Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beach Bummed

Once again, Pete and I are thwarted, and the summer comes to an end without a beach day.

We have a very short summer. It is shorter in the years when it rains through half of it. Friday's day off was planned for about a month, and this is always a gamble, but my plan was...unless otherwise impossible, I would spend that day off on the beach.

So guess what.

I convinced Pete to come with me -- she had the day off as well, and except for a trip to the vet's, no other obligations. It is hard enough to take 1 cat to the vet, much more so 2, so I said I would help cart cats and then we would go to the beach. Though we are middle-aged ladies, we are not yet at an age where we will get up for shell-walking and beach before lunch. When we arose to a 57 degree morning, I shot her a quick note that said no to fear. Partly sunny and 72 was expected. Not a perfect beach day, but serviceable. Cats, lunch, beach.

We walked into the restaurant under blue skies and puffy clouds. We walked out into a rain-spattered parking lot. And yes, the chick-sand was worth it. We scanned the horizon and consulted. We had the car packed, we were in our bathing suits, I had 12 weeks' worth of Economist magazines that needed reading. So we went.

We like Cape Cod beaches, because Pete is a South Shore girl and we are already closer. I do enjoy Manchester, but North shore is best during the heat wave, which had already passed. (by that we mean 3 days at 90 degrees or more. We do get 3 of them, and we get them together, and then the leaves turn and everyone makes cider donuts) Either cape is far from where I live, so off to the bridge we went.

There is a Hurricane coming (get happy) so there is already a little vacation traffic trying to get ahead of it. Pete insists that the sky is brightening up over there (and there and there) and if I would put my sunglasses on I would see it too. We encouraged each other like workout buddies to get all the way to Scusset, even negotiating what we would do if they were still charging an entry fee (they weren't) or if it wasn't "actually" raining (it was). Other parties were arriving, and we took their cue as permission to continue. We identified my beach umbrella as potential shelter. We walked down the boardwalk to get the lay of the land.

So very sad. Too dark, too cold, too wet to enjoy. Even Twizzlers and the CVS off-brand Pringles would not make this a true beach day. Defeated and pouty, in our needless bathing suits like little girls who wear their Halloween costumes all day, we returned to the car.

The tropical rains have arrived today. True Cape vacations are a total wash, and the cottages with board games and reception of the Kennedy funeral will survive the boredom. Here in Del Boca Vista, I am pausing in a houseclean. I have read one of the magazines (from June: Iranian elections and the President's speech in Cairo). I have made a list of all the indoor things I could do before Monday. I won't complete most of them either.

Time to buy the rock salt.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The more you know

...the less you need this blog.

This post was reserved for another boating adventure, but the weather had its way. In Surly Acres fashion, we indulged in the old entertainments: conversation, food, drink, and jigsaw puzzle.

You find out with whom you are truly compatible when you can work a puzzle together. And when you can make them a salad, but that's not what we are talking about just now.

We began to wonder, as we built a festival scene of Santa Fe, New Mexico, just how puzzle art is chosen. Our crew likes a busy scene with lots of side projects to give everyone a role to play (as opposed to pets, landscape, or those irritating piles of M&Ms or crayons). And as we talked about how there are certain subsets of puzzle art, we wondered whether illustrations are commissioned, or scouted, or just what...?

Asked. And answered.

Introducing Colin, the bloke who answers the mail at I imagine him as Michael York.

He gladly answers our questions and we pass the knowledge along to you.

"Originally, images were chosen from artwork and photographs that already existed and just happened to be suitable for jigsaws; this usually meant that they needed to be colorful – not too much sky and not too much sea! Still today there are manufacturers who produce most of their jigsaws from the Old Masters and most manufacturers feature some famous paintings in their range. From the manufacturers point of view this is the cheapest form of production because there are no royalties to pay."

good pick
bad pick

"Then along came artists who realized that paintings could have a dual use – provided that you painted something very colorful then you could sell the painting itself (along with prints by the thousand) and also collect a royalty from a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer. A sort of have your cake and eat it situation! Sometimes the artist is paid on the basis of an amount per jigsaw sold and sometimes there is a “One off” deal. Undoubtedly the artist with the greatest success in this field is Thomas Kinkade (the “Painter of Light”). To his great credit he hit upon the idea of producing beautifully vibrant and colorful pictures that are just perfect for jigsaw puzzle requirements."

My favorite Kincaid of all time
By the way, this is what Google offers if you enter"Thomas Kincaid is a whore" and click "I feel lucky."

"There is no doubt that the reputation of Mr. Kinkade has been greatly enhanced because millions of jigsaw puzzles are made of his paintings. The fact that one of his images ends up in thousands of jigsaw boxes all over the World gives an extra “Charm” and an extra financial value to each one of his paintings. The jigsaw world has been good to him, and in my humble opinion, his rewards are fully justified. He is so successful that he licenses his work to individual jigsaw manufacturers in each country and the rules are rigorously enforced on each manufacturer. For instance, in the UK the work of Thomas Kinkade is licensed to Gibsons Games but Gibsons are not allowed to sell the puzzles anywhere other than the UK."

Another blog about the franchise that is Kincaid.
How to become one yourself.

Please, Colin, continue.

"You also have companies such as Disney who do similar licensing agreements. We deal with a company in Japan who employs a full time artist to reproduce colorful Disney scenes for Jigsaw puzzles. Disney have to approve each one and then they take a royalty on each puzzle produced. As a bonus, the original painting can also be sold off. Here again only ONE deal is done by Disney in each geographic area in order that the chosen manufacturer has exclusivity."

My new Go-To baby shower gift

"I suppose that the above are a little exceptional. What typically happens nowadays is that an artist produces paintings that he knows might have a dual use – the artwork itself and the production of jigsaw puzzles from it. Some artists count on getting the most money from the actual artwork whilst others expect to make the most from jigsaw puzzles. No doubt the judgement of artist is colored by their own particular circumstances. Sometimes an artist will have a good rapport with a jigsaw puzzle company and “Make his living” by producing jigsaw puzzle images and regard the actual sale of the painting as a bonus. For other artists the reverse is true."

There is a sketch waiting to be written about jigsaw puzzle artists and hotel room artists arguing about the definition of selling out. Andy Warhol slinks in and declares them all amateurs.

"In short there are many different deals to be done with many different manufacturers. What is certain is that the modern artist is given the potential to earn a great deal more for his works if he courts the jigsaw manufacturers!"

Your takeaways:

choose one for your next small talk crisis.
Jigsaw Puzzles for Healing
Too much information about the saw itself
Online Jigsaw for your next conference call
For those who have seen it all
Gettin Jiggy

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wickit old school

I must disclaim that this is a commissioned post, and that these memories are (mostly) not my own. I moved to Massachusetts in 1987, which now qualifies as old-school, but it is post Kevin White, busing, the Bicentennial rebirth, the "miracle." Mine is a Ray Flynn/Mike Dukakis Massachusetts, then the Republican governors' train and the reign of Mayor Tom.

When I start writing about Miller & Rhodes and Nostalgiafest, we are in my home country. This one is for the Readership. Now you know we take reservations.

Top 10 lost local "landmarks" I can claim
What everyone talks about on Reunion Weekends. Add your favorites I may have missed

10. Filenes/Jordan Marsh (CWT, Tellos, Weathervane, Lodge, etcetc)
For my homies, this is the Miller & Rhodes/Thalheimers section. Today, the most fiercely competitive corner in Downtown Crossing is Macy's and... well, nothing, sadly. But at one time, this rivalry had Coke/Pepsi on the ropes.

Obligatory puppet reference. You have been warned.

9. The Combat Zone - one of my regrets is not photographing the Naked I before it was torn down. I am proud to say, though, that I have had a speaking engagement in a college conference room that was once the site of a Peep Show Theatre. The legendary red light district now belongs to Emerson College and the Chinatown Merchant's Association.

8. The Artery - I did photograph the Artery, long before knowing it would be torn down. It was inadvertent, to tell you the truth. I was just taking pictures of Faneuil Hall. The North End. Haymarket. Boston Garden. They were all sort of dimly lit.

I think the saddest aspect of the Artery project was not how drastically it under-estimated the traffic growth, but how they thought we wouldn't notice it if they painted it bright green.

Here is a post from this Spring about walking the Greenway

7. Kennedys - Kennedys used to be everywhere. I used to do Ted Jrs dry cleaning. Ted and Viki could be spotted on Marlboro St, and John Jr would blow through town in a flurry of hairspray and awesomeness. In our younger days, when Ted's generation was the age we are now, you couldn't swing a bike lock without hitting a Kennedy. I sometimes think Caroline can't wait to be alone.

6. Commuter Yuppies - I have been her.
Several market crashes later, we have learned to just live in our yoga pants. (But seriously, the brick sidewalks will ruin your Aigners)

5. Local news wars - Even today, the greatest insult one Boston anchor can throw at another is to suggest they are not "from here." In these parts, that means you went to high school in a Massachusetts town. Like Leonard Nimoy. Who would be an awesome NECN commentator, by the way. This clip reel is before my time, but it is too groovy to skip.

And remember, dognappers think twice before touching a tattooed pet.
How about the teletype noise behind the news. Whatever that is.

I will file Dana Hersey, Dave Maynard, Rex Trailer all under this category.

4. Thank you for coming to Loews...
Follow my train of thought here. I went from Dave Maynard to community auditions, which had a theme song I was going to post, but decided it is not fair for me to pretend to know the theme song of a show that went off the air the same year I moved here. But that did make me think of the Loews Theatre Song, and that is fair game.

By the way, if you search You Tube for "Community Auditions," you may never get off the couch.

I would pay $200 for a satin jacket with the Loews logo on it.

3. Narcissus - You knew this was coming next.
I found this great website while looking for a picture of Narcissus, preferably one featuring Men in Motion. I think it is better that I just point you to it. And tell me if a picture of the Faces sign could be any creepier than this? I am working on the movie trailer that opens with this.

"In a world.... "

I am realizing that this is really a post about how sleazy my adopted home used to be, and how we tore it all down. Please also remember that at this same time period, New York City was a stinkhole and Lake Erie was on fire.

2. Harvard Square - Oh, the square is still there, of course. It's been there 400 years. Every generation has its own version of the Square, and it was better than anyone else's, and everything after that was crap. Ours centered around 2 of the scariest restaurants ever built that anyone pretends to miss: The Tasty and The WurstHaus.

Everyone will now write in and claim they loved the Tasty and it is a lost institution. And unless they were hanging out at Club 47 with Bonnie Raitt at the time... they lie. No one under 50 ever ate at the Tasty, and you only went to the Wurst Haus once as an amusement park ride.

And speaking of Amusement Parks...

1. Riverside & Whalom - Riverside became Six Flags New England, and you would never recognize the place. It was a trolley-line amusement park with rickety "the carnival's in town!" rides, an arcade full of heavy machinery, and a river boat ride that changed themes often but never changed the water.

Good news about Whalom is that Whalom is on the return! It ran a fast trajectory of beaten-by-the-Internet and these crazy kids today, a suspicious Scooby-Doo style fire, a shut-down, a sell-off, and then the real estate development that was supposed to move in crashed as well. Now a corporation has formed to restore Whalom as a local attraction. Learn more here.

Seems everything old is new again. Ask the teenagers wearing tie-dye and peace signs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where is Love?

Miss Bender is not typically one to deal in celebrity gossip, but should not let this particular AOL headline pass.

Mark Lester says he is sure he is Paris Jackson's biological father.
If I could rub my hands together right now, I would.

Let's start at the beginning, because Mark Lester as Oliver Twist is a completely haunted child. Arm in arm with Jack Wild, future king of Puppet Land, speaking their other-worldy British accents, they were bound to run into Michael Jackson somewhere where Portobello meets the Yellow Brick Road.

Is that a talking flute in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

We have missed quite an opportunity to record Ebony and Ivory again.

Know who lost best Picture to Oliver!? (I'm not that excited; Oliver! has an ! in it): "Funny Girl""The Lion in Winter""Rachel, Rachel,""Romeo and Juliet." Ok, a somewhat weak year, but Lion in Winter? ouch.

So somewhere at Boy Soprano camp, or a Tiger Beat retreat, Mark and Michael met.

Sleepover? No one will say. But in my personal version of Spice Channel, Mark and Michael have a topless pillow fight to the musical stylings of Donnie Osmond while Radames Pera makes prank phone calls. Willie Aames will stop by for Bible Study in the morning. All join hands and sing wah-hoo-doray in their boy soprano voices.

But of course now they are creepy old boy-men in their 50s trading their sperm (just like old times. siiigh) And Mark says Paris is his. This only leaves Lance Kerwin to father Prince Michael and Blanket must belong to Ricky Segall -- aka Cousin Oliver Partridge.

We have discussed before how pretty boys do not age well, especially if they peaked during the feathered years when all programming came with a soundtrack and striped stovepipe pants. They should certainly pro-create, if for no other reason than the Dorian Gray effect.

Those pukka shells can't wear themselves.