Sunday, April 29, 2012

Film Fest: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The folks at Aardman are geniuses.

'nuf said.

Their new animated film - a blend of claymation and computer generated animation - is wonderful.  Funny, true to it's briny piratical roots, and stowed full of delightful gags and physical comedy.  It also takes English history and reality as we know it and tosses it like a salad: Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, dodo birds, ham, maps (oh! the wonders Aardman does with maps!),  and every "Best Of" awards competition you've ever sat endlessly through get treated with delightful and witty irreverence.

Immediately buy a ticket!

A poster from Belfry - The Animator, but don't watch the trailer here, it gives too much away.

I'm not kidding.  STOP reading.

Buy a ticket.

(And how appropriate that this story was written by a man named Defoe? Oh, and HERE's a discussion of the stop-motion process from the L.A. Times.  BTW I think Darwin was probably a nicer guy than portrayed in this film.  Earlier Darwin posts HERE and HERE.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Grab Bag

Lots of little notes today:

On my desk is a lovely old copy of Architecture, Gothic and Renaissance by Roger Smith.  My copy is old (found at Half Price Books for a whopping $5, love that place), with a hand written note of "1952" in it.  But after checking online, it looks like the book was actually copyrighted in 1908... which explains the lovely illustrations.  Public domain!  Wahoo!  No doubt you'll be seeing images from it in future posts too.

The Grand Canal, illus. from Architecture, Gothic and Renaissance by Roger Smith - public domain

Also in books, I'm presently reading, well, several things.  Among them the very funny and eye-opening history of the American '5os as a memoir by Bill Bryson, The Thunderbolt Kid.  Also a revisionist history of interior design since 1600 (whose title I can't recall this second), more on that later.

On the Film Fest front: I recently watched Cedar Rapids.  I was only accidentally watching it at first - it was on in the room - but I was soon caught up in the adventure and misadventures of the hero, a naive small-town-Iowa insurance salesman on his first visit to his industry convention in the wicked city of Cedar Rapids.

Epic!  The guy's an Odysseus on stormy seas indeed - harrowed to his soul by the temptations of this larger pond.  A fascinating and very funny movie.

Also movie related: Aardman Animations new film The Pirates! is open and I want to see it badly.  These guys are brilliant... Wallace and Grommet?  Chicken Run?  Brilliance in stop motion Claymation.

On the set design frontier: I'm scrambling to keep up with several projects.

Boeing, Boeing is being built.  Its flats (walls) are largely built, leaning around the shop ready to get installed, as the main stage level is built, using the stock steel joists WaterTower Theater has on hand.  On top of that will go a few steps and a slightly raised rear "hallway" with a French "wrought iron" railing.  I got to take a field trip to a shop where the decorative curly-cue part of the railing is waiting - not actually bent metal, but cut from plate steel by very high power and focused water jets.  Fascinating machinery.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, Mistakes Were Made is also being built.  This show will have a puppet fish in it, so the real complications of this simple set are all around how to build this fish tank area to make the fish visible, yet the puppeteer screened.  Tricky.

At Kitchen Dog, Ruth is getting close to building.  The carpenter is considering the drawings - which have been revised a bit as rehearsals, the script, and the director have evolved the work.  Working with a live playwright and developing text is always interesting.  (Earlier post on living playwrights HERE.)

And, of course, there are a couple shows on the drawing board.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Terrific TED Talk

Talk about architectural sustainability!

Listen to this entertaining TED talk by artist and builder Dan Phillips HERE.  Based in Huntsville, Texas, he's building houses from 75-80% repurposed and salvaged materials.

And HERE's a NY Times article about his work.

Photo from the NY Times article

And HERE's a link to his construction company Phoenix Commotion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Houston's The Orange Show

Finally finished a Squidoo page on this eccentric Houston landmark: the outsider-art construction of Jeff McKissack devoted to celebrating the healthful ORANGE!

Photo of Houston'e The Orange Show - donated to the Public Domain

More on outsider art in general and The Orange Show in particular HERE.

Film Fest: Damsels in Distress

This is absolutely a love-it or hate-it film.

I kinda loved it.  At least, I'm sure I'll be rewatching it on DVD and probably quoting it.  A lot.

Damsels in Distress is a cleverly written, quirky comedy.  "Chick Flick" is misleading - it's not sentimental or romantic in the way that label usually suggests - but this film is very much from a female point of view.  Enough so to try the patience of some male watchers.

It's very funny.  A sort of intelligent female spin on Animal House.  After the glut of male comedies with flatulence humor, a female comedy with perfume and scented soap jokes is welcome.  "Quirky" just doesn't begin to describe this: there aren't many films that suggest donuts and tap dance as remedies for suicidal depression.  I loved the hostile girl who refused a character a role in the Suicide Prevention Clinic's musical theater production because, since she hadn't visited a clinic, she didn't qualify as "clinically-depressed."  The film is full of serious silliness like this.

Damsels in Distress poster from IMDB

Yet...  honestly, the funny, the humor is soooo very dry, the ridiculousness so absolutely straight-faced, that I often felt puzzled before the joke sank in.  (Obviously I'm just slow.)  I really do think this is a movie I could grow to love after repeated viewings.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Outsider Art and Architecture

I'm doing a little research on outsider art - specifically on those naive artists who built environments like Houston's The Orange Show or the French postman who built Le Palais Ide'al.

Le Palais Ide'al, France - public domain photo from Wikipedia

HERE's another blog with terrific photos of this forty-years-abuilding pebble garden.

A Squidoo page on this topic coming sooooon...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Mornings

I've gotten in the habit of checking my calendar last thing Sunday night, just so I know about any hand-grenades on Monday's schedule.  Today it was "1:00 mtg. Contemp."

A theater meeting for which I promised schematic design drawings.  Which sounded easy enough to have done... waaaay back last week.  The rest of today's to-do list looks kinda scary too:

My scribble list - here! have it Public Domain

I can't over-stress the importance of list-making among a designer's skills.  Half the job is getting the right thing done at the right time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Living Playwrights

As a theater set designer I've been lucky enough to get to work on several plays-in-progress with several actual breathing playwrights.

Strangely enough, they don't usually say much more to me about sets for their shows than the dead ones do.

This is partly because the playwright writes into their script whatever they feel strongly about as a scenic element - and then whatever doors or furniture the writer envisions are required or implied by the play's action.  The "look" and the details for any particular production are then left to the director's and designer's discretion.

Even when a living playwright is in rehearsals and actively rewriting the play, they seldom make much comment on the proposed set as it's being designed and discussed.  The set is still in the director's purview.  The etiquette, I suppose, is that if the playwright really hates something scenic, they'll have a quiet word with the director, who might pass on the criticism to the designer.

Generally the only opinion I hear from the playwright is praise at the Opening...  Mostly this has sounded sincere, I think.  Once in a while it's clear that the playwright is genuinely thrilled by a production and maybe the set too: that's wonderful.

Kitchen Dog Theater - where I'm a company member - specializes in new works, so I've been especially fortunate to work on world premiers, to sit in on read-throughs and rehearsals, and to talk with several real live playwrights!  Right now I'm working on the new play Ruth, whose playwright is also a company member.  It's fascinating to hear back-story and author's reasoning or intent for things in the script.

The occasionally difficult part of having a living playwright - from the designer's point of view - can be that sometimes, in modifying this work-in-progress-play, the writer will change or add locations.

Savvy playwrights have a good notion of what's feasible to put on stage (at the likely budget) and they'd never add a new, scenicly demanding location late in the process, but I was once startled by one who told the theater company the script had changed (they didn't realize it was being revised!) and a big scene had been added: a character spontaneously combusting in a brand-new-to-us outhouse!

My whole set (a complete house with swamp) had to shift stage left in a hurry to make room for this exploding outhouse.

It was a cool effect though.

Color sketch for the set at WaterTower Theater

See the stand of reeds on the far left of the drawing? (Stage right.) That's where the outhouse ended up.

The actress (the "bad" sister) went into the rustic outhouse; spontaneously combusted, with flame-colored light and smoke leaking from the plank door; came out again, now looking ashy and wearing a singed feather boa; met the Devil (in a nice suit) on a little bridge over the swamp, whose water lit redly and bubbled as if boiling (a very cool effect); and was led away, protesting comically.  

Funny stuff. I didn't mind moving the set for it.

(How'd we "boil" the swamp?  Easy.  Red pool lights and a garden soaker hose - the kind with tiny holes in it - through which air was pumped.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rush Models

I actually rather like model-making...  But I never seem to get enough time to take my time.  So, once again, I'm typing with sticky fingers as I wait (hope!) my latest model dries before it has to be carried off for a meeting.

No sunshine or time for a photo!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Architectural Dictionary

I just found a great site that defines architectural terms... in this case I was looking for the correct spelling of poche', which means "to fill in" as in to color in a wall on a drawn plan.  Read here at the Architect's Glossary.

The Political Power of (Set) Design

In today's Dallas Morning News there was an article about the speeches that Obama and Romney are throwing at each other (prelude to months of more political argument, sigh).

One of Romney's jabs was about the set design of the last Democratic Convention!

Seriously.  "You're not going to see President Obama standing alongside Greek Columns.  [Columns were a feature of that convention stage.]  He's not going to want to remind anyone of Greece, because he's put us on a road to become more like Greece."  Debating a stage set from four years ago?

Somewhere that set's designer smacked himself on the forehead, then muttered, "Well, at least it was memorable."

Set and stage design can be very memorable and much longer remembered than you'd expect... the designer for Berlin's Millennial Celebration discovered when they suggested columns of light for that party.

Unfortunately, Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, had done columns of light much too well for one Nazi rally, using Germany's whole stock of searchlights to form his "Cathedral of Light."  (The guy could design.)  Terrifically effective propaganda which also underlined how well equipped Germany was for war: 150 were more searchlights than any other country had.

Berlin's Millennial celebration got redesigned.

Nazi rally "The Cathedral of Light", by Albert Speer - photo from Stadtarchiv Nuremberg   

The reason, of course, that the designer of the Democratic Convention chose those columns was to associate Obama with Our American Heritage - with Mount Vernon, Monticello, the White House.  Those buildings have classical columns because their designers wanted to associate our young republic with the only other (kinda) democracies, those of ancient Rome and Greece.

The Parthenon, Athens, Greece - public domain photo

So, fair enough, Romney.   Go ahead, look at classical columns and see only debt; you've had company, since so did the taxpayers of ancient Athens as they paid for the Parthenon.  An expensive building.  But, you know, over a few thousand years I suspect Greece has lived through a few more debts and a few more political speeches than yours.

I think it's also fair to look at classical columns and see an ancient and continuing dream of democracy.  Of which even Mitt Romney is a part.

I'm guessing the designer of this year's Republican Convention just crumpled up the sketch with the columns.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NPR and Radio as the Public's Culture Diary

I had been listening, fascinated, to an interview with author Katherine S. Newman talking about her new non-fiction book as I drove... to the library where the first thing I saw in "New Books" was her book, The Accordion Family.

Weird, or what?

I love NPR's coverage of the arts.  There are so many authors and artists that I would never hear about if it weren't for the tirelessly cultured folks in public broadcasting.  And the obscure yet fascinating facts!  How would I learn about the ecosystems in the human body if not for Fresh Air?  Did you know we each have 3-4 pounds of bacteria and viruses in our bodies - and those are the ones that keep us healthy.  You can die if too strong an antibiotic kills 'em off.  Really.  That was yesterday's talk and I'm still marveling... and washing my hands.

Public radio enriches and enlightens my life.  Without Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers how would I know how to fix my car or how to get mice out of it?  Not that I have mice, but this wildlife dilemma may be more imminent than it sounds, considering I already have ants.  (And the ants at my house are nothing to scoff at - they've already eaten part of the refrigerator, I kid you not.)

Cover of The Accordion Family from The Boston Globe's review

So I brought home The Accordion Family and will soon know much more about the changing configuration of the modern nuclear family.  I'll report back.

Oh, and I love the public library too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Set Designer's Life - Sleep Deprivation

Mind you, I'm recovering from a thing so need more sleep than usual, but last night's First Read Through for Ruth went to about 11:00 p.m., what with set design and construction and furniture discussions afterwards - plus drive time home - and this early morning's quick!-finish-the-drawings! for Mistakes Were Made is just finishing, barely in time for shower, dress, drive to Fort Worth, 9:30 a.m. meeting (oh, and get gas and copies on the way), before racing back for an 1:00 p.m. meeting, and I'm kinda...


This afternoon a nap.  Please.

Sometimes the deadlines just get a bit crowded.

Ruth went very well last night and I think Mistakes should be very funny.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Film Fest - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Now playing at Dallas' Angelika (my favorite art house cinema) is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

A rare-ish kind of film these days: amusing, intelligent, at once both cynical and romantic, and adult... as in grown-up.  No car chases, only one splashy action sequence (one that actually fits the plot), yet the film never bogs down in the fishing scenes, as you might expect.   Actual chemistry between the stars!  And a hilariously cynical press agent.

Mostly this is a story about realizing - and having faith in - a dream.  Of finding the right people to share your hopes.

Poster for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - from IMDB

Nice to see the theater filled, especially as this quiet movie has been out for a while.  Director Lasse Hallstrom has a way with gentle yet affecting films; he directed both Choclat and The Cider House Rules.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

High Winds

Last night I was at an outdoor concert.

A Steely Dan tribute band (tribute band - a strange concept, really) put on an enjoyable show at Plano's Oak Point Amphitheater.  This is a great venue: stepped grass terraces held by stone retaining walls and with handsome entry buildings, the stone stage backed by a view of trees along a creek.  A really nice place to bring a picnic and listen to music - someone needs to put on Shakespeare here.

The crowd was thin - due to threatening-looking weather - but the folks who were there had a great time, clapping, calling out requests, and dancing on the grass.  I had fun people-watching.  There were a pair of twelve-year-old girls dancing and racing and leaping up and down the grass terraces like gazelles; a young boy who danced with a cool, fast, egg-beater motion (regardless of what the music was doing); one untiring lady who danced every dance like it was Jazzercise TM; a whole family who danced holding hands; a pair of I-swear Ruben's nymphs walking barefoot through the grass or lounging gracefully on a blanket; and couples who danced wildly, acting out the songs, or quietly, romantic walzes...

And through it all, the wind blew through us all.  Trees tossed, their leaves shivering between dark and light green.  Signs and picnic blankets flapped.  Lawn chairs, left empty, blew over. And the lighting grid swayed and swung above the performers, who eyed it uneasily.  The last set ended early - before the lights could decide to join them onstage - and they weren't listening to requests of "Encore!" either.

Meanwhile, in Wichita, Kansas, the same storm was twirling into tornadoes that ripped through the south part of the city, causing real damage to aviation plants and Air Force base... and, inevitably, to a trailer park.

Tornado - public domain photo

I'm not sure why anyone lives in a trailer park in tornado country.  (Finances, yes, I get that, but really?)  I'm very glad the only people I know there have basements.  After Dallas' recent brush with tornadoes, I'm wishing I had one.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Architecture in the Mail

The website BiblioOdyssey has a fun post on vintage business letterhead featuring architectural renderings, from the Biggert Collection at Columbia University's Avery Architectural Library.

This page is my favorite: how proud the company is of their split rivets!  And of their building.  There's something wonderful about this honest pride in creating a useful product.

Columbia University, Avery Architectural Library, Robert Biggert Collection
Believed fair use.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thomas Kinkade

This incredibly popular American painter has recently died - untimely young at 54.

I can't say I admire his work, but it's wise to try to understand the appeal of any art SO popular...

There has to be something of real value that I've been overlooking.  For me, his paintings felt saccharine  and calculatedly gooey, as if they were painted in Fluffer-nutter: yet I wonder if that golden glow (note those windows, in daylight yet) wasn't exactly what his fans craved?  It's intensely romantic, nostalgic, and, well, sweet.

An excerpt from a Thomas Kinkade painting, illustrating his golden glow.  Believed fair use.

This POST at Lines and calls Kinkade a "fantasy painter."  The illustration of a Disney Tribute canvas certainly underlines that quality.  Kinkade called himself, "The Painter of Light" - a moniker he has to share with Turner.

Maybe the secret of Kinkade's surprising success in the malls of America was that he was painting a nostalgic fantasy that deeply appealed to people who do not usually buy much art?  Whatever the quality of the art, you have to root, just a little, for any artist who can sell paintings like hot cakes... bathed in golden syrup.

Film Fest - Pleasantville

What a jewel this film is!

I liked Pleasantville the first time I saw it.  Liked it enough to buy it on DVD and to watch it ever since.  This fantasy about a 1990s teenage boy and his sister who get magically pulled into the vintage '50s black & white television show called Pleasantville - and then create unintended havoc - gets better with every viewing.

For one thing, it stars the then young and little known Tobie Maguire and Reese Withspoon.  Every other role is filled with wonderful actors like Joan Allen, who plays the luminous, heart-breaking pearl-clad Mother, Jeff Daniels, William H. Macy, and even old favorites like Don Knotts, who once worked in Mayberry, spiritual sister-city to Pleasantville.

For another, this film has great affection for the old, innocent TV sitcoms whose unreality it simultaneously spoofs.  (There's a great sight-gag in a toilet stall.)  It's witty.  But it has deeper, philosophical currents under the surface sparkle of wit and humor: musings on reality and fantasy, conformity and freedom, innocence and experience... on the importance of passion.

I have to love a film that can make you laugh at a crack about bowling alleys one minute and in the next, feel genuinely uncomfortable about creeping totalitarianism.  Pleasantville gets unpleasantly more topical every day.

Public domain images messed with.

The film may start out in nostalgia - but it doesn't stay there.  Never has the phrase, "Honey, I'm home!" sounded so... forlorn.  This is a clever "idea" film that's beautifully realized (gorgeous photography), but it is its warmth and charm you most remember.

Pleasantville is a gem.

Thursday, April 12, 2012



Some days are Rush days.  Yesterday I had to quick-quick-quick rush out sketches for one show.  Today I need to rush out another.

(The consequence of having to take time off.  Vacations?  Just a speed-bump in the March of Progress.)

Quick! To the drawing board!

Public domain image.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Reviewers

I just found this apt paragraph in (of all places) The Chronicle of Higher Education, from an article by Arthur Krystal called "Should Writers Respond to Reviewers?"

"Kingsley Amis, in a moment of weakness, allowed that a bad review could spoil a writer's breakfast, but not his lunch. Really? Recipients of unfavorable reviews suffer heartburn for months, perhaps years. And why shouldn't they? Reading a stupid review is a little like being mugged. You feel violated and outraged and want nothing less than to see the perp caught and publicly flogged. But what can you do? Everyone knows that disgruntled authors are advised to keep quiet, since any rejoinder can only make them look peevish while at the same time calling even more attention to a harsh critique."

(Read the rest of the lively article HERE.)

This is true in theater too.  The actor, director, designer or other toiler in the vineyards of Dionysis has to try to ignore a bad review.  Well, or go get drunk - no doubt the real reason ol' Dionysis is god of both theater and wine.

Dionysus by Carravaggio, public domain image

Film Fest - My Week With Marilyn

It was just amazing to watch the actress Michelle Williams channel Marilyn Monroe.  My Week with Marilyn is a very well-acted film. Kenneth Branagh, always good, was a wonderfully exasperated Laurence Olivier.  And it was easy to see both how Monroe earned her reputation for being "difficult" ("difficult"? maddening! I'd have fired her), but also how potent her charm was.

Poster for My Week with Marilyn, from Wikipedia

I found the film especially interesting because I had seen the real film that this film shows the making of, The Prince and the Showgirl.  What I hadn't quite expected though was the charm of this movie.  Seen through the naive eyes of a young third assistant director named Colin, the actress, the world of film, and England have a real glow.

An extra treat for the audience is famous characters like Arthur Miller and Viviene Leigh and seeing favorite actors like Judy Dench, wonderful as a film Duchess (I think) and Emma Watson as a wardrobe girl.

Worth watching.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Squidoo Up-Date

Good news on the squid-front: my page Easy Green Yard won a coveted Purple Star!

(That's kinda like getting the ol' kindergarten gold-star-on-your-chart... except, obviously, purple. A very welcome compliment.)

And talking of squidly subjects, I just found this good Squid page on sketchbooks and blogging: Sketchblogs.

Those of you who know me know that I hardly go anywhere without a sketchbook.  (I only buy purses it can fit into - take that! Fashion.)  Anyway, having a handy place to record not just sketches, but notes, research, measurements, or good quotes found while browsing in bookstores... What fun is it to be creative without a friendly sketchbook?

My sketch from the Stickley exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art  POST

Give a sketchbook a try.

As you can see above, the standard of drawing doesn't have to be very high for a sketch to remind you of what you saw (or thought of) and to record the important things.  Pretty sketches are just a nice by-product.

End of an Architectural Era

One architect I know, who started out in the 1980s at the very end of the era of hand-drafting, just yesterday cleared out his office desk drawer: home went the drafting lead holders, the lead pointer, the French curves, the circle and bathroom fixture templates, and all the triangles but one.

He hadn't used them in the last fifteen years.

He needed the drawer space.

Computer drafting is a cool invention with a lot of capabilities that can't be matched by drawing on paper, especially as 3D systems like Revit become the newest standard, but it is nostalgically sad to see the retirement of a hand skill that has existed more or less unchanged since Imhotep sketched up the world's first pyramid.

The architect/doctor/god Imhotep, public domain photo courtesy of Wikipedia

For those Readers in the DFW area, the Kimbell Art Museum has an even more beautiful statue of an almost-as-ancient architect/god, Senmut.  Worth a visit.

Personally, I think it's cool that my profession has actual, official gods.  I mean, shouldn't every job?  Or at least a patron saint, as St. Clare is for television.  (She was sick in bed and had to miss Mass, but saw visions... like wifi TV evangelism, but without the technology.)  But who is the patron saint or god of theater set design?  I'm going to have to mull over that...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scheduling in Advance

Well, sometimes...

Many theater companies ask set (and other) designers on board just as soon as they decide their seasons and choose their directors.  A few even choose designers before directors(though I think most directors would prefer the chance to at least cast a veto!).  Other theaters wait till late.  The worst-case, of course, is waiting till the last minute or past, as when they have to find a late replacement.

Accordingly - since this is April 2012 - I have just picked up two almost-last-minute shows for June...  and one for February 2013.  Two months away and ten months away.

I'm going to have to buy a new calendar.

Photo courtesy of Photos Public

Film Fest - The Hunger Games

I really enjoyed the books - terrific page turners!  - so I was hoping for a good movie version of The Hunger Games too, but that's always a bit of a coin-toss, whether a good book makes a good movie.  You just can't predict.

So I'm pleased to say that I think the movie IS a fair rendering of the story into film and very enjoyable.  As you'd expect, there's been  pruning to fit the story into two hours, with several characters fading out, but on the other hand, I liked the added characterization of the Game Maker and his fate.  The biggest change was the expected one: downplaying the carnage, gore, and suffering.  This had to be a PG-13 rated film so that it's core audience could watch.  So... violence was more suggested than shown.  (Fine by me.)

I liked all the characters and acting, especially Stanley Tucci's Master of Ceremonies. (I'm a big fan of Tucci in any film.) 

Cover illustrations from GeekDad's article about books for/about Geek Girls

When I saw the movie Saturday, there was a large audience of teen girls who had obviously seen the film several times already and memorized it well enough to answer back to dialogue here and there.  This is the first film I've seen that happen to in a long time.  Shows a certain enthusiasm I think.

HERE's my earlier post on the Hunger Game books.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Research - Time Periods

I'm working on a Mystery Project that requires some digging into the ancient past: 1984.

"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was a big song that year.  Ah, the classics!

HERE's a video clip.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

If You Film It...

Sometimes people will see it.

On the heels of good news about one friend fund-raising on Kickstarter for his short film Perfectly Normal, comes an email from another friend, one who has been filming documentary footage about kids and mentoring.  They just got a little bit of footage on their local news, a piece about a Hawaiian educational non-profit called Grow Some Good.

I guess the moral here is to just DO whatever it is you feel called upon to do - trusting that there will be someone else out there interested.  Finding that audience is obviously the tricky part.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lull? Not So Much

The speed of this set designer's life is picking up again:

Today there's an interview with an almost-new client.  I worked with them years ago for basically what change they could find under the sofa cushions (plus tasty cookies), but this time it's all a little better funded and at a new address.  Meanwhile, I've learned that the builder for another set will no longer be building - there's going to be a scramble to see how that gets done.  Waiting on a director's phone call on a third show (I better nudge 'em, that deadline is approaching).  A forth show has had a sad delay, but now a production meeting date is set... for which I need to get a sketch in gear.  Oh!  And I've accepted the offer of a favorite show in - wait for it - Prague!  Cool, huh?  You'll be hearing more about these shows: Mistakes Were Made; Boeing, Boeing; Ruth; Sweeney Todd; and the Dallas Theater Center's Summer Stage program.

Plus, of course, I've been figuring out income taxes.  If you have your own business, taxes get, um, annoying.  All those receipts!  Mileage!  (Man! I drive a lot of miles to theaters.)  Calculating the exact square footage of the home studio versus the entire home in order to prorate the costs of electricity etc. as business versus personal costs...  Taxes are very annoying.  Especially if you replaced a car this year, as I had to.  (Saga of Scenic Rides 1 & 2 HERE and, for those of you who find other people's struggles with taxes as funny as I do, here are last year's rants: Tax Rant #1, #2, and #3.)

That explains why there was no post yesterday: I was too annoyed!


Van Gogh's Almond Blossums, believed public domain image

But it's Spring!  Easter almost.  I'm feeling better - family and friends are well.  The taxes look like they'll turn out okay.  And the recent tornadoes that ripped through DFW spared my neighborhood.  So life's good.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cool GIFs

Just found this weirdly cool site with modified public domain images: Flux Machine.


Most of us have now at least heard about Kickstarter, an innovative way to crowd-fund arts projects: ask publicly for pledges (kinda like NPR does) and, if enough people are interested in your project and they pledge enough money to meet the stated goal before the deadline - Viola! - cash for creation!  The tricky part is that a goal has to be fully funded if the project is to get any money.  So The Word has got to Get Out.

A knuckle-biter.

Well, that friend I told y'all about raising funds for a short film Perfectly Normal... made his $ 20,000 goal!  (More HERE.)

So... Kickstarter works.  At least some of the time.  Good to know.

Kickstarter image from POST

Production Design

Just found a very interesting interview with Laurence Bennett, the production designer for the film The Artist. HERE at Pushing Pixels.

It's all the more fascinating because he talks about designing a black and white film about the making of black and white films.  In order to emphasize the difference between The Artist's "real" locations (actually, of course, sets) from the "sets" of the film-in-the-film locations (also, of course, sets), he built the "real" sets using color (filmed in B&W) and the "set" sets using only B&W then filmed in B&W.  Clever!  There have to be subtle differences that I need to go back and stare very hard at.

Sketch by Laurence Bennett of a restaurant scene in The Artist, from the Pushing Pixels site

Just for fun, here's a link to one of my B&W shows, last year's Death is No Small Change.

Monday, April 2, 2012


In a lull here (that's another story), but in this low-energy limbo the reading continues...

Latest is a novel As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs, a mystery about the death of a Manhattan plastic surgeon.  This book, like many of Issac's, features a smart-alecky woman protagenist, so I enjoyed it.  My favorite of her books has to be Shining Through, where a smart-alecky and brave Brooklyn secretary out-spies the Nazis, with a side dish of cookery.  (But that story, alas, was made into a truly terrible movie; watch her Compromising Positions with Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia instead.)

Reading a good mystery has to be one of the kindest inventions ever for biding time - whether you're waiting on a dentist, a train journey, or healing.  Enough plot and puzzle to distract the surface of the mind happily, while not demanding serious concentration the situation does not allow.  A good a mystery provides amusement and charm and even, sometimes, enough human truth not to waste the time spent.  And a really well written mystery becomes comfort brain-food... You can revisit a favorite sleuth's adventures - Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple - even though you know how the puzzle will be solved.

That it will be solved satisfactorily is one of this genre's charms.

Sherlock Holmes public domain image messed with.


Josephine Tey's Bratt Farrar, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Franchise Affair (Earlier POST) (Squidoo page I found HERE)
Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Whimsey series, especially Murder Must Advertise and Busman's Honeymoon  (Earlier POST quoting her on writing)
Lindsey Davis' Falco series, starting with Silver Pigs

Sunday, April 1, 2012

At Home

That's the title of the latest Bill Bryson book (latest to me anyway).  The guy just has a way with explaining things!  At Home gathers research - and extremely odd facts - about pretty much everything around the modern western-style house, adding engaging, funny, and/or appalling background to our daily lives.

Some facts have that inevitable "duh!" quality of a truth we should have known, as with the appearance of the modern dining room.

Until the 18th century, people tended to eat where they happened to be.  In medieval times family, friends, servants, traveling strangers, their dogs, and rats all often lived, ate, and slept in the single great Hall.  (The kitchen might be the only other room.)  Through the 1700s houses developed more rooms, but these were (to us) strangely undifferentiated in use, all rooms - even bedrooms - were used for all purposes.  Chairs and "occasional" tables tended to live shoved against the walls until needed for a card game or a greasy snack.

But as expensive and easily stained upholstered furniture grew more commonplace, so did separate rooms for gravy.  Living rooms grew separate from dining ones.

Just think: if clear plastic sofa covers had been invented in the 15th C, Thanksgiving turkey with gravy might be traditional sofa food.

Family dinner, public domain image messed with.

So I'm working my way through this fun grab-bag of a book...

I've escaped the terrifying chapter on fleas, bedbugs, and rat infestations (put the lid down on the toilet - take my word for it -just do it!)  and am now reading about poisonous wallpaper and lead paints.  Fascinating stuff!