On a whim to Canada

31 hours
900 miles
2 countries
1 epic show

I returned from Canada last night
after barely 12 hours in Vancouver.
My co-conspirator in this crazy adventure and I still aren’t sure when our plans went from ‘oh that sounds cool,’ to ‘so, we’re going to Canada’.
It probably happened sometime around the time Amanda replied to this tweet.
Snacks and passports in hand we filled up the gas and started north.

Our drive up was punctuated by torrential downpours in the fog
and me locking my keys in the car at a gas station when my car’s speakers started making demonic noises
it was actually a little terrifying
and AAA was able to break into my car in under a minute,
which was amazing and a bit worrying
(we seem to have either placated or expelled the possession thankfully)
Some pre trip google street viewing showed me a parking garage 1 block from the hostel,
and the hostel was 6 blocks to the venue.
I survived driving through Portland and Seattle and Vancouver.

We splashed water on our faces and tried to feel alive again.
Ten hours in a car is enough to make you question your sanity and if the reflection in the mirror is really yours.
Before we parked we had seen the line, stretching 6 people deep around an entire city block.
An hour until the door and already almost 1000 people in line.
But a tweet I’d sent to Amanda Palmer
(the ringleader of this almost organized beautiful chaos)
had us on the guest list. We were bringing boxes for food collection,
and volunteering to help with the Vancouver Food Bank.
The gig was free, but still raised almost $10K for the charity.

Before the show we caught Amanda at the bar for a quick chat.
She had recognized us, and said hello first.
Then she saw my tattoo and kissed it.
I love what this brought about.
me too, Amanda, me too.
She asked us if we thought things were too organized
This was a ninja gig after all
But it had a massive guest list of professionals from different disciplines
People that made chaos seem easy and planned.
A beautiful mess.

Before the show started, the show started.
Vancouver’s Orkestar Slivovica brass band played and people danced
(read more about the show’s phenomenal line up here)
Kristen, my co-pilot in this adventure, and I found a friend, Lauren, from the house party
She lives in Vancouver.
Life is beautifully strange sometimes.
She saved us by lending us some Canadian money so we could buy drinks,
there’s nothing like driving to make you crave water.

Then we realized Lauren was sitting in front of Imogen Heap.
Well, Kristen realized.
Lauren and I were too excited about the gig and all the special guests,
we didn’t realize
I had to come back and kneel down next to Lauren and whisper
do you realize who you’re sitting in front of? you’re sitting in front of IMOGEN HEAP.
I am? Thank you for telling me.
Her eyes went wide.
I turned to Imogen and caught her attention
The three of us chatted for a moment.
Life is surreal.

singing a cover of Psycho, Neil Gaiman looking particularly scruffy after his writing retreat

Then Amanda came out on stage, the second beginning of the show
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to our fucking mess
what a beautiful mess
Amanda sang, Neil sang, Neil read a story about ducks.

Amy Cuddy (of TED fame) and Amanda Palmer
Amy Cuddy (of TED fame) and Amanda Palmer, shortly before she fangirled over being on stage with Amanda.

Some people TED came out and talked
a former football star talked about virtual reality and empathy
Imogen sang and turned the audience into her backing vocals, we didn’t sound too bad
more people from TED spoke, the head of safety at Twitter came out
I’m probably getting the order wrong,
but the chaos was beautiful
and I just let it wash over me, absorbing as much as I could.

After a quick intermission they brought out some TED fellows,
incredibly talented musicians that did things with instruments I’ve never seen
(the things they did, not the instruments themselves)

Imogen Heap!
Imogen Heap!

Amanda took stage to sing another song,
she asked for requests and the audience erupted,
you always do this and I can never hear you, raise your hands
I giggled, a punk rock gig, and here we are politely raising our hands. I loved it.
my hand shot up
Monica, you see me all the time
I thought it was a playful dismissal
No, no, I’m not dismissing you, what do you want

I got name checked from stage,
and stared at by the strangers around me,
because a rockstar knew my name.
I counted later, 10 shows in 2 1/2 years
3 of which were private house parties.
Yeah, there’s a reason.

The astronaut himself! Chris Hadfield!
The astronaut himself! Chris Hadfield!

Jason Webley sang about wanting a Giraffe and then a super special guest that everyone had guessed but had not been officially announced.
Chris Hadfield.
I’ll just let that sink in,
the astronaut.
He sang one of his songs
and then after having been told we only had time for one song,
he sang Space Cowboy anyway.

Amanda singing Astronaut to an astronaut
Amanda singing Astronaut to an astronaut

Then we watched Amanda sing Astronaut to an astronaut,
I’ve seen her perform it before,
but this was acoustic, Webley played the guitar, it made it different and special,
and there she was, living one of her dreams
probably thinking, is this real? is this my life?
yes it is.

She had opened with In My Mind.
so really. yes, circular and chaotic the show fit together.

After the show end, the security gently ushering everyone out because we had passed curfew,
Amanda yelling at us to go and be good citizens, obey the law, so we can do this kind of thing again.
Kristen and I made our way to the stage where Amanda was still chatting with the other performers.
She beckoned us up
and I took pictures of her wrapped around Kristen’s back and new tattoo.

Amanda, ukulele & Kristen!

Can I have a hug?
You can always have a fucking hug,
she whispered into my ear.

Floating around cloud nine
at one thirty in the morning
wandering a strange city
that was strangely clean
we made our way back to the hostel.

It all happened on a whim.
A glorious memory that we had witnessed something completely unique.
The feeling you get when you’re surrounded by people
who resonate with you
colorful people full of life
who are kind.

I feel more like myself now.


Oh, and my favorite part? All the guests sat on the sides of the stage and watched everyone else do their thing.


My top albums of 2013

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil

Over the last year I’ve come to realize how big a role music plays for me. I’m almost always listening to it, connecting with it and letting it influence my own artistic outlets. Recently I’ve been really big on discovering new music and bands that I really like, not necessarily just listening to whatever I come across. I wanted to share them with you because this has been an outstanding year for music. And part of me is really happy about the resurgence of vinyl. I think one of my favorite pressings was from The Head & the Heart, though Amanda Palmer killed it with packaging & extras.

From the beginning to the end, here’s my year in music, so plug in some headphones and enjoy.

Heartthrob – Tegan & Sara (release: January 29, 2013)

The Sky Is Calling – The Impossible Girl (release: June 21, 2013)

A Brief Case of Madness – Tom Dickins and the Punintentionals (release: August 1, 2013)

Days Are Gone – HAIM (release: September 27, 2013)

Pure Heroine – Lorde (release: September 27, 2013)

Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart (release: October 15, 2013)

An Evening With – Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman (release: November 19, 2013)

Chasing Twisters EP – Delta Rae (release: November 19, 2013)


Also, in putting together this list I realized quite a bit of the music I listened to a lot (or even discovered) isn’t from this year at all. Here’s a few albums I had on repeat or discovered for the first time this year but were not released in 2013:

in lethe EP – Jaggery (release: October 01, 2004)
Yes, Virginia – The Dresden Dolls (release: April 18, 2006)
My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men (release: September 20, 2011)
Ceremonials – Florence & the Machine (release: October 28, 2011)
Electra Heart – Marina & the Diamonds (release: April 27, 2012)
Carry the Fire – Delta Rae (release: June 19, 2012)
Theatre is Evil – Amanda Palmer (release: September 5 2012)
Halcyon – Ellie Goulding (release: October 5, 2012)

as an added P.S. Willow out of Melbourne, Australia. They don’t have an album out yet, but I love their sound. Got to see them open for Tom Dickins in Melbourne in August and fell in love with what they’ve got going on.


Tuesday was a long day, if not because I spent 3 hours in stillness while this happened:

I spent a long time working on this design, almost a year between concept & execution. It fits with my first tattoo, so they look like one design. The first covered my love of French & my love of dance. This second, and much larger, tattoo, encompasses 3 things very dear to me. The rose is for my mom. For those of you that didn’t know her, her name was Rose. That upside down heart in the middle of the rose is on purpose, maybe one day I’ll go into what I think of it and why it’s there. The ampersand is for Amanda Palmer. Her music and thinking has done a lot to influence me since I was introduced to her at 17. The words: Trust dreams. Trust your heart and trust your story are from Neil Gaiman’s poem Instructions, which is one of my favorites. And these words just resonate so much with how I live. I trust that things will work. I trust in the crazy notions and gut feelings inside of me. They haven’t led me wrong so far, maybe it’s luck, but maybe it means I’m doing something right.

So far it’s healing nicely. Almost no redness, and so far no peeling!

an evening that didn’t want to end

Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer
Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer, Aladdin Theater, Portland

Tuesday afternoon I drove up to Portland with a friend to a concert. I was lucky enough to be back on the west coast to catch the Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman tour An Evening with… Their set was supposed to run about 8-11, around 12 the duo finally called it a night.

The show was vastly different from the last Amanda Palmer concert I went to in London that was a glorious night of high energy, sweat and loud vibrating sound. Tuesday was no less energetic but it had a sit-down comfortable quality about it. Moving seamlessly  between songs, instruments, stories, poems & general chit chat the couple filled up four hours and left the audience wanting more. We barely noticed our butts numb from sitting so long because we were so entranced by the show.

It’s always a treat to see people do what they love to do. There’s a tangible joy in sharing talents and passion. Amanda & Neil entertain like no other. Amanda is quirky enough, and dedicated enough to whatever she attempts that she pulls off any number of crazy things: from picking up the ukulele on a whim to reading some of her own poetry on stage while Neil plays an iPad app for accompaniment. Neil’s words weave visions of wonder in your head when read off the page, when heard in the voice of the man himself your transported from your seat. Suddenly you’re smelly thick sticky beer and old spills in an oft-forgotten seaside pub in England. Only half an hour later do you re-emerge out of the story and back into your seat in the theater. Perhaps that’s why four hours passed by like they were less than two, so entrancing is their special brand of entertainment that your drawn out of yourself and into the world of Amanda & Neil – a delightful, dark, glitter-covered place with black eye-liner where time and reality pass a little differently.

If ever there was inspiration for doing what you love in life, these two are it. You have to go after the things that really matter, or what’s worth doing? If you’re doing things you love, it’s more likely you’ll be doing good in this world anyway, in some way… people for millennia have needed music to survive 



the wonderful world of twitter….. and a photo

So, here I was, all set to tell you something and show you a photo. (I went to Stonehenge, Bath & Stratford upon Avon today).
Except then I was checking Twitter, as I do.
And on of my favorite authors (who happens to be married to one of my favorite musicians)
tweeted a link to a photo
that was taken at the concert I went to last Friday
it was a photo I took.
I’m not gonna lie, I almost screamed.
Then I ran out of my room and quietly knocked on my roommate’s door.
The first time I attempted to say anything, it came out gibberish.
Knowing that someone who you respect likes something you’ve done is one of the best feelings.
Then when they share that with 1.6 million people,
I still don’t have words.
But I’m pretty sure I’m going to find a way to say thank you.

oh, and incase you really have no idea why I am so excited by this all: what I originally came online to share with you.
since this is one of the pretty things I saw today.


Amanda Palmer at the British Library

Neil holding lyrics for Amanda
Neil holding lyrics for Amanda at the British Library

Originally this week had nothing planned; it was am empty swath of white on my calendar, except for an excited little exclamation in green reminding me I had tickets to see Amanda Palmer at Heaven on Friday night.
Then the Jane Austen Argument announced a #twitnic. I went, met some nice people and had a lot of fun despite freezing on top of Parliament Hill.
Friday was of course, the concert where I managed to take some pretty cool photos.
Saturday I took the day to relax and generally do the nothing I had been planning all week.
Then Sunday I found someone willing to sell me a ticket to the sold-out panel Neil Gaiman was on at the British Library. They talked about science fiction, the future and how things have changed in the last 50 years.
Monday morning I woke up thinking I’d had a pretty amazing weekend/going on week. Right as I’m clicking through Twitter for the first time that morning Palmer retweets an offer from someone with an extra ticket to see her that night at the British Library. I figured I didn’t really have a chance of being the first to respond, but gave it a shot and a few hours later I got a message saying to be at the BL at six to pick up my ticket! For FREE. I did try to pay, but she insisted that she just wanted a fan who didn’t have a chance and would really enjoy the show to have the chance to see Amanda play. Things like this are proof that good people still exist in the world. When I get the chance I’ll be paying it forward.

The show was a complete 180 from Friday night at Heaven. That isn’t to say it was any less enjoyable or awesome. It was a low key, and enjoyable, just to sit and soak in the music. For all but 2 songs she played on the piano (and Neil sang), Amanda was either on the Uke or the Mandolin. From what they’ve said this setup seems that it will be very similar to their upcoming west coast tour! She played a few songs of hers I had never heard, including a beautiful song about the house she grew up in. I love the dichotomy of the two sets. Heaven was loud and high energy, sweaty and chaotic and such a swell of emotion that you lost yourself. The British Library felt intimate in comparison (maybe 150?), it was a much calmer set. She played Map of Tasmania again (at Heaven she had us do a shout back after she said “oh. my. god.” we’d scream “fuck it!” Apparently while seated at the BL, even yelling “fuck it!” sounds slightly clean and posh. Both nights were full of tears and laughter and wonderful emotion brought on by brilliant artists and performers.

Also, as the British Library gig we got to see a lot of interaction between Amanda and Neil. They’re quite the adorable couple. See above: Neil holding 9 pages of lyrics to Amanda’s ukulele anthem.

Counting down the days until I get to see them perform again on November 8th and thinking how incredibly lucky I am. In the mean time I’ll be buried in some for fun reading at last (A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman). Is there anything else that I should check out? New or not.

Science Fiction and the Future in the Present Day

Fragile Wishes
Fragile Wishes from Neil Gaiman

Some days plans take off for hell in a hand basket and some days plans take you exactly where you expected. And still some days it pays to not have any plans because you end up meeting people and experiencing things you didn’t expect, but were exactly what you needed.

Several months ago while researching my dissertation, I stumbled across an article on io9 about how science fiction could help us understand social media. I book marked it for two reasons:

1) Before even reading the article I remembered a few nights I had spent staying up reading the Uglies Quartet by Scott Westerfeld and thinking, especially about the fourth book Extras. The technology that their society depends on to function is an exaggerated version of social media that is so embedded in their lives that publishing and sharing stories turns into a sort of currency. The connected celebrity can be made by “kicking” the right story at the right time, just as it happens today with our voracious need to share.

2) In a way, it echoed what my dissertation talked about. I was writing about artists use of social media to build community and this was exactly what could happen on a grander scale if things were pushed further. It spoke to what happened to society, what happened to community and how the notion of the individual shifted.

Unfortunately I never had the time to explore the idea in my paper. So this little bit of research was buried in the ever-growing pile of bookmarks and nearly forgotten about until this afternoon. I had all but committed myself to an afternoon on the couch, designing or writing, maybe reading. Earlier in the day I had caught a post on the Amanda Palmer forum about someone having extra tickets for a talk that Neil Gaiman was taking part in at the British Library. I texted him, but he got back to me nearly immediately saying both tickets had been vouched for. So having no plans, seeing the impending rain and cursing the planned closures on the overground I went to settled in on the couch. Then my phone rang and suddenly I had a ticket to the event Worlds of Wonder. I also had exactly an hour to dress, fix myself, put together a bag, grab things for Neil to sign and make a 45 minute journey to North London.

The panelists included Neil Gaiman, Rachel ArmstrongPeter F. Hamilton and Kari Sperring.

What is the future of the Future? Is the golden age of science fiction speculation now over or can the future still create a sense of wonder? Has the speed of change outstripped anything the story tellers, film makers, special effects artists and game designers can imagine? Or does the increasing knowledge we possess of the human condition and of scientific progress give us ever more fabulous ways to speculate?
from the British Library website.

The heart of the problem facing current day science fiction writers is that the future is much closer to us now than it was 50 years ago. Peter Hamilton articulated the issue best, William Gibson argues something to the idea that we are living in the future, but Hamilton disagrees, we’re living in the future of the 1950s just as they were living in the future of the 1850s. The gap there in time is what is incredibly important. In 1850 the future was a long time coming, technology was a slow-moving beast. In 1950 it was slower than it is today, but rapidly gaining speed. Today we have to go much farther into the future to imagine the same leaps in technology and society. It’s much harder to do.

Instead of looking at space operas (still a valid story telling platform, but perhaps not the most pertinent in today’s society to answer questions) science fiction is searching for new ways in which to speculate. Right now there is a collective obsession with catastrophe. In much of the western world the writing and imagining is that we will destroy ourselves, but more interestingly people are beginning to look at collaboration, communication, iterative processes that engage individuals to solve problems.

Science fiction talks about the future, but it is much more a reflection of the society and time in which it was written than the future it imagines. Today science fiction isn’t about space exploration, it’s about finding our way out of the problems we have created. There seem to be two main trends the death of capitalism and separated individual communities that are engaged in creating new models of living. Science fiction today is much more about the politics, the communities and the individuals than it has ever been before.

I was struck by the language that kept cropping up because it so closely correlated with my last few years of study in Advertising/Branding and Entrepreneurship. Collaboration. Communication. Iterative. Engage. States of flux. Storytelling. These have been the key concepts that I have been training to work with. I sometimes forget that not everyone is faced with this ideas in their daily life, because for so long I have lived and breathed them. Maybe it is because I read little else but science fiction and fantasy growing up, even to this day I barely touch “regular” fiction. Maybe it is because I found myself immersed in a network of people that want to try new things and change the status quo.

Science fiction allows people to believe that the world does not have to be the way it is, that it can, and will, change. It’s how we react to the current situation that determines those changes. Science is closely linked with science fiction. To survive in this technologically saturated world science has turned to storytelling to push the limits of what we can do further, push the limits of what we can imagine. Just look at any number of TED talks.

What the entrepreneurs, scientists and storytellers are doing is trying to define what this world will be when this massive shift in society settles down. We’re trying to push the world in the direction (or away from a direction) that we’ve imagined. We see possibility in change and we’re starting to take into account the consequences of actions or lack thereof. We may be making it up as we go along, but we’re trying to create something better, or influence someone to create something better – whatever that something is. Society is on the edge of a huge shift, practically perched on the edge of a cliff, and it isn’t really clear which direction should be blowing. Those of us that are playing with the possible ideas of the future though see that things like collaboration and engaging iterative processes are key to any progression. It’s all about the stories we tell.

Stories are fragile things.