Friday, December 26, 2008

Away from NYC!

I am spending the "holidaze" in my hometown of Pittsburgh, dubbed "America's most livable city" by its official city website, A much quieter, quainter city than the Big Apple, it has nonetheless been an interesting time here so far.

An excursion downtown (the so-called cultural district of the city) on Christmas Eve made for a festive merry-making night at half the cost of NYC standards.

On Christmas itself, I walked around my neighborhood with my friend to see what would be open, looking in hopes of finding some brunch options. The neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, is predominantly Jewish, so we felt assured that we would encounter several open stores to explore. Lo and behold, the two open stores we found during our 20-minute walk: Starbuck's and Rite-Aid. After standing in the winding line at Starbuck's for 10 minutes and barely moving an inch ahead, we gave up and continued our search, to find that Rite-Aid was open all day on Christmas. Here we bought a dozen eggs, iced tea and other amenities; and upon check-out, we had a distinctly Pittsburgh experience wherein the cashier related a significant, summarized portion of her life story in explanation of why she didn't mind working during the afternoon on Christmas. Oh, Pittsburgh.

I also rode on the Pittsburgh Port Authority (the public transportation system) here on Christmas, which was surprisingly in use on this holiday. My favorite experience of the public transportation here was the light-rail system, the T, which is a two-car train that goes through downton Pittsburgh and neighborhoods south of the city. It is, frankly, adorable compared to NYC. That about sums up Pittsburgh. Most livabe city? I'm not sure about that, but it is laidback and a nice occasional getaway from NYC.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meow Meow Cabaret

I saw Meow Meow at Highline Ballroom yesterday. A cabaret singer tour-de-force, Meow Meow graced the stage with equal parts humor, sexiness, enchantment, bawdiness and political commentary.

She sang in French, German and English, and her repertoire included original songs as well as covers by such artists as Radiohead (she did a jarringly heartfelt, almost heart-breaking rendition of their song "Fake Plastic Trees") and Laurie Anderson.

Meow Meow's performance focused largely on economic issues; after her first song, she was stripped of her dress and jewelry and sang in her underwear, slip and tights. She went on to mock-complain that she could and should be performing on Broadway, but was left to perform at Highline Ballroom, in the middle of the old Meatpacking area, starving and under-appreciated.

Meow Meow performed a large portion of the show with a little girl she referred to as the orphan Isabel. "Much cheaper than adopting from China," she purred, leaving Isabel to sweep around the stage for comic effect. Yet Isabel, a girl of no more than 12 years of age, also exhibited a talented voice and some impressive tap-dancing skills. During quite a few of the songs, Isabel's innocent, youthful sound complemented Meow Meow's older, smokier, more sophisticated voice nicely.

The humor, the political commentary and the gorgeousness of the performance all combined for a spellbinding couple of hours with Meow Meow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

CSS and SSION at Webster Hall

I saw the Wednesday evening, 12/17 show at Webster Hall, featuring CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) and the opening band SSION. See SSION's (pronounced "Shun") Myspace page for video clips. They are an over-the-top glam/punk/pop band that fit perfectly as the opener for CSS.

SSION below, and CSS clips follow.

CSS put on a good show, with the lead singer wearing a patterned full bodysuit. Unfortunately, I wasn't so impressed with their new songs, as taken as I am with the songs from their self-titled album, Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS). CSS pictures and videos below:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NYC Christmas Prep and Bright Bikes

I missed Santacon last night. And despite all of my efforts, I was not able to get in touch with any of the participating Santas to at least observe their ruckus-making debauchery around the city. Well, at least I'll be able to find pictures of their "conference" online. (Here, in fact, is one flickr site that features 2008 NYC Santacon pictures.) And I had several other worthy causes that took precedent over Santacon. Yes, I did just day that.

I went to the Eyebeam workshops in Chelsea yesterday afternoon after a delicious brunch. There, I was able to observe and partake in strange and unusual workshops, where adults and children alike were busily engaged in their crafts and electronic projects. Workshops included snowglobe-making, Tickle-Me-Elmo reconstruction (minus the fur, a scary sight...!), and tranformation of standard bicyles into "bright bikes." I didn't have my actual bike with me, but I purchased a large strip of reflective vinyl (that tapes right onto the bike), which effectively makes your bike exude a glow-in-the-dark white light when under the glare of a bright light. This is exactly the kind of bicycle bling I need to stay visible when riding at night! Also, I enjoyed a long interlude at Eyebeam in the "video womb," a little installation room with full carpeting that offered a meditative, trance-like experience with live video projections from the fabric screen above.

Pictures of Eyebeam below:

(The "elves" at work making the re-furbished Tickle-Me-Elmos without fur)

(the Elmos without the fur, rolling around, psychotic robotic laugh machines)

(Yes, that's Elmo on top of the tree. At Eyebeam)

(a Bright Bike above; when not looking directly from the light source, the bike appears black; the vinyl tape makes it reflectively shine white!)

I gallery-hopped for a bit in Chelsea after the Eyebeam extravaganze. One interesting exhibit featured photography from China, with citizens wearing t-shirts with "Chinglish."
Oh, the United States, with our cultural and linguistic imperialism. Isn't it jarring how the political statement of this t-shirt clashes so much with the colorful image?

And, finally, to end on a positive (?) note: my night yesterday ended with a chocolate party. Being the (quasi-)vegetarian that I am, I didn't try the centerpiece chocolate of the evening:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Cheer - From Crafts to Santacon

I am not sure where my Saturday will take me, but here are some holiday possibilities:

- The Secret Project Robot Gift on Grand holiday sale. This holiday craft fair from local designers will be held at Secret Project Robot, at 210 Kent Ave, at Metropolitan. Why is it called "grand" if it's on Metropolitan and not Grand St.? Touché. Their blog provides pictures of some of the wares and links to the designers who will be present. The event is going on from 11 am-7 pm.

Eyebeam, an arts organization in Chelsea, is hosting DIY holiday workshops from 1-6 pm Saturday, as well as a holiday bash starting at 6 pm. From their calendar:

December 13, 2008
Sat., Dec. 13, 1PM – workshops | 6PM: Holiday party

Cost: Free. Calling all makers, residents, fellows, and friends … If you haven’t yet experienced everyone’s favorite holiday gift-making event, here’s the scoop: For one day and one day only, Eyebeam becomes an all-ages, mutl-workshop electronic craft-making fair, with entertainment, decorations and plenty of holiday spirit.

I hear there is going to be a workshop where I can apply unobtrusive-looking stickers to my bike, which glow in the dark when a light shines on them. I may just have to bike over here...

And, last but not least, is Santacon: a so-called convention open to the public, starting at 10 am. The catch is that you must dress up in a Santa or holiday theme, come prepared with money, your ID and metrocard, and be ready for a holiday ruckus-making time with hundreds of other Santas. The secret meeting location will be announced Friday, December 12th at 10 pm. I would like to at least run into this mass Santa spectacle at some point on Saturday...

Monday, December 8, 2008

East Village Bar/Restautant: Death & Co.

Now that the chill in the air has become a regular feature of NYC life, I find that I am more inclined towards cozy nights in lounges and at home than bar-hopping or trying to squeeze as many music shows as I can into my schedule.

That said, I wanted to highlight this bar/lounge/restaurant I came across as an under-the-radar gem in the East Village: Death and Company. The name of the place is a reference to the Volstead Act of 1919 and the Prohibition era, when, as Death & Co's website states, "It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death. It was thought by some that these were death and company."

As such, the lounge has sought to refine the perfect cocktail and has a menu with elaborate cocktail concoctions, as well as a wine list. They also have a delectable culinary menu.

The lounge does not permit photography, but I snapped a couple of pictures before realizing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pseudo-Hibernation and Partying in Bed-Stuy

I'm not really hibernating. I rode my bike last night when it was half rain, half snow. I biked from Williamsburg to a party in Bed-Stuy. That's kind of the opposite of hibernation. But I have been less motivated to go to more costly, large-scale bashes lately.

I could have gone to BowieBall and had a decadent, costumed adventure in the Village. Instead, I chose to save some money, stay closer to home and get my biking on.

I have to say, after living in NYC for about 5 years, this is the first house I have been to here that really had a "co-op" community-living type of vibe. The house featured: at least 4-5 bathrooms, 5 floors including the basement, 12 people living together (did they all have their own rooms? I'm not sure), and a backyard with a campfire set-up. Yesterday evening, it also featured a live DJ, two separate rooms with dancing, a "kissing booth" and alcohol for purchase.

The entire house was shared by the people who lived there. I am not sure I actually even talked to anyone who lived there last night...

I only have a few pictures, as I did not want to be the one obnoxious person snapping flash photography in a room full of people I mostly didn't know. As it was, when I snapped a couple of pictures by the fire, some guy was confused by my flash and thought the fire was exploding or something. Good times.

(slogan by the "kissing booth")

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Art After Dark at Guggenheim & The Rub

I have been neglecting my blog lately... and I can't say that it's because I have been insanely busy hopping around the city doing and seeing things. I have just recently returned from a Thanksgiving break in the suburbs of Boston; now, after more than my share of feasting and ample family time, I am back in NYC and ready to jump back into the maze of the city!

I am considering going to Art After Dark: First Fridays at Guggenheim, to enjoy the one-a-month event when the museum is open late and features a music program. This Friday, the Guggenheim (located at
1071 5th Avenue, at 89th Street) features The Rub, a DJ collective from Brooklyn that spins hip-hop, disco, soul, funk, and more. I have a feeling I have danced to their mash-ups before...

So the Art After Dark event at the Guggenheim is from 9 pm-1 am and is $25 for non-members. I also have a feeling I once snuck into one of these events for free, not to give anyone any hints... !

The Rub plays again on Saturday at Southpaw, for free. This event is from 10 pm-4 am, and they recommend you get there early to avoid a long line!