Monday, March 19, 2018

Concert List

I mentioned earlier that I can count on one hand the concerts I've been to.  Here's the list, FYI:

  • Bangles & Mr. Mister (Nebraska State Fair, 1986)
  • GWAR (Mississippi Nights, 1996)
  • Sheryl Crow (Fabulous Fox, 1997)
  • Fast Ball, Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray (Riverport Amphitheatre, 1999)
  • Train, Matchbox 20 (Riverport Amphitheatre, 2001 -- their first concert, post 9/11).
  • Diana Krall & Chris Botti (Fabulous Fox, 2007)
  • k.d. lang (Peabody, 2018)
I've made it on to two hands now -- woohoo!

Why has Leonard gone to so few concerts?  See any of the many posts regarding anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mental health, mental illness, and/or not liking people or crowds or crowds of people.  Leonard was fairly wee at that very first concert (8 years old) and nearly got trampled, so maybe that influenced everything else down the road?

As it stands, it would have to be someone I really like to get me to a giant stadium concert.  I adore P!nk, and she was just in town, but I did not go.  It never strikes me as something that I "can" do; like, I never even entertain the possibility.

3 different times in my life I've been offered Melissa Etheridge tickets (and I would have made an exception for her!), and all three times, I had rehearsal.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Trying to write this while the memory is still fresh.  Should preface with the fact that I can probably count on one hand the number of concerts I've been to, so I don't have a lot of experience with them.

Opening Act:  The Gregoryan Brothers from Australia.  Two adorably nerdy Australian brothers playing classical guitar, which I enjoyed immensely.  Some of it I found very soothing (which is a good thing), other pieces involved drumming on the guitar which was very cool, and one piece I said to my friend, "This suddenly has a Ren Faire vibe."  After that piece, they mentioned it was a fantasy on a theme by an Elizabethan composer.
Me & Friend: "Aha!"
Me:  "Ren Faire!"
 I bought their CD in between acts, and they were in the lobby signing them, so I got that, too.  Sidenote:  this venue only had one dude working the merchandise table, all by himself!  Don't know if that was venue or Ms. lang's tour's doing, but either way, a poor decision.

The Main Gig:  Aaaahhhhhh!  Not sure I can do much more than squeal with joy.  In getting these tickets, I realized that k.d. lang was one of my first gay crushes, long before I think I even realized my own queerness.  I just remember being attracted to and fascinated by her and her androgyny.  In listening to her perform live, I wish I had been more familiar with the Ingenue album when I was coming out as there were a couple of songs that nearly had me in tears.

The Set:  Maybe this is typical for concerts, especially those in smaller, more intimate venues (not giant stadiums), but I freakin' loved this set!  My friend snapped a pic of it below.  The blue velvet curtains (which later changed color, so maybe they weren't actually blue, but lit to be blue at first), the candle-looking lights which of course changed.  Not only did I love it, but I was impressed and fascinated by the changes.  Lighting design is something I've never worked on, so my mind was whirling with questions like "Who decides when and what?  Does k.d. lang have input?  Does she make someone stand in her place on stage so she can view it from the house?"

She is performing barefoot!  *swoon*

Good lighting (and sound design) should always enhance a show, but not necessarily be noticeable.  The way this lighting design worked was subtle, but I see you, design director!  Well done, sir/madam!  We were eased into it with more basic light changes (usually those ones that look like candles inside drums), mostly to the beat of the music.  The changes and and colors and goboes increased as the show went on, then faded back out to more basic designs towards the end of the show.  lang's show isn't necessarily about set & lighting, but as a theatre nerd, I watch these things.

Back to the Main Gig:  Hot damn, girl has some amazing breath control!  She can still belt out and also croon out those long, sustained notes -- be still, my heart!  And she's funny!  Not that I doubted it, but I love a good personality, and she clearly isn't taking anything too seriously.  To quote my friend, "There's definitely a bit of 'cheesy lounge singer' in her show."
Me:  "Yes, and I LOVE IT!"

And I do.

Her band is awesome as well, and she gives them their due with solos and introductions; they've clearly worked out a comfortable arrangement, working together as one organism.

I don't really know what else to say as I don't usually go to concerts, let alone review them, except that I had a blast!  And hearing her sing "Hallelujah" (one of my all-time favorite songs) was, well, like a religious experience.  And now I need to buy ALL THE SONGS (and perhaps work some into my cabaret project).  Maybe this is a turning point for me; I may go to more concerts (in smaller venues) in the future...

Lookit that grin!  She's gonna charm the pants off ya.
k.d.lang's website

Friday, February 2, 2018

Beauty & the Beast: A Review

Well, maybe not so much a review as a collection of bullet points of things I said aloud whilst watching this movie the other night.

  • Oh hey, a multiracial cast!  Nice.
    • (Although only 2 of the main named characters were POC)
  • Ooh, I like the dancing.
    • In fact, I appreciated the attempt to give a wee bit more (pseudo)historical background in the film, except
    • The fabulous opening sequence sets us up for an over-the-top experience, nearly cartoonish without being a cartoon -- and that's not a bad thing.  The attempt to give some historical context is at odds with that; you can do one or the other filmmakers, but you can't really do both (at least not well).
  • Nice addition to the Prologue about everyone in town "forgetting" about castle and its servants; it fixes one of the major plot holes of the animated film, namely:  how the fuck do you not notice a giant creepy castle right next door?!?
  • Holy fucking Autotuning, Batman!
    • I nearly turned the movie off, but a friend said the Autotuning wasn't as bad as the film progressed.  BUT GOOD GODDAMN.
  • Oh, Bard.  I'm disappointed in you.
  • So now the bookseller is...a priest?  That's an odd choice.
    • Upon further reflection, if she's the only one in town who likes to read, then a bookseller wouldn't be able to make a living; having a person who just happens to have a wee library from which she can borrow makes a bit of sense.  But it felt weird to have a sudden injection of religion, never to be addressed.
    • And the priest gave her Romeo & Juliet to read??  Odd choice.
  • Oh Josh Gad.  You make me laugh.
  • Kevin Kline is a national treasure.
  • *Belle picks up a stick as a weapon*  Oh, girl, that's not a wand.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about Ewan McGregor with a French dialect.
  • Oh dear God!  What kind of dialect is that for Mrs. Potts??  It's sounds awful and fake!  Who the fuck did they cast?  *looks it up*  Ohhh, Emma Thompson.  What have you done?  I'm not angry, just very disappointed.
  • Wait, so the feather duster is a peacock?  Err, a peacock-shaped feather duster??  Je suis confus.
  • So if we're gonna add new songs, why not include "Home" from the Broadway version?  It's very pretty.
    • Reflection:  well, if Hermione can't handle the easy notes of the opening number, there's no way she could handle "Home."
  • They're all peacock feather dusters/showgirls?  What happened to the dancing napkins?
    • *angry sniff as I played a dancing napkin in the stage version*
  • They cut our favorite line!!!  *throws movie across the room*
    • "You've got a library?"
    • "With books!"
  • So the prince/Beast was a spoiled brat because his father abused him?
    • I found this extra background on the Beast largely unnecessary.  Why can't he just have been a spoiled douche like the 1991 film said?  Why do we have to blame parents we never meet?  It just opens up more questions and doesn't really resolve anything.
    • It does attempt to explain why the servants were cursed along with him (because they "did nothing"), but clumsily and unsatisfactorily.
  • I don't understand the reason behind changing/adding lyrics to the existing songs, especially in "Gaston."
  • Speaking of unnecessary changes/additions:  Bard and Olaf take Kevin Kline out into the woods and tie him to a tree?  And then a "hag" (but not really) saves him and he confronts them about leaving him to die and THEN they try to sentence him to an insane asylum??  Super unnecessary and it robbed Olaf of another bit of song.
    • Truly, he was underutilized in this movie.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about the Beast just happening to show Belle the library as opposed to presenting it as a gift he (well, the servants, really) know(s) she'll like.
    • I guess that's what happens when you CUT MY FAVORITE LINE!
  • The "trip to Paris"/childhood home scene also felt unnecessary.
  • YAS QUEEN!  You wear that Marie Antoinette drag!
  • A friend of mine said they enjoyed Bard's performance as Gaston, that when he needed to be dark, he got dark.
    • Disagree.  I mean, he did fine, but the animated Gaston, when he starts mocking the Beast and looks rather crazed, is far scarier, in my opinion.  Bard's Gaston is a little one-note.
  • Belle and the Beast's reuniting felt...anticlimactic?  Maybe Hermione and Cousin Matthew just didn't have any real acting chemistry together?
  • One change from the animated film that I did appreciate:  when all of the castle's staff slowly began changing to objects permanently.  That was heart-breaking and very well done.
  • Olaf and the drag guy from before (I think?) dancing together at the end.  Brief, but I appreciate it.
All in all, I like the original animated version much better.  This had some nice touches, but I feel like this movie wasn't sure what it wanted to be; it ended up trying to be two or three different things, but doing none of them well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

School for Sidekicks: A Review

School for SidekicksSchool for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is fun and a fairly easy read. It definitely could be classified as "Young Adult" lit. I liked it just fine, although there's nothing particularly outstanding to write home about. #SPOILER -- STOP READING HERE

McCullough does [eave plenty of room for a sequel or three as there is no real resolution, not to the major issue at hand. That said, there's barely a resolution to many of the smaller issues. That's not necessarily a bad thing; not everything has to be wrapped up neatly in a bow.

If you have a day to spare and like superheroes, give it a try.
A quote I highlighted (and good to know):  "for the record, fresh scabweb tastes like condensed essence of armpit."

View all my reviews

Friday, January 26, 2018

On the Fence about Train

In the epic debate of Train versus Maroon 5, I am firmly on the side of Train.  I have already documented Maroon 5's history of disturbing, misogynistic lyrics.  And I've liked Train since their early "Meet Virginia" days.  It's a fun, quirky song.  And then they had "Drops of Jupiter" -- still quirky, but possibly with more meaning to it.  And we can't forget "Soul Sister."  It literally has a refrain of Leonard's uncle's band -- what's not to like?  And "Save Me, San Francisco"?  Fantastic.  Hell, Train has even put out wines with names that complement their songs, and even my mother-in-law enjoys them.

But sometimes,....sometimes Pat Monaghan and the gang really test my loyalty.  I have to wonder if the Train boys sometimes think, "Hey, I wonder what would happen if we took X and added Z, but then did Y?"  Like, they purposely set out to riff off of another song, but not quite.  Music isn't algebra, friends.  And just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.  Case in point:  Train's "50 Ways to Say Goodbye."

The title clearly indicates that this is their "version" of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" (or "love your lever," as the Muppets prefer it); however, while Simon's song is about leaving/breaking up, Train's song takes a darker turn (despite an attempt at levity) by documenting all the different way to say said ex-lover died:
She went down in an airplane
Fried getting suntan
Fell in a cement mixer full of quicksand
Help me, help me, I'm no good at goodbyes!
She met a shark under water
Fell and no one caught her
So, not exactly a family-friendly interpretation of Paul Simon's classic, I guess.  But it gets worse because now we have to talk about the actual music.

Using our algebra problem from before, it goes something like this:  "Let's take 'Phantom of the Opera,' add a mariachi band, and then 'pay homage' to Paul Simon's song!"  If you don't believe me, here is the actual sheet music for comparison:

Up first, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" from my "Easy Piano" book from high school (stop judging me!):

I know it's a little hard to read, but I did highlight the notes for you.  In the key of D minor (one flat), we have:

  • A
  • D
  • A
  • C
  • B flat
  • B flat
And now the Train music (most of which is previews because I wasn't willing to buy an entire song just for the exercise of this blog post):
We definitely nailed the mariachi part as it's even noted here (marked inred). Again, I highlighted the notes for you, in the key of Eb Minor:
  • B
  • E
  • B
  • B
  • C
  • C
  • A
  • D
  • A
  • A
  • B
  • B
The music theory scholars among you (which I am absolutely note) will probably already notice the similarities.  But we can transpose the music (thanks again,!) and get, well, the exact same listing at the ALW song:

And it really gets going when ALW gets to the lyrics "And do I dream again? For now I find" and Pat sings "You said it's meant to be / That it's not you, it's me / You're leaving now for my own good."  

Okay, fine, it's not the exact same notes as there are some minor differences1 (pun intended), but if you don't listen to the Train song and not want to singing "The Phaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantom OfTheOperaIsHeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere," I don't know what to do with you.

But that's not all.  Then Train came out with another pop-y song that had a distinct 1960s bubble-gum sound to it.  And I couldn't quite place it...

Oh fuck me, it's "Heart & Soul"!!!  We all learned to play it fairly soon in our (however short-lived) piano-playing careers, especially after this scene came out in 1988:

C'mon, Train!  That just seems like you were out of fucks to give and again decided to play musical algebra.  And I might be willing to forgive if the lyrics were interesting or clever.  But:
Play that song
The one that makes me go all night long
The one that makes me think of you
That's all you gotta do
Hey, mister DJ when you gonna spin it
My baby's favorite record she been waiting for a minute
She invited all her friends and I'm buying all the rounds
And they're all dolled up
DJ please don't let me down
When you gonna play that song, now
When you gonna earn that pay
When you gonna play that song and make my day
I'm gonna go ahead and ignore the sexual connotations of "makes me go all night long" for now and move on to the horrible position he's putting the DJ in.  It's cool to request songs, but when you start badgering the DJ to play the song(s) you want, they will put you at the bottom of the list real quick (if not ignore you altogether).

It's not his/her fault you apparently are trying to impress your girlfriend and her friends with...what?  Your relationship with the DJ?  If you really want to impress her, you could try playing (actual) music yourself, rather than relying on a DJ to do your dirty work.  Y'know, especially since "they're all dolled up" (read:  "What the fuck does their appearance have to do with anything in the context of this song?!?")

And since you took "Heart & Soul" to write this song, does this mean your "baby's favorite record" is..."Heart & Soul"?  If so, you may want to reevaluate some things, including this particular romantic relationship.

And it's shit like this, Train, that makes me look foolish for continuing to pick you over Maroon 5.  Next up:  Why Matchbox 20 is better than both of you2.

I could go further into the music analysis, but frankly, even I'm bored already.
2 Not really.  I mean I love their music, too, but I don't have a compelling argument to make.  I just wanted an excuse to include the Saturday Night Live sketch "Maroon 5 versus Train," but I can't find it online :-(

Friday, December 29, 2017

Whole Foods: A Christmas Story

On Saturday, December 23rd, I had to brave Whole Foods in order to pick up our order for Christmas Eve dinner with the family.  You should know that, in no particular order:
  • I dislike shopping
  • I dislike new and/or unfamiliar places
  • I dislike Whole Foods and the sensory overload it provides
  • I dislike crowds
  • I dislike people
  • I dislike crowds of people when I'm forced to go shopping
Last year's run to Whole Foods around the same time for the same stuff ended up like this (per my FB feed):
 rain, traffic, Whole Foods and trying to keep my panic attack at least until I reach the car (complete with white knuckles, fingering my paper list to self-soothe, and talking to myself like the mentally ill person that I am), waiting, more traffic, more rain, getting lost/turned around, canceling my hair appointment last minute because I was still stuck on the highway with a trunk full of Christmas groceries and there was no way I'd make it on time (or close to on time), crying the rest of the way home (hello, panic attack), unpacking groceries and toys amidst dogs and cats.
So I knew what was in store (pun intended) for me.  Unlike last year, I knew better than to attempt to plan more than this shopping trip in one day.  Even when I used to have to go grocery shopping (is no longer my job), I would attempt to do nothing else so that I wasn't in any sort of hurry.

I remembered the way to Whole Foods, and the parking lot wasn't crazy.  I walked inside, and it wasn't crazy either.

Okay, this might not be so bad.

I had my list in hand to remind me what to get.  Even if I'm only going to Walgreens I have to have a list; otherwise, I'll end up tunnel-visioned, wandering up and down aisles, often forgetting what I came in for (and ending up with a bunch of other random shit).

I picked up the crab legs we ordered ✔
I wandered a bit looking for wine ✔

And what is that delicious smell tickling my nostrils?  It's the bakery.  I held off on heading that direction, knowing that our cake would be the last item I got before hitting the check-out.

I wandered several more aisles, often repeating myself, looking for various snacks and household items.

Finally, the bakery again.  I could still smell fresh bread baking and my stomach was growling.  I looked at the fresh breads available for purchase, wondering which one was making the smell I was smelling.  For a brief moment, I considered sniffing every type of loaf available...

I decided on a "French round" loaf.  Then I went search for something creamy and spreadable on this decadent bread.  I ended up with a creamy Gorgonzola (sold to me by the lady behind the counter wearing a Star Wars shirt, so I knew I was in good company).
I then picked up our cake ✔
And I headed to the check-out lines.

Oh, here's where all the people are!

No wonder the store didn't seem too crowded or crazy; everyone was waiting with their carts to check out.  I found a spot in the nearest line and proceeded to wait.  Back before the days of smartphones (and when I still had to do the grocery shopping), I would usually amuse myself with People Magazine or a tabloid or something (anything!) to read while waiting in line, soothing myself in my head that I was fine because I had no other place to be.

I took a deep breath and tried that plan for today, using my phone to amuse myself instead.  The Express line was moving along alright, but I am not one of those assholes who goes into that line with more than the listed number of allowed items.

And other lines picked up the pace a bit.
But not mine.

And the woman in front of me kept trying to make eye contact with me while she huffed or harrumphed -- y'know, like you do when trying for that "We're all in this together" attitude or "It's us versus them; aren't they the worst!" thing that happens sometimes in public.  "Mutual misery."
But I wasn't having it.

Yes, this particular checker was incredibly slow; there was no doubt about it.  But I was not in a hurry; I had nowhere else to be.  So I would either ignore her (the woman, not the checker) or smile blandly at her and then go back to my phone.

Harrumphing and rolling eyes isn't going to make the line move any faster.  And for that matter, the woman in front of me could have changed lines at any time.  I didn't.  I stayed, mentally patting myself on the back for leaving the other, faster lines for people who clearly had more important things to do.

At about the fourth or fifth harrumph, she did catch the eye of the older man behind me whose response was, "I just want to be home in time for Christmas" (it was the 23rd).  Whatever.  I ignored them all (and probably spent 25-30 minutes just standing line).

After I checked out, I headed back out to the bright parking lot -- and could not remember at all where I had parked my car.

While I was wandering down the first aisle of cars, I heard, "Excuse me?  Can I ask you something?"  And I turned to find a young woman who had clearly been crying recently standing there.
"Sure," I say.

"Umm, we're from [a nearby small town] and we're living in a Wal-Mart parking lot and I'm just trying to get some food to eat and it's not going so well..."

Several thoughts occurred to me, almost simultaneously:
  • Some of my friends prepare "care packs" for just this very thing (I haven't)
  • Some friends know the names and numbers of shelters and outreaches and are prepared (I wasn't)
  • Wow, begging in this area of town is very unusual
  • I rarely carry cash
  • I happen to be carrying cash right now, pure coincidence
I don't even know if she got to the part about asking for money, but I said, "Sure" and took the small wad of cash I (very coincidentally) had in my wallet, maybe $7 or $8, I honestly don't know and I didn't look.  I just handed it to her and she said, "Thank you" and "have a good rest of your day."

And then I was stuck still trying to find my car.  In the 5-10 minutes it took me to finally find my vehicle (Wow, I found a much better parking spot than I remembered!), I thought some other things like
  • Maybe she was lying?
  • Maybe I just gave her money for drugs?
  • Should I have bought her a sandwich instead?
  • Why was I not prepared?
  • Maybe she's a just a good actress?
  • I don't care.
And I didn't care about any of the above; it seemed like the right and convenient thing to do, so I did it.  And I eventually found my car.

And while putting the groceries into the trunk, the handle of one bag broke right off!
I caught the bottom of the bag with my cat-like reflexes before it hit the pavement -- it was the bag with 2 of my 4 bottles of wine it.  Thank you little baby Jesus!  It's a Christmas miracle.

After that, I made it home without incident and managed to unload groceries, also without incident.  After all of the above excitement, though, I decided I was going to do nothing but eat cheese and bread and wine for the rest of the day.
And I did.

I regret nothing.

P.S.  There is no moral to this story, no heartfelt holiday message.  It simply is what happened on December 23rd, 2017.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Good Ol' Days...of Parental Abandonment

And now an excerpt from my mom's holiday email:
Bet you didn't know I bought and then returned and got something else for you. Maybe even three times. Because I thought THAT thing would be the best thing. Once I even drove over to [a store] from [our duplex in a completely different area] to get in on the best price and while they still had one (whatever it was). Did I say it was 12:00 at night? This was the year stores started to be open 24 hours.  Fortunately, you were still sleeping when I got home.
Ahh, the good ol' days of the 1980s.  Sometimes I'm amazed my siblings and I survived at all.  But she was right; I did not know that.