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Bryant Park, Not Public?

July 22, 2009

This caught me by surprise. While sitting on a bench at Bryant Park, sipping my morning coffee, I watched a police officer stop a man from video taping in the park. The man had a modest setup;  an HDV camera, a tripod, and a subject sitting on a bench, presumably about to interview. There were no lights, no crew, no boom mikes or sound technicians.

The reason for stopping the videoing? Bryant Park is not really a public park. It is a park funded primarily with private funding. Filming of any kind requires a permit, according to the police officer. That didn’t seem right to me. Did that mean that no photographs could be taken at Bryant Park without a permit?

I had to look it up. Sure enough, on the official Bryant Park web site it spells the private funding part out clearly:

Bryant Park Corporation (BPC) is a not-for-profit, private management company and a cooperating business improvement district of neighboring property owners. It was established by Daniel A. Biederman and Andrew Heiskell, with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. BPC was formed to restore historic Bryant Park, which had suffered a severe decline in conditions in the 1970s. A 15-year agreement was signed in 1988, entrusting management and improvements to the BPC. The park reopened in 1991 after four years of renovation with a budget six times the level under prior city management. It is the largest effort in the nation to apply private management backed by private funding to a public park, and it has been a success with public, press, and nearby institutions. BPC shares its management team with the 34th Street Partnership. The two companies share a management philosophy.

Looking around on the Bryant Park web site for filming and photography restrictions, however, I could not find anything. Expanding my search online only produced results showing commercial filming restrictions on the sidewalks surrounding the New York Public Library.

I have to wonder if the two men I saw videoing in Bryant Park would have been stopped if they had not broken out the tripod. Or if their video camera was smaller. Certainly, I have seen scores of tourists and locals video taping and photographing there, often times with decent equipment.

Have you been stopped at Bryant Park? I am one person who would love to hear your story.

Self-induced Torture: Watching FOX

July 8, 2009

I don’t know why I do it, but I slowly torture myself by occasionally watching FOX. O’Reilly, Hannity, Glenn Beck, Fox & Friends – they are each as nutty as the other.

Last night I watched O’Reilly, Hannity, and Glenn Beck all complain about “the main-stream liberal media” and their hyper-coverage of Michael Jackson. At the top of his show, O’Reilly gave himself an out by stating that he means no disrespect to Michael Jackson’s family and friends for what he was about to say. He also said that he was only discussing Michael Jackson because the viewer demand gave him no other option (unlike the “main-stream media”, right?).

O’Reilly then went on a rant about why Michael Jackson doesn’t deserve the attention and respect he is receiving. He was a freak, a pedophile (though cleared of all charges), a self-indulgent egotist. Sure, he was an entertainer, and a good one until he bleached his face and went under the knife (but no disrespect to family and friends…).

Hannity and Beck did the same. What’s wrong with these people, and why is Michael Jackson such a threat to them? What are they saying to the millions of people around the world that have been inspired by Michael Jackson in a positive way?

BTW, I’m not a big MJ fan myself. But I do respect his creative accomplishments, and I do think he deserves a strong legacy of artistic influence.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the O’Reilly’s of the world live an artless existence. They fail to recognize the power that art has in communicating a language that is deeply human. Was Michael Jackson flawed? Certainly. We all are. Art, like religion, trancends it all.

O’Reilly, Hannity and Beck might as well strike down a long list of icons; classical music composers, writers, musicians, painters, dancers, athletes and beyond, because of their sorted pasts. They have been racists, drug addicts, criminals, insane, gay (horror of horrors!), the full gambit. But their art moves us. It lives on. It speaks to our core humanity.

We could all learn a thing or two from the Amish in Pennsylvania, who in 2006 attended the funeral of a truck driver who killed five of their children in cold blood. Many of us could never do that, but their ability to forgive and respect the man’s flawed humanity was powerful.

So, you nay-Sayers at FOX, wallow in your contempt for the arts and for humanity. Concentrate on people’s flaws. Enjoy your cancerous vitriol. That will be your legacy.

My beautiful nemesis: Intelligent Blue Jays

July 6, 2009

Religiously feeding birds on the weekends has produced rewarding results: my weekend getaway went from no birds to a wide variety of finches, cardinals, orioles, red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, grossbeaks and more.

But the feeder has attracted a beautiful nemesis, the aggressive blue jay. They are spectacular to look at, but they quickly take over the bird feeder, chasing all the other birds away and then return in greater numbers. If that isn’t annoying enough, they also yelp and whine with one another, like a bunch of bratty kids (they probably are).

My brother-in-law offered to shoot them (signaling the offer with a trigger finger so my kids wouldn’t hear). I quickly said no. But what I did do was make a sling-shot, like ones we used to make as kids. It is powerful enough to get decent velocity, but unlikely to do much damage to seriously injure a bird (unless shot with asserted force).

After making the sling-shot, I practiced a bit and developed some decent aim consistency. I collected an arsenol of rocks and sat on the porch, waiting for the whining blue jays to arrive.

I didn’t have to wait long. They came almost immediately, and I fired away in short order. I only needed to shoot near to a blue jay to scare it away. It worked brilliantly! An best of all, the more desirable smaller birds remained, unphased, after each shot.

What began as an excellently brilliant plan evolved into something else though. The blue jays started to know me. They watched me from a distance. They flew to nearby trees and positioned themselves on the opposite side of tree trunks. A mere step inside the house to refill my coffee resulted in a blue jay frenzy at the feeder. They were watching me just as I was watching them. It even seemed to be that they knew when I was holding the sling-shot and when I wasn’t.

So, the game became a bit of a sport, perhaps both for me and the blue jays. Peace at the bird feeder for the other birds was limited to my cocked sling-shot.

Next plan of attack: new bird feeder design.

Pseudo-tattoo clothing vs. the real deal

June 6, 2009

Tattoo fashion is everywhere now. There’s pseudo-tattoo, or “tattoo-inspired” clothing, and then there is the real deal. It’s due time someone gives the full scoop on what is out there. It might as well be me.

Let’s start with Ed Hardy. Ed Hardy is everywhere. Primary colored t-shirts with bold-lined tattoo graphics. There’s also Ed Hardy jeans, bags, drinks, perfumes, you name it. Ed Hardy is worn on every Reality TV show, celebrities of all stripes are seen wearing it in the tabloids. But the genius behind the art that the brand is named for, tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, is lost behind the giant script flourish “Ed Hardy” (by Christian Audigier) splashed across the one-trick-pony graphics of the brand. Let’s face it, Ed Hardy as a brand is one big marketing machine and has little to do with the artistry of tattoo (can you say Ed Hardy air fresheners?).

Ed Hardy shirts feature bold graphics and giant script branding.

Ed Hardy shirts feature bold graphics and giant script branding.

It’s too bad. Don Ed Hardy is an American tattoo artist icon. A protege of the great tattoo legend Sailor Jerry (also has a tattoo clothing line), Don Ed Hardy brought the Japanese style of tattoo art into western tattoo art. His art should transcend the bells and whistles that Christian Audigier has attached to his name. But unfortunately, the massive Audigier branding operation has probably engraved itself deeply, and beyond repair, into the collective conscience now. That’s probably why Don Ed Hardy has now filed suit for over 100 million dollars, in an effort to regain his identity.

Ed Hardy marketing expands to energy drinks, air fresheners, and perfumes.

Ed Hardy marketing expands to energy drinks, air fresheners, and perfumes.

It’s ironic, but in one fundamental sense, the Ed Hardy line by Audigier is not much different then the Sleeves Clothing brand in Hollywood. Not in appearance, but in what the product actually is. Sleeves Clothing aptly defines its tattoo clothing as “fake tattoo” or apparel with the “illusion of tattoos”. Started by Hollywood makeup artist Christien Tinsley, the Sleeves Clothing brand began as a costume design for a film; a shirt designed literally to give off the appearance of an actual tattoo. The shirt created waves after Brad Pitt was photographed wearing the shirt for a two-page spread in L’Uomo Vogue, so Tinsley used the exposure to expand the concept into a larger line of tattoo clothing, which now includes tattoo underwear for women. To Tinsley’s credit, Sleeve’s Clothing doesn’t pretend to be anything beyond it’s “illusion of tattoo” roots, although it certainly can be worn as a fashion statement.

On the couture end of the spectrum, John Galliano rolled out tattoo leggings on the runway for his Christian Dior collection in 2004. He used original work by tattoo artist Tin-Tin. This collaboration spilled over to other “high fashion” designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, and for a time the Paris runway spilled over with tattoo accents. Ultimately, though, even top fashion designers chose the path of “tattoo inspired” motifs, translating original artwork into designs of obscurity, where the art became a kind of modern day paisley, lacking the tattoo origins that shape hearts and minds of people receiving real, personalized tattoos.

Jean Paul Gaultier transformed tattoo art into modern day paisley.

Jean Paul Gaultier transformed tattoo art into modern day paisley.

In the background, a quiet giant is quickly rising; one that bridges the divide between the oversaturated pop-culture approach of Audigier’s Ed Hardy and the diluted art approach of the big fashion designers. YellowMan Tattoo Clothing by Peter Mui boasts the largest collection of original tattoo art from over 70 of the top tattoo artists around the world. Mui has been building his massive art collection for nearly two decades, and started building his tattoo clothing brand before Galliano, Gaultier and Ed Hardy, and others hit the scene with their tattoo clothing collections.

YellowMan's impressive archive of art from over 70 tattoo artists worldwide is strong and growing.

YellowMan's impressive archive of art from over 70 tattoo artists worldwide is strong and growing.

But if you are wondering why YellowMan isn’t a household name yet in the growing tattoo clothing arena, there is a reason: Peter Mui has chosen the distinct path of “art first, everything else follows”. Mui is not watering down the original art for the sake of fashion, and is not whacking everyone over the head with marketing schemes to promote name recognition. Mui has instead chosen the path of the tortoise, where the slow and steady promotion of individual, original art will likely win the race of longevity. YellowMan tattoo clothing is authentic, made with unadulterated tattoo art. It has all the hallmarks of fashion and function, but Peter Mui will tell you himself that he dislikes the word “fashion”, and views his line as “everyday clothing” for all people, to be worn however the individual wants to wear it.

The YellowMan brand is built on a sincere love for the art of tattoo, and the admiration for the artists and their respective cultures and traditions. YellowMan doesn’t just offer an extremely wide range of tattoo art and styles, but also garments. Limited edition shirts are featured in long sleeve styles, but there are also t-shirts, underwear, cycling shirts, and first-layer performance items made with proprietary MadKool technical fabrics that boast superior performance. For all of YellowMan’s positive traits, their clothing can be on the pricey side, but the price tag isn’t gratuitous. It goes towards the cost of commissioning the original art and careful manufacturing of high-quality garments.

YellowMan tattoo clothing is all about the authenticity of the art.

YellowMan tattoo clothing is all about the authenticity of the art.

There are other tattoo clothing capsules, like the recently announced limited edition Star Wars tattoo shirt collection that is in the works. This collection aims to produce limited edition shirts based on original art from a range of prominent tattoo artists. Shirts are to be packaged in collectible tins that feature the artwork.

Tattoo shops frequently sell small lines of their own tattoo shirts. Wild Rose Tattoo in Milwaukee, WI has taken their tattoo clothing line seriously, and have risen to modest prominence in the last year. They offer nylon shirts similar to those of Sleeves Clothing, as well as leggings and select cotton tees.

There are too many tattoo clothing brands/lines to list them all. One thing is for sure though, there is quite an appetite these days to wear tattoos. If you are in the market for tattoo clothing, hopefully this post offers some background to help you make a choice that best suits you.

Profile Magnet

April 13, 2009

Seen today on 42nd Street: a woman in a burqa, driving an empty bus in the direction of the UN. I can’t help but wonder how many times she was stopped on the way to her destination.

Sorry, no picture. I couldn’t get the photo in time.

iPhone Elbow

April 2, 2009

You know you have a serious iPhone addiction when you start developing “iPhone elbow”, a nagging twitch or cramp in the elbow due to holding the iPhone in the same position for extended periods of time. That’s only one of the symptoms I experience from repetitive iPhone use. I also experience “thigh buzz”, a random buzzing sensation on the thigh of my left front pocket area, where I usually store my iPhone when I’m not feeding my iPhone elbow condition. I keep my iPhone on “vibrate” to reduce bystander annoyance, and over time my upper left thigh has developed an overactive iPhone vibration alert, even when the phone isn’t in my pocket.

Of course, this is all insanely and embarrassingly ridiculous, but many people with iPhone’s probably can relate. I have a friend who is addicted to iPhone applications (like this guy). His goal is to fill up his iPhone with as many pages of apps as possible, even though I’m sure he’ll never use 99.9 percent of them.

When I “watch” tv, I usually play with my iPhone. It’s mostly senseless. How many times do I need to check my email or see if there is a new post on crooksandliars.com, anyway?

Not all iPhone addictions are bad. I’m a photography nut. I usually like to photograph with my digital SLR. When I got that it changed my life. I’ve been snapping away like a fiend ever since. But lately, I have been addicted to iPhone photos. I have been snapping away on my iPhone instead of my SLR. Truth be told, iPhone’s take surprisingly good pictures. I say “surprising” because you never really know quite what you are going to get, but the results are usually rewarding. Using the iPhone camera is kind of like a game or sport. It’s a good and different excercise in photography.

I remember one of my brother’s ridiculing me when I bought my iPhone, “so you gave into the hype, huh?”. But he was quite wrong. The iPhone goes far beyond the hype. It is one piece if technology that never ceases to amaze me, even with the side effects of iPhone elbow and thigh buzz.

Saving a Business with a One-page Design

February 20, 2009

I recently got thrown the daunting task of designing a single catalogue page to literally save a declining multi-million dollar company. What’s more, I had to redefine the company, and represent it in a way that is totally contrary to what it’s identity currently is. All of this with scant material to work with, and precious little time.

For now, I won’t mention the company here, nor show my solution, but I will say that this challenge was quite exciting for me as a designer. Essentially, if my one-page design generates business, I can take full credit for achieving the unachievable during an economic downturn.

My design has not yet been published, but it has already succeeded in one way; the company employees have a renewed sense of excitement, where they had otherwise been feeling impending doom. So, in one sense I have already done my job, by giving a company a new identity and sense of purpose.

Few non-designers understand the power of good design, and how it can completely change a company and it’s workers. Good design changes behavior on all sides. It is highly emotional, and provokes a response.

I feel lucky to have been given this challenge where the emotional rewards have huge potential.

I will follow up on this post as the results unfold.

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