Reach Out and iTouch Someone

Get your iPack Rat here!

Disclaimer: preliminary data checks make what I’m about to share with you seem like a money saving solution. However, if anyone reads the fine print and finds out otherwise, let me know.


So. You’ve decided to be all 3008 instead of 2000 and late and get yourself a smart phone. But, every time you think about buying one, you cringe at the cost. Here’s a way to turn a device you may already have into one of the smartest phones you know. Check out truphone, a software-phone company that offers free down loads and a month by month contract that can turn an iTouch into an iPhone. Now the cost of an iTouch is nothing to scoff at (they’re actually more than a standard iPhone these days. Go fig.). But, if you already own one, this truphone solution could save you from having to buy yet another handheld device. And, if you’re going to college, you can really cash in, as Apple has their “buy a mac, get an iTouch free” program going for college students. Buy the computer you need, get the iTouch gratis, down load the truphone software and for $17 a month (or so they claim) you could be sporting your own d.i.y.Phone. Sounds good to me.

Dun-nu-nu-nuh, Da-nu-nana-nuh, TEQUILA!

Pack Rat ate the worm!

2upintro1800tequillaI was milling around Grand Liquor on 31st Street in Queens yesterday, trying to remember what vintners make this sweet ass $3.99 bottle of gewurtztrameiner wine (a.k.a. the German-sounding flower wine. It tastes like a bouquet of lilies. And this is a good thing). Coming up short, I left the liquor store, walked down the street, stopped, and walked back. It is rare that a store display makes me backtrack, let alone one for alcohol. But they had a whole long window with little 1800 Tequila bottles on tiered pedestals, and each bottle was a little explosion of pop art.

Fortunately, there was a ginormous sign to indicate what the heck these bottles that looked like lava lamps on acid (is that redundant?) were all about. It read “Some say art is ‘unessential,’ that we can live without man-made beauty, that anything which does not have a ‘practical function’ is a superfluous luxury item. We strongly disagree. Not only do we believe that hand-crafted things are important, as they enrich our days and celebrate life, but we believe that the creation of art and art appreciation are among the greatest reasons to be alive…Art is everywhere. It is in every form. It is very much ‘essential.’”

To this end, 1800 has come up with their Essential Artists line of limited edition bottles. Each features the bizarre, highly-graphic, and somewhat disquieting/engaging work of a different artist. The goal is to feature the work of 1800 different artists over time. Right now they just have 8, but this thing only started in April so give them a break. The kind of work that they are featuring so far is great. Really vibrant with strong points of view and not too much pretension. The kind of stuff you would expect to see in a mural on the side of a building, and I mean that in the best possible way. You know, stuff that has real populist appeal. And the best is, you can slap some of this fine art onto a pair of sneakers for some totally killer kicks. Holla! Cause even though I love me some art, I really, really love me some art AND some practical function. Although at $250 a pair, maybe they’re not so practical. Nor are the actual bottles of tequila, which also cost some serious bread, and while the tequila may be functional, I’d hardly call it practical. Mark this one up in the “better to look, not touch” category.

Inspired? Visit the 1800 website and create your own bottle design.

Rev Up for Renegade

Pack Rat wants you to tell us what you need and we’ll take heed and lead you in the right direction for perfection. See what we’re saying? We’re not playin’, so stop delayin’ and make us your natural selection.

It’s that great time of year again, East Coast boys and girls. The Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair‘s getting ready to punch you in the face with it’s cool-factor, so brace yourself. Running through the whole weekend–from June 6 & 7 and free and open to the public, they make it almost impossible to say no. But why are you trying to resist the siren song of indie craft anyway? Just give it up already! And, once you’ve given in to your need to see unusual, exotic, handmade goo-gaws, keep on the look out for our friends at Meow Meow Tweet. They’re fragrant handmade soaps will have you purring in no time.


photo copyright by Meow Meow Tweet

Item Du Jour #33

Pack Rat has two ears and a heart–that’s why we love Phil Collins.

Look what I just bought! Honest to God, I am totally in love with The Utilitarian Franchise. This guy makes THE. BEST. STUFF. ON. EARTH. Snapple may try to make that claim, but oh ho ho hooooo boy, they are way off. Quick test. Which is better? Unique, affordable ($9.00 – $12.00 a piece), and blazingly surreal art slapped onto a hand towel…or some kind of artificial ice tea that tastes like bowel cancer waiting to happen? If you’re on the fence, let me remind you that these towels don’t just look like a Wonderland dream, you can also use them to dry stuff.  That’s two, count ‘em, TWO great uses in one. Where as Snapple…well, now that the Snapple lady is gone, they don’t really bring much to the table at all, do they? Stop surrounding yourself with mediocrity in your everyday workhorses. Fill your home with stuff that you’re going to love! And if you think I’m talking about Snapple, there’s just no hope for you.

View my most recent acquisitions. Do it.

photo copyright by The Utilitarian Franchise

photo copyright by The Utilitarian Franchise

photo copyrighted by The Utilitarian Franchise

photo copyrighted by The Utilitarian Franchise

Better Than a Dumpster

Pack Rat is one angry dwarf…and don’t forget our black t-shirt.

Imagine if you still lived life like you were in the second grade. Your boss denies your vacation request? Demolish him on the 4-square court. Know your multiplication tables up to 10? You’re a freaking genius! Have a blue foil star. And you glued a stack of popsicle sticks together in one fire-hazard sized pile? Instead of sad and slightly disturbing, it’s artistic. Looking at the stash of reclaimed art supplies at the Materials for the Arts warehouse in Long Island City, NY brings back those grammar school feelings of standing in front of the open art closet–big possibilities. MFTA opens their art and crafts treasure chest to artists and groups who need cheap or free swag in order to make their creative vision a reality. For 31 years, MFTA volunteers and staffers have been saving perfectly good arts supplies from the landfills and playing matchmaker, pairing them with the appropriate causes. Their warehouse is a veritable candy land of paint, glitter, yarn… So, actually, maybe not so much like a land made of candy, but definitely as good. Just seeing it will make you feel like a kid all over again. And knowing that a bunch of schools benefit from the MFTA resources, means that they’re helping today’s kids have that same kind of excitement. So support them how you can. Live near by? Volunteer:

However,  unlike second grade, if you eat the paste there will be repercussions. You know who you are. Actually, depending on the kind of paste you ate, maybe you don’t.

photo copyright by MFTA/Susan Springer

photo copyright by MFTA/Susan Springer

photo copyright by MFTA

photo copyright by MFTA

Reconnecting the Dots

Pack Rat refuses to give back any fillets of fish

Is there anything sadder than a discarded lotto ticket? It pretty much screams of dreams lost, broken, and disappointed, be they small or large. However, before that thought has you drafting  a suicide note, take heart. Not everyone out there is a pessimist. Take artist Jean Shin, who sees these slips of sad trash more like prayer offerings to the gods of success. She has collected about $25,000 worth of lotto tickets and assembled them into a booming burg in a piece she calls Chance City.

Her city of  cards, much like the dreams the lotto tickets represent, isn’t held together by anything permanent or stable. She uses no adhesive to bolster these paper slips, just a steady hand and gravity to assemble the sky scrapers. And, like a deeply cherished dream, somehow her precarious city works.

Shin says, “I feel like these are reflections of cities. Most people who move to cities experience a lot of hardship and work, not a lot of instant successes. So they learn the hard way by living in a city what defying odds is all about. Picking up your life and moving to the city and giving it all you can, your dreams may change — transform, but somehow, I think all of us retain that memory of something that they really wanted to do, and against all odds, are able to succeed.”

Hear more about Jean Shin’s efforts to look on the bright side of refuse at Morning Edition on NPR. And see more of her work in her “Common Threads” show, on display  The Smithsonian until July 26.


photo copyright Jean Shin

Weekend Fun Fun

In Pack Rat’s opinion, fun is only fun if you saying twice.

newtwistbannersmallSo I’ve come out of hibernation just in time for a metric ton of flashy, lush, boogalicious of indie craft shows to be starting up. I’ll keep you abreast of the goings-on as they go on, or at least as I hear about them. Up this weekend is the Twist Fair in Northampton, MA. As if you needed an excuse to visit Hippie Central, USA? Dig $3 out of the couch, hand it over, and spend either today or tomorrow fondling the handmade goods: note cards, recycled bags, organic tees. And probably as much hemp gear as you can shake a stick at. And, as a double bonus, you can sing The Twist by Frightened Rabbit the entire time you’re there…and you’ll look only half crazy.

She Sells Sea Sew By the Sea Shore

Pack Rat has a new girlie crush!

A’ight, haters. I’m gettin’ ready to drop some truth…or maybe truthiness? I love me some Stephen Colbert. Say what you will about me falling in to the hipster pothole that is Daily Show/Colbert Report (now you know what I’ve been doing when I’m not writing blogs), label me “main stream” and “so 2005″ but I can’t help it. The man makes me chortle. Did you see the episode after Christian Bale’s hilarious T4 tirade hit the airwaves last month? Colbert did a parody of it with his guest star/ my other love, Steve Martin, and holy donkey turd on a Triscuit it was hilarious! No, it was so hilarious it deserves two exclamation points. Hilarious!!

But, this blog isn’t about Colbert. But rather, it’s about what Colbert has brought me. Stephen (I feel like we’re on a first name basis, since he comes into my living room every night) has a surprising soft spot for the handmade goods (please reference an episode back in December or January where he did a whole “investigative report” on a controversial knitter) and I often find myself intrigued by the cultural gems he has on display during the interview portion of his show. And that has led to girlie crush of the month, Lisa Hannigan. Featured on the March 9th episode, Lisa Hannigan is a pixie-esque Irish singer. She already had me with her breathy, ethereal tunes from her new album, Sea Sew, but then just look at her album cover. Boo-yah, that’s right! Home girl’s ma, Frances, knit the cover (and wallpaper for the site) while Lisa stitched the linear notes and such onto rough cotton–please. As if she needed any more indie street cred. And, check this action out, turns out her craftiness? It’s not just for show. Digging around on her website, I found that this genius girl has a recipe combining two of my favorite things: chocolate and cookies. Sold! Totally sold. Buying an album now. Maybe fourteen. Who can say? I start making serious impulse purchases when I’m all hopped up on chocolate and cookies.

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

Item Du Jour #32

Pack Rat singing in the dead of night; take these broken wings and learn to fly

You know what I’m about? I’m about two things: affordable fashion and one of a kind looks. And that, people, is why Etsy is the shiznit (well that and about a million other reasons). As I’m peeping the NYC boutique scene, I’m not surprised to find that most Manhattan shops are out of my price range, but even the cute little Brooklyn stores are full of gear that costs at least twenty dollars more than I’m willing to spend. (where I come from, an expensive tank top costs $30, and I can maybe talk myself into it. When it costs $50? You can fuggetaboutit.) Etsy, on the other hand, brings me one of a kind pieces from up and coming designers all over the world at price points I can afford. Case in point: poppyswickedgarden. LOVES it!

There are plenty of things to oogle in this delicious shop, but today I’ve picked this Jesus’s Last Supper Convertible Skirt Dress ($30) . First of all, I am a big fan of anything that can do double duty, and being able to wear this either as a dress or a skirt is not only fun, but functional; it’s like you’re buying two pieces for the price of one. Also, I love the idea of wearing a reproduction of the famous Da Vinci painting, it turns you into a walking piece of art. This is not for the wall flowers out there; you are definitely going to be stopped in this little number as people take a closer look. I realize that maybe the religious imagery is a bit too much for some people, so I’ll also offer up the sexy Mod Dots Elegant Top ($23) as an alternative. Or get them both! Life’s too short to have a boring wardrobe.


photos copywrighted by poppyswickedgarden

Explain This Blog

Pack Rat does a binary solo: 00000100000111. Robo boogie!

Today I bring you a link to some free laughs. There is nothing funnier than a really good non-sequitur. And I mean nothing. Have you any doubts? Well then you, my friend, should immediately get thee to Explain This Image is my favorite kind of site, the kind where the name says it all. Essentially, this is a gallery of the weird, the mysterious, and–some times–the frightening. The peeps at Explain This troll the Internet in search of the most bizarre images out there, pictures that without a caption and without a context seem completely foreign to the everyday life most of us lead. These little vignettes are either a creative writer’s dream come true, or nightmare as some of the pictures are so outlandish that it seems nearly impossible to ground them in reality. But even if you’re not a day-dreamer prone to trying to figure out the story behind the image, everyone can enjoy this finely curated collection of the ridiculous. Here’s a pair of my favs.

unxplained-photo-1 unxplained-photo-2

photos copyrighted by