Friday, July 30, 2010

Doggy Destructo

An interlude...

Doggy insom loves large stuffed animals. He drags them around, sleeps with them, places them in his mouth and thrashes his head around from side to side... they're his big buddies. But the thing he loves most to do with his big buddies is to rip them apart. Sometimes he'll run upstairs and bark at a closed door. Once opened, he runs inside and grabs his stuffed animal and drags it back downstairs. He loves those things.

His favorite stuffed animal is this large Boxer that we found at Target. Once we saw how much doggy insom loved it, Mr. Insom bought like four of them. Why would he need to buy so many, you ask?

The Boxer starts out like this. Cute, no? We called him Marmaduke.


The first thing to go is Marmaduke's tail. Then the eyes. Then the cheeks. Then an ear. Then doggy insom rips open the mouth or throat and spews stuffing everywhere, digging into the gaping wound to remove clouds of stuffing piece by piece.

To try and keep Marmaduke in commission, Mr. Insom will perform a series of corrective "surgeries". We call them surgeries because the only needle and thread we have in our possession consists of suture kits.

So Mr. Insom will grab a pair of clamps and instead of doing this

Does this


Doggy insom sits at his feet, expectantly awaiting the outcome. At times he will place a concerned paw on Mr. Insom's knee, as if to say, please take heed, doctor.

The results are deemed a success because they close up all the gashes, but create a rather Frankendog appearance. Doggy insom is given Marmaduke again and over time, rips him open again. Mr. Insom takes the injured Marmaduke and stitches him up again, but with each surgery the outcome gets worse and worse. The cycle repeats. Mr. Insom gets frustrated at seeing his handwork ripped apart, but I think it's hilarious.

Here's Marmaduke after repeated surgeries. Yikes.


He basically consists of four legs and a ear. I told Mr. Insom that we should just bring out a new stupid Boxer (I think we have two left), but he insisted could he repair the damage. He's all about rationing the Boxers. lol This didn't even look like a dog anymore.

At any rate, sensing vulnerability (or perhaps making the ultimate play to get a new Boxer), doggy insom went to down on Marmaduke, much to Mr. Insom's chagrin. Poor Marmaduke was on borrowed time and only had three days left.



Time of death, 12:18am.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grand Performances: The Ring goes Hip Hop

I love summer in Los Angeles... so many opportunities to hear music outdoors. You have the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theater, the Ford Amphitheater if you feel like paying for music, and then you have all sorts of FREE venues where you can enjoy listening under the stars without the dent in your checking account.

My introduction to Grand Performances came under the umbrella of the LA Ring Festival (yes, more Wagner!) To celebrate the LA Opera production of the Ring Cycle, there were dozens of events sponsored by cultural institutions and groups around the city as part of the LA Ring Festival. You could listen to the principal singers discuss the challenges of singing Wagner at the Hammer Museum, ponder the ethics of doing performing Wagner in a multicultural community like Los Angeles, watch the "Light of the Valkyries" planetarium show at the Griffith Observatory, or check out an exhibit at LACMA that explored the myths behind Der Ring.

I decided to attend a performance of Gangsta Wagner by the daKah Hip Hop Orchestra
- a fusion of hip hop and motifs from the Ring Cycle at Grand Performances. I had never heard of Grand Performances, but it is a concert series located at California Plaza in the heart of downtown Los Angeles that "presents free performing arts that reflect the best of global culture and inspire community among the diverse peoples of Los Angeles." Sounds good, no?

Here's what I've learned after going to one concert:

  1. Show up early. This is probably an obvious one, but this place fills up quickly. We got there 10 minutes beforehand, I wound up sitting on a damn planter for the entire evening.
  2. If you get there early, there are lots of different seating options - a sort of amphitheater set up, plastic chairs, or there are always planters.


  3. You can bring food. The food shops at CA Plaza stay open during the concert, but it looked like most people brought there own stuff.
  4. You can bring booze. This probably should have been number one.


So the concert I saw featured Double G (aka Geoff Gallegos, co-founder/conductor/composer) and daKah Hip Hop Orchestra DaKah - was great... the group features youngish musicians of a variety of backgrounds with one main interest - a love of classical and a love of swagger. lol

Gangsta Wagner

And not to disappoint the hip hop heads in attendance, DaKah played a nice selection of more contemporary music. To commemorate the passing of Guru, they played a medley of Gang Star.

I was feeling it. The crowd was feeling it. At various points the fountain behind the performers would shoot out bursts of water which created a really nice effect.

One of my favorite things about this performance was the diversity of the audience goers. Different ages, different races, different interests, families, seniors out on the town, hipsters... it was quite beautiful.


Every once in a while I get that "only in LA" tingle. I got it that night.

I saw Double G at Die Walkure (the second opera in the Ring Cycle) at the Dorothy Chandler the following week and I was able to tell him in person how much I enjoyed the performance. It was cute - he was with his wife and some other people and they were all, "oh - look at that! How nice!" after I left. I probably was the only person in the Founders Circle that recognized him. lol

I totally plan on seeing either the Lula Washington Dance Theater this weekend or Pacha Massive and Non Stop Bhangra. There will even be a 7:30pm Bhangra dance lesson before the show. Aaaaalll riiiiight! Plenty of opportunity to make use of the dance floor they provide. lol

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome to JazzReggae Fest!

Why yes, I'm catching up on old blog posts... lol

Memorial Sunday was spent listening to music. Before I checked out Flight of the Conchords at the Bowl, I went to the UCLA JazzReggae Festival. The festival is held over two days at the Intermural Field on the UCLA campus - students get in free and the tickets are fairly reasonable $26/day for hours and hours of music. Headlining the Jazz or Hip Hop day were Raphael Saddiq and Q-Tip. Previous headliners have been The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, Eyrkah Badu, and Jill Scott - basically any of the "conscious hip hop heads"... Young Jeezy, need not apply.

It was hella hot, but nice to see so many folks out and about.






UCLA doesn't typically look like this. lol

This old guy was busting a move.


Lots of places to get food and stands to buy stuff. I ate a chicken patty. Yum.


I caught Foreign Exchange on the stage. They were good. I really should have cropped these pictures, but I'm feeling lazy.



Unfortunately I couldn't stay for any of the headlining performances. Shame. I love Bonita Applebum and Electric Relaxation.

The Reggae day featured Damian Marley and Nas who were performing songs off their recently released album "Distant Relatives".

One of my favorite songs from the duo is Road to Zion

Marley performed "Welcome to Jamrock" - a sure fire crowd pleaser and I overheard them doing their encore performance of Bob's "Could You Be Loved?" while walking Doggy Insom when I returned to UCLA the next day.

I really should have gotten tickets for the Reggae day of the festival. I'm sorry I missed this :(

I guess there's always next year!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Gott damm, it's Rung. :(

So last week marked the ending of my first Ring cycle. Sadness. My dad and I attended the last opera, Gotterdammerung, the grand finale where everything goes up in a blaze of glory.

It was bittersweet. On the one had I was looking forward to seeing more of Freyer's magnum opus, but on the other hand, I was so sad it was ending. It's been a great run. Because I've been sitting in the same area of the concert hall for each performance, I've seen the same people over and over again. I had lunch with them, chatted during intermission, and by the end of the cycle we were hugging goodbye. It was sweet. Most of my companions are a lot older than me, and I think they think I'm some sort of young protege. lol I even bumped into someone from my alma mater - go figure!

Since I've covered the first three operas in such a nuanced fashion, I figure I should do this last one as well.

Opera 4: Gotterdammerung

Okay, this one is kinda weird.

So it begins with Siegfried and Brunhilde happy and in love. Brunhilde is sort of tamed - she's all, go forth and have adventure, I'll mind the house and have dinner on the table when you come home. The two sing this beautiful and touching duet while holding this cloth as a symbol of their union ("Apart, who shall separate us? Separate, we shall never part!").

Of course this is opera, so you know trouble's a-brewing...

And this guy's the trouble brewer barista.

His name is Hagen and he's the half-brother of Gunther and Gutrune. He's like, I have a great idea! You guys want to get married right? Gunther, you can marry this hottie named Brunhilde and Gutrune, you can marry this guy named Siegfried. One small problem is that they're currently in love with each other, but I can fix that. I'll give Siegfried a magic potion and he'll forget all about Brunhilde and fall in love with Gutrune. And this potion is so amazing that Gunther can make Siegfried hook up him with Brunhilde.

Hagen is like the worst matchmaker ever! But Gunther and Gutrune must be really desperate because they're like, when do we start?

At first Hagen's costume seemed sort of cute - his short fake puppet legs dangle. But as the opera wore on, Hagen started to become this twisted demented image of evil - a tribute to the acting skills of the singer.

But will Siegfried fall for such a dastardly trick? Well, he almost got poisoned in the third opera and it's been well established that he's sort of an idiot. He spent the last opera trying to figure out what the hell fear was, so that gives you an idea of his mental capacity.

As he wanders about searching for adventure, he stumbles into Gunther and Gutrune's house. Poor guy has no clue his life is about to be totally screwed. They give him the potion, he drinks it - apparently ignorant of the lessons learned in various afterschool specials. The potion works - he forgets all about Brunhilde and is totally in love with Gutrune.

Not only that, since Siegfried is the only one that can breach the magic fire to get to Brunhilde, he tells Gunther that he will alter his appearance with a magic hat so that he looks like Gunther. He will take Brunhilde by force, claim her as his wife, and then give her to Gunther
The two pledge a blood oath - slitting their wrists in the process.

Meanwhile, evil Hagen is visited by his dad - none other than Alberich, the dwarf that stole the ring in the first opera and started this whole damn thing. *spoiler alert!* Hagen promises his dad that he'll kill Siegfried. The two are really pleased by this because they are EVIL.

Brunhilde's sister (one of the Valkyries) comes down from Valhalla to warn her of the evil nature of the ring and instructs her throw it in the river to give it back to the Rhinemaidens. Brunhilde's like Oh you don't - Siegfried gave this and it's a token of his love.

Siegfried comes a-knocking disguised as Gunther and wrenches the ring out of poor Brunhilde's hand. He drags her back to Gunther's house.

When Brunhilde is brought the castle, she realizes that the guy who conquered her was in fact Siegfried when she sees him holding the ring. She is PISSED. She's even more pissed when he goes off with Gutrune. She feels betrayed and she accuses him of infidelity. Gunther is upset because his honor has been tarnished.

Hagen's whips up an army of vassals into a blood thirsty rage. He suggests that Siegfried swear an oath that he's never touched Brunhilde, knowing that Siegfried doesn't know what he's doing because he's all drugged up. If he's proven a liar, he dies.

Brunhilde's so pissed that complains to all the vassals and enters into the plot to kill Siegfried with Hagen. She tells evil Hagen that Siegfried can be killed with a stab in the back.

The truth comes to light and armed with the knowledge of Siegfried's Achilles heel, Hagen prepares to strike.

Hagen, Siegfried, and Gunther go hunting. Guess who doesn't make it back from the trip? Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back with a spear and goes about his business.

The death of Siegfried was really moving and has some of the most striking music of the entire cycle. Lots of drama. lol

Gunther is kind of upset by the whole nasty affair and when he raises an objection, Hagen kills him too. So now there are two dead bodies on the stage.

At this point, Brunhilde's like - okay, things are pretty bad now. She starts a funeral pyre and jumps on her trusty horse and rides into the flames, intending to purify the ring with her burnt ashes for the Rhinemaidens. The Rhinemaidens claim the ring, drown evil Hagen, and the entire world is consumed by fire.

Fade to black.

How this is played out in Freyer's opera is that everything comes crashing down. Cutout ravens float away to reveal the prompters cuing the singers. Lighting rigs fall on to the stage and a large spotlights shines out into the audience. Puppet cutouts sail upward, spinning crazily. The entire world that Freyer has created gets destroyed. It was thrilling and my heart was literally pounding with the excitement.

To see this all from the best seats in the house for free has been so amazing and I am completely grateful to my benefactor. :) I can say without hesitation that to date, this has been the most amazing musical experience that I've had in my entire life, even better than this night. And gott damm, do I love this friggin city.