Wednesday, December 31, 2008

christmas with captain larry

A few of my "readers" have revealed to me that they just look at the pictures here on jaybird. So, for Christmas, I'm saving us all the trouble of including too many words and mostly just adding photos from last week at sea with my dad, Captain Larry.

Here's a bit of music to set the mood. Don't take it too literally. If I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, it's one spent on white sand. So this year I met my dad on Tortola and hopped aboard the vessel Bella Rose for a cruisy Christmas on the Caribbean.

Flying into Never Never Land:

Santa takes the helm.

Confirming, via radar, that indeed it is raining. We were stuck under a bit of a squall that day.

But mostly we had blue skies, wind in our sails.

Our trusty vessel, posing in the sunset.

A traditional West Indian style sloop.

Barracuda, just hanging by the boat. We also saw sea turtles, dolphins and a pretty little nurse shark swishing her tail.

And geckos.
And chickens.
Reminds me of a joke I once heard.

This is what heaven must be like.

So, this is where we left it, refueled for 2009...

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

crafting christmas

The snowballing green movement and plummeting economy are converging to create the perfect storm for old-fashioned holiday cheer in 2008. (Read: cocktail, not consumer, fueled.) Here, Erin Dixon, Dossier Journal's new online style editor, discusses handmade holiday gifts. She isn't jumping onto the DIY (do-it-yourself) bandwagon, she's carrying out a family tradition.

Erin has been away from New York for the last few Christmases. Coincidentally, her first year back in the city, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is back on Broadway. The 1954 movie version is a longtime favorite of Erin's.

File:Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas trailer.jpg

Maybe it's because watching Vera Ellen twirl in a yellow dress or Dean Martin swig a martini by the fire makes her want to do both. Indeed, in today's entry on the Style Dossier she mentions a hankering for a highball.

File:Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas trailer 3.jpg

Or maybe it reminds her of her own family Christmases in snowy Idaho, where traditions have always included a heaping spoonful of 1950s kitsch.

This was not digitally remastered White Christmas, but the real thing. Erin's grandmother Anita has reserves of white flocking she kept over the decades (in case the nuclear winter did not include artificial snow) for decorating their tree. Erin's mother, Claudia Haspedis Dixon, required that the gifts piled under said tree be nothing short of handmade.

"I can tell you how it all began," said Claudia. "Back in the 70's when I was a young adult and just-married, I decided to embody the gift of giving by making Christmas gifts. This became a tradition with the belief, insane as it might seem, that making gifts taught my children the true nature of giving--giving of yourself."

Those fortunate enough to benefit from Claudia's generosity may receive a lambswool and angora hat--not just hand-knit, but hand-knit from hand-dyed, hand-spun wool from her own sheep and rabbits. Last year her son Colin sent out jars of preserved "summer peaches" and in the video above Erin tells about the wish vessels that she's working on for this year.

In younger days their crafts were a bit cruder. "There is telltale evidence of 'the puffy paint Christmas' in every closet at the lake," said Claudia. "And it all comes out when a summer night turns unseasonably cold."

The more complex projects can be dangerous. Colin was working under pressure one year on mobiles made of wine bottles when a drill went awry. Erin's aunt brought the DIY (do-it-yourself) trend to new heights, sewing on part of his thumb back on at the kitchen table.

"That was fun for everyone," said Erin, who becomes faint at the sight of blood.

As the Haspedis Dixons' homemade Christmas yurt above suggests, Christmas crafts don't have to be perfect and pristine to bring a bit of cheer to the people you love, hazardous and messy as they may be.

"From Thanksgiving until the 24th of December, on the drive over to Idaho, children and parents were insanely active baking and making to celebrate the gift of giving," said Claudia.

"Instead of sanity we have lots of stories to remember and tell."

Monday, November 24, 2008

thanks giving: project

Begin by pressing play.

Below is a picture of a list of things to be happy about. I started keeping it when I was sad, a long time ago now, in Santa Barbara. I remember thinking that people would see it taped on my kitchen cupboard and think, "a list of things to be happy about is the work of a depressed person." But no one seemed to think so.

In fact, nearly everyone who came to my apartment regularly checked to see what I had added, or add something themselves once in a while. The list includes items like:

#9 winter sun

#56 phosphorescence

#74 airmail envelopes

The list has been tucked away for a few years now, but I still add to it mentally every now and then. A couple weeks ago (the same night I recorded the farmers and chocolate-makers playing the music recorded in my last entry), my friend Stephen Brooks sang a song wishing that everyone everywhere could be as fortunate as he was in that moment. I feel that all the time.

Just a few of the things I am profoundly thankful for this year include:

Erin back in New York, and just down the street.

Walking away from Edun a year ago was tough, but I managed to find another place that keeps me equally sleep-deprived, inspired and surrounded by impossibly eccentric personalities. Perfect.

Which brings me to how happy I am to still have all those silly beautiful Edun people in my life.

Even though they locked my computer, purse and scarf inside the office Friday night while I was lost in the Steven Alan sample sale. (Being locked outside Edun in the freezing dark was not as scary as briefly believing on Wednesday night that I was locked inside CUNY after editing video for thirteen hours.)

So...I'm thankful that right now, I am not locked in, or out, of anything at all.
It's easy to be so free when you've got a big safety net, which is...

My family.
This year started with my sister and her babes taking care of me in
New Zealand. If that music player up top is playing the song "Home" right now, that's what they gave me.

Here's my niece, Bella.

Skipping rocks will be on her list of things to be happy about one day. For now, it's just "throwing rocks," which was one of our preferred excuses for sitting together on the shore of the lake.

This photo refers back to #9 on the original list: winter sun, which is wonderful all over New York, but I highly recommend 2nd avenue. It also refers back to an entry from May when Polaroids were added to the list. I'm thankful that Tom Slaughter never lets golden light like this on the fire escape go unappreciated. I appreciate that. He snapped this on Friday.

I've been assigned cookies for Thanksgiving, probably because my cousin Judy knows there's nothing I'd rather make. So...thanks.

Click the little pencil below to leave a comment if you want, and let me know what's on your list.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

theobroma cacao: sensual sustainable seratonins

Single-origin chocolate should have been starring at last weekend's New York Chocolate Show.
Jill Santopietro wrote and blogged about it for The New York Times. It's been the high point of my kitchen cupboard since August, when I visited Fazenda Monte Alegre, Diego BadarĂ³'s cacao farm in Bahia, Brazil.
So I bundled up Sunday evening to catch the end of the show, ripe for cacao-buzzed inspiration.

Instead I found chocolate records inscribed with holiday messages, mannequins wearing chocolate dresses and a "Divalicious!" chocolate fountain for marshmallow-dipping. I don't mean to sound like a scrooge, but it seems silly to go to such great lengths to create a novelty out of what is such a magical material to begin with. But, alas...

Diego, he of Cacao BadarĂ³ in Brazil, an alchemist in the truest sense, came to New York for the occasion. Tuesday night he shared his wares with a few friends: some special chocolate-makers, farmers and importers of exotic fruits. In an apartment in the West Village, a red wine and dark chocolate-fueled jam session brought us all back to Bahia, the origin of Cacao BadarĂ³ chocolate. Magic is restored.

Below is a little taste I recorded that night:
The farmers and chocolateirs on their instruments in the background, Diego telling about cacao farming and my photos: beginning in New York, then taking you back to the origin in Bahia.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

living to see the day

Go figure that my star reporter on the election is a Canadian.
For real though, my friend and colleague from CUNY, the photographer Kristen Joy Watts, produced this audio slide show with Collin Orcutt in Harlem yesterday.

I won't write much. It speaks for itself.
A Canadian photographing an America we can begin to feel proud of.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day

Reporting live from the end of the line...

CUNY assigned me to cover the end of the line in Queens in September.
So today I'm pounding the pavement out there again...went with Jagir Singh-Bains, 76, a new citizen and first-time voter, for a story a few hours ago. Now I'm about to head to the Democratic Headquarters to watch the results come in.

Here's a photo from the last stop on the F-Train, where Jagir picked me up today to accompany him to the polls.
What I've found here over the last couple of months is sort of like an American Atlantis...a mythical land where middle-class people of all colors and religions run small businesses in relative harmony.

The candidates kept talking about Main Street. Maybe this is what it looks like.

Monday, October 27, 2008

safe, prosperous and free

This morning the only thing I'm free to do is study for my midterm, so I know what I'm free to write as a journalist here in the old USA. But in the meantime my friend Eva sent me this link, which was an optimistic way to start the morning.

Good with coffee.
I had cinnamon and nutmeg in mine, which was totally delicious.
(That's a comment on the season, not race, by the way.
Don't dig too deep here on jaybird. If there's subtext, you'll probably know.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

banksy, beatriz and brooklyn

So last week food was politics. This week art is politics. I mean, art is food. And it's all interactive. Wait a minute. Here I am, totally confused by this, text messaging via a pack of Orbit Sweetmint.

I'm sending a message to my mom, who has been here for the past two weeks and now refers to SOHO as "my neighborhood," and only walks on Broome cause there are too many tourists on Spring.

Tom Slaughter took that photo. He tends to get his lines crossed as well. Click
here to see his Obama poster and vote for it, if it's your favorite. You're voting for a poster, rather than a candidate at this stage. I told you it was confusing. This was a great article in the Times Magazine about artists and Obama, from a while back. Click here for that.

Tom knows that I looovvvve Beatriz Milhazes' work. Last week I brought my mom to her opening at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea. Go, go, go to this show. Color-therapy, that's what her work is. A visceral simultaneous embrace of and escape from all this stimulus, food, art, politics and what not.
And a bit of Brazil.
Here's another detail from the show below.

Mom was impressed. Sort of. (Moms are tough, you know?)
I'll tell you who she's really impressed with.

She feels he must be just about the smartest guy in the whole world.

We happened upon the anonymous ("genius!") artist's West Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill the other night. Complicating matters further, these fish sticks are swimming around in front of another gallery owner (who doesn't know who hired him to sit at the Pet Store).

His gallery in Williamsburg, Artbreak, is also having an Art for Obama event in October. Click
here for more information on that.

Banksy's New York ambush coincides exactly with my mom's visit to the city, leading me to

Mother Hen watches over her chicken little nuggets.
My sister and I are going to have to go a long way to beat mom's new favorite. Even Sara's own chicken-raising (click here) might not give old Banksy boy a run for his money.

I'm afraid I might have fueled mom's new art-crush, with the help of the New York Times.
My enthusiasm, and street cred (I'm talking in the eyes of my mom here) combined with the Times' credibility (see their article here).
I'd been thinking a lot about interactive art since I did my homework (here) about Maia Marinelli's piece Mocean.But what I've concluded after all this interactivity is that the point is that we all interact with each other, not just with technology. Especially now. Except for that I'm saying this online.

Paradoxical, I know. It all goes back to that pack of Sweetmint.

Tonight momma will move from her neighborhood to mine for the next couple of nights.
That's where I took this last photo, on Grand Street in my neighborhood...the same Grand Street where the pet storekeeper's gallery is.