Monday, April 30, 2012

Extra Points

Ouch. Sorry if that last post was a bit of a downer... although it was interesting to reflect on where I was during such a significant event (the L.A. riots), it also put me in a bit of a mood. Generally speaking, I think it's healthier to look forward, not backwards.

Well, don't feel too sorry for my stillborn Hollywood experiment... in the decade following USC, I had Hollywood coming to me! 

My first experience was in 2004 when I landed a role as an extra in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic, The War of the Worlds. I worked a full-week, met Spielberg and "co-star" Tom Cruise, ran away from imaginary aliens, and made some pretty decent cash in the process. To top it off, I was also offered the chance to join the Screen Actor's Guild... how's that for glitz and glamour? 

It's much too late this evening to blog further, but I'll try and write down some of my memories of the shoot for a later post. Oh, it's interesting to point out that Mr. Spielberg also had trouble getting into USC"s film school... I think he did alright for himself!

Here's a goofy video I created back in 2005: an audition tape to be a presenter on the red carpet for the New York City premiere of The War of the Worlds. The contest asked us to pretend to interview one of the cast using an inanimate object and... uh... well... maybe the scientology thing was too touchy. It was fun anyway... I went back to where we shot the film in Athens, New York: 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Higher Education

This weekend I'm gearing up to create some more visuals for the Spoken Word Almanac Project mid-year show (to take place in NYC on June 30th, I believe). I have no idea if the SWAPsters have a poem planned, but one current news story that resonates for me is the reminder of the 20th anniversary of the riots that took place in Los Angeles, California, starting on April 29, 1992.

Photo by Philip Channing.
Courtesy USC. All rights reserved.
Back then I was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, with hopes of getting into the university's prestigious film school. In a recent blog I talked about my high school infatuation with the West Coast; well, by the early 90s I had actually realized my goal of living out there. You can't fault me for ambition... I had my sights set squarely on the top− landing first in San Diego and then finally at USC, which boasted a great program and Hollywood right in its backyard. I thought it made perfect sense: study and work on making connections in an area completely dedicated to filmmaking. 

The reality: I was in a little over my head. I was accepted to USC as an undeclared major, but was so excited by the possibilities and the school's famous alumni, that I hadn't considered how long it might actually take to get into the film school... if at all. The first semester went alright: I started taking elective film production and acting courses, working as a political cartoonist for the campus newspaper, and was generally outgoing and open to learning all I could about the school and this exciting, new area.

USC campus. Photo by Philip Channing.
Courtesy USC. All rights reserved.
As a transfer student from a small school on the East Coast, there were differences that I noticed right away. First, USC seemed to attract some pretty affluent students− it was not unheard of to find a classmate who had one, even two fancy cars on campus (I'm still trying to figure out that last one). Second, even though the school boasted a beautiful campus, the students generally looked towards greater Los Angeles as the place to hang out− the alternative was a very cliquey fraternity/sorority life. Finally, the campus was located right next to one of the poorest areas of the city: South Central.


I have never been about status− I try and judge a person by his character, and I think that generally is what I am attracted to in people. At USC I quickly made friends, but had some trouble knowing where I fit in. Truthfully, I was still dealing with the scars of feeling different back in high school, the loss of a parent, and trying to understand my own identity... all this was going on while I was attempting to learn new skills, and start life in an entirely new area. By the second semester at USC, reality came crashing down: I began to get seriously behind in my studies, and also learned that I had not been accepted to the film school. All of this began to weigh very heavily on me... here I was a third-year college student who felt like he was constantly starting from scratch, doubting my direction, and not quite sure how to move ahead. I became increasingly withdrawn, quit a service fraternity I had been accepted into, and was having trouble sleeping... at one point I really felt like I was at wit's end... this was hardly the "California dream" I had imagined...

Right around this time an all-white Los Angeles jury acquitted four of the city's police officers in the beating of a black motorist, Rodney King, which had attracted national attention after it was captured on videotape. It was an unbelievable outcome, pointing to racial injustice, and the city's residents responded by venting their anger at the outcome. In the days that followed, Los Angeles was under siege, as arson, property damage, looting and assault spilled out on to the streets and engulfed the air. 

Photo of destruction resulting from the riots.
Courtesy USC's "The Daily Trojan." All rights reserved.
Students at the "sheltered" USC campus had no choice but to face this potentially dangerous environment. Although the campus safety did a commendable job at protecting its students, we were mere blocks from where all of this destruction was taking place. I remember climbing up to the top of one of the public buildings and looking out across the city− it was a surreal view... like something out of a sci-fi/disaster film... with smoke hanging heavy in the air... The city had ordered a curfew, and all of us students were ordered to evacuate our housing and sleep in the campus gym.

Destruction from the LA riots, nearby
USC campus. Photo courtesy
"The Daily Trojan,"/USC. All rights reserved.
I will never forget the feeling that came over me in those first few hours... somehow I was able to set aside all of my personal problems and rise to the occasion. I remember checking on other students' safety in our housing... making the rounds of the gym to try and liven up others' spirits... generally assisting my classmates during this time of crisis. It really was all by instinct, and a sharp turnaround from the way I had been feeling for several weeks, wrapped up in a crippling feeling of isolation and defeat.


I did not condone the actions of the rioters, but certainly sympathized with their frustration. I don't claim to fully know how racism feels, but have certainly experienced prejudice myself, and around this time was still dealing heavily with the after effects of that burden. 




I never had a problem in South Los Angeles myself, and would visit several of the local markets and restaurants, which often had a unique ethnic flavor. After the riots I walked around the edges of the community... I did not want to be thought of as one of the elitist students that was hiding from the social and ethnic diversity of the area. 

A month later our semester ended. We were told to finish up our finals from home, and my friend helped me pack up and get on a plane back to the East Coast. At first I had a hard time adjusting... not because of the riots, but from the emotional hell that I had put myself through in the months preceding. However, I think those instant moments of reacting to the crisis on our campus taught me something about getting over myself... that there was some hope, and certainly bigger problems in the world to deal with. Through the help of friends and family, I began to come out of my cloud and regain my clarity and confidence...

That fall I ended up transferring (again) to a smaller school in New England. Nothing to do with the riots, the main reason for the move was time and money (California might never have been possible without the financial support of my parents, for whom I am eternally grateful). I can't say it was a difficult decision, because I really was in a dark place at USC and anxious to get started in a major where I could start focusing and creating right away (I chose the University of Hartford's communications program, with a minor in illustration). It ended up being like night and day, but not without problems and a short relapse into some additional dark moments... I realized my demons had more to do with me than any particular location.

This seems to be an ongoing theme in my life: persevering... dealing with adversity. I'm happy to say that I have come a long way since those days at USC, and don't regret the things that I learned during that time (no matter how painful). In 2007 I returned to LA to work on a video production, which was rewarding in itself; one evening I took a drive past the USC campus, just to reflect on where I had been. 


Over the past week I have been reading several articles about where Los Angeles (and our country) has come since the riots. There is obviously still racial tension and economic hardship, but more diversity in the police force and government must make a difference. During my trip in 2007 and again in 2010, the city felt more open... a little less isolated. The reality is that the demographics are changing−the former minority population has become the majority in many areas. There also seems to be better representation and pride in the community.

As for myself, I'm not sure California is the "be all, end all" for me now, but I could certainly see myself being successful there, and definitely having a happier and more focused time about it than during college. I thank not only my increased knowledge and experience, but also learning to accept and celebrate my own differences...

Related Links:

"The L.A. riots: 20 years later," Los Angeles Times, April 2012




Saturday, April 28, 2012

Well-Suited

It was a busy day today, spent looking for a new apartment and trying on more tuxes... still looking for the perfect fit.

Tonight we decided to unwind, and rented the movie, My Weekend With Marilyn, a 2011 biopic about actress Marilyn Monroe's experience working on the 1957 film, The Price and the Showgirl, with Sir Laurence Olivier--such an odd pairing! Monroe was such a strong personality that it couldn't have been easy to capture her and all the legendary trials... but I think Michelle Williams really pulled it off. What do you think?




Kenneth Branagh was also quite good playing Olivier... looking at these old clips on YouTube, he really does seem to capture his persona. I'm all about the details, so I appreciate films like this that take the care to do it right. I remember when we were shooting Taking WoodstockI walked into the mock hotel set between scenes, and was impressed that they had even recreated old tourism brochures to stock the racks near the desk (I picked one up... shhh... don't tell!). 

I know from experience that it pays to do your research, get the details down... anytime I try and cut corners, I'm never satisfied. So, the wedding planning continues... slowly but surely... it should all be worth it in the end...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rock the Post- Part II

Back in February I wrote about the coolness that is 1960s rock poster designs−it looks like The Museum at Bethel Woods shares my interest, and earlier this month opened up a special exhibition, Byrd/Skolnick: A Tale of Two Posters. The exhibition looks at the work of David Edward Byrd and Arnold Skolnick, who were both commissioned to create posters for the original Woodstock Festival. It turns out that Byrd, a designer with the Fillmore East, was originally approached, and came up with a classic, Art Nouveau design, featuring a nude "Aquarius" pouring water from an urn; when the festival had to be moved from Woodstock mere weeks before it began, the organizers tried to get Byrd to do a redesign, but he was on vacation in the Caribbean. This lead to a last minute request to Skolnick, who turned around and created the much simpler graphic of the bird and guitar, which has become iconic.

Here's a fun video that looks at the development of '60s rock posters, and the influence from Parisian advertising posters of the late 19th to early 20th century... of course! I love Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, et. al−it's interesting to see how that art influenced the later designs:


Both Byrd and Skolnick will be in attendance at Bethel Woods this Saturday, April 28, starting at 2 p.m., for a special conversation with my colleague Stephanie Plunkett, Chief Curator and Deputy Director of Norman Rockwell Museum. The talk will be held in conjunction with a rock art poster fair being held at the Bethel Woods museum that weekend, where collectors, vendors, scholars and print-makers will share their enthusiasm for the iconic art forms of rock posters and prints. It sounds like great fun, and the weekend kicks off with a screening of the film, American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art


 This film looks great... I was not previously aware of it, but it seems to encapsulate everything from the classic '60s to modern-rock poster renaissance. I'm also intrigued by the look at DIY printmaking... I saw a bit of this technique at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival last summer−I believe it is part of the footage that I will include in my video profile on the event (coming soon!).


It was around the early '90s that you started to see the return of these vibrant, rock art posters... I remember it being in full-force by the time I was DJing at WBER-FM in Rochester, New York. That resulted in lots of cool promotional materials that complemented the edgy music scene.


Anyway, hopefully I'll get to see the exhibition at Bethel Woods and this documentary... and maybe I'll try my hand at designing a modern-rock poster at some point? I used to experiment with such things back in high school/college... it would be fun to try and "rock out" again.


(I know, I promised some modern examples... watch this, er, post...)


Bethel Woods Center website: www.bethelwoodscenter.org



Thursday, April 26, 2012

You're Mine Now, But You're Not...

It's been another exhausting week... but as I drove into work, I heard this long forgotten song on the radio, and it sure did give me a kick!




Once again, the power of music−this one takes me back to late high school... memories of skateboarding, alternative music, and a growing fascination for California (I had just visited the West Coast for the first time with my family, and fell in love with the "exotic" land of palm trees and surf). Oingo Boingo was one of those bands that just fit my tastes perfectly at the time: quirky, offbeat, and leaning towards the theatrical/scary (I was a big monster fan as a kid). They made music perfectly tailored for Halloween, but also some sparkling pop songs as well... including this one: 1987's "Not My Slave" was an infectious, endearing look at maintaining a healthy relationship, backed up by a great chorus. The band was huge on the West Coast, but never quite caught on beyond sort of a cult status nationally... maybe they were just a little too quirky. Of course lead singer Danny Elfman would go on to become a hugely successful scorer of motion picture soundtracks, including Batman and Edward Scissorhands. It's interesting to see how an artist can fall into a parallel line of work that might better share their talents... but I still have fond memories of Boingo's energy, and these lines:


"You're missing the whole point, you're not my little pet
Don't throw away your life, the game's not over yet
I do not own your soul, don't want you in a cage
I only want your heart to find a special place..."

Slave to fashion, for sure. Photo by SK for JC.
All rights reserved.
In a way these lyrics became relevant to me again later in the day, as Sarah and I spoke with my friend Tom on the phone for our first pre-marriage counseling session. Separately, we had both filled out an online relationship assessment called Prepare & Enrich, and after tabulating the responses, Tom (one of our co-officiants) would discuss the results. I found it both healthy and revealing, pinpointing some of our strengths as a couple, and areas that could use some work. Overall, it seems to encourage listening and assertiveness, which will be good for both of us in different ways. 


So the wedding planning continues−I also looked at tuxes and photographers today, and we have some other things lined up for this weekend. Above all, I think I could use some more down time with Sarah... to recharge, renew, revisit some new wave love songs... 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This one goes up to 11!

RBIT getting musical at the Spectum Playhouse. 
Left to right: Dave Thrasher, Barb Cardillo, Jeremy C., 
and Neil Von Flatern. Photo courtesy RBIT.
My buddy Frank and I were reminiscing last night about how long our improv group has been together... he remembers the time when the group had to decide whether or not to perform the day after 9/11 for a previously scheduled show for group of tourists to the Berkshires (they did by request of the group). I remember joining the group around that same time, not long after I had moved to the Berkshires and found the group's wacky faces staring at me from a front page story in the local newspaper. My other friend and fellow improviser Lisa observed today that June 2012 marks the 11th anniversary of The Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe (RBIT)--that's an impressive feat, which says a lot about the dedication and friendship that has kept the group going strong for so long.

The Berkshire Advocate has a nice article in this week's paper (written by journalist Jeremy D. Goodwin) about the ten years that RBIT has been together. I was interviewed for the piece, along with the group's co-founders, Frank La Frazia and Alexia Trainor. Here I am quoted about the great creative benefits that can arise from doing improv:

"You go back to when you were a kid and at the playground, just making up stories and adventures. It’s good fun. And you kind of lose that as you get older. It’s going back to a certain sense of play."



I do think improv helps you not only as an actor, but also in life: taking chances, listening to others, working as a team, and learning to be "in the moment."



I look forward to many more moments to come... RBIT has been a decade-long collaboration and friendship that I am proud to be a part of... we're kind of hilarious too!



Related Links:


"Improv troupe going strong after 10 years of laughter," The Advocate Weekly, April 25, 2012


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Om" is where the heart is

I thought I would do things a little different today and turn the spotlight over to my beautiful fiancée, Sarah. It's her birthday today-- a BIG one! She celebrated by finally using the day pass I gave her to Kripalu, a world-renowned yoga center located in the Berkshires. I have done more pilates myself, but have been to both Kripalu and Soluna centers nearby, and appreciate the strengthening and meditative qualities of yoga... would love to learn more.


Sarah has actually received her certification to teach yoga to children, which is great−as a museum educator (and aunt), she is great with kids... they all seem to love her, and her creative side certainly shines through in her teaching. The following photos are from a free workshop she offered to families during a community day in Schenectady, New York a couple years ago. I was impressed with the way she turned the practice into a fun game that encouraged the kids' imaginations. 




Om... waiting for my "yogi-to-be" to come home so that we can celebrate with friends over dinner. Here's hoping she comes back recharged, refreshed and renewed for the new year... and hopefully can squeeze more yoga teaching in there as well... namaste...


http://sproutingyogis.wordpress.com/about


Photos by Jeremy Clowe. ©Sprouting Yogis. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And The Band Played On...

Sad news last week in the passing of musician Levon Helm, formerly of The Band. Being a fellow Hudson Valley resident, I'm sorry that I never managed to make it to one of the Midnight Rambles at his home in Woodstock, New York, however I was fortunate enough to see him play live at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival last year, and record a couple songs for my TV music show. Here is a clip:




R.I.P. Levon...I'm still learning just how influential your music has been to my own favorite bands. 


Related Links:


"Levon Helm: 1940-2012, 'We will never forget his warmth and generosity," Daily Freeman, April 20, 2012


"Levon Helm, Drummer and Rough-Throated Singer for the Band, Dies at 71," The New York Times, April 19, 2012


"Levon Helm Was Perfect," The Atlantic, April 20, 2012


"Levon Helm: A Vintage EW interview with the late rock legend," Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 2012


The Band- Up On Cripple Creek- Circa 1969, YouTube

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Head of the Class

Last week the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced the election of illustrator Jerry Pinkney as one its 220 new members. The Academy recognizes some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders; other nominees this year include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Melinda F. Gates, Clint Eastwood, and Paul McCartney.


Mr. Pinkney was the subject of Norman Rockwell Museum's 2010 exhibition, Witness: The Art of Jerry PInkney, which looked at the artist's long career as a picture book illustrator. I had the great fortune of working on a video for the exhibition−my colleague and I traveled to Pinkney's Croton-on-Hudson studio to film a short documentary, and I was happy to learn about his work. Here is the video:





I think Witness was one of my favorite shows that the Museum has exhibited, and its focus on African-American history served as a nice complement to Norman Rockwell's work. Pinkney was also a pleasure to work with−very down-to-earth and gracious with his time. The talented artist is currently working on adaptations of the classic children's books Puss in Boots and The Tortoise and The Hare, and Witness will be opening at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, Michigan, on June 14, 2012. Pinkney will be inducted with the rest of the new class for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on October 6, 2012, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 


Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.


Learn more about this year's inductees on the Academy's website


Jerry Pinkney's website: www.jerrypinkneystudio.com

Jerry Pinkney on "The Little Match Girl" (NRM "Witness" video outtake)

Jerry Pinkney on "Sweethearts of Rhythm" (NRM "Witness" video outtake) 





Saturday, April 21, 2012

JC goes HD

Image courtesy Sony. All rights reserved.
http://pro.sony.com
I have been testing out another new HD video camera over the last couple days: the Sony NXCAM, model HXR-NX5U (yeah, I'm a Sony guy!). The model came courtesy of CTSB, a Berkshire County-based TV station I have been helping out for several years... this time they returned the favor. This hand-held AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition) camera has a beautiful picture, and is set up similar to other Sony cameras, so it was easy to get up to speed. I used it for a music concert I was hired to shoot this evening, and set it up to capture our improv performance on Friday. Both went performances and filming went well, but I'm exhausted... it has been a busy couple of days. So HD has arrived... testing this and the Canon DSLR camera from class... decisions, decisions...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Out There

Another day in the Berkshires...

Stockbridge, MA. Photo ©Jeremy Clowe, Earth.
All rights reserved.


Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe performance, tonight, April 20, 7:30 p.m.
For more information:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Art of Improv

RBIT get their "dance on." Photo courtesy Student Educational Development Fund. 
All rights reserved.
Man, there's a lot going on right now... more than enough to do. Tomorrow I have another gig with The Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe (RBIT) at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee, MA. (show starts at 7:30 p.m.). We had a rehearsal tonight, and it was good fun--after a week of dealing with technology, it was nice to "unplug" and get my improv on. 

Actually, I had a strange sense of déjà vu last Sunday, when my video art instructor gave us a list of different words and emotions to go try to find on the streets of Troy, New York. We had about a half an hour or so to go shoot footage to represent the concepts--It was the same idea as improv--don't think about it too much, go with your gut feeling, etc. I found it challenging to work with these familiar ideas in a different medium! For the list of words I chose "winning," and represented it with, among other things, a couple walking past a series of engagement ring ads, and a demolished building standing beside a newer structure. Troy serve as an excellent study in the art of winning and losing. No offense, Trojans... but the city has seen better days. The arts scene is picking up, but this used to be a city known for its manufacturing industry. For an emotion, I chose "love"--one idea I had was to duck into a very fragrant flower shop I passed by, and do a sweeping pan of the room... really, I think the idea of the class is to get even more "abstract" and "feeling" than literal--exactly the challenge I was looking for.  

RBIT continues to be a great exercise in itself--working with a team, listening, and trusting your impulse. Like singing, it is fun to just breathe, respond and take it in. I think our new group is starting to just "chill out" and not try to force the funny. I was actually interviewed for a local paper today about the group for an upcoming article, and I related how improv has taught me some very useful skills... not only for performing, but life in general... I believe it's called being "in the moment."

Those interested in a little "off the cuff" comedy are in luck this weekend--in addition to tomorrow's show, RBIT will be performing back out in North Adams, MA (where it all began!) on Saturday, April 21. The show will be taking place at Mill City Productions, the city's newest theater venue. Due to other engagements (including my engagement), I will only be doing tomorrow's show... but I guarantee it will both evenings should be more fun than a barrel of funky monkeys.


Ok, time to go catch some zzzz's, and rest up for busy weekend... 




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bandstand

Wow, first Soul Train, now American Bandstand... not a good year for music show hosts, eh?  (Yikes. I better keep quiet...)

As a teenager growing up in the 1980s, Dick Clark provided me with a window to many of the weird new wave bands that I loved (Blancmange anyone?). "Has a good beat and you can dance to it..." Back then you thought the host might live forever.






New Year's Eve just 
won't be the same... R.I.P.

Related Links:

"Dick Clark dead at 82," CBS News, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rank + File

And the song of the day... "Taxman" by The Beatles. Arrrgghh...  



This year was supposed to be easy, but damn it... I still got hung up on my dual state filings (New York resident working in Massachusetts). Ugh. 


Anyway, back to the Beatles... they were absolutely the first group I ever loved. It was right after John Lennon had been shot... I was only ten years old, and discovered the band through the non-stop radio tributes. It really shaped my tastes in music, I think... I listened to them so incessantly. This song, written by George Harrison, really demonstrates the band's wry sense of humor (I also enjoyed his song "Savoy Truffle" off The White Album).


This is an interesting video--it looks like the person has uploaded many different takes and demos from the band's inspired catalogue. Listen a little further into the clip and you'll hear a lovely "strings only" version of "Eleanor Rigby" (one of the first Beatles songs I learned to play on guitar). These tracks are all from Revolver (1966), which really is the bridge from their earlier, straightforward work to more psychedelic and experimental music--of course, it gets listed as one of the best albums of all time. I remember listening to it around age ten or so, and feeling slightly nervous... like there must have been something very odd indeed happening during the recording... it made me want to listen all the more.


The more the years go by, I think George might have been the coolest Beatle--soft-spoken, into eastern culture and mysticism, and wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun" (the latter is in the running for wedding song... if I have my way).    I keep meaning to check out Martin Scorsese's 2011 film George Harrison: Living in the Material World--if his Bob Dylan documentary was any indication, this one ought to be good too. 


"Let me tell you how it will be,
there's one for you, nineteen for me..."


Timely as ever. Nothing taxing about the Beatles, though.


Related Link:


www.thebeatles.com


www.youtube.com/user/TheBeatleMirko

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sides of the Story

One of the artists we learned about in my video art class yesterday was Omer Fast. The instructor showed us this video, where Fast talks about his video installation, The Casting (2007), which featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2008 biennale exhibition:



Working in the museum field for several years, I like the way Fast invites viewers to interact with his video material in a different way. Having worked in TV news, I also understand that what the media presents is not always the way it has occurred... not to mention the ability of one's own memory to distort or forget facts. I am also intrigued by how Fast has combined a standard documentary interview with an acted, cinematic scene. This certainly is an interesting way of thinking about the war in Iraq, and how it was presented to us through media. 


Related Links: 


Omer Fast, "The Casting," 2007, Museo Magazine on Vimeo.


Omer Fast profile, Frieze Magazine, April 2008


2008 Whitney Biennal: Omer Fast

"Contemporary Filmmaker Omer Fast's 'The Casting' at the IMA," Indiana's 4, August 18, 2009

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Capture My Heart

I spent an interesting afternoon running around downtown Troy, New York, this afternoon, shooting video of the river... streets... even a flower shop! This was for a two-week course I am taking at The Art Center on video art. More details soon, but here's the camera we used: a beauty!


Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D Digital SLR
Photo: www.the-digital-picture.com
Related Links:

www.canon.com

"Canon joins the world of 4K," http://blog.vincentlaforet.com

Saturday, April 14, 2012

solid sounds

You could probably tell from my last blog that I was a little excited by the Coachella Festival live streaming. At the moment, I'm listening to the Buzzcocks and getting ready to check out Kaiser Chiefs, Squeeze, and Noel Gallagher. I admit it, I get a little giddy when it comes to music--especially all this great stuff that is so ME!

On the way home tonight I heard the singer Jamie Lidell on the radio, which reminded me of another top music festival that I attended last year. Wilco's Solid Sound Festival was held at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) June 24 through 26, 2011, and featured its own Coachella-worthy assortment of music acts, including Wilco (who curated this eclectic arts and music fest for the second year in a row); Lidell; Neil Finn and his new band, Pajama Club; and The Band's Levon Helm. I should mention that I was actually invited to document the three-day festival for my TV music show, and even had a chance to interview Pajama Club, which was a real thrill since Neil Finn has long been one of my favorite songwriters (especially with Crowded House)! 

As I listen to Coachella, I thought I would take time to share some photos from that other great festival... a little wetter than it is sure to be in Indio, CA, but certainly SOLID. Talk about desert mirage... apparently Coachella is repeating this year's entire festival next weekend to meet public demand--yup, same acts playing both weekends--crazy! So maybe next week I'll have  a do-over as well, and finally post some of my Solid Sound videos --not a bad goal for this would be concert-goer.






Photos top to bottom: Wilco at the press conference;  Liam Finn performing in Mass MoCA galleries; Thurston Moore and Nels Cline guitar jam; JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound; singing in the rain. Photos ©2011 Jeremy Clowe. All rights reserved.

Related links:






Friday, April 13, 2012

Desert Rose in Bloom!

Ok, Coachella is officially the coolest music festival ever. I just learned today that they are streaming ALL of the concerts this weekend and next on YouTube. The quality is great--tonight I tuned in to see reggae legend Jimmy Cliff (he did an awesome cover of "Ruby Soho" with Rancid's Tim Armstrong), and am currently watching one of my all time faves, Madness... keeping that sweet ska vibe happening (oh man, even David Hasselhoff is in the audience!). And up next is Pulp-- thank you-- makes me feel better about not making it to NYC (need car $ anyway). This festival has an amazing lineup... I'll definitely be tuning in here and there (and possibly driving Sarah mad).

I had the day off today (working tomorrow at the Museum), so Sarah and I spent it working on more wedding stuff. A couple of times I looked over at her and it sunk in... my God, I'm getting married! To a gorgeous woman! Wow.

I'm not sure this is going to be the most substantial blog entry... I'm trying to type this while "House of Fun" by Madness is blasting live in the background. All I can say is that for a year with three (count 'em three) Friday the 13ths, 2012 is doing alright... I have had off for both of them, spending time with my gal, and the next one will be two days before my wedding. Wow. Surreal year... like an indie rock fest in the desert... it's happening. 

Related Links:  



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Face Front, Man

Sarah and I just finished watching the 1993 film, What's Love Got To Do With ItI had never seen it  before, but music fan that I am, it stood out to me amidst a stack of DVDs at the library the other day. Well, I now see what all the talk was all about. The movie features some truly great performances by both Angela Bassett as the singer Tina Turner, and Laurence Fishburn as her husband, the abusive musician Ike Turner. I had known a little about Tina's troubled past, but it was interesting to learn more about how she became the legendary performer that she is today, despite all the obstacles--both personally and professionally (I was not aware of how long it took her to land a hit song):



Last night I had the opportunity to see a concert in New York City by a singer who is not quite as well-known as Tina Turner, but equally as entertaining a performer. Truthfully, Jarvis Cocker's witty indie rock music is more my speed than Tina's glossy rock hits, and especially the songs off Different Class, the 1995 album that he recorded with his band Pulp. Well... Pulp reunited last year, and just played a couple of rare shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall--I guess as a warm-up for their performance at the Coachella Music Festival this month. It's all unbelievable to me, as Pulp was a '90s Britpop band that never really attracted widespread commercial success here in the U.S... but I just love the swagger of British pop/rock music--there's something rather exotic about it, and here was a rare sighting of a "bird" that seldom makes it to these shores.



Unfortunately, my last-minute decision to attend the show was thwarted, as I just missed the train to make it out to the city... I sat there at the station perplexed... trying to figure out what to do... suddenly rocked back to reality with a concern about my finances, and whether it was really worth trying to catch a later train that would be cutting so close to showtime... Jarvis would surely have appreciated the gloomy scene, as it is the kind of mood you'll find mixed into some of Pulp's best work: dark themes wrapped in a rather infectious pop/rock groove. Anyway, I hear the shows were fantastic, and the band played most of the songs off their 1995 album-! And apparently Mr. Cocker has become an even more engaging and eccentric showman... well he should, as I understand he founded Pulp back in the late 1970s (that's a long time until they broke in the mid-90s)!

While trying to forge my own artistic career, it is interesting to consider the trajectory of two musicians who have persevered through tough times and lean years. The fact that they both have matured into such strong performers is a good example of stick-to-it-ness in the uncertain "creative" world.

So I'm disappointed that I didn't make it to the show with the other "common people," but there is a lot to plan for in terns of my wedding and other projects, so the money is well saved... I just wish being "responsible" felt a little more fun in the here and now. I'm hoping I have another opportunity to see Jarvis live... in the meantime, I'll just keep "rolling, rolling, rolling down the river..." hopefully collecting more savings and knowledge along the way, and growing into my own frontman shoes.

Related Links:


Tina Turner: Wikipedia.org


"Pulp Make Triumphant U.S. Return at Radio City Music Hall," Rolling Stone, April 11, 2012

"Watch Pulp Make Triumphant U.S. Return on 'Jimmy Fallon,'" Billboard.com, April 10, 2012

"Pulp make triumphant return to the U.S. with two sexy, bouncy shows at Radio City Music Hall," Entertainment Weekly, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Do The Wright Thing

So after watching last night's episode of Glee, it appears that Quinn is still with us, although confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal injury suffered from her car accident while texting. Ok, a little lighter touch than killing the character off completely, but still something... we'll see where they go with this.

Frank La Frazia and PMP participant accept the "Coming Up Taller" 
award from The White House, 2007. Photo courtesy 
Playwright Mentoring Program/Barrington Stage Company.
Speaking of performing teens, Barrington Stage Company's excellent Playwright Mentoring Program (PMP) will be presenting their year-end public performances this week, April 10 through 14. As stated in the company's press release, over the course of the six-month PMP program, teens create an original performance piece based on their own stories in a safe and confidential environment where they can express themselves, develop conflict resolution skills and together create a supportive community. In 2007, PMP won the prestigious “Coming Up Taller” award from the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities—the nation's highest honor for after-school arts programs.

My close friend, groomsman, and fellow RBIT-er Frank La Frazia has been the group's director for the last few years, and he does a wonderful job of assisting the students to find creative means to handle the often stressful issues faced during adolescence. "The five original plays that the teens created this year in collaboration with professional playwrights are extremely moving, inventive and theatrical," says La Frazia. "Many of the plays deal with topics such as school bullying, peer pressure, drug/alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and family issues.”

The final performance to be held on Saturday, April 14, 2 p.m. at Barrington Stage Company, will include performances from all of the participating groups this year (except the court-mandated group). For information on tickets and to view a full schedule of this week's performances, visit the theater's website

Here again is the promotional video I created for the group, from a few years back:



Related Link:


Playwright Mentoring Project website

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One more spoon of cough syrup now...

I have a confession to make: I kind of like the TV show Glee. I know... in many ways, this Emmy Award-winning series is the antithesis of what I look for in music, consisting as it does of somewhat canned, soulless renditions of popular songs, past and present... I think my old Britpop fave, Blur's Damon Albarn said it best in an interview to Q's Jian Ghomeshi: 




So maybe Damon and the Gorillaz aren't going to "sell-out," but it never ceases to amaze me how many other respected artists have allowed their songs to be covered by the cheerful, "would-be Broadway performers" on the program. 

Ok, for those not familiar, Glee is a musical comedy/drama about a group of students taking part in a high school glee club. Aimed at younger viewers, the show looks at what it takes to be a performer, as well as some of the prejudices and issues facing high school students today. The cast is lead by the club's director Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison; other cast members include Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn), Curt Colfer (Kurt), and Jane Lynch, who plays the conniving cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. All the actors are quite charming and personable, and when the series started I was eager to give it a chance--sounded like something I would have enjoyed watching as a teen... artist that I was.

Initially, I found the show a little rough. It definitely did not shy away from important issues--relationships, sexuality, social--that all teens certainly deal with, but I wasn't prepared for it being so "in your face." I thought it was  trying to be a little too crass/edgy at start, and worried about the influence it might have on younger viewers. And some of the music... sounded like we had reverted to the 1950s, when Pat Boone recorded neutered versions of Little Richard rock numbers. Sarah seemed to enjoy it though, so I gave it another chance when we were looking for shows to kick back with online... 

I think the turning point for me was watching an episode where the gay student Kurt comes out to his "sporty" father, and was concerned about the reaction--it was really touching and real, with the father showing concern yet absolute support for his son. I began to think there might be more to the show than initially met my eye... and ears.


The cast really is great, and the subjects have been interesting--it definitely sucks you in, and you start caring for the students and their story. Last week we watched a back episode that really caught my attention, as it dealt with another student dealing with social pressure. The character, David Karofsky (played by Max Adler), is a member of the school's football team, and was "outed" by several of his teammates with cruel taunts. What is interesting about this storyline is that the character first appeared a bully to the gay student Kurt, who he later expressed interest in. Karofksy couldn't handle the abuse (along with the very modern-day issue of online harrassment), and tries to kill himself. It was pretty wild, and was actually intercut with a performance by one of the other glee club members, performing an actually pretty decent cover of Young the Giant's recent indie-hit "Cough Syrup". View the clip here, and here is a performance is the original song, which already packs a pretty emotional wallop (it has been stuck in my head ever since we watched the episode): 



So, I had no idea how they were going to continue this show after such a heavy, heavy subject. It turned out later in the episode, that Karofksy's father rushed in at the last minute and caught his son as he tried to hang himself. The character is seen later on in the hospital, as Kurt (one-time victim of his harrassment), stops by to pay him a visit. 

Glee has never shied away from such teen issues, which must be one reason for its immense popularity. But this particular episode took things even one step further... at the end of the show, the characters Finn and Rachel have decided to get married, and are seen trying to rush through a quickly put together ceremony. One of the other glee members, Quinn (played by Dianna Agron), is on her way to the wedding, and is seen texting back and forth with Rachel. The last shocking moments of the program show a truck crashing into Quinn's car. Wow. Who saw that coming?...

To me this is Glee's moment of truth. I'm not a hater of any of the characters, but they would do a real service to their viewers by having Quinn die. A teenager's life is tough enough, but one of the other truly frightening realities of modern-day culture is the number of accidents resulting from texting. I know a thing or two about being distracted while driving, and I'm actually quite terrified by this latest trend. 

All of us can relate to adolescence and the high school years, and I'm sure most of us have experienced the unexpected death of loved ones or friends. I remember back in my high school days learning that a popular classmate had been killed while skiing... later, it was a car carrying two students who were speeding around the time of prom. It definitely wakes you up, and puts things in perspective--particularly your day-to-day high school experience, which sometimes feels like it will never change. Now Quinn is a fictional character, but by this very tragic example, Glee could be offering students a chance to "feel" what this could be like--to them, their family, friends. Here is actress Dianna Agron herself, appearing on The View this week:



I think I was initially wrong about Glee (even if the music can still be a little schmaltzy)--I commend the show for its efforts to raise awareness about all of these delicate issues--I think we have all been there. Above all, the show has presented a sympathetic look at how it feels to be "different"... it can be a challenging road from adolescent to adulthood, and it's still pretty tricky once you reach the later years. Don't stop believin'.



Related Links: 


www.fox.com/glee


"Teens still texting while driving, survey says," Detroit Free Press, April 10, 2012