Author: Kirsten K., Modern Art, Pop Culture, The Arts

Last week, as a follow-up to my ASMR post, I convinced my good friend Stephanie—who does not experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—to accompany me to the Pacific Design Center to view Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum at the Young Projects Gallery. Unsurprisingly for a weekday afternoon visit to an exhibit inspired by an obscure and recently identified phenomenon, it was a ghost town, but the artist was there to welcome us into the space. She allowed us to wander at our leisure through dark rooms (assuring us that our eyes would adjust) in which video screens displayed scenes ranging from hands caked in cracking mud to scissors cutting through netted fabric. All the while, beautiful and slightly eerie music by Los Angeles composer Deru filled the air.

Touch-and-Go 1

I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t “get” modern art. In 2000, Kirsti dragged me to a Paul McCarthy exhibit at MOCA and I still haven’t forgiven her. But as I walked through the Touch Museum, I began to understand what Julie was up to. My first clue came while watching a scene in which a pair of muddy hands runs over a length of metal chain. I instantly felt the sensation in my palms. Observing a video of hands caressing sculpted heads and being able to feel every groove of the carved hair under my own fingers, I experienced how this exhibit—comprised of little that is tangible beyond a series of two-dimensional screens—is, in fact, ALL about touch.

Touch-and-Go 2

Since feeling physical sensations in response to observing touch is not unusual for me, I didn’t think much of it until I consulted Stephanie about her experience. Looking at another video of hands running down a curtain of hanging chains, I asked her what she felt. She said that she had an impression of cold, but that was it. “You don’t feel the chains in your hands?” I asked. “No.” As an adult of a certain age, I’m still brought up short when presented with how differently we all experience the world. We tend to assume that most people see and feel things in the same way that we do, so it’s a surprise to suddenly realize that something we’ve taken for granted our entire lives may not be the norm. As we watched a video of mannequin hands petting a wig of thick, wavy hair, the sensation of the strands passing through my fingers was strong, but Stephanie felt nothing.

Touch-and-Go 3

After walking through the exhibit, we entered a room with pillows on the floor and two headsets facing a screen showing an ASMR video that Julie created for her YouTube channel. Stephanie and I sat down and put on our headphones to watch, but there were a couple of people talking loudly in the hallway outside the gallery and I wasn’t able to get into the relaxed mode necessary for me to experience the tingles of ASMR. I caught the barest sense of them from listening to Julie’s soft voice, but the video contained images of a model brain with long pins sticking out of it, so I felt the uncomfortable sensation of having my skull poked with hatpins—not conducive to producing tingles.

Touch-and-Go 4

Julie mentioned that she is interested in the work of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist specializing in behavioral neurology whom I happened to write to in 2012 about my experience with synesthesia. She is drawn to his studies of mirror neurons and how they relate to empathy, dovetailing with her art and the way in which observing images and actions can evoke a physical response.

If you don’t experience ASMR, I’m not sure that this exhibit will have much to offer you, other than some boldly-colored images and atmospheric music. I myself did not get any tingles as I watched the videos, despite feeling the physical sensation of touch. But to those on the leading edge of this movement, which is still in its infancy, it presents a doorway to fresh avenues of inquiry and a new way to experience art. As a number of people who signed the guest book expressed in one way or another, “I was touched.”

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Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum


The Touch Museum will be on view at the Young Projects Gallery in Los Angeles through February 22nd. All photographs in this post from the Julie Weitz Touch Museum.


The Art of Asking, or Why I Want to Spoon with Amanda Palmer

Author: Kirsti Kay, Books, Literature, Pop Culture

The Art of Asking 1Sometimes a book sneaks up on you—one that wasn’t on your radar, but sprinkles a thousand juicy gumdrops of pure delight into your unsuspecting consciousness, renewing your faith in humanity. This is how I felt about The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Yes, Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls…Amanda Palmer of the million dollar Kickstarter…Amanda Palmer of the notorious eyebrows…Amanda Palmer whom I’d like to spoon with.

I was never an Amanda Palmer fan. I thought her band, The Dresden Dolls, was cool, but I never bought an album. I was curious about those eyebrows and thought she was super rad to snag Neil Gaiman, but that’s about it. Then I listened to an interview with her on Tim Ferrisspodcast, and as soon as she started talking, I was in love. I felt giddy with joie de vivre. She was so wonderfully open and honest and filled with joy. She made me want to play the ukulele! She made me want to make art! She made me want to spread her message across the land!

I immediately watched her TED Talk and then downloaded The Art of Asking on Audible. I highly recommend the unabridged audio version of the book. It is read by Amanda and also includes music—a delightful surprise, which sets the tone and makes the experience even more personal. Her reading style is relaxed and conversational. I didn’t feel like I was listening to a book at all. I felt that someone was talking to me, entertaining me, confessing to me.

The Art of Asking 2Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not your typical self-help book. It’s mainly a memoir filled with outrageous and delicious stories of Amanda’s life. She recounts the early days when she performed as a living statue, known as “The Eight Foot Bride.” She talks about The Dresden Dolls and how she amassed an armada of loyal fans by creating a symbiotic relationship of trust and reciprocation. She tells the sweet story of how she met the author Neil Gaiman and, yes, she explains the eyebrows.

She also gets into the whole Kickstarter controversy (Amanda was the first artist who crowd funded a million dollar campaign and a lot of critics accused her of ripping off her fans). She is not afraid to ask for money for her art, but in return she will come to your house, eat food with your aunt Fran, hang out with your friends, and play a show in your backyard. It’s a pretty refreshing concept. The Art of Asking is a simple formula: Give and the world will give back. Hug and the world will hug back. Love and the world….well, you get the picture.

In a world that so often feels disconnected, selfish and unfriendly, it’s reassuring to know Amanda’s out there, reminding us of the importance of creative expression and human connection.  I would say yes to anything she asked.

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The Art of Asking


The Art of Asking is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The audio version can be downloaded from Audible. For book-related extras, including a playlist of songs from the book, visit Amanda Palmer’s website.


Note from Kirsten: Kirsti was so moved by this book that she bought me the Audible download and included a note saying that she really wanted me to listen, but I didn’t have to and shouldn’t feel pressured or obligated. Despite these assurances, I knew she was anxiously waiting to find out if I would listen and enjoy it. When I finally told her that I was loving the audiobook, she said, “Ohhhhh, so glad you are listening! I wasn’t going to ask!” We are both now fully aboard the Amandatrak train and excited to see where it will take us next.

Like Kirsti, I believe this book is best enjoyed on audio due to Amanda’s engaging narration and the inclusion of music, which sets the stage for key moments in her story. On a scale of yawn to swoon, this audiobook gets five out of five smelling salts. Listen to it!!

Smelling Salts 5a


Author: Kirsti Kay, Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Snacks

If there is a zombie apocalypse, my office is the place to be. I am a snack hoarder. There, I said it. You want salty? I got it. You want sweet? Well, please let me know if you prefer dark chocolate, milk chocolate, gummy, minty or caramel. I have fruit—fresh and dried. I have nuts—raw and roasted. I also have enough bottled water for a week and even a bottle of wine. The problem is, I never want to eat my own snacks. If my co-worker Jenny is eating some Cheez-Its, I must buy some too, and then they sit in my drawer until Jenny comes in and asks if I have any Cheez-Its.

MMMPop 1A few weeks ago, I did a Costco run during my lunch break. I get very giddy at Costco—so many snack choices for my drawer! On this day, one of the free sample ladies was giving out tiny paper cups filled with Skinny Pop popcorn. I smiled and continued down the aisle. I love popcorn, but have never liked packaged popcorn. I like my popcorn cooked in oil on the stove with lots of melted butter. When I came back up the aisle, the free sample lady looked so pleadingly at me, her hair net askew. I felt bad for her, so I took the tiny cup, and thus my obsession began.

I’ve never been a fan of anything labeled “skinny.” It is usually code for gross. This product, however, is a revelation! A snack fantasy! Total deliciousness in popped form! It is also:

  • cholesterol free
  • zero trans fat
  • preservative free
  • dairy free
  • peanut free
  • gluten free
  • non GMO

and only 39 calories per cup, so “guilt free” can also be added to that list! The only ingredients are: popcorn, sunflower oil and salt. The salt-to-popcorn ratio is absolutely perfect and the popcorn itself is fluffy and light and completely addictive. It is actually a snack I look forward to every day. It takes the edge off and stops me from eating a handful of peanut M&M’s. The fact that it’s also healthy is almost superfluous, so tasty is this snack!

The biggest test of all was my husband, Aaron. I brought some home and told him it was called Skinny Pop. He looked dubiously at the bowl. We turned on Game of Thrones and soon he was shoving handfuls into his mouth. He commented that the butter and salt were perfectly proportioned and was incredulous when I told him there was no butter. I got wrapped up in the fate of Jon Snow, and when I went to reach for some popcorn, the bowl was empty. A sheepish Aaron said, “This popcorn is my sun and stars.” I couldn’t agree more.

MMMPop 2

Skinny Pop popcorn is available in 4 flavors: Original (which is what I tried), Black Pepper, White Cheddar, and Naturally Sweet.

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Skinny Pop


Skinny Pop is available at Costco, Whole Foods, Target and many grocery stores.