Monday, April 25, 2011

I have only two words for you: Lady. Gaga.

After the miserable turtle soup experience, we hopped in the car and drove out to Uniondale. The show was at the Nassau Coliseum (the same place we saw A. R. Rahman last summer) and is a really nice venue.

Having learned from our mistake of getting to the Elton John show on time, we arrived for an 8pm show at 6:30. This meant a bit of waiting, but it also meant free shirts! Good thing, too, since the cheapest concert shirts were $40. I got an awesome poster instead.

The first opening act started at about 8:20. It was some DJ chick dancing around in a feather headdress to metal. It was so bad, I'm not even going to waste time on how terrible it was.

At about 8:45, the real opening act started. I'd never heard of Semi Precious Weapons before, but holy crap, new love. This guy is fierce.

SPW played for about 45 minutes and they were awesome. Old friends of Lady Gaga's, the lead singer told a few stories about her. Then he took his pants off. I'm pretty sure every person in the audience wanted a piece of that. I'm normally not really into opening acts, but I'd definitely go see a show of theirs again if I get the chance.

We had about an hour wait in between SPW and Gaga while the stage was set, but this meant that people (us) who had had far too much tea that morning were able to relieve themselves. Repeatedly.

I don't really know how to begin speaking about Lady Gaga's performance. To say it was amazing would be a gross understatement. I do know that I have never before been to a concert when I did not at some point think "I wonder when it will be over?" The entire audience was enthralled. She was on stage for about two hours, and sang all but a few songs from The Fame and Fame Monster, and a few from her soon to be released album. But, again, that is not doing her justice, because the concert was only partially about the music.

I should really be calling it an event. Everyone knows that she wears crazy outfits; I'm not sure everyone appreciates that she changes outfits between every few songs. Some have tear-away parts, some include fake blood, and some have breast sparklers. Her sets were on the level of Wicked!, including a lime-green automobile, a subway car, and a massive angler-fish/octopus monster. Even the costumes and the sets were not the most spectacular part - although I will say I'm a little in love with one of her back up dancers, they were all beautiful.

It was her sincerity and feeling that made the show what it was. It was the gay community that truly helped launch her career, and she has repaid them passionately. Her current project is helping homeless youth in NYC, many of whom were kicked out of their homes due to their sexual orientation. I know a few people who have experienced this, so it made her interest in that topic personal.

She communicated with the audience, and truly seemed to appreciate us. At one point various gifts were flung onstage, and she took time to look at as many as possible. One was a fleshlight, or something like it (I won't link to that one - if you know what it is, good, if not, find it on your own) with a note stuffed in it. She was highly amused at that gift, squealing "Ohh, let's see what your vagina has to say!" She seemed to accept the request to go backstage after the show. Someone else gave her a t shirt depicting three soldiers walking out of a closet, carrying a rainbow flag. If anyone can find a website for this shirt, let me know, I couldn't.

Most powerful to me was her discussion on bullying. She started by talking about the people who disregard the message behind her music and say it is all a publicity stunt. Those people don't get it, she said, because they may have never experienced the pain and humiliation that comes with bullying. She told one story about herself; she was friends in high school with a group of guys who were also friends with some girls who hated her. In an attempt to amuse those other girls, they threw this tiny, eccentric girl into a trash can. She said she tried to laugh it off, to seem in on the joke, when in reality it was taking all of her self control to not cry.

Having been on the end of severe bullying in middle school, I was deeply moved. It was awful to think that other people had been treated as badly as I was, and I'm sure far worse in some cases, but also cathartic to know that I was not alone, and that I have grown so much as a person in the decade since then. She transitioned from bullying to the song Teeth, one of my favorites, and it will forever-more have a deeper meaning and powerful memories.

She finished the concert with Bad Romance, my favorite song of hers to sing along with, and by the end my voice was pretty much shot, which wasn't helped by the fact that she bounded back on stage to perform Born This Way.

What better message can you put in a song than to love yourself and everyone else just as we are? "Same DNA".

Just as I have never been so engrossed in a concert that I didn't think about how long it was going, I have never wanted to see an artist again as I was still walking out of the audience. Dave was practically giddy, asking to "ride that one again", and Jin said "she fucking blew my mind". That is about the summation of the concert. It was an two hour explosion of sight, sound and emotion, and I can't wait to see her again. Paws up for Mother Monster.

Advice for people attending future Gaga concerts: Take your camera. Not only are you not checked for them, she encourages their use. And there really are some things you will want pictures of, whether it is her stripping to her underwear or the guy in front of you dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Credit: The pre-show photo of Hannah and I is from the Facebook group Gaga for NYIT

As I hadn't taken a camera with me, and wouldn't have been able to take photos anyway (we were way up in the stands to stage right), here are some links to good concert photos. She puts in a hell of a show.

Trang's Blog - 3/29/2010

LittleMonstersGallery - 2/19/2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Awaiting the Lady

On Saturday we went to the event I have been looking forward to since she came to Portland in September: a Lady Gaga concert. But first, a little background.

Dave and I left home at 5am on Friday morning so that we would have time to run errands in Allentown (Don't. Ask.) before picking Hannah up from Penn station in the afternoon. This made for a very long drive and a very cranky Allison. One of my biggest faults is irritability, brought on most readily by hunger, sleep deprivation and stress, in that order. Since we'd gotten about 3 hours of sleep, didn't eat an actual meal until about 3 in the afternoon, and were late picking up Hannah, I was pretty awful. I really am lucky that Dave didn't simply eject me from the car.

We finally got Hannah and met up with Jin in K Town (Korea town, for those of you without a predominantly Asian group of friends) for Korean barbecue and karaoke. Shilla (the barbecue house) wasn't bad, but it seemed more like a tourist trap than a legit Korean restaurant - not a lot of food for a very high price, and we had to ask for things that should have been complementary. We have been to another place in Flushing, Nam O Jung, that has better food and prices, but it is advised not to go there without a Korean escort - you will get decidedly better service with one.

We then went to Karaoke Wow and stayed for 3 hours. It was a lot of fun, but also very expensive. Pros: Very clean, nice staff, good sound system. Cons: No songs from the past few years (so only one Gaga song :( ), and astronomical prices. We were a group of nine, and each paid $40, and that isn't including the drinks some people got. $10 per person per hour is fine, but the $80 gratuity they added on for no apparent reason is not. We have been to a few other places in the city that were a lot cheaper, with a much wider song choice. So, lots of fun, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Three hours of karaoke meant we didn't go to sleep until extremely late. This actually lead to a moment of considerable amusement, as the alarm I had set for 4:30am for the previous morning went off as we were getting into bed. Naturally, we slept until the afternoon and had Chinese food all day. We went to Jade Asian Restaurant in Flushing for dim sum (no wait, good food, good price) and got amazing egg custard (warm from the oven, tasted deliciously eggy) from a bakery I sadly cannot remember the name of. I know it was on Roosevelt Ave. but so are about 14 other Chinese bakeries, so that doesn't help too much.

We also went to to 66 Lu's Seafood when we met up with a few other friends who hadn't eaten yet. None of us were particularly hungry, but Dave and I saw turtle soup on the menu and were intrigued. I wish we hadn't been. The most I can say is that I have now tried turtle soup, and that it was an experience. It was vile. I can still smell it. It haunts my dreams. Bleh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passover - Day 2

Today I am making the noodle kugel I made for Thanksgiving - it is mostly kosher, and I have lots of leftovers that need using, so there we are. Since I promised new recipes this week, and that isn't, here are my instructions for Fried Matzo. This is another recipe Dave and I use a lot to make the massive stores of matzo we have palatable, and I must say, it is quite fantastic.

Fried Matzo

4 matzo, broken into 3rds
boiling water
2 eggs
2 T milk
1 t vanilla
2 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

Put the matzo in a dish and pour the boiling water over it. Allow to sit for 30 seconds, then drain the water. This is to allow the matzo to become soft enough to soak up the egg. You don't want it to fall apart, just to be flexible.

Heat a frying pan on high. Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Dip the matzo pieces in the batter until they are coated, then lay them in the frying pan. Allow to cook until brown, then flip. This should not take more than a minute per side.

Serve with more sugar sprinkled on top, or with maple syrup.

This is basically French toast, but with matzo instead of bread. If you have a particular way of making French toast, by all means use it, and just follow my instructions on preparing the matzo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover begins... now.

So, being a Jew, even a fake Jew*, is really difficult in Maine. There are about 7 here, including us, so when I go to a grocery store and ask for Kosher food, I get a blank look. When I clarify that as "Jewish food", I get asked "Jews don't eat normal food?" I give up then.

I will try to have the week of Passover set up like Thanksgiving and post one recipe per day. Today is the easiest and the one Dave and I use most often. It has become such a favorite that we even eat it NOT during Passover. Yes, we have matzo throughout the year. We are still working on the case we bought two years ago.

Matzo Pizza

1 matzo
pasta sauce
shredded cheese

The hardest thing about this recipe is finding kosher sauce. Dairy is still in for Passover, so that isn't a problem.

Put one matzo on a plate. Cover with pasta sauce, sprinkle with cheese. Microwave. That's it. I'm sure you could make this fancier and bake it in an oven and shit, but why bother? This is the easy recipe. There will be more complicated ones to come, never fear.

*Dave is Jewish on his father's side, so it doesn't really count for either of us. However, it makes his grandmother happy, so we try.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day in Boston

Dave was at an internal medicine conference in sunny San Diego over the weekend, and Chen was visiting medical schools, so Sisi and I decided to get together for a day in Boston. I am happy to say that, as I needed to do city driving, I did not kill anyone, and it only knocked a few years off my life from the stress. Boston drivers really are terrifying.

Since I am generally antisocial, and the idea of going to bars for fun makes me break out in hives, we decided to get dinner and watch a movie at her apartment. Sisi has been living in Boston for two years now and knows lots of really good, really cheap places to eat, which is perfect for someone who works 18 hours a week (ie me).

We ordered dinner from Genki Ya - one of the highest rated restaurants on Yelp! in her part of Boston. It is usually really busy and if you want to eat there you'll have to wait in line, but if you order take out you get your food immediately, and it is a lot cheaper. You get an automatic discount for ordering online, in addition to being able to order from the lunch menu all day. We each got the 3 roll lunch special, which includes a salad and a large bowl of miso soup, all for about $12.50. I got the spicy salmon roll (that and spicy tuna are staples for me, though at this place I felt that Sisi's spicy tuna was the better choice), a tempura mushroom roll (new for me, and very good) and a honey roll. I got the latter because it was an entirely new concept to me, and I like trying new things. Rather than including any honey, it consisted of avocado, sweet potato and banana. It was as close to a desert roll as sushi gets, and it was awesome.

While we had been waiting for our order, we went to the Brookline Booksmith, which is about 3 blocks down the street. The entire basement of this bookstore is all used, and I was delighted to find a copy of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for $4. It is rare to find his work in used bookstores, because no one ever really wants to get rid of them. I am slowly building my collection.

After dinner we found a place to park my car overnight. This is extremely difficult to do, as most street parking is reserved for residents only. The hotel parking lot I had used in the past is now reserved for hotel guests only, so I ended up parking in a gas station. The proprietor allows parking for $15 per night, and only during hours when the station is closed. The "ticket" I was given to put on my dash was really just a piece of receipt paper with an unreadable word on it. Definitely the most ghetto parking experience of my life. It was actually difficult to park, I was laughing so hard.

We went back out after that and got Pinkberry, because that is one of my favorite things in the whole world and if I am even in the general vicinity of one, I must go. Pinkberry is my crack, people. We also spent about an hour and a half in a Newbury Comics, and I am proud (you have no idea how much willpower it took) to say I didn't buy anything. I had allotted myself $60 for the trip, not including gas, and I wanted to have enough left for food the next day. I did see a million things I wanted though: cheap DVDs, a cool wallet (I desperately need a new one, if anyone is looking for a birthday present idea :D ) and an eraser shaped like a SEAL! So cute. For real though, that wallet is a must. I've had my awesomely weird plastic one for almost four years now, and it is really starting to show its age. Rebound Designs is one of the coolest online shops I've ever seen - she makes purses and wallets from old book covers. I'd kill for a Stardust or Princess Bride wallet. Anyway.

When Sisi and I finally got back to her apartment, we used some weird Chinese facial masks she had, because this was supposed to be a girl's night, damn it! She had a bunch of different kinds - I went with the odd smelling moister renewal, and she tried the eye-puffiness reduction one. We just ended up looking like Jason Voorhees and Robin. Not the greatest look ever.

While we moisturized, we watched the fun but utterly illogical The Next Three Days. I love Russell Crowe, and it was really cool seeing him in a movie where he isn't a total badass - he is just a regular guy trying to break his wife out of a maximum security prison. Entertaining, sure, but if you are looking for a movie about what it is really like to escape from prison, watch Papillon. It has Steve McQueen in it and it's a true story. What other reasons do you need?

We got up really early so I could move my car before the gas station opened (hahaha!) and we went to Chinatown for lunch. I, naturally, wanted dim sum, so we went to Hei La Moon. It is a fairly traditional dim sum restaurant - huge room (I think there are two floors, actually), lots of Chinese people giving me, the only white person, funny looks, and women with carts. Solid food for a reasonable price.

That's about it for that weekend. Easter weekend we will be in NYC to see Lady freaking Gaga (!!!!!) so I will have more non-Maine food to talk about then.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Red Carpet Movie Premiere!

Saturday was the much anticipated (for me, anyway) Syracuse premiere of Pope Joan.

First, a bit about the book. Written by Donna Woolfolk Cross, it gives a fictional account of the life of Johanna von Ingelheim, the woman who allegedly rose through the Catholic clergy until she was crowned Pope. The history surrounding Joan is hazy at best, much of the facts relying more on omissions than outright statements; but given the number of women over the centuries who have successfully lived as men, it is entirely likely that there was at one time a female Pope.

I digress. I read the book first in 9th grade English and loved it. I read it again a few more times and was trilled when I learned that not only is Sally a good friend of Cross, they were considering doing a fundraiser together centered around the movie.

For those who do not know, Sally is my mother's partner and also the director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, NY. The foundation always needs sponsors, and what better fundraiser than a mock red carpet movie premiere?

Sally got me a ticket for Christmas, so I had three whole months too look forward to a weekend out of Maine and a chance to dress to the nines. This premiere thing was serious - my ticket included a special talk before the film by Cross herself, as well as a complementary feather boa. Mom's and Sally's included a limo ride. I decided to go all out and have an entirely new look - I'd been wanting to cut my hair short for a while, so I finally took the plunge and got my first pixie since age 4. I rather like it, even though I realized belatedly that it makes me look even more like my mother than I already did.

Sally, my mom and I all got ready at the same time, and let me tell you, three women trying to use one bathroom simultaneously is quite a feat. A lovely woman at the Macy's at Carousel Mall did my makeup, so at least I didn't have to worry about that.

I fully recommend you use this service if you ever need semi-professional make up done. The people are friendly, they instruct you how to do it yourself, and often give you samples. Also, it's free.

The red carpet events themselves were a lot of fun - there were fake paparazzo and security guards (John and John John, who seemed to have based there performance on Joe Pesci), lots of alcohol and nibbles, and an hour long talk by Cross about the 13 year ordeal of turning a novel into a movie. She was lucky, as far as authors go, to have a major hand in writing the script. Most sell the rights to their book and that is the last they have to do with it. The crowd was predominantly female and politically liberal, so I had a lot of people to talk to.

Now, as for the move itself:

For the most part, it was pretty good. Adapted the story pretty well, I'm sure due at least in part to the author helping to write the script. The casting for Joan, both the teenage and adult stages, was fantastic - both actresses were great. John Goodman was an odd choice, and I for one could not get over the fact that it was John Goodman playing the Pope, and enjoy the acting. David Wenham was good as the love interest, and is sweet enough that we are able to overlook the fact that he is putting the moves on a girl the age of his daughters. The cinematography was phenomenal - sweeping landscapes and intense closeups. The climax does not shy away from tragedy, and we look on as one in the crowd of worshipers.

On the other hand, the film relied far too heavily on voice over, of which I am almost never an advocate. It can be done well, but not in this case. Long scenes are narrated in a way that makes me wonder why we weren't shown a scene of equal length that could do this exposition in a much more interesting manner. To quote the Newhouse mantra, "Show; don't Tell." This goes for the rest of the script. A lot of the dialogue was very good, but some, as with some of the situations characters are thrown into, was so heavy handed it had me rolling my eyes.

As usual, I prefer the book to the movie, but it wasn't bad. Certainly worth a watch, if for no other reason than to get you interested in Joan's life. If fiction, it is a good story - if fact, it is a remarkable accomplishment that should not have been buried in history the way it has been.