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Post-Birthday Shopping Hangover

On Saturday, Juliette and I went up to LA to see a performance by a friend of ours. On the way, we stopped at the Grove to have dinner at the Farmer's Market. For those of you who are unfamiliar with LA landmarks, the Grove is a swanky shopping mall that was built about 5 or 6 years ago around the site of the historic LA Farmer's Market. The market portion of the Farmer's Market is still there, and is home to some excellent food stands as well as some neat little specialty shops and grocers.

Anyway, we had hardly gotten out of the parking lot before I was wrinkling my nose at the overwhelming consumerism and image consciousness displayed by the mall patrons. It's been over a year now since we left Orange County and I guess I've gotten re-sensitized. It seemed like everyone I saw was wearing designer clothes or huge sunglasses or had perfectly styled hair and nails, and I couldn't stop thinking "Ew!" every few seconds. Plus, the place was packed; you could hardly walk ten feet without bumping into someone. I kept thinking of that line from Rent: "When you're living in America, you're what you own."

The irony is, of course, that the very next day I went on a shopping rampage because I was flush with birthday cash that was burning a hole in my pocket. We spent more or less the entire afternoon looking for stuff for me to buy. And now I'm not sure if the funk I'm feeling myself entering is self-disgust or just regret that I can't keep spending. I'm trying to keep my self esteem intact by reminding myself that I only shop for myself twice a year.

But, on to the purchases.

One of my birthday purchases was a pair of Philips SBC HN050 Noise-Cancelling Headphones. I was a little hesitant about buying a set of headphones that requires a battery, but I've been intrigued by active noise cancelling for a while now. Unfortunately, I've discovered that activating the noise cancelling function messes with my ears in a very odd way. Even without music turned on, I feel a strange "pressure" in my left ear that quickly spreads to my left temple. After thirty seconds or so, that's followed by a disoriented, dizzy feeling and mild nausea that's reminiscent of being ever so slightly carsick. It's quite disappointing, because this sensation makes it more or less impossible for me to use that feature. Still, the earpieces are reasonably comfortable when positioned properly and the sound quality is more than adequate to my non-audiophilic ears, so it's not a total loss.

(Note to self: size 36 belts are not meant for people who wear size 36 pants. And, for crying out loud, try stuff on before you buy it!)

I also bought a ridiculously expensive remote control. So far, I like it, but I have to say, for $250 it should really be easier to set up. It took me the better part of an hour to program two activities, mostly due to the cumbersome web interface. What would be most intuitive to me is to have an activity represented as an editable list of actions. Perhaps you could throw in some AJAX for some drag-and-drop functionality, and add some smarts to fill in a default sequence. Instead, you get an only partially configurable list that comes after a rather convoluted wizard. I was less than impressed, even factoring in Best Buy's $50 instant rebate. On the bright side, once I did manage to beat it into submission, it seems to work pretty well.

By the way, I mentioned that we were up in LA to see a friend's performance--well, if you're in the LA area and you're intrigued by avant-garde theater, the friend's name is Elke Luyten and she's doing a corporeal mime performance called "Here Is Someone" For those of you unfamiliar with corporeal mime--I imagine that's pretty much everyone--it's quite a bit different from the "guy trapped in an invisible box" shtick you're probably imagining. Corporeal mime is a variety of movement-based performance art developed by Étienne Decroux in the early part of the 20th century as a modern (in the sense of "modernism") redefinition of the mime artform. The actor uses a codified series of movements involving the entire body as his or her medium of expression. Often times text or music is added, but this is done subsequent to the choreography and in many ways the choice of words and sounds is almost incidental. Meaning, in the traditional sense, is not made explicit, instead arising out of the synthesis of movement, text, and the audience's subjective experience.

If that sounds esoteric and "artsy fartsy" to you, well, it is. But it's also quite beautiful, just in terms of pure visual aesthetics. It can also be unsettling, confusing, intense, serene, or even playful. Elke's performance in this piece definitely falls into the "intense" category, but, lacking a more developed critical understanding of this sort of art, I'm not sure how much better I can describe it.

If you're interested, the performance is at the Son of Semele theater (3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles) at 10 PM on Friday and Saturday nights from now until July 15. The performance runs about 15 minutes and admission is $5. Elke's show follows a 90-minute play by the hosting company, called King Cat Calico Finally Flies Free. If you want to see both shows, admission to the mime show is free if you buy a ticket to the play. Incidentally, the play is interesting if you like your theater on the experimental (and low budget) side--Juliette and I liked the style and performances, although not really the text. So you know, King Cat Calico is not family-friendly.

One more note: the theater is in what looked to me like a really sketchy neighborhood and street parking is all that's available. Juliette and I were a little concerned about leaving our car and even though everything turned out all right for us, I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

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