Friday, December 16, 2011

Artistic Assistance Needed (or, It Takes a Village to Make an Artist.)

Hello everyone,

So, first of all, Happy Holidays! (I know, I know, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukah, Merry Kwanzaa, and Happy Yule, I refuse to not wish someone a positive occasion!) I have some interesting news to report. It seems that next year, I will have not one, but two art shows! That means I have until the end of 2012 to produce enough work to complete a show.

But I digress. My first show in 2012 is in March, and I have just the piece in mind, but now it seems I lack the finances for the project. I need a grand total of $130 for materials, and unfortunately I do not have this money. The piece in question is an installation piece focusing on the casualties of the War in Iraq (which has just ended) and to that end, I am putting together a piece utilizing 4,802 toy soldiers (one for each death in the War) to help put the human costs in perspective. This initial piece in March will then have an additional 104,080 figures added to it for the December art show (104,080 civilian casualties in the war)

What does this do for you? Simply put, I need your help. I have these grand visions for these projects, but some assistance in their completition. Every dollar will help. I can't offer much, as I am trying to further my career, but if you can offer $10 or so, I can offer a special print to show that you are a benefactor of the arts. Any assistance will be appreciated and treasured though, and you will have my eternal gratitude in this endeavor. Thank you very much for your help, and if you can, please do not hesitate to email me at Thank you.

Until next time,

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Angry Young Man?

It has occurred to me recently (more or less now) that I haven't updated much. I have been having a lot on my mind, and for some reason I have been meditating on a wide variety of deeply philosophical subjects, including the human need to belong to a group, the nature of art, and it's place in the world, and even greater subjects, such as the fundamental differences between men and women, and the need for creating a legacy of sorts.

I think a lot of these things are tied to the fact I just turned 24, and I am not quite settled in that fact yet. I think I know where I should be, but I am not there currently. Strangely though, I have found I have become much more meditative. I don't get angry as much as I used to, nor as quickly. This change has really surprised me. I used to be the stereotypical "angry young man," more or less rebounding through life, latching onto whatever cause fueled my rage at the time.

Something is different now. I am no longer as angry as I once was. I've even tried to get that angry, and it seems to have burned itself out. It isn't a matter of being less involved about politics, indeed, I am more so now than I was before, but it seems like the last reserve of my anger has dissipated.

I'm actually not complaining. I could get used to this feeling, about being much more at peace with things. I guess this is just a part of maturing.

Until next time,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh

(Photo by Larissa Dudkiewicz)

I suppose I might as well explain exactly what the Occupy movement means to me. The movement, at the moment, seems to lack a direction, but there are a few high points which drew me in, and those are the opposition to banks and big business, and the opposition to job creation. I decided to do my best, and I joined the moment, at the front of the march. I did so, and I hope that this movement has an effect. This type of action is where democracy truly begins, at the very roots of the people.

Personally, I do not have much hope the movement will actually change anything. Yes, the 99% does exist, but it is such an amalgum of special interest groups, I do not think they will be able to form a cohesive platform. I think this is largely more about issuing a wake-up call to politicians, to let them know th general populace is not pleased with the way things are being done, and will not hesitate to use that power on the next election day to bring into office the people we think will help us achieve the goals that we seek.

Until Next Time,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The King is Dead

As I write this, it has just been announced that Steve Jobs is now deceased. An innovator beyond his time, he was one of the geniuses that propelled the Information age to the point where it is now.

Without Steve Jobs, there would be no Apple, which means no Macs, no Ipod, no Iphone, and no Ipad. Tablet PCs and Smartphones might not exist (it is likely they would, but since competition fuels research, they would likely be way behind where they are now.

So, this is to you, Steve Jobs, as without your work, I truly doubt I would be doing what I do now. By propelling us along the technology path, you made it cool to be a geek. For that, as I am now more or less a professional geek, I have to thank you. You made it cool to know stuff and build things. So, Mr. Jobs, good luck on your next adventure.

Steve Jobs


Friday, September 30, 2011

A Glimpse of How I Work (Sketch Book Excerpts)

A brief glimpse of what my process looks like. A few pages from my notebooks, these are focusing a bit more on my efforts to capture the human form.

Secondary Sketches- Trying to capture the human form in a matter of seconds.

When I have grown bored with sketching.

And occasionally, no sketch book is handy, so I play with the material at hand.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mallorca Incident

Where to begin, oh where to begin. My dear loyal readers, the few of you that are there (Hi Mom!), I have some interesting news to report. I have an enormous respect for food, as well as the people that cook it. I believe my waistline can attest to this. An enormous amount of preparation and skill go into preparing a good meal. That is why I know the following will shock you to the core: I have a negative review of a restaurant. So now, with my poison pen dripping with bile, allow me to tell you the story of the ill-fated voyage to Mallorca.

Having decided to go somewhere more upscale for my girlfriend's birthday, she decided upon Mallorca, a Continental Spanish restaurant in the South Side of Pittsburgh. From the moment you walk in the door, it is apparent that the restaurant is popular, and that they have no problem at all capitalizing on this by trying to jam as many tables as possible into each room. The net result of this, shall we gently refer to it as "close-knit," arrangement of tables is an ambient noise just slightly louder than a commercial airliner taking off, as a sudden feeling of companionship with your fellow humans as you find yourself practically sitting on a stranger's lap. (Side note: This is particularly intriguing in a situation where something is served en fuego. My companion had to check himself to ensure that he wasn't singed after the next table was served.)

But I digress slightly. Our little dining party that evening consisted of myself, my girlfriend: Alzea, her friend, Anastasia, and Anastatia's boyfriend: D' arth Vadaar. (Yes, those are not their real names, and yes, I let them choose their pseudonyms.) Now, at this point in time, we were the youngest party in the restaurant by what appeared to be a good fifteen years. Part of me feels that this had a lot to do with what transpired that evening.

After ordering a pitcher of sangria and an appetizer of calamari, which I must say is among the best I have had (So there, I can be fair when I want to!), we ordered the main course, my three dining companions all ordered the paella, while I ordered the lobster ravioli. The ravioli were good, not much to write home about, but acceptable. The flavors were all a bit muddled, and I found the presentation rather lacking. The debacle of the evening began when Alzea asked me to sample the paella, as something did not seem quite right. The mussels were good, as was the rice, but the issue came down to two types of seafood; the clams, and the lobster.

To begin with, I have had fresh clams before, practically as soon as they were dug up. As a result of their habitat, some grit (a fancy culinary term for sand) is to be expected. These clams, however, has a veritable playground of sand in each shell, leaving the meat so gritty it was practically inedible.

The lobster, however was worse. A good lobster tail is light, soft, and utterly delicious, with a crisp sea flavor. Lobster is one of those amazing foods that just make you feel good (unless you are allergic to shellfish, and then you can feel rather, well, dead. But you all know what I am talking about. It is a luxury food.) This lobster, however, would have been better served as an inedible garnish. Having been rather disappointed in these dishes, the manager then entered the scene.

In most good restaurants, it is considered good practice for the manager to make the rounds of the tables, inquiring after the meal. In this situation, the manager serves as the representative of the chef, and to a greater extent, of the restaurant itself. This night was the first time in my life where I actually spoke up rather than merely nodding in assent. The rather smarmy manager listened as I politely pointed out what was wrong, and then condescendingly asked, "Forgive me, but have you ever had paella before, and what did you expect?" I truly do not believe he would have taken such a superior tone if we had been older.

Now, I am not saying that I know everything about food, but I have a passion for knowing about it, and my three companions that night were all international travellers, so we have all had paella before. I still remained respectful, despite his tone, and politely declined his offer to have something else prepared, as that seafood had quite spoiled our appetites.

He was, however, a rather confrontational fellow, and that I believe that this where what I will henceforth refer to as the Incident began. Instead of merely noting our request and moving on, the manager became so energetic in his manner that he began to create a scene, and was impressing so much upon my girlfriend that he began to upset the entire table, and especially her. I finally put a stop to the matter, by firmly stating, " She. Said. She would not. Like. Anything Else." in a rather aggrieved tone, as dealing with him was becoming truly maddening.

Upon hearing my now confrontational tone, he began to back away. I was then confronted about a minute or two later by the owner of the restaurant, who insisted that the lobster could not be dry because "that is how we have done it for 20 years." (I still maintain to that statement, just because something is done the same way over and over again, it doesn't necessarily make it the right way, but I digress.)

At this point, I surmised that Mallorca is not used to being criticized, judging from the scene they
were making over one flawed dish. They could have merely taken it away at any time, and the problem would have been solved. Instead, the restaurant escalated into a scene.

By this time, I had lost most of my charitable feelings towards the restaurant, and I maintained to the owner that the dish was overdone. Granted, my temper got the better of me at that moment, and I referred to the lobster as being "massacred," but I at least censored myself from telling him the finished product had the texture of a hard rubber ball.

Before this goes on further, I think I need to explain what the sticking point for me is. We were asked how the food was, and we responded with how we felt it was, only to be told that we were wrong, not once, but three times, by two managers and the owner. To ask someone a question, and then respond that they are incorrect, especially in matters of opinion, is just simply being rude. We did not complain to get anything, as we made it clear several times that all we wanted was the situation to be over, and instead of that, we were then made the subject of a giant scene caused by the restaurant trying to prove us wrong. (In a room with wall-to-wall tables, to be visited by almost every member of the staff qualifies as an impressive scene.) When I go out to dine, I don't like to be made a fool of, and I especially don't like it when the restaurant tries to shame me because they do not like an honest opinion of their dish. That is nothing but an abuse of power.

To be fair, they did offer us desert and after dinner drinks, which we did accept, as an apology. And the creme brulee is quite excellent, as were the drinks from the bar. This gesture, however, was suddenly hit be a sour note, as when we were presented with desert, one of my companions overheard the original manager making the remark "It doesn't matter what they want, they won't like it anyway."

My final assessment of the place. I look at things practically. I can go elsewhere, and be insulted for much less money. Our dinner party was on our very best behavior (indeed, better than several of the older parties at surrounding tables,) and we were treated poorly because we are young. Just because we are young does not immediately mean that we do not have likes or dislikes, or opinions on what we eat and drink. It just rude to be asked an opinion, and be told you are wrong for it. It then only makes things worse when a restaurant tries to bully you into it's viewpoint, no matter how right or wrong they are. If I am going to be bullied and insulted, I intend to at least enjoy myself in the process, and there is no way that can happen here. In short, my final thought: Go to Mallorca, if you really want, the drinks and desert are quite good, but I can virtually guarantee you will not find me there ever again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Small Soldiers

One of my hobbies is model building, and studying history, especially military history. I scratch built and kit bashed this micro-diorama a few years ago. It depicts a basic ship's gun on a tall ship, circa the War of 1812. Scratch building is always an interesting challenge, as it combines modeling, sculpture, and historical research to create a representational model. Kit bashing, on the other hand, it taking apart what is a commercially created model in order to use the parts to create something different. It takes patience, but I actually find it rather relaxing. It offers a respite from having to worry about being commercial, or even trying to be extremely deep.

When I create sculpture, I am constantly thinking about form, materials, how it all goes together, and how I want it to represent my concepts and ideas, and how they are communicated. When I model, it is essentially brain candy. I know historians will disagree with me, but history is history, and fact is fact. Maneuvers may be debated, motivations questioned, and decisions and their reasoning may be pondered over, but those are all human concerns. The nice thing about materials research, is that when a soldier's uniform is blue, that is just that. It is difficult to argue a point when the object you are studying is at hand. When I create models, I try to recreate a representation of the past, and the thinking is more about materials and the final aesthetics. What I am trying to represent is just that, I am making a recreation of an existing object. There is not necessarily a deeper meaning.

Until next time,


Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Actual Work

Continuing with the basic idea that this blog is also my portfolio, I figured that now would be a good a time as any to actually show some of my artwork. I actually enjoy creating smaller pieces, as I think it allows for a greater dissemination of art, after all, not many people have the space for a monumental sculpture. I also like the idea of the works themselves being contained, forcing the viewer to break through and examine the piece for what it actually means, as opposed to merely having a concept thrust upon them.

"The Danger of Innocence" 2010, Mixed Media Assemblage

"Paris is Burning" 2010, Mixed Media Assemblage

Until next time,


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Map

Ever since I have been a child, I have been fascinated by maps. For me, they have always spoken of travel, adventure, and a sort of hidden knowledge, only accessible to those who know how to read the language. A single piece of paper can tell you almost anything you need to know, as long as you already know the code. It is a textbook example of a self-authorizing language, if you can read it, then you have passed into that level of secrets.

As I write this, I have maps from other journeys on my shelves, timetables and maps to my girlfriend's house in my travel bag, and maps in the books I am reading. I use these maps to guide my life for the most part. Unlike people, which can be subjective, and accurate map never lies. As long as it is read correctly, you can always tell exactly where you stand. It also lets you know where you have been, and how much further you need to achieve your goals. When life is uncertain, as it always is, and the ground is shifting underneath you, sometimes you just have to move, and that is when you need to know the direction to go in order to make progress. Otherwise, you can find yourself wandering in circles forever, and never realizing it.

I spent the better part of this year more or less wandering. I travelled, and still plan on going further, but I never had a plan or a direction. I just went. I was moving through my life, but I wasn't actually happy with anything, be it what I was doing, where I was going, how fast I was getting there, or the fact that I wasn't really reaching a goal that I honestly did not have. I had the maps right in front of me, but I needed to grow as a person in order to have the knowledge to read them. That was the time period where I never thought I would be happy for any long term amount of time, and that caused me to realize that long term happiness doesn't really exist, but you need to seize joy in the moments. To some extent, I still feel this way, but I have a lot more of those moments than I used to.

You strictly speaking don't need a map to find direction. Mother Nature provides for those who listen, with the Sun during the day and the stars at night. I am not a man who believes in many spiritual things, but I have seen, heard and felt enough things on my own that I know there is something out there that can't be quantified. Something that, guiding is the wrong word, but lets me safely through, with much less hurt than I have any right to have. My friends have told me that my general approach to life is that I go merrily skipping through the minefield, and then act surprised when something blows up in my face. By all rights, I have made enough stupid decisions that I should have lost a lot more than I should have. I suppose luck is a relative thing. Some people ask for luck to win a million dollars. I would much rather have what I have, something, maybe luck, maybe something else, keeping an eye out for me.

I came to another realization as I was reading. I was questioning the writing style of the book I was going through (G.R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords) and indeed of the entire fantasy novel genre as a whole as being extremely unrealistic, and rather contrived. I mean this not for the actual magical elements of the story, but more for the way in which everything has a tendency to fall into place just as it is needed. It was not two seconds after that thought passed that I realized that it was a complete fallacy, and that my own life more or less proved it. When I need counsel, it has appeared, when I need money, jobs have appeared from nowhere. I know that I am extremely lucky. I have friends, family, and the way things have a tendency to land around me. It might not move me further on my career, but it would be foolish of me not to listen when the anvil falls on the path I was debating to take, instead of on me. These life changing events seem to occur just when they need to happen, but not before. It almost feels contrived on occasion. It is also simultaneously a very comforting and a very humbling thought to realize that someone or something is keeping an eye on you.

At this point, I can fairly well assume that you are questioning what this remotely has to do with maps and charts. In order to read a map, you actually need something other than the knowledge of the chart and the map itself. If you do not know the direction to orient it, the map is just another worthless piece of paper. For most of this year, I had the maps right in front of me, but I had no way of knowing which way to place them. Every time I looked up, whether it was day or night, it seemed like the sky was clouded. I could not use the sun or stars, my usual way of navigating, to tell the way. I finally reached the point about seven weeks ago that I looked up, and the the stars were perfectly clear.

After wandering for a while, I now have some sort of direction. The maps and the knowledge were there, but I just needed that one additional key. Now that I have that key, I can begin moving forward. Do I know where I am going? Not in the least, but I know where I have been, and I know where I am. Now is the time to move forward.

Until Next time,


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Defense of The Kilt

Recently, I have heard a comment regarding my wardrobe lately that has rather rankled me. It seems that my manliness has been called into question based off of my decision to wear a kilt, or as it was disparagingly referred to as a "man-skirt." I have therefore decided to pen a defense of a garment that needs no defense in my opinion, and clothed in the garment of discussion, I sat down to write on what I consider one of the manliest pieces of clothing in existence.

The reason this garment is considered a paragon of toughness is predominately due to the long history and the traditional purpose of the kilt. The original design of the kilt was that it was intended from the very beginning as a travelling garment. As Highlanders were a tribal people, the garment was designed to be worn on the move. Therefore, the Kilt served several purposes, as a garment, as a shelter, and as an identifying badge.

The garment aspect of the kilt should be rather self explanatory. It serves incredibly well as a lower body garment. From first hand experience, I have worn my kilt on both the hottest and coldest days of the year, and it was comfortable on both days, as it is cool in summer, and warm in winter.

The shelter aspect of the garment deals predominately with the construction of a full kilt. Originally, a kilt was little more than a belted piece of wool, approximately a yard and a half by four yards. The idea behind this was that as a tribal people, you would have to carry everything with you as you moved place to place. As a result of this, the more you would carry, the less territory you would be able to cover. The kilt helped to provide an answer to this, as after a long day marching or travelling, the individual could just remove his kilt, shake out the pleats, wrap himself in the garment and go to sleep. This saved him the need of carrying his own bedding, and as any backpacker (or someone who had to carry a suitcase from the East Village to the Upper West Side) can tell you, every pound counts when you have to journey long distances.

The badge aspect, however, might be one of the most important aspects of the kilt. In a tribal society, being able to identify your own people can literally make the difference between life and death. This is where the very material of the kilt came into play. The kilt is not made with any ordinary wool, but a specially pattered one called the Tartan. Each individual clan had their own pattern, and that would be the only pattern they would wear. The traveller of clansman with a well trained eye would therefore be able to tell instantly if another man was a friend or foe.

These are all manly aspects of the garment, but what truly adds to the masculinity is the people who designed it. The standard equipment of a Highlander says much about the warlike aspects of the people. In the heyday of the kilt (16Th-18Th centuries) a knife or dagger would be something no man would leave the house without. Indeed, most men still carry a pocket knife as part of their daily gear. What separates the Highlander from other men is the choice of knives. While most daggers from the time period were approximately 5 to 7 inches long, the typical Highlander would be carrying his dirk, with a length of 9 to 14 inches. Two inches in a blade during combat can make the difference between a wounded enemy and a dead one. In battle, the dead enemy is preferable as he cannot stab you back.

In addition to the dirk, the well dressed Highlander would also be carrying a sgian dubh, or "black knife," tucked into his right sock. This was a small knife, about 3 to 4 inches in length, but its placement allowed it to be easily reached at all times, including if things became rather heated at the dinner table. In addition to those weapons as part of their daily gear, it was known that some Highlanders would also strap one more additional blade to their thigh, underneath the kilt.

The British were so afraid of the Highlanders that following the end of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1746, the kilt was outlawed along with the bagpipes as weapons of war, alongside swords, shields, and muskets. The kilt is therefore the garment of choice for some of the toughest men in history.

Finally, I know from my own experience the feeling you have when you wear the kilt. When you are kilted, you have a connection to the past, and in most cases, your family history. And it gives you a sense of power, as in modern society, when men get manicures and trade tips on exfoliating, the kilt in a giant "FUCK YOU" thrown directly in the face of conformity. It serves as a badge once again, except this time in reverse, as a proclamation in your rights as an individual, declaring that you aren't going to go quietly with the rest of the herd. What could be more masculine than that?

Until next time,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In search of Americana (Pt.1)

It's been an interesting few weeks. I recently went on a short road trip, for my own personal reasons, which I will not discuss here. It's rather interesting that the more I take these trips, the longer it seems to process what the journeys actually mean. In this case, I was disturbed to find out just how far commercialism is an essential part of the American dream.

Heading west, I went through the Eastern part of the Midwest, also known as the back roads of Ohio. The interesting thing about the back roads is the sense of navigation that occurs. It takes forever to actually get anywhere. Basically, you travel a good five or six hours at a steady clip, only to find my to your surprise and a little bit of your chagrin, you find you have travelled about 600 miles less than you were expecting. As a result, at the end of Day 1, I found myself in the Middle of Nowhere, Ohio.

Now, the thing about this, I was much surprised to find how...utterly commercial the Amish country has become. It surprised me greatly how much that upset me, and it took me a while to figure out why.

Commercialism is more or less destroying the regionalism of America. This is even more unfortunate considering how the "melting pot" culture which founded the country, is now becoming homogenized through the Interstate, and through rampant commercialism.

When you travel through the open country at 80 miles an hour, everything kind of looks the same. Regionalism is slowly dying, and there isn't much that can be done. We just need to savor what little flavor is left.

From Mansfield, Ohio, I next journeyed to Louisville, Kentucky. After having been shocked at the commercial Amish, I then decided to embrace the idea of the search for American symbols, and what could be more American that Mom, Apple Pie, and of course, Baseball.

Louisville is of course home of the Louisville Slugger, the baseball bat of the MLB. Standing outside, with the world's largest baseball bat, I then plotted a journey that would lead to the heart of several American Icons, including, aside from the Slugger, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Jack Daniels, and the Civil War. This sojourn would take me through a large chunk of the South.

Moving South through Kentucky, we hooked into the Bourbon Trail, which led right to front doors of the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark distilleries, manufacturers of fine Bourbons.

And I must say, the tours, while interesting, kind of pale in comparison to the highlights, the tastings. After trying several (read as too many) bourbons, I think my favorite has to be Maker's Mark 46, and extra smoky bourbon made by adding extra burned barrel staves to the aging barrels. I recommend it straight, on the rocks. Of course, that was only half the journey.

Until next time,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doc Huntley's Medicine Show

King of Diamonds: The Pitch

King of Clubs:The Escape

King of Spades: The Danger

King of Hearts: The Magic
Photography by Matt Blakeburn.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May You Find What You Seek.

So, having told that story, I can move forward to the latest to tell the real story. My friends and a few others close to me know that my life has been rather...turbulent lately. (When the nickname you receive from a group of strangers is Rouge Wave, perhaps turbulent is an understatement.) Anyway, the two journeys have been, in the grand (or foolish) romantic tradition, over a woman.

Originally, she was supposed to be leaving for Philadelphia, which was one of the main reasons that I signed on to do The Elephant Man, enabling me to visit. Well, that didn't happen, and in my infinite wisdom, (sarcastically so) I fell for her hard. She loves someone else though, and she wants to be friends. That was and to some extent is still really hard for me, and I wasn't sure if it was going to be even possible for me to handle. So, more or less on a whim, I headed to New York to do a job, and seek some perspective.

I found what I was looking for in the middle of a park, about 174th street. As I was sitting there, trying to figure things out, a little old woman, about half of my size sat down next to me. Wanting to be friendly, as I truly don't know many people in the city, I said hello, and we began talking.

She asked me why I was there, and I suppose she could sense my hesitation, as she told me in her heavily accented English.

"Don't worry. It's almost anonymous here, I just met you, you just met me, we can talk about anything, and then we both go our separate ways. Tell me what is bothering you, and I can tell you what I would do," she added with a twinkle in her eye. "I have a lot of life experience."

Not having a thing to lose, I told her exactly why, that I was looking to get a sense of perspective from being away from the woman I was in love with. I told her that she loved someone else, and I was being left out in the cold.

She listen to me thoughtfully, and after a long pause said "I see. Were you married to her?"

"No." I replied.

"Did you have children with her?"

"No..." I responded again, slightly puzzled.

"Lived with her?"

"I never had the chance" I rejoined, thoroughly confused.

She then floored me with her response. "Then move on. You are a young man, your wings aren't broken. If you were smaller I would put you over my knee right now. This is nothing, it is a bee sting. You have your whole life ahead of you. Yes, you love her. But move on."

After that, we sat in thoughtful silence, and shared an apple. She then shared her story, which was fascinating in it's own right. Growing up under Communism behind the Iron Curtain, traveling broke through Italy, and having her name changed at Ellis Island, the woman has seen most of the twentieth century. Then she added something which added a lot of perspective for me.

"I'm at the end of my journey now. When elephants go to die, they go to the elephant graveyard where all of the other elephants died, to die among the bones of their ancestors. I have to make that choice now. Do I want to go back to Croatia, and die there, where I grew up or do I want to stay here, and found a new graveyard for my ancestors?"

At this point, my phone, which had been mercifully silent the entire time, suddenly rang, startling us both. I was being summoned to deal with yet another problem on set. She saw the concern on my face as I took the call. I hung up, and before I could say anything, she affectionately dismissed me to go work:

"You are at the beginning of your journey. Be careful, and know that now I will be missing you. Good luck on the next part of the trip, and remember to move on."

With that, I thanked her, and left, with simultaneously a lot on my mind, and without a lot of weight, as I realized that I had somehow miraculously managed to find what I had sought, and that the perspective I was looking for came from the last place that I was looking. I guess when answers are needed, you just need to ask.

Until next time,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Medias Res

So, here it is. I currently find myself inside of a large metal box, hurtling through time and space towards an unknown future. That is a ridiculously overly poetic way of saying that I'm currently on a bus on the way home back to Pittsburgh after a somewhat less than successful journey from New York City.

Now, I know several people are inquiring at this point as to when I even left. The answer to that, and to why, is rather complicated, so I'm going to go in media res for a moment, and flash back to an earlier journey that wasn't discussed, travelling to Philadelphia while on The Elephant Man. The reasoning, or at least my thought process, between the two journeys is connected, hence the need to go back to the beginning.

After finishing up a rather successful set of previews for the show, we hurriedly packed up and left for Philadelphia. Arriving rather late, we all turned in at the hostel, and prepared to really get into the work the next day.

Dinner that night was absolutely delightful, as we had decided to pool resources and try to cook, as opposed to spending a significant amount of the budget attempting to dine out. Seeing what was around, we decided to go for Italian that night (I know, it's me cooking, therefore Italian cuisine is likely.) After writing a quick list of ingredients, we set out shopping only to discover that a frost had made eggplant rather scarce. Now, Eggplant Parmesan is rather difficult to make without eggplant, but there were some very good looking baby zucchini in the case. Desperation is the mother of invention, and we decided to go that direction instead.

The cooking process is incredibly simple, a quick saute of the split zucchini, a fast boil of the pasta, and a quick doctoring of the sauce (a little wine goes a long way), we had a delightful meal in very good company.

Following dinner, we were joined by another cast member, who brought along two friends, Ian and Tim. We relaxed the evening away, plenty of good wine and conversation, the two fueling each other, and finally called it a night in the wee hours of the morning.

The next day was rather rough, as the day before a show is liable to be. It was even more stressful, as performing in a museum puts even more restrictions. Tempers (especially my own) were beginning to flare a bit when mercifully, break came around and we found ourselves with several hours free.

After being in the same room with the same people for close to 72 hours, I decided to head off on my own and check out the Franklin Institute. Walking across the park to it, however, I was surprised to hear my voice being called. I turned around as was surprised to see Tim and Ian standing there. After inquiring if I had plans, of which I really didn't, we decided to go on a walk to seek out Tony DiNic's, in the Reading Terminal market.

Now, Reading Terminal is kind of a foodie Valhalla. It's almost impossible not to find something delicious, but we were on a mission to seek out the sandwich as it was seen on Man Vs. Food. And find it we did.

This delicious monstrosity of a sandwich contains almost a pound of pulled pork, but it is the way in which it is made makes it something else, possibly in the category of manna. It's by far one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. The meat is prepared by braising overnight in it's own juices, then it it pulled, placed back into the juice, and then braised again overnight. This produces some of the juiciest pork I've ever tasted. Now, this is an even more impressive feat, considering that pork is one of the easiest meats in the world to dry out.

The other ingredients of the sandwich also help complete the flavor profile to be something sublime. First, a layer of provolone adds a sharpness as well as structural integrity (something very important in sandwich engineering) when it melts, juice proofing the bun. The greens are truly what put the sandwich up over the top though. A topping of broccoli rabe adds spiciness and a garlic undertone, which make up the symphony of flavor that is that sandwich. In case you can't tell, my mouth is practically watering at just remembering and writing this description. If you are in Philadelphia, skip the cheesesteak and go for this instead.

After stuffing ourselves on pork, we decided to go touristy and check out the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Elphreth's Alley, one of the oldest continuously inhabited blocks in the United States. We had a fascinating discussion on history, as Tim and Ian, both English natives, were curious why Americans celebrated something that was only a little over two hundred and fifty years old, I then explained that it was because in a country only about that old, we have to find our "founding myths" where we can. I also pointed out they had encapsulated the European idea of America in one fell swoop that day, giant sandwiches and the Liberty Bell, or in a metaphorical sense, conspicuous consumption and blind patriotism.

We then adjourned our little adventure to watch and perform in the play, and following another night of carousing, settled in our beds, ready to move on to the next journey.

Until next time,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Visceral and Disturbing, In All the Good Ways

Working in theatre, I'm unfortunately cursed with a double edged sword. The problem with working on shows, is that you very rarely get chance to attend them. That's why I was extremely pleased to get a chance to attend Bricolage's Pittsburgh premiere of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Hunter Gatherers.
Let's start right at the top, this is a show that touches on humanity's greatest hits; animal sacrifice, brutality, sex, violence, and lust. And I will never be able to look at a stuffed mushroom quite the same way again. And if you let that deter you, I'll be brutally honest, you're an idiot. It has been a long time since a show has affected me on such a visceral level. It's unsettling on all the right levels, and is really a perfect date play, as most will find it very stimulating, ready to generate further interaction.
I know I can't really offer much in the way of plot, and that isn't because I'm anti-spoiler, it's due to the fact that so much takes place, it's difficult to offer a synopsis. (And I can practically guarantee that you'll never guess the twists.)
With so much going on, it's hard to determine a star of the production. Is it Steve Tolin's jaw dropping special effects, Jeffrey Carpenter's razor sharp direction, or the perfectly nuanced performances of Michael Fuller, Tressa Glover, Amy Landis, and Johnathan Viser? I honestly couldn't tell you. The perfection of the recipe is in it's ingredients, which come together to make perfect whole. And this production is a perfect example of this theory.
Now, for the little special desert of this review. I have a pair of tickets to give away to see this show. Leave a comment, and I'll enter you in a drawing to win. Oh, and the website, by the way,
Until Next time, Andrew

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life and Risk

It's not like I haven't wanted to write lately, on the contrary, I've been wanting to. It's just that my mind has been on the move so much in the past week, I haven't had the mental capacity to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were.) But now things have calmed slightly (ever so slightly) and as a result I am more than comfortable to spend this Friday night relaxing at home with a good movie (Muppet Treasure Island, I said I'm an adult, I never said I was all the time.)

A good place to begin would be last Saturday, after waking up early to make sure I made it to the audition in Shadyside, I headed out for the day. After a decent audition (I didn't get cast, by the way, but I honestly wasn't expecting it) I realized it was a beautiful day, and wandered down to Oakland. Following a quick stop at an antique book store (books being right alongside food and women among my weaknesses), I went to a delicious lunch. The review of the restaurant will be posted later. After lunch, I then headed to Schenley Plaza, and after a quick nap on the green, fell into a combination philosophical debate/ musical jam session with a group from Ohio State. A beautiful day always brings out the adventurous side in people. In the late afternoon, a brief but thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal was then followed by an absolutely delightful cast gathering. For a cast of 6 (7 with the director), 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey led to a really fun, yet sociable night overall.

The next day being Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, I was really excited to participate. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. For those of you who don't know what happens at Holi, among the music and dancing, there is much throwing of colored powder and spraying of colored water. It's simple, joyous fun. After being completely covered in dye by the end of the day, and eating my fill of delicious Indian food, I ended up finishing the day by hanging out with my friends from Slackline Pittsburgh, and Food Not Bombs.

It was fortunate that the weekend was so great, as this week was full of important decisions that needed to be made, both personal and profession. (Invariably, it always seem as if the two are intertwined.) I hate to be extremely vague, but in this case I need to be until I can see where things start to land.

Until next time,


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Western Travels

Today is a cold, dreary, incredibly rainy day, and honestly, I have yet to get out of my lounge pants and wander outside for my commute (which I need to do in about an hour and a half.) Until then, which I intend to postpone until the last second, I'm kind of puttering around the house, and being hungry (as I usually am) I found myself in the kitchen, looking through the pantry.

Days like this, I often remember former travels. Today's memory was spending a week out in Montana last year on the Marlboro Ranch with my father. Aside from having a great time, the weather was magnificent (unlike Pittsburgh at the moment.) But I digress.

Having settled down to obtain a light afternoon snack, I was surprised in a very pleasant way to find a crock of Hunter's Reserve spread (Elk and Roasted Garlic Cheddar) and a few of the summer sausage sticks remaining from Lancaster. All in all, they pair up pretty well together. While the spread isn't as elk-like as I would have liked, it paired well to add some extra meatiness to the summer sausage. Not bad for a snack.

The only other thing of note is going to be the celebration of Holi on the 20th. this Sunday. I'm looking forward to celebrating with a few friends over on Flagstaff Hill, over in Oakland. It's going to be fun.

Until next time,


Monday, March 14, 2011

Culinary Frat Boy

Well, Monday, and the end of the long weekend has come around. Saturday was when Pittsburgh celebrates its version of St. Patrick's Day. More or less, due to the historically large Irish population of Pittsburgh, St. Patrick's Day has more or less evolved into the Pittsburgh version of Mardi Gras, a time when the alcohol flows freely, inhibitions are lowered, and for a single day, everyone is Irish, whether they really are or not.
The day began quite early in the morning, waking up at 7 am (an obscene hour) and heading over to my friend's house for Kegs and Eggs. (A bastardized version of the Irish breakfast)The day then stretched on through most of the city, and until the wee hours of the morning. Before you ask, yes, there are pictures. And no, if I have my way, they will never see the light of day. (Intoxicated women+Man in Kilt= You can guess what happened.) Anyway, let's just say that the word "crazy" doesn't quite begin to cover it.
The only remotely "culinary" thing of note would be the annual re-appearance of green beer. Now, this isn't actually notable, but it's tradition, so we knocked back a few. Personally, I don't really get it. As you can tell, I'm a bit of an ingredient snob, so the fact that the beer of choice was Miller Lite, I was disappointed. Lite beer is evil, if you're going to drink beer, endure the few extra calories, and enjoy the experience, rather than deaden your palate. The other thing is the amount of green coloring in the beer. If you insist on drinking it, it should have an emerald hue, and you really, really should not drink a beer that has so much coloration you can taste it.

Sunday, after waking up feeling surprisingly good, I had a full day at the theater. Unfortunately in that case, that means delicious (not really), fattening (most certainly) fast food. I refuse to discuss the fine points of fast food, if only for the simple fact that THERE ARE NONE.

Finally, today. Honestly, today was a day where after spacing out all day long, I realized that I had managed to completely forget about actually eating. So, I headed to the kitchen to see what I could whip up. Granted, I also found not much in the way of raw materials, but I did find eggs, nacho cheese, and a spiral sliced ham. This, by the way, is where I realized that I am not an Iron Chef. I don't do well with secret ingredients. After making a basic scramble of eggs, adding the ham and cheese. I was disappointed. Technique wise, they were good. Nice, fluffy, not to wet or dry, and plenty of fillings and seasoning. There was just something about them, and I still can't place my finger on it, that I was really disappointed with.

After a weekend of bad food, I decided I might as well throw in the towel and try again tomorrow. So, with fast feet and an empty stomach, I headed to Little Caesars Pizza down the street to pick up a five dollar pizza. The thing about Little Caesars is that it isn't that good. But, it's pizza. At the end of the day, at least it fills you up.

So, I guess my lesson from this weekend is that I should have listened to Miguel de Cervantes, when he wrote "La mejor salsa del mundo es la hambre."
Until the next time,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New York City, Round 2

My apologies for not writing from the "field" as it were, but I've only recently recovered from the day trip to New York. I ended up there for the day to audition, and as usual, the randomness of the day did not disappoint.

To start off with, a night bus is always an...interesting place to meet some new people. Usually, it's my preferred method of travel, but due to the lateness of the hour, I usually prefer to pop a sleeping pill or two, pass out, and wake up in my destination, fully rested. Unfortunately, or in this case, fortunately, the fates conspired a bit by having the bus packed to the gills, my own forgetfulness forgeting my medication, so I was wide awake.

I ended up next to Nicole, a 22 year old transgender female, up to NYC for a little vacation after ending her two and a half year old long distance relationship. It's funny how the lateness of the hour and close physical confines inspires a breaking down of borders between strangers. I also met Ashley this trip, an actor also heading up to audition for a show.

Open 24 Hours

After arriving early (ridiculously early, I think) we decided to grab breakfast together at the Tick Tock Dinner, a great little place on 34th and 8th. The big thing to remember about working, and eating as an actor is that each person has their own unique pre-audition rituals. Generally, most actors avoid dairy, and of course, since appearance is so important, we watch our weight. Aside from that, everyone is different. Since she is predominately a dancer, Ashley went with a basic fruit and eggs, while since I do mostly physical fight work and Shakespeare, I prefer to load up on protein. That's why I was thrilled when I saw the Protein Breakfast available, I had to get it. After ordering, an entire chicken breast, and a delicious egg white omelet with tomatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms. Fortunately, I was able to polish it off all the way (after splitting it three ways.) The vegetables were perfectly done, the asparagus with a fresh crisp taste, and the mushrooms, to die for. I found my new traditional NYC breakfast.

A lot of breakfast

With that lump in my stomach, I headed off to my audition. It went well, and I made the callbacks. Suddenly having several hours to myself in the middle of Manhattan, I decided to be an accidental tourist and actually go see the Empire State Building. It's a cool building (I'm a sucker for Art Deco architecture) but, it's a tourist destination, so I wasn't exactly enthralled.

Hopefully, the closest I'll come to being a tourist

Much more interesting to me was the pizza. New York is known all over as a pizza pilgrimage destination (although Chicago might have something to say about that) so I had to see what it was all about. I landed at NY Pizza Supreme, and I now know what people are talking about with pizza. It's probably the best I've ever had. Based off their recommendation, I went for something different, the Upside Down Pie. It's exactly what it says it is, the pizza built upside down, with the cheese on the bottom and the sauce on top. The advantage is that the cheese insulates the crust from the sauce, so it's crispy and chewy all at the same time.

The Upside-Down

It was so delicious, I had to go for one more slice. A true measurement of a pizza place is how they handle a Margherita. It's simplicity, with just mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce, has been the downfall of more than one pizza joint. This is not the case, however, and NYPS proves that it's all about the ingredients. The perfectly crispy crust (try saying that three times fast) is complemented by the house-made mozzarella, (you can't get fresher than just made) and the basil was like a kick to the face with a basil foot, but in a really good way.

As fresh as it gets.

After the audition, a few of us (Steve and Ally) decided to celebrate and grab a beer at the Smiling Moose। Granted, I ended up with cider (which is manly in its own way) and some poutine (Ally's Canadian, so that's why we had to get an order.) As usual, and after the hilarity of Steve and myself trying to teach Ally to play pool (neither of us are very good to begin with, so a perfect example of the blind leading the blind.) We parted our separate ways, hopefully to meet again (if we get cast) and went back to our separate lives. That's one of the reasons I love to travel, even when you're in a strange city, you're never actually alone.

Until next time,


Tuesday, March 1, 2011


There is something very intriguing about pairing food and churches. Something about the two just seems to go together. Perhaps it's the reversal of the aphorism "Man shall not live on bread alone" to "Man shall not live on faith alone." Then again, it might be because there is something rather satisfying in feeding someone spiritually and physically at the same time. Regardless, I have learned over the course of my travels to detour towards various religious houses when in search of food, as one is very rarely disappointed.

Hot Dog salvation may be found through this door.

So, with an open mind and an empty stomach, I made my way through Downtown Pittsburgh to Franktuary, a small gourmet hot dog shop in the back of the Trinity Cathedral. Now, for the confession, I've known about the place for years, and indeed, I've eaten there maybe twice before. That was also a long time before I actually started caring about what I eat, so I decided to give it another try.

First of all, the staff at Franktuary are some of the nicest people you will meet in a restaurant staff. Even when I was daunted at the menu, in the middle of lunch hour (always a precarious position to be in) the staff took the time to make the recommendations (which naturally I followed) and were warm and friendly the whole time.

Now for the food itself, I ended up with a basic, (somewhat) well balanced meal of the hot dog, with a side, and a drink. A little on the pricey side, but the food is good enough to deserve it, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.

A well-balanced (?) meal.

First of all, for the dog itself, I ordered the locavore Texan hot dog. Up until this point, I was completely unfamiliar with Locavore culture. The idea of eating predominately locally made food appeals to me greatly, as I believe one should always eat like a local. The hot dog itself is locally made, organic (which means no nitrates) and made with grass fed beef. Arguably, this is the best hot dog I've ever had. It gains massive points for both flavor and texture. Go to Franktuary and get one immediately, you will not be disappointed.

What makes a hot dog special however, are the toppings. In the case of the Texan, it comes topped with chili, shredded cheese, and jalapeno slices. I have to admit, that even when the bun's structural integrity was compromised (the ONLY shortcoming) I used the bun and a spoon to eat the remainder of the chili after consuming the hot dog, it is that good. I also admit (regretfully) that while it does include beans (something I consider chili heresy) absolutely blows my chili out of the water in terms of taste. I just need to find a way to steal the recipe now...

For my side, I followed the recommendation, which led to a side of vegetarian baked beans. Full of flavor, they had a great texture and consistency. One of the other notes is the onion, which really punched through the sweetness to add a unique flavor.

The only misstep in the whole equation was the drink. Having decided to try the Natrona Bottling Company's "Jamaica's Finest Ginger Beer", I was somewhat let down. It's extremely...stimulating, I will give it that. That being said, I've never had a drink spicy enough to burn my throat a bit. It might make a great mixer, but I can't say I recommend it straight.

So, all in all, get to Franktuary, choose to eat locally, and you will be rewarded. Until next time, stay hungry, my friends.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food for Thought?

Life has a habit of simultaneously throwing you a curve ball and giving you exactly what you need. Today was the perfect example of that.

As a native Pittsburgher, no matter what your ethnic background, you are familiar with pierogies (or pyrohi, pirogy, etc. it all depends on who you ask.) These Eastern European pockets of carb-happy goodness are one of the major facets of Pittsburgh cuisine. A pasta shell, wrapped around a mashed potato filling, then boiled, then topped with melted butter and caramelized onions, there is no way that they are healthy. But, that is neither here nor there, it's all about flavor and tradition.

Here's the first part of the admission: Background wise, I'm mostly English, Scottish and Irish. Most people would say that then gives me no right to discuss ethnic food of another culture That is why I went to the source, first generation Ukrainians who know their food the best.

And once again, I was surprised to find that the food takes a backseat to the company. I met some amazing people today, such as Katherine, a grandmother, who constantly referred to me as "Strong Young Man" Other notables there were Andrew, who left his family behind in the Ukraine, and Gene, a former member of the Secret Service, who protected President Nixon.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mary, a brassy grandmother who, when I was warned to stay away from her, responded with "Don't worry, he's a man, he likes the abuse"

Another thing I learned, is that I have nothing on a grandmother when it comes to cooking. I can try, with elaborate measurements and difficult techniques, but nothing is quite as surprising as after having cut out 120 or so pierogi shells, to turn around and have them ask where the next batch is. I was run ragged in a really good way by a bunch of sprightly grandmothers.

Of course, pierogies were not the only ethnic food I was exposed to today. I had my first experience with braunschwieger when it was offered to me. It is a very interestingly textured sausage, comprised of mostly pork liver and jowl meat. I appreciated the offer, but the texture and liver flavor together were just a little too much together.

The most surprising thing for me though, is what happened after the cooking. My friends know that I'm not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. And if you read this, you know that I've been having some rough going. I stopped by the sanctuary today, because I've been feeling so lost, sat down, and started weeping, for a solid 20 minutes. I realized that I've been holding on to a lot of pain for a long while, and I was able to let it go. This is the best I've felt in a long time.

So, in the words of the philosopher Jagger: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try some times, you might find, you get what you need." Sometimes, the universe does take care of it's own.

By the way, for some amazing pierogies, visit and follow the directions to order. I guarantee they are some of the best pierogies in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ode to Man Food

Today, I woke up feeling miserable, no doubt about it. Stuffy, listless, and fatigued, complete with sore throat, I knew I had the cold I had escaped all winter long. I guess it was my time, I suppose.

When I feel like this, I know exactly the thing to help knock it out, a spicy omelet. The thing about an omelet is that it is incredibly simple to actually make, once you have the technique down. Granted, until you do, you end up making a lot of scrambled eggs. But the best part of an omelet? You can toss whatever you want into it, in my case cheese, and a ton of black pepper and green Tabasco sauce.

Guys: Here is a fact for you to think on. There is nothing that can generate more points with your significant other than breakfast in bed. Give it a try one time, it's well worth the effort. It shows her that you're thoughtful and caring, and have a domestic side. Don't think it makes you too domestic though. I maintain that cooking is a very manly thing to do. You get to play with spicy things, hot things, and sharp things, all at the same time. What is more manly than that? Besides, you aren't going to have your mother cook your breakfast until you're 30, are you? What do Cowboys, Pirates, and Firemen all have in common? They're some of the manliest men around, and they all cooked.

Anyway, today was very much a man-food day. After tossing together a quick omelet, I set down to work on a large batch of chili. Chili is very much man-food. First created in Texas, it was a food of choice for cowboys and outlaws alike. The Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc. proclaims in their rules "No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics or explosives at a chili cook off." I have no idea, what you would explosives for in chili making, but if it's in the rules, it means someone has probably done it. Like I said, chili is very much manly food.

The thing about cooking chili is that it has a tendency to "grow" in size as you cook and add ingredients. Another part is every person who makes chili has their own recipe. I know it's less than helpful, but one you have a few basic ingredients, then you can start improvising.

The best way to begin is with a good quality ground beef, I use my usual 80/20 grind. That means the meat is 80% lean, 20% fat. To put that in perspective, if I use 10 pounds of meat, 2 of those pounds would be fat. It seems like a lot of fat, but a large amount of it is going to be eliminated during cooking. I use a half-pound for a medium sized pot of chili.
Where's the beef? Nevermind, here it is.

First of all, you need to brown the ground beef. At this time, it's all about adding flavor. I add salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powders to the meat before cooking, as it allows all the flavors to combine. After the meat is browned, you can drain out the excess fat.
Next to the pot, add a can of stewed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and two cans of tomato soup. Mix it all up, and add a half cup of so of chili powder. Simmer, and you have a basic chili.

I take things further. While that is simmering, I also add a cup and a half of fire-roasted sweet peppers, originally intended as topping for hot sausage. Stirring to combine, I then get to do my favorite part, the spicy and sharp parts.

Fun fact: That little bit of green in the up left corner is about 20X hotter than the vegetation on the bottom of the photo.

The thing about jalapeno peppers, is that all of the heat of the pepper is inside of the membranes and the seeds. If you can eliminate that, most of the heat is gone, but you still retain a really great fruity flavor. So, dispatch 1 jalapeno pepper, by cutting out the membrane, and then giving it a very fine dice. While you're cutting, also cut up 2 small onions. Here is a very important point: after you cut up the jalapeno, and your eyes are watering from the onion, DO NOT rub your eyes, you will be VERY sorry. Trust me.

Mmmmm...delicious Maillard reaction.

Next, take about half of the cut up jalapeno, and the onions, and give them a quick sweat in a small saute pan. This will add even more flavor. Once the onions are lightly caramelized, add them with the remainder of the jalapeno to the chili. Finally, and here is the family secret (don't knock it until you've tried it) add 1 heaping tablespoon of creamy peanut butter to cut the acid a little bit. Stir to combine, and allow to heat through. It can be eaten immediately, or allow to simmer for a few hours, and it will be even better.

Delicious, and absolutely worth the work.

Thus ends the ode to man-food.