Monday, January 25, 2016

I Won the Pearl Jam Fan Club Lottery!

I have been a fan of Pearl Jam since 1991/1992, and I first saw them in concert at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, March 1994. My love for Pearl Jam has never wavered. Although I could not always travel far to see them, or had the money to see them back to back within driving distance, I have been able to see them approximately 25 times. Some of you may say, 'What? You saw PJ 25 times?' But trust me when I say that a lot of old timer hard core fans like me, are just much more hard corer and have deeper pockets, and more vacation days to travel and see the band anywhere in the world.

There were sad dry spots of several years where I was simply not able to go to PJ concerts, and it really hurt my morale. I was working poor broke and depressed and it was common sense to pay rent and buy food than travel to the East coast to see Pearl Jam. Meanwhile, many of my jamily friends had no financial problems and went to many shows. There were times when I had to scrape up the money for my annual membership, which in years past was 10 to 15, to 25, and now $40. But in recent years, I've been doing much better and I was able to see Pearl Jam in Toronto in 2011, then in Detroit 2014, and now in 2016, I'm going back East, to Philadelphia to see the best band in the world. It was important for me to win fan club lottery tickets to this leg of their 2016 North American tour because it's my last time living in the state of Michigan as a resident, that I can drive from home to the East coast to see the band. Back in 1997 to 2001 while living on the East coast, I was able to see PJ in Maryland, in New York at Madison Square Garden and at Jones Beach, and there's something really cool about seeing Pearl Jam in those crazy states. I've seen Pearl Jam in 2003 in Pittsburgh, so traveling a few hours further East to Philly will close out my mid-west/east coast living experience and enjoying 'local' PJ shows.

In the future, post-October 2016, I'll be in California, and I will have to fight the people out there for lottery fan club tickets. Meanwhile, as I'm currently in Michigan, only two cities were really feasible for me to attend: Philadelphia on April 29 (a Friday night show), or Toronto on May 10 (a Tuesday night show). Philly was my first choice and Toronto was second. I didn't bother with General Admission (GA) tickets because, and let's face it, there are a lot of tall and fat people in the world, and combine that with Pearl Jammers, the GA is not so much fun. I have the energy and stamina, but I'm short, petite, and I want to see and enjoy the show without some old frat boys all up in my shit - jamily or not, unless I'm in the front row of GA and wearing depends, the GA is over rated.

WHY this lottery? As a fan club member since 1996, I have a nice low member number. The lower your membership number, the higher you are on the seniority food chain. The lottery works by you selecting the shows you want to attend and ranking them from highest priority to the lowest. When the lottery begins, they randomly select people, and you may win the opportunity to simply and comfortably purchase premium fan club seats without all the hand wringing and refreshing your browser on Ticketbastard on sale day. I wanted to go to Philly so bad that I put the wheels in motion to just GO there, some way, some how. Last week I booked a hotel within walking distance of the Wells Fargo Center, the Courtyard Marriott Philadelphia South at The Navy Yard. I just checked at, and the hotel is now all sold out the night I'll be there. I'm sure Pearl Jam fans are staying at that place.

I'm just so damn happy and relieved. I could only afford to go to one show, and taking a Friday off from work is all I can afford to do, so this is perfect. I'm grateful to the 10 Club and Pearl Jam for making this happen, it's a great way to close out my time here in Michigan by being able to drive to an East Coast PJ show this spring!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Fun and Short Trip to Palm Springs, California

A month ago I blogged about an exciting adventure I spontaneously found myself in. I had an opportunity to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) Awards Gala on January 2nd, and I jumped on this unique chance to attend. This was an extended Christmas gift to myself, as well as a chance for me to visit early in the year, my future home state of California. I have visited California many times, but this was the first time I visited a desert city. I've been to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and now, Palm Springs. Unlike the other bustling large cities of CA that I have visited, Palm Springs really is laid back, walkable, calm, and quiet. It's a place where the rich go to chill out, go to spas, eat well, or hike the mountains.

I arrived in PS at 8:30pm PST/11:30pm EST. Although I was tired, I was so excited about being in PS. It was totally dark and a little nippy outside, but no where as cold as in Detroit. I arrived at my hotel, checked in, and walked along the manicured lawn to my room. The Days Inn PS was on the budget side at $115 a night, but it was perfectly located in the northern side of town and newly renovated. The pool area was just outside my door and as I walked by, people were relaxing in the heated Jacuzzi. I was starving so I walked about 10 minutes up the road to Del Taco and devoured a burrito. I went to bed in a king size bed so excited about being in my favorite state and looking forward to the next day's event.
Wow, mountains!

My room 324 was just straight ahead on this small path.
I woke up early to the bright sun peeking through the side of the curtains of my sliding door window. I open the widows and wow, the mountain views almost brought tears to my eyes. That's a mountain!!! I literally walked around PS smiling at the sun, the mountains, and the palm trees. It's amazing the restorative powers a quick visit to paradise has on one's soul. While there are neighborhoods in PS that are normal looking working class streets, there are many sections of town that have homes that cost tens of millions of dollars. They were absolutely breathtaking, so much so, I got dizzy looking at them.

For my short visit to PS, I was to attend the festival awards gala, spend time with my friends, shop, walk about, and watch one movie. The select pictures after this cut will present my trip in a nutshell.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Film Review: The Revenant (3.5/4)

During my brief visit to Palm Springs this past weekend for the Film Festival gala, I was able to watch one movie, The Revenant on Sunday night. I have long admired Leonardo DiCaprio and have enjoyed much of his work. So I knew going in watching The Revenant, I would see Leonardo in his most top form. The Revenant is inspired by true events about a fur trading frontier man, Hugh Glass. As unforgiving as life can be in the vast wilderness somewhere in early 1800s America, people have each other and the cruelties of mother nature to contend with. The film opens with Hugh, played by Leonardo, and his half-Pawnee Indian son, hunting. Their camp is attacked by Indians in a horrific battle scene that pulls you in and gets your adrenaline pumping, makes you avert your eyes and is reminiscent to the too realistic opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. Among the fur trappers who survived is a surly and jaded John Fitzgerald, played by the outstanding Tom Hardy. Moving away from the siege, the survivors are dependent on Glass to help them reach a safe outpost. In the first of many unbelievable near death events, Glass is ferociously attacked by a bear that is protective of her cubs. The CGI effects is near perfection in the creation of the bear, and you feel the complete horror that Glass experiences, and every rip of skin, every toss and being flipped over several times like a piece of hamburger. When Glass is found by his comrades, he's so messed up and they can't believe he's alive. Fitzgerald makes it clear that Glass needs to be put out of his misery for his own sake. And eventually, he gets the chance to deal with Glass with devastating results.

The Revenant, or rather, The Revenge is relentless is revealing all the trials Glass has to go through as he's hell bent on revenge for being left for dead. The film becomes slightly comical in the Tom and Jerry type of deathly misadventures that Glass endures. It's like he's a human cat and has nine lives. How can a man who was mauled by a grizzly bear keep going on and on and on? And that's where Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's talent comes in by using beautiful spiritual imagery that helps us understand the inner strength that compels Glass to find Fitzgerald and kill the fuck out of him. Suspension of disbelief needs to be employed big time when watching The Revenant because the average man living in the 1820s only had a life expectancy up to 40, and most were simple farm people. So for Glass to experience the following harrowing events is a bit too much to accept: bear mauling, untreated infection from said mauling, fever, no medicine, unprotected from the freezing elements, frostbite (they didn't have North Face back then), broken leg, throat ripped open, rotting skin, hunger/malnutrition, PTSD, mourning, chapped lips, falling off a mountain cliff only to be saved by a tree, going over a waterfall in freezing cold water, out running Indians with arrows, being shot at, and a very, very bloody crescendo fight with Fitzgerald. And these are the outrageous sagas I can remember. I rolled my eyes when Glass, somehow, escaped death, again.

The Revenant is a well made and entertaining film, but it's not for the faint of heart and it's extremely bloody and brutal. Regarding all the talk about Leonardo finally winning his Oscar, well, he's definitely deserving of an Oscar, and the emotional narrative of him being nominated 5-6 times already and not winning, certainly has Oscar gurus, bloggers, and some voters itching like hell to just give it to him. Just give it away so that Leonardo can calm down a bit and not take on year after year of Oscar bait films in pursuit of the Oscar. I'm sure loads of voters are tired of him, feel sorry for him, are feeling guilty, and they are tired of voting for actors who simply gave stronger performances in the past. The sentimental tide is definitely on Leo's side, but I'm stubborn and believe another actor had the better performance this year (Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs - see review).

With Leonardo receiving so much manufactured and PR paid for praise, his co-star, Tom Hardy is being ignored in the Oscar chatter. Within 12 months, Tom has been consistently outstanding in Locke, Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road, and now The Revenant. Tom Hardy deserves to be acknowledged with an Oscar nomination for The Revenant, and hell, he could even win! Whenever he was on screen as the dirty rotten Fitzgerald, I loved it. He had more dialogue than Leo - but then again -  employing suspension of disbelief - because Glass had his throat ripped to shreds by a Grizzly bear, so he couldn't say much. Sigh.

Go see The Revenant if you're up for a wild adventure tale of survival by any means necessary, witness the miracle of self-healing by being pissed off and revengeful, and lots of blood and gore (humans and animals).

Grade: 3.5 out 4 arrows