SaraMarie Philly featured in ICON Magazine! November, 2011

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I’m a little delayed (OK, a LOT delayed) in posting about this. As you may have seen on the “SaraMarie Philly” page of my website, I have been streaming music via my online radio stream into the virtual world of Second Life for over a year now.  I was contacted by ICON magazine in SL (Second Life) and was asked if I would be interested in being featured in their November edition. I would also have pictures taken by Julie Hastings, a prominent SL photographer and artist. Interested? I was ecstatic! Here is the article that they wrote about me, and the pictures that were included in the magazine starting on page 115. :) Enjoy!


The “Click here” portion of this picture only works within the virtual world of SL….and it brings you to this website anyway. :)

Categories: Music Blogs

Baby Alive vs. Real Baby

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I still remember her big painted blue eyes, her blonde hair that was pulled into two cute little pigtails at the top of her head, and her strange o-shaped gaping mouth that would “chew” when I pushed on it with her hard plastic bottle. Oh, the glorious memories of “Baby Alive”, the doll that promised to be just like a real baby for millions of little girls across the US. “Baby Alive” provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment. OK, maybe 2 hours. Because after her food packets ran out and her diapers ran out, she was just a doll with a weird mouth and a suspicious-looking derriere. A child of young parents in the 80’s, my family didn’t have a lot of money to feed the extra little robotic mouth at the table, so “Baby Alive” didn’t see much food after her first week. She eventually went with a small group of other toys out to a “hideout fort” in the woods behind our house, where she and the other toys were thrown to the top of an abandoned railroad car by suspected child vandals.

Now that I’m grown and have a real baby, I can say with absolute certainty that “Baby Alive” does not live up to it’s promise of being “so real”.

– Real babies have horrendous gas. Baby Alive has airless passage of food.

– Real babies get constipated, and cry nonstop until they are finally able to go poop-poop. Why doesn’t Baby Alive do this?

– Despite the stories of Baby Alive munching up little girl’s hair in a dangerous fashion because of her “digestive gears” (older models), Baby Alive doesn’t ever grab handfuls of hair and yank them repeatedly while laughing as mommy yelps in pain.

– Baby Alive always keeps her hands and legs still. To make her more like a real baby, her arms and legs need to be constantly kicking, flapping about, clapping,  and slapping anyone who is holding her as they struggle.

– Baby Alive was only a couple of pounds, yet she talks. The typical talking 1 or 2 year old weighs between 20 and 30 lbs. Baby Alive should also raise her hands up in the air and whine, “Pick me up! Pick me up!”

– Baby Alive has soft plastic fingertips. Real babies have ultra-sharp little fingernails which they use to scratch themselves and others, leaving red scratches (and sometimes blood!) in their wake.

– Baby Alive doesn’t cry. This has to be the biggest downfall of this product. If they want her to be “so real”, they need to make her cry A LOT. Especially at night.

– It seems like Baby Alive comes with SO many accessories. Mine came with a bottle, bibs, a spoon, diapers, and little packets of food. She may have even had a hairbrush. I’m not sure. However, if she is going to be like a real baby, she needs 100 times more stuff. Each delivery of a Baby Alive doll will require a subsequent dropoff from a freight truck full of accessories. Crib, toys, 10 diapers a day, 5 different kinds of bottles because baby Alive will refuse the other 4 brands, swingy dangly toys, rolly toys, stuffed toys, pacifiers, gas drops, tylenol drops, strollers, carseats, stroller accessories, and carseat accessories. She will need food grinders, mesh self-feeding snack gadgets, food storage systems, multiple spoons, special BPA free bowls, vitamin D drops, multivitamin drops, lotions, bubble baths, bath toys….and more.  Much more.

 

I imagine a more accurate “Baby Alive” doll being similar to the movie “Chucky”, only with more accessories.

PASA (Pennsylvania Area Songwriter’s Alliance) Summer Songfest, 2011

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I thought of titling this blog entry as a “review”, but I’m hardly qualified to review the event as I only stayed for about 2 hours. I went to the Winter Songfest at the same location in Cherry Hill, NJ at one of the PASA member’s homes and enjoyed my time there, so I figured I would come for the Summer Songfest as well.

I left a step out of the mapquest directions I wrote down, which meant that I drove up and down I – 276 until I finally was able to build the courage to call Janet, the hostess, for directions to her home. Although she thought I was a telemarketer at first, she was able to give me very clear directions once I had assured her I was a PASA Songfest guest.

There were a few new faces at the Songfest, and a lot of “regulars” from the PASA group. I had planned on coming for the evening sessions only since I woke in the morning with a headache. Unfortunately, when I arrived, there was only one session left, and I happened to join a group that was not writing a new song, but going around the circle and sharing old songs they had written. Children’s Songs and Funny Songs. OK, so I chose that circle because there was a chair available. I don’t usually write funny songs, and my children’s songs are great for 1st graders to sing but not really “worthy” of releasing onto an audience of songwriters. Completely unprepared in this area, I shared the song, “Hey there, Would You Like a Pickle”. It’s a marginally funny song at best.

The Songfests always order a dinner of pizza in which everyone chips in money to buy. At the Winter Songfest, I left before pizza time, but since I was only coming for the afternoon and evening events, I figured I should opt in for the pizza. The pizza order – taking process was…strange. Instead of just taking a stipend of money and then ordering several large pizzas with a variety of typical toppings, each person was to pair up with another person and pay for half a pie. I didn’t really care what my slice of pizza had on it as long as it didn’t have meat. I was encouraged to make a half and half pie with someone who wanted sausage. (gag) I don’t think I even need to list the reasons why this is a bad idea. I also didn’t feel the need to eat half of a pizza by myself, but that didn’t matter in the end, as I paid for half a pie, but I didn’t stay for pizza anyway. The group was upset that the pizza place gave them a time estimate for delivery for 45 minutes…on a Saturday night… with a huge order of pies that are “half this, half that”. Umm…really?

Someone who’s name I won’t say made a comment about how the person that took their order at the same pizza place the last time was “English Second Language” and therefore was “really difficult” and “couldn’t add numbers”. Since my husband is ESL, and because the comment was stereotypical and rude, I was offended. I interjected that it sounded to me like it was difficult for both parties to understand each other, but this does not indicate that the employee couldn’t add numbers. Basically, I made it known that I was offended in polite a way as possible, without saying “I am offended”. Defensive catty-ness and more stereotypical comments followed, not including any apology. Yay! Songfest!

At that point, I decided that since I had a headache, there were no more workshops and only an open stage, and I didn’t want to eat half a pizza by myself, I would be better off at home. So, I left.

Will I go back to PASA meetings in the future? Probably. Will I opt – in for the pizza party? Probably not. Continue to defend people against prejudice and stereotyping? Yes.

Categories: Music Blogs

Milkboy Coffee Open Mic Review

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I read online that Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore, PA was one of the best open mics in the Philadelphia area. I’ve been to their open mic twice now, which is on Tuesday nights at 7, with sign-ups starting at 6:30, and I have come to really enjoy the place. I plan to return next Tuesday if my schedule allows.

The first time I ventured into Ardmore, PA for Milkboy’s open mic, I have to admit I was intimidated when I saw the building. The view from my car window was of a corner coffee shop that was filled with people. On the sidewalk outside were about 10 musicians with guitars tuning and playing songs while the open mic was starting inside. I circled the block about 3 times looking for parking and building up the courage to go into this new place all by myself. I have to admit, I can be a bit like a 10 year old girl at times, reserved and shy about new places and new people. After considering to turn around and go back home several times, my nervous subconscious telling me that I would never find a parking place, I found a parking lot in the back with free parking after 6pm. At that moment, I realized I had no excuse not to go in. I decided to leave my keyboard in the car, in case I wanted to chicken out and not ask to play…then it would look like I was only there to listen and I could slip out without risking looking foolish.

When I got inside the building, I saw that the stage wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I had imagined it, the people were really friendly, and the gracious host Mike Shax could fit me in on the end open mic list. I ordered an iced Chai and a grilled cheese sandwich, and sat at one of the diner-style tables to watch the performers. I heard musicians of all experience levels sharing their well-rehearsed songs. A young man wearing a bandanna on his head and with tattoos on his arms and fingers took the stage. He played and sang a traditional folk song on his banjo with professional skill. Small ensembles (bands) came on and shared their original music. I had the pleasure of hearing Joel Benjamin for the first time, a motivational stand-up comedian who is just beginning his career in comedy. Steven Singer (spelling?) has a special act that he performs with his keyboard. The audience requests songs, and he plays them. Sometimes this can take a turn for the hilarious, as people request “a Disney song”, and Steven begins playing (and singing) “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. At the end of the night, I brought my keyboard to the stage and played my favorite original song, “Red”, which was well-received by the patrons that were still occupying the tables and chairs in the dimmed lighting. As we all dispersed from the coffee shop carrying keyboards and guitar cases, I got to meet some of the other performers and share some musical discussion on our way to our vehicles.

The following Tuesday, I made the trip out to Milkboy Coffee Shop again. It was pouring rain, and a 45 minute drive, so once again I barely made it onto the list…and was 2nd to last. I didn’t mind, since I wanted to stay and hear the other performers while enjoying dinner there again…Iced Chai and a grilled cheese sandwich. I managed to make it inside before the open mic began, and got to hear Mike Shax open up with The Ladybug Song from Sesame Street…which is actually a really well-written song!  I heard the tattooed banjo man again. His songs were mesmerizing as he plucked the strings in a fast pattern with impeccable precision. Joel Benjamin was there again, and his act and jokes this week talked about politics and religion. Ordinarily, this might seem like a “hot topic” with the crowd, but for this group of open-minded liberals, his witty remarks and interaction were right on target. I heard a woman named Laurie read a poem she had written for her daughter, who was coming that tuesday to visit her from another state. The poem talked about her 35 year old daughter, and the emotions this woman felt at her birth.”Ten fingers, ten toes, one tiny little nose”…(paraphrased). It was a beautiful poem that exposed the mother’s fear that her daughter would not have a good time visiting her as she has grown older and the poem hints that they are both going through hard times in their lives. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you will understand why I couldn’t hold back tears from welling in my eyes while the woman read about singing to her newborn at her breast. Ah yes, and Tommy played heartfelt guitar chords in the background to set the mood. I was doomed for runny mascara. Red-splotched with emotion and teary eyed, I went over to talk to Laurie and thank her for sharing her poem. We talked for a bit about her daughter and mine before I slipped into the ladies room to assess the damage on my mascara. Toward the end of the night, I played my original song “Apple Tree”, talked with a few of the musicians who were still around, and headed back home.

On to the reviewing part…Milkboy Coffee is kind to the musicians performing, and has a regular crowd that is welcoming to newcomers and respectful of the music. If you talk very loudly with friends, expect for the other audience members to kindly “shh” you. Talking is ok, but loud talking while others are performing is rude, and this audience respects the musicians. Milkboy has a LOT of talent that is worth coming in to hear while you enjoy a drink or light meal. (I couldn’t mention all of the acts I saw there, although I wish I could.) I did notice throughout the night that large groups of people would come in, sit down, and not purchase anything. While I appreciate that Milkboy Coffee allows people to come in just to hear the music and doesn’t make it’s patrons pay to have a seat, I worry that if the open mic nights don’t generate enough income it might be cancelled or reduced to once per month like many other venues do. That would be a shame. It’s such a wonderful place to come and share music. If you’re going to try out Milkboy Coffee’s open mic night, you may not be required to purchase anything, but if you bring $4-5 with you, your purchase will help support local musicians who want to share their songs and talent.

Milkboy Coffee …. 5 stars

Pigeon-holed Musicians

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Lately, I’ve been filling in a lot of EPK forms and social site forms in an effort to share my music with people, and in doing this I’ve noticed that everyone always asks what genre I am as if this were one of my defining characteristics as a musician. I understand that music must be separated into genres so that it is easier for listeners to find what they like. Do musicians have to be separated into genres as well?

I would be willing to guess that most musicians can successfully play in about 5 genres, yet because of the music business model as it is today, they are forced to choose only 1 genre. It is part of their identity. Taylor Swift might be able to perform genres other than country music, but for reasons unknown, people prefer for their favorite artists to remain in one genre. Oddly, when musicians decide to do songs or albums in other genres, people review this as “changing genres”, or “shifting genres” or “fusion of genres”. I’ve never heard a music reviewer write that an artist is including more than one genre in their work.

Sometimes, an artist will come out with a particular kind of music and it is so well-received that the audience (and record label) expects the same style of music for each subsequent CD. I wonder if Bob Marley ever wanted to release a gospel CD, or if Adele will ever crave the beats of dubstep or electronic. What if Pink wanted to release an album of ballads, or if Katy Perry decided that she wanted to be a Christian music singer….again. These artists are pigeon-holed to a particular genre of music.

I was in college studying music, I sang a lot of classical genre music. Opera. That’s right, opera. There’s even a page out there on MySpace.com that has recordings from my last recital at the university. Somehow I “became” a pop musician, and my genre became part of my identity rather than part of the identity of the music. Just something to think about.

Categories: Music Blogs