Monday, January 31, 2011

Miami's Welcome Mat -- The Pink Pussycat's Lewd Neon Humor

Club Pink Pussycat always welcomes me to Miami.  Whenever I take the bus from the airport, I am cheered -- truly happy -- to see the colors and broad humor of this strip club (see photo to left, with the bus windows appropriately steamed).  I, too, like the eponymous pink feline sitting in a most improbably (for a cat) position.  

During the day, the building loses the lurid benefit of neon.  The Pink Pussycat, however, holds its own.  It is bright and colorful in the strong South Florida sun.    

I have been visiting the city for years, and still take pictures of this place if I have my camera handy.  I must be easily amused by the non-subtle humor of this place. 

The Importance of Being Foolish -- Public Performances as Low-Cost Therapy

I mean this with no disrespect to the performers involved:  Being foolish in public is a public service.  Last week I went to the Parlour, a bar in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood.  Part of the entertainment was performances by two women, Rocco Granite and Saucy Cocteau (top and bottom photos, respectively).  Rocco's performance was in the vein of drag, with over-the-top emotion.  Ms. Cocteau's was a combination exercise video/strip-tease.  In every case, I knew I was witnessing something special.

Part of the beauty of communal life is the catharsis of the ridiculous.  Unlike watching comedy privately, you are invited to share in being foolish as well.  What a relief!  For this, I thank Rocco Granite, Saucy Cocteau, their fellow performers and the bars and nightclubs that host them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Coffee Art

If life is powered by sugar, sex, and coffee, these images may be close to pornographic.  

(The photos are of various coffee drinks.  Specifically, they are mochas and, probably, one latte, seen around Chicago.  The top mocha is from Uncommon Ground.  The others are likely from Intelligentsia).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Andrew Makes a Collar -- Fun Fur and a Key Chain for Winter Warmth

A few weeks ago I purchased some white “fun” (i.e. synthetic) fur.  It has come in handy in the recent Chicago cold.  As a cyclist, I frequently wear a neck gator, effectively just the collar portion of a turtle neck shirt.

I decided to make a collar from this fabric, sewing it into a tube and connecting it at one point.  Not wanting to undermine the fabric, I used a broken key chain to reinforce the connection. The key chain is a gift from a cousin, a fan of Crvena Zvezda, or Red Star, one of Serbia's premier soccer teams.

This brings up a recurring question:  What should one do with broken souvenirs?  I have a collection of small objects that no longer function as they were intended.  They end up out of sight, no longer providing the source of inspiration that a souvenir can.  In this case, I was able to incorporate it into something else of use, something fun that reminds me of my cousin and Belgrade.

The "fur", the Communist origin of the soccer club's logo, and its shape give the collar a Dr. Zhivago look.  It is a shade more feminine than I would like, but it is warm and starts conversations.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vibrant and Vibrating Art -- New Installation by BJ Krivanek at the Brown Line's Chicago Avenue Station

On a recent wintery day, leaving the Brown Line at Chicago Avenue, I was greeted by the sight at left (view of the east platform).  My first reaction was that I was looking at a remarkably colorful and dynamic advertisement.  Then I thought it had something to do with Christmas or the upcoming Chinese new year, due to the vibrant red and image on the left panel, which reads like half of an inverted double-happiness character (see middle photo).  

I realized it was an art installation.  By BJ Krivanek, Reflections>Expressions is part of a cooperative effort between the city of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority to add art to stations (see and  In addition to the commercial and Chinese associations, this installation refers to music (treble and bass clefs), math (plus and sum signs, for example), money, and language.  This last subject appears to be a (re)new(ed) theme in current art (see

A most interesting element is the delta symbol, the two equilateral triangles that appear as parts of panels two and three (from the left) and four and five.  Delta is the mathematical symbol for change.  This installation supports the notion that change is part of, or comes from, interaction, both with each other and our environment.  The single deltas are literally formed of two panels, each of which, in turn, appears to be composed of six smaller panels.  The panels themselves appear to be made of sheet metal and move with the vibrations of the passing trains and, of course, the wind.  Kinetic and colorful, this installation lives one of its possible messages.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, when I wrote this post I knew nothing about this work.  Unfortunately, because I like to know the artist's (stated) intent and any back-story.  Fortunately, because I can rely on my eyes and knowledge.  Since I wrote it, Mr. Krivanek has provided me with a statement.  I was particularly amused by the following assumption, which would drive the fabrication of the piece:  

Commissioned as part of the first system-wide renovation of the CTA Brown Line in exactly 100 years, this public art program is expected to survive a similar period of institutional neglect. Its design and fabrication is decidedly low-tech---mechanical pivot points that will never be lubricated, mirror-polished color-anodized surfaces that shed rain and will never be cleaned....

View of West Installation

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

(Accidental) Humor as Effective Communication -- The Neon Virgin at the Colégio Notre Dame Ipanema

Sometimes humor is intentional. Sometimes it is accidental. I believe that the facade of the Colégio Notre Dame Ipanema, in Rio de Janeiro, falls into the latter category.

Neon is my favorite lighting source. It carries an unusual combination of associations -- age, tawdriness, and festivity. I usually think of it as a marker of some sort of commerce -- liquor stores, dance halls, and other activities presented as unwanted in Frank Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life".

The high school's Virgin is wonderful, bathed in the light of her neon halo. She stands guard over the children at the main entrance and does so with a wink. The Virgin is both modest and eye-catching. She must do both, living in a community known world-wide for the beauty of its residents.

Humor as Effective Communication -- Animais São Amigos, Não Comida

Humor can be a more effective way to get a message across than straightforward text. The image to the left, an appeal for the preservation of animals in Rio de Janeiro, is excellent in many regards. The leopard is eye-catching. It is muscular and menacing. The text to the left, "animals are friends, not food", is both the punch line (Who is eating whom? Can we be cuddly friends?) and poignant. The cat needs our help, if not from literal consumption, then from our voracious destruction of its (and our) home.