Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP Gary Coleman

I'm sure by now you've all heard the sad news. I found out via text message from my big brother.

Him: U hear gary coleman died
Him: 4 real! 2day

Looks like we have a Mr. May for next year's calendar. Good thing too. No one under the age of 90 gives a crap about Art Linkletter.
I found this video of Gary rapping alongside some kinda she-male alien from Southwest outer space. Finally, I can prove to all the haters that someone freakier than Michael Jackson does in fact exist.

Gary, thank you for giving my brother and me valuable afternoon entertainment during the school year and nonstop daytime laughs on our summer vacations. And for teaching us how to escape from a child molestor and not wet our beds. RIP Gary Coleman forever.

Friday, May 28, 2010

She's Like a Rainbow

I have a new T-shirt idea. It's gonna look like this:
Needless to say, I was

With trembling fingers, I opened the metal tin and laid my anticipant eyeballs on the glory contained within.
A bouquet of sweet, piney aromas wafted into my nostrils. The brilliant sheen of the colored coating on each and every pencil set off a thousand sparkling fireworks on the delicate surface of my corneas.
My hands went to work. Sharpening (manually, of course), then arranging. 45 minutes and one sore callous later, my work was complete.

Ta-daa! Friends, this is a beautiful sight. Could make a grown man cry. It makes me wanna live...
Oh, turds, I forgot to explain something; sometimes, in fleeting moments of pure bliss or unadulterated beauty, I forget that not everyone sees the world the way I do. So, you might be wondering why this tedious arrangement of a box of colored pencils was necessary. As Ricky Ricardo says, "Let me 'splain."

Lauren Marsella was born with a compulsive behavior to organize anything and everything in rainbow order whenever the possibility to do so arose, no matter what task she was already in the midst of completing, be it menial or life threatening.
Roy G. Biv has run my life for as long as I can remember. He's like an abusive lover and a witchy woman rolled into one, always calling to me, softly whispering in my ear,

 "Laaaauuurrrennnn, wake up, darling. Your nocturnal tossing and turnings have upset the carefully ordered spectrum of your stuffed animal collection. We know better than that, don't we? Tomorrow night, no moving in your sleep, or else*. Now, when you're done with this first order of crucial business, your mother's nail polish collection is crying out for your help. The situation in that shoebox can only be described as 'dire.' You're lucky I'm here to keep you on task. Better get to work now because you also have 4 hours of homework and a hefty chore list from your folks to complete. Now scoot!"

So my childhood was going along fine for the most part, aside from some Morman tongue slapping, the tyrannical rule of my big brother over control of the TV remote and the daily family room violence that conflict incited. At school, I looked on my fellow students' sad neglect of their government-issued 12 pack of Large Crayola Crayons, finding their carelessness slightly endearing but moreso I was overwhelmed by waves of a burgeoning superiority complex. I couldn't blame them for their sorry disorganization though; they simply didn't know any better, and how could they? Roy G. Biv didn't love or speak to them the way he loved and spoke to me. So, I was content to smile and nod at the poor souls, meticulously arranging my crayons in a row from red to black at the end of every day, in a happy routine. That is, until my world was shattered. by the gay rights movement. Roy had come out.
'How could he be gay?' I thought to myself. 'He told me he loved me!' (Little did I know then that this would become a common theme at the end of many a love affair in adulthood) It wasn't the fact that it was gay people taking the rainbow as their symbol. Despite being brought up in a strict "Christian" household where we were taught that homosexuality was sinful, I never bought into all that mumbo jumbo. It was the fact that someone had taken my symbol and used it for their own. I felt robbed. Until then, the only other meaning the rainbow held was the one taught to us in Sunday School: God's promise never to flood the Earth again. Even this signification meant little to me because of the far-fetched nature of the story. Don't get me wrong, I was the most imaginative child you could ever meet. Yet for some reason it was much easier for me to believe that Jaws lurked in my bath tub nipping at my toes and *Freddy Krueger hid in my closet ripping the wallpaper to shreds with a pizza cutter and the only reason I survived that period of my life was because my pillow person and I had made a pact to fend him off by sleeping in shifts, than to have faith in the veracity of some ridiculous Bible tale about animals marching in 2 by 2's onto a huge boat where they didn't eat the crap out of each other for 40 days and 40 nights. Yeah, sure.
Things were never the same after that. Raging homophobia polluted my junior high school. If you merely doodled a rainbow in the corner of your math test, there was some white trash wigger leaning over your shoulder ready to holler "FAGGOT!" as loud as humanly possible. And this was what they did to the girls. My rainbow love went underground.
Then I enrolled in art school where it was safe, and calling yourself a "faggot" was encouraged, especially if you shortened "faggot" to "fag" and tacked "art" onto the front of it. It was during my time there that I started to see something happening in the world....

a pattern was slowly but surely revealing itself...

Little by little, it gained momentum....
...until it could no longer be ignored...well, with one exception
*cough cough* Polyphonic Spree *cough*

RAINBOWS ARE BACK! And bigger than ever! Invading advertising campaigns, Radiohead albums, and dare I say it? The contemporary art world.
Is nothing sacred? Thank you, Dr. Zizmor. THANKS FOR NOTHING, JERK!
Okay, okay, let's be fair. Dr. Zizmor couldn't have done it without the help of the Zeus and Hera of this Rainbow Revival. You guessed it.
                   American Apparel                                           and                                       Apple

The situation begged for a thorough investigation. Your faithful art world reporter, Lauren Marsella, went on assignment and has returned with some interesting findings.

REPORT: Rainbowitis: The Bubonic Plague of the 21st Century Art World
by Lauren Marsella of The Daily Planet
**Artist credits have been withheld to protect the guilty
Rainbowitis is a widespread disease among today's artists. Not only is it highly contagious,
but it also has the capability to thrive in any part of the body. Infections have been reported in the eyes:

and even in more, private...places.
Yes, artists have Rainbowitis in the butt. There's one major symptom of Rainbowitis: vomiting and lots of it.

Ok, this is actually pretty awesome
And it's no wonder that rainbowitis is so pervasive. It is found in the air we breathe,

the food we eat,
even reaching us subliminally in the music we listen to.
Scarier still, this reporter found that some strains of Rainbowitis cannot be detected with the naked eye!

Under the microscope

And we're giving it to one another willy nilly. It's indecent!

This is what the people of Noah's time were doing.

 This is what they got for it.
Any questions?
The outlook is grim. There's only one thing left for us to do.
Let us pray. 
Dear God,
Please take back your promise. Flood the Earth again. Only this time, could it be like an artists's ark where You only save the artists who remain true to themselves and the rest get overtaken by Rainbowitis, in the same manner that the wordly people of the original story were swallowed up by torrential downpours and tsunamis, you know for being evil and ruining everything and touching each other's buttholes and all that? You don't have to go drowning anyone though, just make 'em look the other way while the real artists (yeah, I said it) are making work that won't be appreciated until long after they're dead. Oh, you're already doing that? What's that? Rainbowitis is the distraction I'm asking for? And it's all part of your perfect plan? Oh. Ok. Well then. Keep up the good work, Chief. And can you say hello to John Ritter and Bernie Mac for me? They just kill me in Bad Santa.

Gee, I hope that works. If not, hakuna matata. You know what they say: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

P.S. I cooked up an appropriate last meal for all the poseurs out there. Bon Appetit, suckers!

Fettuccine with Rainbow Chard & White Beans
adapted from RealSimple

12 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced, minced or chopped, whichever you prefer
5 tomatoes which were once on a vine, chopped
1 medium white or Spanish onion, sliced thin
1 bunch Rainbow Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed, soaked overnight, and simmered for a couple hours until ready (or one 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed)
Sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta, making damn well sure it's al dente. Everytime someone cooks their pasta past al dente, somewhere, a Marsella dies.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion first, stirring frequently for a couple minutes, then the garlic. Cook for a further 5 minutes, making sure the mixture doesn't brown or burn. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down and release their juices, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chard stems and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the chard leaves, cannellini beans, sea salt, and the red pepper and cook, stirring, until the chard leaves are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Divide the pasta among individual bowls and top with the chard mixture and Parmesan or Pecorino Romano if you got it. Serves 4. TGIF!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teacher, Teacher, How I Love My Teacher

Tomorrow is my first day of teaching. On the surface, I am leading a class on upcycled art for teenagers, but when the grown-ups turn their backs it will be all out Free Michael Jackson 101. I'm sorry, but it's subconscious, inevitable and unavoidable. MJ explains it best:
 "I can't help it if I wanted to, I wouldn't help it even if I could"

I made this upcycled tote while brainstorming possible projects. Try it for yourself. All you need is 20 plastic grocery bags, a clothes iron, aluminum foil, scissors, a room with no breezes flowing through it and four hours of precious free time.  And you thought you were "going green" by wiping your big butt with Seventh Generation TP...which is now a hot item on Amazon....a web site named after the world's largest river...the bulk of which flows through the Amazon Rainforest...which has been rapidly slashed and burned in order to make room for the cattle pastures of South America's beef industry....which are being forced even further into the untouched rainforest by farms that grow soybeans...a crop used in the production of...Boca Burgers (also on Amazon), scented candles and...Tofutti. No, wait, that was Tootie.
Conclusion: Hippie culture is destroying our planet. This is a Fact of Life.

P.S. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hollywood Hajj: Part Deux

About a month ago I applied to The Awesome Foundation, which is an organization of individuals based out of 4 major US cities who pool their own hard-earned money to give out a single thousand dollar grant each month for the sake of supporting awesome people doing awesome things. Not to toot my horn, but I thought I qualified for this, so I proposed an awesome project to them, in exactly the 2500 character limit (note: the images I've inserted here were included in my application to them simply as a link to my flickr):

"Last year, I visited California for the 1st time in my life. Before flying there, I thought that I was just going for the sake of seeing it, to be able to say 'Hey-California, yeah I've been there.' A week after my arrival, Michael Jackson died. This event rocked a lot of peoples' worlds. Hell, it rocked THE WORLD. And it rocked my world. You see, I've been making Michael Jackson related artwork for the past 7 years now. To be a bus ride away from the MJ chaos snowballing in LA following the announcement of his hospital admittance, well, it was too much of a coincidence. I believe it was a Divine Act. My best friend scolds me for calling it that because she doesn't want people to think I'm a fanatic, which I'm not. I just recognize how important his life was, and how the events of his life touch on issues we all deal with. So, I saw the opportunity laid out before me and took it: I boarded a greyhound bus and the following morning I arrived at Michael Jackson's star on the Walk of Fame.

I stayed in LA for one week, visiting places I thought significant to his life and death and taking in the mania of what truly was a world event. Thousands of people gathering from all over the world to witness the death site of a giant.

I began calling it my "Pilgrimage to Mecca" and you will see why once you've viewed my work. 2 years prior, I traveled to his childhood home in Gary, Indiana, to witness MJ's roots, the poverty he and his family rose from. I think it's imperative for myself as an artist to experience what I'm talking about in my art. Not doing so would be dishonest, a person talking about something she knows nothing about. My project is to make a 2nd pilgrimage to Hollywood on the anniversary of MJ's death, June 25, 2010, stay for one week, keeping another journal while there. Oh, I didn't mention the journal?

Yes, I kept a journal of everything I experienced during that fateful week in Los Angeles: my encounters with the gobs of nose-picking tourists, the impromptu MJ shrines being erected willy nilly, the serenity of the perfectly manicured Beverly Hills lawns, even a craigslist stalker who wanted to drive me to Neverland, it's all in there, un-edited and illustrated.

Here's the 2nd part of the project: I will self-publish the original journal. If there are any funds left over after airfare and food and living expenses, I will publish the 2nd journal as well.

Every person has their own unique perspective on Michael Jackson. Mine just happens to be awesome."

They never replied, and my awesome project remains unfunded. Until now.

 Announcing "Hollywood Hajj: Part Deux" !!!

That's right, loyal Lauren Marsella followers. As of this evening, May 19th, 2010 at 7 o'clock pm Atlantic time, I've officially launched a fundraiser on Kickstarter, a site that helps creative people like yours truly fund their creative endeavors. They've got it explained quite concisely here. Click on the Hollywood Hajj link above to read all about my project, the time frame I'm working with to raise funds, and best of all-the rewards I offer to donors (it's similar to the Awesome Foundation text but with some very important edits, so please do read it. If you have to read it out loud to your friends in a very high pitched voice to keep yourself entertained, by all means, please do).

Now, here's the most important part: You! As loyal Lauren Marsella supporters, this is your official Call to Action! I need your help to spread the word about this project. I am certain I cannot make this happen without the support of each and every one of you. Together, we can make this Hollywood dream a reality!
Godspeed and good luck!

Friday, May 14, 2010


It's TGIF, people. If I had my way I would celebrate by watching Friday, but I sold my copy for a dollar and some envelopes.  So, Ima catch up on recipes instead. Let's start with a traditional Caribbean beverage known only as Ginger Beer!

Ginger Beer
adapted from the stupid Morgan Freeman jawn
Makes 16 one cup servings
1 pound fresh ginger
2 3/4 cup lukewarm water (95-100 degrees F)
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast (I used Bob's Red Mill)
2 cups sugar (I used 365 Brand Vegan Cane Sugar)
12 cups hot water (120-125 degrees F)

Grate the ginger into a mixing bowl, using the finest side of the grater (or use a food processor with grater attachment, which is what I would recommend if you have skinny weak little biceps like I do).
Add 2 cups of the lukewarm water and stir the mixture for 2 minutes, the allow it to settle for 5 minutes. Stir again, then strain through a fine sieve, catching all the liquid in a bowl. Collect the pulp in your hands or cheesecloth and squeeze thoroughly to extract all the remaining liquid (the better the squeezin', the better the flava). Stir and measure out 2 cups of the liquid.
In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the remaining 3/4 cup lukewarm water and stir just enough to moisten. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large nonreactive bowl or pot, combine the sugar and hot water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the water appears clear. Stir in the reserved ginger extract. Add the yeast mixture and combine thoroughly.
Using a funnel, transfer the liquid to soda or water bottles, leaving at least 1" at the top of each bottle. Cap the bottles tightly and stand them upright in a warm place for 5 or 6 days, until the beer is effervescent. Refrigerate before serving. Drink with salty food on a hot day.

Boombam. Next.
Bread time. I often have a hard time with bread recipes because I'm kinda sloppy with water temps and dry ingredient amounts. I finally found a recipe that came out great despite my negligence.

Rustic White/Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Nick Malgieri at The Institute of Culinary Education
2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose white flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Bob's again)
1 cups whole wheat flour (duh)
4 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup flour for dusting the loaves (I used the white)
Cornmeal for the pans
2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan

To make the dough, in a 3-quart mixing bowl place water and sprinkle yeast on surface, allowing it to stand for two minutes before whisking. Sift flours and sea salt in a bowl. Add the flour/salt mixture stiffing with a rubber spatula until it forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth, adding more flour if dough is too soft.

Place dough in an oiled bowl (you may need to use a scraper) and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. If you wish to interrupt the process, let the dough begin to rise, then punch it down, cover it tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to proceed, bring back to room temperature until it begins rising again.

To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough. (I made one large loaf with the one half and made little rolls out of the other half by dividing it into 6 pieces and shaping into little spheres)
Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/3 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.
30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.
Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450 degrees.
After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 220 degrees. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.

Mmmmm. This bread smelled so good when it popped out of the oven, I immediately took a big bite of a hot lil bun, then cut it in half and buttered the rest of that badboy up. Fresh baked homemade bread. There's nothing like it in the world. *tear*

Here's a recipe that offers an excellent use for the bread you just made, that is, if you can keep from devouring it right then and there, and part of the loaf makes it to the "day old" stage.
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Makes a large pot of soup - enough for 10 servings
The original recipe is kinda specific about what kind of kale you use, but I say use whatever freaking kind of kale you want. You can also use canned beans (the equivalent being two 15 oz cans), but this is where I get snobby-dried beans soaked overnight are always best.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 celery stalks, chopped (I'm not a celery lover, plus I had none, so I skipped this)
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots or equiv. winter squash, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 14-ounce / 400 ml can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound / 16 ounces / 450g cavolo nero (lacinato kale, Tuscan kale), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
4 cups / 22 oz / 620g cooked white beans
1/2 pound / 8 oz / 225g crustless loaf of bread
1 1/2+ teaspoons fine grain sea salt
zest of one lemon
lots of well-chopped oily black olives (this woulda been nice, but we poor)

In your largest thick-bottomed pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and red onion. Cook for 10 -15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid any browning. Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit. Stir in the kale, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups / 2 liters water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a generous splash of water until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 - 30 minutes. Stir in the sea salt, taste and add more if needed. Top with the lemon zest right before serving.

Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Serve reheated, or "ribollita" meaning "reboiled" for those of you poor souls who don't parlo Italiano, the next day ladled into bowls. Finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped olives (if you rich).
Viva Italia!

Holy crap, that was a lotta fagina. I mean cooking. That was a lotta cooking. I'm dizzy. Until next time...