Saturday, September 25, 2010

Brooklyn Brooklyn Take me In

Hello family and friends, I miss you all already, but its been a fun start to the school year.

My plane touched down in the empire state in early August, and after the traditional cabride ripoff, I arrived at my new dorm. Sweltering Brooklyn heat plagued the first few days before Resident Advisor training began. My optimistic hope that they would soon turn on the air conditioner was crushed by the revelation that no such system existed in my building, which was an built shoddily as an apartment building in the 1950's, and never intended to be a dorm. Pratt's expansion eventually absorbed several Brooklyn streets, WIlloughby Hall with them, and now its the main upperclassmen residence hall. Despite the one unpleasant feature, my room alone is larger than the room Jared and I shared last year. Jared and I have our own large rooms, with a shared bathroom and kitchen. All this overlooking the rising sun over Brooklyn from a 12 story vantage point.

Throughout RA training I met many amazing people who have already proven to be valuable recourses and great friends. Although our majors, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and personal views may vary, we all share an above average set of aesthetics and leadership skills that brought us first to Pratt and then into the job. One of the first adventures that gave us all a breather from intensive training was camp Clearlake. A bus full of RAs pierced the edge of the Bronx, and we were on our way through the forest of upstate New York toward our mountainous destination. Wooden cabins overlooked a chilly northern lake, and the infinite hilly forest beyond. It was the quintessential depiction of northern America's bountiful nature as seen in cinematography of so many movies. There was kayaking, ghost stories, volleyball, and, of course, team building obstacle courses in the woods. Camp fire-crafted smores and friendships were enjoyed, as we discovered the more communicative aspects of being an RA. Back in Brooklyn we concluded training in just time for the return of our peers.

Curious about things I may only be able to see in the big apple, I followed my friend Danielle, a fashion major, on a small sampling tour on NY's extensive fashion scene as she did a project. It was extravagant and at times over the top, (we're talking 4,000 dollar dresses) but a fun look into the world of top dollar high fashion.

One night at dinner, I was lead by Tyrone, an NYC native, to a Japanese restaurant where I boldly faced an intimidating octopus dish, armed only with a pair of chopsticks. We had desert at "Rice to Riches," a dessert bar specializing in a diversity of rice pudding flavors.

I finally gave in to the simple joy of enjoying a touristy cliche that makes one feel important in the midst of a famous spot; I crossed the Brooklyn bridge just for the hell of it, and it was quite an exciting walk.

Hannah and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary Friday, and decided to spend the day at the Bronx Zoo. It was massive, and lived up to its reputation as one of the best zoos in the country. Enamored by the winding, animal filled, tree framed paths, we drifted back to the days of childhood excitement. Ice cream cone in hand, I contemplated the children who were denied ice cream that day, and thought the day unlike childhood; it was better.

I continue to have classes at the Metropolitan Museum of art, which never ceases to be an overwhelmingly amazing experience.

Dressed in formal attire, I met a few friends on their apartment's rooftop for their "soiree." Although I'm still unsure of the reason for the fancy party, I enjoyed the jazz, the deep view over Brooklyn and the peaking mountains of distant Manhattan, and the silly sophistication of the conversations about our futures.

Animation has been challenging, but of a different sort than the challenges of last year. Rather than be squashed by the giant that was foundation year "fine arts" work, I lift the mountain of animation happily as a strengthening exercise. Its good to actually be working in what I love. Three 10 second animations completed and one within a days work, I am well on my way to becoming experienced, not including the two practice works from this summer. I would send links, but a new building opens soon, exclusively for 2D and 3D animation, which will have better equipment for photographing my frames. There should be more than 4 animations by then too. I have made connections with several older traditional animators who provide me support and advice through my first year. People in my own class have also proved to be quite helpful. Jared is in my animation class, and it has been great working with him. At the fancy party, I talked to a few other animation sophomores, and we are now discussing a collaborative work between us. We think the right planning and our skill sets could produce a work to take a particular animation competition. I will keep everyone posted on our participation and possible victory.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but the button you press to take the picture on my camera popped off. I have not had the time or the money to find a camera repair place in the city, but hopefully it will be fixed by the next blog.

I hope all is well in everyone's life. If you want to update me on your lives', or ask me anything I forgot to mention about mine, drop me an email sometime:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming Home

My reproduction the atmosphere of this surreal point in time and space will be most faithful while I'm still submerged in it; I present the last blog of the school year: a peak into my mysterious New York life.

Green emerges from beneath the layers of mud and winter. Exploding flashes of pink cheery blossoms accompany the revival of squirrels and cats. Trees regroup their leaves, and the sun finally provides some warmth. Scantily clad New Yorkers migrate back to their Summer plots as they squat in public parks. Thousands of people living in an artificial world of steal, glass, concrete, and plastic desperately cram into public parks like shipwrecked passengers climbing onto a single piece of floating driftwood. We step out into the sunshine of our own private park and remember why we choose Pratt. Hazy carelessness of early Summer spreads from physical laziness to a serene overall bliss. Maybe it's the birds, or the long days, or the smell of foliage that's to blame for our mental transition from photorealism to some blurry impressionist piece. It seems everyone is constantly captured in the distant atmospheric perspective of some warm, indistinct fog. Rigorous projects about structure have turned into, "draw something outside." Specific requirements are debatable; Due dates are debatable; Homework is debatable. The bizarre campus tone, a tension releasing like an unwinding ball of yarn, has led to some odd happenings.

One Monday morning, at approximately 10 am, I was startled by something darting across a nearby isle of my Art History classroom. Before I divulge the cause of this mystery, I will paint the setting. Imagine hardwood floors, large windows overseeing the sculpture garden, high ceilings, stadium seating with a capacity for about 50-80 people, my jolly, 70 year old, cane wielding professor, Mary Edwards, and an old school projector shooting Italian Renaissance art to a pull down screen in the front of a classroom. It is a typical, sophisticated, collegiate classroom like that of most major universities outside of art school. Everyone is tired and slowly waking up as the class progresses. My peripheral radar alerted my of an unusual disturbance. I sat in the very back row, yet could see no reaction in the vicinity of the object's destination. Nervous as I was, I focused back on the lecture. A few minutes later, I felt a cold rush of terror as something brushed against my leg. The creature was stationary against me, and eventually unavoidable. Big smiling eyes met my fearful glance as I looked into the face of a silly white and orange spotted cat. Although I frequently see the campus cats (Prattcats), they are mostly outside, and it is still very odd to see a cat in this setting. The cat continued to meander around the class, under desk, seemingly undetected by most of the students and the professor. It was a happening that was never addressed out loud. The only confirmation I got of whether or not anyone else saw the cat were subtle nods from classmates who I don't know. My sanity was never confirmed or denied verbally. Throughout the rest of the day, I would give them quizzical looks, as if to say "did you see that cat?" Smiles and small tilts of the head seemed to respond, "yes, I saw it too," but they could have just as easily been greetings.

Taking a breather from Drawing class, I sat outside and watched a man tying a rope between two trees that were approximately 10 feet apart. A few minutes later, my drifting gaze brought my attention back to the scene with the trees, which was now surrounded by a group of students who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. At that point the heavily bearded rope-tier began to address what seemed to be his class. Overcoming several minutes of disbelief, I determined that the lecturer was, in fact, a bearded woman. She stood on the tightrope balanced on one foot and explained how it was more difficult to walk on a tightrope with slack, such as the one she stood on. My wide-eyed gawking was only shattered when the juggling started. I should mention that I sat cross legged, in a state of dizzying confusion, in close enough proximity to be a member of the class. Overhead, a chinese yo-yo danced fluidly, as a member of the class warmed up. Almost on cue, a fire-drill sent hundreds of students to join me in shocked amazement as the class began to try the tightrope. The mystery of this event went unresolved, and only worsened more recently when I saw a group of unicyclers juggling as the made their way across campus; they are apparently part of a completely separate organization.

Rhythmic drums grew louder as I descended deeper into the underground jungle of the subway. Tribal hypnotism pulled me into that humid mouth, and I was consumed by a savage atmosphere reminiscent of Heart of Darkness. Concrete caves opened into a moving platform of dancing subway riders. Blurred drumsticks collided infinitely with the surface of various buckets and other makeshift drums; the subway performers were at it again after a short winter lull. Businessmen, sassy teenage girls, artsy hipsters, old people, classy housewives, foreigners, gangsters, a hobo, and probably a few tourist were sharing a beat. Swaying, lurching bodies goofily danced without insecurity. Somehow, everyone just seemed caught in this spontaneous moment without the ability to resist the drummer's song. The diverse dancing crowd was not interrupted by the approaching train; the end of the song transitioned into the normal noises and movement of a subway with the even choreography of a musical. It was a surreal experience.

Busting through the door of my drawing class with slick charm, the assistant chair of the foundation department pitched the Pratt Drawathon. In the style of a 1950's circus manager, he pitched "Come one come all to the Fabulous Pratt Drawathon, it's an experience like no other!" He moved swiftly before the shock of his entry could wear off, Chair: "How bout you kiddo? Don't you wanna an experience you can tell your grandkids about?" overwhelmed student: "wha- I, uh- oh-" Chair: "Alright then, we'll sign you right up! What's you name champ?" And so on until 90% of my class was signed up. From the hours of 7p.m. to 7a.m. on a Friday Night/Saturday morning, top two floors of the Fine Arts building were filled with a variety of paid drawing models. Each room had a different model, sometimes multiple, who posed for times ranging from 1 minute to 6 hours depending on the room. Packed full of scribbling students consumed by a contagious air of drawing fever, I roamed from room to room, reviving my love for drawing. A year worth of being forced to draw the subject, process, and style dictated by a professor, it is easy to develop a distaste for drawing. Fortunately the crazy bongos and mindless bliss of seemingly endless pressure free creation refreshed my perspective. Professors and students drew how they wanted next to one another, senior drawing masters shared a space with the clumsy hands of first year students, and the awkward wall between student-model interaction was broken. Roles dissolved, there were no teachers, students, rivals, superiors, models, assignments, or failures. Everyone just became friends interested in art, drawing for hours, re-energized by pizza and coffee at 1, and then continued through the night. 16 models crammed onto a stand in one huge room as the rising sun illuminated miles of land. Manhattan's iconic buildings were flooded by the blue light of early morning as I gazed past Brooklyn and East River. Daybreak gave way to the end of the night raffle for prizes. The assistant chair then stood on the stand, and said he was proud of everyone who was still here, and that they had earned the right to say the slogan of the Drawathon, "I can do it all night long!"

I made a music video for Carly Simon. As you reread that last sentence and settle into your confused expression, know that it is as much of a surprise to me as it is for you. Carly Simon's 1972 smash hit, "Your So Vain," never had an official music video. She recently released a new version of the song and a corresponding contest for the music video. Despite my lack of any particular interest in her music, I agreed to the film club's project. I was first taught to storyboard, then put to work practicing my new skill. Preparation for this included basic casting experience, budgeting, determination of shooting location, transportation, gathering equipment, and generally orchestrating the circus that is preproduction. One quiet zip car ride to a nearby apartment later, and we were on set. Billy and I were the only two freshman on set among far more experienced filmmakers. What was initially intimidating became more intense when the senior Director of Photography lost his wallet, and Billy got promoted. Advising the shots based on the story boards, I somehow went from set assistant to co-director. Aubrey, our film club president, taught us how to work movie miracles while shooting a music video inside a microscopic NYC bathroom. I learned how to use a camera and tripod that are of higher quality than some professional television shows. Lighting, continuity, shot orders, directing actors, and working the fog machine were the lessons of the day. We left Bedstuy Brooklyn that day with a sense of satisfaction. Some post-production magic by my roommate Jared and tough editing decisions resulted in a satisfactory video. If your interested in seeing it, let me know. We did not win the contest, but Aubrey got everyone who worked on the video press passes to Tribeca Film Festival for our hard work. Pratt obtained these tickets to Tribeca for Aubrey to distribute at her discretion; they are extremely valuable and hard to come by. We saw the world premiers of several movies, Jared met one of his childhood heroes, and we got to walk past the lines like we were important. Hannah was also allowed to come with us, and we watched a movie written and directed by one of her professors. It was a good movie, Tribeca was amazing.

Jared, Andy Serkis (Golem, Lord of the Rings, Motion Model for King Kong) and I

We have had some cool guest speakers lately. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, and supposed inspiration for "The Devil Wears Prada" came and spoke at Pratt on Monday. Then, Santiago Calatrava, one of the top architects in the world, spoke and gave a critique of projects by freshman architecture majors.

Some fun facts:
-I learned how to work with sheet metal and plastic in 3D class

-Shake Shack is one of the most delicious burger places in NYC

-I had 4D (video) class the other day at the Museum of Modern Art, then went out to eat at a French restaurant with a few friends before returning for English (MOMA had a funny exhibit, ask me about it if you want a laugh)

-Drawing class a while back was at the Museum of Natural History, we drew ourselves in the reflection of a curved surface with animal dioramas behind us; the goal was to make the painted backgrounds (like safari, plains, etc.) look like it was actually behind us in the drawing. Then we returned two weeks later to draw elephants life size by taping 18x24 inch sheets of paper together. I drew the skeleton of a Mammoth. It is literally life size. I don't want to show mine because I am still putting final touches on it, but here is a picture of my friend's awesome drawing.

-Hannah and I went to Coney Island for my Birthday visited the aquarium, then a French restaurant that only serves steak and French Fries, then the world famous Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes. Hannah described Coney Island the best, "cheap, dirty, and utterly wonderful." Ah, nothing like the smell of a century of hotdogs.


french restaurant

-I watched Star Wars a few weeks back in English class, then Children of Men the other day, and I learned more in the corresponding lesson than any other English lesson I have ever had.

-I made my schedule for next year, and got exactly what I wanted. It is going to be awesome.

I will return on May 11th. 10 things I look forward to (in no particular order): 1. doing art of my own, without requirements or critiques 2. Reading, I have a good list 3. Watching my list of movies 4. Working at the Angelika 5. Watching movies in theaters (for free cause of my job!) 6. Swimming 7. Playing Pool 8. Video Games (specifically Brawl) 9. Hanging out with friends and family 10. RA training at the end of summer at some camp in upstate NY

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Request #1

My first request blog is in response to all you Texans who never get to play in frozen bits of falling cotton. Lindee asked a while back about the weather in NYC, and I hesitated to tell her. A simple account of the forecast could not suffice for an unfortunate southern child deprived of a winter wonderland. Confident as I am in my descriptive abilities, I defer to the magic of photography. These are a few shots around my campus and the city. To Laken, Lindee, Ainsley, and Mom, I took these pictures for you, I wish you could have been here.

With the exception of this one diversion, everything in this blog is from this semester. Near the end of the savage first semester, I had a treat that made facing finals a bit less horrifying. My favorite animator, Aaron Augenblick, creator of Adult Swim's "superjail," lectured at our school. A few weeks before, the lecture from Andrew Dayton of Pixar made my day, but is didn't compare to this. Aaron revealed some of the secrets of his animation genius, tips for getting involved in the industry, and even how much he struggled. It made my dreams seem possible and my failures feel human. He is an up and coming animator who broke off from MTV and started his own studio before he was thirty. As the owner of Augenblick Studios, his clients include Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, MTV, Spike Lee, and PBS. Look out for his new show Ugly Americans on Comedy Central. My animation instructor introduced me to him, and I found out that there are internship opportunities available.

My doubts about Pratt have been alleviated. Second semester, something has changed. I don't know if everything from last semester sunk in some time over break, or if my improved sleeping and eating habits have removed the filter of pessimism that plagued my first months at Pratt. Whatever it is, its just clicking. Successes come often and failures teach me to improve. Fears of my artistic inadequacy are replaced by a renewed enjoyment in the process of making art in its many forms. Andrew, my roommate for the first semester, transfered to the School of Visual Arts. He was a good roommate and it was sad to see him go. The vacancy in my room was shortly filled by one of my good friends, Jared. Rooming with one of the more talented artist of the freshman class has driven me to improve, and I can always count on solid advice when I am struggling with an assignment. Efficiency at homework has left large spaces for recreation, and those spaces have been used well.

I kicked off the semester with a concert in Harlem, another great christmas present from Hannah. Vampire Weekend, one of my favorite bands, gave an incredible show for their second album, which was even better than the first. A Valentines Day inspired a chocolate hunt brought Hannah to the famous Jacque Torres and later the Max Brenner restaurant. Both places were good, but Max Brenner took the top prize. He and his famous chocolate pizza were featured Food Networks "Best Thing I Ever Ate;" I recommend trying it before you die. February's Time Out New York provided me with a list of fondue restaurants and a hard decision to make. One of the restaurants on the list sent Jared into a nostalgic frenzy; it is apparently his mom's favorite restaurant. With that resolved, Hannah, Jarad and I set out for La Bonne Soupe (see pictures below). Sudden patches of spring gave me the idea one day to borrow my roommate's frisbee while he was in Long Island for the weekend. Hannah and I were having a fun time until I accidently broke the frisbee. One target adventure and two frisbee purchases later, I myself was the proud owner of the original flying disk. Deciding that I went through way too much trouble not to use the frisbee, I have developed what some might call an unnatural fondness for it; I guess some college stereotypes are unavoidable.

MTV has a new program called "My life as Liz," starring a girl who lived not far from where I lived in Texas. It is a fake documentary style show that is based off of her senior year in high school. She basically lives her life, recounts the events, and MTV writers stylize and dramatize the events. Functioning as a semi-reality show, they often hire the people involved to reenact the scenes not captured on film. Investigation into her life revealed that she attended the University of Texas during the fall semester of 2009. On a recent episode of the show, she mentioned going to New York while still in high school. She is now a freshman art history major at Pratt Institute, and is in my friend's art history class. Apparently, the show is going to resume filming here at Pratt, and MTV has been attempting to cast random students for the show. Liz seems to be the artsy type, and her gimmick on the show is that she is alternative. Unfortunately, MTV appeals to mostly a mainstream college demographic, including kids who desire desperately to be snobby NYC art school intellectuals. Many of my fellow Prattcats reject this flattery via imitation, perhaps rightfully so. MTV is a rather ridiculous network, and artist are not usually the type to be made into mascots. Although I sympathize with my classmates' outrage and distaste for MTV, I feel sorry for Liz. The typical college would embrace the semi-celebrity; but art school feels the need to serve as the counter culture. As a result, it is alleged that Liz has very few friends, sits sadly alone at almost all times, and has a difficult time even having friends casted for her. I don't know if she is the wannabe art kid that everyone says she is, but I doubt it. Regardless, there are much worse people here who have friends. So, the plan formulated by Jared, Billy, Hannah, (possibly Hannah's roommate), and I is to find Liz and invite her to a game of frisbee. We plan to maintain a delicate balance between developing a friendship with Liz, and avoiding being on MTV at all cost.

As a side note, I just want to brag about a fact I recently discovered. For those of you who don't know, Hannah attends NYU film school. I found out that NYU film is the number one rated film school IN THE WORLD! My lady's got skillz.

From about 100 applicants, including upper class men, I was given one of the eleven spots as a Resident Advisor at Pratt next year. Not only did they choose me, but they gave me my first choice of dorm. Willoughby, the upper class dorm, is an apartment style dorm complete with a kitchen, and choice of suite mate. This will save me an unbelievable amount of money, and put me strategically close to the animation building. I look forward to the amazing meals from Jared and Hannah, who have both been itching to utilize their culinary talents. My residents will likely be older students, which just adds cool points for me. I guess I have skills too.

It has been a great semester for me, and I hope everyone else has been as fortunate. I am nearly finished with all of my homework as I enter spring break. I would love to hear some suggestions for activities during this free week in the amazing NYC. And for those of you feeling sad, I found squirrel with a bag stuck on its tail, may it bring you happiness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Format

Too much happens for me to do all the exciting events in my life justice. I would probably bore everyone in the process. From this point forward, I will write about what you request. Text, comment, email, call, etc. and tell me what you want to read about. I look forward to your suggestions.