December 26, 2005

New Mexico on Christmas

I always find it interesting to explore different observations of the Christian holidays - especially Christmas. In Mexico and the bordering U.S. states there is a wonderful blending of Indian, Spanish, European observations to make up local traditions.

Our first day in New Mexico we had the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve in old town Albaquerque. The town was lit up with luminarias (which I'm sure I am spelling incorrectly). They are brown paper bags filled with sand and a candle. You can see them on the tops of buildings, along walkways and following the curves of adobe walls.

Another interesting tradition we observed is the Buffalo Dance at a Santa Fe Pueblo. The men of the tribe were dressed in identical costumes that seemed to blend that old and new traditions. Sixty men had deer antlers on their heads resting in a covering of evergreens. Their faces were painted black and their hands white. Each had turtle shells on the back of their legs that clunked. It was a dance tht followed the beat of a drum and they marched in place. Although there was not a lot of action by our standard image of Indian dance they chanted hauntingly as they moved in psynch.

I'll upload images when I return. Forgot the camera cable.

December 20, 2005

Trippiest Website Ever

While in San Diego earlier in the month my friend Julie and I went to a performance by Guillermo Gomez-Penna of La Pocha Nostra. Want a mindblow? Visit his website

From his website:

Dear Curator, Producer, Arts Presenter,Think twice before inviting this performance artist to your institution. His new work might be overtly political and too sexually explicit for these times. He might challenge—even “offend”—your audience. If you insist on inviting him, make sure that your board members approve, and that the local community is prepared. We don’t want to ruffle the feathers of our donors or the media. Remember: this is post-9/11 America, the Bush era, and these are extremely delicate times.
The Artist
USA, 2005

Who he is:
Guillermo Gómez-Peña is a performance artist and writer based in San Francisco, where he directs the interdisciplinary arts troupe La Pocha Nostra. His latest book, Ethno-techno: Writings in Performance, Pedagogy and Activism, was published by Routledge (2005).

Tika Jealous

Here's a photo of Tika who was getting jealous of the pig and George.

Pig in a Blanket

There seem to be a variety of plants in our front garden that bloom at different times of the year. I love the little piggy thingy that a previous tenant left in the garden. The flowers grew all around it and created a little blanket. Can you believe it is December 21 with flowers in bloom?

The piggy is the little brown area on the top center of the image. She kind of looks like a dirt pile here.

Memorial for Frida Kahlo

A little shrine I made for Frida featuring various items I collected on my trips to Mexico City. It sits on my office desk so that I can laugh at all the crazy characters. Frida would have enjoyed it.

Another little shrine in the corner of my bedroom. This one has paintings by Frida and Diego. It breaks my heart that they both painted a similar image of watermelons as their last work before their deaths.

Working with the Frida Kahlo Museum was one of my highlights of 2005.

December 19, 2005

A Car is Born

This weekend I welcomed George into my life. He is a cute black pug-looking Scion. His first 498 miles were challenging - leaving him with some birthmarks such as a mystery white spot on the driver's seat and a smudge that just can't be cleaned off the dashboard - remnants of his journey to Houston from a different Toyota dealership. But I think he’s beautiful.

Isn't he pugalicious?

Photos a bit dark - he was sleeping.

December 15, 2005

Safer in Oakland?

Shoot out on our street last night. At first I thought it was Chinese firecrackers like we would hear at night in our Oakland neighborhood. But then the sirens and helicopter indicated it was something bigger. Stephen ran from window to window to watch the action. It took place a block from our house.

Houston police officer shot during drug sting
By MIKE GLENNCopyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

A Houston police officer was listed in stable condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital early today after he was shot during an undercover narcotics investigation in the Montrose area, authorities confirmed.

The wounded officer, whose identity was not released, was struck at least three times during a drug sting operation about 12:30 a.m. in the 2300 block of Mason at Fairview, Houston Police Department officials said.

One of the men was killed at the scene, while two others were wounded, during the exchange of gunfire, police said.

Four men in a gold-colored Toyota Corolla pulled up as the officer and a second investigator were attempting to make an undercover narcotics deal. One of the shooters was carrying a shotgun while another was armed with a semi-automatic pistol, police said.

"They both fired at the officers (and) our officers returned fire," HPD Lt. Robert Manzo said.
Several backup officers then moved in and also began firing. The man who opened fire with the shotgun was pronounced dead at the scene. The man with the pistol was wounded but managed to run a short distance away, police said.

"He dropped the weapon approximately half a block a way, fell down, and was apprehended," Manzo said.

Two other men in the vehicle fled on foot, setting off an extensive police search of the area including canine teams and an HPD helicopter.

They were later found hiding beneath a house in the 200 block of Stratford. One was taken to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to his arm, police said.

The motive was still under investigation this morning but officers at the scene said the men in the Toyota Corolla may have intended to rob the undercover officers.

December 14, 2005

Carol Burnett Makes Me Laugh

Getting Sirius About Howard Stern

I love listening to Howard Stern. True. My earliest Howard memory is from when I spent a summer working at my Grandfather and Uncles' lumber yard, Plotkin Lumber, and we listened to his radio show every day. It was fantastic and I felt like one of the guys - especially when I snuck into the private staff bathroom and viewed the girly photos all over the wall. That place had quite a fragrance. At least the fresh lumber acted as a partial air freshner.

For a fantastic summary of the Stern staff and Whack Packers visit this link on MSNBC.

Howard's moving to Sirius Satellite Radio. Unfortunately I don't think it is in my limited arts budget to subscribe. Instead I'll regularly check out his website I actually read it every day.

Ready for the Car to Arrive!

When it rains it pours in Houston. Since I'm still biking until the Scion arrives later this week, I hope, this morning I had to walk in the rain. Not complaining about nature here but I am dripping wet from my knees down to my toes. If nothing else it is refreshing.

Oh Dear Car Gods (Toyota),

Please deliver my Scion to me soon.
I want to hug it and squeeze it and name it George.


I Know Victoria's Secret

While flipping through the channels last night we found the Victoria's Secret fashion show on UPN! Stephen thinks it was my blog that got it on the air in Houston. It was worth viewing. Cool outfits, Latin dancing and drama. Tyra Banks played the diva.

In my next life I want to return without cellulite and then I could be a runway model too. Okay, maybe I have to reincarnate a bit taller too – and less frizzy hair.

December 11, 2005

Funkalicous Gig and Rig

Great news! I have a new job with an organization called Aurora Picture Show which is a funky, cool and hip microcinema here in Houston. What's a microcinema you ask? It is a small, alternative venue that shows short films and other forms of multimedia. The organization's primary venue is a renovated church located in an area called The Heights. It is also home to Andrea Grover, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Aurora and her family.

Recognized nationally for their innovative programming Aurora has received a remarkable capacity building grant form the Warhol Foundation Initative. It is a remarkable time to be involved with this organization, which is looking strategically at their future. As Assistant Director. I look forward to partnering with Andrea in developing the organization to its fullest potential.

Although it is barely a ten-minute commute to the Aurora office I have retired my faithful bicycle. After researching the most affordable (read frugal) cars, with the best hip-factor I settled on a Scion and ordered a cool black xA yesterday. It arrives before Christmas! As all the literature and even the salesman says it is geared to Gen Y markets but many Gen Xers are finding them appealing. Although not as cool as a Vespa the funk factor is still there. We dubbed it funkalicious.

December 9, 2005

Thoughts on Not Being a Photographer

Back when I was a student in middle school, high school and college I loved photography. It was my passion to be a professional photographer, although I didn’t exactly know what Professional Photographer meant. My open minded parents encouraged me to pursue a photography degree and I excelled in the making of images. Never once did I doubt my passion or lose momentum, until my senior year of college.

My final year of college I was burned out on photography, the critique process and making images with “meaning”. After being attacked, or at least it felt that way, for four years by the Chair of the photography department I had the love of photography sucked out of me. It has never fully returned.

The passion began at a camp called Horizons in Maine. That summer, when I was 14, I fell in love with making images. The instructors encouraged me and even pulled me aside to say that I “had something special.”

Well, 22 years later I can barely pick up a camera without getting depressed and having a near anxiety attack about photography. Now that I’m at the Houston Center of Photography I am around photography and photographers every day. They are ordinary people, like myself, who have a passion for image making – like I once had.

But what I am finding is that you can’t just make images – then you are considered a hobbyist. You need a lengthy biography, exhibition and award list before anyone will look twice at your work. Don’t even bother trying to talk about your passion unless you can drop names of artists like candy from a piñata. As I get older the ability to make images seems to get further from my reach – like trying to light a candle with no wick.

Why so melancholy? I was reading through the bio of one of the photographers who will be featured in the Houston Center for Photography auction in February 2006. Turns out he taught at Horizons around the same time I attended the camp. His bio is six pages long which validates his work. But you know what? His images are ones that I could be making. It breaks my heart to no longer be a photographer. Guess that’s why the professor back in college pushed me to the wall – if you can’t take the heat get out of the game.

My image of Holywood Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2004

Thought of the Day

Marshalls' Law

While shopping in Marshalls for some warm winter clothes they kept playing "Marshalls' Law" commercials over the public address system. Statements like, "Marshalls' Law says only the best for less." I couldn't help but see the irony. Who is their marketing agency?

December 8, 2005

Horny Rhino Update

It drives well but the car is too long and has many blind spots. Very hard to park. Lots of room for groceries. Excellent sound system. Looks great in the garage!

Horny Rhino

Because I have a series of meetings to attend in various parts of Houston over the next two days I decided to rent a car. The bike just doesn’t cut it for cold, nights, cool-factor, rain… To my surprise Budget rented me a Chevrolet HHR. I fully expected something super boring and white. This is beige and funky! So excited with my rental I emailed Stephen a link to the HHR site and he said it looks like a “horny rhino”. Keep in mind he doesn’t like the PT Cruiser either. My theory – ugly enough becomes cool. Maybe it is the rear shot on the Chevrolet website that plays to its best assets.

December 7, 2005

Mastering Small Talk

Making small talk at parties is my nightmare. I'm fine with business speak but when it comes to chatting it up I only know how to end the conversation. Today's Morning Edition on NPR provided some excellent tips for how to survive small talk at the company party.

I disagree with #5 on Conversation Killers to avoid. Most of my best conversations are when my inside voice speaks out. Or maybe I would rather hang with people who are amused by my inside voice. Hay, if they're fake, she wants you to talk about them. You now understand why I need this list.

On the other hand Icebreaker #7 is of no interest to me. Sounds like the opening to a therapy session. Can you imagine the responses. "I get the winter blues. It reminds me of when my grandfather passed away. I don't make enough to buy presents. We don't have heat in our house. I just robbed a bank."

Top 10 Icebreakers
1. "What is your connection to the host/hostess or event?"
2. "What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?"
3. "Describe how this season of the year impacts your work?"
4. "Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we got together..."
5. "Tell me about your plans for the holidays..."
6. "Describe your favorite holiday tradition..."
7. "What challenges do you encounter at this time of year?"
8. "Tell me about a special gift you have given or received?"
9. "What is your favorite holiday? Why?"
10. "What have you got going on during the coming year?"

Conversation Killers to Avoid
1. "Are you married?" or "Do you have any kids?" Where are you going with either one of these if the response is "No"?
2. "How's your job at Boeing, United Airlines, Martha Stewart Enterprises (fill in the blank)?" Unless you know a person well, assume nothing! Don't put them on the spot like that. Instead ask: "What's been going on with work?"
3. "How's your wife?" (She left, took all the money, the kids and got the house!)
4. "Merry Christmas!" "What are your Christmas plans?" Not all of us celebrate Christmas.
5. At all costs avoid "Is that real?" "Are those real?"

Victoria's Super Secret

After all the hype about the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show over the past six months I planned my evening on the couch to check it out. How could I miss Tyra Bank’s final runway appearance and all the drama?

Welcome to Texas. Our local CBS affiliate didn’t carry the show. I searched every cable channel, as best I could considering my remote control disability. Even Stephen couldn’t find it on any of our 785 channels.

Good thing I can freely view the website, for now.

December 6, 2005

First Trip Back to California

This past weekend I took my first trip back to CA to visit my friend Julie in San Diego. I’ve always loved San Diego with its beautiful water views, rolling hills, Balboa Park attractions and wonderful eateries. It is worlds different from San Francisco but there were subtle similarities I noticed now that I’m in Texas.

For instance, cars (nearly) always stop for pedestrians crossing the street. In Texas you have to wear a rear view mirror on your head as a pedestrian. In San Diego people of all ages could be seen wearing funky clothes and bargain shopping. In Texas it seems that bargain shopping is not cool and funky is only for people in the arts.

We hooked up with our mutual friend Craddock. All three of us have previously held the same job as Director of Programs for affiliates of the Arts & Business Council, Inc. Catching up on lives and jobs is something I’m missing here in Texas where I am still at the point of nurturing budding friendships. Our pig out at Extraordinary Desserts, a trendy eatery, was the icing on the cake of a great weekend. (Check out this Blog entry I found about the restaurant.)

As Sunday progressed I found myself getting quite melancholy. Maybe it was the water views, grassy hills, seeing good friends, I’m not sure. Or just that feeling you get on vacation – unreality for a few days. Although I am loving Houston it may be that the impact of moving so far away from my California life is sneaking up on me.

Roasted Coconut Cream Torte from Extraordinary Desserts website. They put
flowers on every plate! I'm salivating, no joke.

December 1, 2005

Darwin Awards vs. Darwin Wars

Do you hear stories or see situations where you think that person should be pulled out of the gene pool? Welcome to the Darwin Awards. "We salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who remove themselves from it in really stupid ways. Of necessity, this honor is generally bestowed posthumously." Winners have generously removed themselves from the planet – usually using a very disturbing and often humorous but unintentional method.

This brings me to an exploration of those Darwin fish emblems that folks have on their cars. Stephen commented the other day how he loves that in America one company can make all these emblems, even if their meanings and audiences conflict. The power of commerce. One site calls them fish wars.