I will Literally FIGHT to Photograph the Empire Builders!

DSC00348_transparentI am so proud of my husby, Christopher.  As a member of the Oregon Army National Guard, he plays in the 234th Army Band throughout the year.  But for two weeks every summer, he leaves with the army band on tour, playing free concerts for the public all over Oregon.  He has been away for about ten days, but I was able to drive down to Salem to see the concert band (a.k.a. The Empire Builders) perform at the Historic Grand Theatre.  Chris said that this was the best concert the army band has put on since he has been in the National Guard, so I wanted to make sure that I got to see it!  Chris’ principle instrument is the oboe, but he’s just as good on saxophone, and he often plays percussion or other instruments (but he can play nearly any band instrument you throw at him).

The theme was “Heroes and Villains”, and they performed lots of popular songs, including pieces from Superman, Frozen, Les Miserables, and Godzilla (which featured a story-line slide show that played as the band told the story of how Godzilla attacked Las Vegas, which was ultimately saved by multiple Elvi armed with various types of weaponry).

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That was all great, but I was mostly excited about the show because this year, Chris has moved into a conducting position and I wanted to see him do what he does best!  He loves conducting, and I think it has been really exciting for him to move into another position and take on new challenges.

My favorite piece of the show was The Padstow Lifeboat March…I’m a big fan of marches in general.  This piece was unique to me, though, because I could really visualize the waves getting bigger and the wind picking up…the song really told a story, to me!  And, it was entertaining as well – every time the fog-horn sounded, Chris emphasized the horns by doing something exaggerated (like in the picture above).  The audience laughed a lot! Want to hear The Padstow Lifeboat March by Sir Malcolm Arnold?  Click HERE and hit “Play Song”!

NoPaparazziWell, you probably want to hear about this FIGHT that almost went down, huh?  I was sitting in the balcony with a couple of friends, and I had my camera so that I could take some pictures of Chris as he conducted.  About the third song in, I get this insistent tap on my shoulder and I turn around, and there’s this old lady who rudely commanded to me “DON’T DO THAT”.  What???  It’s a free concert!  There was absolutely no ban on photography!  Further, my husband, who had been gone from his family for 10 days, did so in order to play free concerts for the public, for her!!!  I gave her a death stare, and took a couple more pictures.   I didn’t know exactly what was bothering her (I wasn’t using a flash), but I thought maybe it was the screen on my camera…but there were other people around me taking pictures with their iPhones, which also had screens.  I tried taking some pictures without the screen on, just using the view-finder, but that didn’t work well, so I got up and took more pictures from the side of the balcony.  The whole rest of the show I was stewing, thinking about all the things I was going to say to that lady if she pestered me again!  Seriously, I really try to be kind and considerate to people, but it seems like there is always someone yelling at me and telling me what I can and can’t do.  No wonder I don’t like being around crowds of strangers!  Sheesh…well, she got up and left immediately after the show ended and didn’t say anything else to me.  But I tell you what…things were about to get REAL in up in that balcony!  If my roller derby experience has taught me anything, it’s taught me how to hit a bitch, so look out, and don’t tell ME not to take pictures!

I mean, seriously, if I didn’t take pictures, this post would be much less entertaining, right?  😉

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Writing 101: My Three Songs

It is so very difficult to choose the three most important songs in my life.  Surely you’ve had the experience of hearing a song on the radio or on TV and it brings you right back to a time or moment that you can almost see again, and certainly feel?  As I ran through the collection of music I have, I got flashes of various times, just little peeks, skipping across my thoughts as I skipped through the song titles.  But I’ve narrowed it down.  I can’t say that these are THE three most important songs in my life, but they stand out to me for some reason (at least today).

To be honest, I wrote about a very important song to me on the first day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge back in April.  It is Anya Marina’s “Vertigo”, which reminds me so much of the year that Chris and I were dating.  2010 was a fantastic year, and at the end of it, Chris proposed to me to this song playing in the background.  You can read my post about it and listen to the song HERE.

But HA!  I’m going to pull a fast one on you!  Since I’ve already written about the most important song in my life I get to pick three entirely new ones for today!  I make the rules here, yes I do!  So here we go, in no particular order of importance:

First, there’s “Barcarolle“, by Jacques Offenbach from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’.  You might not have expected an operatic piece from me, but this song almost brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  It’s a prominent song in one of my very favorite moves, “Life is Beautiful”, about a family (mom, dad and young son) who are taken away to a Nazi concentration camp.  The father is able to hide the little boy even after they are separated from the mom.  His father makes their time at the concentration camp into a game for the boy, even as atrocious events take place around them.  At one point, the father is required to act as a servant for a fancy Nazi dinner and he finds a Victrola with a collection of records.  He is able to broadcast Barcarolle across the concentration camp, a sign to his wife that he is still alive and that his love for her will endure no matter what.  It’s such an amazing movie, and I can barely write about it without my eyes getting moist (ok, they are most.  Dammit!).  Below are two scenes from the movie (all in one youtube video); first is an earlier scene when the father first sees his future wife at the opera (when Barcarolle is being performed) and knows he is in love with her (and gets her to look at him!), and second, the scene I described above.

Next up on the jukebox in the Fuzzy Undertones Lounge, is a little something from Prince.  I love Prince, and have been a huge fan since I was fairly young.  While his musical style has changed throughout the years, there’s always something unique about his music that says Prince.  I thought about choosing “Kiss”, which I love, but then decided to take it one step further and go with “Sexy M.F.”  You figure out what the M.F. stands for.  While Prince has since sworn off swearing in his music (can you do that?) this is an earlier song and I love it because, like “Kiss”, it’s not about what you look like, it’s how you carry yourself, how your attitude makes you sexy.  Yeah.  And you know that I can be one sexy beast when I’m listening to Prince!

Lastly, I’ll go with a classic, a song that describes my daily life and could, in fact, be my theme song between the hours of 7:30 – 5.  If this were the case, however, the song would have to change its title, but I have a feeling that Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” wouldn’t quite be the same if you substituted seven-thirty for nine.  It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know?  When I enter the doors at work first thing in the morning, this music runs through my mind.  I recently watched the movie “Nine to five” and it was still quite hilarious even though a lot of it is somewhat outdated.  But still, I feel like I sell myself during those prime hours of the day…it’s all taking and no giving (well, except for the paycheck.  That, I get).

I had some runner-ups, too.  If I could add a few more songs to the list I might have included Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” or George Clinton’s “Do Fries Go With That Shake”, or maybe even “If I Didn’t Have You” from the Monster’s Inc. soundtrack (bloopers included in that one!).  Oh, so many to choose from!  And so hard to pick only three!  But for today, there they are.  What are the three most important songs in your life?  Tell me in the comments!

This is Day 3 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?  And the twist:  You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

Ha!  Well, for the twist, I’ve already decided that I will write 20 minutes a day, as I’ve been setting my timer to 20 minutes for each of these daily exercises.  Take that, Writing 101!  I’ll see your minimum and raise you 5 whole minutes!  And, as long as we’re establishing practices here, those 20 minutes are reserved for writing…going back to edit, add hyperlinks, insert pictures or videos, that’s all extra.  Not allowed in my 20 minutes!

Ladies I Love: T is for Ever-So-Talented Tribal Fusion Bellydancers

Bellydance used to be a big part of my life, and for today’s T-related A to Z Challenge post, I am going to talk about a couple of Ladies I Love, my favorite Tribal Fusion Bellydancers.  Just before I moved to Portland, I started taking beginning bellydance classes in San Diego, so when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a good foundation to explore the many types of bellydance that are out there.  I’m certainly no expert on various bellydance styles and I haven’t danced in a few years now, but I’d like to give you a taste of some of the bellydance styles you may encounter.  You might have seen solo bellydancers perform when you go out to eat Moroccan food; those are typically Egyption cabaret style dancers – lots of colors, scarves, jingly shiny accessories, and they often perform to more traditional middle-eastern music (see the photo below, left).  American Tribal Style (ATS), another another form, borrows traditional bellydance moves and is typified by multiple dancers performing the same movements at the same time.  While there is some improvisation in the choreography, complex movements are signaled by a leader to other dancers in the troupe with subtle movements so that all the dancers know what step is coming up.  ATS dancers borrow a lot of their dress and makeup styles from Eastern Europe (think gypsy!) and Africa to create a unique and recognizable look (below, right).

But let’s get back to tribal fusion bellydance!  I first saw this style at an Offbeat Bellydance show at the Blue Monk, in Portland, Oregon.  A dancer named Endymienne took the stage and I had never seen anyone dance like her before – I was absolutely transfixed!  In fact, here’s a picture from her performance that night, way back in 2010:

14 - Endi

All bellydance is about muscle control and isolated movements of the ribcage, hips, stomach, arms and head (among other parts), but tribal fusion includes so much more.  It’s an off-shoot of ATS, but has elements of cabaret, hip-hop, popping, flamenco, burlesque and breakdance.  Movements can be slow and controlled, or fast and percussive.  The style is a beautiful combination of tribal, old 1920’s and 30’s flapper and burlesque, vintage circus, and modern elements (lots of tattoos and piercings, too).  To me, it’s utterly mesmerizing!  Here are a few more photos to help you picture what I’m talking about:

The two women pictured above are probably the most well-known tribal fusion bellydancers in the U.S., and for good reason.  First, there’s Rachel Brice (the two pictures to the left, above), based out of Portland (here’s her wiki page, too).  She has her own studio called Datura, and teaches classes and workshops there.  She has performed and toured both nationally and internationally since 2002 and has a lot of accomplishments to show for it!  Here’s a fun performance she did a few years ago at a Le Serpent Rouge show at the Tractor Tavern up in Seattle (I like it because a bit of her personality comes through in interacting with the rather adoring audience):

Next, there’s Zoe Jakes (two pictures to the right, above), who is part of a musical group called Beats Antique, which formed in San Francisco in 2007.  She and Rachel Brice often perform together, and Zoe Jakes is a guest instructor at Datura, along with having several instructional DVDs of her own.  She has been bellydancing since 2000, and like Rachel Brice, has a ton of accomplishments under her belt.  Instead of a performance video, here’s one of my favorite videos from Beats Antique (called “Revival”, released back in 2011), which will give you a taste of their music (which seems to be a favorite among tribal fusion dancers…I don’t even know how to describe it!), as well as a peek of Zoe Jakes who performs in it about halfway in.

I could go on and on about these ladies and there are a ton of videos of their performances on youtube, so if you’re interested in viewing more, they’re easy to find.  Was it what you were expecting from bellydancers?  Let me know what you think!

Ladies I Love: A is for Anya Marina

It’s the start of the A to Z Challenge – hurray!!!  And that means that today, April 1, starts off with the letter A.  My theme is Ladies I Love, which will feature individuals, or groups of women, a type of woman, non-human women, fictional women, and who knows what else (but still women)!  Today’s featured Lady I Love is Anya Marina, a Portland-based singer-songwriter that I actually learned about when I was living in San Diego.  She has such a sweet, smooth voice and her music is simple, which I appreciate in a world full of noise.  My absolute favorite album of hers is called “Slow and Steady Seduction: Phase II”.  It is my favorite because it reminds me so much of the time that me and my husband were dating back in 2010.  In fact, Christopher played “Vertigo” from that album on his phone while he was waiting for me to get done prettying myself up in the bathroom so that he could propose to me!  I took so long that I finally noticed that the song had played like three times in a row, so I came out to see what was going on, and there he was with the ring, with “Vertigo” still playing in the background.  Here’s the song for you to listen to and enjoy!

Every time I hear Anya Marina’s “Vertigo”, I think of my Christopher and that perfect day.  And just fyi, if you’ve made it this far, I’m proud of you.  This is my mushiest, sappiest post in April, so thanks for reading and make sure to come back again!  I’m excited about the other ladies that I’m featuring this month!

Ovo Means Egg

Last night Chris and I went to see Cirque du Soliel’s “Ovo” at the Portland Expo Center, under the Grande Chapiteau!  It was a great time because acrobats + insects = awesome!  I bought us pretty good seats, but tall people sat in front of us and I had to keep looking around the guy’s stupid fat head the entire first half of the show.  So, during the intermission the box office changed our seats to premium – we were in row H and seated on an aisle, so no one was in front of us.  Now THOSE were fantastic seats – super close, just above stage-level, and unobstructed!  I didn’t take all of these pictures, so sorry copyright police. 

 The ants dancing with kiwi and corn were my favorite, I think!

The crickets jumping from trampolines onto the climbing wall were pretty spectacular, too.

And the contortionist spiders were freakishly incredible!  Nearly all the performances were pretty unbelievable – definitely see this show if you get the chance!

A few more bellydance pics for you…

About a week ago I did another photo shoot for Darcy, for her henna business. Here are a few of the better pictures…who’d have thought that it’s actually quite fun getting all painted up with sparkles and henna and then fluttering about in jingly costumes?!

In case you’re wondering, the Photoshop skills are all mine, baby! Darcy’s going to blow up the photos to poster-size for her booth, which she brings to festivals and fairs. Neato, huh?

An Evening with the Freak Mountain Ramblers!

And, by Freak Mountain Ramblers, I don’t mean my family…although my family was there with me. Anne and Paul invited me to join them at an outdoor concert just a few blocks from where I live, so I took them up on it. Anne and Paul brought a picnic dinner and my niece, I brought warm chocolate chip cookies (to win over my niece), and the Freak Mountain Ramblers brought the Grateful Dead cover music and washed up hippie dancing with juggle sticks. It was a nice change for an evening – the weather was perfect, and it was so close to my house! Ahhhh…I love northwest Portland…

Yup, he’s still going!


Much like Molly Shannon as her Mary Katherine Gallagher character, I have secretly yearned to be a superstar: worshiped by audiences, adored by fans, and lusted after by teenage boys who have posters of me above their beds. And yes, dear admirers, that day has come – for I have survived my very first bellydance performance.

Ok, I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous. I’ve been taking neo-tribal bellydance classes at Euphoria Studios for a while now and about a month ago we started rehearsing for the annual student show. There are three beginning 2 neo-tribal classes (which is the one that I take) that performed together to do a veil and improv piece; I had my doubts as to whether it would all come together or not because we hadn’t all practiced together in the performance studio (no mirror to watch everyone else!). But in the end, all of us coalesced into a colorful veil-spinning group that made it through the performance without anyone tripping on a veil or passing out. And I didn’t even get blocked by anyone trying to hog the spotlight from *me*! As if they even could…hee hee hee! :oP

Chris took some really nice pictures of our group and the other performers, and I was happy to have him in the audience cheering me on. Yes, I had my concentration face on, but I tried to remember to smile and shake it like the best of them! It really was a lot of fun and I hope that I get another opportunity to perform for such a supportive and enthusiastic audience.

Mo’ Modeling, Mo’ Modeling, Mo’ Modeling!

In case you’ve been wondering how the whole belly dancing thing has been going, it’s been great! I’m taking a couple of classes each week between a few different instructors, all different, all amazing dancers. Ziggy (below, red hair) got me into modeling for an online belly dance clothing company; we did a couple of photoshoots in May, and it was a lot of fun getting all fancied up in clothes I would otherwise never get to wear! Here are a few shots of me doing my thang.

Ok, this last one didn’t make the catalog; I was just goofing around and the photographer snapped the shot. Dang it! That will teach me…maybe…