Amelia Foxtrot is an olde tyme-y DJ who spins on antique phonographs

There are old-school DJs and then there's DJ Amelia Foxtrot of Austin Phonograph Co. in Texas. Her turntables are antique hand-cranked phonographs and her records are scratchy-sounding 78s.

Of course, I was immediately charmed by all of this. I reached out to her and she shared:

I've been doing phonograph DJ work for 7 years. I started in 2012 because I wanted to buy a phonograph. Being an entrepreneur at heart, I thought if I created a business DJing with it, my hobby would fund itself. And I got to buy two!

She mostly plays private events like seances (!), weddings, and fancy birthday parties. Though, on March 24, you can catch her at the Jazz Age Sunday Social in Dallas.

Amelia also co-owns and runs Sweet Ritual, a popular dairy-free ice cream shop in Austin. Additionally, she teaches Cool School for budding vegan ice cream parlor owners.

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The Mills Bros, “How Am I Doing, Hey Hey” played on my 1907 Victor II Phonograph. #phonograph #gramophone #millsbrothers

A post shared by Amelia Foxtrot (@austinphonographcompany) on Oct 1, 2017 at 1:22pm PDT

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At the Winfield Inn out in Kyle, Texas, sound testing my favorite Cliff Edwards ukulele song to play at weddings, "June Night." #phonographdj #phonograph #gramophonedj #gramophone #cliffedwards

A post shared by Amelia Foxtrot (@austinphonographcompany) on Apr 23, 2017 at 2:58pm PDT

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#Repost @phonographfilm ・・・ “Once & Again” Official Trailer. “Once & Again,” a documentary short about three Austin-based antique phonograph collectors, explores the human desire to connect with the music and voices of the past.

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Sarah Petkus' She Bon project: tech augmentation for sensing and expressing female arousal

I have followed the work of the brilliant indie hardware engineer, Sarah Petkus, for years. Her first projects to capture my attention were her delta robot army and NoodleFeet (see her YouTube feed for project videos). Sarah is an extremely talented engineer and artist whose design and fabrication skills are undeniably impressive. With her high-tech engineering skills, her unique and sincere presence, and her overall deep-geek badassery, Sarah wouldn't be out of place in a Gibson cyberpunk novel. Read the rest

Find the cuss words in these delightfully subversive 'swearing patterns'

This week, on the same day, I had not one but two friends tell me about designer Sonia Harris' "swearing patterns." Of course, I instantly became a fan. Her hidden-in-plain-sight patterns are subversive yet perfectly understated.

For example, this t-shirt's design appears to be a fancy mandala at first glance. But look closer and you'll see the words "Insufferable Wanker" cleverly incorporated into the pattern. (Ms. Harris, you get me.)

She got started drawing the patterns (using an iOS app called Amaziograph) while she was going through treatment for breast cancer, writing that swearing is a meditation for her:

Despite my desire to create and soothe myself with art, I was also very angry at the bad luck of having spent decades dealing with pain from endometriosis only to get breast cancer just as I thought there was an end to it. The disgusting effects of the treatment, the frightening and painful experiences kept on coming... Hence my patterns contained a lot of profanity. I wanted to swear and I needed to swear. If I could have, I’d have been shouting those profanities from the rooftops! But I had no strength to raise my voice or even stomp around, so that left my drawings. I could write down an exclamation of disgust, carefully and lovingly so that seeing it gave me strength, reminded me that I have a voice and I am still alive. Seeing the repetition of my words and patterns calmed me, the inherent beauty of them made me feel in harmony with life again and able to rest.

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Why Do Birds: Damon Knight's amazing, underappreciated science fiction novel about putting all of humanity in a box

In 2002, a mysterious man is arrested for illegally occupying a hotel room: he says his name is Ed Stone, and that he was kidnapped by aliens from the same hotel room in 1931 and has just been returned to Earth, not having aged a day; the aliens have told him that Earth will be destroyed in 12 years and that before then, the entire human race has to put itself in a giant box (presumably for transport to somewhere else, though Ed is a little shaky on the details), and to help Ed with this task, the aliens have given him a ring that makes anyone who touches it fill with overwhelming good feelings for him and a desire to help him. Read the rest

Artist lovingly paints Texas fast food joints in Kinkade-esque scenery

San Antonio artist Michael Esparza's oil paintings put Texas-based fast food restaurants in the center of bucolic landscapes. It's hard not to compare his work to Thomas Kinkade's but that's the point. (The main difference, imo, is that Esparza's pieces are actually palatable.)

Texas Monthly:

The idea for the series, which Esparza describes as “a little bit Bob Ross and a little bit Thomas Kinkade,” came to him 2012, just after he came back to Texas from a year of studying art in Italy. In Italy, nothing was built taller than a church, so it was a shock when Esparza returned to San Antonio, the size of roadside signs were particularly jarring. “I was just seeing how iconic they are, but also from the Italian perspective, how ridiculous they are. From that point of view, it’s like, ‘What are you doing, Texas? What’s going on with these big signs that you have on the side of the road?'” he says. “But the first thing I did when I got back from Italy was I went to Whataburger, and then right after that, I went to Bill Miller’s. I just needed a burger, and I needed a po’ boy. I was already full after Whataburger, but I didn’t care.” Esparza says he wants the paintings to evoke the sense of homecoming you feel when you see those signs after spending time in a place where they don’t exist—be it Italy or elsewhere. “They become your own little beacons for where you live,” he explains.

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LiartownUSA's Social Justice Kittens calendar

Add this to the ongoing list of "quirky and downright strange" calendars for 2019: Sean Tejaratchi of LiartownUSA's Social Justice Kittens.

It’s 2019. All around us, ancient evils lurk in the deepening shadows, growing more powerful by the hour, feeding on hatred and centuries of oppression. The signs and symbols are everywhere for those willing to see.

Thanks to LiarTown, you can now take the most courageous step of all: remaining silent while others speak. Once again it’s time to amplify the voices of those fluffy little activists, the Social Justice Kittens! They’ve returned, rested and ready to call out and clap back!

But don’t think for a minute these woke, whiskered warriors have come alone! Get an eyeful of the all-new litter of Social Justice Puppies scrambling along behind them! These progressive pups have endured marathon struggle sessions and merciless “self-crit” to achieve dizzying levels of abject submission and self-debasement. They’re determined to be on the right side of history, and positively squirming for a chance to recite their gut-wrenching confessions!

It’s up to you. Will you celebrate the voices of the marginalized, or further stain your soul with murderous complicity? Every moment you delay causes further abuse and gentrification. Those far more woke than you roll their eyes at your absurd doubts and questions! Desperate times call for desperate measures! Answer that call NOW…with kittens!

Please note: As usual, every bit of kitten and puppy dialogue is sourced from genuine social media posts. Nothing has been taken out of context or misrepresented.

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The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, 2017 documentary about 'Tales of the City' creator

In anticipation of the brand new Tales of the City series (!!), Netflix is now playing the documentary about its creator, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.

THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN examines the life and work of one of the world's most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions to claim their own truth. Jennifer Kroot's documentary about the creator of TALES OF THE CITY moves nimbly between playful and poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. With help from his friends (including Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen and Amy Tan) Maupin offers a disarmingly frank look at the journey that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of 70's San Francisco to the front line of the American culture war.

On Netflix: The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin Read the rest

This artist uses jigsaw puzzles, with the same die cut pattern, to make these terrific mashups

Oh boy, I think I have a new hobby. I've just learned that you can combine puzzles, that have the same die cut, to make really awesome pieces of art. It had never occurred to me that manufacturers of mass-produced puzzles cut different puzzles of theirs in the same way, making the pieces interchangeable. It makes complete sense, of course, but my mind is still blown!

I learned about the art of "puzzle montage" from one of the readers of my inbox zine, Marcia Wiley (she's the gal in Seattle who's fixing up that cool old Checker Cab). She was visiting the Bay Area and we met up for the first time this past Friday. That's when she told me about her friend Tim Klein, who makes incredible puzzle montages. I'm excited to share his work with you.

In an email exchange, Tim told me that he learned about puzzle montages from the man who first made them, art professor Mel Andringa of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, "As far as I know, he and I are the only artists ever to pursue it seriously. And I think he's moved on to other things nowadays, so I may be the sole surviving practitioner."

And this is what Tim shared with me about his process:

...By selecting pieces from two or more compatible puzzles, I assemble a single "puzzle mashup" with surreal imagery that the publisher never imagined.

Sometimes the results are merely chuckle-making, such as my combination of King Tut's burial mask with the front of a truck, which I call "King of the Road".

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Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppeteer Caroll Spinney announces retirement

The Sesame Workshop is reporting that long-time Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney has announced his retirement, noting that he's performed on the program since its 1969 premiere. Spinney has played the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for nearly 50 years!

After five decades as the heart and soul of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, it’s impossible to entirely separate the man from the characters he so vibrantly brought to life. Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope in 1979. He’s danced with the Rockettes, and with prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. He’s been feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrated with his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp, and named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress. Performing Big Bird has taken Caroll to China, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has performed on hundreds of episodes of television, starred as his big yellow avatar in the feature film Follow That Bird, and conducted symphony orchestras throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada. Spinney even met his wife of 45 years, Debra, on the Sesame Street set in 1973.

Not to worry, Big Bird and Oscar are not going anywhere. They will be played going forward by puppeteers Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, with Spinney's blessing.

Also, if you haven't seen the 2014 documentary about Spinney titled I Am Big Bird, I urge you to do so. It's a truly beautiful portrait of a deeply creative man who chose to live his most authentic life. Read the rest

Seth Godin's Akimbo podcast is definitely worth a listen

I generally don't listen to podcasts. It's not that I don't want to, it's that it's difficult for me because a) I'm not good at multi-tasking (listening and writing do not go hand in hand) and b) I don't have a commute. But I do make exceptions, especially when a podcast has been recommended to me.

The rotten thing, in this case, is that I can't remember who to thank for recommending Seth Godin's podcast to me. I took two trips to SoCal in the past two weeks, one by car and one by train, and got hooked on Akimbo. I listened to as much of it as I could while watching the beautiful state of California fly by me.

It's about how to change culture and it's terrific.

Akimbo is an ancient word, from the bend in the river or the bend in an archer's bow. It's become a symbol for strength, a posture of possibility, the idea that when we stand tall, arms bent, looking right at it, we can make a difference.

Akimbo's a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something.

The culture is real, but it can be changed. You can bend it.

Now, I think of Seth Godin as a marketing guy, and he is. But this podcast is something more. It goes beyond that. I guess what I'm saying is that I think it would be interesting to non-marketing folks. . Read the rest

A cowboy in New Jersey built a ridable e-horse for himself

“What do you do with an old Texas rodeo cowboy when he marries a Jersey girl, he’s up in Jersey, and he has no place to keep a horse in Cranford? You make a mechanical horse!”

Steve Bacque, aka the Crazy Cranford Cowboy, is that Texan and he did indeed make himself an electric horse. Four golf cart batteries power his not-street-legal e-horse, which he calls "Charger."

According to NJ.com,

Charger can do up to 40 miles per hour (though he has a governor to rein him in to about 15 miles per hour) and can handle up to 600 pounds. Charger even has a wheelie bar in the back, which is “not just for show,” Bacque warns. Yes, this motorized horse can pop a (small) wheelie.

Charger turns left and right with the reins and even brakes when you pull back on them. A key turns him on, and a gas pedal sets him in motion.

Bacque first caught attention in town when he rode up on Charger to his bank's drive-thru window:

When Mindy Weiss Affronti pulled up to the bank drive-thru two weeks ago and saw a man atop a robotic horse at the teller window, she did a double take.

Then she took his picture.

The friendly cowboy smiled, happy to oblige, before riding off. Left in the stupor of what she had seen, Affronti did what any other rational person would do: She posted the photo on social media...

After Affronti shared her photo and a video in a neighborhood Facebook group, there were others.

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Modernist homes get a Thomas Kinkade-style makeover

This is one of those genius "I can't believe this hasn't been done already" kind of things.

An architect from Indiana has photoshopped recognizable modernist homes into the overly sentimental, idyllic world of a Thomas Kinkade painting, making for a funny mashup series.

It all started with this tweet from another architect, Donna Sink, where she instigates, "Does anyone do paintings of Modern buildings in the style of Thomas Kincade?"

Indianapolis-based @robyniko answered her call, writing, "I'm in. Let's start off easy with one of Kahn's beautiful boxes (eg the Fisher house)..."

Then he worked on others, like the Eames house (the wishing well is a nice touch!):

Then someone requested he do architect Philip Johnson's historic Glass House next. He calls his creation "Philip Johnson's Glass Cottage," (emphasis mine) a nod to Kinkade's use of cottages in his paintings:

On this one, he writes, "Ok i really have to stop now. Merry Corbsmas:"

But he didn't stop. He then tackled the Farnsworth House (which I included as the lead image above).

A couple days later he was still at it. On this one, he writes, "Pack your bags for a rocky seaside getaway at the Gehryhaus! You'll love the *squints at copy* homey chain link fence & softly weathered *checks notes* corrugated steel siding while you eat a homemade breakfast in the soft glow of the *deep sigh* aggressively geometric sun room."

You can follow how it all went down in this thread:

(ArchPaper)

images via @robyniko, used with permission Read the rest

Man walks forward with feet facing backwards

Moses Lanham holds the Guinness World Record for "Fastest time to walk 20 m with feet facing backwards." He is known as "Mr. Elastic Man."

"Contortionist Shows How He Can Walk Forward With His Feet Turned Completely Backwards" (Laughing Squid)

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App phones people so you can pretend to be their boss

What would you say to someone if you were randomly connected to them by phone and had the opportunity to roleplay as their boss? A fun new app allows you to play the Michael Scott, Bill Lumbergh, or whatever boss of your dreams, and help them get stuff done too.

Yesterday I sat down for lunch in San Francisco with Danielle Baskin, the app's co-founder. A mutual friend had recently introduced us in an email, using the subject line, "Rusty / Danielle - I can't believe you two DON'T know each other."

Our conversation was lively and ended up being nearly three hours long. As I sat there chatting with her, I totally got why our mutual friend wanted us to meet. Danielle is a rabid creator of many weird and wonderful things, a true Happy Mutant. (You may remember her Drone Sweaters, for instance, or from her interview last month on the Cool Tools podcast.)

She's got all kinds of neat irons in the fire and many of them seem to teeter on that line between art and something that is actually useful. Her latest project rides that line. It's a collaboration with programmer Max Hawkins and it started blowing up on Product Hunt this week. It's called Your Boss and she describes it as "an app that connects people working on solo projects in a call-based accountability buddy system."

She writes:

My co-founder and I are entrepreneurs and freelancers with many projects. We made an app to automate phone calls between us to keep ourselves on track, because we often work alone (without a boss).

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This indoor bike can knit a scarf in five minutes: Cyclo-Knitter

To stave off the cold and boredom of waiting at the train station, Dutch design student George Barratt-Jones made a pedal-powered knitting machine that can whip up a neck scarf in five minutes flat. He writes, "[It] gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait and in the end you are left with a free scarf! That you can decide to keep yourself or give to someone who needs it more."

Check out his design notes and photos here:

Cyclo Knitter by George Barratt-Jones

(Colossal) Read the rest

"Failure is fuel": Abby Wambach summons "Wolf Pack" in commencement speech

Last Wednesday, soccer champion, equal pay/LGBTQ activist, and badass extraordinaire Abby Wambach delivered the keynote for Barnard College, an all-women's liberal arts college in Manhattan. She shared with the graduating class, who she deemed the "Wolf Pack," the four rules she used to unite her own soccer team "pack," the team which went on to win Olympic gold.

Here's the first rule, "MAKE FAILURE YOUR FUEL":

Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a hard concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright—and they end up wasting it.

Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be POWERED by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.

When I was on the Youth National Team, only dreaming of playing alongside Mia Hamm. You know her? Good. I had the opportunity to visit the National Team’s locker room. The thing that struck me most wasn’t my heroes' grass-stained cleats or their names and numbers hanging above their lockers—it was a picture. It was a picture that someone had taped next to the door so that It would be the last thing every player saw before she headed out to the training pitch.

You might guess it was a picture of their last big win, of them standing on a podium accepting gold medals—but it wasn’t.

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Seattleites: You'll soon be able to hitch a free ride in a 1967 Checker Cab

I met Seattle artist Marcia Wiley through my inbox zine a couple months ago. I had written about the idea of the "positive deviant," basically someone who strays from the norm but brings value rather than pain (akin to the "happy mutant"). The concept really resonated with me and I asked readers to send along names of positive deviants who they were aware of because I wanted to start a list. Marcia rightly offered up her own name, and, in our most recent communication, she shared a project of hers with me: "Miss Direction's Ride Service."

Since 2005, she has been bringing unexpected delight to strangers in a really fun way. Dressed in her alter ego "Miss Direction" driving outfit (below), she gives people waiting at bus stops a free ride to their destination in her Honda SUV. In exchange for the complimentary pickup, passengers share their story with her. It's been a great success.

Now she's looking to start "Miss Direction's Checker Cab Service." A 1967 Checker Cab has already surfaced for the job, but it needs some restoration work before she can take it to the streets. So, she's started a Kickstarter campaign to fund her dream of bringing "everyday magic" to Seattle, a place, she writes, "that is changing so rapidly that people often feel a loss of connection and have a sense that the city is losing its soul and becoming less unique."

This is her vow:

I'm committed to having Miss Direction’s ’67 Marathon Checker Cab on the road by November 11, 2018.

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