Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inescapably Ideal: Safe House by The Grisly Hand

Ever since the Tanka Ray show the other night when Ben Summers went out and got me a copy from his car, I can't stop listening to THE GRISLY HAND on their new album Safe House. Lauren Krum's rascal-Dorthy vocals lock with dust bowl persistence to the stutter-step harmonies of this fountain city ensemble.

The Distraction by The Grisly Hand. Recorded live at Davey's Uptown, Kansas City, MO - 11/20/10

The first time Julia and I saw The Grisly Hand perform was when their banjo player Mike Tuley married our friend Brooke on his family's farm. Do I need to say it was unforgettable?

Paris of the Plains by The Grisly Hand

The phrase "Paris of the Plains" along with "City of Fountains" and "Heart of America" are slogans you can read on welcome signs at the airport. If it weren't for these punks turned Americana, I don't know who would intricately unfold Kansas City's municipal tag-lines through sung narrative.

Lyrically, the song's character travels the semi-rural bi-state area around KC, finding little work and sending postcards back to a spurned lover in KC (possibly the city itself?). It is as though the character charts a broad geographic perimeter around the city. People and postage are drawn back in, toward the the local maximum at the center. Kansas City, the biggest city within reach, becomes inescapably ideal: a Paris of the Plains.

If you can't tell, I love this music. You can support these heroes and get the whole album by purchasing Safe House via the iTunes Store. Or try to spot Ben as he slings them from the back of his car. Something to listen to next time you're at KCI.

The Grisly Hand
  • Kian Bryne -Fiddle
  • Andy Davis - Mandolin, Keyboards
  • Jimmy Fitzner - Electric Guitar, Vocals
  • Lauren Krum - Vocals, Tambourine
  • John Nichols - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Piano
  • Charles Snyder - Drums, Vocals
  • Ben Summers - Acoustic Guitar
  • Mike Tuley - Banjo
* Most of the photos in the wedding sideshow above are by Julia Fredenburg.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cold Season Cure: ToeJam & EaRL

With midterms over, Julia finally has a chance to sit back and take in the full flare of fall. Sadly, this flare comes with a head-cold. So I found the perfect remedy: ToeJam and Earl for Sega Genesis.

It's working!
Not to be confused with Earl Grey tea, ToeJam and Earl is a two player cooperative game where you goof around with presents in a surreal landscape. It's as if the universes of Marvin the Martian, Ren & Stimpy and Roberto Matta intersected with hip hop on my 5th grade wallpaper. And it really will cure the common cold!

Health Benefits:
It's non-competitive. So much so that when Julia and I walk up to one another in the game, our characters give a high-five. Virtual high-fives are a great way to avoid spreading germs.

It's fun. Much of the fun comes from bizarre interactions between ToeJam, Earl and a strange crowd of cherubs, mad scientists, hula dancers and bees. I find myself less concerned with completing a level, than making Earl do a goofy dance that makes Julia laugh.

It's widely available. For those bleakest cases unable to leave their homes, you can find this game within the radius of your wireless signal. To play ToeJam and Earl on your computer, you just need a Sega Genesis emulator program and the ToeJam and Earl ROM file. If you're on MacOS you can download them both here:

Disclaimer: Now I'm not normally one to go for video games, but in the name of health, I'll do whatever it takes. Period.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Season 2: Brooklyn, NY

The KC Masterpeas have moved to Brooklyn! We considered starting a new blog, but somehow PeaNYC didn't roll off the tongue. Anyway, maybe we are still in Kansas City. And we have just uncovered an extremely dense new area.

Julia is doing a graduate program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

I have come up with an incredible new way of doing laundry!

We got to see Laurie Anderson perform at a venue that's a fifteen minute walk from our house. There's a 24 hour natural food store called Mister Coco's about 500 ft from our kitchen. My sister Madeleine in Boston is now close as Saint Louis. And at the farmer's market I saw Julia's ears perk at the mention of a Fort Greene Neighborhood Association. Hmm?

We have been very fortunate with an easy move. We swapped into this apartment when our friends Matt Robison and Julia Meuse moved away. I'm still up to web development work. We passed safely through life's tornado. And so many familiar faces are here with us!

friends who we knew from different past places have all just moved here at the same time.
Welcome to New York!

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MoMMAP - Kansas City Premiere - Sunday Aug 1, 2010

Kansas City Premiere - Sunday, August 1, 2010 - 5PM - Fringe Fest, Screenland Crown Center.

I might be wrong to start thinking about John Acquadro's new feature comedy, "Most of My Memoirs Are Plagiarized" by looking up the definition of sociopath. Clad in bold primary patterns and a signature yellow raincoat, David "Ashley" Planner (Dan Keezer) is a sociopath whose Shakespearean plots-within-plots crease the film's course. But a deeper understanding of his mental state doesn't boost the pure fun of this picture. Because the pleasure in MoMMAP isn't unfolding psychodrama, it is the fast-talking humor of pivot-logic. And the puzzle isn't the human mind. It is an actual giant jigsaw-puzzle. Once solved it becomes the admission ticket into a multi-phase treasure map adventure trap. You may have already noticed. This isn't The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Photo by Julia Fredenburg.

"We're going to make your home the world again!" - Ashley

For me it is difficult to separate the fiction of MoMMAP from the reality of its making, which is remarkable since the film is such a work of surreal optimism. When John called to say that he and his group (Demalgamation, New York / New Jersey) would be shooting primarily in Kansas City and would we and my brother (Dominic Burkart, 13) go out for a role, Julia and I weren't surprised. Maybe these are the plagiarized memoirs making it hard to distinguish a summer in Kansas City from the scenario written by our good friend John.

Photo by John Acquadro.

I have always thought that once behind the camera John stops being a filmmaker and becomes a diary filmer in the tradition of Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage. He divorces himself from all the plans and preparations required to coordinate a project of scale, at times to the frustration of his collaborators. But he becomes astutely sensitive to the actual human moment, to the absurdity, to the beauty, to the typography of the world in time around him. He doesn't always point the camera where he is supposed to, but some of the most unlikely moments make it through to the final cut.

Photo by Dan Keezer.

MoMMAP is worth it just as an index of the strangest locations in Kansas City that cut well against Brooklyn and Omaha. It's worth it as the document of a group's ethic at a time. It's worth it only for the authentic positivity and frank wardrobe of Emily Monen as Immaculada. Close your eyes and just listen to the acoustic intervention by Teal Gardner of UUVVWWZ and the MIDI melodies of Goodbye the Band. Come out for the fantastical view of American middlebrow culture today. Stay for the burger-soda.

"Most of My Memoirs Are Plagiarized" (2010)

Dan Keezer ● Emily Monen ● Wilson Vance ● Maria Calderon ● Chris Wilson ● Jamie Burkart ● Julia Fredenburg ● Carrie Thompson ● Teal Gardner ● Arone Dyer ● Goodbye the Band ● Buke and Gass ● Joe Knapp ● Spencer Owen ● James Monen ● Lauren Pascale ● Sue Hendon ● Dominic Burkart ● Shayna Stevens ● Danica Wilson ● Jennifer Gunn ● Shan Raoufi Jeff Koster ● Alexandra Ackerman ● Weston Ulfig ● Ramona Fagbore ● Gladys Morris ● Nancy Monen ● Morgan Klein ● Shawn Stevens ● Jacob Stevens ● Fergus Baumann ● Alaina Hickman ● Dylan Strimple ● Chris Stoll ● Patrick Kinney ● Amy Ramsey ● Paul Baumann ● William Monen ● Dr. Michael Davidian ● George Hendon ● et al.

Managed by Emily Monen.

Written and Directed by John Acquadro

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Prom Time!

A few weeks ago, some old and new friends of ours took us to the prom! The Harveyville Prom in Harveyville, Kansas in fact! A nice artist couple bought the Harveyville elementary and high schools and turned them into an artist residence and lively farm. Fortunately for us, they held a prom in the gym and we were invited to tag along! We got to stay the night in the 5th grade classroom and received a great breakfast in the cafeteria!

Quick facts: Harveyville is 1 1/2 hours from Kansas City, and the population is about 250.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

New Summer Line on Etsy

New summer line on Etsy! Very Exciting!

Thanks to Laura Frank for being my charming model and thanks to Jamie for being a grade-A assistant!
My Etsy
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Update : New Urban Agriculture Rules in KC

Back in April I wrote this post about urban agriculture in Kansas City and truth be told, it was a response to our friend and neighbor who was pessimistic about the new regulations possible imposed by the City Council. He thought they might muck it up.

I said buck-up! Not everything's so bad! Well, here's to you Mike Wells, things have turned out just as you have said!

Here's the latest:
  • You can sell produce from your property (a bonus!)
  • You cannot have "row crops" in your front yard (very sad!)
Before this was enacted, there weren't any regulation of putting veggies in your front yard. Mostly, you just had to make sure your grass was mowed and things weren't looking too decrepit. Now you can sell produce from your property, but you can't grow it in rows in your front yard. A mixed bag!
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Urban Agriculture Rules in KC

Recently a new ordinance regarding urban farming in Kansas City has been introduced in the City Council.

What will this new ordinance do?
  • Residents can work on a garden or pickup veggies even if they don't own the property. Currently, you have to own the property.
  • Gardeners could sell produce onsite with a special permit
Tentative! If this ordinance about new urban agriculture rules in KC passes the Planning and Zoning Committee on May 5th, then it will go to the full Council for a vote.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Study of Something New

Let's do new things, over and over until we get it right the first time. With practice and observation we will improve our craft at doing what we've never done before. Enter new situations. Invent new goals. Build better by a changing plan.

We are redhead children of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, whose wire models of movement assume that a process is made to repeat. Teach us your tricks of flex and bend. But show understanding when you find our optimal loop will not close.

Because we are not bricklayers. We never face the same job twice. Our strength and our anguish is a long tail of skill left at each site with the project complete.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drawings by Ian Correa

My friend Ian Correa used to be a private investigator. Once he was on a case where the husband claimed to have lost the ability to create new memories, like in the movie Momento.

Ian is camped out in his car within view of the house.

It's 2am and well lit summer streets go on forever like great indoors. We are listening to Steve Reich on a CD Ian got from the library. He rolls down the window to smoke. Ian is the best driver at night in summer after a movie. The first time he heard Steve Reich he cried, so he keeps renewing the CD. Next he puts on DJ Shadow.

At first when Ian moved away no one understood his jokes. He would make a joke in his straight conversational way and everyone thought he was a liar. For a while it seemed like this would be a real problem.

I don't know how Ian feels about communism, but when he leaves graffiti on a bathroom wall he likes to write, "Red Revolution Now."

The night before the raft project left St. Louis, we were half way home from the pizza shop where he worked for a couple years. "I talked with my boss," he said. "I quit. And I'm coming with you guys in the morning."

Ian is a practical romantic, an eagle scout. He is always down for an adventure and won't put up with bullllllllshiiiiiiit. We're climbing the ladder to the roof. We're testing all the doors. There is a hole in this fence. I trust him. He's on the inside.

Ian has always been a private person. There parts of his life that remain a mystery to me. What happened last year that wiped out his savings? I don't ask the details of his relationships. Maybe I should. Neither of us are great a keeping up on the phone. But I do look at his drawings.

You can see all 42 of the drawings Ian gave me, even (gulp) the racy ones, on flickr. I hope he keeps up the good work and doesn't mind that I put all this on the web.

Ian Correa lives at his friend Nate's house in Saint Louis. He is working on a graduate degree in Library Science and has a book club. He grew up in Kansas City and recently gave me a manila folder full of drawings. We've been friends since secret santas in sixth grade.

photo from James Johnson
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Video: River City Risks

I like causing problems. Wait, that's not how I'm supposed to say it. I believe a good problem, one worth solving, is an opportunity people really enjoy.

I've been thinking about what makes Kansas City special. Like how Silicon Valley has the superconductor, we have the Missouri River. The river downtown is more than a division between North Kansas City and south. It connects us to Cities on the Water. It is a place to imagine.

The path is short. Step to the next step downhill. Reshape the landscape that forms you. Drop a city in the river and it is so gone.

Selected Projects and Collaborations with Jamie Burkart.

Photos by Julia Fredenburg
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Finding a Voice

My email is It's a pretty simple address. So sometimes I receive messages intended for other people. They are special SPAM from people very close to me on the keyboard.

Today's message, titled "Updates," was from a person only one letter off. Attached were versions of five poems in progress. This one is called "When."

"When" read by Jamie Burkart

Send me a poem and I'll read it.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

English Country Gentleman

Jamie and I started watching the tv show about a year All Creatures Great and Small about the veterinarian James Herriot. James Herriot is a veterinarian in the English countryside in the 1940's (the show was made in the '80's). Basically Herriot and another vet stomp around in their galoshes in the middle of the night to get to cows and then put their hands into animal bellies. They use real animals in the show, and although it its probably meant to be "family friendly" it gets pretty gross. After watching several seasons, I decided to create a sort of James Harriett Wardrobe. Rachel Scott describes it as "English Country Gentleman". I just recently finished one of many essential pieces, a great grey wool vest to add to this very dapper look!

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