biscuit! the super power of touretteshero

About a year ago, my friend Matthew Pountney introduced me to Jessica Thom. Well, he virtually introduced me to her alter ego, Touretteshero. Jessica was born with Tourette’s and does not medicate (aside from muscle relaxants) because of unwelcome side effects. As a result, her tics are frequent – she spouts the word “biscuit” 16,000 times a day – and they strain everyday relationships. When Matthew shared Jessica’s website with me, I was inspired.

Aside from Jessica’s obvious bravery, I’m extremely impressed with her transmedia approach to share her story. She embraces Tourette’s as a super power and uses this narrative to teach children about the syndrome. Thus, Tourretteshero was born. Jessica offers workshops for kids where they can embrace their own super heroes, and she’s got a YouTube page featuring fun videos about her work and causes she supports.

Her website shares interactive art created by Touretteshero fans based on Jessica’s verbal tics. She posts the tics and allows fans to vote for their favorite tics. Fans have created illustrations based on the tics, including some of the hilarious R-rated drawings you can see here.

I’ve got ninety nine problems but a bear ain’t one.

Quirky video art duo chris+keir re-enacted a number of Touretteshero’s tics as performances.

She remixed soundbites into a song featuring actor and comedian Stephen Fry, and, of course, a multi-platform campaign wouldn’t be complete without social media, which you can follow on all the typical channels. My favorite is TicBot – the only bot on Twitter I will endorse – which randomly injects tweeted tics into your feed when you least expect it. Follow @ticbot. Fun stuff.

And now, Jessica is publishing her diaries, Welcome to Biscuitland: A Year in the Life of Touretteshero. You can read some excerpts from the book on The Mail’s website, and pre-order the book on Amazon.

The more I see from Jessica, the more I want to meet her in person. An ocean divides us, but I’ve hope Matthew’s virtual introduction will someday lead to a face to face meeting. Jessica’s creativity, humor and bravery inspires me to not only make good, fun art, but create important work that educates and enlightens.

Welcome to Biscutland: A Year in the Life of Touretteshero

stuck on repeat: the story of our lives

Good art sticks with you. It may not always be the slickest, most “well-made,” or mass consumed, but it haunts you, makes you think, and frequently lures you back.

Habit, the creation of David Levine from text by Jason Grote, is one of those pieces. An offering that challenges actors to repeat the same 90 minute play for eight hours at a time, Habit places the audience in the role of voyeur, peaking through windows and doorways to catch a glimpse of the action. The entire set is the first floor of a house constructed in a raw space on Essex Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is an existential exercise in humanity, and I hope to check it out again before it closes on Sunday, September 30th.

Blurry snapshot from my phone’s camera.

The production notes offer a handy explanation of why Levine conceived the project and how it works, but I (as I do with most plays I attend) chose not to read the production notes until after I experienced it. I’m glad I did. Unlike some press explanations about the production, I won’t divulge its secrets. My above description is even more than I’d like to share, for when one views Habit blindly, surprises surface.

Today, Maria Popova of Brainpickings coincidentally posted about a different Habit, by William James. She shares the concept of “habit loops,” which (probably not coincidentally) is the term Levine uses to label the repetition of Grote’s play. Each loop of the play is slightly different than the previous, and these differences magnify how peoples’ choices affect life.

Don’t expect to be blown away by Levine’s Habit – though you may be. Seek subtleties and reconsider how your choices determine your future. You may discover the intricacies of the actors’ choices reflected in your own existence. And if you think about those habits, your perspective on life might shift. Just a touch.

Presented by the Crossing the Line Festival and Performance Space 122

FREE and open to the public. No reservations required.
helpful hint: arrive early and stay a for at least two loops, or 3 hours

Sept 21 – 30 / 1 – 9pm daily
at Essex Street Market, Building B
130-144 Essex Street (btw. Rivington & Stanton Streets)


enter the burn – part deux

I love to watch stuff burn. I’m drawn like a moth, hypnotized when flames play in the wind and consume oxygen, paper or wood. Twice, as a child, I almost caught our house on fire from playing with it. Finally, I figured out fire isn’t a toy, but an element to revere. A year ago, I made it to the festival that celebrates fire (and much more) in all its glory: Burning Man.

My first pilgrimage to the desert was difficult, fun, sad, joyful and rewarding. Burning Man is a lot of things to a lot of people. Just as with any art, everyone has her/his own relationship to it, and some people love it while others can’t be bothered.

No matter your take, I’m amped. When I saw a video documenting the creation of the official welcome sign, it fueled my fire.

Burning Man 2012 – Fertility 2.0 Festival Sign from Mad Dog on Vimeo.

Earlier this year, Tedshots posted a beautiful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” shot in 2011. It’s one of my favorites.

Now that I have the lay of the land and a better perspective on the culture of it all, I’m hoping I’ll be able to see more fun things. This video by Rainbow Raccoon is long, but that’s because it covers so much. I didn’t even see several wonders it features.

Home is where the heart is, and I know so many burners declare it’s like returning home. It may seem silly to you, or perhaps you’re a kindred spirit who gets it. Whatever the case, my heart fills when I imagine riding my bike across the playa.

should i work for free?

The fabulous letterer and illustrator Jessica Hische created a monster flowchart asking the question so many artists ask: Should I would for free? It sifts through the complex emotions attached to money and takes a humorous look at the inner workings of the work/art relationship. Plus, you can order it on letter press and hang it up in your studio, so it is extra super cool. Just like Jessica.

To interact with the flowchart, visit


how to win a sand castle contest (or, zen and the art of sand castles)

As I prepare to head into the desert for a week of art and fertility, it feels appropriate to linger for a moment on the subject of sand. Add the other item I won’t touch again this summer – the ocean – and we delve into the subtle art of sand castles.

A few weeks back, I had a fantastic experience with a three-year-old when we manifested a turtle named “Tippy” from millions of grains on the shores of Montauk, NY. If you have never made a sand turtle with a three-year-old, I highly recommend it. The minutes slip away while you reclaim childhood fun.

There’s been a brew-ha-ha recently over the first 3D printing of parts for a gun. It’s no secret people use technology to create destruction, but some are using the cutting edge technology to create art. Israeli sculptor Eyal Gever harnesses 3D printing to freeze frame the abstract beauty of tsunamis, bus crashes and oil spills. Now, a team of designers calling themselves The Stone Spray Project are on the beach creating mind-blowing delicate sand castles.

Stone Spray Project from Stone Spray on Vimeo.

Until the day when everyone has a personalized 3D sand castle printer, shovels and buckets will have to do. Just this past weekend, Creative Time launched its inaugural sand castle building contest. Artists erected precise architectural structures and detailed sculptures of human forms, but the winners of the competition came from a crew whose mission in life is to have fun cultivate community. Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw built a living water fountain, integrating friends and themselves into the sandy tower.

The impermanence of sand sculptures, along with the playful joy that arises from creating these temporal works of art, offers a meditation on fun and life. Sure, 3D technology is cool and may one day replicate a life-sized castle, but the feel of sand between toes and fingers reinforces the here and now while recapturing one’s childhood.

Realizing this unique paradoxical gift is when you truly win the sand castle contest.

Sources:, PC World