October 30, 2005

Last few days

On Thursday, O and I finally carved the pumpkin I bought a couple of weeks ago. Here's what he looked like before (though in this photo, he's already gutted):

And after:

It came out pretty well, though the eyes were supposed to have bigger pupils at the center, but we didn't exactly have the most brilliant of carving tools.

Then last night was our friend's Halloween party. I went as a zombie bride and O went as an escapee from an insane asylum. Photos might be posted eventually on O's site.

It happened to also be my birthday, so a couple of friends at the party made me a cake and gave me a few little presents, including an awesome pair of stripy pinks socks that are soooo soft. The cake was awesome as well, "blood red" cake (though it came out more hot pink) with "mold" green frosting, then covered with as many gummy worms and spiders as she could fit on.

Looks absolutely disgusting, but tasted great (the cake is perfectly spongy) and I took the rest home. Maybe I'll take some leftovers to work on Monday and gross everyone out.

I didn't really want all the gummy stuff on there anymore, so I plucked it all off today before having a piece. And I just know you'd like to see a pile of gummy candy all covered with green frosting, so here it is:

Could make a diabetic have an attack just by looking at it... Note in the background the apples I bought yesterday in a "I should eat more fruit" move. Now it's like "I should eat more fruit once I've finished off my birthday cake."

October 25, 2005

Andrew Bird - Patronaat, 23 October

A week ago I hardly knew anything about Andrew Bird except that Steven was a fan and I felt I should be too, from Steven’s ravings about Andrew Bird’s music. Then O and I were invited along to see him play at the Patronaat in Haarlem and I knew I wanted to go, feeling this was a show I didn’t want to miss, though I didn’t really know why. And yes, it was a show I'm glad I didn’t miss and it was very worth the trip to Haarlem, even though we got soaked on the way home.

I got hold of Mr Bird’s latest album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, and was able to give it a few listens before the show Sunday night. It almost didn’t matter though since he’s not one for album-perfect recreations of his songs live and it was good to just enjoy whatever he played, as it was then, that night.

For this tour, he is a one-man band, playing 3 instruments (violin, electric guitar and xylophone) on his own, along with singing/whistling. He used pedals at his feet to build up layers of looped violin (often plucked or strummed like a little ukulele) after which he’d throw down the violin, grab the guitar and start singing. Some songs were quite built up, with all of these layers, and then be stripped back down to just voice and guitar, while others were more quiet and moseyed around.

I wish I could do justice to his stage presence because Andrew Bird is one quirky fellow. The photo on his website somehow brings it across quite well (and I think he was wearing those exact same clothes at the show). He looked even more strange though since he seemed in need of a haircut and had quite the sticky-out bits over his ears. As he played, he could look quite intense: looking up with half-open eyelids so that you could only see the whites of his eyes; looking down over the crowd, his eyes shadowed by the overhang of his eyebrows; closing his eyes and shaking his head around. Sometimes it was a bit scary to watch. Other times it was very humourous. He had a great, weird, deadpan sense of humour (once between songs he simply announced he kept writing in his diary “Desperation breeds, dot, dot, dot”, paused, then carried on into the next song). You weren’t entirely sure if he really was serious and we were rudely laughing at him, but occasionally you’d see this little smile from him and think, nah, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

The audience was brilliant, fairly small, very quiet, attentive and loyal. A special moment came for me during a song that I’m not sure of the title, it was a slow, bluesy song, the only words I can remember are “she’s not so easy-going” or something like that. I didn’t feel that the actual song was so memorable, but somehow the performance as a whole was. I can’t really pinpoint why, but the audience seemed to pay extra attention, even though I don’t think it was a well-known or favourite song. But during it he really pulled us all in, and afterwards the audience seemed to applaud louder and longer than normal, while someone in the back yelled “Beautiful!” It was a rare type of moment, but if I could have bet on anyone being able to do it, I would bet on Andrew Bird.

October 23, 2005

Add insult to injury

O had to go and remind me that while we were in Glasgow seeing Sleater-Kinney, we were going to be missing Clap Your Hands Say Yeah playing in the Kleine Zaal of Paradiso. After Friday's announcement from S-K, we'll still be going to Glasgow, but not seeing the band, and missing Clap Your Hands as well. Wonderful. And they play in Glasgow a mere week after we're in the city. Mooage all around.

October 21, 2005

New book

For those keeping score, I finally have finished the book I was reading, after nearly a month. I don't know why I read the whole thing. But I felt kind of bad of thinking of quitting partway through; once I start a book, I finish it. But I really should have given this one up. I was about halfway through though when I thought this, and I thought, I made it that far, I should finish. So I did. Finally. What a bizarre book. Maybe I read it wrong, since it is supposed to be tremendously funny, but I didn't see that except in brief moments. I got used to the strange writing style. He likes big run-on paragraphs made up of short, fragment sentences. The point of view switches from 3rd person to 1st person within the same paragraph. There are never question marks and commas are rare. He never uses the standard kind of phrase before or after quotations, like "I asked" or "he said." There'll just be sometimes a couple of pages of conversation and there is no narrative to tell you how someone is saying something, or who is saying it to begin with, though it's usually easy to figure out. So, I guess I admired some of his unusual style. But I didn't care much for the story, and it probably could have been about 150 pages shorter than it was. It's all behind me now though and I can move on to a book I have been waiting to read since we got back from the US. And I meant to read it closer to visiting the US so I'd have Chicago fresher in my mind, but I kept putting it off. It'll be so refreshing to read now.

Well fuck

This afternoon, after finally finishing a bunch of shit that took all day, I innocently checked my email and found the following message waiting for me:
The tickets you purchased for Sleater-Kinney at Oran Mor on Friday, November 11 will be automatically refunded since the event has been cancelled.

The cancelled event was:


Due to circumstances beyond control this event has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Nooooooo! What?! And enh?! And noooooooo! I quickly checked their main site and SubPop's site and Pitchfork... Nothing mentioned anywhere about what was going on. I called up O and we had a freakout session and then pondered what to do now since we had crappy easyjet tickets to Glasgow and a hotel booked. It seemed some shows in the UK were cancelled, but a couple were listed as postponed, but who knew til when... What a lovely way to close out the week, I have been looking forward to this show and trip sooo much, and I still have the Decemberists to look forward to, but it just sucks so much that of all the bands I want to see who cancel a show I'm going to, it has to be Sleater-Kinney, who I love to see live so much and who I've been waiting to see again for 5 years.

An announcement at least was finally made on the official S-K site:
Sleater-Kinney regretfully must cancel their November European dates on account of medical issues. Guitarist/Singer Carrie Brownstein has suffered two severe allergic reactions within the past four months, both resulting in trips to the emergency room. Her doctor has advised that she not travel/tour for prolonged periods of time until the condition stabilizes and further tests are conducted. The band apologizes to all the people that this cancellation affects.
Man... It sucks it has to be for medical reasons, though I guess that's why these things usually happen. I just feel a bit guilty though, being pissed off I don't get to see them, but you know, I want Carrie to be better. There are rumours though on a fan site forum that the tour could be moved to next May, which would make sense because they'll be in charge of a day of the All Tomorrow's Parties fest, which is in England next May. So O and I will still go to Glasgow, I'm looking forward to seeing the city, even though it'll be Scotland in November. But it just won't be the same. I hope though that Carrie gets better, and they'd better get here soon to rock our world.

October 16, 2005

Freak tattoo accident

I just read this story: Man getting tattoo dies after dizziness, fall through glass case. Eek. When I get my tattoo done, I shall be sure to not stand up if I'm dizzy and stay away from any glass cases. I don't think the tattoo parlor has any anyway. Though there is the big front counter that I could fall into, whacking my head and bleeding to death. Happy thoughts.

October 15, 2005

Halloween madness

My day of Halloween shopping was a success. I have a Halloween costume and a pumpkin.

For the costume, I ended up renting from a theater costume shop called Gerritsen. I had first gone to a party place, but they didn't have what I wanted, or anything else that looked worthwhile, and the stuff wasn't that cheap, plus if I got something there, I would then own it, which I didn't really want. So I headed out to this costume place (which was a bit hectic, with a bunch of costumes coming back that needed to be sorted into wash or dry clean - in the middle of the floor) and I just said I was looking for a wedding-style dress for a Halloween party, and the woman helping me came out with something straight away and it even fit (minus some really tight sleeves that she said she can try to fix). The rental price is not that high (45 euros) and that's with a veil and stockings thrown in. Cool. Check 'em out if you need a costume.

I must say though that the dress isn't quite what I had in mind, it's not very long and it has puffy sleeves and, as the woman pointed out, it's quite 80's, heh. Looking at myself in the mirror with it on, I felt like I'd stepped out of an old Madonna video. But with the veil, it does the job, and it fit, so I wasn't going to make a fuss. My costume isn't just to go as a bride, by the way, I'll have makeup to give me a zombie look, so I'll be an undead bride. No, it has nothing to do with the Tim Burton movie.

After the costume was sorted, it was up to the Noordermarkt to find a pumpkin. A co-worker told me he saw big, carveable pumpkins there, but at first I didn't see any except the small ones that people use here for decoration on their coffee table or front stoop. Then I saw two at a flower stand, but they were rather big and I had a long trip home. Still, if they were the only ones I could find, I was just going to have a lot of lugging to do. Fortunately I was saved by a fruit and veg stand that had pumpkins as well, in a smaller (but not too small), easier-to-carry-home size. Once I'd felt the weight of the smaller one I bought, I realized how dumb it would have been to try to get one of those big ones home. I'm very happy with the one I have, it's a cutie. Photos definitely forthcoming once it is carved.

October 8, 2005

Putting a face on Katrina

Last night, I read this entire page, from the bottom to the top. It's horrible and sad and frustrating, but at times also incredibly beautiful.

Over at Oh Dog, he posted about his parents and other members of his family fleeing from New Orleans and having to stay for awhile in a motel. On October 6th, he wrote that his parents finally went back to see their house for the first time since the hurricane. At least it's mostly standing.

October 7, 2005

Fantasy Amsterdam

Last week my mom sent me some mail she'd collected for me, and along with it she sent a couple of Dutch-related sections from The Oregonian. One is the Science section from September 7 that has an article showing a few notes the US could take from the Dutch about flood management, especially with the lessons learned here after the big flood of 1953.

The other section she sent is the Travel section from August 14 that has a profile on Amsterdam, complete with a large photo on the front page of the Concertgebouw with a tram and cyclists in the foreground. It's funny, and a bit weird, to read about Amsterdam in my hometown paper. The writer gets a couple of things not quite right. She refers to coffeeshops as "coffeehouses", for one (those would be the places where you can actually get coffee...) and she describes the Dam as "the nerve center of the city and home to the palace that is City Hall." Um, no, it was a city hall and now actually is a palace... But never mind, the article paints a nice picture of the city.

Though the picture the article paints is almost too nice. There is a sidebar to the article that is meant to dispel some of the myths about Amsterdam, saying things like "no, there's not prostitutes hustling on every street corner or people smoking joints all around you." OK, fair enough. But I wonder about some of the other things the author writes. She says "aggressive bicyclists" are a myth: "Bike riders would prefer that you stay off the designated bike lanes, but they aren't rude about it. They also stop for pedestrians at intersections." Hmmm... Sometimes. I did see a kitted-out guy on a mountain bike stop short to let a pedestrian cross the path (at a zebra crossing) the other day. But there are many more bikers who zip through a light, pedestrians and other bikers be damned.

What really got me though was the following "myth": "Cigarette smoke everywhere." When I first read that, I didn't get that the sidebar was listing things that aren't true about Amsterdam, I thought it was listing warnings about the city. It goes on to say, "Many, if not most, restaurants are smoke-free. [*snort*] Folks tend to go outside if they want to light up. [*sneeeeerk*] With typical tolerance, the Dutch don't prohibit smoking - it was allowed in our hotel room, for instance - but most people are too polite to smoke where it could bother others. [*bwah!*]"

What alternate-reality Amsterdam did this writer visit, and where is the portal to cross over to it? I can't think of one smoke-free restaurant, and not many even have a non-smoking area, probably due to the size of the average restaurant: there's not much room to split it into two parts, and even if you did, the smoke's not going to stay on its own side. And the thought of a Dutch person leaving the table and going outside to smoke to be polite to others... ain't gonna happen. I don't know where the writer got these ideas - maybe she was in touristy restaurants filled with non-smokers? - but the Netherlands are amazingly holding on firmly to their smoking allowances. It really is surprising from a country that otherwise is so progressive, with its gay marriage and euthanasia and drug policies that other countries try to mirror, that they are actually arguing against it and saying that banning smoking from all indoor public places doesn't work and is too expensive and loses the bars and restaurants so much money, even though it has worked in the US and Ireland and Sweden, etc. It doesn't make any sense to pander to the 30% of the population that smokes at the expensive of the health and happiness of the 70% who don't.

Anyway, didn't mean for it to turn into such a anti-smoking rant. I actually didn't mind smoking really, until I moved here, but that also had to do with dealing with my in-laws smoking when none of my family that I grew up around smokes, so I just wasn't used to being around it all the time and I came to be really bothered by it. Plus I guess more people in general smoke here, so a smoky bar in Amsterdam is going to be smokier than a smoky bar in Portland. It's just there more, and I think the government is being a wussy for not cutting it out of more public places, particularly restaurants.

Medical talk

At work I've been pulled into a project that involves checking info in a database of drugs. I won't bore you with the details, but it's finally a project to fill some of my time with. Anyway, so most of the drugs I've checked so far are pretty boring, but then I came to one that had a more familiar name: Botox. Heh, cool. I didn't realize it was used to treat all sorts of things, like eye muscle disorders, before it became a household word referring to getting rid of wrinkles.

Of course I was trying to find the listing where it is referred to being used for wrinkles, which was a bit difficult when the descriptions are all masked in medical jargon. The way it is officially described is, "For temporary improvement in the appearance of moderate to severe glabellar lines associated with corrugator and/or procerus muscle activity in adult patients 65 or younger." Right. Glabellar lines are apparently the wrinkles between the eyebrows, and the corrugator and procerus muscles are the ones that control that part of the face. I don't know what I was expecting, something more along the lines of "stuff injected into the faces of wrinkly middle-aged rich people to make them feel better about themselves", I guess.

And I love how it's called botulinum toxin. Yay, squirt some of that into me!

October 3, 2005


Everything is set and booked now for us to see two Portland bands in November. First, we go to Glasgow for about 4 days to see Sleater-Kinney at the Oran Mor. We are taking two easyjet flights to get there (going via London), and then will be staying in a modern, nice-looking B&B in the West End, since the venue is there. I look forward to men in kilts, hearing the Scottish accent everywhere, and possibly trying some traditional Scottish food (yes, willingly). And oh yes, seeing Sleater-Kinney. I dreamt last night that I was playing keyboards for them and I sucked but they didn't seem to mind.

Then, about a week and a half after that, we go to Cologne for about 3 days to see the Decemberists. We'll travel in the much easier manner of going by train and stay in a cool-sounding place that had rave reviews on Trip Advisor. It looks like it has a rather modern interior design, but is housed in an old monastery and has the rather strange name of Hopper Hotel et Cetera. Not sure what the "et cetera" is supposed to mean. I look forward to sneaking through the areas of the Christmas Market that should open the same day the Decemberists play (O has refused so far these years to go to any German Christmas markets), seeing the massive cathedral, experiencing a visit to Germany for the first time, and possibly trying some traditional German food (yes, willingly. I at least want a fresh, warm pretzel). And seeing the Decemberists in a better setting. The only time I've seen them play so far was in Paradiso opening for Cake a few months back. Not only were they getting opening band treatment (hardly anyone was paying any attention to them), but I got there late, so I missed about half of what they played, plus I didn't know their songs as well at the time.

So these will likely be the last little trips we take this year, but hey, two new cities, two awesome bands, a bit of a break in the dreary fall... It'll be good.

October 2, 2005

Last Days

Last night we watched Gus van Sant's latest film, Last Days, a story based somewhat on Kurt Cobain. It was ok, I mean O and I had a bit more interest in it since we were really into Nirvana awhile back, but the film style sort of asks a lot from its audience. This is the 3rd film that Gus van Sant has done in this slow, quiet sort of way, just presenting scenes that lead to an end that you are supposed to draw your own conclusions and feelings from (the first one was Elephant, about a school shooting, which I've seen; the second was Gerry, about two guys in the desert, which I've not seen). Sometimes the style works; it feels reflective, a bit sad knowing things are not good for the Kurt Cobain-like character, but other times you are wondering why you are being given a minute-long shot of some bushes.

The actor playing the main role, Michael Pitt, was excellent at chanelling Kurt's spirit. He had Kurt's walk down and always hid behind his messy dirty blond hair. It was eerie to watch.

One disappointment for me was at the end of the credits to find out that the film wasn't shot in Washington or Oregon, but in New York. Enh? I don't know why it was shot in New York, unless it was just because of the location of the unique house that the film takes place in, but I certainly didn't expect that considering Kurt lived in Seattle and Gus van Sant's a resident of Portland. It had me fooled though, I had been looking wistfully at the outdoor scenes the whole time, thinking of home. New York... Bah.