November 24th, 2008


Amanda, you're telling me a fairy tale

I went to see Amanda Palmer at the TLA (or whatever it's called now) yesterday (actually two days ago by now, but I don't feel like updating any other references to time). I'd actually gotten an e-mail a little while ago that said I was a second place winner in a contest, and I was allowed to attend the soundcheck and meet-and-greet prior to the show. I don't win very much, so this was a cool surprise, and I figured there must have been a lot of winners. As it turned out, though, there was only one group of three people besides me, so I guess I was actually lucky for once. That's not really the true beginning of the story, though. I had already driven into Philadelphia to work, and parked near the venue, only to find that I had forgotten my ticket. So I had to drive back home to get it, and that wasn't a great distance, but it meant I had to pay twice as much for the garage as I otherwise would have. It turned out to be worth it, though. I got to the venue when Amanda was playing "Runs in the Family" at soundcheck, and I didn't get to talk to her for long, but she was very friendly, and posed for pictures with me. I stuck around for the opening bands' soundchecks, and then bought an overpriced but nonetheless tasty slice of pizza at a place across the street. After that, I went to Starbucks, where I always feel a bit out of place, as if they're going to sense that I'm a non-coffee-drinker. I know they have things other than coffee, but it's always a little weird going into a place that specializes in one sort of item and not getting that, like the time I had a hamburger at a Mexican restaurant. Still, the caramel apple cider is good, and where else in the city can I sit and wait indoors for an hour? When I came in, they were playing Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4, and I couldn't help but think of the lyrics that Flanders and Swann wrote for the third movement, just like how I can't hear "King of Pain" without thinking, "There's a sale on our gabardine suits today."

Anyway, the concert started around 8:30, the first act being a duo called Vermillion Lies, whom I quite liked. They kind of reminded me of the Ditty Bops, but with more of a prop-heavy comical bent. Also, they're sisters, rather than a couple. I picked up one of their albums after the show, but I haven't had the chance to listen to it yet. Next in line to play were the Builders and the Butchers, whose music was forgettable, but not bad. Really, as far as opening acts go, this was one of the better shows I've attended. I didn't appreciate the long wait between the second opener and Amanda's set, though. I probably should have gotten a seat on the balcony when I had the chance, but I decided to stand near the stage, and ended up regretting it. Oh, well. I did get a good view, although I was somewhat off to the side.

Amanda's set was largely comprised of stuff from her solo album, but she also did a few Dresden Dolls songs, including "Bad Habit," "Mrs. O," "Coin-Operated Boy," "Half Jack," and "Girl Anachronism." She was accompanied on some numbers by the Danger Ensemble, a group of dancers and performers from Australia. Amanda seemed to be in a good mood, and joked a lot with the audience. At one point, she covered "Livin' on a Prayer," and pointed out something that I've also wondered about, which is why Bon Jovi says that "it doesn't really matter if we make it or not," but then later says, "We'll make it, I swear." She answered some questions posed by audience members (I really should have submitted a question, but I couldn't think of one), and ended the set by playing two songs on the ukelele. The first was one she wrote herself, and the second a cover of Radiohead's "Creep," with Vermillion Lies on backing vocals. After the show, I stuck around to get my T-shirt signed by Amanda, who remembered me from earlier. And that's pretty much it, but bethje and I are going to see Rasputina tonight (in fact, we'll be done seeing them by the time I actually have this posted), so expect another concert review soon.

Preaching to the Gullible

It baffles me that there are people who actually believe that Fox News is "fair and balanced" (whatever that's actually supposed to mean), apparently just because they say they are. Sometimes I get the fact that a significant amount of people will believe anything, but I don't think that's entirely true. It's more that they're willing to believe anything that fits in with their existing beliefs and prejudices. It's like with the Salem Witch Trials, where it was easy to convince the authorities that certain people were practicing witchcraft and dancing with the Devil, because that society already believed in witches and devils. If the accusations had been of fuzzy pink snapping turtles from space, they might well have been just as quick to laugh them off as the legal system would today. It's much the same with how the people who bought the stories about Obama being a terrorist sympathizer were most likely the ones who already had racist and anti-Muslim tendencies. And I think it's people who are already uncomfortable with homosexuality who are convinced that gay marriage would destroy society. On this particular subject, I get the feeling that a lot of media figures who claim to oppose gay marriage are pandering. I know there are plenty of intelligent, educated people who don't share my opinions on economics, national security, law enforcement, and so on. But with gay marriage, I have a lot more trouble understanding how anyone can think that would ruin heterosexual marriage. When I read Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior, he couldn't seem to come up with a coherent explanation of his stance on the issue. He basically said that he didn't have a problem with gay marriage, but he could see how people did, because it affected traditional marriage. What he never explained was how. I don't really know what O'Reilly thinks, but the impression I got was that he couldn't find any reason to object to gay marriage, but felt that if he didn't make a token argument against it, he'd lose some of his audience. Whenever he reads viewer e-mail on his show, there's almost inevitably at least one message about how someone thinks he's becoming too liberal. And I think there's a lot of that kind of thing going on. I can't really see any particular advantage for the people at Fox News for opposing gay marriage, but they're making a point of saying things that they know their key audience will agree with, because that would make them more likely to agree on the issues where there IS some advantage for them (like, say, lower taxes on mega-corporations and the super-rich). I focus on gay marriage because it's been a hot topic of discussion since the election, and because it's an issue where the other side really doesn't have a leg to stand on (at least as far as I can tell). It's hardly the only only issue on which the media see fit to pander to the gullible, though.