. For her this was meant to be a temporary place (well 18 months). I'm not faulting her for it, but we didn't even take down the old picture hooks so we had these new pictures (and the clock) hanging half-hazardly wherever an old picture used to hang. I even resorted to hanging a poster on the wall just to fill some of the empty wall space.
So now that I will soon to earning income again I started to peruse Urban Outfitters and Crate & Barrel and to a lesser extent IKEA (sob! my chair...my perfect chair is gone!). Walking into Urban Outfitters especially makes me feel like a slob with no style. Everything they have looks so "cool" even though part of me knows that it's just mass produced "coolness." Buying fake crappy art to hang on your walls is bad, whereas at least hanging up old advertising posters you personally collected (therefore no one else has) is at least original. But I shouldn't sound too much like a snob about all these. I remember from my Critical Theory class we were talking about the concept of "original" and what does that mean when it's something like a photography or a reproduction. Unless you are hanging the only painting in existence with that particular image is why is "originality" important? What does "limited edition print" really stand for? (Except an attempt to raise the value of an image). I was so swept up into that theory that for my mother's 60th birthday I insisted to my brother we buy her one original painting because I wanted something unique and special in the family. We spent $1,000 between the two of us and bought a beautiful watercolor by David Yeh, a Detriot-area artist.
Currently the art in my apartment exists of my friend's black&white photos. I would like to link to his website because they are really good. For years he took concert photos around Seattle but I actually like his candid shots better. Just weird or interesting images or people. Plus I have another photo from another friend of Courtney Love playing a Christmas time concert (I think 1999). What can I say? It's Courtney and it's a really nice photo of her playing. I also have two badly framed Rolling Stones magazines, one with Courtney & Hole on the cover and the other is Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. NOT his first cover with the iconic "Corporate Magazines Still Suck" shirt (I want that cover) but his second one where he's wearing a suit. I found the magazines in a used bookstore in Seattle one day and framed them.
In my apartment I also have three Tim Wistrom prints as well as a framed Seattle Weekly cover with a detail of a Tim Wistrom painting. Wistrom paints nature landscapes, mostly of the Pacific Northwest but with a sci-fi-ish twist of either cities with a second-Ice Age or global warming. I just like the concept of nature reclaiming the cities images, although I do wonder what happened to the people?
Of course I also have the (now framed) Torani posters. I also have a steamer trunk that serves as a coffee table. I shellacked the top and covered it with multiple kinds of tarot cards. It actually looks really cool, one of the few art projects I worked on that came out well.
I keep looking over at Urban Outfitters to tell me how to make up my apartment. As if I can fix my life by buying a $100 shag rug. I don't know why I always fall into the trap of thinking that buying material things is going to "fix" my life. Make me cooler or happier. Frankly no one ever comes over here anyway.
There has to be some kind of connection between my materializing (ie, buying things will make me happy, looking cool will make me happy, buying things will make cool) and my actual lack of "coolness" because I'm going about it the wrong way.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Food advertising as art: Torani Posters
I suppose in a way this keeps with my blog's theme about "food" since this is essentially a post about food art since I've become obsessed with these old Torani Italian Syrup advertising posters lately.
You may have seen these posters before. They were pretty ubiquitous back in the late 1990s when Torani ran an ad campaign that played off old pulp fiction images. You can see tiny jpgs of their entire campaign here. Their website even had a "compose a Noir story using Torani syrup" contest where I believe each month the winner got a case of their syrup.
Anyway, around 1999 I ordered a set of the posters from Torani’s website and received four of them. Then maybe three years ago, I wrote an e-mail to Torani asking if they had any more of the posters from the old campaign (which they had long since stopped using) and some anonymous kind soul sent me the Soda 2000 poster.
But that still leaves me bereft of this one final poster which you can see here, Chocolate Fugitive. Until recently I wasn't even certain how many posters Torani had produced for the campaign. I owned five, and I remembered seeing Chocolate Fugitive hanging on the wall of a Seattle coffee shop/newstand called Bulldog News. I think I was tempted to ask for it, even back before I started collecting them. However after a little digging I realized there were only six posters produced: Soda 2000, Chocolate Fugitive, Soda Jerk, This Java's Jumping, Seduced by Flavor, and Sweet Nothings.
I got the above jpg only recently when in a random search for the old Torani posters I stumbled across this article in the Madison Avenue Journal written by Kurt Brokaw. It was the first good look at Chocolate Fugitive I’d seen in a while, (as well as a nice run down of the Noir aesthetic) and I e-mailed the author to ask about the image...basically where did it come from?
Here’s what he wrote me back:
I clipped the Torani ad from a magazine maybe five-six years ago....I'm pretty sure Torani borrowed the woman/car scenario from some 50s crime paperback, probably a [paperback] original from a minor imprint. I don't recognize the art from any well known crime/noir novel, and I know this material pretty well. Maybe Torani got the rights and thus the publisher/illustrator info, maybe not.
What Kurt Brokaw wrote fits with the little bits of information I managed to glean from the advertising agency that ran the campaign Gardner, Geary, Coll & Young (now known as Maiden Lane) that they used real pulp fiction covers and then clearly just altered the images. Perhaps the cover rights expired which is why GGC&Y was able to use them. Or maybe they just purchased them outright since I doubt Torani would have approved an advertising campaign if the ownership of the copyrights was questionable.
It may seem weird to hang posters for coffee syrups on your wall as “art” but in a way it reminds me of those fairly famous French alcohol ads from the 1920 you see hanging everywhere , including Trading Spaces episode.
So if anyone sees this Chocolate Fugitive let me know because I would love to have a complete collection.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Long lost cousin edition
I have a pretty unique family name. It's not hard to spell or even unusual, but I've always been under the impression that pretty much the only people in the United States who have my last name are related to me. The reason for this is because my paternal grandfather, and his two brothers, all changed their name at the same time in the 1930s. They basically "Americanized" their names. So while it's easy to spell and pronounce, it's also unique because it's made-up. I always thought it was curious that you have these three brothers sort of keep the bloodline obvious by all of them changing their names. Ironically however the family last name has pretty much only been passed on by my grandfather and his children. His brothers ended up having girls or boys who died too early to have kids.
I have a first cousin who had a My Space webpage and today she was contacted by another girl who ironically had the exact same last name and first name. The girl was eager to figure out if they were related because, like me, she assumed pretty much the only people with our last names were related to us.
My Aunt Annie figured it all out. The girl's grandfather is my grandfather's first cousin. We're third cousins and our parents (the girl's father and my aunt, plus my father) are second cousins. Apparently, unknown to most of the living members of my family, while my grandfather and his brothers all changed their names in the 1930s, his first cousin also changed his name, albeit not until the 1950s.
I still find that fascinating. Changing a family name is kind of a huge step. Sure we're Jews (and no, our name isn't and wasn't something like Goldberg or Silver) but the last name thing still means something. I find it odd that here's this guy, and he has a last name. Yet for some reason when he was in his 20s or so decided to change his name to the same name as his cousins, who had done this 20 years before.
Unfortunately this girl's grandfather passed away some time ago (the one who changed his name) but her father is around and apparently as interested in this as my aunt and my father are. My aunt gets really into family genealogy because my grandfather/her father passed away when she was 15 years old.
He was the only grandparent I never met, although I'm sad to say I just found out my last grandmother (maternal) has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I'm not ready to deal with that yet. But over the years I've thought a bit about this "missing" grandparent a lot. I'm far more like my Dad than my Mom and I've wondered how much he was like his Dad. (I didn't really get along with my paternal grandmother all that much. Kind of your typical old Long Island Jewish woman.) I've often thought about how much I rely on my father still, for advice, for money, for conversation and I'm 30! I can't imagine losing his company when I was 22 or 15.
I've often thought my aunt has a little "daddy-shaped" hole in her heart where she lost hers so young even though she's in her late 50s now. I was even chatting with my Dad on the phone about all these long-dead (or missing) relatives and he started getting emotional (which he rarely does).
So anyway, there's at least one other set of people out there with my last name aside from the the people who are all related through my grandfather. This long-lost cousin--the first cousin of my grandfather-- apparently had two children, a boy and a girl (I think, I know he at least had a boy). That boy, my grandfather's first cousin-once removed, also has two kids. The girl is the one who contacted my cousin with the My Space page and she has an older brother. That guy, along with my brother and my cousin, are the only "males" of the next generation with that same last name (my brother, my uncle's kid, and this new long-lost third cousin). My brother is the only one of those three males who's married. The other two are in their mid-to-early 20s AND my brother does have one child, a 2-month old girl. I think this new niece of mine is the first of the new generation in the same family name in 17 years. But she's a girl so she really can't "pass on" the family name beyond her (of course, she's TWO MONTHS OLD, she can't even hold her head up.)
I was thinking how interesting it would be, one more generation out, and there could be an entirely new branch of the family that is unaware of "the others" with the same last names. I'm sure if my cousin, my uncle's kid, gets married I'll come to his wedding and when he has kids I'll be "aware" of it in that vague way you keep track of first cousins. But I bet before this guy hits 50 I will lose track of him entirely; basically after both our parents are dead. There are cousins I'm closer to, and with e-mail it's a little easier to stay in touch, but as the family spreads across the map if you aren't seeing these cousins regularly. If you aren't "growing up" with them or hanging out together the imperative to stay in touch basically goes away after your parents/aunt/uncle die. They become just people.