Mar. 9th, 2009 12:20 am
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I totally made it into the Cogaoke competition at SxSW interactive. They are still formalizing the results but I wound up in 7th place, well within the top 20, which guarantees me a chance to sing at the actual event.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Send your RSI bills to Happy Cog Interactive please. (;
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Hey guys, vote for me to sing at SxSW!

... Okay, I'd be singing in a karaoke contest at SxSW interactive.

But still! Please please please please take a moment to click the linky and vote for me! Only the top 20 vote-getters will actually get to sing.

Thank you!

(P.S. The wackiest part is that they invite you to vote as many times as you want...)
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Two weeks ago: brooding about whether anyone will show up for puppet karaoke. Decide to quiet my own jitters by buying a ticket in advance. No point worrying about it after that.

Thursday: guest list begins to emerge from the murk. Hey, people are coming! When did this happen?

Friday: Live in my livejournal, socializr.com pledges to fix a bug that threatened to mildly inconvenience me on my birthday, because that makes the baby jesus cry.

Saturday: a small army descends on Ly Michaels.

Alex Strang and the Puppet Karaoke crew put on a show with many sweet spots, overwhelmingly led by "Sarah Palin," who explains the urgent national security need to shoot any animals standing between herself and a clear view of Russia. Later she is confronted by "Read Fox," on behalf of the animal community. Many opportunities are seized to showcase Palin's self-lampooning comments in recent interviews. A++++.

There were some... brown spots as well. I gotta say I'm not crazy about Funion Foo, whose only joke seems to be an inability to pronounce the letter "R," or about the new "retarded librarian" character, who similarly descended quickly into "retards are funny" territory. I understand that something more Borat-like is being attempted here, but that got lost and both bits became one-dimensional and annoying.

But the Palin sketch more than redeems all, and if it is not up on YouTube in the next five minutes, I will dispatch a trained flock of marbled murrelets to peck Alex Strang into submission.

Emcee Robert Drake was congenial as always, though the hoped-for hordes of Sex Dwarfers did not materialize on this particular occasion. No matter, we brought a helluva posse ourselves.

Remarkably, [livejournal.com profile] jeremym— excuse me, Tony T from New Yawk— whose brilliant riff on a vacation trip to Lancaster ("we bought a lot of jam and butter and put it on muffins. They should call it Vacation Muffinland") segued nicely into Weird Al's "Amish Paradise." And also [livejournal.com profile] xtingu, whose fist-sized tough guy rocked out with more cock out (and more bass) than pretty much any male performer of the evening.

I followed my usual "POGMA '05" philosophy— no premeditation, all puppet assembly and character creation must take place on site— and wound up with "Megene Debs," the Presidential candidate of the Antisocialist Party ("that Sarah Palin is eating into our base"). Megene shredded the Talking Heads' "Wild Wild Life" while propping up one loose eyeball and sweetly promised to kill Robert last.

Thanks to everyone who came out to help me celebrate!

* * *

Afterwards I headed over to Brasils briefly to get my dance on a little. This was clearly gilding the lily but it's my birthday and I'll overdo it if I want to. The DJ played a few bachatas, which I made good use of... and then a thirty-minute block of reggaeton. zzZZzzZzzz. Time to go home and get some sleep, mon petit velociraptors.

* * *

An aside about the venue: Ly Michaels-provided buffet was billed as asian fusion but turned out to be straightforward corner takeout Chinese. And not bad, as that goes. But there was no hint of the intriguing stuff you see in their dinner menu. I think they could have done better for the price. The vegetarian options appeared to consist entirely of salad, and though I'd called ahead to be sure there was a decent option the front of house staff came close to just saying "eh" and dropping the ball. That's not really okay in 2008, especially in a place that clearly aspires to some swankiness. But eventually they did find someone who knew the fried rice was vegetarian.
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I'm fairly cautious with the buxx0rs these days. I have a great job that suits my life but doesn't spew money out of the ground go-go-nineties style, not yet anyway.

This weekend, though, I splurged. Sometimes you gotta remind yourself why you live in the big city; sometimes you gotta enjoy it properly. Though in the end I wound up spending considerably less than I might have guessed.

Friday I hit La Luna Dance Studio for their fifth anniversary party. I got my ass properly danced off and competed in my first Jack & Jill competition, which was good fun and not at all the stressful experience I thought it might be. I got to bed around 2:30. Eep.

Saturday morning I ate a very tasty portobello hoagie at Cafe Ole, an excellent Israeli-owned coffee and sandwich shop in Old City. I had two hours to kill during my daughter's ceramics class, not enough time to get home and take a proper nap and get back again. They also serve an enjoyable "chocolate chai," which was not at all the cloying experience I feared it might be.

Saturday afternoon I shot pool and played foozball with [livejournal.com profile] xtingu and [livejournal.com profile] mrl24 and [livejournal.com profile] ms_violet, [livejournal.com profile] jeremym, [livejournal.com profile] swingchickie and the LJ-less Vince and Jack. There was Jack-related cake involved.

Shortly thereafter I met mah pal [livejournal.com profile] noisefootprint's Chinatown bus and we walked to the art museum, arriving just in time for the Frida Kahlo exhibit.

How is it? Well it's freaking incredible, yo; it's Frida Kahlo. In this woman's brilliantly creative life, an affair with Leon Trotsky was a mere footnote barely deserving mention.

Her marriage to Diego Rivera holds considerable fascination for me. So I think I'll have to see the movie or maybe even (gasp!) read a book.

Frida Kahlo was a lot of things but she was not an existentialist, that's for sure. The word "acceptance" doesn't appear to have been in her vocabulary. Heart on your sleeve? How about this:

Frida #2 is holding a photo of her husband as a small boy.

Then again, cathartic art is both therapeutic and... if you don't suck... beneficial to others. And acceptance can be a bullshit excuse for cowardice. Acceptance of death is one thing. Accepting your husband's charming decision to bang your sister is quite another.

Note to Diego Rivera: okay, so your wife was a maninizer and a womanizer in her own right, and she liked her drama served extra-large. But sleeping with her little sister? C'mon. That's just tacky.

Two gripes about the show, one serious, one casual:

1. The museum gives out timed tickets... and then lets you enter the exhibit as late as you want, as long as it's after your ticketed time. Which means that a 4pm ticket is a ticket for painful overcrowding. This is stupid and it should be fixed.

2. Y'know those cheesy polarized photos that show you a different image depending on the angle at which you view them? Whose bright idea was it to fill the gift shop with these?

Floor to ceiling polarized Frida paintings, and every size down to wallet size.


I confess, though, I was tempted to grab a wallet size and hide it someplace unexpected. "Your underwear drawer," [livejournal.com profile] noisefootprint suggests. But now you all know, so even if you should someday scrutinize my underwear drawer, there won't be any sense of surprise. So it's just as well I left it on the shelf.

Honestly, these are pretty cool if you're 17, and I wouldn't smirk at a college student for having one of these in their dorm room. But for grownups... shudder.

Saturday evening we splurged on, surprisingly, our one and only cab ride and hit Horizons, Philly's only foodie-grade vegan restaurant. My appetizer and entree were inspired reinterpretations of picnic food. I had at least one "I'm sorry I can't talk right now" moment.

[livejournal.com profile] noisefootprint's appetizer was on a similar plane of awesome, but her pan roasted tofu failed to meet the life-changing standard set by the first course. For dessert, the chocolate cake and peanut butter ice cream were tasty without the overwhelming sweetness common to bad vegan desserts.

Saturday night we hit Japas, currently Philly's only dedicated karaoke bar, offering both private lounges and an open bar with a dollar-a-song policy. Although our party was smaller than hoped, we had good times. [livejournal.com profile] noisefootprint put me up to singing "Sunshine on my Shoulders," which was my favorite song in the world at age four. So that was awesome for the first two choruses. By the eighth chorus I was making fun of the lyrics as a quasi-apology to my very patient audience. Those Japanese karaoke tracks do run on the long side.

I had the pleasure of meeting some charming friends of hers before we realized that the enormous party taking up the majority of the bar seating contained virtually no one with any intention of singing karaoke. Which, well, meant it wasn't that much fun.

So we lit out for Moriarty's Pub (1128 Walnut Street), where good karaoke can reliably be found Saturday nights on the second floor with DJ Bob.

(Note to Moriarty's: you guys rule. Truly. But I'm not gonna link to a web site that still advertises the wrong DJ three years after Bob arrived. C'mon now.)

(A friend who appreciates the value of all of the aforementioned activities? Worth vastly more than her weight in gold.)

Sunday morning I showed up for salsa class with the proper amount of sleep under my belt and shot a halfway decent video of the routine to practice with. Apparently all that 48 hour movie making is good for something.

Sunday afternoon I watched Star Wars with Eleanor. Really a lot.

Sunday evening I blogged. Hi.

Aw yeah

May. 6th, 2008 12:17 am
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Geez, I was really frickin' on today.

I solved problems large and small at work, pedaled out to my salsa class on the other side of the universe, followed everything Garincha threw at us, pedaled allll the way back east to the Khyber, sang stuff people genuinely enjoyed hearing, hit it off really nicely with a whole lot of people and bumped into not only a crew from the salsa scene but also a guy from one of the other 48 Hour Film Project teams.

This never happens to me. People say Philly is too small but my worlds rarely collide these days.

My third and final song of the night was marred by a very persistent, very loud heckler... a hater, even. But I'm actually kinda proud of that: somebody was sufficiently moved to expend his energy trying to subvert my performance. Wow. Dude, it's only karaoke, get a grip. Am I really awesome enough to hate on?

(Edit: not a frequent occurrence at all. The Khyber on Mondays is highly recommended chillax and don't take it so damn seriously-oke.)

My only regret is that I didn't have a date tonight. As that would presumably have gone well too.

I'm putting it all down to the caffeine molecule T-shirt.
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Tonight I tried out an intermediate salsa class taught by Garincha Hilaire of Take the Lead Dance Studio. He teaches plenty of, well, fancy footwork. And arm flicks, which are awesome. And free spins... which are a bear to learn to lead correctly. But once you do, it's like having the keys to a ferrari.

I went out for Ethiopian afterwards at Abyssinia. Mmmf.

Afterwards I attempted to drop in on the Khyber to quaff a pint of Rowhouse Red and sing a little John Lennon, but the place was stuffed to the gills with Seinfeld trivia fans. After a while I caught on that karaoke would Not Start Any Time Soon, finished my beer and left.

Oh well, Rowhouse Red is worth it all by its lonesome— it's a product of the Philadelphia Brewing Company, the half of Yards Brewing that kept the brewery, the close neighborhood ties and, apparently, most of the tasty beer-makin' skillz in that recent, ugly brewer's divorce.
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A side effect of taking salsa seriously: other stuff is more fun now.

I was pining for a real artistic avocation in my life, and that came out in the form of taking other shit too seriously. I mean, I know people who take karaoke really seriously and I think that's a shame, but I was a bit prone to it myself.

I don't want to be that guy who won't just get up and goof off and sing something he maybe probably knows. This is supposed to be fun, people... this is my night off.
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ACHTUNG! Philly now has upscale karaoke. For those of you with more disposable income than I, here are the details:

"Japas" is a new karaoke lounge upstairs from Yakitori Boy, on the 200 block of North 11th in Chinatown. Japas is so named because they offer Japanese food in a tapas-like style.

They also offer roughly ten private karaoke rooms. Which are de-freeking-lux. With all new equipment and TVs and couches and service call buttons.

They will have a liquor license ASAP, meanwhile they have free corkage for BYOB.

This place is open 5pm-2am, seven days a week.

But: it is freaking expensive. $30/hr for a 6-person room. $70/hr for a 20-person room. Various options in between. Plus food and booze.

My plan is to get wildly rich and then go. Who's with me?

Seriously, 10pm to 2am for 20 people = $14 a head = is not completely ludicrous once in a blue moon.

Also, rooms are half price from 5pm till 9pm, Monday through Thursday.

I asked about the song selection, and she just sort of laughed and said "um... a whole, whole lot" or words to that effect. I have no doubt of it. I went to a similar (although wonderfully divey and not at all upscale) place in Koreatown, NYC with Heather and their song selection was killer too.

They also have a lounge/bar area where singles and smaller groups can hang out and do the usual "write your song on a piece of paper" thing and pay a dollar per song to sing. Which might seem bizarre here in Philly but it's pretty normal Japantown stuff out west.

Details are in the Philly karaoke directory, of course.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] devotdsatellite for the tip.


Dec. 17th, 2007 06:36 pm
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Why are the songs from the movie Labyrinth (Underground, As The World Falls Down, Magic Dance and the lesser arcana) not available as karaoke?

Sure, I'd get a grin out of singing them. But my point is that karaoke bars are teeming with former twelve-year-old girls who would give their left ovary to sing them.

Nevertheless, the only "karaoke versions" available are cheesy MIDIs.
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Joe's book now includes something on the order of six Johnathan Coulton songs. Damn.

Would you believe there are graphics to go with "Merry Christmas From Omicron Beta Prime?"

[livejournal.com profile] notshakespeare sang the shit out of that.

Sunday Karaoke at McGillin's is strongly recommended to the Philly geek crowd. Although I hope that asshole who kept wolf-whistling at an ear-shattering volume doesn't come back.

I just RSVP'd "yes with a bullet" to a New Years' Eve party, and now I find out McGillins will have New Years Eve karaoke. Well, there will very likely be similar madness happening at said party, and in the company of beloved lunatics to boot.
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Last night we hit McGillin's for Sunday karaoke. This is DJ Joe H's new home after the Locust Bar meltdown.

Let's see now:

Great singers
Not overcrowded at all
Great drinks at fair prices
Microbrew "sampler:" six half-pints for $8.50
Tasty fries
A basic veg entree or two on the menu (for future reference)
No smoking

Um, yeah!

Lots of talented people turned out to support Joe and have a good time. You bet your ass I'll be back.

DJ Sara Sherr was there too and I forgot to ask her for a karaoke directory update. Oh well.

I've never been in McGillin's when it's not hideously crowded, so I'd never noticed that the decor— which looks from a distance like the usual astroturfed "imitation local flavor" stuff you see in a Bennigans— is genuine Philly memorabilia going back a long, long way. Nice.

[livejournal.com profile] solestria and [livejournal.com profile] nohx made me sing the Divinyls. [Shakes fist] Oh it was just awful I tell you. Please don't let them do anything like that again.

(See my Philly karaoke directory for details on where and when to get your sing on locally)
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DJ Joe H, one of Philly's best karaoke DJs, is now at McGillin's instead of Locust Bar on Sundays. That makes three nights for him at McGillin's (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). I'm not always a McGillin's fan but I'm willing to give it another shot. It's a nice place, just a little on the huge-and-crowded side. Sundays may turn out to be awesome. I don't like the way Locust Bar treated him, so I plan to make McGillin's my regular stop.

The tale of Joe's departure from Locust Bar is in the latest Philadelphia Weekly (see the last section on that page).

McGillins is at 1310 Drury Street. Karaoke will run from 8pm till midnight on Sundays. That's right, you still get home in time to be lame not get fired on Monday.
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DJ Joe H is no longer the karaoke DJ at Locust Bar on Sundays.

I figured this was just one of those things. But it's not. Joe says he was, as he summed it up, punched in the face without provocation and fired.

Two Sundays back a drunk patron demanded to know why her friends didn't get more turns and why he was letting the "bad singers" sing. Joe explained that this is karaoke, not American Idol, and it doesn't work like that.

Joe says she made nasty remarks and they went back and forth a little. She threatened to punch him. He said "that's on you" and started to turn away. And she punched him full in the face.

She eventually admitted to punching him but claimed he "poked her in the chest real hard" first. So the owner talked to her for 20 minutes, talked to Joe for two minutes, and fired Joe the next day.

Apparently there may be a witness to some of this who tells the story differently. But Joe has been there seven and a half years and at other Philly bars for even longer, and he's never had an altercation with a customer. Why the hell would he start by hitting a woman? It's ridiculous.

Fear of lawsuits makes people do some pretty stupid stuff, eh.

DJ Lars has been hired at Locust Bar. Lars is a good guy and I'm sure he doesn't even know the story and has nothing to do with it. No one should give Lars any grief about this, it's not his doing.

But as for Locust Bar's management... the best DJ in town (with the best songbook in town) is gone from my favorite watering hole because of one loudmouthed drunk with no fucking shame whatsoever, and I'm very pissed off.

This Sunday no one (myself included) seemed to have any idea what had gone down, I didn't learn the story until I contacted Joe myself. It'll be interesting to see what happens when people realize Joe didn't leave voluntarily.
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Hey Philly folks, Alex Strang of Puppet Karaoke fame is doing something a little tonight and it's free, free, free:

"After 3 years of nonstop Puppet Karaoke spectaculars, Waiting For Cable returns to its comedy video roots with a FREE Super Secret Video Show tonight! Relax with a drink, mingle and enjoy muy delicioso food at the even more recently remodelled M-Room (15 W Girard Ave Phila PA 19125). Tons of kooky cartoons, comedy skits, bizarre music videos and of course, some puppet karaoke tidbits. A video smorgasborg in the most happening place this side of funsville! Bring a date for this FREE show! doors open at 9PM."

Sounds pretty awesome. I'll be parental and at home tongiht, but that's no reason for y'all to miss out!
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Locals who take their karaoke too seriously might enjoy the newly updated search engine for DJ Bobby B's karaoke book. Bob DJs Saturday nights at Moriarty's Pub, 1116 Walnut St. Occasionally there's a substitute DJ, so you might wish to call the bar and make sure on any given Saturday. See also the Philly karaoke directory.
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Locust Bar has a smoking permit, and last night's karaoke was way smokier than usual. [livejournal.com profile] solestria noticed right away. I didn't really grasp how bad until I put on my sweatshirt this morning. Geez damn.

I'll be honest, I kind of liked it. I think I'm a recovering secondhand smoke junkie.

[livejournal.com profile] rfrancis, I did put Tube Snake Boogie in the queue, but I only came up to the mike twice: once for Laid and once for As Time Goes By. Another time. I like this "sing LiveJournal requests in karaoke bars for no apparent reason" idea.
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Hey kids,

What should I sing at karaoke tonight?
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Alex Strang, the mad scientist behind Puppet Karaoke, has created a video featuring one of my POGMA '05 (*) puppets, "Dalkon Six." (**)

It is insane. I it.

There's footage of the original performance, footage of a 3D model of the puppet (damn that shit's crazy) and lots of general surreal bluescreen insanity. The video is definitely work-safe.

Yes, those are my... vocal stylings. I'd had a beer or two, yes.

(*) POGMA '05 stipulates that puppets must be created on-site in the Emergency Puppet Creation Zone, without advance consideration.

(**) Dalkon Six is meant to be an IUD from another planet. This does not play any part in the video, but it does explain my song selection.
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Please do not buy a handheld MP3 karaoke player from i-sing.com. They are comment-spamming my livejournal. It's an obnoxious practice. Buy a competing product instead. Thank you.

(Dear spammers: I screen all non-friend comments first, so no one - especially not Google - will ever see your comments. But Google might see me trash-talking your lousy business practices.)
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[livejournal.com profile] devotdsatellite, you and Beary Bear are featured prominently in the photo wrapup of Robert Drake's Puppet Karaoke appearance. We knew you when!

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