Santa’s Workshop and the Worst Bathroom Ever

Santa's Workshop, Hambug NYI just got back from a trip to Western New York to visit my family for Christmas. On Christmas night, my brother and I were out walking and happened to go past “Santa’s Workshop” in the Village of Hamburg. I remember seeing Santa here when I was a kid, except it was in a different parking lot. I can’t help but find it funny that kids think Santa resides in a log cabin/single-wide trailer in the middle of a plaza, but it worked on me when I was a kid.

Santa's Workshop, in the Parking Lot Santa’s workshop from afar.

At some point I ended up at the Old Pink on Allen St. in Buffalo. If you haven’t been to this bar, you really haven’t been to a dive bar. It’s filthy, open until 4am (4:30 sometimes) and doesn’t get crowded until at least 2am, the building is well over 100 years old and has never been cleaned, all the lights are red, people still smoke indoors and there is no running water in the bathroom. I even took a picture of the trough in the men’s room for you:

Men's Room at the Old Pink

If you can find bathroom worse than this please let me know. Other bars in Buffalo don’t count.

A thin film

Buffalo CIty Hall

At least half of my childhood memories of looking out a car window are slightly clouded by a film of salt on the window. It is a weird phenomenon to me now since I live in San Francisco. I guess the only equivalent is riding on the bus and trying to see out the window through the film of hair gel and graffiti on the inside and pigeon droppings on the outside, but the bus seems to be like that anywhere so that’s not really a San Francisco observation.

Blog Action Day: go vegetarian to save the earth!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Happy Blog Action Day! This is the day when thousands of people around the world are blogging on environmental topics. I’m going to write about a simple way you can reduce your impact on the Earth.

Everyone knows that some people become vegetarian solely because they care about animals, but how about becoming vegetarian to save the environment? While cars, power plants and industrial emissions all contribute to pollution by putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, going vegetarian is one of the single biggest things a person can do to reduce their own impact on the environment.

From In a groundbreaking 2006 report, the United Nations (U.N.) said that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”

Bear in mind that PETA didn’t write this report, the United Nations did. Hardly a radical animal rights organization, it’s refreshing to see that they have recognized the startlingly effective impact of cutting meat out of our diets. The efficiency of eating lower on the food chain pays off in lower water use, less methane and carbon dioxide emissions, and less water pollution.

turkey farmI’ve been vegetarian since I was 16 and I’ve never regretted it. Start small, possibly by reducing the meat in your diet and eating organic and local foods. Or, go “cold turkey” (well, “no cold turkey”) and immediately cut animals out of your diet. Even Burger King has a veggie burger on the menu, so there isn’t any excuse to put your change to a meat-free diet off any longer.

If you want to get a Vegetarian Starter Kit from PETA, click here and fill out their easy online form.

Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo; damp, moldy houses cause depression

Before I write about the two Wright houses I visited, I have to share this news article. Thanks to some groundbreaking research, it has been determined (scientifically) that Damp, Moldy Houses Cause Depression! Okay, to be accurate, they “MAY” cause depression. I don’t think I needed the American Journal of Public Health to tell me that. This article is not supposed to be related to the Wright houses, but I have a feeling the Martin House may have been damp for a while before the restoration started.
Darwin Martin House

Darwin Martin House, Buffalo NY- work in progress. Click here to visit my flickr page and to see more images.

While traveling last week, I had the chance to go to two different Frank Lloyd Wrght designed facilities. The first was the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway in Buffalo. It was one of FLW’s most elaborate commissions, it consisted of a main house, a conservatory, a carriage house, a house for the client’s sister and another house for the gardener. It is said that the budget was almost unlimited when I was built around the turn of the last century.

I went on a deluxe tour that covered all parts of the site, and it was definitely worth the time. I had been to this house a few years ago, but it looks completely different now. The Martin House Restoration Corporation (the non-profit that is restoring the house and raising money) has rebuilt portions of the complex that were torn down in the 1960s. In the last few years, the pergola and carriage house have been rebuilt and the gardener’s cottage was purchased and opened to the public this summer.

This was one of Wright’s finest buildings, done at the peak of his career. I highly advise you to visit if you are in the area. I’ve heard that Wright kept the drawings for this house pinned up in his office for the rest of his life after it was completed.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff estate

The Graycliff House from the driveway

The other Wright complex I visited was the Graycliff estate, in Derby NY (only about half an hour from downtown Buffalo). I mentioned this house before in an earlier post, but I didn’t give any of the background. This house was also designed for the Martins, but Mrs. Martin was the main client here as opposed to the city house where her husband was in control. She wanted a light-filled and airy summer escape on the shore of Lake Erie. Wright obliged by giving her a fantastic house on a 70 foot cliff. The first floor is glass on both sides and very thin so that from the front, a visitor can see the water and the horizon through the living room.

This house was much better preserved because it has never been vacant. A religious group (the Parist fathers, a group of priests from Hungry) owned it and lived there until a few years ago when it was purchased and restoration began. The priests never tore down any of the original buildings, so the work necessary here is not as extensive as at the Buffalo house.

Markasaurus is Out of Town: Graycliff, dinosaurs and more

Dinosaur Planter

Plastic Dinosaur Flower Planter, Derby NY

I’m going to be out of town for the next few days, so I won’t be posting much. I am visiting my family in Buffalo. I’ve been to two different Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the last two days which I’ll post about when I get back.

Here are some photos of the Graycliff Estate in Derby, NY which Wright designed in 1928. I’ll post photos of the Martin House in Buffalo soon.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff

Front of the Graycliff House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff

Waterfront side of the Graycliff house

Lake Erie- 18 Mile Creek

Mouth of the 18 Mile Creek at Lake Erie, near Graycliff

Timothy Hutchings @ i-20 & Richard Serra @ MoMA

Timothy Hutchings: The World's Largest Wargaming Table

Timothy Hutchings: The World’s Largest Wargaming Table – The World’s Largest Wargaming Table, June 27-August 11, 2007 (Photo:Cary Whittier, courtesy of

In response to my last post, Renu asked about the Richard Serra show in New York. I’ll get to that, but first I thought I’d mention another show that you probably haven’t heard about. Timothy Hutchings, better known for his film work, has an installation up at i-20 on West 23rd St. that fills the entire gallery.

Taking the idea of a wargame- a table game with clear rules played with miniature soldiers- to a ridiculous extreme (400 square feet) arranged as a seemingly never-ending playing surface, Hutchings’ installation creates a bizarre alternate universe where war has a clear trajectory and defined rules. The installation is installed so the the viewer is literally marginalized and at times has to walk in very narrow spaces created next to the walls.

serra installation

Richard Serra installation photo from

As for the Richard Serra show, the most accurate word to describe it is “BIG.” When I first saw the Torqued Ellipses in New York in the late 90s I was amazed at the size, and there were only a few pieces on display at the Gagosian Gallery.

While it was nice to see the variety in Serra’s output over the years (many older works were on the top floor), it was almost gratuitous to have all the new large-scale pieces on display together. Sequence, the one piece you literally could lost in, was great but the other ones (the toruses in particular) almost seemed boring in comparison. To see images of these works, there is a great online exhibit at MoMA’s site.

Natasha and I did not make it to the roof, as it started raining while we were there and the security guards all started freaking out and made everyone go inside. They also made everyone throw out their snacks that many people had just purchased minutes earlier (luckily we were almost done with our gelato). There was a Serra piece in the sculpture garden that we saw very briefly as we were being ushered back inside the building.

If you start at the bottom of the museum and work your way up, you end up seeing Serra’s oldest work last. It looked more fresh than much of the newer stuff- it is conceptually richer and less dependent on scale to make an impression. You can’t walk through it, but it definitely has the same weight.

Gray Whales: rebounding here, not in the West

On the west coast of North America, people are used to the annual migration of Gray Whales that are viewed from whale watching boats and places like Pt. Reyes, in Marin County, CA. These whales migrate between Baja Mexico, where they have their young, and Alaska, their summer feeding grounds. Gray whales have returned from the brink of extinction thanks to the ban on commercial whaling. Unfortunately, the Western Gray Whale on the other side of the Pacific is not so lucky.

“Noise threatens last western gray whales” >Read more at Far North Science.

Coyotoes on the Loose

Coyote on the loose

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, wild coyotes attacked a pet dog in Golden Gate Park today. It’s not a surprise that the coyotes live there, there have been a number of them living in the city for some time. People are a bit taken aback by the fact that they are lashing out at dogs (after all, dogs are the new babies).

In a statement to the Chronicle, the Animal Control Department says that “We have officers looking for the coyotes, and we are letting the public know about these coyotes.” Okay, great. What exactly does that mean. They are “looking” for the coyotes? What are they going to do to them? Is that like when parents tell a kid that their dog “went to live on a farm”?

I think people should keep an eye on their pets and learn to live with wild animals. You can’t be 100% insulated from natural world all the time, especially if you choose to go to a huge park that has a lot of nature in it. The Chronicle article says that “the coyote bit a Rhodesian ridgeback, a large type of dog that can weigh more than 100 pounds and was originally bred to hunt lions.” According to wikipedia, the end-all be-all authority on every topic, the average coyote weighs 31 lbs. The average adult Rhodesian ridgeback (also known as the African Lion Hound) weighs 70-85 lbs. and has been known to grow to 160 lbs. If a dog that was bred to assist in the hunting of lions can’t stand up to a coyote less than half its size it’s clearly a case of the dog being a total wuss.

I hope that people leave the coyotes alone and let them do whatever they normally do. There isn’t a whole lot of space left for nature, which is made very obvious by this sign on Ocean Beach:

Endangered Species Area

Apparently unleashed dogs bother endangered animals, but people having drunken, out of control parties on the beach and massive amounts of graffiti do not bother them.

And now, for Matt, an embarrassing photo from his birthday party at Zeitgeist:

Matt and Mark