Saturday, December 29, 2007

B-Boy Badness on The Elliptical Trainer: The Albums List

Another year with my ear all over the place. Since my schedule necessitated a gym membership, and the gym music largely isn't my thing, I've been indulging lately with the guilty pleasures: faves from "urban" radio and the stuff of my youth -- hip-hop and dance music. Battle circle music. Funk, breaks and Kraftwerk-inspired electro. B-boy badness on the elliptical trainer.

None of the songs make this list because they're usually singles and/or one-offs from 25-plus years ago. In 2008, I really need to start making monthly playlists again -- my faves covering a fixed period, a way to keep track of great singles that might not be on great albums.

And of also remembering things more deeply. Alas, if music is a foothold in place and time, then one can't live on old memories. So, some new ones:

• A restless night on a crosscountry train trip, listening to Bill Ricchini's latest and watching the lights of a snow-covered Salt Lake City come and go against the blackness of the Great Salt Lake.

• Beulah's opening "goodness knows it's been a wonderful run" after a delayed late night flight into Oakland.

• From The Cinematic Orchestra's latest, Fontella Bass singing the stark meditations "Breathe" and "Familiar Ground" the day my old friend Jeff passed away from cancer. Jeff would play Kool Moe Dee's "I Go to Work" to get us hyped before football games.

I go to work like a boxer
trained and aimed to out fox ya ...
You wanna know my occupation?
I get paid to rock the nation.

I go to work.

If I had to pick highlights from this list, it'd be Sun Ra's Languidity with a nod to Ricci Rucker's samplist's delight Fuga da Voi. I think I've listened to more jazz this year than I have since college. If I were to explain why, you'd think I'd gone off the deep end. But it has to do with light and movement and color and dance. The imagery when listening to it. Agh. I've said to much. Jazz doesn't explain. It doesn't apologize.

Know By Heart
, American Analog Set
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon
Free, Fontella Bass
CéU, CéU
Fuga da Voi, Ricci Rucker
Again and Again, Destani Wolf
I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, Yo La Tengo
Tonight I Burn Brightly, Bill Ricchini
Languidity, Sun Ra
Sound Grammar, Ornette Coleman

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Serial Monogamy: The Book List

To borrow a thought from Total Chaos: With all the reading I have to do for work, when it comes time for my own reading, I want that juicy stuff that drips out of my eye sockets when I read it. Okay, it's not that dramatic. I work earlier hours nowadays and whatever I'm reading on the train must keep me awake. It's also gotta get my synapses snapping before I get into the office, then keep me engaged on the long train ride home.

I don't want reads that linger for months, reading a chapter here and there between chapters from other books. I hate that. I want to devour books whole one right after the other. Serial monogamy reading. One book at the bedside, the rest on the shelf.

And I found that for the most part with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I was hooked, though I'm not surprised The Golden Compass movie is getting mixed reviews. The story is a bit jumbled and maybe not the best fit for film. There's a bit of deus ex machina for too many plot points. But for language and style, and that's my big draw, it's delightful. And suspenseful. If the language is compared to Tolkien, then it's more the fast-moving Hobbit than the trudging Rings.

I'm ambivalent about the surrounding religion debate, though I grew up Catholic and lean more agnostic nowadays. My critical "ism" for books is simply that they hold my interest and spark my imagination. I take these books as-is: Simply a pleasure to read.

The Amber Spyglass
, Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife
, Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass
, Philip Pullman
How to Draw Hip-Hop
, Damian Scott & Kris Ex
The Beat of Urban Art
, Justin Bua
The Good Fairies of New York
, Martin Millar
Hand to Mouth
, Paul Auster
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
, J.K. Rowling
Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop
, Jeff Chang
Positively False
, Floyd Landis
From Lance to Landis
, David Walsh
Ten Points
, Bill Strickland

Sunday, December 2, 2007

One Girl, Two Cups

Not much time at The Safe Place this weekend. But I did like this quick sketch:

December's here and it's time to break out the coats

And so we picked up a digital SLR camera this weekend. The neighborhood Costco had a compelling deal that included a telephoto lens, camera bag and memory disc in addition to the camera body and standard lens. I've always wanted to take up photography but never had the time or funds. Not like I do now, but, dang. This is from the initial batch. Nothing special, there is a learning curve, mind you. Maybe I'll revisit this shot after I know what I'm doing.


Speaking of splurging, a shot (non-SLR) from the How to Draw Hip-Hop book mentioned in a previous post:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sum New, Sum Old

Sum new in progress:

Sum old (click to zoom):

Days of Roses

Found some pics of my old Oakland studio. Tom Waits' "Martha" is perfect right about now:

And those were days of roses, of poetry and prose
And Martha, all I had was you and all you had was me.

There was no tomorrow, we packed away our sorrows

And we saved them for a rainy day.

This pic eventually wound up on the cover of my old, now defunct, online zine, These pics were taken with Lisa's old 35mm Pentax.

All I did was run, scratch and make beats.
The old do-everything table. Judging by the very first Scrapbook Jam to the left, this was right when I started drawing again. I hadn't tried painting yet.

Records and crates were everywhere, the collection growing like kudzu vines in the South. I was also so broke that crates doubled as furniture.

With all this gear, I also had yards upon yards of electric, midi, audio and computer cables snaking everywhere.

So much clutter, it spread to the bathroom. After I picked up running again, I taped a pic of Ivan Drago to the bathroom mirror (bottom center), so I could later crush him, a la Rocky IV.

A Polaroid of my beloved hooptie road bike from the Ashby flea market. I'd just finished the 33-mile Tour de Peninsula and thought the terrain and distance was challenging. ...

Yes, I crushed that old picture of Ivan Drago a couple years later.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

And So It Goes

These When paintings are kinda tricky. Although they are cartoonish with not a lot of detail, they take forever to paint. And that's because, I admit, I'm not so nice with fine outlines, particularly at this scale (9.5" x 11"). So this requires a whole lot of negative painting: Paint the outline, then when painting the colors, go over the outline leaving just a little strip. The magnifying glass and detail brush were in full effect.

Looking at these after some initial coloring, I decided they needed some background element to help unify the images, particularly the Wandering piece since Nom-Nom the cat and When's nap sack were off to the sides.

Handpainting the Damask took forever, but it was so worth it.

Ka-blam! These are almost done. Just need to add a few details then clean up a bit.

Meh. Some close-ups.


Speaking of the Etsy hustle, check out Lisa's lovely Savor soap shop. She started just last week and is already blowin' up big time! I've watched her make soap and it's a lot like cooking. Makes it so good I don't wanna leave.

Creme Brulee soap. What!!!

I almost forgot that I'd picked up Justin Bua's The Beat of Urban Art earlier this year. Funny thing is, I'd always thought he was from an earlier generation cuz of his jazz paintings, like the popular Piano Man. It wasn't until his The DJ came out when I took a second and third look, mostly cuz he was the first popular artist I'd seen to render a battle mixer correctly. (Lots of underground graf artists still get this wrong.)

Anyhow. This book is rad, not just for the art (line drawings especially) but also for Bua's illustrated narrative of growing up in NYC in the '70s and '80s. What I really love is that a good chunk is dedicated to the painting process, from sketches to composition to color palette to drafts to finished piece -- and his thought process along the way. Exhibits A and B:

And so it goes...

The Beat of Urban Art, Justin Bua
The Good Fairies of New York, Martin Millar
Hand to Mouth, Paul Auster
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, Jeff Chang
Positively False, Floyd Landis
From Lance to Landis, David Walsh
Ten Points, Bill Strickland

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ode to Family Loompya for Snow Cat

Before we discovered ready-made lumpia in the freezer section at the neighborhood Filipino market, my family (okay, my mom), would spend the afternoon hand-wrapping lumpia at the kitchen table while I'd sneak uncooked sheets of roll for the occasional snack. Aunties and ninangs would visit and they'd talk for hours in their native Waray. Best part was how they'd spend an extra half hour saying their goodbyes, sigi! sprinkled in every five minutes.

The old Family Loompya [sic] on Reo Drive was about a mile from my mom's house, across the street from the Raymundos and an old videogame arcade, where we'd spend summers playing Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Defender. Left vacant for 20 years, the old Family Loompya building still stands today, tattered like a ghost ship from years of neglect. Its windows and doors are boarded up and gated. Its signature yellow and black storefront sign was shattered years ago, the remaining shards chipped away over time. Only its metal frame remains. As always, the north wall is still bombed, crossed out, then bombed again by rival gangs.

A couple years ago, this very stretch of Reo Drive saw the tragic end of an epic police chase and shootout.

I digress.

Master Chef Lisa and I made lumpia last night. Okay, she made the filling. I helped roll between nibbling on uncooked sheets.

You know this, man!!!

Dessert first! Lisa found this really rad port. Tastes as good as the label looks.

Separating the sheets. Snacky-snack in meh belly!

Master Chef Lisa worked her magic on the filling. Maybe she'll describe what she did in her blog. All I got to say is, this needed no dipping sauce. Straight flavor explosion on my salivary glands!



Master Chef Lisa models a perfectly executed lumpia. Side note, I've come to use the phrase "This is for Snow Cat" to describe anything of high quality. Part of it is rationalizing paying a higher price (in dollars or effort) for something better. You know, like the difference between generic mini wheats and Kashi's mini wheats? Exactly. This lumpia is for Snow Cat.

Speaking of Neva Snow Cat, a king size down comforter is for Snow Cat. Luxury.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
28 Weeks Later
A Scanner Darkly

Casino Royale
The Lives of Others

Curse of the Golden Flower
The Departed
Pan's Labyrinth

Hand to Mouth, Paul Auster
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, Jeff Chang
Positively False, Floyd Landis
From Lance to Landis, David Walsh
Ten Points, Bill Strickland

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon
Free, Fontella Bass
CéU, CéU
Again and Again, Destani Wolf
I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, Yo La Tengo
Tonight I Burn Brightly, Bill Ricchini
Both Sides of the Gun (disc one), Ben Harper
Man With a Movie Camera, The Cinematic Orchestra
Languidity, Sun Ra
Sound Grammar, Ornette Coleman

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quatro de Gato & The Crash at Thunderhill

Neva is Spanish for "snow covered". We also call her Snow Cat. Or Snowie. At first I called her "Falcor" for her resemblance to the dragon in The Neverending Story.

We took her in last week. She'd been living in the complex's parking lot since at least March when we moved in. She was so grimy we thought she had gray markings. The vet thinks she's about 3-4 years old. She is FIV+.

A neighbor once described her as "nothing but skin and bones" but Neva's put on a pound since staying with us. She closes her eyes when she eats.

Sweet as a corncob, Neva really was this dirty when we brought her in. She smelled like wet dog.

After her first bath. She is a bit of a runt. Coco, our biggest cat, is twice her size. Neva mostly stays in the Safe Place room with the art and music gear. She fell asleep on my mixer once.

All prettied up after a second bath. She doesn't fuss too much while in the bath. We let her hang with the other cats when we're all loungin' downstairs. She's very chill and docile. Delicate. Our boys, though, can get get a bit rambunctious. Neva mostly watches and naps from her perch atop the couch or cat tree.


We recently returned from a few days vacation in Calistoga. It was our first anniversary. And what memories! The best was a balloon ride that was supposed to be only up to an hour long and about 4-10 miles in distance.

We wound up in the air for almost two hours and covered 51.6 miles! Put it this way, in equal distance, we would've flown all the way out to Sacramento! Or to downtown SF! Hello, work! (Actual ride was from Middleton in Napa Valley all the way out to Thunderhill raceway near Willows in the Central Valley.)

And the best part was the crash landing! It was windy. We tipped over and winds from an approaching storm dragged us 100 yards through a dirt field while the balloon deflated. My guess is that the same winds were responsible for blowing us north over the mountains instead of an expected south-east direction over valley floor.

If it weren't for a sliver of Central Valley farmland that stretched into the mountains, we could've wound up stranded on a mountainside in the middle of BFE. It took us two hours and 150 miles in the chase van to get back to Napa.

Lesson: Never take a balloon ride near mountainous terrain when a storm is coming.


Oooh! My favorite pic from Maria and Denny's wedding last week:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Anti-Suck Device

when on weekends
first rains fall and
a scratchy throat
takes hold while
my teams lose
and whole seasons
are in doubt--
there are
afternoon naps

Two new When paintings in the works. Hoping to have these done this coming weekend.

A happy discovery. By first mixing the overall tan color and then adding a bit of brown and white not completely mixed in, still in a swirl, then loading the brush, I was able to get this fairly believable wood grain look. I can't believe it's not butter!

A trick I borrow from working on music is the idea of different "takes" and culling different parts of different performances to create a composite, a collage if you will. Here, the sleeping cat was re-drawn for the When Reading painting. And the standing cat was reversed on computer then added to the When Wandering sketch.

A collabo sketch for Lisa. I don't have the images handy, but she re-drew this in Corel and went all crazy with it.

Ah. This is why I'm a packrat. This old sketch was in the same stack of papers. This tiny drawing was projected onto larger canvases for The Boom-Bap painting, currently used as this blog's banner.