If You Pee Here…You May Appear On Youtube

A while back I was at a writing event at a coffee shop in Plano. There were about ten of us sitting at a long table doing some writing but mostly talking. The woman next to me told an interesting story. She and her husband owned an internet services company in Deep Ellum. The thing is that the location is just down the street from The Bomb Factory – a very popular Dallas concert venue – and the space in back of their building is a popular place to park. Unfortunately, it was not a public lot and anyone parking there will get towed. I assume you have had your car towed from some obscure spot during a late evening of nightlife revelry and know how nasty, upsetting, and expensive that can be.

The space in back of their building is heavily labeled and there is no excuse for anyone to park there. Still, they do and they get towed. A lot. So the woman’s husband put up a gaggle of high-quality video cameras facing the no-parking area and captures all the sadness and glory of the nightly dramatics. He edits them with music and funny comments and posts them on a YouTube channel. She said their channel has gone viral and they made a bit of cash from the millions of views they get.

What an amazing story.

So I had to check it out. The channel is GTOger and it’s pretty hilarious. There are hundreds of videos… here’s a typical one:

It’s a real time suck. There are cars getting towed and pissed-off owners coming back. I never knew how fast and efficient the towing companies are (my car-towed days were decades ago – when they actually had to hook a chain to your car) using that automated thing. If you look through the videos there are people peeing, fooling around, and even some photo shoots… all caught on camera and posted for all the world to see.

At any rate, the other weekend I was in Deep Ellum for a Dallas Photowalk. We all met up in front of The Bomb Factory and wandered off in search of photographic scenery. Before long, we were moving down Clover street – a narrow grungy road that was barely more than an alley. Suddenly it looked familiar to me and I realized we were in the GTOger alley right where all those cars were towed. There were the warning signs and the clusters of cameras.

The signage is very clear… I can’t imagine anybody ignoring it and parking there…

let alone taking a leak.

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

 

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Expanded Cinema

October is a good month in Dallas. The killer summer heat is ending and there are a lot of events scheduled in the, if not always pleasant, at least not toxic weather.

Only about a day or so ahead of time, I heard about something going on in downtown Dallas that looked interesting.

There is a relatively new hotel attached to the convention center – the Omni – that is skinned with four miles of light bars and more than a million LED lights. It’s an enormous computer controlled light show that’s only limited by the quality of the images. They say it’s like a low quality printer.

So, for the opening of the Dallas Videofest a dozen video artists were given the Omni hotel to use as a canvas, for a series of works under the moniker Expanded Cinema – MultipliCity.

Looking at a map of downtown I realized I could take the DART train downtown and then ride my bike onto the Jefferson Street Viaduct Bike Lane – there was a good view of the Omni Hotel from there.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

When work ended I almost didn’t go. It was a tough week and I was exhausted. At home I stretched out on the bed and felt my motivation draining out. I wanted to stay home and watch television. It took all my motivation to get up, change, load up my bicycle, and ride out to the train station.

I knew I had to have my tripod with me if I wanted to take any photographs. For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out how to carry it on my bike. The legs collapse, of course, but it’s still pretty long. After thinking about it, imagining all sorts of different scenarios and improvised equipment – I simply took a single bungee cord and tied it to the rack. It stuck out the back… but it worked. Sometimes, simple is the best.

I rode the train to the Union Station and it was a short jump to get on the Jefferson Viaduct. As I rode up and over I noticed the old, abandoned parking garage that served Reunion Arena back in the day. I turned in and rode up to the top level, where there was a great view of the downtown and the Omni.

I was a little early and there was only one guy there – and I set up my camera and tripod.

My bike on the old parking garage with the Omni in the background.

My commuter bike on the old parking garage with the Omni in the background.

The only problem was that the audio portion of the program was broadcast on 97.1FM – and as I was packing up I realized that I don’t even own a portable radio. I would have to watch the show without sound.

As the appointed hour arrived a good number of cars started to arrive and try to jockey for position. Watching this comedy of of errors on the parking garage ramps below my perch was as amusing as the video show itself. A few more bicyclists came riding up and some police cars showed to work on reports and see what was up.

Watching the show from the roof of an SUV.

Watching the show from the roof of an SUV.

I have no idea who owns that old parking garage or if there are any plans for it in the future. It does have a spectacular view of downtown but there isn’t anything going on there now except a home (and bathroom) for homeless folks. I wish the city would do something cool – the top level of the garage could get the Klyde Warren treatment. A layer of dirt, some grass, and you would have another really amazing urban park. The levels of parking below could be used for visitors or for the Convention Center nearby. As a matter of fact, the Convention Center would benefit from a nearby open, grassy, park area with a killer view. It would be a great spot for outdoor events.

That’s my idea, at any rate.

My vantage point was a little too close and that emphasized the low quality of the image – and I missed not having the sound – but it was still a lot of fun to watch. I was glad that I made the effort to get out of bed and get down there.

A figure swimming across the hotel. (click to enlarge)

A figure swimming across the hotel.
(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

When the Expanded Cinema ended everybody switched positions – there was supposed to be a fireworks show in honor of the new observation deck on Reunion Tower. Nobody knew exactly where or when that was going to happen – but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Omni Hotel, Downtown Dallas

Omni Hotel, Downtown Dallas

New Book of Mountains and Seas

One of the hidden gems down in the Dallas Arts district is the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

I was working in the Cotton Exchange building in downtown Dallas (the Cotton Exchange is gone now – they blew it up a couple years after I left) while they were building the skyscraper tower of the Trammell Crow Building. The construction site was visible from the windows of our office suite. I watched the steel skeleton climbing up and up – watched the workers scrambling over the latticework of girders. I watched the granite and reflective glass being raised and affixed to the building’s outer skin.

There is always a connection with a building that I watched go up. Since I saw it stretched out in time from the inside out – I feel I know all of its secrets. I know the shortcuts the architect made to get the outer shape. I saw the ventilation, plumbing, and elevator shafts carved out of the interior.

At one time the walkway around the base of the building contained an amazing collection of European sculpture and was one of my favorite places. The sculptures have been removed – and there is the promise to replace them with Asian pieces.

Behind the office building, on a floor level below, facing Flora street across from the Nasher Museum is the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Trammell and Margaret Crow have been collecting Asian art since the 1960’s and built the museum under a pavilion in back of the office tower. It is a small but effective museum, and a welcome addition to the other museums and performance venues in the Dallas Arts District – helping the area move towards the tipping point of becoming a well-known destination. In addition to exhibiting pieces from the permanent collection – the Crow Museum has developed a reputation for hosting impressive visiting temporary exhibitions.

Oh, one more thing. Admission to the museum is free.

A free museum is viewed in a different way than one that you have to pay to get in the door. Instead of making a big deal out of it – preparation and anticipation – you tend to simply wander in and take a relaxed view of the wonders within. I like it.

I have a confession to make – this time that I walked in to the museum it wasn’t because I had heard of some revelatory amazing exhibition or even that I felt the need for peaceful contemplation of a thousand years of artistic production.

I had to pee.

There are not a lot of public restrooms in a big city downtown. The homeless tend to take over and destroy any facilities that are open to anyone. So I decided to duck into the Crow Museum to use their restroom. Since I am a person that likes to meet their obligations – even though I should be able to use the bathroom and leave, there have been many times I’ve been to the Crow to see their art and not used the bathroom – I felt obligated to at least take a quick walk through the galleries.

I walked into the big room past the gift shop and found that it had been emptied. There was a bench in the center of the room and three digital projectors were shining on a long wall. The effect was that of a widescreen film being shown in a bare wooden room – very clean and beautiful. One guy was sitting at one end of the bench – I walked over and sat down on the other.

At first the film was showing some credits and bits of poetry while the soundtrack played some electronic music. It was very peaceful, but not much too it and after a few minutes I wondered, “Is this it?” It was an interesting thought – all this space and technology used to simply throw a few words on the wall along some jangling sounds. I began to wonder if it was an elaborate joke.

It wasn’t. I had come in right at the credits at the end. Soon the presentation looped back to the beginning and the real show began.

This was a film by Qiu AnXiong, an artist from Shanghai. The exhibition was called Animated Narratives and consisted of a two-part video installation called New Book of the Mountains and Seas, along with paintings associated with it.

The video started with a hand drawn animation of waves on the sea, then moved to a pastoral landscape. Soon, a farm appeared to grow on the land like an organic thing. The farm quickly grew to a village and then a walled town. Civilization continued to grow in an organic way – with fantastic animals taking the place of oil rigs, pumps, transportation, and warcraft. Everything grew and grew, with many scenes reminiscent of recent events, but warped into a strange surreal organic landscape. The Middle East (or something resembling it) is ravaged by oil production, the terrorists strike in a version of 911 even more surreal than reality, and then the inevitable disaster and destruction obliterated everything.

The film was in black-and-white and appeared to be animated ink drawings. After walking around and looking at some of the paintings, it was clear that it is actually paint on canvas. The artist overpaints as he photographs his work and generates the animation that way.

I really enjoyed the film and its presentation. You really have to see in it in its carefully constructed widescreen format to appreciate the work, but if you can’t make it to the Crow:

Here’s an online version (wait through the ads). I’m not sure how long this will be online.

Here’s another link to a version of the piece.

If that link doesn’t work for you, here’s about three minutes of the film. This section is near the end, and it does not do justice to seeing it live.

I enjoyed it enough to come back a couple days later and take a look at part two. This is another widescreen video set up in the mezzanine two floors higher up in the museum. It’s another animated work, this time concerning mad cow disease, genetic programing, biowaste disposal, environmental catastrophe and man’s eventual fate among the stars.

I couldn’t find the whole thing, but here is a bit of part two.

Don’t be afraid to wander into a museum, more or less unplanned. I should do this more often. I should not be so cheap to be afraid to do this even when I have to pay for it.

Lana Del Rey

I have a new favorite song, Video Games by Lana Del Rey.

Good Stuff. Really good stuff. The song has a lilting laconic hook to it which, coupled with the heartfelt, provocative lyrics make it irresistable. The lush orchestral arrangement adds a bit of nostalgic contrast that is very welcome.

Love the video too. I wonder what game the exploding Eiffel Tower at the begining is from?

Another one of her songs, Kinda Outta Luck, is different, more of a pop gangster bit of fluff with fun edgy lyrics – Is it wrong wrong that I think it’s kinda fun when I hit you in the back of the head with a gun?

Love the Film Noir stuff in the video.

The only problem is I can’t figure out how to buy any of her music (either under Lana Del Rey or Lizzy Grant). She had an album out at one time, but I can’t find it. All I have so far are the youtube videos.

For now, that’ll do. I’ve been working on a time management thing called the Pomodoro Technique. I’ll write more about it some time later, but the basic premise is you use a kitchen timer to work for twenty five minutes, then take a five minute break. I keep a list of favorite youtube music videos to watch in my little mini breaks – and Video Games has moved to the top of the list.

That’s a nice break offsite when I’m writing (that’s where the Pomodoro thing is working best for me) but it doesn’t cut it at work work. The whole break thing is not something that’s easy to pull off. There’s an old Dilbert Cartoon where he is told, “Job satisfaction is the same as stealing time from the company.” You have to at least appear to be slaving away at all times or else you are not earning your wage, and in this best of all possible worlds, that is not acceptable. There are starving kids in Africa that would love to have your job.

In one of her interviews, Lizzy Grant refers to herself as a “Gangster Nancy Sinatra.” In honor of that, here’s a real Nancy Sinatra video – another one I watch sometimes during my Pomodoro breaks.

This is her first television appearance, on Jools Holland.

And another new version of Video Games

From the same venue, Blue Jeans