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Amy Tan

22 Oct

There is an annual author lecture at my school where big names are drawn to our big farm country, tempted by the big honor of being chosen. I think that down here silver and golden anniversaries take a back burner to 30th anniversaries because this year, the 30th, AMY TAN GRACED US WITH HER PRESENCE. Amy Tan! Amy Tan, the author whom I researched for one of my final projects sophomore year in high school! Amy Tan, the rhythm dominatrix in the author rock group The Rock Bottom Remainders! Amy Tan, my girl!

To make the most of her being on campus, two lectures were scheduled for this Thursday, October 22- the main event in the evening which would be structured more formally in one of our auditoriums, and a more intimate talk preceding in the Philadelphia Writer’s House, right across the street. Being the fangirl I am, I ran (literally) from my Chinese Ink Painting class (a very appropriate themed class for the day) to the Writer’s House and was pleasantly surprised to see how full the main room was. From the events I’ve attended on campus thus far, it seems like there are a fair amount of members of the community who like to be present, which I like. Actually, come to think of it, at the evening lecture there were mostly adults, with actual college students being the vast minority… But I digress! Writer’s House, right. I snuck into a seat towards the middle (as opposed to front and center, where I’d normally scoot to hehe) because… wait for it… I was in charge of covering the photography of Tan’s lectures for the school newspaper! :D At my vantage point, I was close enough to be able to see Tan’s tiny dog in her lap but far enough away so that my snapping away wasn’t too awkward. This talk was advertised as a “craft talk”, and Tan talked about inspirations for her books (mostly her Chinese heritage, her mother, and stories about grandmother), her family, how she got started writing (she took a workshop, wrote a short story, it fell into the right editor’s hands, and the rest is history!), and her original goals for writing (to be published in a magazine by the time she was ninety years old- I think she’s done alright!). She was charming, told lots of stories which felt like secrets because of the close quarters, and was everything I hoped she’d be.

Fast forward a couple hours to the big lecture, an actual ticketed event! The tickets were free (you can’t put a price on Amy Tan!), students just had to pick them up at the auditorium’s box office in advance. I got three, figuring I could rope a couple friends into joining me (or, dare I say, find a couple people who liked / had heard of one of my favorite authors!) but I was shocked, literally shocked when I couldn’t even threaten (joking, kind of…) any of my friends into joining me!


All Dressed Up for School… (Convocation Ceremony with Jay-Z and The Beatles)

30 Aug

Convocation. It’s basically like graduation, but happens at my college before one’s taken their first class. Billowing robes, tassels in velvet bags, speakers equipped with cringe-worthy jokes a-plenty, and a band; it’s all there.

A couple students got up and spoke about their research opportunities and experiences (yawn), teachers spoke about teaching (yawn), a nondenominational prayer was said (for our sanity, I can only assume, but still yawn), the dean of students (let’s call him “Dean” from now on) played a clip of a Danger Mouse song (yaw- WAIT, WHAT?!)…

Dean is really into staying him and music- he tweets, has a Facebook where Katy Perry and Cobra Starship are two of the many artists he’s listed as favorites), and today he dipped a toe into the pool of mash-ups. He started his speech with “In 1968, The Beatles released an album that’s probably way before your time…” (internal diaolgue: The White Album, duh) “…called The White Album. 35 years later, Jay-Z came out with an extremely influential album which more of you will probably be familiar with…” (internal dialogue: *draws a blank*) “…called The Black Album.” He went on to explain that in 2004, Danger Mouse created an album where he sampled from both of these extremely different yet similarly powerful albums, and he fittingly called his masterpiece The Gray Album. Dean then played a clip of one of the songs where Jay is rapping about going to school, and tied the lyrics back to some of his main points. Dean is, in both an authoritative and cool-factor way, the man.

Edited on Sept. 15: I still have my convocation robe in my wardrobe my accident, I forgot to hand it back in. Oh well, if I get that letter from Hogwarts now, I’ll have one thing crossed off my supply list!

It’s A Beautiful Day… (Happy Bon Iver Day!)

22 Jul

The indie world’s newest hero: Mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett. Earlier this week he announced that today, July 22, shall forevermore (in Milwaukee) be known as Bon Iver Day. In a statement released on Pitchfork, the mayor gave a press release behind his reasoning for the holiday and this particular date (Bon Iver is kicking off their anoche).

This didn’t come out of left field. When Wisconsin finds itself with a claim to fame that’s non-dairy related, they’re going to hold on to it. Cherish it. Make a city wide holiday celebrating it. And as they should, Bon Iver deserves it.

My most pressing query, though, is what Bon Iver etiquette involves. Is there an exchange of gifts? Should the day be spent in a cabin for authenticity? How many weeks before the holiday should one stop shaving so they have a prime woodsman’s beard? Are you expected to speak in a falsetto all day?

Currently listening to: Minnesota, WI by Bon Iver
Minnesota, WI by Bon Iver

All Alone… (Improv Everywhere’s mp3 Experiment)

16 Jul

This evening my dad and I trekked down to the Chelsea Piers (armed with flashlights, glow sticks, masks, iPods, and white shirts) for the 8th year of Improv Everywhere’s mp3 Experiment.

The way it works is you download an mp3 (this year it was about 50 minutes long) from their site the day before the event, and do everything you can not to listen to it. People were broken up into two groups by their birthday (Jan-June were told to wear black shirts and meet at one location, July-Dec wore white and met at a pier a couple hundred yards away), given a list of seemingly random items to bring, and told to meet at the given location at 8PM (at which time you press “play” and start the mp3).

It started out with just music, then a voice started giving instructions to take pictures of, practice strange hand shakes with, and waltz with random people around you. The voice told us to make a pilgramage to the people with black shirts, the premise of the evening being that our two cultures are meeting for the first time. We walked, high fived passers by wondering what the heck was going on, and ended the experiment with a massive rave / dance party. And yes, our two cultures successfully assimilated. Those who dance together, make peace together.

In recent years, silent discos have been rising in popularity, both for their fun factors and practicality in places where there are sound restrictions. Basically, it’s a normal party with a DJ, only everyone is wearing headphones and the DJ’s beats travel from the sound system to antennae on the headphones so that onlookers can’t hear a peep while people in-the-phones (the more applicable version of in-the-know, obviously) can hear the music loud and clear. It’s the hybrid of the iPod experiences with the group feel of a concert, very strange to get used to. The project tonight was a lot like that, we were all hearing the same thing at the same time, we being those of us tuned it. The person next to my left may be hearing the man in the sky’s voice along with my while the person to my right’s soundtrack is the normal honking, yelling, bustling. It’s a weird concept, and my mind is still getting used to it. But I think I approve.

Currently listening to: the voiiiiiiiiiiiices in my heeeeeeeeeead ;P

PS Going forward, I think I’m going to keep having Beach Boys’ songs as titles, but added descriptions in parentheses. I think that’d make it easier to find specific posts and make a bit more sense.

(Lou Reed, I’m) Devoted to You…

27 Jun

“So Anne, what’d you do today? Talk to anyone interesting?”
“Oh, not really, just LOU FLIPPING REED.”
“That’s cool, never knew he had a middle name.” ;)

So, yes. Today Lou Reed was at The Strand bookstore in New York City and so was I (along with my dad). We breathed the same air. Me made eye contact. We TALKED. Let me explain…

In 2003 Reed came out with an album called “The Raven”, where he adapted parts of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and wrote songs base on the work and its author. It received mixed reviews (along with the adaptations, he rerecorded “The Bed” and “Perfect Day”- DRASTICALLY changing their vocals), but he loved it enough to take the album’s lyrics, organize them into a book, and add pictures drawn by The New Yorker cartoonist Mattotti.

During the event this evening, Reed read sections of the book with the pictures projected on to a large screen next to him. I can’t even describe how amazing it was to hear his voice for real, in the flesh. He could have been reading the dictionary and I would have been just as entranced.

My favorite album of his is “1969: Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed” where the gang is reunited and sings some of the old favorites. Man, that group is perfect live, absolutely perfect. I own it on vinyl, and it’s actually one of the only ones that I really had to look for (and pay more than $5!). Since it’s such a special album to me I wanted a first pressing, mint condition baby. Auctions on the internet wanted too much money, and I had almost given up hope when Record Store Day (this past April 16) rolled around and my dad and I ended up in a record store that had exactly what I had been dreaming about.

(This is the album with  post-signing!)

Back to today, Reed was nice enough to sign everyone’s books after the talk. I had brought my album with me in hopes that he may scribble on it, and boy did he. When I got to the front of the line I had my million watt smile on and thanked him for coming and personally signing all the books. Oh, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, would he mind signing a record of his I had with me. His words exactly: “Sure, why not.” Never has a more noncommittal response given me so much joy. When I showed it to him, he was impressed that I knew what vinyl was- and even that I listened to the Velvet Underground. I don’t know if he was just being polite, but DUH! He’s the man! Of course people still listen to his jams! :P I told him that I had all of his records, that he’s the greatest, and we made lingering eye contact. It was beautiful.

I’ve heard that he can be kind of a tool, but after my experience with him tonight I have to say he really didn’t live up to that reputation. He was a cool dude in a leather jacket who, though pensive and a bit sullen, was just doin’ his thang. And tonight that thang included me. :)

Currently listening to: Waiting for My Man by The Velvet Underground, the live version of course ;)