Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inspiration Thursday: Austin, Africa, and The New Imperialism

[Charles] Owning your own business is not for the faint of heart. It sounds great, work your own hours and do what you like, but somedays it just means staring at the door hoping somebody, anybody is going to walk in and buy something while all the while trying not to let your 1 1/2 year old screaming for attention drive you crazy. Somedays you really need some inspiration. You need some reason to go back in and face the ridiculous odds that seem desperate to crush you and your finances.

Thank goodness for the internet where you can connect with other businesses that are doing the same thing and joining the fight and making amazing things all over the world.

Our first stop would be the awesome Re-Nest blog on Apartment Therapy which comes through all day with a steady stream of great ideas and stories.

That lead me to Ref-Use, a company outside of Austin that makes something that I've thought about but yet to make - a stack of small scraps of plywood built into a beautiful chair. Trust me, in the shop there are so many small scraps of wood that are just dying for me to try and put in the saw and chop off some of my fingers in the process.

Last stop, for some true inspiration is a blog called Afrigadget where you can read about the ingenuity of people in Africa as they work to solve problems like building a radio from trash to trapping sewage waste and building your own personal biogas plant for sustainable cooking.

I was led there by the blog discussions I've been reading about the debate over "Humanitarian Design: The New Imperialism". Interesting stuff if you find yourself wanting to help the world but torn on whether helping in some far off place is really the sort of help you should be doing.

Happy reading! Hope some of these inspired you as well!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rail in Tampa Vs. Rail in China

Photo of Shanghai rail station from bennettdesigns on Flickr
[Charles] Okay it's not really a fair comparison. In Tampa we are putting up a vote for a 1 cent sales tax for public transportation improvements. In China they are putting the finishing touches on a 6.7 MW power generating solar roof for their new high speed rail station. While the mayor here argues whether it should be high speed rail vs. light rail to the airport, the Chinese happily knock out a state of the art facility that will probably shame whatever rail station we can scrape together. We might have money for a new baseball stadium but lets definitely think hard about getting people where they want to go. People on the roads are unproductive and mad and more likely to end up dead quicker! So let's get off our seats, literally, and get this rail thing going! This is the chance to do something amazing and ENDURING in downtown Tampa that isn't a parking lot! If you've seen the new airside at TIA or the new art museum downtown you bear witness to some of our city's momentum. I'll finish up my little pep talk with a link to a group called Moving Hillsborough Forward and their upcoming meeting at TMA. Below is the video they made to start getting people talking about the vote coming up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

WMNF Fund Drive - Give Now or Don't Complain When It's Gone

Reach over to your radio and tune in to 88.5 or go to and hit Listen Now. I know, it's way down there on the dial. No, it's not a religious station unless of course awesome music is your religion. If it is then I'll see you on Sunday. If you haven't heard of WMNF yet then I probably can't say anything in this blog that will convince you to unlock your piggy bank and send them your hard earned pennies but I will try. WMNF is the only, I repeat, ONLY radio station in the entire Tampa Bay area that plays independent music, local music, and indie music from bands that will never ever make it to commercial radio. They play genres of music that corporate radio like ClearEverythingElseOffTheDialChannel can't even pronounce. Not only do they represent small genres of music like Native American music, Jewish music, Polka music, and World music but they also play acid jazz to zouk and afrobeat to zydeco. If you love music and have an open mind for new genres then there really is nowhere else to go. I think that a lot of people here don't get how rare it is to have a station like this. If you grew up in a wasteland of commercial radio like say East Texas then you might never have heard of this music. Robert Earl Keen is from Texas and I never heard him on the radio before I moved here.

On top of that, WMNF goes out of their way to have talk programming that serves the people of our community. I want to take it down now and talk about one particular show and how you can support the station and the arts at the same time. If you have heard of WMNF and haven't sent them your hard-earned pennies then you are exactly who I want to talk to.

Have you paid $5-$10 to get into an art show or a concert this year? Do you drop $12 for a couple of beers at the Independent on Saturday night? Well then, I need you to pony up and pay the cover charge for Art In Your Ear today at 1:30. This show is the only place that actually takes the time to bring artists on the radio and talk and interview them here. JoEllen is an engaging and quite often hilarious interviewer who brings on people from the visual arts, stage, and music every week to discuss what is happening and get people involved in the arts discussion here. You can hear about what's going on at Tempus Projects, TMA, the Museum of Fine Arts, or maybe Jobsite Theater or the Silver Meteor or in Ybor. I hear the complaints, nobody supports the arts here, heck I do a lot of complaining myself but trust me, she supports the arts and believes in it! You need to put your money where your mouth is and send her $5 or $10 today. There are 476 fans of Art In Your Ear on Facebook and if each of those sent $5 that would be $2380. I'm pretty sure that would open some eyes to the amount of support that she gets from us in the community.

If every person that ever whined about the lack of arts support sent her $10 then there would be no talk of layoffs. You know who was the first to call volunteers to action after the layoffs? You guessed it... JoEllen, and she didn't rest until they made it right! With the money that we send WMNF, they would be able to do more shows and more music and get larger live acts! So get off your wallet and spend the first round of drink money on Art In Your Ear today. You don't even have to wait until 1:30 to do it. They make it so easy that you just drop it in the tip jar. Here's the link. Tell JoEllen that I sent you. Did I mention that she's also the owner of the Globe Coffee Lounge in St. Pete?! That's right, and you know how busy indie owners are because you listen to me whine about it. So she takes time out her week to inform us slackers who don't want to scour the internet for shows on the best arts happenings! Okay, I'm done, if that doesn't convince you then nothing will. But just in case you're on the fence let me list a few of the bands that you will never hear anywhere besides WMNF 88.5.

MGMT, Robert Earl Keen, Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, The National, The Beauvilles, Okkervil River, Rebekah Pulley, Nervous Turkey, Gorillaz, Frightened Rabbit, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Sons of Hippies, Richard Thompson, The Watson Twins, Gotan Project, Candy Bars, Tokyo Police Club, Refugee All-Stars of Sierra Leone, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Bingham, Of Montreal, Light Yourself On Fire, Ratatat, The Black Keys, Rogue Wave, Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Sparklehorse

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's it like to make cool stuff out of crap stuff in zero space?

Photo from Daniel at Manhattan Nest Blog
[Charles] People ask how we make cool furniture out of beat up junk pretty often but I think our descriptions fall kinda short. Yeah, sometimes I take them into the workshop and say, that old rusty sink will someday be an amazing couch or table or something. Honestly though I get a lot of those blank "that piece of junk?" looks there. So my point is, I can appreciate somebody who does it well and explains it well with lots of photos. The best take away for me is to do it with a sense of humor. Check out this guy Dan's conversion and explanation on his blog. It was cool enough to get him on Apartment Therapy so maybe I should stop whining and get to work on taking more photos of how we make stuff...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can I Avoid BPA While Canning?

Photo from Treehugger
[Charles] I've never canned anything before. Heck, I am just now getting good at growing things in the garden. We recently got one of those free mags that the big box stores ship out to inspire you to come in and buy some stuff and "change your life". This one had an "article" (read - wordy advertisement) about canning your own vegetables and fruit from the garden. Well actually this is something that was on my mind lately because the discussion around the garden often centers on what is available each season. Canning allows you to take things like those awesome tomatoes from summer and bring them out in winter for tomato soup. So anyway, basically all of the traditionally canned stuff in the store has BPA lining the can, yep even the green beans that we eat almost every week!

So canning avoids that with the glass jar right? But wait... what's on that metal lid ? You guessed it! Friggin BPA again! Until our government and all of its corporate arms get rid of this stuff, we are going to have to be dilligent to avoid it. So here you go. I found some lids that don't have them so you can avoid the nasty stuff when you finally get around to storing those awesome strawberries that will make the most amazing pie for Thanksgiving.

One place is called Lehmann's which doesn't come out and say it's BPA free but according some they might be - I'm not convinced yet. The option that most people seem to agree on is called Tattler which is very vocal about its lack of BPA. There are also some jars called Weck that are apparently more expensive but might be found at yard sales. So good luck folks on all that canning (here's the how-to), it sounds like a lot of work but just like gardening the rewards are well worth it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recycled Rubber Chaise... Awesome

[Charles] I read a lot of other blogs and lists that show what other people make from recycled materials. This chaise is so awesome and I'm just completely jealous that we don't have it in our little shop. It was on Great Green Goods which does a decent job of finding unique things online although most things are still in the Lebron James price range - (see I can put in random sports news references too!)

The second link is to the Berlin artist Jaap Wijnants website for the Puncture Bags from inner tubes. It sounds like furniture designer Patrick Kerti was a partner on this one although my german is a little rusty. Very cool although a little out of my price range still... and shipping from Germany...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Candy Bars Live Tonight at Cappy's? Oh Yeah...

Candy Bars - Photo by Elawgrrl
[Charles] I can only assume that the bossman at Cappy's is out of town on vacation this week because as far as I know this has never happened. There has never been a live show at our own Seminole Heights Cappy's restaurant. Our local pizza shop is an awesome open space with high backed booths that easily recalls the feeling of "Arnold's Drive In" on Happy Days - maybe with the pinball machine replaced by a Donkey Kong game. The staff at Cappy's are all really cool and welcoming and the quiet one in the gang is usually the aforementioned bossman "Scooter." He's usually working too hard in the back making pizzas to make the rounds and schmooze which is fine because the pizza is great and he works hard to keep it that way.

Anyway, besides the small plug for one of my favorite independent businesses, this post should encourage you to get there tonight for this one of a kind show from one of the most interesting bands you've only sort of heard of - The Candy Bars. This is an experimental rock band with a sound that is often referred to as "baroque" which may have something to do with the inclusion of a cello player or the lack of good comparisons. They are unique, hard-working, and amazing. I'll attach an old link to a show of them at New World although it doesn't really do them justice.

So if you are tired of complaining about the lack of concert venues and things to do in the hood and finally ready to be part of the solution, then check them out tonight. Drop your $2 and grab a slice and help this band gain the following they so definitely deserve. These guys believe in the need for support of the arts and hopefully won't mind me telling a story on the lead vocalist Daniel Martinez.

When we had first opened our doors, right next to Cappy's Pizza almost four years ago, Dan was one of the first guys to visit us. We were in over our heads with no idea what we were doing and lots of cool inventory but no customers. Dan came over and bought an amazing bench from us (one of our all time faves) and even split up the payments on two cards just so he could get it. He'll probably never know how much that meant to us that somebody would take a chance on us, but as I listened to his CD a few weeks later I knew that this guy and this band was somebody worth sticking your neck out for.