In which I try to understand science

Yesterday we finally experienced David Byrne and Mala Gaonkar’s Neurosociety project in Menlo Park (some context). It was pretty fascinating: part art exhibit and part science lab – 80 minutes in small rooms with 8 strangers.

Here are my rambly, non-scientific observations, for anyone interested.

Continue reading “In which I try to understand science”

On Neurosociety and Meeting Idols

The other week we got to see David Byrne(!!) and collaborator Mala Gaonkar talk about their new project Neurosociety. The discussion took place in a 100-person lecture hall at Stanford, and started off with David giving a short presentation about the exhibition. (Side note: I’m inexplicably delighted by the fact that I got to sit 20 feet away from David Byrne as he stood at the podium with his glasses on, clicking through powerpoint slides and explaining each one in earnest. If only I’d gotten to attend this lecture.)

The project takes various scientific studies and adapts them into a more theatrical, interactive setting. You’re taken through three different rooms in groups of 10, and basically become test subjects, although in a less clinical, more entertaining way. We learned more as the discussion went on, but David’s first explanations were perhaps the best (“…and here, you’re in the body of a doll…”). Apparently the first iteration that just opened in Menlo Park is a bit of a test run, with more locations and experiences to open in the future.

After a discussion between David, Mala, and two Stanford professors, there was a Q&A with the audience. I knew after the first question that there was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying to speak up, even though part of me desperately wanted DB to acknowledge my existence. These audience questions were thoughtful, academic statements about cognitive biases, data analysis, science as theater, theater as science, etc. Given the chance to talk, I would’ve just blurted out something like “DAVID WHERE’D YOU GET THAT COOL VEST?”

Either this picture was taken that same day, or DB just really likes that vest. (Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones)

I also had the realization that I’m terrified of meeting people I greatly admire. I could’ve very easily gone up to DB afterward, given him a handshake, and said a polite hello. But as a sweaty, awkward fangirl in a room full of scholars and scientists, I was verrrry intimidated.

I’m a little miffed at myself for not being more brave in a once in a lifetime (see what I did there) opportunity, but part of me prefers to not ruin the fantasy. I mean, instead of having the meaningful, eloquent conversation that I’d carefully concocted in my head, I’m pretty sure I would’ve mumbled something unintelligible and completely blown it (this is why I write words, not speak them). So for now I’ll keep admiring my idols from afar, dreaming about hanging out with them at the mall, hoping for the eventual chance encounter on the street where I might actually have the courage to say hello.

And as for Neurosociety, I was super excited to go to the opening weekend in Menlo Park, but received an email last week that my ticket had to be rescheduled to after November 22nd. :( So now we’re going on December 10 in case anyone else wants to join!

If you’re wondering where I’ll be in April…

…I’ll be right here, in this lovely city, at these awesome events:

April 3. San Francisco Civic Symphony Spring Concert. Featuring an arrangement by dear friend Yvette Holzwarth, who is coincidentally performing her MFA Grad Recital at CalArts this weekend!

April 7. Therianthrope @ Red Poppy Art House. Tabla aficionado Miles Shrewsbery is another old friend from the UCLA days. These guys are based out of San Diego, but just so happen to be bringing their mind-blowing sounds up to the Bay Area for an evening.

April 14-23. The Triplets of Belleville with Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville. I’ve always wanted to see this film, PLUS, the soundtrack will be performed live (directed by composer Benoît Charest himself)! Fun/shameless fact: we performed a snippet of “Belleville Rendez-Vous” in our ’08 RCC show.

April 16. Record Store Day/Playland Music Festival. Record Store Day is one of my favorite days of the year, as long as I’m not at Amoeba (sooooo crowded). This time, I’m gonna check out the mini music festival going on in my hood, and pop into Noise while I’m there.

April 17. Spencer Owen Timeshare @ The Hemlock. My favorite dudes, at one of my favorite venues. Haven’t seen the other bands, but I listened to the featured track on Crown Larks’ Bandcamp, and I’m sold.

April 29. Contemporary Color @ Proxy. It’s happening, and it’s free!! David Byrne’s collab with WGI (along with St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Ira Glass, and others) was made into a documentary, and it’s being shown at Proxy as part of the SF International Film Festival (also being shown at SFIFF: Soundbreaking and a 30th anniversary screening of Aliens). I cannot wait.

What else is going on this spring?? Please let me know about any other local events, musical or otherwise. I WANT TO GO TO ALL THE THINGS.


March sampler

Happy Spring! Here are a bunch of pictures of David Byrne riding bicycles:


Also, an update on Contemporary Color: the documentary film is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival next month! I hope it eventually makes it out to the masses…I’d love to watch more DB geeking out over colorguard.

A few other things:

  • Check out Human Ottoman. They are a Portland group who have played with the Timeshare on a few occasions, including last week’s show at the Starry Plough. Cello/drum/(electric)vibraphone madness.
  • Recently I bought tickets to see Paul Simon and Bob Dylan at the Greek (not together, although the shows are within a week of each other). Both tickets came with a free copy of their new albums, because apparently both Paul Simon and Bob Dylan have albums coming out this year?!
  • The Beatles, sitcom style. Honestly, things like this are what I live for.

Concert films everyone must see #1: Stop Making Sense

If you have not yet seen Stop Making Sense…….I am so jealous of you. I wish I could erase it from my mind just so I could watch it for the first time again, and again, and again.


In its simplest form, it is a concert film. But beyond that, it’s art, and choreography, and cinematography, and pure physical energy all rolled into the most entertaining 90 minutes I’ve ever watched on a screen. You can pick any single song from the show and it will be a thrill to watch, however, this is a concert definitely best experienced from beginning to end. The gradual build-up and killer direction by Jonathan Demme make it feel like you’re right there on stage with the band, which is why going to a screening of it is SO FUN.

I first saw Stop Making Sense at the Independent back in February; you may recall me mentioning it right before our trip to Amsterdam. I don’t think I ever wrote here what a fun experience that was: it was a film screening-turned-dance party, with the entire crowd singing along and going wild over every DB dance move. After that night, I was completely smitten with the band, and David Byrne. In fact, Talking Heads became the constant background music to our Amsterdam trip, so now all these songs subconsciously make me think of art museums and bicycles and looking out the window at rows of canal houses. <3

In short, it’s one of my more personal musical obsessions. I can very much associate the music of Talking Heads with people and places I love, more so than a lot of my other favorite artists. So even though I was a late bloomer to a band that is so universally well known and appreciated, I’m glad the music came to me when it did. I needed something to latch onto in 2015, and this has definitely been it.

9 piece band
The extended band (poor Chris left hanging!)

So last week when I saw that Stop Making Sense was showing again, this time at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, you bet I bought tickets right away. Like the first screening, it was just me and Alex, although I’m dying to bring along people who haven’t seen it yet. I want to convert all my friends to Byrneism with me!

…come to the dark side…we have sweet dance moves…

As expected, the audience at the New Parkway was just as awesome as the audience at the Independent [can I also take a second to gush about how incredibly cool the New Parkway is? I mean just look at it]. Even though the setting was a movie theater rather than a music venue, it didn’t stop people from getting up and running circles around the room during “Life During Wartime,” or cheering every time Tina was featured, or screaming “THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE!” at the top of their lungs during “Once In A Lifetime.” Man, I am convinced that any time this film is showing in a public setting within 75 miles of me, I am going to go. I don’t think it will ever get old.

At the end of the film, DB invites the whole crew onto the stage and thanks them in front of the crowd. The people behind the scenes don’t always get recognition, so it’s cool that they get show time too. I suppose DB is known for appreciating the under-appreciated.

So yeah, Stop Making Sense is a concert film, but it’s also a celebration of filmmaking, and production, and a bunch of things coming together to create one very, very cool thing. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re so lucky. Please invite me along when you do.

Happy Byrneday


In celebration, 5 of David Byrne’s Weirdest/Best Moments:

1. Interviewing himself. In case you ever wanted to see DB in drag. Or blackface. (Also features the Big Suit.)

2. “Once in a Lifetime” music video. Classic.

3. Space Ghost Coast to Coast interview. Long hair don’t care! This clip just gets funnier and funnier each time I watch it. “NOT A CROUTON MAN!”

4. Singing “Miss America” while playing maracas and dancing in a kilt. Song starts at 1:24, spastic DB dance party starts at 3:00. This clip is tied in weirdness with the music video for the same song.

5. “Psycho Killer” in a skinless body suit. This makes me so uncomfortable but I CAN’T STOP WATCHING.

And to not end on such a creepy note, here is a somewhat recent video featuring more top-notch Byrne moves (side note: St. Vincent is the bomb and I can’t wait to see her at Outside Lands this year. I’m holding out hope that she might bring out a special guest at some point….):

Happy bday, DB. Never stop being weird.

A list of delightful things, lately

1. The discovery of Cher’s twitter account. You guys, how did I not know that tweets like this have been happening since 2010? These days, she and Ringo Starr combined probably use more emojis than the collective rest of the internet.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 9.50.07 PMFair warning: Cher is also prone to explosive caps lock and the occasional angry political tweet.

2. “Foreign Object” – My current favorite song (and lyric: “I personally will stab you in the eye with a foreign object”), from the new Mountain Goats album Beat the Champ. Can’t wait for my third—and possibly fourth—Mountain Goats concert in June!

3. I recently watched Help! again, and what a good idea that was. It is just the silliest movie.

4. Fun updates from David Byrne: DB and friends went to a WGI (colorguard) show and then he blogged about it! A video update was also posted on Facebook (my thought process while watching the first 15 seconds: “Why is there only one person clapping OH MY GOD THAT PERSON IS DAVID BYRNE LOOK AT HIM HE’S SO HAPPY”).

5. Speaking of WGI (percussion), huge congrats to RCC for winning gold in Dayton! As always, a proud alum. <3 You can watch their finals show here.
Side note: the first time I heard the show name, I thought it was “Guardians of the Bread.” Which would be a whole different show entirely.

6. Other delightful things: it’s spring, taxes are over, and the weekend is near. Everyone deserves a pick-me-up!

An unexpected collision of interests

Ok, clearly I am not interested in publishing blog posts in sensible intervals. Sorry for the rather spastic blogging recently, but certain things are really exciting me right now and I can’t keep it in. Namely, a collaboration between my most recent musical hero David Byrne, and an activity I love dearly: WGI.

More information here, complete with quirky, KVHS-inspired promo video.

To be clear, I was always involved in the percussion division of WGI, but winterguard is the OG “sport of the arts” and it’s so cool to see it getting some unique recognition!

When Byrne agreed to lend a composition to a high school performance team back in 2008, he knew little about the color guard phenomenon, which is wildly popular in high schools across the North American continent. … At the time, Byrne’s only request was to see for himself how his music was used. Upon viewing an electrifying DVD of the Winter Guard International’s World Championship, the creative seed for Contemporary Color was planted. “I was stunned at what I was seeing,” Byrne recalls, “and being a musician I naturally wondered to myself: what if these performances had really great live music? Wouldn’t that lift it to another level?” 

You mean, like drum corps? :) Seriously, though, it makes my heart sing that he would be so interested in the activity to want to collaborate with WGI. It’s awesome that he asked to see the performance in the first place. I am almost done reading Byrne’s book How Music Works and it’s cool to see that throughout his career, music and the visual arts have been consistently intertwined. And that’s the special thing about WGI and DCI, it’s art and music and athleticism all at once.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” Mr. Byrne said. “Because it was in an arena, I could tell that this was a hugely popular thing, but completely unknown to 98 percent of New Yorkers.”NYTimes

Story of our lives! Here is a throwback video of the colorguard I am most familiar with, Fantasia from good ol’ Riverside, CA:

I would love it if anyone could share with me their favorite WGI videos from the past few years. I’m still stuck in 2009. (PS – not every WGI show has a large monolith in it. I just happened to pick two monolith-centric shows, haha.) Anyway, I guess it’s unlikely that I’ll be in the New York area at the end of June, but if I am, you’ll know where to find me………

who is it / what is it

{Just dropping in to say that my posts in the next few weeks might be limited, due to that aforementioned trip to AMSTERDAM!}

Lately, things have been busy and I’ve been filling up the remaining spare moments vigorously digesting the Talking Heads discography. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that my prior knowledge of this band was limited to the two records we have (Speaking in Tongues and Little Creatures)—both of which are awesome—and an old DVD of True Stories that I’ve owned for almost 15 years and maybe watched once. But recently when I went home, I found a copy of Talking Heads: 77 and could.not.stop. listening to it. It’s just so funky fresh.

I swear, there’s nothing better than diving into a band’s repertoire and the excitement of knowing that there’s still SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC I haven’t listened to yet. Sometimes things get hectic, and for a few hours or days I forget about whatever music or movie or nerdy obsession I have going on at the moment, and then I’ll leave work and suddenly remember those videos I have queued up and the albums I need to find, and I get SO PUMPED. This is one of those times: a blissful discovery phase.


Even though it’s showing the night before we leave for Europe, I really want to go to this upcoming screening of Stop Making Sense. I’m trying not to spoil too much of it, but did watch the below video which only confirmed the fact that I need to see this film:

How can one band be so cool?