Monday, January 11, 2010

Do you know the way to Art Lobster.

My good friend Kara rightly informed me that in my recent post about the move to Art Lobster, I didn't inform people where to find the Art Lobster. The official URL is I'm still working on all the graphics and layout. But the brilliant content is all there. And isn't that what matters.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book one: Justice.

Recently over at a writer suggested starting the new year by keeping a book journal, a place to write a paragraph or two about every book you read. It sounded like a good idea to me so I'm starting my 2010 book journal. And why not share my journal here on the Art Lobster.

The first book I finished in 2010 is Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel. It's a great book to learn more about the ideas set forth by some of history's greatest philosophers, from Aristotle to Kant.

It's written by a Harvard professor so it sometimes reads like a lecture. But the book accomplished something that's hard to do in our polarized society: It forced me to seriously reconsider some of my core philosophies and beliefs. Like the role of religion in public discourse and even the role of morals in discussions about issues like abortion. I've seriously changed my attitudes because of this book.

I'm adopting a three tier rating system for my mini book reviews. Read it is an enthusiastic endorsement which means I recommend the book. Nothing better to do means it's a worthwhile book but only if you have nothing better to do. And burn it (no I don't condone the burning of books but it makes for a great rating system) means I wouldn't suggest wasting your time.

The rating for Justice: Read it!

New year. New home.

Not only is it a new year, it's a new decade. What better time to move my blog to a new home? So with apologies to Mr. Laupin, the former Mrs. Laupin, and Johnny Blue Jeans (I still love and miss you), I'm changing the name of my blog to Art Lobster. Regular readers of Viva Variety will understand why.

I'm also setting a blog goal. The first year of Viva Variety, I wrote 34 posts. The second year, I wrote 37 posts. Last year, I took the whole thing a little more seriously and wrote 92 posts. This year, I plan to post an average of three posts per week for a total of 156 posts. And since I'm already behind, I'd better get busy.

So to all you regular readers (and you're few and far between), change your bookmarks, your Bloglines settings, your RSS feeds to keep track of Art Lobster.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Objects with mass attract one another.

I have a feeling that Charlotte Boye-Christensen is responsible for a lot of bruises and friction burns on a lot of dancers. I've always thought her choreography was physical, but experiencing Ririe-Woodbury's most recent performance forced me to understand what Charlotte requires from her dancers. The performance was titled Gravity. And I'm pretty sure the dancers now understand the principle like very few others.

The show was in the black box theater and we sat on the front row. That means our seats were basically on stage, and we regularly felt the impact of the dancers as they hit the floors with impact that rattled our chairs.

Choreography is only as good as the dancers who perform it and I'm sure Boye-Christensen is proud of her dancers. I've seen several of these works before. And they just seem to get better. Take Interiors (2008), which features video art from local Utah artist Trent Call. The first time I saw this work it was just OK. But the most recent performance was riveting. Part of it may be due to editing by the choreographer which she talked about after the performance. But I also think it's a result of the dancers having the opportunity to live with the choreography.

I've also seen Turf (2009) before. I liked it then. And I liked it even more now. I have to give a shout out to one of the newest dancers in the company. Prentice Whitlow absolutely shines in this work. Yes, you can tell he's new to the company. He certainly doesn't have the effortless precision of veterans like Erin Lehua Brown and Caine Keenan, both of whom are stunning. But it's been a long time since I've seen drama and power on a Utah dance stage like that brought by Prentice. You can't take your eyes off him. I can hardly wait to see what he brings in the future.

I should probably focus on the centerpiece of the evening, the world premiere of Charlotte Boye-Christensen's Gravity performed with live music provided by the Danish new music group Figura. This is a work I hope to see again. Because there was a lot to watch. And when you're in the tight confines of the Rose Wagner black box theatre, it's hard to take it all in. Figura demands attention, particularly the percussionist who is almost a dancer in his own right. I loved the use of the plastic office water bottle as instrument. But watching the musicians means you frequently forget the dancers. However, they regularly remind you of their presence as gravity forces their bodies to crash into the stage with extreme force. Gravity felt frenetic. But that might be the point. Hopefully, I'll see this work again, possibly on a bigger stage, so I can offer a more informed opinion.

One last note on Figura. The group also performed two works without dancers. The first, Hit Upon by composer Steingrimur Rohloff was performed by Jesper Egelund. I didn't like this piece. Oh go ahead, tell me I just don't get new, academic music. But let me remind you that I spent much of my college career performing the newest of music. I've performed works for vacuum cleaner and microphone feedback. What I didn't like about this work is that it was so processed. I'm pretty sure there were a bunch of Intel processors working at least as hard as the musician. Contrast that with Thracian Sketches by composer Derek Bermel and performed by Anna Klett. This work drew "a connection between Bulgarian fold music and a cosmopolitan, modern sensibility." It was spectacular. And Klett gave a clarinet performance that absolutely dazzled.

All in all, Ririe-Woodbury, under the creative direction of Charlotte Boye-Christensen continues to bring a fresh, challenging viewpoint to contemporary dance in Salt Lake City. And as long as they do that, I plan to be there supporting and watching some of the best art in town.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's bath time.

OK, the door isn't installed and I still need to finish a few details, but my new bathroom is so spectacular that I can't wait any longer to post a few pictures.

Let's start with the before pictures. I have to say, these photos don't really do justice to just how bad my bathroom was. You can't see the mold. Nor can you enjoy the wobbly toilet. But hopefully you get the idea. Here are a few of the before photos:

And now for the transformation. Here's my new shower clad in sexy glass tile.

And how about this sink, hanging seductively on the wall.

I absolutely love my new medicine cabinet. It's worthy of a Damien Hirst exhibit.

The new dual flush, water conserving toilet is so sleek it almost cleans itself. I'm so glad I'll never have to try and clean my old toilet again.

Mmmmmm. Hansa. Turning on the shower has never been so fun.

And if I'm late to work, it's probably because I couldn't drag myself out from under this amazing shower head.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If I can make it there.

Wait a minute. Do I know that guy up there on the huge NASDAQ screen right in the middle of Times Square? Why yes I do know that guy—it’s me.

How did I end up on a giant screen in Times Square? Well, Verisign is one of our office’s clients. And when clients have limited production budgets, we regularly avoid hiring professional talent and instead give agency employees a $20 gift card if they’ll sign a release form. So, last summer I signed on the dotted line and somehow made it into the final cut of a VeriSign.

Sure I only get about four seconds of screen time. But it’s still Times Square! And they played those four seconds over and over and over again. I’m guessing some famous director noticed the brilliant acting and is now frantically searching for my true identity. Broadway, here I come!

Here are a few photos. And you might be able to watch the video here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jeff the old lady: Toy train edition.

In my never-ending quest to do all things “old lady” I visited the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This is one of those Victorian-style greenhouses filled with amazing plants and flowers from all over the world.

The highlight of the Conservatory was less “old lady” and more “six-year-old-boy.” That’s because we were lucky enough to be there for the Second Annual Golden Gate Express Garden Railway. This miniature railroad features many San Francisco landmarks created using recycled materials including old computer parts, wine corks, even cheese graters. All this handiwork is then set within a lush landscape of appropriately small plants.

This exhibit was wildly popular with the young boys—many of whom came wearing their striped railroad caps and overalls. One even brought his Thomas the Tank Engine backpack. And I don’t blame the kids for getting so excited. I was totally swept away by the sheer, kid-like delight of the whole ordeal. We were even there at just the right time to see one of this year’s new features: Twice daily, set to the sounds of foghorns, the famous San Francisco fog rolls in.

So to all you old ladies out there, if you’re looking to spend a great afternoon with the grandsons, don’t miss the Golden Gate Express Garden Railway, which can be seen now through April 18.

A miniature San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers inside the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.
It's the Castro Theater appropriately showing Sean Penn in Milk.
The Transamerica building created from 600 discarded computer keys.

Look closely and you can see the fog rolling in.

Me, doing my best old-lady pose amid the lovely orchids.

In celebration of real.

My favorite art experience from our recent San Francisco visit was the Richard Avedon show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). OK, let me start by saying that I’m fully aware that much of Avedon’s career is about fashion photography—and there’s very little real about fashion photography.

But. There is something real about photographs that capture real people in real moments. People with freckles and pimples. People who express emotions. People with bags under their eyes or wrinkles that say something about experience. Even the fashion models in Avedon’s photographs seem happy to reveal flaws.

There are a lot of great photos at this exhibit. Like the visually arresting self portrait of Avedon that was photographed in, of all places, Provo, Utah. Or the working Americans including a teenage Texas Rattlesnake skinner or a carnival worker in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

My favorite work in the entire show was a massive print of Andy Warhol and members of The Factory. I love the fact that Andy Warhol seems like a side note in the photograph. I also love the crazy characters, like Candy Darling. In response to Candy Darling, we overheard a mother explaining to her daughter that the photographer had Photoshopped the head of woman onto the body of man and that’s why she has a penis. Is it just me or does this totally prove my point: no one believes photos are real anymore, even if the image was created long before Photoshop.

Installation view of Richard Avedon's Andy Warhol and members of The Factory: Paul Morrissey, director; Joe Dallesandro, actor; Candy Darling, actor; Eric Emerson, actor; Jay Johnson, actor; Tom Hompertz, actor; Gerard Melanga, poet; Viva, actor; Paul Morrissey; Taylor Mead, actor; Brigid Polk, actor; Joe Dallesandro; Andy Warhol, artist; New York, October 30, 1969.