31 March 2011

OK New Orleans, it's time to go see a play

My great friend Kevin Smith is returning to the stage this weekend after a 20-year absence and New Orleans you're the lucky host.

On Friday night the Crescent Theater Collective is staging Parallel Lives at the Shadowbox Theater. Parallel Lives was written by Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy in 1989. Here's an excerpt from the Crescent Theater Collective:
In the beginning, when the earth is without form, and void, two Supreme Beings meet to plan the creation of the world with the relish of two slightly acerbic interior designers decorating a split-level on the Upper East Side. Once they've decided on the color scheme of the races (a little concerned that white people will feel slighted being such a boring color) they create sex and the sexes. Afraid women will have too many advantages, the Beings decide to make childbirth painful and to give men enormous ... egos ... as compensation.

From this moment on, writers Kathy and Mo whisk the audience through an outrageous universe of gender-benders struggling through the common rituals of modern life: dating, mating, coping with guilt, bar life, curb life, sex, sex, sex. With boundless humor, Parallel Lives examines the ongoing quest to find parity and love (yes, love) in a contest handicapped by capricious Supreme Beings.

Parallel Lives will have its Gulf Coast premiere on April 1st (no kidding) at The Shadowbox Theatre and run for three weekends. Local actors C. Patrick Gendusa and Kevin Smith share an engaging sense of creativity as they switch roles and, occasionally, sexes. Glenn Meche artfully directs this series of satirical sketches that will leave you giddy  with laughter all the way home.
You can buy tickets prior to the show from Eventbrite. It's killing me that I can't be at Kevin's premiere tomorrow night but hopefully some of you out there can be. The show will play tomorrow, 4/1 and then continues on 4/2, 4/7, 4/8, 4/9, 4/14, 4/15, and 4/16. All performances start at 8pm and the show runs for two hours.

I've seen Parallel Lives performed before, though regretfully never with Mr. Smith in a lead role. It's hilarious and well worth a night out. So come on New Orleans, go out and support The Arts in the Crescent City.

The Shadowbox Theater is at 2400 St Claude Ave  New Orleans, LA  and here's a map:

View Larger Map

Go and tell Kevin I said hello. Again, buy tickets here.

29 March 2011

What do you carry: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What are you carrying?"


I fancy myself to be a bit of a traveler and the many places life's brought me so far have left an indelible mark on me. I'm a better man for having seen some places most people only read about and it's not something I take lightly. So whether it was trekking through a Panamanian rain forest or having the Spanish steps all to myself on a rainy Sunday morning, places and experiences stay with me.

I like to travel lightly and I'm not much of a shopper, but something I've been doing for the last 20 years or so is accumulating odds and ends from the places where I've been. These stones and sticks, bones and feathers end up in a jar on my dresser. That jar is my world in miniature it reminds me how fortunate I am every morning. The theme this week is What do You Carry? And my answer is that I carry with me every experience I've ever had. Some highlights:

This is an ancient Roman bell, it's one of the three ancient Roman artifacts I own. That this bronze bell was once sewn into the hem of someone's clothes thrills me to my core.

This is a small piece of brick from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The ruins in Rome are crumbling and this small piece of brick ended up getting washed off the building that once held the grandest baths the world has ever seen and it landed on a path I was walking on. Holding a piece of Roman engineering is almost as thrilling as holding a piece of Roman ornament.

These are shells from a beach in Honduras. If you ever want a get away for some solitude,  Honduras fits that bill nicely. The Honduran people are amazing and they need your money. Go.

This is a piece of pumice I fished out of a hillside in Pompeii. This piece of pumice is one of the billions of pieces of pumice spewed out of Mount Vesuvius on August 24th, 79 and buried Pompeii.

This is pumice I pried out of the cliffs in Herculaneum. This stuff looks so harmless now. 

This is a piece of granite from the summit of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California.  Mount Tam was the backdrop to an important period in my life and when I hold onto that rock it's like I'm there all over again.

This is a feather I found on Cat Island in The Bahamas. It once belonged to a common ground dove, which are the most comical birds I've ever had the pleasure to interact with.

This is a piece of quartz from Guanajuato, Mexico. Mexico is a beleaguered country and good news from there is hard to come by in the US press. Mexico is a wonder and it has a history that predates anything on this side of the border by centuries.

My great friends Bob and Rick live just outside of Philadelphia and this is a piece of mica  I retrieved from their woods.

This is a shell from the beach in Positano. I've written about the wonder that is Positano here before and this misshapen shell is a perfect metaphor for the place.

This desiccated tree frog once stowed away in my luggage when I was in Panama. I never knew he was there and by the time I got home he hadn't survived the ordeal.

This is a shell from a beach in Mayreau in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The extreme southern Caribbean is littered with unpopulated islands, many of which are only accessible by sailboat, which is how I got there. Why anyone would set foot on a cruise ship is beyond me.

I bought this ring from an old woman in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica for around 75 cents. It's silver and I wore it for nearly ten years.

This is a piece of lavender I picked from a roadside in France in what seems like a lifetime ago. It's at least 16 years old and it still smells like lavender.

This is a piece of stainless steel I retrieved from a factory parking lot in Germany last winter.
So what do I carry? My history and the stories I've accumulated.

As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

27 March 2011

Sherwin-Williams knocks another one out of the park

Sherwin-Williams just rolled out their third in a series of paint swatch TV spots and so far as I'm concerned, this is the best of the bunch.

The spot is called Daybreak and it joins Bees and Paint Chips in what I say are the best TV and video spots in the home/design space. The agency behind it is Buck. They have offices in New York and LA and I am in awe of their work.

As a reminder, here's Paint Chips, the first in the series.

Here's Bees, the second.

Bravo Sherwin-Williams. And many, many thanks to David Nolan whose e-mailed links never fail to give me pause.

25 March 2011

The Triangle Waist Company fire

A mural by Ernest Fiene representing the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, at the High School of Fashion Industries NYC (courtesy Triangle Fire open archive).

4:45pm eastern time today marks the 100th anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Waist Company in a building now called the Brown building at 29 Washington Place in Manhattan. The fire's been passed on and remembered as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, so named for the shirtwaists they made there. Shirtwaist was the term people used 100 years ago for a blouse.

The fire broke out near the end of the workday on a Saturday. The factory occupied three floors of what was then called the Asche Building in Greenwich Village. It's thought that a careless cigarette or match started a conflagration that swept through the three floors of the factory in minutes.

146 people died in that fire and most of them were immigrant women between the ages of 15 and 24. They died from a lack of a fire code, a lack of regulation regarding working conditions and from the fact that the owners of the factory kept the doors locked to guard against internal theft.

Many of the people who died that day died because they jumped from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors to escape the flames.

The people who died that day died horrifically but they didn't die in vain. The International Ladies' Garment Workers Union and a host of building codes were born of that fire. If you work in an office, the sprinkler system in your building is there because those people died to get it for you.

That 15-year-old kids no longer work in factories in the west is the result of the labor movement and as of last week, a legislator in Missouri introduced legislation to eliminate many child labor laws. I don't need to tell you her party affiliation.

Revisionists seem to believe that "market forces" would have made all of the advances of the Labor Movement and the New Deal on their own but they fail to see that those same "market forces" brought about such things as child labor in the first place.

So as union busting becomes the new fad in state capitols all across the land, take a moment to remember those 146 souls who died behind locked doors in an unsafe building 100 years ago. Take a moment too, to learn about the Triangle Waist Company fire. It's an important part of US history and one that can never get enough attention.

24 March 2011

Here's my February webinar

On February 15th I gave a social media webinar on my experiences with social media, Twitter and Blogger in particular. That webinar was a joint venture between BuilderLink.com and Daily5 Remodel. This webinar's formal recording is in Daily5Remodel's archives and now it's here too.

I've been speaking and leading seminars on this topic for about a year and this was the first time I'd ever taken it to the web in this manner.

I view most seminars and webinars on this and just about any other business topic as torture.

They seem to be long on bumper sticker jargon and short on concrete ideas and when I first started speaking I was determined to provide something other than torture and impractical suggestions. The feedback I've received so far tell me that I'm on the right track. If you have about an hour to kill, give it a listen. If not now, then bookmark it and come back to it later.

This webinar is essentially the intro to the two-day seminar I teach. I'm still working out the details for the next one but I know this much, it will take place at some point in the next few months and it will be held in Chicago's Merchandise Mart. I'll keep you posted as I get more details finalized.

How I Mastered Social Media to Build My Business, and How You Can Too

Many thanks to Leah Thayer from Daily5Remodel and to Ray Bangs from BuilderLink, without whom this webinar and recording could never have happened. I don't have a transcript but I will sell you my PowerPoint...

23 March 2011

Hey North America, meet Mal Corboy

One of the great perks to writing a design blog is that I get to meet people from all over the world. Over the course of the last few months I've had the pleasure to get to know New Zealand-based designer Mal Corboy. Mal's work is beyond impressive, it's some of the best kitchen design I've ever seen.

Mal's a rising force on the international design scene and has been racking up awards in his native New Zealand and in Australia for the last nine years. He entered his first design competition in 2002 and since then he's received 18 awards.

He appears regularly in the international design press and is a regular on New Zealand TV, most recently for New Zealand TV2's My House My Castle.

Already, he's designing for the North American market. He manufactures everything under license in Australasia and then ships his kitchens to North America. He's the first designer form Australasia to go down this path.

Mal's interested to increase his presence on this side of the Pacific and I'd love to see him succeed. In looking over his work, I determined to make sure he succeeds. We need his design sensibilities desperately.

You can see more of Mal Corboy's work on his website and you can contact him directly there too. I've been obsessing over German kitchen design since I returned home from Europe last month but after looking over Mal's portfolio I'm beginning to think I need to start looking to my west for inspiration. Here are some more highlights:

If you have any questions for Mal, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I'm sure he'll be checking in. Just keep in mind that there's a 17 hour time difference between the East Coast and Aukland. Thanks Mal!

22 March 2011

Crossville has a great idea

Another cool innovation I saw at Coverings last week came from Tennessee-based Crossville. That innovation was a partnership with Benjamin Moore paints called Color by numbers.

Crossville developed a palette of 16 colored wall, floor, listello and trim tiles to coordinate with a palette of Benjamin Moore Aura colors. Between they two companies, they produced a full and complimentary palette that's bound to take away a lot of the guesswork out of room design.

Here's the link to a .pdf that gives an overview of the program. You can find out more information from Crossville's website and anywhere Bejnamin Moore paints or Crossville tiles are sold. Bravo Crossville!

21 March 2011

Grespania's Coverlam stole the show

I saw a ton of new and exciting stuff at Coverings last week but more than anything, a tile series from Spanish manufacturer Grespania rose to the top and showed what I say was the best thing shown in Las Vegas. In recent years, advances in ceramics technology have allowed tile manufacturers to make larger and thinner tile.

Grespania's Coverlam is a series of massive and massively thin tiles that wouldn't have been possible a couple of years ago. Here's my shot of their Oxido display from last week.

Coverlam comes in in four sizes: 500mm x 500mm, 500mm x 1000mm, 1000mm x 1000mm and astoundingly, 3000mm x 1000mm. As impressive as the sizes are, what blew me away is that these tiles are 3.5mm thick. How thick is 3.5mm? Look.

Unbelievable. By making tile this thin and this large, grout lines are pretty minimized, obviously. But there are a few other things going on that are a bit less obvious. There's a serious reduction in the resources needed to make this tile when compared to more traditionally sized tile. The second big savings comes from their reduced weight.

That reduced weight has a cascading effect. Coverlam costs less to transport and it adds less weight to the load a structure has to bear. Load bearing is an issue in timber-framed homes, especially on their upper floors.

Coverlam can be used on floors, on walls, as building sheathing and intriguingly, kitchen and bath counters. Did I mention that you can cut it with a glass cutter? Here are some publicity stills that show the product in use.

You can learn more about Coverlam on Grespania's website. Here's the direct link to the Coverlam catalog. Coverlam is available worldwide and it represents something entirely new. Consider using it in a future project.

20 March 2011

Reality check

The events in Japan are horrific. Truly, truly horrific. As painful as it is to watch the events unfold, it's equally painful to watch the fear-mongering going on around the world.

I grew up in a house 26 miles from Three Mile Island and I was in the eighth grade when it experienced a partial core meltdown. The entire world freaked out when TMI was happening and I remember getting caught up in it. Granted, I was 13 years old at the time. Boy do I remember keeping the blinds drawn and not being able to go outside for recess. I remember too the absent kids whose parents decided to flee.

via Smithsonian
But despite the partial core meltdown and the release of radioactive water and steam, nothing happened. South Central Pennsylvania is an agricultural area and there was no increased incidence of two-headed cows or mutated corn. Study after study has shown conclusively that the people surrounding Three Mile Island suffered no ill effects. I can tell you the same thing as someone who grew up close to Three Mile Island. I don't have three arms nor do I have an increased chance of getting cancer despite my love for the Susquehanna River and the manure-scented air of Pennsylvania.

The troubled nuclear plants in Japan will be contained and the Japanese people will rebuild their lives and their country. Count on it. Just as equally, you can count on the anti-nuclear people to use the tragedy in Japan to try to stop further investment in nuclear power. Most people don't understand what ionizing radiation is and have not idea that they're exposed to it constantly. Further, they have no idea that the Pacific coast of North America is at no risk for ill effects from the events unfolding in Japan.

Here's a table that explains radioactive exposure in a very straightforward way.Many thanks to my cousin Tim for passing this along to me.

We cannot continue to burn stuff to make electricity, that much is clear. Between rising sea levels, peak oil and melting icecaps, burning fossil fuels represents a bigger problem than any nuclear power plant can.

Until the inefficiencies of wind power and solar power are addressed, nuclear is the best option we have.

You're free to disagree with me of course but I ask that you do so rationally. And whether you agree with me or not I ask that you pass along that table.

19 March 2011

Mosaico+ has a winner in Dialoghi

Another favorite from Coverings last year was back this year with a new booth and a new product line that's really fired my imagination. That vendor was Mosaico+ (Mosaico Piu in Italian) and one of their new product lines is Dialoghi. Dialoghi means dialog in English and it's certainly an apt title.

Dialoghi consists of a number of mosaic shapes that are available in a host of stones, colored glasses, woods and metals. In a few weeks there will be an interactive planner on their website available where you'll be able to mix and match their tiles to your heart's content. You'll then be able to design your own, fully-custom mosaic pattern and it'll arrive as 30cm x 30cm sheets, all ready to install.

Planners and randomizers aren't unusual on manufacturer's websites when it comes to the mosaic niche. What makes Mosaico+ so cool is their shapes. It's easier to show rather than tell so here goes.

See what I mean? Bravi Mosaico+! Their new website will be up and running in a few weeks but in the meantime, you can look at the rest of their offerings.