Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I’m creating a collection of short stories called “Made in Taiwan,” about my time spent in Southeast Asia. To kick it off: a letter I wrote to my friends at home, during my first few months abroad.

Motorcycle Story

“I’ve had a motorcycle for the past few months. I fear this motorcycle, and, until last week, was petrified to drive it in Taipei traffic. Driving here is sort of like staring Death in the face and then flooring the accelerator so that you smash at top speed into Death’s head. Cruising the wrong side of the road, running red lights, and racing on the sidewalk are essential daily driving activities. “We Taiwanese” consider traffic laws to be a cute little un-enforced formality.

In addition to my fear of the traffic, I also fear the bike itself. It looks like a piece of World War II machinery. It probably is. I appreciate the nice 1940′s-esque contrast it provides to the seizure-inducing billboards that pepper Taipei’s nighttime skyline, but I am still unable to stand the bike properly on it’s kick-stand because it weighs a jillion pounds and is too awkward for me to lift. It also has poorly synchronized manual gear shifts involving a series of several pedals and handles that remind me of Young Frankenstein’s castle or that pipe-organ torture/masturbation machine from Barbarella (except non-sexual). Regardless, I managed to conquer this beast of a machine (and Taipei’s kamikaze traffic) in one foul swoop:

The first time I tried to drive My Scary Motorcycle, I lost my balance and collapsed in the middle of a trafficky street, pinned beneath the behemoth contraption. A liter of gasoline poured all over my legs and into my clogs (yes, I was wearing clogs and trying to operate a motorcycle, shut up.) My “gentle giant” friend, Drew, pulled the bike off of me and picked me up by the scruff of my neck. He slapped me around a bit and dusted me off, then gave me a rousing pep talk, aka, shouted at me.

“This is a MACHINE!!!!!! YOU are the one in charge of it!!!!!!!! It does not have a brain!!!!!!! People much stupider than you successfully operate them every day. Now GET ON AND DRIVE!” He propped up the massive bike and I climbed back on top of it the way small child gets onto a full-grown horse (ie: with a struggle). Then I, drenched in petrol, drove alone through 10 miles of Taipei rush hour traffic (13 lanes wide, mind you) without a hitch.

Note: about 75% of foreigners here drive motorbikes, about 0% of them have licenses- I am now one of that 0%. Driving all over the city is truly the badest-ass of all sensations.

Regarding the high percentage of license-free foreigners–a general (f-ed up) rule here is that the cops often don’t bother you if you’re white. They smile and wave, try to practice English with you, whilst dragging off Taiwanese offenders off to stick bamboo shoots under their fingernails.

Every once in a while, just for fun, the cops raid a nightclub, load all the patrons onto a bus, and take them to the police station. There, they give the late-night-party-people a pee-drug-test– hundreds of people at a time. Foreigners legally do not have to pee for them (although the cops may lie and say you do at the time– I know a guy who was forced to give them his tainted piss. He fled the country, haven’t seen him since.)

Because I am a good girl and spend my weekends studying chinese, I have not experienced the aforementioned Taiwanese phenomenon. I generally focus on the more hilarious aspects of being a “foreign ambassador”

As a foreigner in Asia, people stare at me everywhere I go. Children and adults oggle alike, I usually feel like the star of a freak show. Generally the tallest person with the lightest-colored hair as far as the eye can see, my chinese friends ask to touch my hair daily, and ooh and aaah about how different the texture is. I still get a kick out of it. I will feel so ordinary when I go back home. My chinese language skills are kicking into the next gear. I’ve settled into a real life here, it’s no longer vacation.

Chaos, corrupt cops, deadly traffic, and faux celebrity are now the status quo. Seriously, it’s great. Come visit. I’ll take you for a ride on my hog.”

Shower Time

Because Taiwan is an fault-line ridden deathtrap and I live in a poor neighborhood, we "make" our hot water with propane tanks that live outside. Every morning, I walk out to the front porch and turn the propane tank on, take a shower, and twist it tightly "off" upon leaving for work. This helps things not blow up when earthquakes happen.

This morning, as I was getting ready to hop in the shower, I started the water and forgot to turn on the gas. I popped out the door, twisted the propane knob "on" and turned around just in time to see my front door slam shut in front of me, locked... wearing only a towel. Of Course. My parents will be glad to know this is the most secure place I have lived in the last several years, complete with bars on the windows and two layers of self-locking and dead-bolting doors. I squeezed my arm inside the window and attempted to release the interior door lock, but the bars on the windows made it impossible. The only thing I COULD reach was a large electric violet fuzzy polyester blanket on the couch, which I pulled through the bars and wrapped around me, Julius-Caesar-style. Swaddled in violet, I initiated Operation "Get the Fuck Back Inside, Asshole," and tried to break in to my apartment.

My 87 year old next-door neighbor walked outside to find me grunting and thrusting my arm through the bars, half naked in my purple toga. She immediately assessed what I was attempting (and failing at) and waved me off of the window bars in an almost exacerbated way, tapping her head with her finger, as if to say, "Use your head, girl!" She walked to her front porch (which is right next to mine--we basically share one 'giant' porch) and she offered me a 6 foot long, wide-mouthed bamboo pole. Every Chinese person is required to keep one of these poles on their doorstep at all times, or so it seems, and for once I understood why. I shoved the pole through my window bars, attempting to grab my purse (with keys inside) from the living room couch.

At this moment, a flood of neighbors began their 7am commute to work. They ALL stopped to register a critique of my technique, and an opinion on how best to get my purse onto the bamboo pole. I stood on the front porch and surrendered as my elderly Chinese neighbors (who do not have to go to work) tried their hand at grabbing my purse through the bars, like a twisted arcade game. There are times, in Taiwan, when a minor obstacle or dispute becomes grounds for public discourse; people take sides in others' disagreements over the cost of batteries, market vegetables, or whether one person swindled another for a live chicken. How to unlock my apartment was now "one of those times". As more old people joined the fray, my purple fur toga and semi-nudity became increasingly awkward. Old neighbor lady realized this, grabbed me by the hand, and led me into her apartment while the retired sector continued with operation break-in.

It was dark inside her place, it smelled of incense and "old"-- the first time I'd been inside any Chinese apartment. She and her husband have obviously lived there for years and years. I feel a level of intimacy with the old next-door couple, since we share a porch on which her husband sits for hours every day, silently keeping watch over the neighborhood. He vaguely nods at me every day when I leave for work, and passively looks through me when I come home at night. He also hocks loogies every morning at approximately 6am, my daily alarm clock. It was both nice and gross to see their inner sanctum-- nice because it had the familiar feel of eternal Grandparentyhood, gross for the same reason. Their apartment is smaller than mine,; everything in it is old. A shrine-like alter stands in the living room, the first thing seen upon entering. There to honor their family's ancestors and appease any potential angry spirits in the neighborhood, it has all the traditional accoutrement: red lights glowing upon ancient Buddhist deities, an offering of a small bowl of fruit, garnished with burning incense.

Behind the altar, a doorway opened into to her closet. She led me into the tiny room exploding with Grandma clothes. I am about 5'6", I would put her at 5', tops. She pulled several selections for me to try-- though her dresses were modestly long and wide, the size ratio difference in our bodies is tremendous. We decided upon one the largest thing she owned and she helped pull it over my head with a struggle. The dress was incredibly small and I clutched hard to purple toga, hoping not to flash Husband. I caught a glimpse of the two of us in the mirror, as I straightened the dress around me. We weirdly matched, like 2 vastly different ethnic & age-grouped versions of otherwise identical raggedy ann dolls. We chit-chatted in rudimentary Chinese, as we checked ourselves out. I learned she is from Mainland China and came over as a baby with Chiang Kai-Shek's revolutionaries, over half a century ago. She speaks Chinese, not Taiwanese, which means I can communicate with her in what is now very basic Mandarin.

We popped back outside as several other neighbors tried their hands at the "pole" game. All gave up. I eventually reclaimed the pole and, building upon their efforts, got hold of the long floppy shoulder-strap of my purse and lifted it up. Cheers. I raised the far end of the pole, and the bag slid down into my hands. Success. I emptied out the purse and found no keys. What? I noticed them sitting on the couch-side table inside my apartment, well out of reach of bamboo pole. Fuck. Neighbor Grandma and I walked back to her porch in our matching dresses and she pointed at a tiny sticker on her door, with a bunch of numbers and Chinese characters. I did not understand a word she said, smiling and nodding and trying not to cry from frustration. Eventually she picked up the phone and her "key turning" gestures made sense-- she was calling a locksmith. He arrived in 20min, unlocked my door in a matter of seconds, and I slinked inside with relief. I put on my real clothes, returned her dress, and awkwardly gave her a hug. She smiled, hugged me back, and said I should come over for Chinese new year's dinner and meet her son. I said yes.

I have made my first Chinese friend.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2001

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On the morning of September 12th, my New Zealander friend was walking to work. An old chinese man flagged him down and made the hand/arm gestures of a plane flying, followed by a massive explosion. He then pointed at my friend and laughed.

Being abroad is an extremely bizarre way to experience war--especially when you are from the United States. You are uncloistered from the American propaganda machine. There are no flags in your front yard. There is no FOX news. There is no patriotism. There is no enemy...

There is only international CNN, which ex-pats would watch as though it were a baseball game. My Australian friends would say, "Let's watch the war."

And we did.

Thoughts on Leaving Taiwan

When you live abroad, you live in limbo. For some reason, even the highest degree of acheivement as an ex-pat doesn't really count. It's not the "real world". To make it really count, you have to go home and do it for real.

I decided to leave Taipei because I knew so well how much I loved it... how easy life was there. If I did not challenge myself I would wake up a 35 year old doing EXACTLY the same thing and wonder where my life went.

After almost 2 years of hilarious bliss, I could not bear the thought of leaving Taiwan. I loved it so much, I cried when I imagined not living there. Taiwan was the first place where I woke every morning loving exactly where I was and what I was doing. I learned to speak Mandarin fluently. I was making music every day in the best studios. I was talking in psychotic childrens' voices and getting paid a LOT of money to do it. My picture was on billboards and magazines throughout southeast asia. I was on Taiwanese television. I had a wonderful, supportive, brilliant, creative family of loving friends. I had done pretty much everything I'd wanted to do. I was a tremendous success. It had gotten too easy.

Going straight back to America just sounded depressing. How do you leave a life of exotic mayhem and daily celebrated chaos for red-white-and-blue flags and streets where people actually stop when the light turns red? How do you go back to a country where a war has started, that you've never experienced?

How do you go back to the most hated nation in the world?

Armed with the knowledge that I could always return to this secret little gem of the orient to visit (or live, if necessary) I went out to see if there was any place else in the world that I loved just as much. Or better.

I decided to take the long way home. I decided to circumnavigate the globe.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Awklord of the Rings, (via Laughing Squid)

Oh man, these guys are awesome. I'm pretty sure this photo was conceived and, in the most part, executed by the son who stands tall behind his noble parents. This is just a taste of the awkward glory that awaits you at My other favorite photo (below) includes a reference to my favorite movie, "European Vacation", which makes me love it all the more. I won't repeat the quote here, but it's pretty easy to find.

Thanks for the inspiration, Awkward Family Photos!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Exclusive: his Orchestra Rehearsal Footage

Here is some rehearsal footage that Shine On media filmed of us. Good Times.

"Exclusive SO-M Interview with his Orchestra"

Here's an interview we did with Shine On Media recently, talking about where from we come and about our new record and plans for the futchah.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I like new-age hippie books (even though they're fluffish)

Above, Below: Tough book covers for mushy books

I have a totally not-secret habit of reading new-agey hippie books with humiliating cheesebag covers. Heart-shaped rainbows, sunset skies with flocks of birds, and sandy beaches grace them all, and it kills me that something I so guiltily enjoy is so poorly presented. You CAN judge a book by it's cover, especially when it's completely gay and retarted.

This sort of thing doesn't happen with sci-fi. My "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is an elegant black leather number, embossed with gold, which has proudly traveled with me around the world. Biographies make you smarter and more distinguished just by proximity-- Winston Churchill's "The Last Lion", for example, which features a black and white portrait of Sir Winston, above a coat of arms and atop of regal navy blue. Highbrow by default.

But if you get caught reading "Ask and it is Given" just ONCE you look like a turd-burglaring yoga instructor (or a tarot card reader, whichever is worse) and all your collegey literary cred flies straight out the window. You instantly "manifest" and "attract" whatever is the exact opposite of Bukowski, Rand, Joyce, and Thomas.

I therefore create book covers, a la high school (pictured above), for every pastel, new-agey palated cover that graces my path. This satisfies my inner snark, initiates interesting conversations, and allows guilt-free consumption of the inspiration and affirmations I so obviously need to undo the years of constant berating by my mother: "I have beautiful hair." "My arms are not too long." "I do not need to be more like Thomas Pearson in order to succeed in life" "Everything will be okay, even though I didn't go to Yale."


Monday, March 30, 2009

LA Weekly Interview: "SXSW and The Future of Media: Impromptu Core Conversation on Content Distribution at RVIP Lounge"

We got back from SXSW Interactive, Film, & Music festival in Austin, TX last week. We cruised in the RVIP Lounge all week long, saw new and familiar faces, and definitely had the best year ever. LA Weekly's Alexia Tsotsis came on-board, sang some NIN's "Closer" (our friend Rebbeca's pick), and afterwards we chatted outside of the mayhem. At which point, I got all excited talking to her editor, Erin Broadley, while she turned on her phone voice recorder, and here's what happened:

SXSW and The Future of Media: Impromptu Core Conversation on Content Distribution at RVIP lounge

Tuesday, Mar. 17 2009 @ 8:24PM
By Alexia Tsotsis in SXSW, Tech

Photo by Erin Broadley

Some of the best discussions at SXSW Interactive happen in the corridors, where visionaries in their respective fields talk shop between panels and during cigarette breaks. I had the fortuity to be a party to one such conversation between Los Angeles musician and {RV}IP Lounge Executive Producer Kestrin Pantera and our own L.A. Weekly Web Editor Erin Broadley on the future of creative content. Quickly pulling out the TapeMe app on my iPhone, I managed to capture the spontaneous late night exchange between the two media minds (as well as a really poorly executed karaoke version of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," if you know what I mean) on an Austin street corner outside the {RV}IP "party on wheels."

Erin Broadley: Why do you think [the entertainment community] has gotten itself in a position where ignoring the tech community is doing them a disservice?

Kestrin Pantera: It's a double-edged sword and a two way street. What is happening right now is that we're opening a channel of communication and figuring out how it works. Everyone has been hiding and trying to protect their content but it's the [tech] companies that have the platforms for distribution who are giving it away.

Why has the entertainment community allowed it to get to the point where they're actually losing money?

Kestrin Pantera: I think that the "why" is that [tech] is an absolute immediate threat to their business model. Well then how do we change the business model? I think the business model change will come through embracing the platforms.

Before I came here one of my co-workers asked me, "So do the Interactive people party as hard as the music people?" Yes, they do party just as hard, so is there a danger when the tech community becomes the entertainment?

Kestrin Pantera: Yes and no. That's what this space {RV}IP is about - what we're all creating. Who are we and what are we and what do we want to do? What are our goals? How are we going to survive and create something beautiful and meaningful that elevates us as a community? At the end of the day, if we all have is a bunch of bloggers that are putting forth beautiful but unchecked content, that's a dangerous situation. But how do we work with the unions? How does it happen?

By getting people to realize that [the change in media] is not something to be fearful of. It's like the analogy of when radio came along and people were so freaked out that it was going to cripple album sales.

Kestrin Pantera: Embracing platforms is essentially what it is; embracing the right platforms and embracing the right artists and giving them the space to create, and also the resources that they need to create.

You have two options: you can sit there and be fearful [of new media] or you can open up that part of your mind that says, "What can I do to make progress? How can I merge the two trains of thought?"

Kestrin Pantera: How do we do that?

By talking - once you stop talking it's done. A lot of people stop talking and all they do is litigate.

Kestrin Pantera: So the opposite of litigating would be communicating? Let's imagine that we had a space where everyone wasn't fighting where everyone was communicating openly. I feel like the best case scenario is a space where ultimately content hits the widest range of people with the widest range of acceptance.

We have to, because at this point if someone can broadcast what they ate for breakfast and it hits the entire world, then you have to accept that your music or your band or your art is going to do the same. So what are you going to do now? That involves getting back to the merger between the tech community and entertainment. And "start communicating" -- does that mean we have to be on a bus doing shots and eating Nachos? (Cheers from inside the RV, someone is giving their all to Boston's "More Than A Feeling.")

Kestrin Pantera: It starts with intimacy and discussion.

Exactly, so stop litigating and start conversing.

"More Than A Feeling" continues in the background as Erin and Kestrin take a stab at unraveling the Gordian Knot of content distribution, Ghandi maxim, "Be the change you want to see."

Follow us on Twitter at @alexiatsotsis and @laweekly. Also, check out Village Voice Media's SXSW Festival site for more coverage.

Friday, January 16, 2009

CauseCast Holiday Party Video

I decided it was probably a good idea to drink champagne & vodka cocktails and talk about what changes I'd like to see in the world at the CauseCast holiday party. Ta-da!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Hello, 2009: Let's Rock. KCRW Show at the Roxy Jan. 24th

We all know that the international & domestic economic climate has gone to hell, the unemployment rate hit a 16 year high today, and I, for one, fret for my oldest childhood friend's saftey (she is in med school in Israel). But there is some really fantastic shit going on around the world at the moment. This is our time, and I, for one, will take it. 2009 = TwoThousandMINE!

So many musicians in Los Angeles are going through a creative renaissance right now-- I'm literally barraged with fabulous original music every time I walk out the door. I'm so grateful to be a working "creative type" during this "downturn", it is such a special time to be alive.

5 More Reasons Why 2009 is Great:

1. This year marks the most legendary presidency in American history. Who's going to D.C. for the Inauguration?

2. My friends Cary Brothers, The Brandi Carlile Band, and Sarah Carter are recording un-f-ing believable music. 2009 will be music's own reward...

3. Have you checked out yet? It will make you glad to be alive in '09.

4. Love is in the Air. I, for one, am like, totally engaged (along with a ton of friends). This means we can all conspire to create the best wedding-season ever. And you're invited to the awesome party!

5. his Orchestra just mastered our new record. We're so, SO proud of the way it's turned out (we should be releasing the album in the next month or so, as soon as we finish the artwork).

We are also starting to play live again! Our first show of the year is a KCRW sponsored gig at the Roxy on Jan. 24th, with West Indian Girl. Shortly after that, we're playing Bordello on Jan. 28th. Come rock out.

Happy New Year, from TwoThousandGreat to TwoThousandMine!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Future Dog, God-Willing:

I found the most beautiful dog in the world on the internet. Now I just need to reassure the pet rescue that I'm the most responsible person in the world for this hound. I've been looking for a future-50lb puppy to be my soulmate/life partner for months, and I firmly believe that this is the dog for me. 

Here's 5 Reasons Why They Should Give Me The Dog Right Now:

1. I locked down permanent dog-sitting back-up before I decided to adopt. The Pantera's will take care of their grand-doggy if a situation ever occurs where I must get on a plane. Forever.

2. I've been reading dog training books (instead of doing anything else) the last 3 months-- and implementing the techniques on Batgirl, who's responding beautifully.

3. I have interviewed and found our Obedience Class (Pasadena), Doggie Daycare (1 mile away-- they have web cams!), and spent $300 on supplies today, including:
  • collar
  • crate
  • baby gate
  • pee pads/newspaper
  • chew toys (lots)
  • portable doggie bed/car carrier
  • clicker
  • waste bags for walking
  • food & bowls
  • buster cube
  • kong ("find it" game)
  • Nature’s Miracle
  • bitter apple
4. I'm going to use the "clicker" method of training her, in addition to other positive reinforcement techniques, rigorous socialization and obedience training. And Batgirl needs a big best friend.

5. I'm going to teach her how to ring a bell when she needs to go to the "bathroom".

In addition to the fact that I'm going to be the best dog owner ever, this dog looks like a giant version of Batgirl:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Give Peace a Chance Already. Geez.

I've been bitten by the holiday (and, apparently, the hippie) bug. I'm re-posting this awesome video from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, in which they brand and market the concept of peace worldwide. Seems an appropriate time of year and history to reiterate the message, enjoy!

Thanks, Sloane, for posting!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

P.S. Yay, Obama!

Election night was a blast, I'm so happy that the rest of the world is stoked as well. I'm reading The Audacity of Hope right now. It's grand to see a president-elect reflect on the history of 20th century government and share his views on opportunity, politics, and his vision for the future.

Hopefully he will stay true to his vision now that he has been elected into office. I highly recommend-- it's an inspiring read.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Kids in Montreal get TRASHED

I am in Montreal recording a record with Sarah Carter and producer Ross Golan. A highlight of the trip thus far (aside from making beautiful music) was going to see Girl Talk at Metropolis, an iconic Montreal venue, with my friend Phillippe and his best pal, music journalist T'Cha Dunlevy. The show was fantastic, the company divine, and the kids were WASTED.

Never have I seen so many drunken teenagers squished into one space. Because the drinking age is 18 years old here, all of the subtle house-party, hidden alcohol consumption of rookie high-school American kids disappears and is put right in the central of the, well, metropolis.

The night of trashed teens started with a young hipster falling on the sidewalk in front of the club, smashing her head into a parked bicycle and swatting at her friends who tried to help her stand. Once inside the club, the girls (and boys) just kept falling the whole night long-- on the street, the dance floor, the bathroom floor... it was incredible... Almost like getting plastered and collapsing was the new moonwalk.

Hopefully people won't need to get so blasted in order to enjoy Sarah's new record. Though we all have something to learn from GirlTalk's slick shirtless dance moves and hilarious strip routine-- what that is exactly, I'm not quite sure. (Photos by: Brooke Doyle)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Axe and Ye Shall Receive: 5 Things I Learned About Male Models

I worked on a project last week that involved stupidly gorgeous male models with extremely bad hair. Here are 5 Things I Learned About Male Models:

1) The movie "Zoolander" is pretty much accurate on every level: many are arrogant, beautiful divas who preen and strut willy-nilly, checking themselves out in the mirror more than any woman ever possibly could.

2) As in "Zoolander", there are also exceptions to the rule-- those "chosen few", with a great sense of humor-- self-deprecating, despite knowledge of their inherently superior Adonis-like beauty.

3) Male Models take their shirts off in public and flex, without rhyme or reason.

4) Male Models are ALWAYS posing when on-set.

5) Male Models have accents from Sweden, Algiers, or the UK. No matter where they're from.

Seeing as how I (and all the other girls on-set) are all into tall nerds, it was pretty much a Derek Zoolander/Hansel rejection-fest, and they were dissed by every woman present.

Above: two male models with bad wigs, unintentionally striking poses. Note the girl on the right, looking at them with confused apprehension.

This handsome gentleman rode around on a bike during lunch. Note his rippling abs. He instinctively took his shirt off and started flexing, without provocation.

My new friend, Kim Haden, and I, baring our best cold, hard, "blue steels". The fact is, we were totally the "Matildas" in the situation, no matter how hard we mugged. The awesome necklace I'm wearing was provided by Jewelry by Nola.

On a completely unrelated note, I found this picture of me and my bass player, Winthrop. Just wanted to formally acknowledge how cool this guy is:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Burt Reynolds is Hilarious

This man is awesome and funny. I can't really explain too much about why I'm in this photograph (at this time), but I will say that Burt Reynolds pretty much kicks complete ass all around. If you still have and/or watch T.V., you'll know exactly what this is all about in a few weeks.

Here are 5 Facts You May Not Have Known About Burt Reynolds:

1. He was the number-one box-office attraction for five straight years (1978-82)
2. He is 1/4 Cherokee Indian
3. He co-owned the Tampa Bay Bandits & a NASCAR team
4. He is a brilliant comedic actor
5. He helped his best childhood friend (who was abused) get adopted by his parents

...Look at him. He's the man.

P.S. My next (& final episode, this season) of "Alter Eco" airs this Monday, October 20, @ 9pm on Discovery's Planet Green.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Weezer Show @ the Forum

Inglewooooooood was so good to me. The evening started off a little shaky-- I couldn't get into the parking lot at The Forum and was very frustrated--even considered going home for a split second, when the drummer (of Weezer's) wife found & took care of me, like an angel from heaven.

I took it as a good sign, met up with the other "hootinanny" players, and manned up to rock. Some of the people in the "hootinanny" had won a contest through KROQ to be onstage and "play" with Weezer--they were given a myriad of percussive instruments to rattle and did a great job. My friend Ray and I were apparently wrangled in as "real musicians" at the last minute.

It was interesting to see a band open up to such an extreme level of engagement & interaction with their fans. It was a cool concept that was executed very well.

We rehearsed with some of the band members-- all of whom were awesome. It felt surprisingly normal: we worked out the chords, ran through each song a couple of times. Then we walked on stage:

I talked to Rivers, introduced my electric cello (and myself), and played a spacey little cello solo:

and rocked! Here's the view of the 10,000 seat venue from the stage:

Kestrin & Sarah on CAUSECAST.ORG

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’ve been shooting video and spreading the word about the preventable causes of cancer and harmful chemicals found in cosmetics. This month we are honored to be featured leaders on, a wonderful community that gives people the tools they need take action for whatever cause they may have. Here’s the first video we shot for them– there’s more on the way!

posted with vodpod

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm performing with Weezer next Tuesday!

I'm playing in a "hootenanny" with Weezer next Tuesday, October 14th, at The Forum in Los Angeles. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Opening for Jackson Browne, Colin Hay, & a big Obama fundraiser

Today we played a gig opening for Jackson Browne and Colin Hay ("Men At Work") which was legendarily awesome.  We were then invited by an audience member (at the last minute), to play an Obama fundraiser this afternoon which raised over $60,000.  That's like 10 times as much as our last fundraiser.  Hopefully tomorrow's Obama minute will be a complete success and we'll break a million big ones at high noon this Monday, Oct. 6th.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama or Bust: Barack-toberfest Pre-Party

The "Obama or Bust" Fundraiser was a complete success. We raised tons of cash and His Orchestra had one of our best performances ever.

I helped produce a photo booth (at the last minute) which turned out to be my favorite part of the event-- and a great way to promote Obama after the fact: on participants' social network profile pictures!

Massive thanks to photographer, Josh Reiss, who came on at the last minute and shared his brilliant ideas and talent to create these images.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama Fundraiser: Thursday, Sept. 25

My band, His Orchestra is playing the OBAMA OR BUST FUNDRAISER, this Thursday, with Shepard Fairey

(Shepard has donated an original signed print of his iconic HOPE poster which will be auctioned off--if you already own an unsigned poster, bring it and get it signed. He will also be dj-ing)

Can't wait to Barack the vote with you! more info & opportunity to donate at:

Thursday, September 25th 6:30-9:30pm

@ Visionary Boutique
8568 1/2 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, California 90069

-His Orchestra Playing Live
-Shepard Fairey & Simon Bennet DJ
-Raffle for awesome prizes
-Live T shirt printing (Bring your own blank T to get printed, or get one at the event.)
-Catering by Green Truck
-10% of the evenings sales from all vendors will go straight to the campaign!

Change for Change: Bring your loose change to add to the pot.

RSVP: Sign up to donate to the campaign & RSVP to this event at or

Bring a printout of your online donation of $100 or more, and receive an organic Visionary T-shirt!

Make a difference in the future of the planet, our country, & "the humanity".

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

5 Reasons Why 2008 was the Best Burning Man Ever

This was my best year ever at Burning Man.  We created a solid community, formed beautiful friendships, laughed hysterically, and made up rumors that circulated throughout the entire 50,000 person event (and made it all the way back to us). I am endlessly grateful for the blissful times had at Hammock Hangout, 2008, and know that I am truly blessed.

1) With the right team, you can do anything
Our team this year included CEO's, software engineers, technology/product managers, Hollywood writers, directors, & producers, artists, entrepreneurs, and a dominatrix. Our combined vision, skill sets, and ability to tie really good knots were critical to our success, but nothing was stronger than our combined sense of humor. Best. Camp. Ever.

2) Vision, Organization, Execution (using SCRUM at Burning Man)
I hate chore wheel camps-- the reason I go to Burning Man in the first place is to exorcize my anarchist demons. That means ain't nobody gonna tell me to do nothin'.

On the flipside, when we tried to execute a large-scale project in the past without a plan, we ended up with no project. This year I made a website, assembled an awesome team, and together we built the "Hammock Hangout": several giant Vietnam-era parachutes held up with a 1.6 ton Eucalyptus log and 42 "smaller" logs, filled with 30 hammocks. It worked, and the people came.

3) It's All About the Love
We made a conscious decision to be "all about the love" this year.  This does not mean "hippie", "un-funny" or "non-snarky".  It DOES mean "listen well", "provide positive solutions at all times", and "help people as much as possible with an air of light-hearted hilarity".  
Sometimes the best way to help someone is to make a joke, do a shot, and/or sing karaoke in the dust storm... and sometimes you get to save people's lives (which we did, twice, thanks to our general awareness, concern, & crisis management skills). 

4) Partly Naked
This year we were "fortunate" enough to be placed across the street from a camp called "Party Naked", which requires no more explanation. 
Though they stood around in the street wearing nothing but "buttercups" on their privates, creeping out pretty much everyone, they were actually the best neighbors ever because they provided a never ending source of joke-fodder.  And they took our constant jibes with good humor-- especially when we renamed our camp "Partly Naked", aka "Pants Required". Thanks, Nakeds! 

Above: "The loneliest man in the world" (Photo credit: Josh Reiss)
5) Starting Celebrity Rumors
Did you know that Madonna was at Burning Man this year and went to Ashram Galactica?  Or that Gavin Newsome was a member of the LampLighters this year?  That Sting eats a whole watermelon every day when he's in the desert? And Robbie Williams went to the 70's roller disco and skated in a circle? (That last one is true)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Operation Ugly Beauty: ACTIVATED

“Operation Ugly Beauty” follows Charlie’s Angels-esque trio, actress Sarah Carter, rock star Kestrin Pantera, and revolutionary make-up artist Victoria Rowe, as they purify the beauty regimens of celebrities and tastemakers. There are thousands of easily identifiable toxic ingredients in American cosmetic products that have been directly linked to cancer for the past 25 years (and consequently been banned from the European Union). Americans are beginning to know and care, but feel helpless…

“Operation Ugly Beauty” is entertainment, education, and EMPOWERMENT.

View Trailer:

Our three heroines go on-site to celebrities’ and tastemakers’ homes/studios/sets and perform a cosmetic coup, destroying all toxic products* with hilarity and faux violence. The demonized products are then replaced with healthy alternatives and the subject is treated a pure makeover. Afterwards, the girls go out in sexy, healthy style and celebrate with their freshly made-over subject, causing hot and hilarious trouble while leaving a trail of beautiful people reconsidering their toxic attachments.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

RVIP Lounge LAFF: Video Rockage

The RVIP Lounge, LA Film Festival : our highest levels of rocking yet.

It began with an epic night of glory: we stole people from the VIP room at the LA Film Festival, cruised the Sunset Strip, stopped by the wrap party of Adrian Grenier's show, "Alter Eco", saw an amazing rock show by His Orchestra, interviewed Planet Unicorn, and went to the opening night Hollywood premiere party for "Expired"-- who's roster of guests included numerous Academy Award Winning producers ("The Godfather", "Ali", "Lost in Translation", etc). Pretty much the blingy-est night ever.

Needless to say, we were completely beat-down the next day. We got up early, went to the festival, watched dogs frolick on the lawn as "Hellboy 2" premiered in front of us... and were so buckled we almost didn't think we'd make it through sunset.

Fortunately, our close friends banded together and rallied up to hit the Sunset Strip for "one last ride". On Hollywood Blvd, a random group of Canadian guys (who had been desperately searching for karaoke, to no avail) saw our RV and literally chased us down in the street. We picked them up and rode around together for hours in hilarious bliss as they sang at the top of their lungs, shared stories, played with our lightsaber, and were all-around AWESOME. These guys are our heroes, who truly helped us "bring it on home".

Here's a glimpse of a night on the RVIP Lounge--our first official video!


Lately I've learned a lot about iteration and organization, the general ideas of:

a) Do something over and over again until you get it right, and

b) Put everything in one place.

I indexed things people have written about my work over the last 12-ish months--with great thanks to those who made it possible. It's evolving into my new "news" page on

LA TIMES Cover: "Fest Train Rollin'" (Kestrin en route to Coachella) (Spencer Weisnick)

Metromix: "The RVIP Lounge: Organizer Kestrin Pantera may be one of our favorite humans ever" (Alie Ward)

Cinevegas Interview: "Stars and Suns"

New York Magazine: "Expired" review Home of "Alter Eco"

LA TIMES Article: "The RVIP Lounge: The Funnest (and Wierdest) Way to Get Around SXSW" (Tony Pierce)

XLR8R Magazine: "SXSW Interactive: Nerds Gone Wild" (Matt Earp)

Paper Magazine -- "The 100 Most Interesting Faces in Los Angeles"

StreetPeeper: "Right now on the Streets of Los Angeles: Kestrin @ LA Film Festival" (Lisa Borodkin)

LAIST.COM: "Hop on RVIP Lounge at LAFF This Weekend" (Andy Sternberg)

Laughing Squid: "RVIP Lounge & Karaoke Cabaret at SXSW Interactive 2008" (Scott Beale)

Yahoo News/E! Online: "Beck Down with "The O.C.", Guero Record Release (Charlie Amter)

Virgin Magazine )-- "Vigorous Benefit Rocks LA..." "...another unforgettable moment" (Spencer Robinson)

Indie Music 101 Review: Cary Brothers Tour (Danny Brown)

"His Orchestra: the best new band, ever!!!" ;)


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RVIP Lounge LA Film Festival: This Weekend, June 27-29th

This weekend, June 27-29th, the RVIP Lounge is heading to L.A. Film Festival with a group of up-and-coming filmmakers & actors, inspired technology startups, and our favorite bloggers & press, to rock the RVIP Media Lounge

We shuttle people to screenings, throw down our own red carpet, and connect the press with celebs & tomorrow's indie superstars on an R.V. with a karaoke bar and H.D. video den.

All Aboard!
For location updates, follow us on twitter: text "follow rviplounge" to 40404

Tentative Schedule:
Friday (6/27):
4:30-6:30pm : LAFF, Westwood
10:30pm : TBA

Saturday (6/28):
1:30pm 11pm: LAFF, Westwood

Sunday (6/29):
12pm-10pm: LAFF, Westwood


(more TBA)
Hop on!

(and a special pre-thanks to,, and

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sweden Rules! 5 reasons why...

Sweden is probably the best country ever--it's "The Shire". The highlight of our trip was literally dancing around a maypole with a group of grown adults in the forest, holding hands and singing on Midsummer's Eve--their primary national tradition. Here are 5 more reasons why this country rocks:

1.) The sun never sets during summer.

2.) It always smells good-- be it roasting meats, baking breads, or jasmine flowers.

3.) Absolutely every place you go, there's good music playing: train station, bathroom, hotel lobby, friend's house, bar, club, shoe shop, wierd antique store, boat, party, dorm room, etc.

4.) They take their food very seriously. It is ALWAYS good: restaurang, friend's house, kebab stand on the corner, etc.

5.) The Swedes truly are as hot as we imagined-- and they all spoke to us in SWEDISH, which mean they thought we, too, were well-dressed and good looking.

I'd post pictures and the legendary video I filmed, if that creep in the Copenhagen train station hadn't stolen my purse. As a traveller, it's one's sole responsibility to guard the bag with their passport, drivers license, credit card, video camera, digital still camera, and all the tapes to their film project, with their fullest attention, but OUCH! Granted, it was a 2-man operation and the guys were serious pro's who basically took it from my lap, but it's still my fault it's gone. On the plus side, my Danish friends apologized to me on behalf of their country and then fed me, so it worked out alright!

Apparently, this film-- Starmonster 2 (in Europe)-- was too visionary for this world, and I was meant to just finish editing "Marathoners" already!

Monday, June 23, 2008

New York Magazine loves "Expired"

Opens this Friday, June 27th, in Los Angeles. It's very dark and funny, and act with Samantha Morton in it. Check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Portrait of a Bat

There's something you should know about me-- I'm a drooling idiot dog owner. I recently succumbed to my crazy dog-loving genes and got schmancy professional portraits taken of my noble hound, Batgirl.

It started when Jonathan's sister, Flora Grubb, said, "Let's get a dog that looks like a bat and namer her Batgirl!" Jonathan obsessively cruised the web for dogs until he found the weirdest looking animal ever, and said "I must meet this dog." At the rescue center, he was introduced to a little pooch named Batgirl.

1 year later I stole her and took her to photographer extraordinaire,, to get dog portraits taken of her (behind Jonathan's back) as a surprise birthday gift.

It is the gift that keeps on giving-- since every person I know will also receive framed prints of Batgirl for the next several years.

We're now formally accepting applications from those who want to make her a star.