Thursday, January 23, 2014

Plastic Paradise

The wait is finally over. Awhile back I was Art Director on Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, a new documentary by Common Machine Productions. It will air on select PBS stations starting in Philadelphia TONIGHT Jan. 23 at 9PM on WYBE. For the LA crowd , KCET has pushed its airing to March 4 so they have more time to promote. Make yourself a Miehana cocktail while you wait...

Plastic Paradise Trailer from Common Machine 


In the 1940s and 1950s, the return of American GIs from the Pacific helped launch a postwar Polynesian craze that lasted more than three decades. Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition, James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, and Hawaiian statehood all fueled the phenomenon. This “tiki” culture — so named after the large, wooden sculptures found throughout Polynesia — included candy-colored, rum-infused cocktails with names like the Zombie and the Missionary’s Downfall, crazy Hawaiian shirts, exotic instrumental music fused with space-age pop, and a nonstop party scene inhabited by self-styled nonconformists and swingers.

Today, the spirit of tiki endures among a new generation of Polynesian popsters, including musician Denny “King Kukulele” Moynahan, cocktail anthropologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, artist Kevin Kidney, and tiki historian Sven Kirsten.

Plastic Paradise explores this fascinating, little known, and surprisingly enduring subculture. Making stops in Los Angeles, New York City, and South Florida, the film culminates with a visit to Hukilau, the largest gathering of tikiphiles on the East Coast, held every year at Fort Lauderdale’s famed Mai-Kai Restaurant.

"Ink & Bean" Coffee Maker for a Day

And now for something completely different.  

"Careful, it's hot."

I made a resolution this year to break away from my desk, now and then, and do something totally new to me—and then write about the experience.  Things I've always dreamed of doing, such as playing guitar in a Mariachi band, or traveling to the Antarctic on a submarine.  Or maybe working as a barista for a day.

Recently the least-complicated of my pie-in-the-sky wishes was granted.  I took a non-paid, one-day-only job at the beautiful new "Ink & Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop" in downtown Anaheim. 

Ink & Bean is highly photogenic!

Ink & Bean is our brand new local hangout that feels like it's been around for about eighty years.  It's the kind of place I absolutely love, with a creative vibe that makes me want to just sit and read or draw for a whole afternoon.  The "Ink" in Ink & Bean refers to writing, and the theme is carried out in every detail.  Antique typewriters decorate one wall—black Underwoods, Royals and Smith-Coronas—with room for more.  The central table is illuminated by a 1950s 8mm film projector re-born as a table lamp, and they have a working rotary dial telephone.  

Among the well-stocked merchandise shelves are some vintage books for sale (cheap!) and parked outside is a little silver Airstream trailer with books for exchange (free!)  There are plans for writer workshops, author readings, and poetry contests.  I hear they're going to play old radio shows here!   Even the baristas, dressed in thick grey-green aprons and caps, resemble a team of old-timey typesetters in a print shop.

Me trying to blend in with the pros: Pam Hamidi, Amy Wilcox, and CodyBarczak 

Ink & Bean proudly serves Stumptown coffee roasted in Portland and brewed hot and fresh throughout the day.  There are chilled dark bottles of "Cold Brew" in the fridge, as well as toasty bags of whole Stumptown beans to take home (my favorite is the Rwanda Muyongwe, with hints of vanilla, plum, port wine and maple—it's mighty good!) 

 When I arrived at the shop on a Tuesday morning, a Stumptown trainer was intently walking the crew through the fine art of brewing perfect espresso shots and "polishing" steamed milk to a beautiful white gloss.  I was issued a hat and apron and put to work carefully measuring and grinding beans for espressos, lattes and cappuccinos. I felt like a scientist.  The aromas, including those of the fresh-baked scones and brioches (and a gift from the gods called a "black widow tart") from Blackmarket Bakery, inspired me to pack a sack of goodies to take home at the end of the day. 

I enjoyed being a barista for a day, and if I do it again sometime (before I forget everything I learned), I'll let you know.  And when I play guitar in a Mariachi band, I'll let you know about that, too.

In the meantime, if you're in the Disneyland area and simply craving a hot cup of exceptional coffee on a real hometown "Main Street", this is the place.  Ink & Bean is tucked between THE GOOD Californian Haberdashery and Center Street Cheese Shop on the newly refurbished Center Street Promenade.  Take my word for it and GO!

Ink & Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Handmade Pizza Commercial

One of my favorite mediums to work in is stop-motion animation. I was Art Director for another TV commercial this year—this one produced at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios in Burbank. The thirty-second spot for Domino's Pizza required elements handmade entirely of paper: trees, houses, cars, clouds, birds—even the setting sun in the final shot is cut out of colored paper. The work was fast-paced but the commercial turned out great.

Click here to see the finished commercial.

 (Extra big thanks to Ethan Marak and the talented league of Stoopid Buddies for asking me to be a part of this.)