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Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under

Originally published in Time Out Sydney Magazine. Print & Online, January 2011. Click here to read online.

 

Amanda Palmer is returning for her annual visit Down Under and the obvious question is: “Why is an American singer, songwriter, pianist and goth poster-girl, engaged to British writer Neil Gaiman, celebrating Australia Day with a gig at the Opera House?”amanda-palmer-flag

“I think the misconception is that I’m celebrating the Australian national holiday,” Palmer laughs. “I’m not!”

She is celebrating, mind. The fact that Australia Day kicks off her tour of Australia and New Zealand is more than “a cool coincidence”. Palmer is marking the soon-to-be-announced release of her first independent solo record, a collection of Australia-inspired ballads. “It’s kind of like a love letter to the country,” she says of the album, which is a bundle of tracks recorded live last year.

So what can Amanda’s fans expect of the Opera House show? Tracks from the forthcoming album? Favourites from her recent, does-what-it-says-on-the-label EP, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele? Who knows? With Palmer, performances are always a surprise. “I’ll do what I always do, which is a little bit of everything, and then do stuff that nobody’s expecting,” she decides. “I don’t like doing the same thing twice. Seriously. I think I get bored.”

Joining the Opera House party are two Melbourne acts: cabaret up-and-comers the Jane Austen Argument and the darkly funny gypsy troubadours Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen (fiancé Neil Gaiman will also appear to give a reading). “It’s nice to be able to share the stage,” remarks Palmer. “I really like the intimacy of just me and a piano and an audience, but I also love rocking out and it’s very hard to rock out without a band.” The Sydney performance will showcase that AP-style eclecticism with a hybrid show of haunting piano followed by signature rock-out sessions backed by the aforementioned ‘Gentlemen.

But really, why Australia? “The song ‘Australia’, for me, sort of ties everything together,” Palmer says. “It’s about having this fantasy that Australia is the place where I can totally reinvent myself and get away from everything that I know and everything that I am and be what it is that I envision and what I want instead of what I’m stuck inside.”

Palmer’s Australian fan base has been especially loyal since the start, beginning with the success of her punk cabaret duo, the Dresden Dolls. In 2005, when the Dolls did their first Australian tour, Palmer knew she had come home. “It felt like Beatlemania!” she recalls. “The Dresden Dolls aren’t a mainstream band and the fact that Australia went nuts for them made me think, ‘Ah! These are probably my people!’”

What is it that Australians hear in the music? “I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that Australians seem to embrace honesty and authenticity, they’re just one passionate people,” she says. “Australia is really special – I go back every year”. Welcome back, Amanda Fucking Palmer. Suzanne Lourie

Amanda Palmer Goes Down UnderSydney Opera House, Wed 26 Jan with special guests, including Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen and Neil Gaiman

A day in the life of Joe Mazurkivich, a Saratoga Bridges participant

Originally Published in The Saratogain: Sunday, February 20, 2011. Click Here To Read Online.

Picture of Joe Mazurkivich


Saratoga Bridges Day Habilitation participant Joe Mazurkivich plays tug-of-war with Scooby-Doo. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)

By SUZANNA K. LOURIE

BALLSTON SPA – Joe Mazurkivich starts his day early at his paid job at the Ballston Spa Public Library every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He usually works from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

“He was early today,” one librarian says. “Got here at 8 a.m. sharp.”

Mazurkivich preps the library for opening, performing a variety of tasks like mopping the floors and taking out the recycling.

“Fridays are Joe’s coffee days,” Linda Sherman says.

Sherman works for the Saratoga Springs day habilitation branch of Saratoga Bridges, helping people with disabilities integrate into community life. Among her duties is accompanying Mazurkivich and driving him to various destinations throughout the day. This morning Mazurkivich opts for Cumberland Farms over Dunkin’ Donuts. After much deliberation, he chooses a mix of Coke Zero and Mug Root Beer along with a Hostess Snowball for a snack.

Next up is Mazurkivich’s favorite part of the day, volunteering at the Saratoga County Animal Shelter. After dropping off the recycling, Mazurkivich and Sherman head inside where the shelter staff and volunteers greet them in a chorus of warm hellos.

“I do everything,” Mazurkivich says. “I walk and play with the dogs and I like to pet the cats.”

Today Mazurkivich is walking Scooby-Doo, a 9-year-old pitbull surrendered by her owners Dec. 8.

Back inside, Sherman and Mazurkivich gather toys and dog treats and head to The Dog House, one of the shelter’s new playrooms. Mazurkivich is in his element. Sitting on the floor, he plays tug-of-war with Scooby while occasionally stopping to soak up some doggy kisses and reward the pooch with a biscuit for good behavior.

Shelter employee Tracy Dussault describes Scooby’s transformation: “He was really bad; he wouldn’t even go into his cage.” But after a couple of months working with Mazurkivich, she said, the dog has done a complete 180.

“Joe is one of the only regulars from Saratoga Bridges who walks dogs,” Sherman explains. “He had dogs all his life — big dogs — so he knows how to work with them and he isn’t afraid.”

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Saratoga Bridges Day Habilitation participant Joe Mazurkivich walks Scooby-Doo, one of the dogs up for adoption at the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, where Joe volunteers. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)

Mazurkivich has two large dogs named Wilson and Murphy back at home in Clifton Park.

Last year, Mazurkivich and Sherman fell in love with one of the pups, a border collie/chow mix named Gracie whom Sherman ended up adopting.

After a brief stop to pet the cats in the Lion’s Den, the pair says their goodbyes and heads back to day hab for lunch.

On other days, Mazurkivich takes art classes and volunteers for Meals On Wheels, but this afternoon he will head to the YMCA with friends to play basketball.

As things wind down in the classroom, Sherman recounts her time working with Mazurkivich. “Joe just shines at the animal shelter. It’s his thing. Everyone has their spot, whether it’s an art class or a volunteer placement. Everyone has a place where they really thrive.”

In 2005, Mazurkivich received Saratoga Bridges’ ninth annual “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the organization’s gala at the Hall of Springs. He was chosen for a number of reasons, but predominantly because he had made such significant progress in his life and in his engagement with the community.

“He’s involved with so much,” Sherman says.

By noon, Mazurkivich has already logged hours at the library, volunteered at the shelter and spent time in the classroom.

He plops into a chair. “I worked hard today,” Mazurkivich exclaims with a smile.