Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Brief Look at Experimental Music

Back in September, I attended part of Sonic Circuits, which is a DC area experimental music festival.  Experimental music, I learned, encompasses many things.

Cornel West Theory
There was the Cornel West Theory, a DC hip-hop group with an angry political bent.  I liked them a lot.  However, they were the most "conventional" of all the "experimental" bands that day.

There were several jazz ensembles.  I forget which one this is.  Their entire set consisted of one 30 minute improvisational song.  They played an encore afterwards, which I didn't stick around for because the first song was so exhausting.  I can only assume it was a trillion years long though.

Here is Astma.  They came all the way from Russia.  They had a guy on guitar and a girl who howled and screeched into the microphone while playing drums.

RDK + Insect Factory
RDK + Insect Factory was quite good.  They were intriguing enough that I bought a CD of theirs, though I can't really describe how they sounded.  Very atmospheric and cool.  Also, the guitarist reminds me of Sergio Cilli from infoMania.

My favorite act of the day though was Fuse Ensemble.
Fuse Ensemble
This whole performance was called "Usina Mekanica" and it is the work of local composer Gina Bever. It consisted of several musicians playing a variety of instruments, both conventional and unconventional. There were the tiny toy pianos, pictured above.

There was also the creative use of wind-up toys to add another interesting layer of sound.
Fuse Ensemble

There were the more conventional string instruments..
Fuse Ensemble

And there was a mechanical table.  You know, every band needs a mechanical table to hoble around during songs.
Fuse Ensemble

And, of course, every band needs a wind-up punched paper playing do-hickey.  Do these things have a technical name?  It created a sound similar to what you would hear from a music box, so I'm guessing it's the same technology.
Fuse Ensemble

Overall, I can get behind any group that includes guys in grey jumpsuits and wind-up toys.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Santa Claus House

Just north of Fairbanks, is the small city of North Pole.

The North Pole, while admittedly very, very north, is nowhere near the actual north pole.


North Pole is primarily known as the home of the Santa Claus House.


The Santa Claus House is a store/kitschy tourist attraction.  It sells all manner of Christmas and Santa-related items.  It might be the biggest Christmas store you've ever seen.  It was founded in 1952 by Con and Nellie Miller.  It initially began as an ordinary trading post.  However, Con Miller loved dressing up as Santa every Christmas and got an idea.  And thus the Santa Claus House was born.

Also, the town of North Pole takes this Christmas stuff seriously.  Many of the main streets have Christmas-y names (like St. Nicholas Drive, Santa Claus Lane, and Kris Kringler Drive).  And the street lights are shaped like candy canes.

The Santa Claus House does have reindeer, which I didn't take many pictures of because I was reindeer-ed out from going to the reindeer farm twice in one week.

Also, at the Santa Claus House there are only 3 reindeer.  Which, if I'm following my Santa Claus mythology correctly, is not enough to fly his sleigh.

One cool thing about the House is that it receives letters from children all over the world addressed to Santa.  If you ever have a hankering to write to Santa Claus, send it to the address above.

Your letter might get an illustrious spot on this wall.



The Santa Claus House also has a Santa and a Mrs. Claus.  Who were sadly not there the day we visited.  It was their day off.

I feel a little cheated.  Because I wanted to meet Santa and tell him what I wanted for Christmas.

You know, like a puppy and a nice pair of boots and for the Afghan Whigs to get back together.  And a trip to India.  And for everyone I love to be safe and happy.

But no, it was Santa's day off.  I guess even Santa needs a day off.

I'm glad I went though, and if you ever find yourself in the Fairbanks area, pay the Santa Claus House a visit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Roadside Yard Sale in Wasilla

Wasilla is a town in Alaska that is probably best known to the American public as being the former mayoral stomping grounds of Sarah Palin.  My family and I briefly drove through it on our way up to Fairbanks.  I can assure you that it's a fairly unremarkable place.  There's a pretty pond, some strip malls and chain restaurants, gas stations... nothing too interesting to see.  However...

We did find an odd flea market/yard sale on the side of the highway.  It mainly consisted of several people selling things out of their vans or pick-up trucks.

My stepmom wanted to stop there to look for a moose pelt (she was unsuccessful).  There were, however, many other pelts to choose from.


My dad befriended this stuffed bear...

While my nephews befriended this man and his adorable husky.

This man and his dog were incredibly kind and sweet and let us hang around and talk to them for a long while.  My dad jokingly asked the man if he could buy his dog off of him.  The man replied that the dog was not for sale - he had originally belonged to his son, who died in combat in Iraq.  

Eventually we wandered around so some of the other sights of this Wasilla roadside flea market thing.





I don't know how indicative all of this was of the typical Wasilla experience.  I do have to say that it was one of the more interesting hours I've ever spent.  And, I can't think of many other places outside of Alaska where you can find people selling bear pelts and swords on the side of the road.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alaska: A Land of Bears

If there's one thing I found out after going to Alaska, it was...that they have a lot of bears.

Apparently, it's a bad enough problem that someone has invented the bear-proof trash can.

And at any park or campground, you'll see numerous warnings telling you not to leave any food out, so as not to attract the bears.

I must admit, it was a little unnerving sometimes to go down a trail and have to worry about encountering large, potentially dangerous animals.

Luckily, all of my bear encounters in Alaska were of a nice, friendly, cuddly nature.

At zoos and animal reserves...

Or from a very, very safe distance.


However, in case I did have a "bad bear day", I would know exactly what to do. Because of helpful posters like these.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reindeer Vs Caribou

You wanna know the difference between a reindeer and a caribou?


It's a trick question, really. Or maybe it's not. I'm sorta confused by trick questions.

(P.S. The picture below was taken shortly before my tiny tiny little nephew was somewhat kicked in the head by that harmless looking reindeer. Don't worry, he's fine.)


According to the woman who worked at the Reindeer Farm in Palmer, Alaska the difference between a reindeer and a caribou is ... a reindeer can fly.


No, really.


A reindeer is simply the domesticated version of a caribou. Since they are domesticated and nice, docile creatures (except for the one that kicked my nephew), they are flown around the world for various reindeer purposes. Usually involving posing as Santa's animal sidekicks come Christmastime. They grow antlers, which are filled with many many blood-vessels and help regulate their body temperature. They shed their antlers every year. Female reindeer, as well as male reindeer, grow antlers. Also they can walk on top of snow. And are unsinkable. See, I learned a lot at the reindeer farm.


Also, that they can get a condition called "antler warts", which are warts...on the antlers. They're disgusting-looking. Apparently you can't really do anything about them except hope that they don't come back after the reindeer sheds his antlers.


This little baby reindeer was orphaned and so the people at the reindeer farm are bottle-feeding her. She was especially friendly.


Also, they let all the kids bottlefeed her. She gulped down the entire bottle in about 2 seconds.

Another awesome thing about the Palmer Reindeer Farm? As well as reindeer, you can also feed elk.


And moose. How very Alaska.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Seal A Day...

... keeps the blues away.


Seriously, this harbor seal could save anyone from even the foulest of moods, just be chasing its flipper-tail.



His other seal companion seems less enthused, however, choosing to sleep and ignore Spotty's antics.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

University of Alabama: Roll Tide

In the continuing adventures of Lindsey in Alabama, I spent a hot, sweaty afternoon wandering around the University of Alabama campus.  Let me give you a pictorial tour!  At the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, you can find...

...many pretty red brick buildings...

...a sleeping robot...

...some random sculpture art...

...a drawing by Art Spielgeman...

..the Denny Chimes...

...the Presidential mansion, sporting some lovely antebellum architecture...

...the largest college football stadium I've ever seen

...along with statues of past famous football coaches.

...a boat full of rocks...

...and many, many red and white flowers.