Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bird Watching

On Thursday night, Mike and I had a date to go see one of our favorite musicians, Andrew Bird. We bought the tickets months ago, while we were still living in LA, so it was the ultimate in delayed gratification when the night finally came. He was playing at the Paramount Theatre here in Austin, a kind of local landmark that was built in the early 1900s and is absolutely beeeautiful. Walking up, we knew we were in the right place because of all the awkward people in complicated outfits standing outside -- Andrew Bird is one of those musicians that attracts the hipster types.

I frequently discover a new favorite band by going to see someone I like and falling in love with the opening act. In fact, this is how we found Mr. Bird -- he opened for The Decembrists at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Continuing the good music domino effect, I found the Bird's opener, Lonely Dear, to be thoroughly delightful.

Mike and I spent a good while debating whether or not the lead singer had an accent; it was so very nearly American that we thought maybe we were imagining it. When he admitted to being from Sweden, we sort of smacked our foreheads and said, "Of course!" I rarely pay attention to what a Swedish person is saying because I'm too focused on trying to decide what/if their accent is.

Anyway, they were lovely. I especially enjoyed one song where they had the entire theater sing back-up "da da da da da". It reminded me of my Bible camp days, sitting around the campfire and tacking my little voice onto the big, floating chorus. Except this crowd was really more "drunk and high" than "Deep and Wide."

Andrew Bird himself was straight out of a Tim Burton movie, all long and lanky and Jack the Skeleton King-ish. He was surrounded by freakishly large grammophone-looking dealybobs and whirlygigs. He played the entire show completely solo, but he sounded like an orchestra. He'd record himself playing one instrument, loop it, and then layer other stuff over it. He was constantly tapping pedals with his feet and swapping instruments and whistling and generally one-man-banding like a pro. It must take a superhuman amount of coordination -- I can't even change the radio station while I'm driving without veering into the next lane.

AND Y'ALL! What did he bring out at the beginning of the show for good luck? Guess! Can you guess? It was....

....a GIANT SOCK MONKEY! Some woman in Toronto made a giant sock monkey in his likeness, complete with skinny tie and violin case. He said, "I know it's silly, but you bring it to a couple of shows, they end up being good, and then you can't go on without it." !!!

In fact, there was a lot of sock talk. Early on, he kicked off his shoes for greater ease of pedal-tapping. He looked down and said, "Oh, my new horse socks. You see, there are little horses all over them. It's playful, you know. Like when your ninth grade math teacher would wear crazy ties. It's like that, for socks." Hipsters eat this kind of banter up. (Actually, so do I.)

I can say with no hesitation that Andrew Bird is the first person on planet Earth to make the violin cool. You will be hard pressed to name someone else who plays the violin and is not an overachieving nerd. (Sorry nerds.) He has total command of that instrument and could probably be first chair of any of the world's great orchestras if he weren't so twitchy. But instead he's a super cool, sock-monkey lovin' one-man orchestra, sometimes flipping that violin around and going ukelele style all over it.

I loved every minute of that show, even though I was occasionally preoccupied by his freakish coordination. For those of you in LA who want to do some Bird watching this week, he'll be at The Orpheum this Wednesday the 18th. Start trolling Craig's List, I think it may be sold out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beef Hearts

Happy Valentine's! As the saying goes, They're not farts now, but they'll beef hearts later. Nothin' says romance like a fart pun!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In Queso Emergency

There are many obsession-worthy foods here in Austin, but my greatest weakness by far is queso. I didn't know this before I came here, but "queso" in Texan means "delicious cheese dip you want to eat at every meal." Generally speaking, queso dips are kind of Velveeta-esque except way more awesome and way less glompy. They can be really thin, or they can be creamier, they can have lots of delicious spices and peppers, they can have ground beef, they can have avocados. I imagine it is just what melted sunshine tastes like -- a little hot and spicy and a lot happy.

I have sampled probably a dozen quesos around town so far, and my favorite at this point is from Torchy's Tacos (pictured above). It's a medium consistency full of peppery goodness, and about five minutes after I took that picture I was sticking my face into the empty bowl to inhale any remaining queso molecules hiding in the pores of the styrofoam. (Just kidding.) (Sort of.) (Also, what's with using styrofoam? Didn't that go out with aerosol hairspray?)

Anyway, I was totally happy eating queso approximately 4.7 meals a week, but I've encountered a queso crisis.

One of the excellent perks of the marketing agency that I'm working for is their fitness program. I started it last week, and the nutritionist came and gave me a "body assessment" so they could measure my improvement after six weeks. I think "body assessment" sounds like something out of a Lifetime Original Movie, where mean sorority girls strip me down to my underwear and then circle my problem areas with a Sharpie, calling me names like "rhino thighs." Actually, she just took my measurements and calculated my body fat percentage, which is higher than the average. (Damn you, queso!)

So to make us all less squishy, a trainer comes four days a week and makes us do painful things with medicine balls. We also have to keep a "food log," which has been kind of embarrassing for me. Let me share with you a direct quote from the nutrionist after evaluating my food log from last week. Ahem. "What I like to do with food logs is give out stars. The way you earn a star for the day is that you get vegetables and good fruits and lean proteins. I can honestly say you got no stars. Do you have any questions on how to eat?" Wait, an intravenous drip of cheese is not how to eat? Whoops. I feel like if she could give me negative stars she would. "I'm sorry to tell you, Becky, but you have earned a black hole for the day."

So, it is with a heavy heart that I say to queso, "Goodbye for now, friend. Please believe me when I tell you I will think of you every minute of every day." (Tear!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Deaf Jam?

We live right next to the Texas School for the Deaf, and walking past it this morning on the way to work I noticed this sign. First of all, this is just further proof that you can't get away from live music in Austin. It is everywhere, even at a pancake breakfast at the deaf school. Second of all, and I really am not trying to be a jackass here -- I legitimately am curious about this. Will the music be performed by the deaf students? I'm embarrassed to say my knowledge of deafness is limited to the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus," so I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the logistics of this proposition.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monkey Sew, Monkey Do

While every other blue-blooded American was watching football yesterday, I was learning how to fashion a monkey from socks. This is part of my personal resolve to become craftier. It began several months ago when I bought a sewing machine on eBay, determined to learn some life skills. The sewing machine arrived, I hopped up and down and clapped my hands together, I opened the box and took out the machine and went, "Whoa." Then I hid it in a corner until a time when all Tivo'd shows had been watched and I had nothing to do but read a 400-page sewing machine manual and watch an instructional DVD.

That time hasn't come yet, but I am making small advances toward the lonely Singer languishing in the closet. For instance, monkies!

I was browsing the class listings at a local craft store called Craft-O-Rama when I came across the description for their Sock Monkey Class. First of all, who doesn't need a sock monkey in their life? Second of all, the class description ended with the encouraging line "Kiddos welcome." I thought, well, if a kiddo could do it, maybe a twenty-something sewing machine-phobe could, too.

Seeing as how everyone else in Austin either already has a sock monkey or else has friends to watch the Super Bowl with, I was the only person in the class. It turns out I am very good at tangling thread and not very good at sewing in a straight line, but after three hours and a lot of personal attention from the teacher, by golly I had a sock monkey of my very own making! Allow me to introduce him:

"Why don't you come sit right here, hmmm?"

"Keep it down, I'm trying to take a little cat, er, monkey nap."

The only thing he lacks is a name. Any good suggestions?