Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shadow Puppets - Science Fiction Museum - Seattle

Though I'd usually be really excited about a science fiction museum, the current display at the EMP is a Battlestar Galactica exhibition and it's a show I've never gotten into. However, downstairs is an exhibition on horror films. It included some interesting displays on music and props, but the best part was this computerised shadow puppet screen.

EMP and Science Fiction Museum - Interior

The interesting lines of the Experience Music Project Building continue inside. A large part of the Museum is dedicated to documenting Seattle's musical history, from Hendrix onwards. The huge theatre space pictured below loops various audio visual displays. When we arrived it was nearing the end of a screening of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert. Essential viewing.

There are two diagrams explaining the connections between Seattle bands. The one above is the official version compiled for the Nirvana Exhibition. The one below is on a huge white board and is generated and updated by whoever wants to contribute. There are so many bands I love mentioned here.

Though I'm a Nirvana fan, I'm not crazy obsessed. But the Nirvana exhibition was pretty impressive. Above, some of the guitars used during the Unplugged concert. Below, Kurt's Unplugged set list.

Elsewhere in the museum is a music workshop. Working instruments are hooked up to computers. You can take a lesson, mix your recordings, or join all instruments on an island together in a jam session.

EMP and Science Fiction Museum - Seattle - Exterior

Seattle doesn't have a huge amount of interesting buildings and the EMP is a standout. The building was designed by Canadian/American architect Frank Gehry and features the curves and organic shapes his work is famous for. It is home to a strange combination of museums, The Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum. My photos don't do the building justice. An aerial view is available here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Take Apart Your Head

Evidence of fellow Brand New fans always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Monday, December 26, 2011



One of the first places we visited in Seattle was the Pike Place Public Market. Paul and Zo took us down to this alley away from the shops to show us this super colourful wall. 

Look! Pretty!

Except.... Well, what is it?

Yep. That's a whole lot of chewing gum. Ew.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

East Village Bed and Coffee

Scott and I were only able to stay in New York for so long because we went with a Bed and Breakfast type place instead of a hotel. East Village Bed and Coffee is a guesthouse run by the totally awesome Anne Edris. She lives there and manages to give the whole place a home away from home feel. There's 3 floors with different themed rooms, and plenty of colour and art, including a wall covering collage constructed from Anne's grandmother's travel journals. There's a bathroom, kitchen, phone and computer on each floor and free wifi. There's also Mango who may be the most chilled out dog I've ever met.

It was a very comfy place to spend a week. Anne helped us out with all sorts of stuff that can be difficult when you're travelling, like contact numbers and getting tickets printed. When Scott's card was skimmed by an ATM machine, we managed to do what we needed to do within an half an hour because everything we needed was right there.

For such affordable accommodation, the facilities are impressive. I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again when I return to New York. Unfortunately Anne's business is under threat from a law making Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses illegal in New York City. It seems to be an attempt to shut down private citizens making money out of renting rooms and increase hotel occupancy rates, but it's threatening legitimate businesses. Anne is on twitter and is fighting the legislation. Keep an eye on her twitter feed. She'll be launching a website soon and will be looking for people to sign her petition.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cause Everyone's Your Friend in New York City

8 days in New York was the right amount for us. There were things that we didn't get to, but no major disappointments. Our days had been so packed that we couldn't keep going at that pace especially since I caught a cold and couldn't shake it because I was spending each day wandering around in the chill. By the time we left we were both in need of a rest, but we certainly made the most of the time we had there.

MOMA was impressive, though there's a lot of modern art that I just don't get. The Empire State Building interior was interesting, but the experience of going to the top was underwhelming. So many lines (even though it was quiet when we went) and airport style security kinda kills the romance that comes with the associations with An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle. On the last day I dragged Scott up to the American Museum of Natural History. There were plenty of impressive galleries, but just between you and me, I was disappointed that it looked nothing like it did in Night At the Museum. The New York Pass probably didn't save us a lot of money, but it was convenient to have everything prepaid, especially when it allowed us to skip queues. The major attractions were fairly expensive, but generally worth it. Although some of the stuff we enjoyed the most was free like the taping of the Daily Show and going to Jimmy Fallon's monologue rehearsal. We shelled out for a couple of extra things, including an evening at a comedy club which turned out to be really good value considering pretty much all of the comedians were genuinely funny.

There were a few things that surprised me. I had no idea that New York was such a dog friendly city. Everyone has dogs and they seem to take them everywhere. People loved my purple hair. It was commented on several times every day. There are cabs everywhere, but it's so difficult to find an available one. The subway is OK, but not as easy to navigate as the tube in London, and there are much longer walks between stations. We were both surprised at how nice and helpful everyone was, though we did stick to touristy areas.  We did as much as we could in the time that we had, and we saw a lot of the city, but I'm sad that I probably won't be able to get back there for several years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shopping in New York City

I remained apathetic about the shopping throughout my stay in NYC. The central city district is dominated by the same chains that cover London. Areas in the Lower East Side have some interesting stores, but they aren't in dedicated shopping districts and browsing several stores means a lot of walking. We came across a couple of holiday markets and found some cool stuff there. I was impressed with the independent jewellery designers who had stalls there. Lots of delicate and minimalistic designs in gold and silver instead of massive beaded and statement pieces.

I didn't spend much time in Soho or Greenwich Village. I'm sure that I could have found some great areas there but the main streets were dominated by the same chain stores that are everywhere else. I did find one remarkable boutique that carried Gat Rimon, a fairly obscure label that I'm currently obsessed with. We also saw Kevin Devine perform in a fantastic charity bookstore called the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.

On our last day I set the morning aside to explore the awesome boutiques along 9th street in the East Village near where we were staying. This was the only collection of shops that really excited me. Alas when I hit them up at 10:30 am on a Saturday, I discovered that they were almost all closed till midday. The women at the Eileen Fisher boutique (Where I bought a dress that fit like it was made just for me) informed me that in this neighborhood, most people are too hungover to be either working or shopping before midday on a Saturday. I got lucky though. I discovered Meg where one of the women in the store gave me a free canvas tote because I mentioned that my best friend's name was Meg and that she'd love their stock. I picked up something small for Meg there, but had to get out before I spent money I don't have on their amazing clothing. So much silk.

I returned to 9th street that evening to find the shops all open, some of them having parties and getting an early start to the night. There was a hairdressing salon on the street that specialized in short haircuts for women. I came fairly close to going in and getting the majority of my hair lopped off.

I spent most of the time in these shops wishing that I'd had steady work in the U.K. this year, but unfortunately, without a permanent job in my current home, I was priced out of most of the boutiques.

My final stop was an awesome store that stocks vintage clothes, new clothes and a stack of interesting bits and pieces. Dusty was kind enough to offer me some champagne and tell me about the time Jonsi from Sigur Ros was in her store. She was super lovely and you should definitely check out her blog.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Madison Square Garden

I love Ice Hockey. There's something about the combination of extreme grace and coordination and brutal violence that really appeals to me. Scott and I like going to see the Canberra Knights play, but the Australian Ice Hockey league doesn't compare to the American professionals. Our first day in New York I jumped online and bought a couple of tickets to see the Rangers play Tampa Bay at Madison Square Garden. It was great to watch a game in such a massive arena, surrounded by super passionate fans. The vocal crowd members near us were perfect stereotypes of American sports fans. We got our money's worth too. It was a close game which went to extra time, then a penalty shoot out which Tampa Bay won, leaving us to exit The Garden surrounded by thousands of disappointed Rangers fans.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Well, have you?

From Comedy Central's World News Headquarters in New York.....

One of the great things about having just over a week in New York is we had time to do some time-consuming but awesome stuff that we wouldn't have done if time had been more precious. I've been watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for about 7 years and when I knew I'd be visiting the city where it's made, I decided to see if I could get tickets to a taping. It's not the easiest process. I'd been visiting the ticket page of the website for months and never saw tickets available. I was signed up for the ticket mailing list but no emails were sent. I read online that if you check the website at certain times, small amount of tickets become available. Scott and I picked a morning. We went out for breakfast but returned to our accommodation before 10am to watch the website.  Two tickets popped up for that day's taping, we applied, got our confirmation emails and headed off to the studios. Then we waited. We didn't want to risk not joining the queue early because they give out more tickets than there are seats in the studio because they need the studio to be full. We eventually exchanged our emails for tickets that confirmed we'd get into the show and headed off to find a warm bar to wait out the rainy afternoon.

We returned to the studio a little later on. More waiting, lots of security but then we were in, seated and listening to the warm up guy who was very funny, and had a pretty sharp edge to him. Jon Stewart came out and chatted to the crowd before the show began. He was funny and welcoming, despite the audience asking some pretty inane questions. It was interesting watching a live TV taping. The staff tell you several times that you have to laugh loud so that the mics pick up the audience, and you think that it's going to be hard, but it isn't. The exaggerated responses fit the situation. The taping ran quickly and smoothly. Each of the segments were only taped once, no re-takes. The show that aired that night was almost exactly what we saw in the audience. The only change was that the interview segment was edited to be slightly shorter. Watching it live gave me more of an appreciation for what Stewart does every night. I am so familiar with his delivery and quick humour, having watched the show for years. But somehow, seeing it all done in the flesh, in one take, makes it seem more remarkable.