15 April 2017

Weekend in Austin

Impulse-bought tickets to see Kool Keith in Austin the weekend of April 7th. In late Friday and out late Sunday.

Friday night was drinks at the Driskill Hotel bar where we were staying (and where we stayed back in 2012). Snacks-for-dinner at the Easy Tiger beer garden where we learned our patio-bench neighbors ran out on their bill (waitress: "I don't suppose you saw where those people went, did you?"). More drinks elsewhere then the best Late Night Pizza I've ever eaten in my life at Peckerheads (sausage and mushroom?). Back to the hotel at around 2.

Not-too-late start next morning/noon and lunch/brunch at Irene's. Biscuits and gravy and eggs and bacon and a bottle of champagne for mimosas. Irene's locale took us west so we went further to Waterloo Records (sadly no purchases) and then HOPE Outdoor gallery. I'd heard about it from a Reddit post where some people painted a cool Ghost in the Shell mural. The mural was long gone, but the park was still cool: weeds and dirt and concrete structures all covered in graffiti with a dozen or so guys painting new ones. Recommended. Then drinks (and A/C) just down the street at a south Louisiana restaurant called Shoal Creek Saloon.

Remnant of the GitS mural

Back to the hotel for what was to be a short nap but what wasn't. Panicky wake up and abandon dinner Plan A (Justine's had a 45-minute to hour-and-a-half wait (enjoy the soft-core porn at their web site!)) to Plan B at Perry's Steakhouse close to the hotel. Piano and guitar jazz/pop at the front room seating with Thelonious Monk, Gerry Rafferty, The Beatles, and several other jazz artists I couldn't place. Next stop: Antone's for some music! Caught the end of the openers Cure for Paranoia: smooth singing/rapping with a touch of psychedelia. Then the beginning of Money Chicha: 60s, singer-less organ/guitar/latin percussion group. (Minor interruption in the middle of their set for me as I had to run back to the hotel to resolve gastro-intestinal dystonia!) Back for Kool Keith who played till around 2. Highlights were sections from Octagonecologyst including the infectious Earth People, several from Feature Magnetic, a tray of chicken wings brought out to the bar (I took caution from my recent history and passed on them), and some freestyle with Bushwick Bill (who later did some recordings with KK in the studio until 5 that night). Perfect concert!

Who's kool?

Sunday started with lunch/brunch at Swift's Attic. Spicy Bloody Mary bar and delicious croque madame for me while looking around for members of the advertised Strader/Fiedler wedding to see if I would recognize any long lost relatives (nope). We then had a couple of hours for museum-going. First, The Contemporary Austin for a show of paintings by Garth Weiser from the last 10 years. Amazing layers of paint and lined textures that look different from every angle and range. Refreshing. We also saw a short silent film by Mark Lewis titled Galveston: camera view slowly descends on a tall office building, ending upside down at street level passing through the town. It made the rest of the day seem unusually right side up. Next stop was the Museum of the Weird! Mummified babies, two-headed animals, and fur-bearing trout (my favorite) in the front room with the Minnesota Iceman stored in a freezer in the back. Four of us also got a show from a man who can hold on to live wires without getting shocked. Coincidence of the day: both he and Bushwick Bill were little people.

Electricity is weird

Final drinks at The Jackalope (in between Late Night Pizza place and Museum of the Weird) where we watched Mars Attacks! Off to the airport where boarding was delayed then takeoff delayed but we lost the right to complain after hearing about what happened on that United flight the same evening. Home in time to be reminded that we had to shut off the water just before leaving for the airport because of a leak. The bucket held throughout the weekend, so no unwelcome surprises.

posted by sstrader at 10:17 AM in Cinema , Concerts , Where was I? | tagged travel | comments (0) | permalink

14 March 2017

GitS and whitewashing

I'm not that comfortable with some of the accusations of whitewashing that have been made recently. There are many recent instances, but the key one I'm interested in is Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie.

There are certainly horrific examples of whitewashing from decades ago ranging from blackface to exaggerated Asian (Breakfast at Tiffany's!) or Indian affectations. These can be explained away as cultural gaffes of history, like an older person using an impolitic term. It's not great that they happened, but our embarrassment of them as a culture is a sign that we've grown. Recently though there have been very public discussions on and dissatisfactions with European whites playing characters of other cultures and cisgendered playing trans. I feel that the legitimate issue with whitewashing is when, simply, a crude stereotype or one-note character is presented. The stereotype is lazy and racist (*-ist (side-note: I've noticed the word "racist" used as a catch-all for social over-generalization w/r/t race or nationality or gender, and I kind of like its transformation into a catch-all)) and so is the easiest to spot and critically dismiss. The writer or actor doesn't care enough to understand the othered group, and so presents a thin, shadow of a character. What could be a dynamic secondary or tertiary character becomes filler with a check mark for "different".

However, and this is key, actors should be allowed to act. They perform as characters with advanced skills they haven't personally acquired, or with mental aberrations and manias they do not possess and could never acquire or as people that could never exist. Taking that into account, is nationality or gender so out of the realm? Though I haven't seen it, the show Transparent seems to be, critically, the canonical example of a cisgendered actor playing a transitioning character. With quality writing and performance observation, the specter of minstrel shows dissolves into an illumination into the lives of humans of the world.

Over the past few months, I've been watching pinky violence films from 1960s/70s Japan. They generally deal with female street gangs fighting aggressive male competitors, or corrupt government institutions taking advantage of the poor or female or both. In several (e.g. Sex Hunter, the Rica series), those who have mixed national parentage--"half-breeds"--are treated with focused brutality by the alpha gangs and a strong-willed female thug steps up to protect them. In Sex Hunter, the half-breed Kazuma is played by the Japanese/Italian actor--with visually uncertain heritage--Rikiya Yasuoka. In the Rica trilogy, the lead Japanese/American woman is played by Rika Aoki. I am uncertain whether the actress is herself multiracial. Nationality it seems is very fluid.

Back to Ghost in the Shell, it was pointed out in a comment from a recent Reddit thread that five of the seven other main actors are of distinct, non-Japanese nationalities, and I'm reminded that a main theme of the story is that of fluid gender, individuality, and consciousness. This seems key.

posted by sstrader at 7:30 PM in Cinema , Culture & Society | tagged ghost in the shell | comments (0) | permalink

9 November 2016

Doing what I shouldn't do and posting immediately after

I saw the blame begin immediately last night at The Vortex. Many at the bar started blaming those who voted for 3rd party candidates. I'm reading much on Reddit blaming the result on Clinton for running a poor campaign, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the DNC for conspiring against Bernie Sanders, and the Democrats in general. I generally disagree with all of these.

I had a coworker who, last week, brought up Trump using overseas manufacturing and said he didn't understand why people were criticizing him for it. This coworker is intelligent and funny and probably a conservative but not rabidly so. I pointed out the hypocrisy of promising to bring jobs back to America while doing the opposite. My coworker just mumbled that he didn't think that was true. This is a guy who--again is intelligent--only gets his news from Good Morning America and CNN. He had also insisted previously that he didn't know, and that few would know, what Aleppo was. It is these people who believe the false equivalence of Trump's and Clinton's faults. I suspect that should have given me pause.

And I dismissed as... quirky? when a conservative friend decided to vote 3rd party because of the Clintons having murdered five or six people. That previous sentence was not a typo.

Ultimately, I think I blame the media. I blamed them, NPR included, after 9/11 for being complicit in the lies that took us to war, and NPR was just as bad during this election for selling the false equivalence. The casual news consumer had no way to come to any other conclusion. Yet what I see as lazy w/r/t dissecting the lies and nonsense, others comment on as condescending towards Trump. It's a lose/lose for reporters I guess.

Notable things:

  • Man yells "kill Obama" during Trump's acceptance speech
  • Line I heard from WNYC yesterday morning: "isn't Trump tapping in to a common sentiment?" "Yes, and he sympathizes with and understands absolutely none of it."
  • Canada's immigration web site crashed, heh
  • Samantha Bee was a godsend for this election
  • The Kaine, Clinton, and Obama speeches were classy
  • The Trump speech was sane (minus the insane threat)

Monday, along with three others, I was laid off. That loss made me focus on great potential for the future.

posted by sstrader at 10:11 AM in Politics | tagged election | comments (0) | permalink

29 August 2016

Seattle and music

Last month we spent a couple of days in Seattle with Danice+Mason to see Peter Gabriel+Sting in concert for their Rock Paper Scissors tour. This came a week after my Big Two Day B-day Celebration first at Terminal West to see ATL Collective do Are You Experienced, then at the wonderful La Grotta for my birthday proper with Lisa+Bob. Seattle was a drunk impulse commitment a month or so before since Danice+Mason love Sting and Lisa+I love Peter. We had seen him almost four years ago in Chicago performing the So album et al. so we were due for another experience. Go West!

Lisa was up north for some company training the first half of the week, and so I met her Wed 20 Jul at ATL late afternoon and then our flight had to abort seconds before actually taking off. Some luggage door wasn't closed correctly. Ugh. We didn't make it to SeaTac until ~11 that night and then wine and cheese in the tinytiny room we ended up sharing with D+M. Still, didn't get to sleep until ~2 local time so 6 (?!) home time. No need to adjust since we return on the Fri nite red-eye to be back home for an important Sat nite event (J+S gettin' hitched). Two full days!

Thu 21 Jul

Start with the breakfast of champions at The 5 Point Cafe. It's like The Vortex inside but more... authentic? Classic breakfast and beer and solid tunes on the jukebox then on to Paul Allen's EMP Museum for music and geekness. The museum had several shows perfectly tailored for me. First was the exhibit on horror films with several original manuscripts and video exhibits on many films including Argento's Suspiria and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Eli Roth's insights in the latter's manifestation of Vietnam veterans' anguish was compelling). Then to the science fiction exhibit that contained: the model for the Jupiter spacecraft from 2001, Leeloo Multipass's orange rubber jumpsuit thing from The Fifth Element, and an original painting from a 50s sci-fi pulf novel that was so fascinating and trashy. As much as I would love to, I really don't need to start collecting paintings like that, just for my own financial security. Two floors of a Star Trek exhibit that included information on every TV show, the animated series, and movies with the original crew, the next generation, and the reboot. Favorites were the tattered, original bridge and the original outfit for the Gorn. Neat! Onto a smaller exhibit covering Hendrix concerts abroad, complementing our ATL Collective concert a week prior; an exhibit on the history of the electric guitar (with the guitar Townsend used to write Tommy); and finally a fantasy exhibit. Phew.

the 5 point cafe

Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929.

emp museum

The EMP Museum undulates next to the steadfast monorail.

Monorail to Pike Place Market where no fish was purchased (or caught, at least by us) but much beef jerky was. Meander the area for drinks and DJ Shadow remixes at the tiny Cloudburst Brewing. It was very much like the tiny local breweries we went to in Portland Maine back in 2013. On to Some Random Bar for late-lunch-early-dinner with an old friend of Mason's.


I hear these things are awfully loud...

cloudburst brewing

The brew bar.

Post food+drink, we wandered over to Key Arena for the PG+S concert, stopping on the way to take pics through their office windows of KEXP's vinyl stacks a dozen or so feet high. I kinda regret that we didn't have time for a record store run while in town. The concert started with the thoughtful, psychological Gabriel piece "The Rhythm of the Heat" and followed by Sting's moody romance "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You". They felt to me perfectly characteristic of the differences between the two songwriters--but then we get the social commentary of "Invisible Sun" and the two become nicely complementary. Best moment was Sting bemoaning the troubles in the UK (Brexit had just stunned the world) by singing the opening verse to "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" (ending at the line "...selling England by the pound.") and then "Message in a Bottle". Bleak yet peppy. He then chastised us for laughing with him at his country's fate, hinting at That Donald Trump Kerfuffle. Surprise guest Eddie Vetter came out decked in Seattle slouch-wear for "Red Rain" but was horribly underused. It was, however, very nice to hear the older Gabriel tunes. The full set list, via Wikipedia:

  1. "The Rhythm of the Heat"
  2. "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"
  3. "No Self Control"
  4. "Invisible Sun"
  5. "Games Without Frontiers"
  6. "Shock the Monkey"
  7. "Secret World"
  8. "Driven to Tears"
  9. "Fragile"
  10. "Red Rain"
  11. "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" (snippet)
  12. "Message in a Bottle"
  13. "Darkness" or "San Jacinto"
  14. "Walking in Your Footsteps"
  15. "Kiss That Frog"
  16. "Don't Give Up"
  17. "The Hounds of Winter"
  18. "Big Time"
  19. "Englishman in New York"
  20. "Solsbury Hill"
  21. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
  22. "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"
  23. "Roxanne" (with "Ain't No Sunshine" snippet)
  24. "Love Can Heal"
  25. "Desert Rose"
  26. "In Your Eyes"

Encore was:

  1. "Every Breath You Take"
  2. "Sledgehammer"
rock paper scissors

Spock and lizard not shown.

Fri 22 Jul

Friday was our full on walking tour proper.

Start with the Space Needle. We had tried the day before (when it was sunny), but the wait time after you got through the line was 2 hours. Cut to the next day (when it was cloudy) and we got right through. Go and figure. Still, a great view and worth the look on the security guard's face when I checked my messenger bag + open bottle of wine with him. Afterwards, at the waterfront, we all used it to toast a successful trip before late-lunching at Elliott's Oyster House while we wait for our scheduled tour boat to take use around the bay. Tours seem like they should be gimmicky, yet I always enjoy learning whatever local history they provide. This one talked a lot about the architectural history of the Seattle skyline along with details about the massive container ships we passed by. We finished the our tour of the water with a few trips around the Seattle Great Wheel ferris wheel.

space needle

Space Needle Lisa is wistful

2173 miles

We traveled 2173 miles but all we got was this screencap

Save ferris!

The rest of the day/evening was wandering through the alleyway with the gum wall. Wikipedia sez It was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009 and I can confirm that just standing next to it made me feel 50% more germy. More wandering down an alley plastered with crazy-wonderful stickers and posters, pre-dinner drinks at The Tasting Room, then dinner-dinner at Cafe Campagne for delicious French cuisine with another old friend of Mason's. We had a red-eye to catch after midnight, so we made sure not to stay too long and drink too much. Oops, in fact the opposite happened. No matter, it was the best way to end our Seattle fun. (One thing I learned is that recovery from red-eyes has a daily half life: each day after only gets you half way closer to restfulness again.)

Yes, that is all gum and yes, that is a penis made of gum

So many stickers

posted by sstrader at 9:00 PM in Birthdays , Concerts , Where was I? | comments (0) | permalink

13 July 2016

The music and the cinema and the theater

Last month was full of the arts...

Music: Sat 4 Jun we went to see ATL Collective performing OK Computer at Terminal West. Notable was the harp showcased in several of the songs and the choir of eight or so accompanying. It was a good balance of authenticity and variation. Next Sat 11 Jun was the ASO season finale with Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Brahms Symphony No. 2. Andre Watts was to have performed the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto but canceled due to back problems. I have great guilt about not going as frequently as we used to (~10-15 shows a season), and this concert made me wish I'd act on that guilt. Next season!

Cinema: The week of the 12th started with The Lobster [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | 4/5 ] at Landmark. The Greek director, Lanthimos, made one of my favorite films, Dogtooth, and this was cut very much from the same weird. Next were two older "classic" films at the Plaza: Zardoz and Showgirls (which I had first seen only a year ago). Zardoz was... both horrible and smart-ish? It reminded me of The Man Who Fell to Earth with its mix of bad acting yet original ideas. I had seen Man Who Fell recently at Landmark and, in my post-research, got interested enough in the author Walter Tevis that I got two of his books: The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mockingbird. The latter depicts a future in which robots rule over the drugged, illiterate humans. Cf. Bacigalupi's story "Pump Six" depicting a similar and similarly bleak future.

Theater: We lucked out finding out about a staged reading of James Joyce's Ulysses at Shakespeare Tavern on 15 Jun, performed by Aris. Years ago I got a couple hundred pages in the book and failed, so seeing this was a cheat but very rewarding. If they don't perform it again, it is worth seeking out elsewhere. The last speech by Molly Bloom was emotional and outstanding. Also lucky to hear about West Side Story at Cobb Energy Center on 26 Jun, performed by Atlanta Lyric Theatre. My first time seeing it live! There's such social relevance in this today--immigrants treated as troublemakers, poor people pitted against minorities, police abusing power, and an overloaded social net)--that it should be performed more frequently.

posted by sstrader at 8:33 PM in Cinema , Concerts | comments (0) | permalink

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