Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Competition

We have really been getting into the holiday spirit this year, and you know what that means: bad - spirited decorating competition with our neighbors!

Several weeks ago, we decorated our front door, in the way in which we normally do, by adding decorations on top of our previous year's decorations, in order to equally celebrate all holidays that have come before (please take note of the Halloween pumpkin, 2010's Thanksgiving turkeys, and Valentines day hearts. So festive in every way!)

All was going swimmingly until our next door neighbors decided to up the ante and compete directly with us for holiday cheer.  Clearly they are looking for a mean-spirited competition on the fourth floor for best holiday decorations. Jamie says that they are just trying to join in the fun, but I don't buy it! Next-door single mom and two small children are trying to one up us this holiday season, and I'm ready to fight for the title of best holiday door decorations!

Stay tuned for when I make the pug-with-lights-on that I saw the other day stand gaurd in front of our door as a sort of a holiday watchdog. 

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Video: Mega Bog Pays a Visit

Some friends from the Pacific Northwest paid us a visit! The charming band Mega Bog toured the nation and stopped by our neck of the woods to enjoy our fabulous company and play a show in Manhattan.  It was great to meet them in the flesh and hang out with them for a bit. Mega Bog played a great show at the Cake Shop and Jamie has co-created a great video about it!

Mega Bog "Throat MTN" at Cake Shop, NYC from Jamie Burkart on Vimeo.

They stayed with us for the night and enjoyed a few Apartment Activities!

For a little context, in the spring of last year, Jamie went on tour with James Rabbit and iji (members of which rearrange to be Mega Bog).  They hit all the hotspots throughout the West and Middle West, and terrorized groups of young people. (See below)

Mega Bog in NYC:
Erin Birgy (Mega Bog, bandcamp + Wizards of the Ghost <- Tape Label She Runs)
Zach Burba (iji, bandcamp)
Shelby Turner (Sundance Kids, bandcamp)

On tour with Kusikia.

On their way east they played in Kansas City and we talked about it here.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grad School: What Do I Do There?

Many may have wondered what I actually do at grad school (many have not wondered this).  So I thought I would present a few things that I've worked on. Generally, I've found that you can do whatever you want at grad school, and still I've chosen fairly boring topics. Let me convince you of their merits! 

Last semester I was looking for a tactic that would help declining cities deal with mass amounts of vacant properties.  I found that Genesee County, Michigan (where Flint, Michigan lies) has a lot of vacant properties, as you can imagine.  To deal with this they formed a Land Bank. What does that mean? 

Land banking is a way for cities and towns to organize all their vacant (foreclosed, abandoned, all of it) into one place and to have ownership of it.  By gathering all these vacant houses, commercial spaces, and vacant lots into one organization, it would be easier for people to buy these things and the county would have less to deal with.  

Also! When someone else buys them, the new owner will pay property taxes (hopefully) on them.  Property taxes are the main way that cities get money, so this means the more property tax revenue they can generate, the more garbage they can pick up, the more firemen/women they can hire, the longer they can have the library open.  

As you can see from the graph, the population of Genesee County could not be falling any faster. Because people are leaving so quickly, they have way more housing that people that need it, created a huge problem with vacant properties. I won't even bring up the housing crisis because clearly thats a whole other issue.

The Genesee County Land Bank was created in 2002, and you can see from the graph below that even though people are leaving as fast as they possibly can, the county has managed to increase its revenue from property tax because of the land bank.

Ok, so land banking has not made Flint, Michigan into a thriving metropolis, but it has managed to mitigate serious negative effects that go along with incredible population loss!

So! If you are just itching to buy a $100 vacant lot or $10,000 house, check out their site! 

Also, if you were really enticed by the above graphs, feel free to read my whole paper about it!  PDF or word doc.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Video: Spencer Owen, Scinematica.

Woah, cool. Here's a music video I made in 2003 with Spencer Owen for his song Scinematica. This is from when it first became normal to me that people in my life spend so much time in their bedrooms recording pop music on multi-track tape machines!

I was really interested in Spencer's process which I tried to reflect in how we made the video. As I understood it, his approach to composition was rooted in a kind of real-time feedback recording practice, as though he was improvising in ensemble with himself through the tape machine.

So for the video I configured three multi-media environments for Spencer to discover and utilize.  He entered each space and the song began to play.  I imagined this event as the visual extension of his multi-tracking process.   The video is a simple cross cutting between the first-take in each space.

And yeah, it's been a while since I've made a music video.  This one is from my first year out of high-school.   For the last while I've forgone the camera when making this kind of experience with a person.  But this ability to keep and share the work with lovely and non-present people like you makes the camera a temptation again!

If you have any photos, media or diary-entries about projects and activities we've done together email them to  Thanks!

Stay up with Spencer Owen:
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Ashley, Singing to the Baby

I recently had the pleasure of returning to Kansas City for a couple weeks to do some work. Well, really it was supposed to be one week. I had just finished a new checkout process for Harry J. Epstein Co. And I was brought out to start-up another website for a niche auto-industrial supplier in Kansas City, KS. Anyway, after an intensive work-week-long visit, I was supposed to fly back home to Brooklyn. It was Saturday. Biking up the alley from You Say Tomato to my mom's house, I was struck by the first color and fragrance of fall. Leaves were crunching with gravel under my tires as sunlight peeked through to the backs of houses. It was such a euphoric moment. I thought to myself, why am I doing anything but this? I thought of all the friends I hadn't caught up with and all the events KC Kids had brewing for the coming week. So I decided to hit reset, and give myself a second week in Kansas City.

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Attending the Public Opening with J. Ashley Miller

by Jori Sackin and Pat Vamos
Site-Specific feature film at The Strand Theatre on Troost

Pat and Jori made a feature-length site specific movie-going experience called Space Thang for a one-night-only event at the Strand Theatre. The Strand on Troost is Kansas City's oldest operating movie theatre. Generally they only show adult pictures. It's just three blocks from my mom's house. But I'd never go by that way, because the neighborhood erected a permanent road-block to divert traffic. I'm proud of everyone who spends time in parts of the city where common knowledge says we're not supposed to go.

The event was a wild success with 150 people in attendance. That's a lot for a theatre with fewer than one-hundred seats. I imagine that people were sitting on the floor. Everything began with a musical performance by the band Mary Fortune, followed by MK12's short film "Follow the Sun" as a trailer. Vamos' DVDs, Sackin's paintings and Space Thang t-shirts took the place of the usual merchandise for sale in the lobby.

The fresh context of the situation gave Sackin and Vamos license to produce animations and found-footage collage that weren't suited for everyone, but that just about everyone came out to enjoy.

Idris and Amanda's Live-In Restoration Project

MEGA BOG + KUSIKIA from the Pacific NW
Shortly after extending my visit, I found out that our friends Erin, Zach and Shelby from the grey mountain sound of Seattle were on tour with Kusikia, trying to find a show in Kansas City. Rita Brinkerhoff, Drewcifer, the bands and I scrambled a little bit and somehow everything fell gracefully into place. The mysterious house show that resulted with Blondie Brunetti at Ruby's Sofa King Swing HQ had such a rich and encouraging mood. It was one of my very favorite shows.

My default approach to problem solving is to ride my bike around for three hours and talk to government officials. When I heard the Mega Bog show was looking for a venue, my first thought was to have it at Kaw Point.
This spot where the Missouri and Kansas Rivers join a) can be seen from space, b) has multi-pass historical significance, and c) gives an emblematic view of Kansas City as a City on the Water. The natural panorama becomes backdrop to an outdoor amphitheater with bathrooms, electricity and seating for 500.

I spent half a day figuring out how to book a show there. It turns out it's really easy. Just contact the Friends of Kaw Point. Your show is why they built the park. Shows durring daylight can be reserved free of charge. After dark, you need to have some form of security guard present.

The show at night would be such a beautiful show. It might be lit by oil lanterns in the river-bank grove, with the city glimmering on the confluent surface all around.

To Reserve the Stage at Kaw Point Contact:
Dwayne Knott, Secretary, Friends of Kaw Point
(816) 868-5343

The 816 Bicycle Collective NEW BUILDING
The 816 collective held their 5th Annual Benefit with music, food and friends in fancy dress. The big news was the unveiling of their plan for a new bicycle transportation complex at 31st and Cherry in a set of adjacent buildings they recently purchased. The buildings are a big restoration project. The complex will house 816 Bike's community bike shop and public programs. It will also provide leasable office space that will co-locate several of Kansas City's bicycle advocacy groups. This community space could be as significant to the 31st street corridor as YJ's has been for the crossroads.

More to come: I'm working on a post just about this plan.


Now it's not that I don't like living in Brooklyn. In fact I feel like I've gotten my second wind here. I just like both New York and Kansas City. It has been hard to live here, like it's hard to learn a new subject. You start from the beginning. And even after a year, I'm still working to make a way of life here that's really me, that brings me closer to my Total Maximum. I guess you might say, "When does that ever stop?" Growing up in Kansas City, I was attracted to people who knew you didn't have to live in New York or LA to have world class fun. And it is harder to find those people in New York or Los Angeles. But maybe I'll let loose my criteria a little bit, let myself change and find new ways to share fun ideas. I'm not done yet! And I don't think I could leave without figuring it out.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Heard it Here First! Earthquake on Clinton Ave!

When an earthquake rumbled Brooklyn today, Jamie B. Burkart, took matters into his own hands and produced Clinton Avenue's most hard hitting coverage of the event:

After Earthquake - Clinton Hill, Brooklyn - August 2011 from Jamie Burkart on Vimeo.

The Report from Jamie B. Burkart:

I was working in the apartment when it started to wobble as it sometimes does on the fourth floor.
A man outside shouted, "You feel it too?"
I went to the window. He was talking with a woman on the second floor of the next building.
"Call the Police," she said.
He was holding his phone. "No, I just talked to my girl. She felt it too. It's happening all over."
I decided it was time to go out for a sandwich.
Near the deli there was a truck filled with steel plates and a small crane. It was stopped in the middle of the street. The doors were open and the radio was on loud so everyone could hear.
~~ tremors ~~
~~ 5.8 ~~
~~ New York ~~
"I felt my truck start to wobble," the driver said. "And I was like, what's going on with my truck?!"
At the deli the guy who made my "veggie hero" sandwich said he didn't feel a thing. I think he must have been too light on his feet. You know, with the lunch rush.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Bike the Hudson to a Beacon!

This past weekend, we embarked on a great land journey, up the Hudson and eventually to the town of Beacon, NY.  Jamie organized a group of us to bike to Beacon, a roughly 100 mile trip, throughout three days. He stated that one should be very carefully prepared for: a casual scenic ride, cabins, camping, swimming, and museum viewing! And prepared we were!  We all met at another beacon of sorts, a cute red lighthouse on the Hudson around 181st street.  A group of five of us, myself, Jamie, Stewart, Alana, and Eric set off for our journey up the Hudson!

First stop! Turkey!

An important feature (to me) of this trip was the exploration of state parks along our route, here we are featured in the first NY state park of our trip!  

The first day, we biked 40-50 miles (and jeez, up a mountain) to another state park, with a cabin! (Just
a side note, the promise of a cabin will convince me to embark on any journey.)

Next state park! This state park had an incredible pool built into the mountain! Great work New York State!

The next night brought the promise of rain (by a friendly ranger and friendly smoking lady), so based on the recommendation of friendly smoking lady, we holed in a great gazebo, lakeside! But don't worry, we are still in a state park.

The final day was record breaker in terms of rainfall for New York, but all was well, and it added a little swiftness to our speed!

On our third day, we made it to Beacon! We are clearly very wet! Thankfully, Alana showed us one of the best coffee shops that we'd ever been to, and we quickly forgot about being entirely drenched.  After warming up with the sweet sounds of elderly ukulele players at The Best Coffee Shop, we hit the museum, Dia:Biacon, for some fun minimalist art! Tired and drippy, we hopped on the train at Beacon with our bikes and headed back to Grand Central Station and along home. 
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Video: Mudjackin' on Masterpeas Theatre

Jamie and Julia are pleased to bring you the very first episode of our informative new video series, MASTERPEAS THEATRE! Joining us for the debut celebration are the filmmaking power-couple Megan Mantia and Christopher Good! They tell us all about their upcoming comedy feature, MUDJACKIN' and how to avoid litigation in the Ozarks!

Masterpeas Theatre: Support Couple's Mudjackin' from The KC Masterpeas.

You can support Chris, Megan and crew in making the summer of our lives (as movie goers) by pledging to MUDJACKIN' on KICKSTARTER. Even a small amount makes a big difference. And you can get your name in the credits. Wait, what is this NPR? Since when did Masterpeas have a pledge drive?!

Donate to Mudjackin' on Kickstarter.

But really, few are better documentary subjects than Christopher Good and Megan Mantia as their creative work bridges so many of Kansas City's sprawling collaborations. Their combined footprints read like an introduction to the Kansas City scene.

About our Video:


HOLY MOLY (2011) starring Jimmy Darrah and fashion designer Peggy Noland is Christopher Good's second short film. Produced by Megan Mantia. Very Good!

Holy Moly from Christopher Good.


Return of the Gumshoe Kids is Christopher Good's first short film. It premiered last summer. It's about an aging junior detective, probably way past the age where it's appropriate to be a junior detective. But he kind of can't let go.


A Kansas City band run by Cody Critcheloe, who has just relocated to Brooklyn. The SSION is an amazing collaboration also. It involves many Kansas City people. It's been going on for nearly 15 years now. They recently did a big show at PS1 in New York. (See our post "Cody Critcheloe and KC's Ssion at MoMA PS1.") Megan Mantia helps coordinate things. She helped coordinate their movie BOY. Their new album "BENT" is available for free download.


Christopher Good and Megan Mantia partially met through Whoop Dee Doo. This is a group that is also a sprawling collaboration in Kansas City. It is a legitimate non-profit that Mantia and Good have both worked for. Chris has filmed. Megan does documentary photography, helps organize things and is the treasurer on their board. (Previous Masterpeas post about Whoop Dee Doo!)


Secret Cities is a three to four piece psych-pop band, kind of from Kansas City. Christopher Good did a music video for their song "Always Friends."

Secret Cities, "Always Friends" by Christopher Good.



Rah Booty is a radical cheer-leading squad based in Kansas City, MO. It was started by sculpture students at the Kansas City Art Institute including Leone Anne Reeves and Megan Mantia.


Leone Anne Reeves is an incredible individual who lives in Kansas City doing amazing performance. She's got an MFA in performance from the Art Institute of Chicago and she went to the Kansas City Art Institute. She's a master of disguise. She's in the new movie MUDJACKIN'. She's so funny and awesome.

David Bowie: Dance Magic Dance on Whoop Dee Doo from leone anne reeves.


Jimmy Darrah is a very talented actor and director from Kansas City. He stared in HOLY MOLY, the short film from Christopher Good and Megan Mantia. He's also going to star in MUDJACKIN'. Good first discovered Darrah through Darrah's short film CURSE OF THE WEREMAN.



Alex Moss is a beloved Kansas City drummer. He drums for a couple bands, one called Der Todesking and the other called U.S. Americans. One hardcore, the other - kickass American rock. He's also acting in MUDJACKIN'.


The musician Mike Tuley is a longstanding landmark of all-ages music in Kansas City. He is Christopher Good's good friend and a collaborator. He is the initiator of the AD ASTRA ARKESTRA (live video Christopher Good), formerly Ad Astra Per Aspera. THE SHORT BUS KIDS to THE GRISLY HAND: We are the people. We have the power. This is our mission.



She may be known to most as her persona THE WOMAN in THE SSION, a very intimidating individual. But Shannon Michalski is a very powerful young lady who acts in lots of plays and was in the troupe of Late Night Theatre in Kansas City. She is the other female star of MUDJACKIN'.


Please do Donate to Mudjackin' on Kickstarter.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Waterfront!

We are now on week 2 of weekly ferry adventures! This past week, we embarked on the new East River Ferry which just started at the beginning of the month.  It is free for the first two weeks, so we knew this one was not to be missed!

We were really excited about the ferry! We took it several times, and we finally get to commute by boat! The ferry took us to the "coffice" in Greenpoint from our home near the Navy Yard! "Coffice" being coffee/office combo or a coffeeshop where you can do some work, not coffin/office (who would want to go there?)

In keeping with our waterfront theme, we went on a great tour of the South Bronx led by Friend of Brook Park in the South Bronx, Harry Bubbins.  He showed us some really interesting spots and different areas that the group is working to make more accessible along the water front.  We heartily  recommend the tour!

And don't forget, mulberry picking! Another great part of the tour is that mulberry-picking secrets are revealed! 

Luckily, on the way back from Bronx, we were able to slip onto the last ferry of the evening and go straight home! 

Readers! We have received some great suggestions about the free ferry to Governors Island, but where else can a free ferry take us? Maybe you're curious about a ferry, and you want us to check it out first for you to make sure its not smelly, if so, let us know and we'll give a whirl! Where should we go? 
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