Last night, Laurie Anderson gave a concert at the Perimeter Institute. Much to my surprise, I was able to go [1] and so I offer this brief review.

I guess the atrium of the Perimeter Institute has improved a bit since the first concert I saw there, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, which featured very uncomfortable lawn chairs. This, this concert had real hard-back chairs. Not that I got to sit on one- I had a standing-room ticket, upstairs. Mezzanine. The whole 2nd floor was open, and there were only 40 standing-room tickets, so we each got a fair bit of space to ourselves.

Pluses: Unobstructed view: at the beginning I was standing less than 10 feet from Laurie Anderson. Straight up.
Minuses: We weren't allowed to lean on the glass railing, which I kept forgetting. And the top of a performer's head turns out to not be as exciting as seeing the front of her face. Also, I saw her glance upward once and realized it might actually be disconcerting to have audience perched just over-top of oneself.

So I moved back to 20 feet away, where I stayed for the rest of the show. It wasn't bad, even standing, and there was lots of room for me to sit on the floor, which I did for a while.

The acoustics were fine; possibly slightly less amplified, but that wasn't a problem. Fortunately, I also didn't find there were any annoying echoes in the big space.

The concert was 90 minutes. She started with her signature pitch-bended electric violin (which in the late 70's was a "tape bow violin"- with recorded magnetic tape as the bow, and a magnetic tape head as the bridge; though I don't expect that's still how it works). She alternated between instrumental-only pieces, some which I liked quite a lot, and spoken-word over instrumental and keyboard loops. Some of her spoken-word was pitch-bended into her trademark growling bass voice, which she has called audio drag or "the Voice of Authority." That voice matched her appearance- she was dressed up way butch, with spiky hair, a thin tie and dark suit, though the Voice didn't really say things of much authority- and she had a perfectly commanding presence with her own voice.

Lighting was quite dark: there were mood lights of various primary colours, and candles on the stage. She told stories. Very modern stories, simply told, many of them compelling, though I didn't feel like they hung together as a whole (more on that at the end). This is apparently the start of a new tour, "Another Day in America," which started last week in Calgary, and we were lucky enough to be the second city on the tour. I imagine it will evolve as it goes.

She spoke about the National Defense Authorization Act which Obama just signed on New Years Eve, which allows indefinite detention without trial of American citizens in military prisons. She noted that this piece of law centers on a redefinition of "battleground" to include all of the United States. And what does it mean to choose to bring the battleground to one's home? "We've been waiting a couple hundred years for the enemy to show up, and since they never did, we decided maybe it’s us."

She spoke about how annoyed Darwin had been with peacocks- "what could possibly be fittest about a giant bright blue tail?" and jumps to how the Catholic church has been afraid of science- and what if the Church was most afraid that we'd find many worlds, with other popes? Which pope would be the real pope? Perhaps one with the brightest, bluest tail?

She told about visiting one of the many tent-cities in the US which started during the housing crisis, which collectively have housed thousands of Americans over the last years. I have to say I thought she'd veered to the fictional, but google and wikipedia tell me the camp she visited is exactly as described.

Her beloved rat-terrier Lolabelle died this spring, on Palm Sunday; she told how the Tibetian Book of the Dead says when a living being dies, it will spend 49 days in a place called the Bardo, before it is reincarnated. And Lolabelle died 49 days before Anderson's birthday. She goes on to say that when Lolabelle went blind a few years ago, Anderson began teaching her to play the piano, and to paint; and then she shared a dozen of Lolabelle's paintings, and a video of her playing the keyboard (wagging, and barking in joy as she did so).

The last time I saw her, in Ithaca in 2006, she had just spent time as NASA's first (and last) Artist in Residence. She also had stories about Lolabelle, one which has stuck with me, about a walk in the woods when a hawk dive-bombs them and the dog realizes there's 180 degrees of the world she had never imagined could be dangerous- which turns into a parallel story about the US post-9/11. Really sharp stuff.

So, on the whole. I wish this concert had tied together more. I could feel the authority with which she was speaking, and maybe it's up to the listener to pull things together, but the way it was structured, I didn't find myself able to do so during the concert. Perhaps some of that pulling together can happen when I'm in Quaker Meeting this weekend.

I'm quite glad the PI was able to get her here- they have been trying for years. Perhaps she will be back! I would not mind that, no.

[1] So, how I got a ticket. If you are allergic to twitter, you won't want to read this. Just sayin'.

I found out about the concert from someone tweeting about it on Monday. I tweeted an "Aw, how come I just found out about this sold-out show?" After a bit of whinging to friends, I forgot about it. I had a faint hope to show up at the venue and see if there were unclaimed tickets.

But on Wednesday evening, I checked twitter and noticed somebody I didn't know had specifically sent me a message asking if I needed a ticket. I replied, but it had been 6 hours after he had asked, and he had also gotten re-tweeted by the Perimeter when he previously if anybody needed a ticket. ... and yet, somehow, nobody had; all of his friends who would have jumped at the chance lived in Toronto or New York or elsewhere. So Thursday morning, he came to my office and sold me his ticket at-cost! How cool is that?

Sunday in Ithaca

Monday, 27 August 2007 11:08 am
Sunday was... hilly. I didn't get enough sleep, by a long shot- I was too excited to sleep until exhaustion hit me over the head after 1; I was up at 7:30 as usual.

In the morning, we checked out of the B&B, which was preparing for a 3-day visit from Time Magazine, who are doing a spread on EcoVillage. My parents drove into town for Unitarian services. I drove the other way up the hill to Quaker Meeting, in the hundred-year-old Quaker Meeting House out in the country. It's a wonderful old building, conducive to a very deep quiet Meeting. The windows have a wonderful wavy texture, and the trees outside are usually the loudest sound you can hear, aside from the occasional bench creaking and a car on the road. The building smells like well-oiled antique wood. And I think it will always feel like a home to me.

At the rise of Meeting I explained why I was visiting this weekend- and asked that people keep us in their thoughts as my parents try to make the best decision, and as I try to not be impatient or influence their decision toward what I'd like them to do. Afterward, I spoke with a number of retired people who wanted to say how happy they were to end up in Ithaca- including two who are tree-farmers like my dad. I wish he could've met them on this visit.

Lunch was with my parents at a friend's house in EcoVillage- Graham has a neat straw-bale house, which is somewhat similar in design to what my parents were aiming for when they built their house 25 years ago. But Graham had the benefit of an entire community of crafts-people to help build it. We talked about co-housing and its plusses and minuses, and marvelled at her garden. She's got a single cherry-tomato bush that was easily the size of 5 regular tomato bushes. They pick two quarts of cherry tomatoes a day. It's apparently all in the compost.

[ profile] lee_ellen came by, and we all sat and talked. Eventually my parents left, I stayed for another bit and reluctantly got on the road. A few parts of the drive were fun. I listened to four hours of podcasts, and I made great time once I was finished with Hamilton. Also, I had a good visit behind me, which sustained my spirits. But the border and the hour on either side were just a drag. I was so glad to get home, see [ profile] melted_snowball and [ profile] roverthedog, and wake up in my own bed.

My profile is stale.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007 10:28 am
I think my profile mostly dates from about two years ago. I was just jolted to realize how wrong it is for me right now.

I'm an easily distracted linux consultant [Not much any more, though I could be again] ...

I'm a geek who doesn't role-play, watch anime [I've enjoyed anime for quite a while] ...

I wish I got out more, and I wish I socialized more. I wish I knew more people with a similar intersection of interests to mine. [Nope, nope. Aaaand... nope.]

I know that two years ago I wasn't unhappy. Though, I was still missing the connection to local friends that d. and I had in Ithaca, five years earlier; strongly enough that I wanted to write that last bit of wishing. Well, as of now, all three wishes have been fulfilled.

And it's not tough to understand, or wishing on a star, either. It's mostly been getting to know people. Here, elsewhere. Developing shared history. Two years is a long time, and as an instant, too. I tend to generally feel lucky for my life, but just now, seeing how wrong my profile is, I feel at least twice as lucky.

...Except now I'm compelled to write a new profile. Foo. :)

As a bit of leavening to this layer-cake, here we've got two years and 6 days ago, when I wrote about the Elora Festival, the first time we were in Grambel Barn for an awesome Patricia O'Callaghan concert. And geekery with Asterisk (some things don't change). And meeting [ profile] quingawaga (& [ profile] mccorpsecorpse) and [ profile] bats22 each for the first time.
A minor rant.

On Tuesday morning at 9am, I dropped two theatre tickets in the mail for friends here in town. The tickets didn't arrive in Friday's mail, which meant it won't arrive until Monday- two days after the theatre show.

We drove to Ithaca on Friday. Friday afternoon at 4pm, I dropped sixty holiday cards at the post office. On Sunday, we saw some of the people who were sent cards. Every single one of them had already arrived.

*makes eye-daggers at Canada Post*

I still haven't gotten totally used to no Saturday mail; I guess I'm OK with it. But: 4 business-days vs. less than one? Both systems are overloaded with Christmas mail. Both systems are running a 2.5% profit.
In fact, the per-capita profits of both institutions are surprisingly similar, roughly $4 (US and CAD respectively).
Back home from [ profile] lee_ellen & [ profile] flydi's house. Opening my laptop I had a moment of severe disorientation- the browser was showing this page, which happened to be the last thing [ profile] flydi pointed me at last night. I didn't quite think I had taken her mac laptop home, but almost. (Shades of the Far Side cartoon with Santa and some random person swapping big bags at the laundromat).

We might've stayed later in Ithaca but dan's giving a guest lecture at 9am tomorrow. Overall the trip was great, if a little short. The Quaker meeting had its Christmas Pageant this morning, and I have to say it was well done even if I don't go for the schmaltz. The kids did a competent job at Bible readings, there were requisite cute toddlers in animal outfits, and dan started snickering when a shepherd's stick almost took out someone's eye when the kid forgot to keep it vertical.

On the road at 12:45, home at 5:45. Not bad time, considering there was rain around Buffalo.

Car thoughts (partly credited to Dan, partly due to me, partly just... yeah):

"Tina Peel" would make a great porn-name. Instead, she's a Buffalo radio DJ.

Christmas displays often include Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph, right next to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Was Santa one of the three wise men? Rudolph one of the barn animals?

Dan came up with a real zinger, but I'll let him post it.

I'm quite hopeful that [ profile] lee_ellen can come visit for New Years. She's home alone with the dog (while [ profile] flydi is still visiting family).
We're at [ profile] lee_ellen and [ profile] flydi's. [ profile] melted_snowball already wrote about his clothing, Wegmans, and such. I miss our friends.

Killer Bunnies is a great game. The most novel bit is that you have to set up two moves in advance, and things change pretty quickly. So, say, unleashing a Small Black Hole (which wipes out most bunnies in play) then doing a replay on it to mop up the remaining ones, will make everyone lose a turn or two as their previous strategies go all to pot. Heh, heh. Even still, the game went to [ profile] flydi in the end, because I wasn't able to grab the last free carrot and end the game before everyone else got new bunnies into play. Great game.

The rest of the morning is likely to be lazy, with a stroll on the Commons. After lunch we're playing games with a small group and then I'm taking d. out to dinner at Maxie's Supper Club on a birthday date.


Tuesday, 31 October 2006 10:31 pm
I'd like to welcome [ profile] flydi and [ profile] lee_ellen, two very dear friends of dan's and mine from Ithaca who just got their LJ accounts this week.

Together with [ profile] sulle_sulle, [ profile] fyddlestyx, [ profile] annoak, [ profile] melted_snowball, and [ profile] katwrites, this makes a great little GLBT Quaker contingent. :)
This morning was frustrating, for work reasons including a canceled meeting and a long fire-alarm that left me with a headache from the sirens. I was headed for one of those work funks that was going to last all day. So instead of booking the afternoon off, I took part of my lunch hour to work on my Canadian Citizenship Application.

Yes! It's time; I've been a Permanent Resident for long enough that I can apply. I could've applied a month ago, but I wanted to leave lots of leeway because they count all the time I'm out of the country between four years ago and when my application is filed.

By the end of filling out forms, I actually felt better. I got my photos taken (in the adjoining plaza. The guy who works at the photo shop is a character. He doesn't remember me, but he's taken all of my immigration photos, over the last four years and two attempts to become a permanent resident). I paid my application fees online, which was reasonably painless, and I printed forms. They'll go into tomorrow's mail.

Today made a particularly symbolic date to have on the forms.

Tonight is also the tenth anniversary of when [ profile] melted_snowball and I first decided we were a couple. (Not our first date, a semi-formal where I went home with someone else. That's another story.) Ten years ago was a drive in the country followed by star-gazing in some farmer's field near Ithaca. There was a total lunar eclipse. You can look it up.

Six months or so later, we were living together with two other people; the next year with one other; the following year just the two of us.

Five years ago, plus a month, we moved to Canada. And the first full day we were here, we sat in the HR office where we filed paperwork for the University's health insurance, and the HR person asked what our marital status was. Well, since we were now living in Canada, and we'd been co-habitating for more than one year, we were common-law. She checked the box. She left to copy the forms and we said to each other, hm, that was a bit anticlimactic, wasn't it?

Anniversaries aren't such a big deal in our household. I'm bad with dates, and dan's anti-sentimental. So, marking our twice-five anniversary with bureaucratic forms seems oddly perfectly appropriate.

Forgive me a bit of introspection, but that's life. It's the days that roll by to become years, to become a decade. And I had so little idea ten years ago where I'd be today. But I can't help get a bit emotional about how damn lucky I am. Tomorrow is just as unknowable as ten years from now. We could get hit by a car. The world could end. God willing, there will be a good long series of tomorrows with us together in them.

So, I was thinking about this as I got on my bike to come home, and I glanced down as my bike's odometer rolled over again from 999.9 to 0.


Food 'Aha' Moment

Tuesday, 4 July 2006 11:16 pm
Tvaroh == Quarg == Quark.

At T. & B.'s going-away party this evening, the hosts, who are Slovak, served tvaroh cheese with rasins. "Hm," I said, "this tastes just like kvark" (spelled Quark, from German). And indeed, T. pronounced it nearly the same as [ profile] tbiedl did, just with a different aspiration at the beginning and a slightly different gutteral at the end.

What is it? Cheese curd. Wet, or pressed into a block, or crumbled. It's all good stuff.

wikipedia says the cheese possibly named the fundamental particle, as well:

In German, Quark [...] may be used figuratively to mean "nonsense". This usage is believed to be an inspiration for the sentence "Three quarks for Muster Mark" in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, which itself, it is claimed, inspired the name of quarks, elementary particles of which most of the material world is built. this party I also had fun talking with Dan's secretary about her boyfriend's work environment, and with [ profile] pnijjar about solving a few of my work problems too.

Oh, and the idea of a zip-line between the CN Tower and the Cornell Bell Tower? Totally not my idea. No really, it wasn't.

Gimme! Coffee

Tuesday, 9 May 2006 10:20 pm
(This is turning into a high-post day for me, but I have them seldom, so I guess that's OK).

Earlier I was googling for 'gimmel' so I could paste one in the browser. My fingers knew what I wanted more then I did, and I googled for 'gimme'. Top link? Gimme! Coffee, my favourite coffee shop in Ithaca.

Their blog has a photo of the most awesome barrista-art I've seen )
This was an excellent weekend away.

The Laurie Anderson concert was good. I think it wasn't as good as her albums, musically, although some of her stories have taken hold in me. I have no way of judging whether these are true, mind you. One such story: NASA was working on a project to robotically augment space-suits for extra muscle-power (think exoskeletons), and splint body-parts that got hurt, and the ability to treat astronauts with shots of morphine or adrenaline or whatever drugs they needed. Then, the project got bought by somebody else... the US Army, for use in desert warfare. Another story, less depressing: she asked Thomas Pynchion if she could turn his novel Gravity's Rainbow into an opera. She wrote up a proposal, sent it to him, and to her surprise, he wrote back and said, "Sure. That would be wonderful, an opera. There's only one requirement- I would like the entire opera scored for one instrument. That instrument should be the banjo."

She said, "Can you imagine hours and hours of banjo opera? Some people have the nicest ways of politely saying "'absolutely no way possible.'"

Today, I walked Rover to Ithaca Falls and let her swim around. I went to Quaker Meeting, which is increasingly seeming less familiar to me , but somehow that feels OK and the way things go. There was good worship, and I did get to talk to some dear friends after Meeting.

In the afternoon, I played board-games at my hosts' house for a few hours. I can recommend Mystery of the Abbey, which plays like Clue, but with more variables to track, and a monestary theme (every four turns, everyone returns to start, which is Mass; you can give each other confessionals, which involves looking at cards in their hand; and so on.)

Oh, and in ten minutes on The Commons, I was accosted by both a Socialist Worker and a Jehovah's Witness. The Jehovah's Witness was polite, but the Socialist Worker wasn't, so I didn't pick up his magazine (sorry [ profile] melted_snowball).

I had fun road-tripping with [ profile] bats22. Among other things, he gave me some interesting ideas for things to do with a microwave...
And now, to bed, because tomorrow's a work day.

(no subject)

Saturday, 21 January 2006 02:09 am
I'm in Ithaca, very comfortable in my friends' guest-bedroom, glad I brought my laptop, because they have wifi. We've finished our movie (March of the Anthropomorphic Climate-Challenged Species; which was as good as I was hoping). And we finished our talking-till-late, and I'm just about ready for sleep.

My host D's fly-fish tying hobby makes much more sense to me now. It's not about catching as many fish as possible, really- it's about the comunity they've built, where they will make these tiny pieces of art, with rare feather-bits and irridescent strands which catch the light precisely the same way a bug would. And then they trade them across the continent to each other.

The ride down in [ profile] bats22's car was uneventful and he's certainly good company. Discovery the first: Easypass/Fastlane doodads are terrifically convenient. They don't add to the price of the trip, and save minutes (possibly many minutes) at each toll booth, as well as saving you from rooting arond for reasonably-exact change. If I ever move back to the US Northeast, I'm going to want one.

Shell Game? )

Smelly house-guest hints )

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