Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Summer Vacation 2016

I just got back from my 5-day late summer vacation. As per usual for my wife and I, it was a packed few days, and I was worn out by the end. Parts of my body are still recovering.

I may do some separate posts on a few things, but here's what we did:

1) Walt Disney World
2) Our second cruise this year (on Carnival Victory this time)
3) ATV ride through the Bahamas

Disney World is pretty hellish at this time of year - I do not recommend it. Certain attractions were fun, but walking around in the 90+ degree tropical weather, in the middle of those crowds (seriously, don't kids go to school anymore?) really wore me down quickly. And except for our FastPass events, which you only get three of per day, we really weren't able to do much.

Incidentally, this was our rental car:

That's a brand new 2017 Corvette Stingray. Cost basically the same amount as a regular car, so I booked it. No idea why it was so cheap. But hey, don't question it - just do it!

I gotta say, driving around Florida in this thing did feel a little Miami Vice to me. (Yes, I know, not the same car. Same type of car and same color, though... and same surroundings. And Crockett did technically drive a Corvette through season one!)

Funny thing? Brand new car (317 miles on it) and the engine light was on the entire time we had it. My theory is that the last people who had it filled it up with cheap gas. Cars like this need premium, guys!

Another funny thing: Chevrolet had this exact same car as the featured car in the showroom at Epcot's Test Track. Same color and everything. At least I got to see the sticker price, which was "only" $58,000 and change. Really not too bad for a car like this! And I could drive this car every day; it was really comfortable and well-mannered, but a beast when I wanted it to be. I've always wanted a Corvette, since I was a kid...

The cruise was fun. I've decided I like cruising. I'll almost definitely devote a post just to that.

Video of the ATV ride is coming. Just gotta edit it together. I wore a dorky looking phone chest mount through the entire ride. But I got some cool footage.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I have a new(ish)YouTube channel

I've started a new YouTube channel, so far mostly focusing on vintage computers, tech and games. This isn't my first or latest video, but it's my favorite that I've done so far (of the four or five):

I called the channel "modern classic" mostly because I suck at coming up with names, but also because I basically do want to focus on things (mostly products, admittedly) that I think have stood, or will stand, the test of time. That allows me freedom to cover a whole bunch of different stuff I like, but it should all tie together.

Check out and subscribe to Modern Classic here.

Incidentally, I've also got a long-standing YouTube channel for the stuff I put up as parts of blog posts here... you kind of get one by default. It's pretty random and a lot of the videos in it are just snippets (and some date back to near the beginnings of YouTube!), but if you want to look at it too, be my guest. I'll probably still use it for stuff that really doesn't fit in with the new channel. There are a few things in there that I wish I could move over to Modern Classic, but Google doesn't allow that.

Friday, September 09, 2016

PERFUME at Hammerstein Ballroom NYC 09/04/2016

This past weekend, Japanese electro superstars Perfume paid their second visit to New York City. And WOW, what a show.

Let me take a step back for the uninitiated. Perfume is still not very well known in the United States, and it's easy to look at them and think they're some kind of cheesy pop group. They are not.

Perfume describe themselves as "idols with artistry". Produced by Yasutaka Nakata of electro group Capsule, their sound crosses from pop to trance and house. But their sound is only half the story. Every one of their songs is accompanied by a visual overload of futuristic lighting design and stage effects, as well as incredibly intricate and difficult synchronized dance routines. All done in heels. Respect!

Think Daft Punk, if both members of Daft Punk were constantly doing a mix of synchronized hip hop dance, ballet and martial arts moves all concert long. In heels.

They're a true sensory experience like no one else. They make other electronic groups' live shows seem like a bad joke. They have literally redefined the skills required to entertain as an electronic act. Whenever I just listen to one of Perfume's CD's, I feel like I'm missing something. I don't feel like I'm really getting the point.

This is the point. Full-on performance art, just a lot more fun:

That's not my video - in fact that's from their 10th anniversary concert (and may be taken down eventually, so hopefully you see it first). That was shot at Budokan, which is actually a small arena for them in Japan - they often sell out stadiums in their home country. They are YUUUUUGE.

In New York, they've played Hammerstein Ballroom both times they've been here - a much smaller venue than they're probably used to. I saw them both this week and in 2014 - there's actually an official disc of the "WORLD TOUR 3rd" 2014 NYC show:

(also ripe for a record label takedown - enjoy it while you can. Then buy the actual disc.)

I really hope they give this week's show the same treatment, because it was even more visually impressive and it was also the last show of the tour. Drones, lasers, LED costumes, projection mapping, they threw the kitchen sink in there this time around. There are a few fan videos floating around on YouTube - I don't like to embed fan videos, but feel free to search.

I didn't write down or memorize the set list, and I haven't been able to find a good source for the show on the 4th. But here's the set list for the 3rd if anyone's interested - it should be the same or similar:

Cosmic Explorer
Pick Me Up
Cling Cling (Album Mix)
Miracle Worker
Next Stage with YOU
Medley: Relax In The City / Toumei Ningen / Spending All My Time / Fushizen na Girl / Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow / Computer City / Imitation World / Sweet Refrain
Baby Face (Performed with English lyrics)
Dream Fighter
Fake It
Jenny wa Gokigen Naname
(Juicy Fruits cover)
Chocolate Disco (2012-Mix)

STAR TRAIN (Album Mix)

I don't know a lot of their songs by heart yet so I was a little disappointed they didn't play the few that I do know and really like: Game, Party Maker or edge. (They played two of these in 2014.) But, it's a tour promoting their latest album "Cosmic Explorer", so most of the songs were from that. Otherwise, they played a few of the songs that made them famous, which I can't fault them for.

Ah, what the heck. Here's Party Maker again, probably my favorite version of it that I've seen, from the 4th TOUR IN DOME disc:

That's just fantastic. Have you ever even seen a show like this from anyone else?

At the show this week, there were a couple of long MC segments, as is common for Japanese groups, and this time it was almost entirely in English. Nocchi and Yuka-chan are both getting very good at English, and were even able to carry on a conversation with the crowd. A-chan is a little shakier - she's obviously learning but she had to recruit a Japanese-American member of the audience (his name was Ken) to translate most of her comments. This led to some unintended comedy as Ken often wasn't ready and even once admitted to "zoning out" while he was supposed to be listening. Nocchi, who was on his side of the stage, eventually had to give him cues to keep his head in the game.

I'm always amazed at how they can do what they do for hours on end. If you look at the set list carefully, and imagine a couple of long MC's thrown in, you can see that they do give themselves breaks every once in a while. But still - the amount of energy they put into a single song is more than most artists put into an entire show, and that's regardless of genre. And they barely break a sweat. And they do it, again, in heels. This point can't be emphasized enough.

I'm normally more of a rock person myself, but there's just no way to look at what they do and say "eh". They are probably the only group of any kind that makes me say "whoa, look at that!" whenever I see them. And that's true almost whether or not I actually like the song they're singing. (Do they actually sing live? Sometimes. Yes. Not always. The singing's not really the point.)

I'm really not sure how long they can keep this up - they've been around for quite a while now, and this has got to be physically demanding. They said at the show this week that their goal in America is to make it to Madison Square Garden (with all of us). Here's hoping they can do it soon.

ONE TIP: If they somehow make it back to Hammerstein, get tickets on the floor. Both times I've been in the second balcony, and while the sound is good (and loud) everywhere and it's a lot closer than you'd ever get to them in Japan, it still can feel a bit like you're watching the show from outside. Like most Japanese bands, they have no opening band and they start on time. So you don't need to worry about standing around for hours waiting - there was plenty of space only about 20 feet from the stage as late as about 7:45PM, with an 8PM start.

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Real Twin Peaks: The Great Northern Hotel

I'm saving perhaps the best for last - or at least the location I consider the most iconic of the show, as it closes both the credits sequence and opens many episodes, and it's probably the most picturesque of all Twin Peaks locations. This is the Great Northern Hotel, aka the real-life Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, Washington. My wife and I stayed here one night during our visit.

No, this is not a still from the show - this is reality in 2016.

The Salish Lodge is a tourist attraction in its own right due to the Snoqualmie Falls it sits beside. In fact, while the hotel interior in the show always seems bustling, haven't you ever thought it odd how deserted the surrounding area is depicted as, and how nobody ever mentions the waterfall? Wouldn't you think that a waterfall like this would attract a bunch of people in and of itself? In fact, there are viewing platforms for the falls all down the cliffs here, and a giant parking lot for them with tourists running around all over the place.

While the show makes it look like this little parking lot in front is all the hotel needs, the overhead walkway my wife and I are standing on to take the photo above leads to the real hotel parking lot, which is far larger. The lot in front is strictly for valet parking. The waterfall and park have their own parking lot stretching to the south (to the right of the photo above). In other words, the whole area is basically one big parking lot.

In this scene, Audrey leaves the hotel and is immediately picked up by a waiting car.

I couldn't remember which specific door she walked out of but I knew it had to be in this area - luckily I got it in the shot!

In reality I believe this is just a door to the kitchen for the basic casual restaurant.

We had a lot of little Twin Peaks-like moments while we were in this hotel, like a large group of random kids yelling and screaming in the lobby for no reason, or the real estate conference going on in one of the banquet rooms, the attendees of which we called "the Norwegians".

That said, the interior and rooms do not look like the show - as you'd expect, since most of the show (including the pilot) was not actually filmed there.

Interestingly, though, our room did have a very similar layout to Dale Cooper's room.

Meta! Watching Twin Peaks at the Great Northern. (Kinda wish I'd gotten a shot on the iPad of the Great Northern to make it even more meta, but whatever.)

Overall it's a really nice hotel, and there is currently a Twin Peaks package called the "Great Northern Escape" available, so they don't shy away from their association with the show, but they don't do much to promote it either. Don't expect to find Twin Peaks merchandise in the gift shop nowadays (I've heard that you would have at one point).

Many of the lobby and conference room scenes in the pilot were actually filmed at the Kiana Lodge, which I posted about earlier and which served as the Blue Pine Lodge/Martell residence in the show.

For example, this great scene of the Great Northern's concierge area that established Audrey as a bad girl was filmed in this room at the Kiana Lodge:

The early scenes with the "real" Norwegians were also filmed here, although not in this specific room. (There's another adjacent to this with a similar style and artwork, but different ceiling.)

For the series after the pilot, the artwork and wood paneling was reproduced on a Los Angeles soundstage.

Well, that about wraps it up - I may just make one more post showing some more of the "town" that would make up Twin Peaks if it was more heavily featured on the show. (You see some of the towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie in the backgrounds of locations like the RR Diner and the giant log.) But this is the last real show location we visited. Hope you enjoyed seeing some of these and how they look today - hopefully we'll see some of them in the new episodes next year!

The Real Twin Peaks: The Sheriff's Department

The Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department is actually the former office of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Mill, aka the Packard Sawmill. They are literally across the street from each other.

Yep, the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department is now the DirtFish Rally Racing School.

That said, it looks pretty much the same!

The green trim is now orange and the window shades are gone, but otherwise the building itself is fully intact, maintained and in current use.

As this entire area is private property and we weren't really supposed to be there, we didn't go inside. I'm not sure if the interior looks like it did in the pilot (the interrogation scenes were actually shot inside this building). I assume it probably more or less does, though - the overall layout would work well for a school.

This might give you a better idea of the lay of the land - use the big blue pickup truck as a reference point between these two photos:

That's the lone remaining smokestack from the Packard Sawmill.

Incidentally, while the show always gave me the impression that the Sheriff's station was on top of a hill with a road passing directly in front of it, in fact it's at the bottom of a hill in front of a parking lot with a single outlet. Often you'd see vehicles race in front of the station and stop, then pull out going in the same direction. That's not possible - in fact they were either rushing to or from the end of the parking lot!

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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