Posts filed under Space Oddities

Space Oddities - June: Takashi Murakami

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is June…

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As soon as I saw the previews for Takashi Murakami’s exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth, I knew it would be one of my Space Oddities for the year. Entitled The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, the exhibit features 50 works that cover 3 decades of the artist’s life. To say the exhibit is varied in technique, style, subject matter, or scale would be an understatement. Each turn of the corner, each turn of the room even, revealed new and interesting works that were alternatively sweet and sinister, small and large, traditional and modern. It was very cool.

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Takashi Muramaki, born in Japan, is probably best known for his pop culture collaborations with Kanye West and Louis Vuitton (remember Graduation?). He is also credited with creating the postmodern art movement known as Superflat, which refers to the lack of depth in the composition, as well as the content, of works in that style. His art is often a visual juxtaposition of ancient Japan and the modern world - Buddhist monks in swirling, psychedelic colors and mythical beasts atop platforms reminiscent of retro gaming consoles.

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There’s no escaping the manga and anime references in this exhibit. From bubbly and cute to sexually suggestive, you’ll see everything… literally everything.

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My favorite aspect of the exhibit was getting lost in the sensory overload of cheerful, vibrant, all-consuming flowers, who appear to be the mascot of Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an art production and artist management company founded by Muramaki. Is it just me or do they remind you of the talking flowers from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?

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If you’re looking for something fun to do on a hot Texas summer day, I can’t recommend this exhibit enough. It’s worth the time to watch the short film at the beginning of the exhibit (downstairs) as Takashi Muramaki talks about his inspiration in creating the works, as well as how the art (some of it quite large-scale) is produced by his team of artists. If you’re a planner, note that admission is free on Fridays and half-price on Sundays. And make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Mr. DOB, Muramaki’s alter ego, in the art!

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Stay tuned for July’s Space Oddities - it’s the sole reason I started this project!

Posted on July 8, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - May: Thai Culture & Food Festival 2018

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is May…

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For this month’s cultural adventure, I really stuck the cultural aspect. For the second time, I attended the Thai Culture & Food Festival, which was held at the Buddhist Center of Dallas. This free festival, going on its third year, is put on by the Thai Community Center of North Texas, a non-profit established in 1998 whose mission is to preserve Thai culture, religion, and tradition.

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In line with the organizer’s mission, the festival offers temple tours, a marketplace of Thai goods, cultural exhibitions, and, most importantly in my opinion, food. So much food. 

My friends and I arrived in the sweltering heat of a late May afternoon and ducked inside the temple to cool down. We got to observe a traditional Buddhist ceremony in the beautiful, gold-gilded temple. It was amazing to see such a culturally diverse group of people gathered in silent observation. 

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After the service, we walked around the festival grounds and caught a few exhibitions of traditional Thai culture, including dancing, sword handling, and Muay Thai demonstrations. 

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The marketplace was filled with clothing, packaged foods, toys & games, and jewelry. I got my fortune (cookie) told - at $20 per session, I’m too cheap (and a little scared?) for the real thing. That, and I wanted to spend my money on...

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But really, let’s talk about the food. I love Thai food and was not disappointed. The festival featured foods from all four Thai regions, from teas & coffee (Thai coffee drool…) and fresh coconuts to chicken satay and papaya salads. And also fried bananas and mango sticky rice and bean paste buns. And Pad Thai and noodle soups and several types of Thai pancakes (the lady above is preparing one of the most insanely delicious things I tried at the fest: Sweet egg yolk pancakes… what? A sweet pancake batter cooked and folded like a taco shell with a coconut cream filling and shredded egg yolk. I was dubious, but man. So dang good).

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Needless to say, I didn’t eat dinner that night. If you feel like you missed out on the food, the Buddhist Center of Dallas has mini food fests every Sunday from about 10am - 2pm. Authentic Thai street food is sold from permanent food stalls behind the temple and proceeds benefit the Buddhist Center. Check it out! 

Posted on June 3, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - April: Webb Gallery

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is April…

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At the beginning of the year when I decided to undertake this Space Oddities project, I spent a few hours on Atlas Obscura making a list of places that would fulfill my mission to see some weird stuff. It was there I came across the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas, and it immediately made my list: Purveyors of fun, culture, and creativity who collect the mysterious, the unusual, and the striking? Sold.

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I drove down this past Sunday (they’re only open Saturdays & Sundays from 1-5 pm) and it was such a nice day to get out and explore. The gallery is located just off the main historic square on W. Franklin. There was no sign, but I knew I had arrived from the colorful woodwork facade, the amazing toothpick structures on display in the front windows, and the mannequin-manned ticket booth near the entrance (but does it dispense fortunes like Zoltar?).

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The curators of the Webb Gallery, Bruce and Julie Webb, are a husband-and-wife team who have scoured the country over the past few decades in search of oddball art and “just plain kickass stuff.” Some of their speciality collections include carnival banners:

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Fraternal order objects and architecture:

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Folk art:

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And general oddities:

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The galley also hosts special exhibits. I happened to show up on the last day of the Drifting Door to Door exhibit, which showcased some pretty amazing vintage tattoo flash and the works of artist Max Kuhn.

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I browsed the collections for a good hour, soaking up the weirdo vibe and visual stimulation. If you’re in search of a quick day-trip in the DFW area, I highly recommend checking out the Webb Gallery. The owners are super knowledgeable, interesting, and have great stories.
And they have two Boston Terriers who greet you at the door.

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Or they stay asleep on the couch. Either way, dogs and weird stuff. It was a great visit.

Have any recommendations for future Space Oddities in the DFW area? Let me know!

Posted on April 26, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - March: Texas Pinball Festival

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is March...

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This past weekend, I hit up the Texas Pinball Festival in Frisco, Texas, with my sister, my niece, and my niece’s boyfriend. We met my brother-in-law Stephen up there and had the best night wandering around what amounted to a 40,000 sq. ft. free play arcade. Leave your quarters at home, kiddos.

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In organized rows up and down the convention center ballroom were 400 pinball machines, along with a handful of other classic video games, simultaneously dinging and whirring and clacking and glowing. It was sensory overload and it was fantastic. Some of the machines were for sale and some were just for exhibition, but they’re all available to play. In addition to the game room, the festival hosts a swap meet, vendors, speakers, tournaments, and even celebrity guests – Lou Ferrigno was set up next to an Incredible Hulk pinball and was available for some mean selfies.

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Though my brother-in- law has been restoring pinball machines and exhibiting them at the festival for several years, I had never been and he knew exactly where to point me first: Dolly Parton. My sister and I have a thing for Dolly. I mean, forget the Leg Lamp. This machine by Bally epitomizes the soft glow of electric sex. Well, maybe that was the Playboy pinball, but this is a close second.

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I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of vintage-era machines and more modern pop culture references as we walked up and down the aisles. The older machines drew me in with their stylistic art, interesting shapes, and amazing analog (for lack of a better word) playfields. The craftsmanship of these machines was undeniable and something to appreciate.

 
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But, man, the pop culture machines were fun to play, too. The lines were usually longer for these pinballs, but worth the wait. We stopped at The Wizard of Oz, The Big Lebowski, Game of Thrones, The Simpsons, and a few others for a chance to beat high scores (which totally did not happen).

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My favorite machine of the night had to be the Zissou Life Aquatic pinball. It was an older, re-themed machine – a vintage body with a pop culture makeover – and the Adidas and Campari just finished it off perfectly. If only I had been wearing my red beanie! #teamzissou

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I highly recommend attending the Texas Pinball Festival next year if you get the chance. Go with a group of friends and make a day of it. It’s worth the price of admission for even a few short hours, but, really, there’s so much to explore and see and do and hear, you’ll need a full day.

Posted on March 19, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.