Tuesday, November 7, 2017


       Earlier this year, in one of my Creative Writing classes, we were given the exercise to recreate a narrative by rearranging lines from lyrics, poems, books, etc. Of course, we were then encouraged to build off of that foundation to write something more original. But here is what I constructed with some of my favorite lyrics written by female singer-songwriters about art, love, confidence, community, politics, not knowing what to say, and what is pop?


You’re only as loud as the noises you make.
I’m learning to laugh as hard as I can listen,
cuz silence is violence.
It’s all in our hands, got to learn to respect
what we don’t understand.
We are fortunates ones, I swear.
I got a bowling ball in my stomach.
I’ve got a desert in my mouth.
Figures that my courage would chose to sell out now.
Could try to sell you out
or I could show you all the reasons
why my ARTPOP could mean anything.
If graffiti on the wall changed anything at all,
it would be illegal.
If scars could go away,
what would you body say?
Don’t ever hide your feelings.
Don’t ask me any questions,
my personal life is a bore.
Admire me in glory, an art groupie.
That’s all.
Life is no cabaret,
we don’t car what you say,
we’re invading you anyway,
you mother fuckers,
you’ll sing someday.
Love is paint and paint is art.
Show me your graffiti heart.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Survivor HvHvH EP 6

      On May 31, 2000, I stood at the stove in my parent's house cooking stir fry with one eye on the television, peaking at vibrant blue Malaysian waters off the coast of Borneo Island. It was the season premiere of Survivor. Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. The adventure intrigued me. By the season finale, when Susan Hawk rips both Richard Hatch and Kelly Wigglesworth new assholes, we were hooked. My parents and I have watched ever since, routing for the more-family-oriented contestants. When I officially moved to Portland three and a half years ago, I started taking notes as I watched each episode to email to my Mom. That way, we can still bond over the show. This season, Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, I will be sharing my thoughts.
       I am so glad for 2-day weekends! Due to a schedule swap last week, I only had 1 day to relax between work weeks. However, this weekend, I have enjoyed live music, writing, napping, pizza delivery, and finishing Stranger Things 2. How cow, that show. I get sucked right into their world, and as scary as it can be, I never want to leave. To help quench my Stranger Things thirst, I watched the after show, Beyond Stranger Things. The creators, the producer and most of the entire cast joined in on the fun to share stories and provide a sneak peek behind the scenes. Highly recommended. Saddened, yet not surprised by the absence of Wynona Rider, though. But now, for a completely different change of pace, I’ve got a Fijian beach to catch up on.

+ Starting the show off the right way. With tears! I wonder how many Survivor tears Fiji has seen.
+ Ali’s gotta wipe those tears and fight harder if she wants to make the merge.
+ Haha! Dr Mike dropped his fish in the fire! Super sweet of him to share though.
+ Cole on the other hand. I certainly wouldn’t miss seeing him on this show if he went next.
+ I’m with Fisherwoman - Unimpressed: “Talk buddy. Talk til your heart can’t talk no more.”
+ Jeff: “The last person voted out… Roark.” And everyone looks at each other like, “who’s that?!”
+ I never want to do anything involving a balance beam. This looks hard!
+ Poor Ashley and Dezzy just can’t get it.
+ Wow. Jeff is actually wading in the water. I never see him get wet!
+ Joe and Cowboy have already lost noticeable weight.
+ Oh, now hungry Cole has to share his precious pizza?! I never even want to share a pizza!
+ I do like JP, so I’m not thrilled Bellhop is thinking about voting his way.
+ I also kinda don’t mind Joe these days. I wouldn’t mind seeing him make it a bit further. But I like Dezzy too, so I hope they don’t go to Tribal.
+ And Cole hits the ground. Not even a medic came out? I wonder if he did it on purpose so Jessica would give him her food.
+ Cowboy: “Before he came out here he should have packed on a few pounds and not worried about his six-pack.” Cut to Lauren nodding seriously in the background.
+ Lauren is sitting out the challenge again? I have a feeling she’ll make the merge, but I’m interested to see how well she does at solo challenges. 
+ This puzzle looks impossible to do with a group of people!
+ Whoever wins certainly deserves it.
+ OMG! I can’t believe how close this is!
+ They are ALL TIED! I can’t believe this!
+ Jeff is shitting himself!
+ Damn. Roark’s team is heading back to Tribal.
+ I have a feeling it’ll be Ali. I like her, but her strategy has sucked, she’s had bad luck and she shouldn’t have yelled at Bellhop earlier.
+ I’ll be sad if Cole makes it further in the game than JP. I like JP a lot.
+ Ali: “I’ve put my loyalty in the wrong person.” Yeah, no shit. All of them.
+ Tribe of 3. They better win or merge next week.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Everything In Moderation

Sober October
…and then some.

What normally is my No-Alcohol-November has turned into Sober October. This is the fourth consecutive year that I have taken the month-long abstinence from booze. It’s a pep talk to my immune system! It ensures I’m hydrated and helps me enter the long winter months with a sense of mental clarity. This break is something that I look forward to yearly.

I started my No-Alcohol-November tradition in 2014, my first year in my current apartment. It was a choice. In a way, it felt empowering, like those first few, easy checkmarks off your to-do list. I knew it would be a satisfying way to be in control, and a quick turn-around to feel the strength of success.

Now I know that “4” is not a typical anniversary year, however, I believe what we accomplish (or chose to exclude, in this case, I suppose) should be celebrated daily. Because we’re worth it, dammit. And everyone should know.

That first year was an easy attempt. The concept is a bit gimmicky in general, so by excitingly telling my peers, their attention was caught and I was held accountable to meet my goal. I wanted to lead by example and though some folks were impressed, some Happy Hour goers just didn’t get why I’d go dry.

Alcoholism runs in my family. I’ve dealt with it directly and indirectly with family members, though many of them have gone 100% sober after years of overindulging. Although the darker years are never forgotten, the sense of accomplishment and pride will forever outshine. But it’s in my genes too. So to keep myself in check, I give it up once a year, for a month, and then ease back in throughout the Holidays, because it’s COLD after New Year’s and that whiskey warms those places that space heater don’t.

And I sure do love me some whiskey. Or, sometimes, a celebratory cocktail. Maybe the occasional glass of red or white wine, vodka in the summer, or tequila on the beach. I even don’t mind a $10 Bud Light at an outdoor concert, back home, in Boston, in July. As long as the music’s good. But usually, it’s the whiskey. Preferably Bourbon. Never Scotch.

I’m not sloppy though. I don’t get angry or overemotional. Like with a Red Bull energy drink, I grow wings. I remember my conversations, I create and laugh, and get just plain chatty. I don’t over-consume, though I’m the kind of person where if it’s in the house, there’s a glass waiting in the kitchen. Much like with my coffee consumption, it’s not how much - it’s how often. And my Father always taught me: everything in moderation.

I must admit, I cheated once last month (first week - White Russian – worth it) and once in 2015, during my second annual liquor-fast. Though it’s called a fast, it didn’t go by very quickly that year. On a roller coaster of work stress and personal weight, I craved a drink to relax every other day. One day, I finally broke and begged for a shot at my friend, Amanda’s door. I drank it with zero regrets. Then she offered a lovely dinner.

Last year, 2016 was also very difficult. I mean… The. Election. But my friend, Pope came out West to visit for the last week of the month, which helped get me through the home stretch, alcohol-free.

This year, to mix it up, I decided to detox in October instead. Really, I just have too many fun things planned this month, and I expect to have more than just a Holiday toast. This month yields 3 Tori Amos concerts, 2 Seattle trips, 2 Emily Saliers concerts, and 1 amazing Thanksgiving dinner with my friend, Lela and her family! I even have an Ani Difranco ticket! What am I most excited for? Lela’s meat stuffing and guava pie, for sure.

I predict I will fully enjoy myself at these special events over the next few weeks. However, to keep my pennies in my piggy, I will not be visiting the liquor store until Christmas. This will allow for larger Christmas shopping funds in the meantime! Shutterfly shipped my stack of 2017 Holiday cards, and although I had coupons, that cardstock ain’t free! Most importantly though, this extended diet will maintain my gorgeous complexion.

So, let’s CHEERS to that!

Monday, October 30, 2017

In Harm's Way

      NPR Music released the following article today, written by Bob Boilen, regarding Amanda Palmer’s powerful new song and gorgeous music video regarding the Global refuge crisis. As you know, I am both a huge fan and proud Patreon supporter of Amanda Palmer (as mentioned in this blog post). Amanda's art and stories deserve to be shared. Her newest is no different, and I am happy to help spread the word. Keep reading below or click here to read the original article...

“This is the most powerful music video I've seen in ages. Inspired by the death of a child, in the midst of a huge refugee crisis, "In Harms Way" takes on a question that songwriter and singer Amanda Palmer says is absent from current political conversations: "Have we forgotten how to be generous?

Amanda sent these words and it best speaks to the message she hopes to convey in this song and video:

"The harrowing image of little Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless on the beach in Turkey was enough to thrust a song into me, but the real fuel was the video footage of his father, wailing in pain as the news filmed on. My own son was two weeks from being born. And my heart broke for Aylan, for his family, for what we, as a human family, seem to be unable to do for each other.

"While the media can't help but train its lenses on Trump and Weinstein, looming large and villainous in the foreground while we all try to find sanity and equality in this massively complicated political landscape, the constant shadow of the refugee crisis and climate change are threatening to devour the entire god**** picture.

"I worked on this song while I was overseas last spring, trying to understand things firsthand. I traveled to Lesvos, Greece, and worked with a small Dutch NGO called Because We Carry. It's a tiny team of people serving a camp called Kara Tepe, which houses mostly families. I took my son, Ash, who was almost two at the time, and we helped distribute breakfast to the tin boxes the size of small trucks that are sometimes crammed with a family of eight. We played soccer and shared ukulele songs with the kids. We danced. I've never seen a more generous group of children than these refugee kids, and that was one of the things that struck me deepest: We, as a group, have forgotten how to be generous – not just with our wallets and our policies – but with our imaginations. This could have been my life, my child, my story. I got to know some of the women there, particularly some of the Afghan ones, and I tried to understand the actual human story behind the viral photos.

"Meanwhile, I met the Spanish performance artist Abel Azcona – and his incredibly brave and controversial performance art – through mutual friends on Twitter, and our entire film collaboration (including arranging dozens of volunteers who traveled from all across Europe) took place because over 11,000 patrons via patreon.com have given me funding to work with. That means that I can make art at exactly the pace I want to, pair up with risky collaborators, and make far more uncertain and venturesome choices than I could when I was working with a label. Nowadays I can meet a wild-eyed artist on Twitter, send him a DM, and a few months later cut him a check – using my fans' money – to pay for a film crew and a boat rental for a video that doesn't even have a script or a deadline. I knew I couldn't make an ordinary music video for this song, and I took a leap of faith in Abel and his team to create something that fit.

"Because the Patreon funded the cost of the video itself, we are going to take 10% of the proceeds from the 7-inch single and 100% of the digital proceeds for the next month and pay them forward to Because We Carry. I can't tell you how profoundly liberating it feels to make art like this; to be able to work and respond so directly to the state of the world and other artists around me. It feels like a small but significant revolution in terms of the way artists can confront the massive political storm facing us right now. Because ultimately, art and music can do a way better job of creating change in the world when the art-makers can focus their time and passion on making the art instead of selling it."

Amanda Palmer's new single is available digitally now and the 7-inch vinyl will be released November 17 at Amanda Palmer's website.”

- Written by Bob Boilen. Click here to read the original article.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Survivor HvHvH Episode 5

       On May 31, 2000, I stood at the stove in my parent's house cooking stir fry with one eye on the television, peaking at vibrant blue Malaysian waters off the coast of Borneo Island. It was the season premiere of Survivor. Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. The adventure intrigued me. By the season finale, when Susan Hawk rips both Richard Hatch and Kelly Wigglesworth new assholes, we were hooked. My parents and I have watched ever since, routing for the more-family-oriented contestants. When I officially moved to Portland three and a half years ago, I started taking notes as I watched each episode to email to my Mom. That way, we can still bond over the show. This season, Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, I will be sharing my thoughts.
+ I’m going into this week already knowing that Roark is going home since Mom ruined it for me by spilling the beans Thursday morning.
+ We didn’t see much of her, but I don’t think it was a huge loss.
+ Regardless, all the suspense was sucked away from my viewing experience this week.
+ Watching the recap, I’m reminded that Cole effed himself last week by spreading secrets. Bummer for him.
+ Ashley about Joe: “I knew you were crazy. But I didn’t think you were crazy and smart!”
+ My heart goes out to the Cowboy. He’s quickly rising to the top of my list this season. It’s weird to be over a month in and I don’t have any favorites yet.
+ I’m so glad they are bringing PSTD awareness to national TV. It affects many people and he’s right, as a civilian, it’s hard to relate. But as long as we are aware, we can be understanding and show kindness.
+ I can't imagine what the popping of the campfire triggers, and I’m sure the campfire is only one of many triggers.
+ I appreciate how vulnerable the Cowboy got with the cameras, but I wonder if he’ll open up to the cast more.
+ Reward challenge: Iced coffee and SCONES! I always want the pastries, I’ll always pass on the coffee. Squatting for hours after coffee on an empty stomach!
+ Fishwoman is sitting the Reward Challenge again?
+ This obstacle course is hilarious! Mouth full of sand as they slitter through the beach. smh
+ Oh, poor Bellhop, he’s lost the ball twice!
+ And a third time. But he tried so hard!
+ I love the sand beards. lol
+ Mmmm. I want that coconut that Bellhop just bit into.
+ Ohhh… Roark is a Social Worker. That's, why, she, talks, like, this, in, some, of, her, interviews, like, we’re, her, clients.
+ Watching Cole eat is disgusting. Why is he licking EVERYTHING?!
+ Fishwoman: “I’m hoping he eats enough that his lips stick together.”
+ Cole’s gotta go.
+ Yay! I’m glad that Jessica and Dr. Mike found the Idol!
+ I’m just realizing the double Tribal Idols are Mother and Daughter statues.
+ These sacks look awful to carry through the water!
+ Damn. Dezzy’s got some thighs! Noticed on the balance beam. I want to see her kick ass in some solo Immunity challenges later in the season.
+ AH! These people need to watch their little fingers while they’re attacking those sacks with those knives!
+ I want to do this maze!
+ Sticky Cole wins Immunity for the team! He’s damn lucky.
+ If Chrissy couldn’t complete the maze, then why hasn’t someone else stepped up to do it?! They’re all just standing there!
+ And now they lose again.
+ I usually love the beach suspense on leading up to Tribal but now that I know the outcome, it has less impact.
+ I’m glad Chrissy is standing up for herself. She’s right, NO ONE else stepped up to help get the maze done!
+ Yes! Then she does it again against Roark. Chrissy is on fire. She deserves to stay.
+ Roark can go. I like the rest of ‘em: Bellhop Chrissy, Ali, and JP. 
+ Roark about Chrissy: “Next time, don’t come for me!”
+ Chrissy about Roark: “I’m outsmarting miss Smarty Pants.”
+ Ohh, scary. Those are some real family-style-reality-TV-fightin’-words!
+ I hope Roark enjoyed her one episode.
+ Hah. Everyone Ali has tried to partner with gets sent home!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Art of Giving

            Clap on.
My best friend use to have The Clapper.
            Clap off.
But my cackling laugh always created a strobe light effect, turning the lights on and off. On and off.
            The bedroom was our disco.

            A group of us often piled on and around her bed taking turns playing DJ at the computer, my laugh always giving the room life like a pulse. It was through those computer speakers when I first heard the softly bouncing keystrokes of an electric Kurzweil keyboard. It was a sinister nursery rhyme with a creepy melody and lyrics about an inappropriate, older lover. I could hear a bit of Boston in her voice. I could hear a bit of Berlin. She may not always hit every note but she didn’t have to with her kind of passion. The song was, Missed Me, the band was the Dresden Dolls, and she is Amanda Palmer.
            In their band, Amanda plays the electric piano and Brain Viglione plays drums and guitar, and occasionally, both at the same time. The Boston-based duo self-proclaimed their genre as Punk Cabaret – each song as gentle as a spooky lullaby or as pounding as a vibrant burlesque. In a heartbeat, I was a fan. I bought the albums, I attended their epic concerts, and I downloaded the bootlegs. Outside their concerts, hours before show time, the line blurred between fan and volunteer. People in elaborate costumes would congregate outside the venue doors on the sidewalk. Chalk artists, hula-hoopers, human statues, accordion players, stilt-masters, magicians, and fire-breathers. Okay, I may have made that last one up, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

            One time, at Newbury Comics on National Record Store Day in 2008-ish, my friends and I joined a packed store to celebrate music and support record stores with other fans. The Dresden Dolls were there for an all-day appearance. They didn’t play music, instead, hung out for hours with us, made art and we all painted each other's faces in a circle. Caught up in the moment, I had twirled Amanda out of our hug and kissed her on her naked shoulder before leaving the store. She didn’t mind. She thrives on connecting with others and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to participate in these magical Bostonian moments.
            Before the Dresden Dolls, Amanda scooped ice cream at Toscanini’s in Harvard Square. Them, she became the Eight Foot Bride. Adorn in lace gloves, a black wig and a long vintage wedding gown. It touched the ground, covering the milk crate that she’d stand on for hours, frozen in time. Her face was painted white; her eyebrows were shaved and drawn back on in crazy designs. She stating the painted eyebrows was a way of inviting people to look at her face. To actual see her.

            Each day, the Eight foot bride held a bouquet of flowers (her first few batches handpicked from along the Charles River). When a stranger would drop money into her hat, Amanda would come to life, intently making eye contact with her patron. Her eyes saying, Thank you. I see you. The same way she looked at me the day I kissed her shoulder all those years later. Her gaze so warm, I’m sure she saw the gratitude in my eyes at Newbury Comics.

            Then, the Eight-Foot Bride would slowly gift the stranger a flower from her bouquet and return to her next frozen pose. Amanda has stated that more often than not, the eyes of her generous strangers would say, Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.


            In 2013, Amanda wrote a book called, The Art Of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. She recalls her TedTalk experience and elaborates on her ideas of asking and giving. Asking can be hard, though, through reading the book, I realized how easy giving can be. The Eight Foot Bride was a symbol of giving. So was the flower. So is any dollar any patron has ever placed in any hat.

            For me, The Art of Asking not only reinforced the importance of communication and of asking, but also excited the art of giving. As a long-term volunteer, I understand that non-profit organizations rely on community member’s donated efforts in order to survive. Likewise, financially supporting the independent artists we love is vital to the livelihood of their creations. I always put a dollar in a street performer’s hat, and more often than not, I don’t just visit the merch table at a concert. I buy the album. Or a poster.  Or a sticker. In most scenarios, those sales benefit the artist directly, or help them pay their bills at least. 

            I have devoured The Art of Asking about three times now between audio and hardcopy. I own a hardcover, a soft cover - so I can always lend one out and I keep buying the book to gift. I have many favorite parts but here is a section:
“ We ask each other, daily, for little things: A quarter, an empty chair, a lighter… but I’ve learned that everybody struggles with asking… It isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us - it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, rejected, or looking needy or weak… American culture has instilled a bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world ask constantly, creatively, compassionately and gracefully… There is always a possibility of a no, but if we don’t allow for that no, then we’re not actually asking… We often resist asking not only because we’re afraid of rejection, but also because we don’t think we deserve what we’re asking for. We have to truly believe in the validity of what we’re asking for, which can be hard work… Even after finding balance though, how we ask and how we receive the answer (allowing for the no) is just as important as finding the feeling of validness… We may love the modern myth of Steve Jobs slaving away in his parents’ garage to create the first Apple computer, but the biopic doesn’t tackle the potentially awkward scene in which Steve had to ask his parents for the garage. All we know is that they said yes. And now we have iPhones.”


            Before The Art Of Asking, after the Dresden Dolls took hiatus, Amanda captured the mainstream media’s eye when she began crowdsourcing on Kickstarter dot com to fund the creation of her second solo project, Theatre Is Evil. Not only did she surpass her financial goal, she broke the record by fundraising the largest amount of money in the shortest amount of time, at the time in Kickstarter’s history. However, she received much negative feedback.

            Some said that her act of asking was distasteful, but the truth was that in the spirit of community, Amanda’s backers were happy to support a fellow artist that they cared about, and who cared about them. Amanda redefined the music industry and started a revolution for independent artists. She still crowdsources for her projects now, on Patreon dot com, a pay-per-thing service. And I am a proud supporter.

            Throughout my life, I have always been encouraged to ask questions. Asking questions encourages vulnerability with each other. Asking with gratitude says we have the power to help each other. It’s super important, and as silent as the Eight-Foot Bride was, she always made it possible for strangers to engage. To ask. To give.

Is that a real person? Is that a real statue? Look, there’s a hat! What does he do if you give him money? I would beam with joy when I saw strangers giving each other money, saying: That’s a real person, look, put this dollar in his hat! It gave me faith in humanity. Even if they thought I was in drag.”
-       Amanda Palmer

Amanda Fucking Palmer

            Though the Dresden Dolls no longer release new material or tour on the regular, their musical catalog received medium success and notoriety, and still has a cult following, especially in New England. Gone are the days that my friend, also Amanda, and I as teens would sing Good Day, Delilah, and Sex Changes at the top of our lungs in my Ford Taurus behind Donut Donuts. However, for the past two years, Amanda and Brian have reunited for special concerts to celebrate their anniversary and revive the magic. Catch them next month at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston for a 3-night run!
Dresden Dolls