and I quote

january 2012

click for permalink January 31, 2012

RickshawBlonde and red. That pretty much sums up my week...

On Thursday we went to see Concrete Blonde at the Rickshaw Theatre in east Vancouver, which used to be a movie theater that showed nothing but Hong Kong action movies until it closed in the mid-eighties and sat empty for a decade — but not entirely disused, as Mr. Pink astutely observed on the way there, remembering that we had actually been there once before, some time around 2001, for an after hours party (I recognized the wide concrete stairs and rows of short, shiny leather seats immediately). The place was bought and reopened in 2009 as a live music venue. I'm not sure if it was renovated at the time, but the seats are clearly original and, judging by the lobby, it seems like any upgrades must have been of a purely technical nature.

Concrete Blonde was great, though, and the best/funny part was that they played in Portland two days earlier and when I told my mother about it, she was even more excited to see them than I was. A bit of background: Bloodletting was the band's biggest commercial release and it came out when I was still in high school, but the first time my mother heard the CD was during my first year in college when I came home for Christmas. By the end of the two weeks, they were her new favorite band, but I figured my leather jacket, which she had taken to wearing every moment when I wasn't, would make a better Christmas present.

A year later, we got an apartment together in Baltimore — well, my mother and I and my roommate and my boyfriend sort of all lived there together, but that's another story entirely. The important part here is this: when we all gradually and somewhat irresponsibly and catastrophically moved out of that place and had all scattered to different parts of the country in our respective moving trucks, hatchbacks and rental minivans, and all the dust had settled, it became clear that the CD was no longer in my possession and it was no great mystery where it had gone.

Concrete BlondeSo back to the present day (a week ago), she went to the show in Portland on Tuesday night, came home and emailed us a detailed play-by-play of the entire show. Which, if it had just been an extremely cute way for a mother and daughter separated by a couple hundred miles to share a common experience separated by a couple of days, that would have been a beautiful thing. But it turns out it was even better than that, because the shows could not have been more different — oh, sure, the music was the same — which is to say great. They're a fantastic band and Johnette Napolitano (lead singer and bassist, for anyone who has no idea who they are but is still reading for some reason) is an amazing chick with a spectacular voice, which sounds as good now as it did 20 years ago, and she's 55. I know this not because I looked to find out what sign she is (although I did, and she's a Virgo and she shares a birthday with Joan Jett, who is one year younger) but because at one point during the show in Vancouver, she stopped in mid-verse to chastise a faction in the front row who had apparently been chanting Joey, Joey — which is their most famous hit song. (I later found out they had already played it that evening). So she stopped singing and looked at them, annoyed, and said "Don't tell me what to sing!" Laughter and explosive applause from the entire theater. She sang another line, then stopped again. "I'm fifty-fucking-five and I'll sing whatever I fucking want to!" Thunderous applause.

There were a few more tiny exchanges like this, but the audience took it all in stride and probably figured until the very last song this was just the kind of surly, don't mess with me kind of rocker chick she is these days. She's fifty-five — as my mother says, "a lean, muscular powerhouse of talent" — and look what she can do... Can you sing like that? Then shut your mouth. What's interesting to note is that her interaction with the Portland audience was the exact polar opposite. One funny moment that my mother shared was emblematic of the evening: "when they were singing "Joey," everyone was singing along... she got to one of the chorus lines and, instead of singing she started laughing because the audience was singing so loudly. Her only comment was, "You guys are so awesome." Contrast this with their last song of the evening in Vancouver and you'll understand what I mean.

After that, they left the stage and about a minute later the lights came up and everyone filed out of the theater. Interesting, no? I don't have anything to add, after all, she's right — and it certainly was interesting — and I'm glad my mother had an awesome time (given the choice, I'm just glad they spotted the junkie in our alley and not in Portland!).

The next night we went to see Red, an award-winning play about the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre where our friend works. I never thought much of his paintings when I was in art school and a quick Google image search confirms that my impression hasn't matured any, but the play made me think and I love anything that makes me think — and spend hours researching — especially something that I haven't thought much of before.


Earlier on Friday, I had a long-awaited appointment with my new hair guru (due to the holidays and our equally packed schedules, I've been waiting since early December). Allison is a student at Blanche MacDonald but she'll be graduating soon and, as I discovered yesterday, working at Rain Salon with the equally delightful and talented Aaron, who graduated last year. He also holds a special place in my heart since he rescued me from the valley of the green-haired dolls (a month after we moved into our new apartment, it became obvious that the eroding copper plumbing lines that stained our bathtub a bluish green had been gradually doing the same to my hair, which had taken on the unflattering appearance of pale seaweed).

Anyway, thanks to Aaron and one of the instructors, who told me about a showerhead filter you could buy at London Drugs (we haven't been without one since), my hair was reborn a more natural shade of golden blonde, with lowlights strategically designed to help aid the transition from a decade of bleaching to one day having a head of hair that's healthy enough to perm again. Yes, I said perm. (There's a blast from the past, hmm? It's been almost 20 years since Kate Moss strode down the runway in designer grunge — all five feet seven inches of her — ushering in, along with the rest of her heroin-chic cadre, an era of unrelenting straight hair, one that until very recently looked like it would never end.)

perm rodsBut I should back up a bit. I say "again" because it's been about 13 years since the last time I had a head full of chemically-created curls, but not a day of that went by that I didn't want it to be curly — and most days, I've gone through all kinds of all-too temporary hell to achieve it. I've spent nights (and days at home) with my hair wrapped in homemade rag rollers. I've worn out set after set of foam-wrapped wire "bendy" curlers. I've gone through three sets of vintage hot rollers in the last six years because the new ones produce insufficient heat, and the rollers are too big, so they create neither the advertised "volume," nor the profusion of Pre-Rapphaelite ringlets I alone seem to crave. In a desperate last-ditch effort when I've had no time for a more sensible approach, I have transformed an entire head of straight hair into a mane of spirals with an 1/8" barrel curling iron — I don't even need a mirror to do it anymore.

SlamdanceIn the early days of my curly hair obsession, I slept on a rice-filled Japanese neck roll pillow to avoid being seriously injured by the sharp plastic perm rods I found at a garage sale and wore to bed every night. They were thin and hard, with an elastic band that stretched from one flared end to the other to secure them, and the entire length was embossed with sharp little plastic "teeth" to hold the hair in place. Every evening I would wash my hair and wrap it in a towel until it was half-dry; then I would painstakingly twist and wrap one-inch sections around the sharp, pointy perm rods until my entire head was covered and I resembled a medieval morning star.

Pretty WomanA few years later, when I was sixteen, they invented something called a spiral perm and I happily passed the torch to a series of long-suffering stylists who, for the next ten years of my life, would spend hours laboring over my hair — six hours at a time in the early 90s, a just over two hours towards the end of the decade — with noxious perm solutions and chemical neutralizers, fumbling with latex gloved fingers over trays that overflowed with a tangled array of ingeniously engineered perm rods designed to produce perfect spirals.

You can imagine how happy the hairstylist community was to embrace the look Kate Moss helped to popularize in the early 90s — hell, even I can sympathize with their aversion to spending eight hours a day inhaling ammonia and thioglycolic acid — but it's been 20 years now, and enough is enough. It took less time for blue eye shadow to make a comeback — hell, even stirrup pants didn't spend that long on the blacklist, and I think we can all agree that they should be banned forever. So it was that I decided, armed with this sort of righteous indignation, to find someone who would not only agree to perform this miracle of modern alchemy on my hair, but would do so and actually take some degree of artistic pleasure in it (without the usual disclaimer that, if they apply perm solution to any hair that's been bleached before, I could end up with an unintentionally sporty little bob).

But I only have to wait a little longer... and my new hair guru has actually uttered the words, "I would love to perm your hair." The other day, as she was coloring it an awesome new shade of red (red — see, it all ties together!), one of her instructors walked by and, observing the color, remarked: "you've got another one!" She (who is, of all the unlikely things, a natural redhead) replied: "I'm creating my own ginger army." How fucking cool is that?

(But she had me at "I would love to perm your hair.")


click for permalink January 13, 2012

This guy is amazing. Mike Daisey is a monologist (yes, that's a thing) from New York who does these incredible one-man performances and last week This American Life played a 40-minute excerpt from his most recent show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." You can listen to the excerpt here:

After listening to it, I started searching everywhere for anything else he might have done that had made its way to the Internet, which turns out to be precious little, unfortunately for those of us who don't live in NY (or for some reason Portland). This is the only full-length monologue of his that I could find online. He performed it in November 2011 at the Sydney Opera House Festival Of Dangerous Ideas, and it's awesome.



click for permalink January 10, 2012

I had a rather humbling experience the other week when I noticed that 4 out of 6 oversized globe lights above the vanity mirror that spans our bathroom from corner to shower stall had either burned out or faded into shitty-looking middle age. I seized the opportunity to replace them all at once and bought two three-packs of those heinously expensive CFL "energy saver" bulbs of the same shape and size, designed with this very household usage in mind.

Brain lightsMr. Pink and I ceremoniously removed all the old, grime-encrusted light bulbs which were fused to the socket with rust. The sides that faced the ceiling were all scorched like toasted marshmallows. I dusted the 4-foot long stainless steel rectangle that houses the fixtures (which I'm pretty sure we've done only once since we moved here over a year ago), then donned my dishwashing gloves to avoid direct contact with the apparently so-delicate-they-can't-be-touched surfaces of the CFLs.

These things are of course now required to carry a dire warning about their high mercury content and instructions on the inside of the package explaining in painstaking detail what to do if you break one (i.e: immediately evacuate people and pets, collect the bits with at least two physical barriers between your skin and its toxic shrapnel at all times, etc), but in order to fully read this little palimpsest of peril, which is cleverly printed on all sides of the inside of the ingeniously designed box — a veritable origami sarcophagus — you would have to dismantle the entire overly complicated apparatus of interlocking tabs, then iron out every fold and corner. Fortunately, I was able to find them on the internet and heed the instinct that was urging me to keep the packaging intact.

After what seemed a satirically long time for such a mundane task, with all six light bulbs safely in place, I took a deep breath and paused for dramatic effect before hitting the bathroom light switch. The response was something like a pause, but more of a stutter as the globes flickered independently in a sickly, hiccupping rhythm. Half of them settled down within a few seconds to a weak, waxy, dull but otherwise light bulblike glow with approximately the combined albedo of a truck stop restroom overhead but without the dead flies and rust stains. The other three bulbs took considerably longer — a full 90 seconds — to reach their cruising altitude, which was characterized by a steady emission of greenish grey which I don't think anyone would be comfortable calling "light." In fact, it was so ghastly the only comparison that came to mind was that of an under-funded morgue.

But because Mr. Pink and I are environmentally responsible citizens (or maybe just exhausted consumers, more than a little annoyed that our performance of this elaborate ritual was about to go unrewarded), we decided to give it some time and try to pretend to get used to it. I took maybe three trips to the bathroom over the next hour or so, and each time I switched on the light, I prayed that the tubercular pallor would fade into something more... sustainable. By the third time, I was reduced to closing my eyes and waiting out the 90-second coughing fit in irritable darkness until the bulbs reached their maximum murk.

liquid lightsThe final testimonial in our private CFL tribunal was delivered by my reflection, staring back at me from within an eerie, grey chamber of horrors that was once my bathroom. The verdict was swift and irreversible. If there's any scientific validity to those light boxes they sell for the treatment of seasonal affect disorder — the ones which are said to ameliorate the impacts of artificially-regulated lifestyles which become all but somnambulatory throughout the long winter months in the northern hemisphere — then I can only imagine the potentially disastrous side effects of being forced to see one's own reflection rendered prematurely undead in the greenwashed glow of a failed prototype for environmental compromise.

Thoughts like these danced through my mind as I waited in line (not that you could really call the pre-holiday madness of my local London Drugs electronics and housewares department a line) but I was determined not to give up and flag a cab without completing my mission. I fought the urge to sit down in the middle of the floor and wait for my turn curled up in the fetal position with my head resting on two boxes of carefully repackaged, heinously overpriced CFLs, the receipt taped neatly to the top announcing my mission for me. When at last I approached the counter with my receipt, I wondered if my thoughts were percolating so close to the surface that anyone with half a brain could read them, but maybe it was something else that caused the cashier to draw a line through the normally ubiquitous "Reason for return" section before silently sliding the refund form across the counter for me to sign.