Thursday, November 26, 2009

Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater

If music is the international language then seeing The Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater is like a therapy session in a penthouse suite. Commissioned by Paramount Pictures in the late 1920’s, the Paramount’s decadent d├ęcor filled with high arches, ornate touches and multiple chandeliers has seen Broadway, dance, theater and music ranging from vaudeville to Madonna’s first stop on her 1985 “The Virgin Tour”. When I was young I told my parents that if I ever won the lottery the first thing I would do is buy the Paramount, just to ensure no one ever tore it down. Luckily a Microsoft executive beat me to it pouring millions of dollars into restorations in 1993 leaving me free to dream of other extravagant indulgences.

No matter how beautiful the surroundings, the only thing capturing the attention of the audience on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2009 was the commanding presence of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who make up The Swell Season. These Irish (well, okay mostly, she’s Czech, but he and his bandmates are all Irish lads) indie darlings captured international attention in 2008 winning an Academy Award for “Falling Slowly” from the film Once, not to mention one of the first times I have ever seen an allowance for an extended acceptance speech!

This pair is inspiring on a number of levels. Their lyrics are full of hope in the face of struggle while the juxtaposition of Glen’s passion-filled wails with Marketa’s quiet, sprite-ish stature exhibits strength in every form. These unassuming stars are well aware of their roots and are known for wandering the streets of any city they play, finding a favorite struggling musician and inviting them to perform onstage in front of packed houses.  Their performances are full of quirky moments from Irglova’s incorporation of her vintage Casio keyboard to Hansard breaking three guitar strings mid-song, forcing a stagehand to run a new instrument onstage multiple times, but refusing to leave the melody unfinished.

But don’t take my word for it, you can stream songs on their website and decide for yourself!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking About Twilight, No Teams Required

I haven’t read a single book in the Twilight series. I’ve never taken a road trip to Forks despite my Washington State residence. My loyalties are limited to professional sports teams. Yet somehow, I found myself in possession of tickets to two showings in the first twenty-four hours of the release of New Moon.

What I do have are a few fanatical fans as friends and I accidentally agreed to see it with two different groups. Since both responsible parties snagged presale tickets to ensure our seats, I found myself committed to both a midnight and 10:00am screening of New Moon. You know what’s scarier than vampires? The thought of what an avid fan would do to me if I were caught snoring through the second morning session.

Luckily, I was thoroughly entertained by a few key points:

The blatant objectification of underage men. I may not be a firm believer in the eye-for-an-eye philosophy but a small piece of my feminist nature takes sheer delight in the amount of attention given to the appearance of the male costars instead of the female stars for once. As travelers we are trained to enjoy the landscape and jailbait Taylor Lautner definitely beautifies the land he occupies, preferably (and often) shirtless. And, in the spirit of appreciating the less publicized destinations on any adventure, the entire wolf pack and a few members of the Cullen family absolutely deserve mention in my indulgent guidebook to teenybopper land.

Blockbuster-worthy special effects. Their budget was clearly beefed up as much as the cast for this second installment, improving upon the comical running scenes and bedazzled glowing skin of the first film.

Soundtrack. I squealed like a schoolgirl in the first film when one of my favorite bands on the planet, Muse, blared over the baseball scene. They make an appearance again along with a blend of obscure and indie darlings for the perfect “Melodrama”-titled Pandora station.

Are you indulging in the Twilight phenomenon? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Ahead, Delay Away

Airports are such an interesting place to observe human nature and this holiday season I'm giving thanks that I'm not an airline employee.

I had just gotten into my belt-buckled, headphoned comfort zone when the pilot turned on the air conditioner and all of a sudden waves of steam (smoke?) began pouring through the cracks. I clamped my hand over my mouth, not sure what I could be breathing, and cursed that we hadn't yet been instructed to locate the nearest emergency exit.

The pilots shut down the airplane and the substance disappeared immediately as they announced that all passengers should leave the plane while they investigated the problem. I grabbed my bags and gladly got the hell off the plane and back to the gate. Here is where people start to amaze me. Within two steps of reaching the terminal people began to demand an explanation. When there was no instant answer the gossip began to ripple through the aisles like a juicy high school rumor, and the airline immediately became an instant outcast.

When it comes to flying, I'm all for safety first. When they announced that we would be switching to a new airplane but would have to wait for it to be towed to the runway there was a collective groan throughout the crowd. It's this point that the flight attendants need to pull out their PR skills. "Attention passengers, remember how fifteen minutes ago you were scared for your life? And you know how flying involves incredibly complicated machinery that defies the laws of gravity? Well, we take that kind of thing seriously and would like to make sure you actually make it to your destination even if it's a little later than you expected."

Of course, I'm no fan of delays, and I realize that there is often an important event waiting on the other side of the connection for many people but I swear that there is a sense of entitlement pumped into airport air. When we were further delayed because we had to wait for a new crew (frustrating, sure, but would you rather have a sleep-deprived pilot?!) the airline immediately responded by informing us that everyone would be compensated for the delay and offering sincere apologies. I just pictured that smoke, picked up my magazine and waited for the next boarding call.