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Cirque Dreams Illumination left me squeezing my boyfriend’s hand in suspense

16 Sep

I left Durham Performing Arts Center dizzy and dazzled last night. It was opening night for Cirque Dreams Illumination, a show for which I had absolutely no expectations. I’ve never seen a Cirque show, and until yesterday, I had no idea Cirque Dreams is not affiliated with Cirque de Soleil (but it turns out that doesn’t matter).

I went with my BF because we were excited to see an ad for his Design group in the new playbill. But it turns out the show was just as thrilling. I literally spent half of the show clinging to my BF and whispering: “Don’t do it, Don’t do it, Don’t do it” as balancers, strap fliers, aerialists and a chair climber attempted breath-holding feats.

There were moments where I was so tense because I was worried a man walking a tight rope would crash onto the stage as he did somersaults. At one point, a guy climbed onto a swinging platform, balanced on a board over a cylinder and stepped through a hoop all while dangling high above the stage.¬† I saw contortionists rearrange their bodies in impossible positions and climb on top of each other in ways I didn’t know were humanly possible.

The climax came when a petite woman climbed into a series of metal rings and held on for her life while the man below held the ring in the air and spun it so fast that it left me dizzy. The picture below shows the scene I’m describing, only imagine those rings spinning so fast that you can barely see the woman inside. (I e-mailed DPAC folks this morning for some pictures because I feel they do a better job showing off the show than my descriptions. They were taken by DPAC photographer Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.)

Photo by DPAC photographer Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the narrator, who occasionally would come on stage to sing. I couldn’t understand half the words she was singing. Also, at times there were so many stunts and dances happening on stage that I couldn’t focus. The BF told me afterward that the show is a dream for someone with attention deficit disorder.

Some parents brought their children, and I actually enjoyed the fact that a boy about 6-years-old was seated behind me asking his dad if certain things were real and wondering out loud how the performers pulled off their tricks.

The show ends Sunday, and tickets range from $25 to $60. We were on the main level, but I think this is one of those shows where it doesn’t matter how high up or far back you are from the stage. Students can get tix for $20 if they get to the theatre two hours before the show.

If you’ve been to a Cirque show (or if you make it to Illumination), let me know what you thought.

Swap your clothes this weekend at the Scrap Exchange’s “Swap-O-Rama-Rama”

31 Aug

Clothing swaps may be the best way to revive your wardrobe on a budget. I can’t believe I’ve never been to one given how much I love thrifting. And it looks like I won’t even get to make it to the next major exchange in the Triangle.

My beloved Scrap Exchange is hosting a clothing swap Saturday at Marbles Museum in Raleigh. “The Swap-O-Rama-Rama” is designed to promote creativity over consumerism. To hit that point home, they’ll have sewing stations set up around the event with designers to help you transform your new finds into something new-to-you.

Here’s how it works:

Participants bring unwanted clothing and accessories and the core of the swap is the gigantic piles of free clothing sorted into categories: pants, shirts, skirts, sweaters etc. These piles are the collective total of each participant’s contribution of one bag of unwanted clothes. Take home as much clothing as you can carry. Remainders go to Retails Thrift Store in Raleigh.

So, now for the bummer. I plan to be at the beach this weekend, so I won’t be able to swap my duds. Damn!

But please go for me and bring the whole family. The Scrap Exchange press release says the event is for women, men and children! It’s the seventh swap the Scrap Exchange has put on, so I’m guessing it’s probably pretty well-organized (look at the photo provided by Scrap Exchange executive director Ann Woodward for proof).

There’s a suggested $10 donation (kids are free though), but the Scrap Exchange is a non-profit, so if they make any money from the event, you can bet it’s going to a good cause. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Sept. 5.

Let me know if you score any fab finds.

I made friends with a lonely balloon at Harris Teeter

13 Aug

I stopped in the Harris Teeter at North Hills last night to pick up a bottle of wine on my way home from sewing class. As I was walking to the register, a lonely balloon caught my eye. So I tucked the bottle of wine under my arm (probably not very smart in hindsight, but I didn’t drop it) and snapped this photo with my iPhone.

A lonely balloon

I posted it to Twitter from the parking lot, and the comments started pouring in:

Barrelofmonkey_normal
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jrenee9556: aww @GinnySkal…thats so sad.
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josh_hofer: @GinnySkal hahah aww! that’s such a great photo!
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Season_Moore: @GinnySkal I imagine that was a little startling coming around the corner!
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weaselfunk: @ginnyskal http://twitpic.com/do8cz – that’s no lost balloon! it’s ghost child with a balloon!
Thanks for the comments, tweeps! I loved this photo and it really cheered me up after a lousy day.

You only have 30 days to visit N.C. Museum of Art before it temporarily closes

5 Aug

I’m worried that a lot of people don’t realize the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh will temporarily close on Sept. 7 and won’t reopen until April 2010.

The museum is shutting its doors so it can prepare for the opening of its expansion: a 127,000 square-foot building that will house the museum’s permanent collection. The existing building will shut down so that crews can move and install more than 750 works of art into the new galleries. The museum put out a press release today reminding people to squeeze a visit in before the museum closes.

As works of art come off the walls, many will go into the conservation lab to be treated, cleaned, or reframed for their April debut. The lobby area of the current building will undergo renovations as well. For the safety of visitors and protection of the collection, the building cannot remain open during these critical operations.

You can still visit the museum’s 164-acre park while the museum is closed. Read more about the expansion here.

Abstract video I made at N.C. Museum of Art sculpture park this weekend.

21 Jul

Testing my Flickr auto uploader.

Video game symphony brings your favorite video games to life

8 Jul

I love video games. When I was a little girl, I named a hamster Zelda because of my love for “The Legend of Zelda.” I’ve been known to go on video game binges. The latest is Claustrophobia for the iPhone. I’ll play a game every spare second I get for a few days or a weeks, then move onto something else. Earlier this year I was obsessed with Rock Band and then Grand Theft Auto IV. I already told you about the time I went on a Guitar Hero binge.

That’s why I’m so excited about the upcoming video game symphony scheduled Saturday night at Koka Booth Amphitheater at Regency Park. The concert will be performed by the North Carolina Symphony and the Concert Singers of Cary. It will feature music from Sonic the Hedgehog, Legends of Zelda, Sim City 4 and more.

Best of all, there will be graphics from the games on big screens above the orchestra to accompany the music. Here’s a preview that was submitted to MyNC.

Now the sad part … I already have unbreakable plans on Saturday night, so I can’t go. But don’t let that stop you from checking this out and telling me how awesome it is. Tickets range from $25 to $30. The show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Koka Booth Ampitheatre in Cary.

A list of Fourth of July events in the Triangle

2 Jul

I’m still at work, but my mind is already firmly wrapped around the holiday weekend. If you’re sticking around the Triangle this weekend, here’s how I suggest you spend the Fourth of July:

* Go to Festival for the Eno. The 30th annual event at West Point on the Eno in Durham features over 80 performers, crafters, storytellers, children’s activites and historical tours. The 3-day festival runs July 3 to 5. Tickets are $15 per day or $35 for all three days if you buy them at the gate.

* Take in some free music at the Music on the Lawn concert series at American Tobacco. John Brown & The Groove Shop Band will perform from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. under the water tower at the American Tobacco complex. Bring blankets and chairs. Food and drinks are available from restaurant vendors.

* Go to a USA Baseball game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The game against Guetamala starts at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $7 to $9 each.

* Watch fireworks at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The public will be admitted into the ballpark to fill any empty seats for free at the end of the seventh inning of the USA Baseball game to watch the city’s fireworks display.

Here’s a list of other events happening around the Triangle on the Fourth of July.

Just be safe and have fun!

Mountain Aid Festival introduces me to Mountaintop Removal

24 Jun

I went to the Mountain Aid festival at Shakori Hills this weekend with little (OK, pretty much no) knowledge of mountaintop removal mining. I was just planning to listen to some live music, eating some smores and enjoying nature with my BF.

Instead I was moved to tears by the powerful documentary “Mountain Top Removal” by local director Michael Cusack O’Connell. The film outlines the mountaintop removal process and follows the efforts of West Virginia residents who are trying to get the government to halt the process. They also want to relocate Marsh Fork Elementary School, which sits near a sludge pond. Take a look at this Flickr photo from “ILoveMountains.org” to see where the school sits in relation to the sludge.

The documentary shows the black water pouring from residents faucets. For me the tear-jerking moment came when 16 people were arrested at the West Virginia Governor’s Office after demanding to speak to the governor about relocating the elementary school. Whether you support them or not, it’s hard not to feel their passion and plight as police hauled off their limp bodies. I’m posting the trailer for the documentary below, it recently won the Reel Current award, which was picked and presented by Al Gore at the Nashville Film Festival.

Mountaintop removal mining involves blasting summits to reveal coal, and then dumping all the extra rock and dirt. In some cases, the coal has to be washed, creating nasty sludge ponds that no one would want in their backyard.

What really made the Mountain Aid festival hit home was seeing the same people from the documentary camping beside. Several of the folks whose lives have been reshaped by mountaintop removal were at the festival, which featured performances by Kathy Mattea, the fabulous Ben Sollee and Donna the Buffalo. Proceeds from the festival went to Pennies for Promise, which is trying to relocate Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Today I read that about 200 people gathered Tuesday at a Massey Energy operation in West Virginia (the same company that the documentary references) to protest mountaintop removal. Thirty people were arrested including actress and activist Darryl Hannah. The article by Triangle writer Sue Sturgis outlines the issue and what folks protesting mountaintop removal in West Virginia would like to see happen:

Concerned citizens of Coal River Valley, as the area is known, are also pressing for the construction of a wind farm on Coal River Mountain, which is located across the river from the elementary school. A study has found that it would be possible to build more than 300 megawatts of wind energy capacity on the mountain — enough to power 70,000 homes and put $1.7 million in tax revenues in the county’s coffers annually. However, Massey — the fourth-largest coal company in the U.S. — is seeking permits to blast off the mountaintop, which is the last one left standing in the area. That would destroy the site’s wind potential.

On Thursday, the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife will hold a hearing about “the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on water quality in the Appalachia.”

So if you’re not already familiar with mountainaid removal, take the time to do some research. You can see what your connection to mountaintop coal removal here.

Triangle music blogs keep me plugged into the local music scene

15 Jun

The NationalIn the past month, I’ve seen two of my favorite bands on stage in the Triangle: The National at Lincoln Theatre and The Decemberists at Progress Energy Center. I bragged about the awesomeness of the shows on my facebook page and one of my friends asked me how I find out about all these cool concerts. I told him, he needs to read Triangle music blogs.

I don’t want you to miss out on cool shows or find out about them too late to buy tickets. So here are some of my favorite Triangle music blogs:

* Triangle Music: Bloggers Kevin and Valerie are pretty quick to post concert announcements, they attend most of the major (and cooler) shows and provide commentary, photos and videos afterward.

* Mann’s World: No show is too small for Blogger Karen Mann, who does a great job keeping readers up-to-date on local music, complete with reviews and videos. She also links to relevant local music news. If you want to learn more about the Trianlge music scene, this is an excellent place to start.

* Music.MyNC.com: My co-worker Jake Seaton found a way to take advantage of working at a TV station. He invites local bands and touring acts into NBC17 Studio B and records a live session with them, posting it in full on the music blog he created. He’s also pretty quick to post concert announcements and local music news. Jake is responsible for this beautiful slideshow from The National concert.

The Decemberists

* Scan (the Independent Weekly’s music blog): I don’t always agree with their reviews, but some of the best written music commentary in the Triangle can be found here.

* WKNC 88.1 blog: The blog for N.C. State’s student-run radio station is relatively new, but continues to be loaded with a pretty diverse mix of music news, promotions and randomness.

Unfortunately, I don’t have tickets to any upcoming concerts, so it’s time to check the local listings and pick out what I can afford. Let me know if I left out any music blogs that you love.

My take on the New York Times list of places to visit in the Triangle

12 Jun

The Triangle is receiving a shout out in this weekend’s New York Times. The Travel section features an article outlining 11 things you must do if you’re spending 36 hours in “Research Triangle, NC.”

I’m happy to report that this trusty Triangle blogger has done almost everything on the list. But somehow during my time in the Triangle, I’ve never made it to two of the must-visit places on the NYT list: Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill and Taqueria La Vaquita in Durham (the place with the plastic cow on its roof).

On the bright side, I’ve driven (or walked) past both of these restaurants many times and have always intended to go, but I’ve yet to make it. I’m sure they’ll get a boost in business in the coming weeks thanks to the article. I can assure you I’ll be one of them.

Here are the 11 places the New York Times say are worth a visit in the Triangle and my 2-cents on what they missed:

1. The N.C. Art Museum (with emphasis on the museum park). If you haven’t been, consider bringing your bike and biking over the pedestrian bridge above I-440 and waving to passers by and then heading over to Meredith College and stopping for ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s. Or pack a picnic and go watch a movie outside. Tonight they’re showing “All the President’s Men.”

2. Father & Son (the awesome vintage/antique shop in downtown Raleigh). I love this place. It’s where I scored my 1960s kitchen table. If you go, be sure to hit the recently reorganized basement (duck your head when you walk down the stairs so you don’t hit your head on the pipes) where last time I checked they still had a New Kids on the Block sleeping bag.

3. Eat at Poole’s Downtown Diner. The NYT forgot to mention the dish that all my friends dish about: The Macaroni and Cheese. OMG! It’s heaven. Seriously, I think when you get to heaven you’re surrounded by tubs¬† of Poole’s Mac & Cheese.

4. Grab a beer at Raleigh Times. I love the Times. Of course the journalist in me loves it for the history and the decor. But in addition to a fabulous (although sometimes overpriced) beer selection, the Times has outstanding deep fried pickles!

5. Get lost in The Scrap Exchange. I’ve blogged about this Durham treasure a few times. The nonprofit is a warehouse stuffed with random scraps that businesses probably would’ve thrown away. If you’re a craft lover, then this is a must visit. But if you’re just amused by randomness, make a Saturday morning day trip out of it. Hit up the Durham Farmer’s Market across the street and then browse the Scrap Exchange.

6. Taqueria La Vaquita in Durham. Like I said, I’ve never been, but now I definitely plan to go.

7. Eno River State Park. The Eno river is one of Durham’s treasures. If you’ve never been, start at West Point on the Eno, a 338-acre Durham city park where an old mill, farmhouse and museum of photography await your exploration. There are also some great swimming holes along the Eno River. And, of course, The Festival for the Eno during the July 4th weekend is packed with music and crafts.

8. Eat BBQ at The Pit. This downtown Raleigh restaurant has received so many rave reviews in national media lately that it’s starting to make me yawn. Yes, the BBQ is good. Yes, you should go there. They used to have tasty green bean cassarole, but they took it off their menu. #fail.

9. Take in a minor league baseball game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. A Bulls game is a lot of fun, even if you’re not a baseball fan. There’s a lot of amusing entertainment between innings, beer and you can even get seats in the lawn for some games. And, best of all, on Friday nights there is always free fireworks after the game.

10. See a show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. This music venue draws a lot of hot and up-and-coming indie acts. But if you see an act you love coming to the Cradle, don’t delay in buying tickets. The last thing you want to do is find yourself without Jenny Lewis tickets (not that I’m bitter, Daniel).

11. Eat at Mama Dip’s or Crook’s Corner both in Chapel Hill. I haven’t made it to Mama Dip’s yet, but I was unimpressed with Crook’s when I visited it once last summer. But, a lot of people love it, so don’t judge it based on my experience.

Of course, there are plenty of fun places to visit if you only have 36 hours in the Triangle. Share some of your favorites in the comment section.

Also, let me know what you think of the NYT list. Did they get it right? Are these the top places to visit in the Triangle? What would you remove or add?