Smile (pictures or it didn’t happen)

22042010 - 044 Amanda Palmer at Koko's

22042010 – 044 Amanda Palmer at Koko’s (Photo credit: failing_angel)

This is not supposed to be a personal blog, however last night I did something legitimately exciting. Let me tell you about it and try my hand at reviewing.

I went to the Koko Club in Camden to see Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. Amanda Fucking Palmer in all her incarnations, might seem an odd departure for someone who counts Glee albums on their most listened to lists but my taste is nothing if not eclectic.  I was introduce to Dresden Dolls at a young and impressionable age (about 16) and I have never looked back. Well, briefly, during Evelyn Evelyn because that left me pretty cold, but apart from that, never. I brought Who Killed Amanda Palmer and I even funded the Grand Theft Orchestra kickstarter earlier this year which made over a million dollars and made this beautiful tour possible.

This, however, was my first ever Amanda Palmer show and I’m not sure how she’s going to top this. Delightfully, and with a characteristic sense of solidarity, she introduced everyone of her friends and fellow musicians who opened for her. Though we didn’t see everyone those we did see such as her bass guitarist were great.

None of them however could hold a candle to the amazing Amanda. While we were waiting for her there was at least one moment of panic when we realised she was on stage and we were still in the bar but she was just introducing the next opener. At the time she made a comment about ruining the climax by coming on stage so often but when she and her three man Orchestra came the atmosphere changed and it was like nothing I’ve felt before.

Amanda’s shows are not like other people’s shows. Whether she was singing Smile or Girl Anachronism I was in love. When she began reading the traumatic bedroom memories from the shiny silver box and the audience went quiet I felt like I had been punched in the stomach by the rawness of the words and the emotions that were radiating from the people surrounding me. I’ve never experienced such a roller coaster of emotions at a gig before. From the first notes of the introduction all the way through I was enthralled by her, by her voice, by the music, by the guests, everything.

I was so enthralled that I came over all faint and had to drink a pint of water but that’s another story.

Speaking of guests, as I feel I ought, I was completely charmed by the saxophone player Jen Ewbank and her sparkly gold cat suited contribution to Careless Whisper. I very much enjoyed Scroobius Pip who I was only vaguely aware of before. My guest highlight however is an unbreakable tie between Neil Gaiman and the musical saw quartet performing “Psycho” by Leo Payne and Richard O’Brien, the genius behind Rocky Horror, performing “Time Warp” in drag. I loved both so much I cannot choose between them.

The show was the best kind of cabaret with a touch of theatre including the manic instrument swapping for Missed Me, crowd surfing during Bottom Feeder (I touched Amanda Palmer!) and an encore of Want It Back that had Amanda and the Orchestra in one of Koko’s boxes while we in the audience stood in for the drums.

My phone camera was not up to the task of photographs last night so I have had to rely on only slightly less blurry pictures of a 2010 gig from Flickr to accompany this piece. After all – pictures or it didn’t happen.

I have only one problem with the show, the night, everything. Today, all day, I have felt boring and ordinary having removed myself from the glorious, gorgeous freaks of last night for my currently unemployed and unfabulous day-to-day. I wonder if they feel the same.

How to compete with ducks and other important life lessons

If homosexuality spreads it can cause evolutionary standstill. It could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder, and say, ducks could take over the world.

This is the wisdom of Jasmin, aged 14 who wrote a letter to the editor that was published on October 3rd in the Northern Outlook a New Zealand paper. As I read the article (linked from the quote) I found myself laughing – it had to be a hoax or poorly thought out satire, I mean she signs off: If you believe in evolution you can’t believe in homosexuality or the ducks will get you in the end”  Just imagine if people actually thought that? It’s beyond a joke. However, it transpires that people more invested than me have sent emails to verify Jasmin’s existence and the editor of the Northern Outlook has confirmed that both letter and child author are real.

This is deeply disturbing on a number of levels.

First how could anyone believe what she (and presumably her mother who agreed to let Northern Outlook print the letter) profess to believe. While I am aware there is still, unfortunately, a significant portion of the population who believe homosexuality is wrong her particular justification borders on insane. Well, more insane than usual, given what comes out of these people’s mouths on a daily basis.

Secondly she has a deeply flawed grasp of logic and history. To paraphrase one of her points: homosexuality is unevolved because Romans did it. I hate to break it to her and anyone else but a) she means the greeks (not exclusively but generally) and b) the Greeks and Romans did a lot of things like democracy, eating and, oh yeah, heterosexual sex/marriage are we going to stop doing those too? If we stop eating we’ll hit an evolutionary dead end a long time before we hit one from the terrible spread of homosexuality.

Thirdly she is home schooled. Though I have never personally experienced home schooling, I’m sure it can be a great thing. Just look at Felicia Day, definitely an example of home schooling that works. Not so for Jasmin I think. Her parents, the ones who taught her this stuff in the first place, are her the only voices she’s ever going to know and they just don’t seem that bright (see above).  I think Jasmin’s views are horrifying and laughable but it turns from comedy to tragedy when you consider that home schooled as she is, with the parents she has, she will never ever be able to evolve beyond this point of view. She will never learn anything outside her parent’s narrow world view. I pity Jasmin and girls like her, I really do.

Fourthly ducks are not a good example. According to Dutch researcher Kees Moeliker, 1 in 10 Mallard couples are gay. His research, which gained him an Ig Nobel prize in 2008, shows that in ducks frequently indulge in rape and occasional necrophilia so perhaps Jasmin should have thought twice about her claim “ducks always nest in pairs”. In fact more than 130 bird species engage in, at least occasional, homosexual behaviour.

Jasmin is young it’s true, so maybe you will think I’m overly harsh to call her out for something she said at 14, but I disagree. Her views are toxic, wrong and, possibly worse, they are stupid and her parents taught her to be that way. To mangle a quote: her life is tough, but it’ll be tougher if she stays stupid.

But then again, I don’t want my hypothetical children to have to compete with ducks either.

Ebooks, ebooks everywhere

As a soon-to-be unemployed again person, finding economic ways to buy books for my kindle is a priority at the moment and I have found a fabulous way to do this. Today, I paid $15 (approx £10) for 8 DRM free science fiction, fantasy and graphic novel ebooks. Not only could I choose my price – I could have paid less, one day I hope to be able to pay a lot more – I could also choose how the money was distributed between the authors, the site and various charities being supported. The default settings seemed reasonable to me so the bulk of my $15 went to the authors, some to charity and some to Humblebundle, the people responsible for putting this whole venture together. Though there are also options to have all the money go to authors or to charity.

It turns out humblebundle have been doing this sort of thing for a while now, but with games which, despite my geeky ways, I’ve never really got the hang of. The closest I came to being any sort of gamer was my short lived reign as queen of crash bandicoot when I was 9 and an abiding love of the sims but that is a story for another day. On further investigation however I admit I fell in love a bit. The commitment to DRM free and to giving money to charities is the kind of thing that gives me warm fuzzies. Especially when a run down of their charities includes geek/tech/gamer friendly charities like Child’s Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as more traditional charities like Red Cross and the international Charity:Water.

Given that I’m not a gamer I stumbled across humblebundle by happy accident when it was mentioned on two blogs belonging to Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi who both have books in the bundle. I have at some point or another read and loved almost everything Neil Gaiman has to offer so I was surprised to find that the graphic novel on offer: Signal to Noise was not one I’d read before. John Scalzi on the other hand is someone whose blog I read on a regular basis since someone linked me to his post Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today but I have never actually read any of this books despite Old Man’s War and Redshirts having come out since then. Both these books are only included if you pay more than the average contribution for the bundle.

Of all of the books on offer II had only read one: Lauren Beukes’s contribution Zoo City which I read when it was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clark award. Three authors were people I’d been meaning to try but never quite managed: Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctrow and Mercedes Lackey and the final contributor, Kelly Link, I had never heard of but I’m excited to discover her work.

When I brought mine the average price of the bundle was $12.43, 37816 bundles had been brought and there are 12 days to go if you want them. Support good causes and get new books – what more could you want?

Welcome to Hel

I’ve decided to try my hand at creating a blog. Before this I’ve done micro-blogging on twitter and online journalling on livejournal.com but this is going to be something different. From the age of 12 or 13 I was largely raised on the internet which has taught me a lot of disturbing, pointless things and now I intend to try to make it useful. My plan is to write about stuff I come across in the course of my regular traversing of the internet. I find, read and digest so much stuff it might as well be put to good use. At this stage I imagine frequent topics will be geek culture and politics (particularly feminist politics) though this plan may evolve going forward as I see trends in what catches my/your attention. My initial aim is to write about at least one thing a week to keep the blog engaging. I hope you find something that interests you and feel free to drop me a message for any reason – questions and feedback is all appreciated.