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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baffling diagram

While I'm scanning things to put on the Internet, I bring this to your attention, which was just handed to me by a lady who knocked on my door.



I can't stop pulling my WTF face at the diagram on the left there. I include the text so you can see that there is no elucidation within.

So ... is that guy supposed to be someone, or is he just an anthropomorphic manifestation of Western civilization? Are the different body parts supposed to represent the kingdoms arbitrarily assigned to them? What could the labeling of this statue? idol? with chronological civilizations possibly hope to illustrate? And why are we questioning the toe civilization?

I haven't even mentioned the amazing curve-ball meteor ... coming out of a volcano. There is so much crazy in this picture. Imagine: someone, somewhere, sat down and drew this in seriousness.

Dear religions: you might want to not put stuff like this on your tracts if you want to avoid the crackpot label. Of course, maybe you like the crackpot label. Who am I to judge.

Code code code code code code code code LOVELY CODE! WONDERFUL CODE!

My brain is a clunky old gearbox. There are certain things it can do well, and it runs pretty smoothly when it's doing them, but switching gears is something to be done reluctantly, with much grinding and swearing.

Last week it was the publicity gear. This week it was the website gear, which despite being right next to the publicity gear, is one of the most annoying switches, because I invariably have forgotten how CSS and HTML work and have to sit there for a while, staring vacantly at the source code of pages I myself created, wondering how the hell I got them to work. Usually now, when I'm trying to find this gear, I get Matt to start a page for me with the basic containers and divs set up and then hand it over, because it takes him about five minutes, whereas I'll spend hours being all "Derrrrp, how do I use the style attribute again? Why did I float that left? Why does that float left work completely differently on this page as opposed to that page? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN!!?!>?> *mash keyboard*"

Sometimes, when I'm good, before I start working on the code, I'll make a nice mock-up in Photoshop. I'm bad, though. When I'm designing my own websites, I tend to start changing all kinds of things on the fly, so Photoshop mock-ups feel like a waste of time. I had a really basic idea for the Voice of this Generation website consisting of floating squares, and had Matt set that up for me, but wasn't sure what to do with them until I woke up last weekend with an idea. I had just designed a postcard for the show featuring a big pair of stock photo lips. Wait! That's it! Big lips! The site needed big lips. I grabbed at the nearest suitable paper product to sketch it out. While cleaning yesterday, I found the initial product of this brainwave under the bed and thought others might appreciate:



In case you can't tell, there are two drawings in order to demonstrate scalability.

The final result (click to go to the Voice of this Generation webpage):



Other website things accomplished this week:

The Tesla's Pigeon microsite! This one I did all by myself, having re-cut my teeth on VOTG and accessed my buried CSS knowledge. Please note that you can (and should) now buy the screenprints that I mentioned in the last blog entry. They look really spiffy framed, and make awesome gifts.



Did a quick reconfigure of the Zacherle website for their upcoming Fringe show The Undead. Contracted out the JavaScript lightning bolt to Matt. Incidentally, Matt and I will be performing music together for the first time at this show, so you should probably come and see it. (That's my next gear - writing songs for us to perform together.)



Updated my Composition page on melissadunphy.com so that it uses the same database and layout as Mormolyke Press. Much spiffier than the old version. This involved a lot of faking my way through mySQL and PHP, with a little (OK, a lot) of instruction from Matt. Also finally updated my bio, which was hella out of date.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tesla's Pigeon, Silk Screening, and No Poo

I haven't plugged Tesla's Pigeon on this blog enough (or much at all, really). Last December, soprano Jessica Lennick and pianist Danny Lawson premiered the piece I wrote during the fall semester, a 20-minute song cycle. From the program notes:

In the 1920's to 40's, Serbian-American scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla lived out his twilight years having metaphorically wrecked himself on Manhattan Island, bankrupted and broken by a public relations war with Thomas Edison. A staunch believer in the connection between his genius and sexual abstinence, Tesla shunned women, choosing instead to feed and care for street pigeons in his hotel room at the New Yorker. His closest friend was a white dove that visited him every day at his hotel room window. In moments of delirium, Tesla believed this pigeon to have mystical knowledge and the ability to communicate with him, and declared to friends that he was in love with her. One night, the bird flew into Tesla's room close to death, and according to Tesla, a light came from her eyes more intense than that of the most powerful lamps in his laboratory before she died in his arms. Tesla said that at that same moment, he knew his life's work was finished. Tesla's Pigeon is sung from the dove's perspective in these final moments, and explores parallels between the relationship between Tesla and his pigeon, and Prospero and Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest, with text adapted from Ariel's songs, Goethe's Faust, the poetry of George Sylvester Viereck, Serbian traditional song and poetry, and personal letters to Tesla.

When my friends and Penn colleagues Tony Solitro and Scott Ordway approached me this spring with a plan to present a couple of concerts in this September's Philadelphia Fringe Festival, I was pretty delighted to have Tesla's Pigeon on the program. I've booked Jess again and Tim Ribchester on piano, and (joy!) I'm organizing a studio recording (my first, can you believe it?) to take place around the same time.

A studio recording needs album art! So I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a commission from Robinson Smith, Executive Creative Director of Design at Pavone (his bio on their site says "I am Batman."), who has designed Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival's gorgeous and striking show posters for years.

The similarly gorgeous and striking Tesla's Pigeon art thus created is below, followed by pictures of Matt and I in our first home silk screening venture, printing the posters I promised as premiums to the most generous Kickstarter donors.



Screen-printing has a bit of a learning curve, especially with regard to photo emulsion development times, but I got there. And I think I did a pretty decent job translating Rob's design into three screens and a sea sponge. I ended up doing a run of 25 (destroyed a few screens in the process, so won't be making more in a hurry), and will probably sell the extras, so watch this space if you want one (Warning: they won't be cheap. Silk screening at home is an expensive and time consuming business.)

City Wide Composers Collective presents
Voice of this Generation: Love Lost




The Fringe concerts are scheduled for September 17 at 7PM, and September 18 at 2:30PM and 7PM at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. N.B. If you click the Fringe link above in the next couple of days, it will have the wrong information! We had to change venue at the last moment because of BYOB concerns at our first choice, which means we also had to switch around dates. Yes, you will be able to drink alcoholic beverages of your choice while you listen to crazy and beautiful vocal music from seven young local composers. No tuxes! No pretension! Well, only a little. We're still composers, even while we're drinking.

And now for something completely different. You might notice in the silk screening photos that my hair is kind of wet. That's an anomaly. I have something to report that may well revolt you, but eh screw it, I'm feeling the need to proselytize.

A couple of years ago, I made an amazing discovery. I have had problems with canker sores all my life. Nothing seemed to help. In fact, it seemed like the cleaner I kept my mouth, the worse the sores got. One day, I got so sick of the situation, I finally did some Googling to figure out what the hell. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is an ingredient in the vast majority of toothpastes, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS), which actually causes or significantly worsens canker sores. I switched toothpaste to one of the SLS-free varieties (Rembrandt has one, and Tom's) and HOLY CRAP. Canker sores DISAPPEARED. Even when I do stupid things like bite one spot on the inside of my cheek 27 times in one day until it is a raw bleeding mess of ground flesh, I won't necessarily get one (or if I do, it goes away in a day). WHAT. All these years, I brushed my teeth thinking the sores would get better. I'd been LIED TO.

So as a result, I've turned into a raging hippie who is planning to solve all her problems by experimenting with eliminating certain chemicals from her life. What other deceitful concoctions contain this devil compound, SLS? Shampoo. Hrmm. A little history: when I was a little girl, I used to wash my long hair once a week. As a teenager, I cut my hair short and started washing it once a day. And suddenly, my hair was oily. I'm talking dumped-a-bottle-of-olive-oil-on-my-head oily, every morning. Also, I started getting some pretty serious dandruff/psoriasis. I put the change down to hormones and hoped it would go away. Of course, it didn't. It got worse and worse, and at age 31, I still had a Deepwater Horizon explosion on my head if I skipped a single day of washing.

God, how stupid am I? It was the freaking shampoo. I did a little research. There is a whole movement around the idea that shampoo is basically a giant scam. It's called "No Poo." Yeah, I wish I were joking, but that's what it's called. Well, what the hell. Over a period of about two months this summer, with the help of a lot of Batiste (Best. Product. Ever.), I weaned my sebum-crazy scalp off its daily suds. It's taken a while, but I was determined to give the experiment a decent run, and it's paid off. For the first time in nearly two decades, my hair is not oily. The psoriasis is under control. Apparently this lifestyle choice, if you can call it that, will also eventually translate into healthier hair, as the natural oils, no longer being washed away before they get very far, will be able to spread down the shaft and prevent drying and split ends.

You are being LIED TO. Throw away your shampoo bottle. Sue the damn shampoo companies. It's garbage. Of course, you will have to suffer through shampoo withdrawal for about two months, so don't plan any hot dates or red carpet appearances during the weaning process, but I feel so goddamn liberated now.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Children are little insane people

I am uncomfortable around small children who are still tripping.

You know how small children trip, right? I have a very vivid memory of the end of my own tripping phase. Around age three or four, I was watching Sesame Street while my mother was outside watering the garden, when this segment came on the air:



As Grover was rocked back and forth by the suddenly living mountain, I was seized by the idea that an evil Chinese empress was about to kill him, then come out of the television and kill me. I have no idea how I got this idea - I was, as I said, a small tripping child. I ran outside yelling for Mum and breathlessly tried to explain the trouble.

"Mum mum help Grover is in trouble he's on a hill and there's an empress and she's coming out of there to get me and it's scary and you have to come in and help because she's coming from China and --"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

And suddenly, I stopped, confused. What the hell was I talking about? Chinese empress? Coming out of the television? What?

In my late teens, through, ahem, various sources, I came to realize how closely this stage of brain development mimics the effects of hallucinatory drug usage.

Anyway, tripping children make me uncomfortable. As Matt and I shopped for LED rope lighting for our basement at Walmart last night, surrounded by screaming (and I mean screaming) tripping children, I felt wave after wave of anxiety. God, make them stop, I said to myself. Why isn't anyone making them stop?

And it dawned on me that I don't like tripping children because they are essentially little insane people. I have about twenty years of experience with insane people, and possibly a low-grade case of PTSD as a result. For about a decade of my life, when someone started screaming uncontrollably for little or no reason, it was my job to try to shut them up and calm them down, fast. It was kind of terrifying.

This also completely explains my lack of desire to have my own children. I used to reason that I didn't want kids because I have such terrible mental health genes coming down both sides of my family, but it's much more selfish than that. I have already spent enough time looking after insane people. It wasn't a fun time. I have no intention of subjecting myself to that again in the near future. I don't think it's cute when little kids make no sense; it pushes all kinds of OHJESUSGODEMERGENCY buttons for me.

I really like little children once they stop tripping. This usually coincides with the onset of comprehension of sarcasm. Once they're brattily giving their parents and friends sarcastic lip, they're awesome in my book.

This post brought to you by Intensive Weekly Free Therapy at Penn's CAPS, Summer Edition.