Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

It's been two years since I was last home for Christmas. Since my brother was working on Christmas Day he and the kids came over to my parents' house a couple days early on Saturday for lunch and to open presents. Logan, Kylie and I also baked some Christmas sugar cookies together. It was really nice to get to spend some quality time together.

Today we had our annual Christmas dinner with my Aunt Chris and cousins Lei, Mei and Fiorella. It was our usual menu, which allowed me to get some of the Thanksgiving meal I always miss out on. We began with different cheeses for hors d'oeuvres also had my favorite mulled apple cider. For dinner we ate my Mom's famous jello salad and then had turkey, stuffing, scalloped potatoes and green beans for the main meal.

After digesting and opening presents we had dessert, which is always my job to prepare (I did all my baking yesterday). We had a selection of pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, snowball cookies, and mini gingerbread houses, which came out really cute considering it was the first time I made them. We were very full by the end of the night, but everyone had a good time. I'm very happy I was able to spend the holidays with family this year.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Museum Of Ice Cream San Francisco

The Museum of Ice Cream is a pop-up interactive museum located in different major cities across the United States. The San Francisco museum is housed in an old bank building at 1 Grant Avenue. Tickets to get in are hard to come by, so I was very excited when my cousin Lei informed me a couple months ago that she would be taking me along with her sister Mei and daughter Fiorella.

We had tickets for 6pm, and when we arrived they put us into a small group with other attendees to explain the philosophy and rules for the venue. The decor is a sensory explosion of color (mainly pink) and kitsch design as you enter each themed room. Our first stop was Marye's Diner, which was themed like a 1950s diner and served up some local peach flavored ice cream. Fiorella had fun dancing to the tunes, and the records on the wall had their artists and song titles changed to be more ice cream themed.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

The Make A Statement room was where you could spell out a message on the wall with pink magnetised letters. They also served My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, which is ice cream wrapped in mochi dough. I had the cookies and cream and it was really good.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Next up was the Cherry on Top room, where we got cherry flavored cotton candy sprayed with glitter to eat. The room is a social media dream with its giant cherries and clouds hanging from the ceiling.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

The Gummy Garden room is like walking into a life-size Candy Land game with its giant gummy bears, lollipops, candies and macarons.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

The Ice Cream Truck Pick room takes its inspiration from the different types popsicles you can buy from an ice cream truck (although normally they wouldn't be protruding from a wall).

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

The Rainbow room is a tribute to San Francisco's history and includes a unicorn! They even served little cones of unicorn milk ice cream. The room next to it was inspired by Pop Rocks with an entire giant geometric pop rock wall.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

The most popular room at every Museum of Ice Cream is the Sprinkle Pool, which as you can guess was a giant pool filled with plastic sprinkles. When you step into the pool you immediately sink down into them. We only got to spend a short time in there, but it was Fiorella's favorite spot (and she was upset when we had to get out).

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

After shaking and blowing off the sprinkles hiding in our clothes we headed out to a row of themed spaces with swings before ending up at the gift shop. The Museum of Ice Cream is a lot of fun, and really built for kids and those young at heart. The San Francisco museum has been extended until February 2018, so if you get the chance to go take advantage of it.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

SFMOMA

I took the Golden Gate Ferry into San Francisco today to explore some of the latest exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). My first stop was the retrospective of photographer Walker Evans work. It contained 300 prints and around 100 other objects spanning the Great Depression and postwar period which documented everyday American life in the twentieth century. The exhibition runs until 4 February 2018.

Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules contains more that 150 of his artworks from throughout his career. He often collaborated with other artists and combined multiple disciplines and media within his work while commentating on various cultural and social issues of the time. The exhibition runs on Floor 4 through 25 March 2018.


Next I checked out Louis Bourgeois Spiders. I have seen some of her spider sculptures in the past, and this exhibition featured spiders in a range of different sizes and materials. It's located in the sculpture gallery on Floor 5 and runs until 4 September 2018.


The final exhibition I saw (and heard) was Soundtracks, which featured works from different artists across the entire museum, but mainly spanned Floor 7. This large-scale exhibition focused on the role of sound in contemporary art and how it relates to space. There were so many different types of works, from sculptures to immersive installations to recorded performances. It was really interesting to walk around and experience the different soundscapes of each piece. If you would like to check it out get in quick as Soundtracks finishes on 1 January 2018.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Seattle

I have spent the past three days on a short weekend trip to Seattle. This was my first time to the city and I managed to pack in a few key tourist attractions and activities while I was here. I arrived early afternoon on Friday and took the Link light rail from the airport to the downtown Seattle Westlake stop. The trip lasted 40 minutes and only cost $3.00 one way, which was a great bargain.

I stayed at the newly renovated Hotel Theodore (1531 7th Avenue), which was centrally located to public transport, shops and attractions. It's a really cute hotel with nice, clean rooms and offers its guests daily complementary happy hour drinks. Check out their website to see if there are any deals before booking.


On Friday after checking in I walked down Pine Street past all the stores and holiday decorations to the waterfront to check out the Pike Place Market. It's a massive space and maze of different food and product stalls as well as little shops (kind of a bigger version of Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market). I stopped in to the French bakery Le Panier for a croissant and some macarons, and after wandering around for a bit I grabbed dinner from Pike Place Chowder, who are famous for their different seafood chowders (I had the New England clam chowder, which was tasty). That evening I headed out to the Neptune theater to see comedian Hari Kondabolu, which was the impetus for this trip.


On Saturday I took the short journey on the monorail to the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle and other tourist attractions. My first stop though was a walk down Broad Street to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which contains large scale sculptures and native plants within its nine acres along the waterfront. There were diverse and interesting pieces throughout, and it is a calming place to wander around (and appears to be a local exercise spot).



Next I walked back to the Seattle Center and went to the amazing Chihuly Garden and Glass (read a detailed post about my visit here). Then I headed to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) to check out a few of their exhibitions. There were lots of different little music exhibits, including ones on Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie, and a history of guitars.


One thing I was really excited to see was The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited. As someone who grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppets it was great to learn more about Jim Henson's career and get to see some of the puppets up close and personal (I nearly gasped when I saw Kermit). The exhibition also has storyboards, costumes and film clips from Henson's various projects over the years. It is definitely work checking out and has been extended until 25 February 2018.



After my day at the Seattle Center I took the monorail back and then walked a couple blocks up to the Pacific Place Center to finally see the movie Thor: Ragnarok. I do not follow the Marvel comics at all but am a huge fan of New Zealand director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows is one of my favorite movies) so wanted to check out the film. Not really knowing much about the history of Thor made the first part a bit slow, but once Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was captured on the planet Sakaar and forced to be a gladiator under the Grandmaster (brilliantly played by Jeff Goldblum) things picked up. Thor gets reunited in the ring with his buddy Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and also makes a new friend in Korg (Taika Waititi hilariously voicing the character as a Maori bouncer from Auckland). Eventually they all escape and head back to the planet Asgard to try and rescue the citizens from Thor's sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) who has taken over as ruler. I enjoyed the Australian and New Zealand references Taika put into the movie such as mentions of the film The Castle, the Holden Commodore car, and painting spaceships in the colors of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. For a big budget action picture Taika did manage to get a lot of his humor and style into the film, and it's great that it has been so successful.

This morning I wandered around a bit at Pacific Place Center before heading back to the airport for my afternoon flight to San Francisco. Overall my trip to Seattle was a good taster and gave me an opportunity to orient myself with the city. I was very lucky with the weather in that although it was cold I didn't experience any rain. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity to return again someday to explore more of Seattle.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Chihuly Garden And Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a long-term exhibition of artist Dale Chihuly's work located in the Seattle Center. It contains a comprehensive collection of his works throughout his career spread across eight galleries, a glasshouse and lush outside garden.

As you enter the exhibition the first room is the Glass Forest which contains a series of neon glass tubes.


Next are the works in the Northwest Room, which take their inspiration from the First Nations people of the Northwest, particularly the form of baskets.


The Sealife Room is full of intricate glass work inspired by different sea animals and plants, including a giant sealife glass sculpture in the middle of the room.


The Persian Ceiling is a room where you can sit and look up at all the works assembled together within the ceiling, which are almost like a 3D stained glass window.


Mille Fiori is a giant floor length garden of glass sculptures, with the little intricate details revealed as you walk around the piece.


Ikebana & Float Boat contain many different types of glass sculptures both within and alongside the boats.


The series of Chandeliers are quite detailed glass sculptures in different colors that located both within an indoor gallery and along a walkway in the museum.



The Macchia Forest is the final gallery room, which is full of beautiful hand blown glass bowls.


The main highlight of the museum is the Glasshouse and the large 100 foot long glass sculpture hanging along the length of its ceiling. It is simply breathtaking to look at as you also get views of the outdoor gardens, sky and even the Space Needle.


The extensive outdoor Garden contains glass sculptures interwoven with plants and trees. It's a very unique way to display the art within a natural context.



The museum also has a theater that shows a series of short films about Chihuly's different exhibitions around the world throughout his career and how they came together. In addition, every hour there is a glass blowing demonstration out in the courtyard where you can watch and learn how a piece is made. For the one I watched they were making a vase and unfortunately it broke off and shattered towards the end of the process (but that's the life of glass blowing - it doesn't always work out).

If you are ever in Seattle you have to check out Chihuly Garden and Glass as it is a must do activity for tourists and locals.

Friday, December 15, 2017

An Evening With Hari Kondabolu

I have become a big fan of comedian Hari Kondabolu through his podcast Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell. Since I missed Hari’s show in Oakland by a week I decided to fly up to Seattle to finally see him perform live at the Neptune theater. Hari did two sold out shows tonight (I went to the 10pm show), which were taped for a Netflix special. After being welcomed by comedy legend Bobcat Goldthwait (who was directing the special), Liz Miele came out and did a short stand-up set to warm up the crowd. Her material touched on topics around family, friends, and health and wellbeing.

Hari came out to massive cheers from the sold out crowd. He started out with some inter-city rivalry jokes about Portland, which played well with the Seattle crowd. Hari covered a lot of material during his set, from the political with Trump and the unleashing of overt racism and sexism that has resulted, to the personal with having people pronounce his name correctly, his relationship and interactions with his parents, and love for mangoes (#MangoTalk). Hari is really good at exploring issues in an intelligent way from different angles, which was the case for his observations on gentrification, healthcare and airport security (which I could really relate to having been on five different flights over the past two weeks). While I was hoping for all new material, I did recognise some bits from his previous comedy album releases and YouTube clips, which was understandable considering he was taping a special.

As these shows were being taped there were points throughout the set where Hari would pause to re-state something for edits. At end they had to do a few extra crowd shots for the opening and closing credits, so while those were set up Bobcat and Hari told a couple of funny off the record stories to the crowd. I'm glad I was finally able to see Hari do stand-up in person, and hopefully he will make a return visit to Australia in 2018. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, I would strongly urge you to watch Hari's fantastic documentary The Problem with Apu.

Here's a clip of one of my favorite bits from the evening about Hari's own healthcare plan:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Grizzly Bear- Painted Ruins USA Tour

One of the exciting things about being home was being able to catch Grizzly Bear play the second of their two shows at The Warfield in San Francisco in support of their latest album Painted Ruins. As the band have yet to tour the album in Australia this was my first opportunity to get to hear many of these songs live. Gabby joined me for the evening, and we arrived as the stage was getting set up with some lovely cloud like backdrops hanging from the rafters.

The band came out onto the stage to big applause and launched into "Four Cypresses." They ended up playing a lot of my favorite tracks off their albums throughout the night, including "Mourning Sound" "Cut-Out" and "Neighbors" from Painted Ruins (unfortunately we didn't get "Aquarian" as it was only played at the first show), "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" off of Shields, "Two Weeks" and "While You Wait For The Others" off of Veckatimest, and "On A Neck, On A Spit" from Yellow House.

It was an amazing live set and I am always impressed by how the band manage to recreate the complex layers of their album tracks live, both through harmonies and instruments. The lighting for the show also added a lot to the mood of the songs. Ed Droste and most of us in the crowd were in a celebratory mood with Doug Jones win over Roy Moore for the US Senate seat in Alabama (a little glimmer of hope in a dark year). For the encore they played the very early track "Shift" and then brought the house down with "Sun In Your Eyes" to finish. I'm looking forward to catching them again when they play Zoo Twilights in Melbourne in March 2018.

Here's the slightly NSFW video for "Mourning Sound"

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Maui

For the past few days I have been enjoying the start of my four week vacation with a little stopover in Maui on my way to San Francisco. I arrived on Sunday, 3 December via three flights with brief stops in Sydney and Honolulu. The weather here has been slightly cooler than the heatwave I experienced in Melbourne over the past two weeks, but it has been warm and pleasant. I have been staying at the Aston Ka'anapali Shores in a junior suite with a kitchen (thanks to a free upgrade). The place is very close to where I stayed when I was last here in 2011. They have two great pool areas, hot tubs and assorted activities on the grounds each day, although there isn't really any beach access. However, I still had lovely views of a couple good sunsets along the water when the clouds weren't too thick.



The main reason for the stopover in Maui was to meet up with my brother James, sister-in-law Simi and her family, my nephew Logan and niece Kylie. It has been good to spend time with them and celebrate a couple family milestones. One was James and Simi renewing their wedding vows on Kapalua Beach to celebrate their ten year wedding anniversary this year. After the short ceremony we celebrated with champagne and appetizers at the outside seating area of Merriman's Maui.


We also celebrated Logan's birthday by going to the Maui Ocean Center, which has a mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits. We happened to be there on the day that they do vet check-ups for the green sea turtles, so it was very exciting for Logan to watch as the staff cleaned, measured and weighed them. The place is a perfect spot for kids to explore, and was also a good activity for what turned out to be a very windy day.


Overall these past few days have been fairly chill, with a lot of time spent in the pool swimming with Logan and Kylie. Yesterday I had most of the day to myself as my brother went golfing, so I walked down to the public part of Ka'anapali Beach to sit and watch the waves and get a bit of sun. I had lunch at Duke's Beach House, where my awesome waitress comped me a Hula Pie, which is made of a chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted macadamia nuts and whipped cream. It was delicious (and filling).


This morning I bid farewell to everyone as they were on an earlier flight to Sacramento, and grabbed breakfast at the Beach Club before heading off to the airport for my flight to San Francisco. It's colder in the Bay Area, but not as bad as I was expecting for a nighttime arrival (and no fog!).
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