Monday, March 30, 2009

Amanda Fucking Palmer

I first saw Amanda Palmer as she sang in The Dresden Dolls way back in May 2005 as a fly-by-night trip from Greensboro to Chicago. They opened up for Nine Inch Nails on an intimate club/theater tour. It was awesome! And just one of those crazy "fly to a different city just to see a band" experiences that leaves a permanent mark. I found The Dresden Dolls (and Amanda especially) to be intoxicating.

Last November, I caught Amanda in Asheville for another quick and harried concert. Work until 4pm, drive the 2 1/2 hours to Asheville, see the show, then drive the 2 1/2 hours back home. Still, so incredible in the cozy venue of the Orange Peel.

My most recent Amanda sighting occurred last night at The Arts Center in Carrboro, NC on the Chapel Hill city line. This concert took the cake. Leaving NIN out of the equation, this Amanda Palmer experience blew that one away. Easily.

Let's rewind a bit. UNC was playing a basketball game to make it to the Final Four at 5:00pm. The concert was merely a 1/2 mile away from Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill. Sooooo....a drive for dinner and brews at Carolina Brewery while watching UNC stomp Oklahoma on the TV's. A fun time to be in the middle of so much "Carolina blue" watching the game...while I stick out with my black 2008 Amanda Palmer tour t-shirt. Funny.

The game is over and I walk to the Arts Center. A tiny little spot. So intimate and cozy. Close to the stage. The audience members are right on top of one another, and the stage is virtually reachable with the slightest reach of your arm. A lot of banter, a lot of give and take, a lot of audience participation. This was the final night of her lengthy tour since August, and it was bittersweet: she wanted to be done with such a long tour, yet did not want the limelight to extinguish just yet. It made for a very introspective and personal show. It. Was. Awesome.

Afterward, she stated she would sign items for fans once she emerged from backstage. The crowd waited. And waited. Finally we were all rewarded with an opportunity to meet Amanda. And I do mean ALL of us. She patiently spoke with whomever wanted to wait. She did not rush anyone along. She did not act like a celebrity prima donna. We were not wasting her time.

It came time for me. I bought a poster. My heartbeat began to flutter. I came up to her and asked her to sign my poster. It began easy enough...

Can you make it out to Christopher?
- Spelled the normal way?
Yes the normal way.
- I hope you enjoyed the show.
I did. I oh so much did.

And then our eyes met and apparently the muse spoke within me and I began celebrating her music and her style and that her songs are truly wonderful and they strike a chord within my heart. I then tell her, "The best adjective I can describe you when I hear your voice is 'enchanting'."

Her eyes well up with tears. She wraps her arms around my neck. And then she plants one upon my lips. No quick peck and be gone. Nice, soft, and slow. My mind immediately is dazed and I am in a fog.

Amanda Palmer just kissed me.

I don't remember much for the immediate time thereafter. I frankly was spellbound. Did a rock star just plant one on me? Wow. We then took a photo:

This was awesome.

No one ever seems to know what I'm talking about when I profess my love for her and her music. Who? Amanda Who? The Dresden Who? Well, as a public service and as an informational post, here is an array of various song styles and tempos and volumes that can give you a snippet of the reasons of my adoration for her.

First, some Dresden Dolls videos:

And now, some Amanda Palmer solo videos:

Here are two dark ones (as in visible light, not necessarily due to subject matter) that I took personally from my seat Sunday night:

And finally the one I most rock out to and dance around and bop my head:

And in case by some strange chance you missed it earlier:


Arts patron seeks commissioned piece

You may have heard of Lara before on these pages. She lives in James and Monica's neighborhood up in Alexandria. During my visits up there I've met her and become friends. She's a free spirit and creative and doesn't generally live life, she LIVES it. I first met her drinking James's homebrew in his backyard and found her to be a lot of fun.

Lara is an artist. Her locale is known as doubleWide art studio. Her pieces seem to JUMP out at me. The colors she uses are, as Dave Matthews screams in Grey Street, bold and bright. The textures are intriguing.

I now have a bare spot above the couch in the living room. A blank canvas so to speak. One of Lara's pieces pictured to the left, J, really "did it" for me and spoke to me. Just for kicks I asked if she ever sold her creations, and if so what the price would be for J. It really wouldn't fit the bill as J is a mere 8x11...inches. Not quite the size I'm looking for to fill the space.

BUT, she said, she could create a brand new piece for me. Just for me using J as a guideline and muse. SERIOUSLY? That would be so COOL! No one's ever made a custom art piece for me, let alone personally knowing the artist who created it from nothing.

Sunday I got the call from a paint-splattered Lara: the piece is done and do I like it? Do I like it? I took one look at it via our cellphones and again online to arrive at one conclusion: I absolutely LOVE it.

A personally commissioned 4' x 3' piece of art to go above the couch and stir up emotion, conversation, and generally just some plain old contemplation. It's untitled as of now, and the yellow may need to be touched up as it dries, but it is something created from the heart of an artist just for me. I can't wait to get up there on my next weekend off (that doesn't involve Cleveland Indians baseball) to pick it up.

What do you think of it?

Oh, and as an aside, she's throwing in J as an extra for me to give it a good home as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy birthday, Eric Idle!

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more! It is March 29, 1943 and Eric Idle is thrust upon the world, thereby beginning in earnest my memorization of Monty Python sketches decades before I was born.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My all-time favorite 2009 WBC photo.

I love it. My favorite snapshot of the extended weekend in L.A. to catch some thrilling international baseball. Fantastic.

Monday, WBC Game 3 Final - Korea vs. Japan

It's Monday, the championship game of this 16-team, 2+ week tournament. The game's a smidge later tonight, 6:30pm. So, this morning, after a minimal continental breakfast at the hotel, it was a cab into Culver City for a 2-hour Sony Pictures Studios tour. Pretty exciting if you ask me. And a heck of a lot of fun.

Another cab to Culver City. Had a 10:30am tour, but got there around 9:45. Had breakfast at Sony's little employee coffee bar. Enjoyed a Wolfgang Puck creation of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Gobs and gobs of bacon. Delicious.

The tour starts with a 30-minute historical film of Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and the history of the old MGM lot upon which it sits. Fascinating.

We make our way to the studio lot, but sadly photos were forbidden once we past "Main Street" on the property. So no photos of Seth Rogen's name signed in on the Columbia Pictures check-in desk MINUTES before we arrived. No photos of the 12 Academy Awards statues that Columbia Pictures won for Best Picture. No photos of the Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune sets. No photos of the soundstage where the tornado scene of The Wizard of Oz occurred. No photos of Adam Sandler's Cadillac Escalade golf cart. No photos of actor James Cromwell passing our group. No photos of basically large empty warehouses where some sort of famous film was made. Still, was an incredibly jaw-dropping experience to be RIGHT THERE and see the complex.

Really cool. And you may know I'm a sucker for the Oscars. Well now after being in L.A. and Hollywood, I am even MORE determined to absorb any and all nominated films to get under my belt and become even that much more knowledgeable concerning the craft of film. I feel like a groupie. I feel like Chili Palmer in the film Get Shorty: "I love L.A., I love it out here. I want to make movies."

So the tour is over, and it's time to make my way back to the ol' Super 8 one last time. Grab my ticket, and make my final walk uphill to Dodger Stadium. It is bittersweet. It's the excitement of the championship game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and it's also disheartening to know that my trip is coming to a close soon.

Plenty of pomp and circumstance involved for the final. Huge flags of all 16 countries fill the outfield. A symphony orchestra plays on the infield. Japanese and Korean native drum and dance troupes perform on the baselines. The teams enter the field in a parade-like atmosphere. The crowd goes bonkers from an hour before the game and does not let up one bit all throughout. Remember when I said Game 1 of Korea vs. Venezuela was the most intriguing and awe-inspiring baseball game I have EVER been to? Tonight's game BLOWS THAT AWAY BY MILES. Absolutely mesmerizing and hypnotizing. Again, my lowly skill of conveying my thoughts upon the interwebs can in no way fully describe the experience I had during these games. In-fucking-credible.

The thrilling boxscore link is here. Japan takes the lead 1-0 in the 3rd. Korea ties it in the 5th with another (Cleveland Indian) Shin-Soo Choo homerun. Japan retakes the lead 2-1 in the 7th and 3-1 in the 8th. Korea responds with a 3-2 score in the bottom of the 8th, then finally ties in the bottom of the 9th 3-3. Outstanding! Seriously, edge of your seat drama! Japan finally scores 2 in the top of the 10th and then finishes the deal for a 5-3 victory. Japan repeats as World Baseball Classic champions, 2006 and 2009.

Looks like the next set of WBC games will occur in 2013. You can bet your sweet ass that I will make it to as many games as I can, not just the semi-finals and final. THIS was an awesome trip, and just the panacea I needed to help me make it through some otherwise mind-boggling personal relationship issues. Congratulations, Japan. Good show.

Enjoy the dance at the end of this particular video. Heavens knows I couldn't stop staring at it all game long...

Sunday, WBC Game 2 - United States vs. Japan

Sunday began so damn cold and rainy. Where's this mythical sunny and warm southern California??? I had scheduled a few tours this morning in Hollywood, and was wondering if the rain would just ruin everything. Luckily the order I booked them worked out well: one inside a mini-bus, the 2nd on top of an open double decker. Nice.

The cab dropped me off in Hollywood in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. This was the pickup point for Starline Tours and my first, albeit cheesy, Hollywood tour: the Movie Star Homes tour. I made sure to get into Hollywood in plenty of time to tool around and see what I may see. The rain made Hollywood Blvd. awfully slick. The stars on the Walk of Fame are embedded into a marble-ish type material that becomes pretty slippery when wet. So before my tour began, I snapped some photos of stars close to the theatre that are near and dear to my heart.

It's 9:45am, time to load up tourists into a mini-bus/large-van to ride up into the residential streets and take a Star Homes tour. The ultimate in cheese, but you're in can you NOT take a tour to see the homes? The homes portion was rather anti-climactic when all was said and done. Hey look, there's the front gate of Madonna's home surrounded by enormous hedges! Ooooh, look here, Neil Diamond's front gate surrounded by similar enormous privacy hedges! And over here, if you look up, you can see the tops of the chimneys of the Playboy Mansion! Oh well. Couldn't really see crap, but it was still fun to be driven around through the neighborhoods.

So we drove up into the Hollywood Hills, the Holmby Hills, and through Beverly Hills. The spots away from the winding residential roads afforded some photo opportunities that the star homes didn't. In the back of mind I knew it, but I guess I never really thought how close L.A. was to mountainous terrain. And luckily, the weather began to break and actual sunshine was fighting to appear!

When we made it to Beverly Hills and down Rodeo Drive, the sun fully peeked out from behind the clouds and tried to warm us up. It was working, but it never got to be that "warm" in the grand scheme of things.

Back to Grauman's Theatre, and there was some time before my next tour: a 1:30pm open-top double decker Hollywood tour. And with the sun fighting the dark clouds, it would turn out to be a winning order to do things. But first, sliders and a malt at Mel's Drive-In for a Hollywood lunch. Yummy!

The double decker bus tour was a whirlwind throughout Hollywood. We drove by Paramount Pictures, down Melrose Avenue, Hollywood Blvd., all over the place! From the top of the bus, I was able to snap some decent photos, although some are crooked or askew as I tried to frame up the subject matter as we were driving by. An hour that took us around to see what there was to see in the area. Pretty cool. If I had a car, it would be cool to revisit what the tour bus touched on. Like the famous stand, Pink's Hot Dogs:

If I had a car, and didn't have to get back for a baseball game, I would TOTALLY go back and wait in that long ass line for a world-famous hot dog.

In any event, I was able to nab some good pictures from the bus (detailed descriptions of stuff can be found with each photo on the Flickr website):

So I called for a cab, and said I'd meet him at Hollywood and Vine. I had always pictured "Hollywood and Vine" as some elaborate intersection with startling visual detail. Not so. It looks like just another intersection. Underwhelming. The nifty thing is that there is the same Hollywood star (and a larger one to boot) on all four street corners at Hollywood and Vine, which made for a neato trivia tidbit:

Back to the hotel to nab the next baseball ticket, and then walk up that damn hill to get to Dodger Stadium. At least this time I knew how long it would take, and realized exactly when the light at the end of the tunnel would occur, so it wasn't nearly as bad as Saturday. Since it was Sunday night game, it began earlier: this time at 5:30pm. With that insufferable L.A. traffic, the cab got me to my hotel right at 5:00pm, so after the walk and getting to my seat (which of course was on the opposite side of the stadium from where my walk takes me), I missed the national anthems but indeed made it in time for first pitch.

The U.S. pitched like crap (par for the course throughout this tournament) and ended up losing to Japan 9-4. The Americans tried to make a game of it in the later innings, but Japan flicked us away like a lint ball off your shoulder. The U.S. looked awful. Here's the boxscore link.

So it would be a Korea vs. Japan final tomorrow night. With the way these two teams played their most recent games, it stands to be a doozy.