Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm Back

Life has been interesting lately. Ups and downs. To sum it up simply, I'll quote the great LCD Soundsystem.
New York I Love You, but You're Bring Me Down

However, I was still productive over the past month or so since my last post. Mostly resulting in this:

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rocking in the Heights

As mentioned in a previous post, playing tour guide makes one feel like they really belong somewhere. Round two of my tour guiding came mid-December when my father came out for a visit. We never really had any set agenda. Lots of walking and seeing what there is to see.

On a particular Tuesday we must have put eight miles under our feet. While I can't be exactly sure where exactly we walked, the Google map at right is some indication of the very indirect route we took to wherever it is we all went.



Contrary to popular belief. There are not 12 words for snow in the Inuit language. But it's fun to pretend.

Running into the New Year

This morning I welcomed in the New Year in the healthiest way that I believe I ever have. Healthy mentally, spiritually, and most of all, physically. I slipped and slid my way into 2010 by participating in the New York Road Runners Midnight Run.

Imagine a New Year's Eve like most peoples. Get together with friends at somebody's place or a bar a few hours before midnight. Have a nice dinner, a glass of wine, some more drinks. Get good and liquored up before the ball drop. Like an intoxicated choir, you count down the final ten seconds in unison.... 3-2-1 Happy New Year!! You cheer, grab the person next to you, kiss them, and shout some syllables that resemble the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. This is not unlike a New Year's Eve of my past.

Compared to my New Year's Eve last night. Similar in some fashions. Went to a friend's place for nice dinner. Had a glass of wine with that dinner, and only that one glass of wine. Then continued to drink water. Hung out until about 11:00. Then got on the warmest running clothes we had and made our way to the 72nd Street entrance of Central Park. A crowd of a few thousand all in high spirits and tight running pants were there, ready to stomp in the new year by putting four miles under their legs. We corralled ourselves behind the start line, counted down as every other New Years Eve party does, and once we got down to 1, fireworks lit the sky and we began our run. Along the route drunks and sobers alike lined the road to slap hands with the runners as we all wished each other a great 2010. At the two mile water station they even had some sparkling apple cider to help runners traditionally welcome in the new year.

Afterward, we hung out in Central Park for a bit and joined in the party that was pumping there, a DJ and all the normal post run stations of water, fruits and bagels. That party didn't last long for us, as we were wet and beginning to get cold, so we hopped over to the nearest pub for a celebratory beer, and I mean a celebratory beer. In general, a pretty sober New Years in terms of alcohol, but absolutely intoxicating in terms of jovial spirits and proper beginnings.

If yesterday and today were any indication of how this new year is going to turn out, then be ready for a Shawn Connelly explosion. 2010 has arrived. I'm going to enjoy every second of it and it's going to love every second of me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Touching the Hand of God

Today I "shook" two hands that many would only dream of touching. I almost wet myself when I touched one, the other was nifty, but meh, didn't excite me.

A month ago I booked tickets for the Dr. Oz show, intending to go with my mother. Her flight, however, left the day before the show taping so I was left with two seats in the audience at 30 Rockefeller Center to see this glorified television doctor talk about health fads... at least I thought he was over-glorified. My mom loves this guy, but I never saw the appeal. Then I went to his show taping and was forced to watch an entire episode. He's actually quite an informative cat. On this particular episode, he talked about internet weight loss scams, asthmatic peoples, and self-defense, among other things. Seeing the magic behind the show (aka the amount of times he screws up and says "let's run it again") is interesting to witness. Later that day, however, I saw a true master practicing his craft.

Thanks to an incredibly generous friend, I was able to obtain a ticket to see a live taping of The Colbert Report. A dream. Seeing this show live was an utter dream. The taping began at 7:00pm. I got in line at 4:00. I wanted to be as close to Stephen as possible. I wanted to smell him (yes, my passion for Stephen is on the creepy side). If you ever watch the show, you'd be surprised how small the studio actually is, unlike Dr. Oz's ample space. Whenever Stephen runs from his desk to the interview table (by the fireplace) he over-exaggerates the run to make it seem father away than it is. It's actually like five steps.

Enough about the studio. Let's talk about how I was giddy as a school girl with a new My Little Pony. I almost cried when Stephen walked onto the set. Before the show, he always does a meet and greet with the audience. The fantastic part about this is he does it out of character. The narcissistic, cocky character that is Stephen Colbert gets set aside for a short moment and we get a view of the real Stephen.

The taping itself was a site to see. As is mentioned to the audience multiple times before we even enter the studio, Stephen is an improv actor. He did, after all, begin in sketch comedy. Therefore, to properly fuel Stephen, the audience is encouraged to laugh, hoot, holler, and enjoy themselves. Which is why you can hear me give an audible 'whoot' after Stephen mentions Boy Scouting around 3 minutes 23 seconds into the episode.

Once the cameras start rolling, Stephen just flows and never skips a beat. He takes about a 10 minute pause wherever a commercial break lies in the show. At that point, his director, producer, and make-up artist come to the desk and I assume brief each other on the following segment. Besides these little pauses, this comedic genius seems practically flawless. Even when his guests match him in whit. Such as tonight, Brother Guy Consolmagno, who talked about the Catholic church encouraging exploration of extraterrestrial life, and Sherman Alexie, a native American author who is fighting to keep books in print.

After the taping, Stephen sincerely thanked the audience for being a part of the show. I like to think that thank you was directed specifically at me. I proved it by diving over four chairs as he left the room to give him a high five. I'm never washing that hand again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No Longer the Tourist

Once you've played tour guide in a new city, you no longer feel like the tourist. You feel grounded. You feel a bit more like your actually there. I had such an opportunity with my mother's visit to NYC around Thanksgiving.

From our first night, we hit the city hard. Which I was happy about. With all the work lately, I have not had the opportunity to try many new things around the city. So I was more than pleased to galavant around Chinatown and Little Italy on our first night. All the Italian restaurants had just put up their Christmas displays for the season. Quite a site. We shared a delectable Italian seafood dish at Trattoria Canta Napoli on Mullbery. I also ate my weight in bread. I always overdose on the oil and balsamic vinegar.

After the meal, ma had to do some shopping of the unsavory sort. Although I feared for my life, we did, in fact survive.

We then journeyed uptown to see the night-turned-day monstrosity that is Times Square. Besides just taking it all in, we met some fantastic characters. One of them even tried to take advantage of my mother. We also had to use a public bathroom. Which would have been a problem were it not for the Charmin NYC Restrooms where we couldn't help but to "Enjoy the Go."

The next day was more getting around the city, seeing what there is to see. We started at my favorite grocer here in the city, the Union Square Green Market. The weather is getting cooler and a few of the farms have packed up shop for the season, but I can still find everything I need at this wonderful one-stop green shop.

We also just so happen to catch the opening day of the Union Square holiday market as well. Local retailers, human and dog alike, set up shop for the month of December to make Holiday shopping all that more convenient and not to mention fun! Oh and it was here that I had my first Waffle and Dinges treat, drenched in Nutella, an unhealthy but savory morsel.

The rest of our day consisted of visiting Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and then heading up to 76th street and Central Park West to watch the Balloons get blown up for the Macy's Parade the following day. That was quite a site. Seeing Kermit the Frog bent over in front of the Energizer Bunny. However, that was a great pre-show to our next destination, the musical Avenue Q. Parental discretion is advised.

The following day was a highlight of my mother's visit. The Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade. We woke up quite early, but it paid off as we got a solid spot standing right outside of Carnegie Hall to watch the floats and Balloons as they turned down 7th Avenue. My parade highlight reel would include Spiderman and some other rock'n balloon, Yo Gabba Gabba having their own float, the Roots (with Jimmy Fallon, who I could take or leave), and finally Cindy Lauper in a pretty pink castle.

The remainder of my mother's days in NYC were sprinkled with some work schedules that I couldn't ignore. However, we did take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, saw the play Our Town, and took a trip upstate to see the theme-park where I was employed this summer. Overall, I was a successful tour guide if I do say so myself. But whether I was that great or not, just lovely to spend some time with me mum.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Back at Penny's

A week ago I had an incredible experience on this Penny's stage. I simply couldn't sit by and let that performance be a one time thing. So I made my way back to Under St. Mark's Theatre for the open mic themed "Why Art?" Truly a unique theme for an open mic and there were plenty of unique answers. Here's my last minute excuse for an answer. But it made for a nifty little performance...

(video to come soon)

In the meantime, check out some of the Penny's message boards:

Friday, November 20, 2009

169 Bar

After my first performance in New York City, at Penny's Open Mic, I was ready to have my actual first gig, a jazz set at the 169 Bar. It's been a while since I've sat down with a group of musicians with whom I have never played, said alright here's the key and tempo, and then away we go. It was nerve-wracking. Especially because these were some fantastic musicians. Band leader and pianist Isamu McGregor plays some mean keys, while keeping the tight drummer and ridiculous chic bass player grooving in the right direction. All three were very chill, welcoming people.

My set with them was only three songs long. But that's all I needed to get my feet wet in NYC's jazz open mic world. We did the standard Honeysuckle Rose, a Kurt Elling chart called In the Winelight, and finished up with Michael Bublé's version of How Sweet it Is. A fitting ending cause it was pretty sweet to look out into the audience and see some good friends of mine, new and old alike, supporting me. Thanks guys and gals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Penny's Worth of Music

Band email marketing
There are two audio tracks here.
(1) Acoustic Open Mic - New York, New York
(2) Penny's Open Mic Podcast

Be sure to check out both. (Excuse the low quality on the podcast, had to make it fit on the site)
Thanks to Penny and all the open mic performers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Almost Famous

Today was full of brief encounters with fame. It all started at my place of employment, which is where most of my days have been beginning or ending lately. In all honesty, can't really complain about that. Especially on a day like today.

In the shift briefing, our main topic of discussion was the craziness that was to begin that evening. At 7pm, actors Jason Schwartzman and Meryl Streep joined with director Wes Anderson to plug their new film The Fantastic Mr. Fox (apparently children's books made movies are all the rage now, and they all happen to be my favorite children's books). Customers started lining up at 3pm to catch a glimpse of these super stars, watch a few exclusive clips of the film, and do a little Q&A as well. The questions were interesting as most were directed at Wes, and rightfully so. The man is an innovator, and this film is testament to that. Much of his discussion was about working with animation for the first time, specifically stop motion puppets. Meryl and Jason had there share of talk time as well. Meryl chatting in her cheery adorable-even-for-a-60-year-old kind of way (even when she stopped the interview to politely ask the photographers to stop their annoying picture clicking) and Jason was just like the characters he plays, quite and subdued, yet witty.

Playing security guard for that event made the shift go by all the quicker, and before I knew it, I was sitting in the days end meeting. All the employees gathered on the store's glass steps to talk out the day. In our ten minute meeting, three separate tourists walked by our large glass doors to shoot a couple shots of us stunning computer specialists huddled together in our new red holiday shirts.

I guess I can't blame them really. It seems it's harder to run across an employee from our store than it is a Harvard Graduate....statistically speaking.

As if running into three Hollywood icons and getting paparazzi'd wasn't enough, I had more cameras in my face after work. A friend invited me to a video shoot for a band that he promotes. The band is actually part of a "reality" show that will air on the CW this spring. So upon walking into the bar I had to sign a waiver, and succumb to the bright lights and cameras that swarmed the bar. The band only played three songs, one of them twice just so they could get all the right shots. Meanwhile, the "reality" of it all was that the most attractive women in the bar were escorted to the front in order to have a pleasant backdrop for the shows characters in the audience, who were quite attractive in their own right and actually really friendly people too.

Yes, I got a taste of Hollywood today but I'm glad it wasn't a full serving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When You Say Wisconsin....

Sometimes I just can't help but to miss that state between Minnesota and Lake Michigan. Such as this past Sunday. I had a fabulous Halloween Saturday night, but Sunday just about topped it with my first visit to Kettle of Fish, a cosy little bar with all the comforts of home.

When entering the bar, my friends and I quickly came to the realization that we probably weren't going to get a place to sit. However, upon venturing to the back of the bar we discovered the game watching den that was reminiscent of every basement in Wisconsin: couches lining the room, a fireplace, Packer gear hanging from wall to wall, a television that faced each corner of the room, and most everyone in the bar was enjoying a tasty Leinenkugel's Amber, the premier Wisconsin beer on tap.

For a good idea of what that Sunday entailed, smell the cheese.

As much fun as it is to enjoy the Packer game and return to my roots, there are other times I look back at Wisco and for as proud as I am to say I'm from there, I can still only say, wow...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Night of the Living Dead

Tonight's the night. You still have some time incase you haven't been preparing for the Zombie Attack like I have. After all, I do live next to a cemetery. For a few quick ideas from some young bright minds, see the following video:

However for a more professional, well informed approach, you still have time to read The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. He breaks down the zombie attack to the "z" (get it, like to the "t"?). I'll spare you a lot of details but give you his basic 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack:

Organize before they rise!
They feel no fear, why should you?
Use your head: cut off theirs.
Blades don't need reloading.
Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
Get of the car, get onto the bike.
Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
No place is safe, only safer.
The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.