June 30, 2002
in a galaxy far far away

In another life, I went to UC Santa Cruz. I lived in a geek house. I went to Resort Parties. I went to raves (before they were called parties) that were disturbingly like Greg Harrison's Groove (the movie, that is). In fact, I even slept in Greg's garage. A lot. It was, dear readers, a time where there was (gasp) NO WORLDWIDE WEB. We had to team up to buy bandwidth from the university because there were no ISPs! I used a 2400 baud modem to dial in! Why, in my day, we used BEIGE PLASTIC TERMINALS WITH GREEN SCREENS to read our email! And we used GOPHER and cryptic COMMAND LINE INTERFACES! And we liked it! Attachments? Ha ha ha! What attachments! I'm ashamed to admit I still use unix "mail" to read my email. Don't send me attachments.

Anyway. I digress.

When I lived in Santa Cruz I had a friend by the name of David Van Brink. I should say, I still have this friend. He rules. He is not human. He is more like a being sent from planet Kraftwerk to teach humans about the value of sine waves, ominos and the varied uses of LEDs. I love him. Today he sent me a link to a revived piece of geek history, a silent 8mm black and white movie that Ford (who now goes by the name of Lawrence) and Doug made in the server room at SCO about seven years ago. David digitized it and added sound effects and music. It's now a totally different movie. It's a 12MB Quicktime. Watch it.

Posted by kia at 12:20 PM
June 27, 2002

All my plants are diseased.

I've had most of them since I lived in Santa Cruz, when Eden and I would run houseplant rescue operations, buying up all the withered, anemic-looking pothos and philodendrons they sold in the back of the local Rite-Aid. Pretty soon every horizontal surface in the house was covered in potted positive chi, and our rooms looked more like greenhouses than crusty student rentals.

I took them to San Francisco, where the landlord almost kicked us out as soon as he saw me moving in with so many plants - he was terrified of water damage. The plants stayed, but I eventually left.

When I left San Francisco, I took cuttings from all my houseplants, wrapped them in wet paper towels and plastic, put them in a suitcase, and flew to Seattle. They lived in leftover milk bottles for three months until I found my own place, an apartment I picked almost solely because of its southern exposure. My plants loved the humidity and the sunlight. I even managed to cultivate a maidenhair fern, a species which even Eden had given up on as impossible to keep alive. I got a cat. He constantly chewed on the little palm that had sat in my bathroom in San Francisco. I went on a three month trip to Austin and most of my plants survived the chewing instincts of two cats and the sporadic watering of the housesitter.

Before I moved to LA, I made a separate trip in my car, with the cat on my lap - I couldn't see out the back window due to the sheer amount of foliage in the back seat. When I passed the agricultural checkpoint at the California border I promised, scout's honor, that my plants had never, ever been outside, and they waved me through, just as my cat chewed through the last remaining palm frond. The cat stayed at my parents' house. The plants came to LA.

I don't think they liked the climate change. My huge, 10 foot long, bushy pothos stopped making new leaves. The cuttings turned a sort of sickly yellow. A bush outside got an infestation of fuzzy white webbing and louse-like white bugs. We finally had to hose the whole thing down with Malathion to keep the bugs in check. Slowly, my indoor plants started dropping leaves, even though I got a skylight installed in the bathroom just so I could keep plants in the shower. Now most of my older plants are withered away, covered in that white fuzzy stuff. It doesn't seem to matter how often I water them or clean off their leaves with soapy water. Every week I cart another one out to the yard waste bin.

I don't have the heart to go out and buy new ones.

Posted by kia at 11:26 AM
June 25, 2002
ophelia redux

After spending all day yesterday working on promo materials for Rey, I got back to the homework thing, staying up til 4 this morning to crank out yet another CD cover, this one based on the type exercise I did a couple weeks back. It turned into a hypothetical promotional CD to be sold at performances of a not-quite-existent Shakespeare Festival in Santa Cruz - one color CD sleeves are cheaper to produce than those glossy jewel cases with 4-color inserts. I think the legibility's better but it still appears to be mostly unreadable. My housemate Jack gave up after offering up "Make Octopus" as the first two words. Can you read it?

Posted by kia at 10:36 PM
June 24, 2002
weekend cliffs notes

I got a haircut. I went to the wedding of my best friend from when I was 7. I visited my grandma. I designed the world's fastest demo cd cover and the world's second fastest show flyer. I sat in weekend traffic. Twice. I looked at a whole lot of pixel art. I used fonts I never thought I'd use. I spent a lot of time looking at Soviet constructivist art and movie posters by the Stenberg Brothers. I got a big fat package from Canada courtesy of AdBusters. I didn't do my homework.

Posted by kia at 09:56 PM
June 19, 2002

It was so hot today that I drove around in my car for an extra hour after running errands just so I could take advantage of the air conditioning. Summer in Pasadena is oppressive at best, and I always come home feeling like I've been rolled in sticky smog coating and deep fried.

I discovered a thrift shop today that I hadn't been to before, and so took some time to pillage the record section. M introduced me to the art of thrift store record hunting a while back and I've been hooked ever since. He has a formidable collection of 25 cent records, and now neither of us can pass a thrift shop or a yard sale without gripping each others' arms, eyes wide, and whispering, "RECORDS!" It's sort of amazing watching him go through albums, wiping the dust off, plopping the needle down and raiding a record for samples in sixteen seconds flat. Me, I'm partial to the covers.

Anyway, today's score: a bunch of Dean Martin 78's and a 45rpm "DJ Only" copy of Marilyn Chambers' (yes that Marilyn Chambers) disco-rific hit "Benihana". From listening to the song (selected lyrics: "oh honey feels so good benihana yeah oooooh ahhhh baby you got it ah ah ah ah uh uh ahhhhh aauuuuhhhhhhhhhhAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!") I can't figure out what exactly it has to do with Japanese chefs who cook your food at the table. Somebody enlighten me?

Posted by kia at 06:24 PM
June 18, 2002
please take my computer away

I came home after class this afternoon to pick up a notebook so I could go work on sketches for tomorrow. Somehow I ended up still here 6 hours later, sitting in front of my computer. Instead of actually getting anything useful done, my life has been enriched by Get Your War On, several months worth of Photoshop Phridays, and a whole lot of losers. I think my right arm is going to fall off from all the clicking.

What the hell happened to me? I don't have a TV so instead I roll out of bed and turn on the computer. I come home for lunch and three hours later I realize I'm running three different chat programs at once. I start working on a design project in Quark and realize an hour later I'm not in Quark, I'm in IE, and I'm looking at girls with guns.

Would you people stop making entertaining websites so I can actually get back to work? Please?

Posted by kia at 11:36 PM
June 17, 2002
watercolor polaroids

After my not-terribly-successful studio shoot on Saturday, I ditched town again for Santa Barbara (sensing a trend?) and went down to Leadbetter beach with Say to do some random Polaroid and pinhole camera experimenting. I got weird armpit sunburns from the spots I missed when dousing myself with sunscreen, I got hit by a wave while taking a picture of some kids in a rubber boat with my Crown Graphic, and got more sand in my tripod than I'd like to think about, but it was a very good lesson in kamikaze on-location Polaroid image transfers. I discovered that Polaroid Type 59 does weird peely things in the darker areas when you try to transfer it to Epson inkjet paper, and no, soaking the paper in sea water first doesn't help. I also learned that Polaroid Pro 100 is vastly underrated. I didn't ever get a decent transfer, but I kinda like what I ended up with anyway. They look kind of like weird little watercolors.

Incidentally, it was also graduation weekend at UCSB. You could almost feel the tension watching all the recent grads waiting for their parents to get tired and go back to the hotel so they could go out and get drunk and party like UCSB students.

Posted by kia at 10:37 PM
June 14, 2002

I must go to Target at least twice a week. It is my store of choice for cheap props to shoot, mostly because of their incredibly lenient return policy. This is also why I love Home Depot. Buy something, shoot it, take it back the next day. Free rental! Everybody else is pushing around carts full of baby diapers and lawn furniture and here I am, a total freak, my arms full of X-O cheetos and a selection of bright orange plastic dishware. The checkout lady did a double take. "You like orange, huh?"

Corn was yellow. I returned the plates today. Next monochromatic shot is orange. I've got red already, I did a shot of apples in my garage (you can see the reflection of my backyard). I accidentally - or maybe out of total laziness - left them out there and now they are like giant apple raisin things. It's hot out there.

Posted by kia at 08:29 PM
June 13, 2002
beep at me and do nothing

<bug> i just whistle my postscript into a modem i have connected to my printer
<bug> its way easier than quark

I'm currently struggling with the book layout for my Pacific series. Why is it that every time I have to sit down and lay something out in Quark XPress I suddenly feel like a complete idiot? I hate using Quark almost as much as I hate Microsoft Word. Granted, it's no dancing paper clip, but Command-+ means "zoom into my document" not BEEP AT ME AND DO NOTHING. Who designed the interface on this thing? The same people who invented those ingenious Floridian election ballots? A focus group consisting only of people who have ten thumbs and no knowledge of Macintosh programming guidelines? People who think it's okay to charge an ungodly sum for a program with an interface that makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork, the same people who refused to give price breaks on upgrades, and required a floppy disk to install a program that is run on computers that almost never have floppy drives? People who have no consideration for poor designers who might possibly also use other kinds of software? Oh yeah, them.

I dream that someday I will never have to lay out anything that's more than one page, so I can use Adobe Illustrator until the end of time. I really hate Quark.

Posted by kia at 05:25 PM
June 12, 2002
eight tracks and corn

Today I was in the studio most of the afternoon doing the shots for the Staring Back CD booklet. Lacking any vaguely retro sci-fi futuristic weaponry, Mike presented me with... a vaguely retro sci-fi 8-track tape player. In retribution for picking an object that was not only white, but also black, shiny and dirty, and therefore a nightmare to photograph, I made him carry all my c-stands.

I also got around to scanning those corn on the cob shots from Saturday. It's not often I get ideas for shots while actually eating the prop.

Posted by kia at 10:02 PM
June 11, 2002
rear window

Hate of the day: DVDs that poop out on me HALFWAY THROUGH THE MOVIE. I mean, it would be one thing if they died within the first five minutes, or wouldn't play at all, especially if the movie isn't that good. But it's unforgivable to suddenly stop playing fifteen minutes from the end of a Hitchcock classic. Especially one that (I'm ashamed to confess) I haven't seen. Now my computer doesn't want to admit it could ever read the DVD at all.

So uh, how does it end? Does Mr. Thorwald hack Jimmy Stewart to death or what?

This is driving me nuts.

Posted by kia at 11:42 PM
June 10, 2002
eclipse of the sun

Oh yeah. There was an eclipse today. I forgot about it until I went outside and everything looked really... dark. So after staring at the sun (and showing the neighbors) through a couple of sheets of horribly overexposed negative film, I went back inside to grab a camera and take a picture.

The only camera I had handy is this weird old scientific camera I found that has 8 lenses with shutters coupled to a time release, so each shutter fires in sequence. It has a knob to adjust the timing, and a shutter release, and that's it. It had a slot at the back with an old Polaroid 500 4x5 film back, which was discontinued in the early 60's, so I think the thing is pretty old. I pried out the 500 back and put in a modern one, but I've never been able to get a decent exposure out of it since the aperture holes are too small and the shutter speed is so fast. But lo and behold it took an incredibly tiny but clear eclipse picture. I stuck it on the fridge.

Posted by kia at 11:54 PM
seattle in summer

Catching me in the middle of another particularly bad Seattle-homesickness moment, M called today and asked what I wanted to do for our second anniversary. Second. Anniversary. Two years ago I lived on Capitol Hill in an apartment with my cat. Two years ago on the fourth of July M came to visit me in Seattle and we watched the fireworks over Lake Union and got all gooey and cute - totally disgusting all my friends who didn't think I had it in me.

So, long story short, we're going to Seattle. I'm overcoming my completely-irrational-September-11th-airplane-phobia and we're flying there on the 4th. I get a romantic weekend with my boyfriend! I get to see actual people who like me! I'm salivating just thinking about the deliciousness of summer in Seattle - the dusk that lasts half the night, blackberries growing on the side of the road, the ferries crossing Puget Sound, the incredible wonderful Capitol Hill freak parade, Espresso Vivace (eat your heart out Starbucks), Six Arms cider, no smog. I can listen to KEXP on the radio instead of on MP3 stream, and I can read a copy of The Stranger on real paper.

Note to angry terrorists: Please blow up the plane on the way back so I can die happy.

Posted by kia at 11:06 PM
June 09, 2002
north on 101

After spending all day Saturday in the studio shooting corn on the cob I decided that I couldn't take it anymore and went up north for the rest of the weekend to visit M and my family. I got a whole day off.

M and I went and saw Undercover Brother in Santa Barbara. I laughed so hard I was afraid a Juju Bee was going to shoot out my nose, and I didn't even eat any Juju Bees.

Posted by kia at 09:24 PM
June 07, 2002
not one ray gun

I have discovered that it is pretty much impossible to find retro B-movie sci-fi props for rent anywhere in the entire city of Los Angeles. WHY IS THIS? Is this not the movie capital of the universe? WHERE DO ALL THE PHASERS GO? I'll even settle for a space helmet! Even a broken dalek knockoff! I'll take a voltmeter with a gun barrel hotglued to it! I don't care! Why is it that I was able to find P. Diddy's mailbox, a 10 foot high plastic chicken, several hundred pounds of plastic sushi and a veritable arsenal of rubber AK-47's, but not a single ray gun? Why? WHY?

The reason for all this is my brother is designing the CD cover for the currently-being-recorded new album by a talented yet little-known pop-punk band called Staring Back. And like most of the stuff he does for Lobster Records, they a) have no budget and therefore they b) hire the art director's sister (that's me) to shoot stuff for cheap. So, after I got us lost somewhere near the Burbank Airport, we went to Lennie Marvin, ISS, Apex, and History for Hire in a fruitless search for anything vaguely retro sci-fi, and then just gave up and started calling around to the Hand Prop Room, Modern Props, and some other places I'd never even heard of before. NOBODY HAS RAY GUNS! NOBODY! Where does this stuff go? Are there really that many rabid Battlestar Galactica fans? It baffles me.

Posted by kia at 10:10 PM
my love letter to the pacific

I've been doing an ongoing project, an experiment in lo-fi photography, using a bunch of old plastic Diana knockoff cameras. I've been going back to the beaches I used to frequent as a kid and photographing beach scenes on black and white film, and then making paper negatives out of them on color photo paper in order to colorize them. It takes a lot of work but I really like the process. Of course whenever I show them to anyone the first thing they ask is if I did it on the computer.

This whole thing started out as sort of an excuse to go to the beach every weekend, but now It's becoming a sick addiction. This is not helped by the fact that I can't seem to make my little plastic cameras last more than 10 rolls. Camera #1 (Diana) melted (unfortunate dashboard incident). Cameras #2 (Windsor) and #3 (Dories) died via broken shutter spring. Camera #4 (Stellar) suffered from inexplicable film-mangling behavior. #5, another Diana, seems to be holding up decently, however.

I now have an entire pile of plastic 120 roll film cameras in the kitchen (don't ask) in various states of rust and/or notworkingness, and I've sworn myself off eBay until I can figure out why, exactly, I felt the need to buy not one but two Lomo Lubitels.

I don't know, though, maybe it paid off.

Posted by kia at 12:42 AM
June 06, 2002
cut and paste

I spent most of today sitting on my bed going through my giant bin full of magazine clippings. I'm a completely compulsive cut-and-paster. I gave myself a blister with the scissors. If you know me, you probably also know those ubiquitous black hardbound sketchbooks, which are always pooched out with pasted-in pages and all my polaroids and idea sketches.

People don't let me get near their magazines. I show no mercy. Your Communication Arts photo annual? Oops! But I really liked that picture! The second page of that really great story in this month's Esquire? It's a ragged edge where I ripped out the page because there was a cool photo illustration on the other side. I mean it. I'm dangerous. Give me your magazines.

I was digging through old sketchbooks trying to find ideas for a shoot this week and found a page of pictures I'd pasted in by a very talented artist/photographer named Kim Stringfellow. So I looked up her website and spent a really, really long time looking at it tonight. I like to pretend sometimes that I could possibly be that good.

A good part of her website is devoted to an ongoing project about the Salton Sea. I love the Salton Sea. I find it bizarre that even Californians, even people who live an hour away from it, have only heard of it because it's a bad Val Kilmer movie.

I went there on a sort of photo field trip in the early spring of 2001. I took pictures of a feed processing plant in Calipatria at night. Usually people freak out when you drive up at random and say "Hey, can I take pictures here?" but the three guys who were working there were completely enthusiastic about having a couple of random people take pictures of their job site at eleven o'clock at night. We set up our cameras and they brought us cokes and told us in broken English about the heat and their families in Mexico, and all the trains that come in stacked with corn, which gets roasted and mashed and piled into 20 foot high mounds of processed cattle feed. They seemed genuinely excited and proud that we were taking interest in this feed plant where they worked. I would be too, I wouldn't last two hours shoveling mashed corn in 120 degree heat.

Posted by kia at 12:27 AM
June 05, 2002
waking ophelia

So I'm taking this type class from Jerome Curchod at Art Center - he used to work for Raygun and now he's the art director for Lotus Magazine.

Let's just say his thing is totally different typography than what I do. I am queen of readable whitespace, he's all about deconstructing. So I figured what the hell, I'll try it. We did some dadaist free associating and came up with some sentences, which we then illustrated with random shapes and then tried to come up with the closest analogue with type.

Here's mine.

I, uh, don't think it came out readable.

Posted by kia at 11:03 AM
June 04, 2002

I had the sudden, horrible realization today that I've now lived in LA as long as I lived in Seattle. Up until recently I could almost get away with telling people that I was from Seattle, just down here for a little while, getting a quick BFA in photography and I'll be outta here in no time at all. It feels like a jail sentence now, and even though I actually bit the bullet and bought a house, I still tell myself it's temporary, a short blip in my life before I go back to living somewhere real.

I've lived here two years and I still don't know anybody, anybody at all. I see thousands of people every day, on the 210, the 134, the 10, the 110, some other numbers with "the" firmly attached to them - all pissed off and whizzing by each other in little hermetically sealed suv, sports, luxury, economy size compartments with wheels that want to go 90 miles an hour, even though we're stuck crawling by at rush hour, 30, maybe 40, all within 10 feet of each other, millions of us, all alone in our cars. When traffic is really slow, I like to look through the divider at the people stuck in traffic going the other way, and I make up stories about them. I wonder about the Armenian guy on the cellphone, the balding entertainment-exec-looking guy in the convertible BMW M3 with paper dealer plates, the woman driving a beat-up white Fiero who is polishing her nails in traffic, polish-bottle between her knuckles, the woman singing along to the music in her car. I only see them for a second as I pass going westbound on the 101 and they go east, and I wonder who they are talking to on their cellphones, who they're thinking about, what it would be like to meet them if I lived somewhere it was possible to meet strangers, like waiting for the bus, or in line for coffee in the morning. We don't do that here. We need to get back to our cars. No time for idle chatter, we've run to the parking lot, hit the button on the car key to unlock the doors, chirp-chirp, and we're driving away before there's any time to say hello.

The Angelenos don't like me. They let me know this, usually by alternating between cutting me off and flipping me off through the windows of their hermetically sealed cars. They let me know they don't like the fact I used my turn-signal before changing lanes, or the fact that I left enough space in front of me for an actual whole car to fit. I'm not Their Kind. I don't wear nice shoes or go out to fabulously trendy places with surly maitre-d's and expensive drinks or get manicure-pedicures or know about the latest industry gossip. I have nothing to offer in the way of movie deals, real estate deals, or business deals. I'm the daughter of Nobody Important. I'm not skinny. When I smile at them, the Angelenos glare back, as if I've invaded their personal space. How dare I try to connect. Don't smile. Look straight ahead. Drive. If you have to talk, talk into your cellphone. Drive like you have somewhere to be five minutes ago. Don't smile. If you're going to smile, at least have the decency to get your teeth done.

Living in LA has been like living a Twilight Zone episode where I have suddely woken up and found myself in junior high again, age 13 and so helplessly uncool, chubby and flat chested with glasses and unfashionable clothes and that bad poodle-perm my mom gave me. Only this time I don't have The Polish Girl and The Fat Girl to sit with in the cafeteria. Those people don't exist here. They've been exterminated - liposucked and nosejobbed out of existence, or at the very least, Los Angeles has made them so aware of their uncoolness they moved back to places like Oregon, or Iowa, where there are people who couldn't give two shits about Mahnolo Blahnik or getting into the Sky Bar. I resent that I even know about Mahnolo Blahnik and the Sky Bar. But these things can't be helped. I live in LA.

So I go out by myself a lot. I drive around aimlessly sometimes, picking some random street in the Valley, or maybe downtown, just looking at the storefronts and the sidewalks. This is the part of Los Angeles that I appreciate, its endless sameness and endless diversity, continuous wide streets that go on almost forever, Burbank to Woodland Hills, Venice to Malibu, Chinatown to Pasadena. Strip malls, warehouses, run-down bungalows, palm trees, spanish-style villas surrounded by high walls and gates and security systems, car dealers, burned-out buildings, dead lawns. The endless variety of decay and wealth fascinates me, the endless contradiction of this city that isn't a city, the crust of poverty that clings to the edges of those gated zip codes we've memorized off the TV. LA is a big puzzle to me, how this could have formed, really, in less than a hundred years, more like fifty. I wonder what happened to this city that everybody is in such a hurry to get somewhere, so I feel like I have to be driving somewhere, anywhere, even though I have nowhere to go.

I shouldn't say I live in Los Angeles. I live in my car, punctuated by brief moments when I set foot on the LA asphalt, but it's never for long. I have somewhere to go. And I was supposed to be there five minutes ago, I'm sure of it.

Posted by kia at 11:52 PM
everybody else is doing it.

the bandwagon ran over me, so I figured I'd get up and climb on.

Posted by kia at 02:10 PM
words and images are © copyright 2002-2005 kristen johansen or their respective authors. please do not reproduce without permission.