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 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