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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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Bright spots in December (other than the obvious one)

The Christmas vacation post is coming, but Jean hasn’t had a chance to select and process the Christmas photos yet. So in the meantime, here’s a list of items that brightened the per-Christmas period for me this year.

Gel eyeliner

I’m a makeup girl. (Woman. Whatever.) I never wear perfume, I rarely bother with nail polish, and I don’t like spending much time styling my hair. But makeup, I find fun. It seems worth than 10 or so minutes lalmost every day.

But eyeliner has always been tricky. Liquid eyeliner is too dramatic for day use. And hard to apply corectly for night use. Pencil eyeliners are easy to apply but often result in a rather pale line that usually smudges during the day, producing that terrific raccoon eyes effect.

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Fortunately it rarely got this bad, but still… (photo from the Huffington Post)

I don’t know why I’m only learning this now, but makeup artists prefer gel or cream eyeliners—the kind that comes in a little pot. Having a good brush is vital, but with that, these eyeliners are pretty easy to apply. And they don’t set immediately, so if you don’t get it quite right, it’s easy to fix. And best of all, once you are happy with the results, it will set and stay with no smudging for the whole day. The line is distinct, but not as harsh as with liquid eyeliners. I love this stuff.

The brand I got was Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Gel Eyeliner in Stay Coffee colour. From The Bay. The brush that comes with it is fairly useless, but with a better one (that I already owned), the product itself is excellent.

 

T-shirt bra

The ThirdLove bra company advertised fairly heavily in the Washington Post this year, til I finally got intrigued. “Discover your best-fitting bra in 60 seconds.” No tape measure required. You just had to answer a series of questions about your breast shape and current bra-fitting issues.

Maybe other people have better mental self-image, but for me this took more than 60 seconds because I kept having to run from PC to the bathroom mirror to see which little breast diagram best reflected my shape and whether my current bra rode up or gapped. But it’s true I didn’t have to use a tape measure.

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Nor, fortunately, were any of these sorts of calisthenics required

Having completed the questions, I tried to take ThirdLove up on their “try free for 30 days” offer, but it didn’t apply to Canada, so I abandoned the effort. Only to then be emailed me and offered a discount. I then went ahead with an order, that was promptly charged to my card.

Some days later I realized I had yet to receive a shipping notification, which seemed odd. Some days more after that, they did email again say there was some issue with my order, but that it would come eventually. And also here’s another discount for my next order. Then there was more radio silence, with the added small aggravation that every time I visited their website to try to figure out what was going on, they’d email trying to get me to buy another bra!

So I was a bit predisposed to be skeptical of their product when it finally did arrive, but damn if it isn’t the best-fitting, most comfortable bra I’ve ever had.

BBC Live Aid documentary

Lo these many years later, I retain fond memories of the 1985 Live Aid concert. It was organized by a singer I really liked (Bob Geldof); my favourite band, Queen, were the stars of the day; and it featured so many other artists I also like (The Who, U2, George Michael, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, The Boomtown Rats…). And all for a good cause!

So I was pretty excited when YouTube coughed up this recommendation:

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I also found this buried in a drawer!

Though produced in 2011 or so, I had never heard of this Live Aid: Against All Odds documentary—a hazard of not living in the UK, I suppose. Being 3 hours long (there’s a Part 2 as well), I had to wait a bit to start it—because once I did, I predictably didn’t want to stop.

I’ve watched other documentaries on Live Aid, I’ve read books and magazines, but still, I learned more from this one. Like just how demented and troublesome a figure Bill Graham was. And that the hosts on the BBC side had never done anything on this scale before and were petrified. There’s also considerable time spent on the degree to which Midge Ure (co-writer of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”) was overshadowed by Bob Geldof—though Midge refuses to go into an all-out rant about it. (“That’s just Bob.”)

Definitely recommended viewing to anyone else who looks back on that day fondly.

Yoga mat and blender parts

These things are so prosaic, but still…

mat_group_sweep-COLOURFixMy old yoga mat was basically disintegrating. I was looking to add an item to an online order to get free shipping. I saw they sold yoga mats at what seemed a reasonable price, so I threw that in.

I guess I hadn’t particularly realized that, like anything else, some yoga mats are better than others. This yoga mat is just better than any I’ve had before (though admittedly, the “before” are all cheapie Canadian Tire ones). It’s thicker. It’s “stickier”. It just feels better to stand on. It’s the Halfmoon Studio yoga mat.

(Also, did you know you can clean yoga mats in the washing machine? Cold water, delicate cycle, hang to dry. Works great, no manual scrubbing.)

brevilleAs for the blender parts, I was just glad those were so easy to buy. I used to have Cuisinart blenders. The units worked great, but eventually the bowl or the lid would break, crack, chip—somehow become unusable. And Cuisinart just made it really difficult to buy replacements (at least at the time). Hard to find, expensive… Once I bought a whole new unit just to be able to use the parts with my previous unit.

Now I have a Breville. For which I needed a new small bowl and lid before the cracks spread to the point of making them unusable. Remarkably, all I had to do was go to their website and order those two parts, which were then shipped to my house. Imagine!

Glow

This Netflix series has been out for a while, but it was December viewing for us. Set in the 1980s, it’s about a group of women cast as wrestlers for a television series. Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) is the main character we follow through, but all the women get some time in the spotlight. Marc Maron plays the failed B movie director Sam Silvia, hired by rich-boy wrestling fan Chris Lowell to direct the show. All the actors are really strong.

I’m no kind of wrestling fan, but I still enjoyed the pace, drama, and humour of this women-focused series (as did Jean). I even gained some appreciation of wrestling. And as a bonus, it also has a great 80s soundtrack.

 


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Adam Lambert live in Berlin

Dig if you will the picture…

A steamy, packed room of 1500 people pressed close together, singing, dancing, screaming. Stripping down as it gets hotter. On stage, an unbearably handsome singer, framed by two gorgeous dancers, playing music with an insistent, irresistible dance beat. Effortlessly hitting notes that don’t seem humanely possible, moving sensually, singing lyrics of want and desire. Keep me on a leash tonight. Lay me down in darkness. My one and own, I want to get you alone.

Sexiest. Concert. Ever.

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Standing rooms shows… I didn’t even know they were still a thing until this Adam Lambert Original High tour. For some reason he did no Canadian dates, and every venue I considered travelling to was no assigned seating / standing room. I hadn’t been to that type of show in decades.

It’s not my favourite thing, I gotta say. If the entry is well-managed and the fans reasonable, they can be alright, even fun. But if not, they are squishy, scary, unpleasant nightmare.

So when VIP “early entry” tickets when on sale, I was willing to quadruple my concert ticket costs for a chance to be among the first group to get in without having to wait in line.

The slightly nerve-wracking thing is you don’t get details of how exactly that’s going to work until you get an email “24 to 48 hours before your event”. It did nothing for my stress level that said email actually arrived more like 23 hours before my event.


VIPing: What we had to do was rudely walk past the people who’d been lining up all day, and head into the box office area ahead of them. There we were divided into two groups: Those who increased their ticket costs even more, such that they could also meet Adam Lambert before the show (those ladies were giddy), and those of us who just didn’t want to wait in line.

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One of the Berlin meet and greeters with some dude

As that group went off for their pictures, we were allowed to enter the venue—warned to not run, push, or pass one another. “There’s no need anyway,” the coordinator said. “Because you’re all going to be in the front row.”

Uh? It actually hadn’t dawned on me to that point that we were small enough in number that indeed, we would be in the front row. (There were more “meet and greet” people, actually, and some of them ended up in the second row!)

But for me (and Jean), there was to be no visual obstruction whatsoever all night long. And we had a barrier to lean on. And it was less hot because of the lack of sticky bodies in front of us. It was awesome!

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Crappy phone picture of me in the front row


The opening act, who started promptly at 8:00, were a German band named Eveline, led by an attractive blonde woman singer. They were pretty good—pop, dance style, good singer. She did all her speaking in German, and all her singing in English.

They finished around 8:30, and then we had a wait somewhere in neighbourhood of 45, 50 minutes, which got kind of long, really.

But right from the opening chords, all was forgiven.


For the benefit of those not steeped in all things Lambert:

  • Yes, he has a full band—guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. And two dancers / backup singers. And a pretty awesome light show.
  • Though he does a few covers, the focus is squarely on “his” music, from his three albums.
  • The show is in three parts: The “darker” songs, the ballads, and the dance party. He wears a different outfit for each.

This tour’s been going on for a while now, so the band was tight. They seemed to really be having a good time this night—it was all very high energy, and the pacing seemed perfect. I honestly enjoyed the whole show, but I’ll note some particular highlights.

As I’ve already said, I had a great, close view of the stage all night, but I wasn’t right in the centre. Fortunately, Adam was kind of enough to regularly stroll (or dance) over to my end of the stage and stand right in front of me. He first did so at the beginning of Ghost Town. Lordy, he’s attractive in person. Every time he came near I was particularly mesmerized by those gorgeous, greenish eyes.

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Instagram photo by Franke G., https://www.instagram.com/xx_frauke_xx/, taken at the Berlin show


For the purposes of maybe getting surprised, or at least avoiding disappointment, I had somewhat backed off on paying as much attention to Adam’s shows that preceded my own. However, I still caught the fact that in Hamburg, the show two days before Berlin, they had omitted the medley that included the song Runnin’.

There’s no reason to expect him to play Runnin’. It was never a single—heck, it was never even a regular album track, but just a bonus on the deluxe edition of his second album. Nevertheless, it’s such a fantastic song, it’s been discovered, just racking up the YouTube views, despite its not obviously not having a proper video accompaniment.

So I was very relieved that it made its return to the set in Berlin.

Runnin’/Chokehold/Sleepwalker live in Berlin (video)

Lucy, by contrast, is not one of my favourite Adam Lambert song, Brian May (Queen)’s presence on guitar notwithstanding. It’s the lyrics I don’t care for, mainly, as they come across as bit male judgmental about the titular Lucy. (Now, I’m no way suggesting that Adam is sexist. Only that this song is. A bit.)

As done live, though, it was saved for me by the dance moves. No, not Adam’s, but Holly Hyman’s, whose interpretation read, to me, as really powerful and defiant. She actually made me like the song for the first time. Which is cool.

Lucy live in Berlin

And at the end of it, Adam did this, while standing right in front of me.

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Adam is not overly chatty in concert, preferring to letting his singing do the talking. Still, we got a “Hello Berlin” pretty early on, following the tidbit I didn’t know, that he had lived in Berlin for three months. “It wasn’t long, but it gave me a taste.

“And it tasted nasty.”

In the ballad portion of the evening, we got the longest talking sequence. Adam’s message here is that we should try focusing more on our commonalities than differences. “There’s one thing that everyone in this audience all has in common.” Pause. “ME!” Hee!


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Photo by Anja Josef Salvat, https://www.instagram.com/anijsf/

Now seems a good time to address what you might be wondering: Given our excellent sight lines, why am I cribbing pictures from other folks instead of featuring wonderful, original Jean photography?

That would be because security took away our camera. Which was very frustrating, as there had been no advance warning that a small camera would be an issue. Even more frustrating? They didn’t seem to take away anybody else’s camera! (Do Germans just like to pick on Canadians?) As my budget cell phone was useless for taking photos, we have none. Which still irritates me every time I think about it.

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Another beautiful Berlin photo by Franke G., who clearly didn’t get her camera confiscated

That said… When you are attending the Sexiest Concert Ever with your sweetie, it’s actually not a terrible thing that his hands and face are free… To fondle something other than a camera…


Ahem. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Adam’s vocals are a thing of wonder: this is not a singer who backs away from the high notes while live. And no auto-tune, either.And the terrific The Original High was quite the showcase for that. He Sings So High in this song.

The big note at the 3:00 minute mark of this video

I also found out later we were very lucky to have David Bowie’s Let’s Dance included in the set, as that’s another number they haven’t been doing so much lately. It was a terrific version. That then led into the super-hot trio of dance songs, “Lay Me Down”, “Shady”, and “Fever”. We especially enjoyed dancer Terrance Spencer’s moves during this sequence.

The audience by now was a sweaty, frenzied mess, but the band wasn’t done with us. They launched into “If I Had You,”—not the weird, reggae version presented earlier on the tour, but the irresistible original. The entire place was hopping to it in unison! So fun!

The encore was Trespassing, which happens to be a favourite of both mine and Jean’s. And got some more talking, including Adam presenting his lucky glitter mushroom (???).

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“Want to hear some Queen?” he asked, and on the affirmative, we got some “Another One Bites the Dust”. And a crazy-notes Adam Lambert singalong. (“Some of you are acting too cool to sing. I see you!”) And he concluded with more “Trespassing.”

And what did Jean think? Jean… Actually had a really good time! He’s a people watcher, and he found Adam’s audience mix fascinating. He enjoyed watching me and the other adult woman around regress into teenagers. And he got into it. He danced a bit. He snapped his fingers. He pretended to sing so Adam wouldn’t pick on him.

(But for the record, he still prefers the Queen + Adam Lambert show, because that’s more his music. And also, we had seats for that one.)


Set list:

Anger / Darkness

  1. Evil in the Night
  2. For Your Entertainment
  3. Ghost Town
  4. Welcome to the Show
  5. Runnin’
  6. Chokehold
  7. Sleepwalker
  8. Underground
  9. Rumors
  10. Lucy

Love and longing

  1. After Hours
  2. Mad World
  3. Whataya Want from Me
  4. Another Lonely Night

Party!

  1. The Light
  2. The Original High
  3. Never Close Our Eyes
  4. Let’s Dance
  5. Lay Me Down
  6. Shady
  7. Fever
  8. If I Had You
  9. Trespassing
  10. Another One Bites the Dust
  11. Trespassing (Reprise)

Ratings

Show: A+

I can’t think of a way they could have improved it.

Audience: A

Included a number of uber-fans I actually recognized from their tweets and blogs. And whether uber or not, it was very striking how everyone could and did sing along, with every song, not just “the hits.” They basically screamed instead of clapped to show appreciation. Lively, lively. Only lose + due to some veteran meet and greeters who (I heard) were overly stoic in the front row, which is just a waste. (This did not seem a problem with our VIP half.)

VIP experience: A

Very well-organized check-in and admission procedure, and made this such a great experience for me. Even the included merchandise was better than I expected: Quite a nice poster, and I hadn’t realized it would be signed! (Not that we need two, but…)

They only lose their + for the latish email that basically had the wrong time: It said to be there for 7:00, which made no sense, since that was general admission time. Fortunately, everyone figured that out and was there for the actual required time, between 6:15 and 6:30. Still…

Venue – Huxleys Neue Welt: D.

Apart from my camera problems, I later read on Twitter that this place didn’t have a scanner for electronic tickets! Meaning that anyone with those (like me) had to get out of the line they had likely been standing in for hours to go to an office and switch their eTicket for a “real” ticket. What the…? I also heard they weren’t very good at managing the general admission entry, which can be nightmarish, and I saw the security was really aggressive about removing items like balloons and glow sticks—even though fans had asked in advance and been assured those were fine!

So, I’d definitely see Adam Lambert in concert again, but never at Huxleys.

Links

My compiled Original High Berlin YouTube playlist

Berlin concert roundup

Full show audio:

A footnote about my feet

So before I knew I’d have VIP, I was trying to figure out how to improve my chances of actually seeing something at this show despite being short, and finally concluded that only shoes with wedge heels would work. So I got these:

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Which added, like, 3 inches to my height. Not realizing I’d be ending up in the front row, I wore them.

So I can tell you that for 5.5 hours of straight standing, those suckers were surprisingly comfortable. And though not needed in the front row, they were kind of handy for looking over people’s head at the merchandise table after.

However… During the short walk to the train station, my feet basically had a nervous breakdown. I felt like I would die if I didn’t get off  my feet. Thankfully, the train station wasn’t far, it had a bench, and I was able to find a seat on the train. So I survived the journey back to the hotel room.

So if you try the wedge shoe approach to seeing something at standing room concerts, remember: To survive, you will have to get off your feet every five hours or so. You’re welcome.

 


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About the red hat

We’re just back from a trip to the French Riviera, and I expect I’ll be writing a few blog posts about that.

I feel a need to start, though, by explaining my attire.

I have travelled the world (well, Europe and the Americas, anyway) with this green hat that has served me well, and that I still have, but for this new vacation, which was a walking tour, I felt it was time for a new one.

Jean’s had a series of hats over this same time frame, most of them Tilley Endurables brand. This is a Canadian company that was built around these well-made, lifetime guarantee, water resistant, floatable, breathable, hats. So I thought I’d get me one of those.

And I just couldn’t resist the bright red one. It was fun, it seemed to suit me, it was Tilley.

What I didn’t think about what that red just doesn’t match with everything. And it particularly didn’t match either of my Gortex jackets, one turquoise and purple, another pale mauve, that were basically the required outwear for a walking tour. And though I didn’t have to wear the jackets all the time (mostly, we had nice weather), it also didn’t go with my light blue top, or my deep blue top, or my purple top, which again were of the breathable fabric one kind of has to wear when exerting oneself outdoors.

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Me, clashing, in the small medieval town of Roquebrune

Then at one point, we got enough rain that I felt compelled to pull out the rain pants, which I hadn’t worn since the 1980s, and were therefore a lovely 1980s turquoise green. So picture this in your mind: Turquoise green pants, pale mauve jacket (if only I had the other coat that day, but no!), and red hat.

In fact, you’ll have to picture that just in your mind, because I refused to let Jean take any photographic evidence of it.

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Here, up in the French alps, wearing the only “outdoor” shirt that somewhat matched the hat…