Saturday, November 28, 2009

Live! At El Rey Theater

The last several months have been very good for seeing bands here in SoCal! Earlier in the month we saw the Pixies at the Hollywood Palladium, and that inspired a blog post about that wonderful dance hall, one of my very favorites.

This time we saw the Fiery Furnaces at El Rey Theater, my absolute favorite place to see music. As a hight-challenged American, actually being able to see and not just hear bands is

Finally, in 1994, it became the El Rey that I know and love today. We've been there many times, seeing the White Stripes, Aimee Mann, the Walkmen, and lots of others. This time we not only arrived in time to see the opening acts, we actually liked them! Dent May went first, with his "magnificent ukulele", followed by Cryptacize, a band I had never heard of before which turned out to sing fabulously idiosyncratic yet endearing melodies. Of course the Fiery Furnaces did a fantastic job. Go see them if you get the chance!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pity the Poor Opossum

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing the new Wes Anderson film Fantastic Mr. Fox. I really enjoyed the movie, but the role of Kylie, Mr. Fox's sidekick, got me thinking: ever notice how rare it is to see a positive portrayal of an opossum in the media? Or any portrayal of an opossum, for that matter?

I find this a little odd, since opossums are quite ubiquitous throughout the warmer parts of the U.S. But they are also very shy and quiet; many people have never even seen one, despite the fact that they have probably stood within three feet of one on any given night of the year!

I'm a bit biased of course, having cared for hundreds of these odd
marsupials when I worked at the California Wildlife Center as a vet tech. I loved treating them. Nothing this side of baby tapirs is cuter than a tiny fuzzy baby opossum. Many people find them ugly as adults, with their myriad sharp teeth and naked tails, but they are really quite docile. I've been bitten by everything from squirrels to monkeys, and I can safely say that opossum go out of their way to spare your flesh.

In fact, there are really only two thing that they love to bite: mice and rats. Forget cats as rodent control. Your friendly neighborhood opossum has that job well in hand! They are not obligate carnivores though, and will happily clean up any fallen fruit or old cat food you have lying around your yard. They will even slurp up the snails and slugs that plague your garden! And like the kitchen fairies we all wish we had to do the dishes while we sleep, opossums render their services under cover of darkness. So spare a thought for your quiet neighbors. They really have your best interests at heart.

Want to find out more? Go to the Opossum Society to learn all there is to know about opossums!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

And the Winer is...

Zombie Squirrels! That's right, I used a random number generator and came up with the numeral 11, which corresponds to Zombie Squirrels' entry in my first ever blog give away! The prize? Three cat toys from my etsy shop, The Frog Bag. He picked some of my favorites too:

the nudibranch,

the trilobite,

the Asian tapir.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered! If you are disappointed that you didn't win, don't fret! I'd like to offer 10% of any item in my shop to anyone who puts "Blog" in the notes to seller. Thanks again, and may all of your cats be happy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nautiloid Extravaganza!

This probably will surprise no one, but I love nautiloids. I mean, come on. A squid that lives in a shell? That may have as many as 90 tentacles? And that moves via jet propulsion? What's not to love about this animal? Oh, and did I mention that they are mysterious? Well, they are. Seldom found at depths of less than 100 meters, they can go as deep as 700 meters. And what are they doing down there? Well, catching fish no doubt, but maybe also consorting with unnamable elder gods. Ok, so maybe that last part just means that I've been listening to that wonderful Literary Lovecraft podcast too much....

But truly, is it any wonder that so many people are inspired by the
elegant symmetry of the chambered nautilus? Gabriel and I even found it a fitting subject for our marriage announcements. He drew this beautiful illustration for the front, and we had them printed up with our wedding date on the back. I think that we had by far the most beautiful announcements I've seen, if I do say so myself!

I was reminded of my fondness for all things nautiloid this evening while I was browsing for holiday gifts. Of course I started looking at things I was interested in instead, so here for your viewing pleasure I offer some of my finds:

This lovely piece was done by Noadi of etsy. She calls it "Arctic
Water Nautilus Necklace" and I must say I adore it.

Next up is Sandra Healy's gorgeous wood carving...

And then I found this in QueenBeeloved's shop , which is apparently made from gourds! If I had $350 I'd buy it right now.

But I guess that wouldn't be right, in light of the fact that I started out with the intention of buying things for other people. Ah well. At least now everyone knows what to buy me for Christmas!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meet the Crowned Pigeon

What's that lovely big blue bird over there? You say it's a pigeon? Really?

Yes, believe it or not, that's exactly what this 5 pound turkey-sized bird is! Hailing from the swampy forested lowlands of New Guinea it lives on fallen fruit, seeds, and insects in the wild. In captivity it gets a similar diet, with the addition of specially formulated pellets.

Not only is it one of the worlds biggest extant pigeons, it is also a close relative a one of the most famous, the lamentably extinct dodo bird. But unlike the dodo this bird can fly, and makes a great to-do about it when flushed from cover.

The crowned pigeons I know certainly act like the popular idea of dodos as well, tending to lie down in the path of a hose or rake instead of stepping aside like any other self-respecting bird.

Dodoish or not, they are wonderful birds to work with. Seeing them every day makes me very aware of what we could loose if we aren't careful. After all, dodos only exist as stuffed displays in museums now. Hopefully that won't be the fate of the fantastical crowned pigeon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The First Frog Bag Give Away!

Do you want to win some cat toys? Sure you do!

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below, listing which three cat toys from my etsy shop you'd like to have.

The winner will be picked at random on Tuesday November 17, a week from today.

Please also include a way to get in
touch with you in case you win!

Thanks for entering!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Live! At the Hollywood Palladium

Last night Gabriel and I went to a Pixies show. We see a fair amount of live music; some of it in glorified storefronts or up-cycled warehouses, some of it in shiny new clubs, some of it in revamped theaters like the Wiltern or, in this case, the Hollywood Palladium. I always feel that the old theaters have a lot more romance to them.

This was our fourth time at the Palladium, having seen Bob Dylan there last month and the Decemberists during the summer. We attended a tattoo convention there a couple of years ago too, before it was renovated. Still, I knew very little about the place.

Then, last month, we found a bit of ephemera at a flea market that got me wondering. This item is a picture sleeve. Apparently the Palladium once employed professional photographers who would snap a picture of you and your sweetie dancing. Inside, there's room for the photo and for autographs. Just in case you ended up rubbing shoulders with movie stars, I guess!

Obviously, this place has quite a history! After a bit of snooping I found out that it opened in 1940, on the site of the original Paramount film lot. Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra played the first night. It was designed, in all its art deco splendor, by Gordon Kaufmann. He also designed the Greystone Mansion, Santa Anita Racetrack, and the Los Angeles Times building, so we can thank him for much of what I think of as "romantic L.A.".

Over the years it became a bit seedy. But along the way it saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Cure, Lawrence Welk, the MC5, Taj Mahal, and even President Kennedy grace its stage. A serious nadir came in the early 90's, when a brawl forced a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch performance to be canceled.

But now it's back! The renovation is subtle, but it has done wonders. The floor is still polished wood, preserving its dance hall roots. The concession stands still blend unobtrusively with the flow of the crowd, evoking a more genteel time. When gazing at one of the chandeliers you could almost believe it was 1940 again. That is, until you catch sight of someone taking a picture of that same chandelier... With their iPhone.

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