July 31, 2008

tutu cool

This is the hotel I stayed at here in New York for the last couple days. (I've now moved into the hotel near Rockefeller Center where we are being housed - I came a couple days early to have a couple days off here before jumping into the 7 day a week schedule tomorrow). Anyway, for a couple days I stayed in a place called the Desmond Tutu Center, part of the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea. They seem to have renovated and converted one of the buildings (built in 1895) into a hotel and small conference center, but the rest of the 'campus' is still the Seminary (something I didn't realize before I got here - I thought it was a seminary that was converted to a hotel completely). Breakfast is served in the refectory, which is breathtaking. (I admit, I never made it to breakfast. Shocking, I know.) The other buildings seem to be classrooms and dorms, and clearly have not been refurbished the way the hotel building has been. The location is perfect in the heart of Chelsea (though the closest subway stop is a few blocks away if you're hauling a lot of luggage), and the hidden parklike setting is like being in another world. It's also one of the cheaper hotels in the area (at least it was for when I booked). If you're traveling to New York, staying in a vacation rental like Myron and I did for the AllStar Game is still your best bet for experiencing New York at a reasonable price, but if youre traveling alone or just prefer a hotel, check this one out. (That was my room on either side of the triangular roof gable in the last pic.)
  • The Desmond Tutu Center
  • July 30, 2008

    family ties

    My sister Jayne sent this picture of my nephew Evan. (Apparently he posted this on his facebook and my niece Kiersten sent it to Jayne!) Evan is following my other sister Mel and my footsteps (maybe?) by going to art school. Of course, it was while I was in art school that my appearance became a little more - um - normal. (Everyone else was wearing black and grey, why should I?) It was in high school that I had criss-cross and stairstep patterns on the side of my head, orange hair (Sun-in), and a rat tail (not all at once... I don't think). I would come home from a haircut and Mom would say "Okay, let's see it this time." Maybe the sorta-mohawk I've been wearing lately is an attempt to return to that (as in, mid-life crisis?!). I wonder if Evan's brother Ryan still has the hippie hair going on. Musicians, ya know. Gimme the clippers...

    July 29, 2008


    I'm definitely not in CAnsas anymore...

    July 28, 2008

    woo woo

    Sunday was the last episode of Design Star, and my friend Matt is in the final two. The difference this episode is that instead of judges deciding who gets kicked off, a viewer vote by text message and online vote does. You can vote until 10am Eastern Wednesday morning. You can vote for Matt on hgtv.com or by texting B to 44881.

    So - I'm an episode behind - here's last weeks, then this weeks:

    Shiny open. Matt snores. Host appears. Host talks. Everyone woos. Jen gets client - her sister. Jen cries. Trish gets client - her parents. Trish cries. Matt gets client - his parents. Matt cries. Everyone flies cheap. Everyone visits families. Everyone gets rooms. Host visits Trish. Everyones carpenters show. Everyone shops. Everyone works. Host visits Jen. Trish shops. Matt shops. Trish shops. Matt cant find chairs. Jen has carpet problems. Next day. Everyone works. Everyone scrambles. Host blows horn. Work ends. Everyone flies back. Everyone in shiny room. Jen shows house. Judges like it. Matt shows room. Judges like it. Trish shows room. Judges are so-so. Judges deliberate. Trish is kicked off. Everyone hugs. Door slams. Matt and Jen are final two. They woo. Jen cries. Stay tuned for next week. (which is now...)

    Shiny open. Matt and Jen schmooze. Host talks. Matt and Jen woo. Really. They woo. Host talks some more. Video plays. Matt shows sympathy face. Challenge given (help Katrina families homes somewhere near New Orleans). Host talks more. Matt and Jen fly cheap. Cheesy arch stuck on street. Matt woos. Host talks. Matt woos again. (who knew Matt was such a woo-er?!) Matt and Jen talk to families. Matt and Jen plan. Matt and Jen shop. Host yells. Work ends. Next day. Matt woos. Mikey V and Trish show up. Teams work. Next day. Teams work more. Matt and Jen shop. Teams work. Jen hits snag. Day ends. Everyone hugs. Next day. Matt and Jen work. Jen cries. Matt works. Jen works. Host yells. Work ends. Judges show up. Vern has big hair. Really big hair. Judges like both houses. Matt shows house. Family loves it. Jen shows house. Family loves it. Lotsa screamin. (and woos). Marching band. Sudden slow mo. Sappy music. Host talks. Show ends.

    July 27, 2008


    My apologies. While its often pretty difficult to keep up with daily posts, I make an effort not to miss posting more than one day in a row, even if it means throwing up a gallery (usually a signal that I'm busy with stuff)... But this weekend I almost went three days in a row without a post. Not good. With the trip to New York a day from now staring me down, I'm just a little swamped. (read: panicked - which, granted, is not uncommon). So, forgive me. Here, have a shadow gallery.

    July 24, 2008

    happy returns

    Sort of a gallery and sort of an announcement... For those that don't already know, I am returning to join the team at NBC Olympics for the month of August to work on their coverage of the Summer Games. You may also know that I did the same thing in 2006 for the Torino games. For those, I was lucky to travel to Italy for the month, which launched me on my first tour of Europe afterward. Unfortunately for me, technology has gotten to the point now where the work no longer has to be done on-site, so for 2008, we will be working out of New York City. I decided a month in New York working out of 30 Rock was in its own way enough of a different world to make the experience worth it. And don't get me wrong, it's a great group of folks and challenging work, but its also its own brand of hell. We work 12+ hours a day, 7 days week. In Italy, I vividly remember that point where we were walking in the building saying to each other "what were we thinking agreeing to this?!"; but just as vivid was that last day where its sad like the last day of summer camp is and you wish you could do it again. The Olympics gig also gives me a project with a very definite end-date that I used to justify planning a return Europe trek in September. So stay tuned, and come along for the ride.

    July 23, 2008


    I have a new favorite store. I finally checked out the Fresh & Easy store that opened a few weeks ago here in Manhattan Beach. Fresh & Easy is a new mini-supermarket concept that was created by the British grocery chain Tesco. I don't know anything about Tesco, but people must love it, because for many months before the first Fresh & Easy opened last November, there was tons of buzz about it. Tesco sunk tons of money into researching American tastes and habits. They had researchers who lived full-time with American families and even built a prototype store inside a secret warehouse and operated it for months. But despite all the research, the first stores didn't go over so well. People found them cold without enough variety, and were discouraged by how quickly items ran out (because so many are fresh daily). So for three months, they stopped opening new stores and focused on retooling the concept. Our store was the first new one to open since then.

    Because of their similar size, they are often compared to trader Joes, which most everyone I know loves. I have to admit I cant stand TJ's. It feels small and crowded, I have no idea what anything is, and in typical "guy" fashion, I hate to shop - so I don't want to have to go to multiple stores to get what I need. So I wasn't sure if I'd like Fresh & Easy. Imagewise I expected it to be similar to a Whole Foods - cool and good stuff, but expensive ("whole paycheck"). Its completely different (and I think could compliment Trader Joes more than compete with it).

    I found it to be colorful and warm (the graphic design, by the way, is clean and simple), but I went in with a 'lets learn what this place is about' attitude. There were lots of cool and good things, but I was surprised how inexpensive things were. (Milk was about half the price I'd pay at Ralph's.) On top of that, since much of it is fresh stuff, things that are close to their freshness date are half price. I appreciated how a lot of things were packaged in quantities that made sense for one or two people. And they do have all the "everything" stuff as well - though not the massive selection as a supermarket. For instance, they have Crest toothpaste, but maybe 4 or 5 different varieties, not twenty. The same seems to apply for other standard supermarket goods and brands. Bread comes in a lot of varieties, but only the Fresh & Easy brand. Check out is self-checkout, though there are always people there helping you, even when you don't need it. In two visits, I left with about 3 bags worth of stuff each time - one time adding up to $30, and the next time $20. Because its convenient to me (I pass it on the way to the gym), I could see it becoming a new habit, along with probably a monthly trip to the big supermarket to fill in the gaps. It seems like it fits my lifestyle well, but I don't know how much that would apply to the general customer. And I doubt I'm really the target market, so maybe my liking it is a bad sign! The company is sinking $2 Billion over the next five years to break into the US market, so we will see. So far, they can consider me a fan.

    July 22, 2008

    no glow

    Speaking of art installations... last Saturday from 7pm to 7am, Santa Monica held a sort-of art installation festival called "glow", centered around the Santa Monica Pier and throughout the city. I hadn't heard anything about it until my friend Bob sent an email about it a couple days beforehand. Apparently, I was the only one that hadn't heard about it. In mentioning it to a couple people, I got a few warnings about how crowds of 25,000 were expected, good luck parking, etc. I ended up going after 2am after grabbing a beer in Venice, thinking crowds might be lighter. The crowds were there. It was pretty amazing to see so many people out and about in Santa Monica at 3am. What didn't materialize were the glows. It was kind of odd, and to say the least, underwhelming. Its a great idea, so I hate to be negative and discourage events like this, but this was weak. Instead of large scale art pieces or experiences (like the ny waterfalls), there were multiple very small pieces - like the size you'd see in a gallery. You had to hunt them down and walk up to them to see them, and once you walked up to them, they weren't as impressive as they might have been from afar. Out in the beach and outside environment, they got lost. They did make for good photos at least, but in person, not so much. What most surprised me was that only one piece took advantage of the ocean. A couple floating glowing balls that reminded me of a Loch Ness monster or something. But even those were pretty small and easily missable. Perhaps environmental concerns or regulations wouldn't allow it, but a row of tall glowing poles placed in the ocean would have created impressive reflections and been easily viewed from afar. But nothing like that was there. One piece was supposed to be impressive - a large water spray that had light patterns in the spray - but for the 2 hours we were there, it was never on. So... points to Santa Monica for trying. Its a great idea, and more power to em for going to the effort. But if you had wanted to go and didn't make it, take heart. You didn't miss anything.

    July 21, 2008

    the waterfalls

    I mentioned last week that Myron and I went down to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk across it and also to check out the NYC Waterfalls art installations along the East River (which apparently isn't a river, who knew?). The Waterfalls is a public art project designed by Olafur Eliasson. Eliasson likes to take inspiration from natural elements to create sculpture and installations that bring about a sensory experience. In 2003, he created a weather project in the Tate Modern that featured a sun of 200 yellow lamps, mirrors, and mist. With the waterfalls, he wanted to integrate the beauty of nature into an urban environment on a grand scale. There are four waterfalls, one under the Brooklyn Bridge, and three others nearby. There is a boat tour that you can take to view them, but they are also easily visible from the bridge and other places around the city. They're pretty impressive in an understated kinda way. Its interesting how they fit right in while being so out of place at the same time. They run through October 13. If you happen to be in NYC, be sure to check em out.
  • The New York City Waterfalls
  • July 20, 2008

    woo-less star

    So I've been taking a lot of heat for my Design Star update/recaps. Look, I never said its a good show. I love a lot of reality shows that are either well done or just bad but fun to watch (like The Hills, Project Runway, Top Chef, Flipping Out, etc.) - this isn't one of them. And I never said it was. But my friend Matt is on this one - and he's good. So these updates are a means for keeping up with what happened on the show for anyone interested that can't watch or doesn't want to. This update is actually a week old, but I usually wait a few days before posting an update for the sake of anyone watching later on tivo anyway. (I'm a little behind due to the All Star Game trip, but tonight's episode update will come in a few days.) So, here's what happened on last weeks episode:

    Shiny open. Trish's finger hurts. Mikey pulls. Trish whines. Host enters. Host talks. Group yells "woooo". Group watches video. Host talks. Group opens cans. Tracee gets leader. Group grimaces. Group meets family. Family wants new kitchen. Family wants color. Host appears. Challenge starts. Trish needs medic. Firemen come. Firemen cut off ring. Group deliberates. Group wants tile. Matt says no. Tracee keeps talking. Everyone else starts working. Tracee keeps talking. Group gets huffy. Group deliberates. Tracee keeps talking. Tracee and Matt leave to shop. Group grumbles. Matt comes back. Tracee shops more. Group hangs drywall. Tracee finds countertops. Groups happy. Group works. Host appears. Times up. Nobody woos. Tracee makes schedule. Group works. Tracee shops. Groups works more. Tracee shops more. Host appears. Tracee shops. Too late for tiling. Tracee still shops. Tracee gets back. Group works. Host appears. Times up. Group argues. Nobody woos. Final day starts. Some guy walks in. Guy talks. Group works. Group scrambles. Host enters. Horn blows. Challenge ends. Group enters shiny room. Group shows room. Judges not impressed. Family likes room. Sorta. Group argues. Tracee blames Trish. Tracee called to carpet. Matt shows hosting tape. Judges like it okay. Trish shows hosting tape. Judges love it. Mikey V shows hosting tape. yikes. Judges not impressed. Tracee shows hosting tape. Judges mixed. Jen shows hosting tape. Judges like it. Judges deliberate. Group argues. Tracee gets kicked off. Tracee cries. Nobody else does. Tracee hates group. Jen and Trish declared safe. Mikey and Matt left. Mikey kicked off. Stay tuned for next week.

    July 19, 2008


    A few amusing details spotted during the New York trip: The top pic is a couple of hats at one of the neighborhood fetivals/markets we ran across. I was amused that they used Hillary's logo (the worst of the three candidates logos) but changed her name to Obama and McCain for these. Though perhaps her logo was the only one without any meaning and generic enough that you could put any name in it. Also notice the hologram stickers on the bill of the caps - see? authentic!! ... The seesaw streetsign was amusing to Myron and I. Beware of Seesaws? Warning: Seesaws Ahead? ... The ironwork in the transom of a rowhouse we walked by seemed to be calling me a "Ho". Myron assured me that it said "110". ... In case it really matters to you, the menu at Nathan's also displays calories for each item. Somethin tells me if you're ordering Bacon Cheese Fries, you're not counting your calories. ... And the sign at the Cyclone rollercoaster in Coney Island reminded us to be sure to check our beepers and walkmans, among other things. Does anyone have those anymore? [...and a note for anyone who doesn't see it in the comments - my Dad pointed out that apparently its a law in NYC now that they have to display calorie contents. I had no idea.]

    July 17, 2008

    ny gallery

    a few more shots from New York while I play catch up now that I'm home in LA...