Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mahakala: Tibetan "Lord of the Tent"

Mahakala may look frightening, but his rabid glare is not directed at you! Like a gargoyle, the mask of Mahakala is meant to scare bad spirits and energy away from the place it protects. He is revered as a compassionate protector, with all his aggression directed at those who would do harm. His anger is necessary because it gives him the fearsome power to demolish any enemies or obstacles on the way to enlightenment.

Originally when the Tibetans began using the face of Mahakala for protection, they were a nomadic people, living in tents and moving from here to there all the time. He is still often referred to as "Lord of the Tent", as roughly 40% of the Tibetan population is still nomadic or semi-nomadic, though now the mask of his face frequently hangs on more permanent walls as well. Because he is considered a protector of religious law in particular, Mahakala masks are frequently found in temples and monestaries in Tibet, as well as in private homes.

The blaze of fire above Mahakala's eyes and coming from his mouth represents his powerful energy for consuming neurotic states of mind. His third eye denotes him as a protector; three orbs of vision express his ability to see the past, present and future. Staring at the world with widened eyes signifies that he is incensed at the current state of affairs, and none shall pass him without being affected.

Mahakala has a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of five negative afflictions of human nature into virtues. As he confronts negative forces and crushes them with his anger, his crown of skulls neutralizes what remains and works to transform it into something positive. Thus ignorance becomes wisdom, pride is humbled, attachment becomes the wisdom of discernment, jealously shifts to feeling satisfied with one's own accomplishments, and anger is released and soothed.

Consider Mahakala your spiritual bodyguard. He appears to be tough and larger-than-life scary, but he is somebody you want to have on your side as you face the trials and stresses of life. That face is angry only in the service of a greater good: your happiness, wisdom, and karmic health!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music Monday: The Black Keys

photo via last.fm

Formed in 2001 in Akron, Ohio, The Black Keys are the blues-rock musical duo of guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and producer/drummer Patrick Carney. Their songs are often rough and swinging, though the degree of noise and action changes depending on the tune. From a barroom brawl taken outside to the the foggy-headed lament of a hangover, there is some intangible quality to their music that seems to reek of booze.

And that isn't necessarily a bad thing:

With nine albums under their belts, the Black Keys have had some sonic ups and downs, with good reviews and bad. Their newest album, Brothers, is definitely one of the good ones. The fuzzy pounding baseline contrasts really nicely with the sweet, swinging blues of Auerbach's falsetto on the first track of the album, "Everlasting Light":

Another awesome song from the new album is "Tighten Up", which is super catchy and includes whistling! It also has a great video. Be warned, there is some brawling and a bit of (presumably fake) blood towards the end, so if you are very sensitive to violence you may not want to watch it.

If you decided to forgo the video, you can still listen to the song (and you should, because it rocks!) below:

If you want more of The Black Keys, check out their website here for photos, tour dates, and more good stuff!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mexicali News: New Store in Portland!!

When you walk down Moulton Street after the 21st of May, you might notice the distinctively sweet and smokey smell of Nag Champa incense hanging slightly thicker in the air. Mexicali Blues, the local stop for carefully chosen and responsibly imported clothing, jewelry, and decor is expanding in Portland! Opening across the street from the current Old Port location, the new store will be devoted to showcasing the brand's impressive collection of gemstone and sterling silver jewelry. "We are so excited to finally give Mexicali jewelry the space it deserves!" says co-owner Kim Erskine, who runs the popular store with her husband Pete. "Gaining more space will allow us to share more of the things we love with people we care about, in a less cluttered fashion. What's not to love about that?"

The bright new location has high ceilings and wonderful natural light. Store manager Meg Conley says, "It's such a fresh look; it's like a whole new store! We're so excited to play with this new space, fill it up with jewelry and all the accessories that will best compliment the gemstones." The staff are all aglow, eager to get creative with store displays and arranging merchandise. They bounce around with smiles on their faces, every now and then espousing their new favorite phrase, "We're so Mexcited!".

Mexicali has traditionally stayed open until 10 o'clock on weekdays in the summer, one bright beacon of nighttime shopping in a sea of dark store fronts. "We really are hoping that having two stores open in this area will be a boost for all the stores around us, and we've been sharing schedules with the owners and talking about how we can help each other out," says Conley. "There's a wonderful sense of community in the Old Port among all the shops. We are all in it together to keep local business alive."

With the addition of the new store comes improvements on the old, with several higher quality dressing rooms to be installed, as well as new shelving units and displays. The outdoor space between the stores will be well utilized also, with racks of clothing on the sidewalks and product demonstrations to be scheduled throughout the summer. Conley speaks of staff brainstorming sessions coming up with plans to artistically connect the two. "Maybe we'll draw flowers on the sidewalk with chalk!" she muses, laughing. "I think we're going to have the most awesome summer here. Can you tell?"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Monday: Andrew Bird

photo via JimNewberry.com

Andrew Bird is a Chicago singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who plays primarily violin and guitar. Trained in the Suzuki method from the age of four, Bird steps up to many instruments (including piano, mandolin, and glockenspiel) with equal aplomb. He whistles like a bird in a Disney cartoon, and has a consistently smooth voice that often warbles up to falsetto without ever playing as parody. His lyrics are densely packed with allusions and alliteration, though the meaning is sometimes hard to muster. He initially gained commercial exposure playing the violin with jazzy swing band, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and then took on the role of ringleader of his own Bowl of Fire. When that band unnofficially disbanded in 2003, Bird continued to evolve as a solo artist, starting with the mellow and atmospheric album Weather Systems. Here's a cool video for a song off of that album, called "Lull":

The next album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs continued a progression to a more indie-folk sound, trading in lush arrangements played by a backup band for layered samples using a loop pedal. Here he plays a song off of that album called "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left", and although you can't see his foot on the pedal, he is looping each little riff he plays so it repeats under the next one:

His next album, Armchair Apocrypha, was recorded in collaboration with electronic musician Martin Dosh, and includes a track composed by Dosh (with lyrics by Bird) entitled "Simple X". It was also for a song from this album that he has made his only official music video, for "Imitosis":

The newest Andrew Bird album is called Noble Beast, and we think it's awesome, particularly this song:

If you like Andrew Bird, check out his website here for more good stuff including a clip from an upcoming claymation music video!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Monday: Nateva Festival!

In 51 days (that's July 4th weekend, for those of you not yet counting down), the Nateva Music and Camping Festival is coming to rock Oxford, Maine and everybody in it! With a lineup headlined by Further, moe., and the Flaming Lips, there is something for everybody who likes music, Maine, and outdoor dancing! Tickets are on sale here for the weekend, with a limited number of tickets for the 4th only (headlined by Further) also available. If you have little ones, keep in mind that kids under 10 are free with a paying adult, and there is a "family camping" area that you can park your tent in if you make arrangements ahead of time, so yee haw!

image by Vince Bucci/ Getty Images via pbpulse

Further is the current incarnation of the Grateful Dead sans Jerry, led by both Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. According to the website, "fans can expect Lesh & Weir to push the musical envelope with jaw-dropping improvisations and loving renditions of Grateful Dead classics, with an all star band that includes keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and percussionist Jay Lane (RatDog), drummer Joe Russo (Benevento – Russo Duo, Trey Anastasio), and guitarist John Kadlecik (Dark Star Orchestra)." All this with fireworks above it is going to make for a truly magical evening. A friend posited this question: Will Bob Weir be wearing his classic look, the cut off jean shorts? You won't know if you aren't there!

photo via this blog

The Flaming Lips are known for their spacey lyrics, lush psychedelic arrangements, and wild theatrical live shows. They are awesome, weird, and lead singer Wayne Coyne walks the walk; he also has a habit of rolling across the top of the crowd at their concerts in a giant inflatable hamster ball. We can't wait to see what they come up with for Nateva!

Moe is the bartender of Moe's Tavern in Springfield. Will he be at Nateva? Maybe, but hopefully not.

moe. is a jamtastic rock band with a short name and long grooving songs. They put on a killer live show, and we are super psyched to rock out when they bring it on the first official night of the festival!

Other awesome bands in attendance that will be rocking the world of everybody there are George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Grizzly Bear, STS9, Ghostland Observatory, Keller Williams, Umphrey's McGee, Rustic Overtones, She & Him, Drive By Truckers, and many more! (full setlist here)

This festival is going to be nuts! Get your tickets now and join the fun; we hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexicali Clothes: Not Just for the Youngins!

For Cinqo de Mayo, some of the Mexicali ladies took a walk down to the Lincoln Home, the local retirement community, for a fun fashion show featuring clothing from local shops. Here's Mexicali co-owner Kim Erskine getting a little goofy with a tiny festive hat made out of a styrofoam cup:

The show was to benefit the local Union Women's club as well as the Lincoln Home itself, and several local businesses donated clothing to be modeled by employees, residents, and friends of the Lincoln Home. Each store showed about four outfits, and it was great to see what all our local friends have new in stock for spring. Every store wrote incredibly creative descriptions for each outfit to be read by the MC as their models came out. There was a lot of applause and laughter; everybody watching had a great time and the models were working it! Here is our awesome Mexicali model, Rhonda, rocking her favorite look of the day (a batik top and batik skirt set):
She is telling me she wants to buy the outfit as I take the picture!

This model was being so sassy with the sunglasses; everyone was loving it!

This model and resident of the Lincoln Home bought all of the (all beautiful & super classy) outfits at the on-site thrift store. This outfit cost her $5!

Here's Rhonda in her debut model walk, with Kim and Newcastle store manager Shannon sitting pretty behind her. She looks so great in that kurta tunic! We are all loving that shade of turquoise this summer!

There was a wide age range for the models, which was great. This model is a high school student, and at the end of the show, the MC and residents expressed appreciation for her and her modeling friends keeping them current on the state of fashion for young people (because grandchildren are designed to be spoiled by their grandparents, are they not?).

Here's one more of Rhonda showing off her Mexicali jewelry: a gorgeous shell necklace and a fashion bracelet!

We had a great time at the fashion show and know everyone else did as well! It was really cool to see how clothing typically sold in such a youth-oriented market can be styled for the more mature fashionista. We are so happy we were able to be a part of this fun event!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Music Monday: Recycled Instruments

This pipe organ, or "beergan", has been made with beer bottles instead of pipes!
Made by Peterson Tuners, click here to hear it play Eleanor Rigby.

To make music, you don't really need separate supplies from the world you live in. You can hum or croak, clap your hands, or create percussion by tapping on a table or ripping up a magazine (see this performance in an elevator by the Arcade Fire for an awesome example of the latter). And in the interest of making music where music was perhaps not expected, some people make instruments out of surprising materials. Sometimes they look cool, sometimes they look goofy; let's take a look and judge for ourselves!

One very popular method of recycling into a musical instrument is making a guitar, banjo, or ukulele using the hollow body of a cigar box, a cookie tin, or other container as the body of the instrument. This fellow built a fiddle using a shortbread tin for the main component, dubbing it "Biscuitin'".

Here is another gent playing the blues on his electric cigar box guitar:

If you want to make your own cigar box stringed-thing instrument, a great resource is Cigar Box Nation for news, instructions, and a community of do-it-yourself instrument makers to talk to!

Diego Stocco
is a musician who uses unexpected items in conjunction with traditional instruments to create new compositions. Here he combines parts from several stringed instruments to create the “Experibass:” a quadruple-necked instrument played with a bow and various household items (got to love the percussive fork!). Fun fact: Stocco played the experibass in the score for the recent Sherlock Holmes movie.

If you are interested in seeing more strange, recycled and repurposed instruments, check out Oddmusic.com. More cool pieces can be found at Experiemental Musical Instruments. Then there's the New York-based project "Bash the Trash", a group of artists and educators who emphasize the importance of environmental issues with children, and make cool sounds using all things that commonly get thrown away. Here's a video of them doing their thing:

Check out their website here for inspiration. Then go gather your friends and make some noise!