Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Applause

One of the greatest lovemaking acts in the world is between an artist and his audience.

Therefore, the greatest place for an artist to be is on a stage. To stand in front of the people who love his work, his talent, his gift. To stand in front of them and share it with them. It must be the best high in the world. Musicians and other performance artists experience it in the most direct way. Music shows have people clapping and shouting and cheering with enthusiasm after each song, and during. Magicians, jugglers, acrobats, and other performers of the circus also experience the appreciation of the audience in the most immediate way, although there’s a difference between a performer who is a part of a show and a musician who people come especially to see. I think as far as audience feedback goes, nothing beats being a musician/singer on stage. Yes, it’s hard, doing shows one after the other. It demands energy and stamina. But there’s a reason why music legends such as Madonna and The Rolling Stones still perform while most of the people their age are rotting away in places with names such as “Green Fountains”. You see, it’s the love of the audience. It’s intoxicating. Is it an ego-trip? Partly, for sure. But as long you keep your ego in check, as long as it’s not too inflated, as long as you can enjoy the adoration and not get too caught up in it, it’s just an awesome feeling. For musicians, going on tour is the best thing there is. It is nothing like recording in the studio. It is connecting with the people who buy and enjoy and love their music. It’s seeing them, hearing them, feeling them.

As an artist, some fans will leave you, especially if you’ve been in some sort of creative decline, or “sold out” in their opinion. It’s hard, keeping the love of the audience. It’s hard to win it and it’s even harder to keep it. But, you will always have your core of fans, your little family, who travels along with you, metaphorically and literally, over the years. And even if you don’t have a fan base yet, even if it’s your first performance ever, even if it’s in a school talent show instead of in a stadium, you can still connect with an audience like no artist can. And it’s still magic.

Actors in the theater have it a little different. It really depends on the kind of show you’re making. If you’re making a comedy, you’ll be able to enjoy the crowd’s response during your performance, just like a rocker on stage (depending if it’s funny, of course). If it’s a drama, you’ll have to wait until the end to get your applause. That part, where the actors return to stage and take their bow, is the most magical part in theater, it’s the moment where the performer goes in front of his audience and says “there you go, I did my part, now it’s your turn”. It’s awesome being an actor in the theater if only for that moment, if only for that feeling, doing the same play each and every night, and when it’s over, feeling the love rising out of the seats in a roar of applause, and like a wave, washing over you, affirming your talent, your gift, telling you that you have found what you were brought to this Earth to do. Those applause, this love, they are the stamp of approval on the talent sheet you received from god.

A writer, on the other hand, cannot experience this immediacy, this connection with an audience. A writer performs his act on the page, adding words to words, creating a story or a poem. The closest a writer can get to feeling like a rock star is if he reads his work on stage. And that’s really more of a performance, only of the literary kind. The writer needs to be proficient with it, or he risks boring his audience to tears, just like a musician. But a writer cannot see or feel first hand how his work affects people. He cannot be in your living room with you while you read his book. He cannot hear you gasp, laugh, cry. Writing is the most intimate of artistic endeavors. The connection between the author and his reader is always done through the mind. Yes, a writer can receive letters from readers telling him how his work affected them, but it is certainly not as direct as hearing your crowd cheer and applaud your live performance as a fire-eater or as a Blues artist.

A playwright can hear his words spoken on stage and can take joy in the love of the audience. He is not necessarily on stage bowing, or even present at the theater every night, but he can experience it behind the scenes. Better than nothing, right?

And what about the screenwriter?

Screenwriting, that weird amalgamation of the playwright and the novelist. A script, unlike a novel or a play, is not an independent piece (barring some exceptions…). It is the blueprint for a motion picture. A screenwriter cannot experience a direct link with his audience unless he sits in a theater showing the film he wrote. And even then, it is anonymous. It is like the playwright behind the stage.

A writer is not a performer. Writers are usually shy and prefer it this way. But there’s something to be said about getting your applause. For me, showing my short film in the theater was a high point, and the closest I got to being a rock star. Of course, I cherished it with complete anonymity, and I was somewhat tense since when you’re making a comedy you always worry the audience won’t laugh. But when they do, and in the right spots, and when they gasp in the right spots, you can imagine yourself on the stage, a guitar in your hand, shredding it, or maybe sitting at a piano, hammering those tunes, your fingers dancing on the keyboard like drunk ballerinas.

And when it ends, you stand up, and take a bow, and thank them.

And then you are one with your audience.

And you love them for it.

YouTubbing: My favorite online videos of the 21st century

At first , I wanted to post a list of my favorite films of the decade (just for the record, this is the best movie of the decade as far as I’m concerned), but there are so many lists already out there, and there are so many movies to sift through in nine years (and to think of it, 2010 is part of this decade too, so the real bookkeeping should take place next year), that I decided to focus on something a little different and much more manageable:

Online video.

Okay, so you can’t really call it “best online videos of the decade” since there wasn’t any online video before this decade, but the online-video world have been growing exponentially, both technically and creatively. Sure, 80 percent of it is crap – glorified home movies, or simply imitations of better videos, but the remaining 20 percent has given us some really entertaining stuff, right there on our computer screens (and later on our smartphones and other portable gadgets), with almost no mediators – straight from the guy at home to you, the viewer. And let me tell you, there are some seriously creative folks out there who can write, edit and perform – people we might have never had the pleasure of sampling their talent if not for the internet and especially YouTube – the Hall Of Fame for online video, at least until the next “It” video site comes along.

I chose to share with you five of the best videos I have watched these past few years. I only chose from videos who were made by “regular” people specifically for the internet. So I didn’t take into account any movie trailers, scenes and clips from movies or TV shows, or official music videos. Only user generated material. The criteria for me was simple: How re-watchable is the video? How original it is? Have i watched it more than once? more than 50 times? Is it still entertaining even by the 50th time? Two of these five videos were included just because they always make me laugh, no matter how many times I watch them. The other three are pure brilliance as far as I’m concerned.

It warms my heart to see people like me and you put time and effort, usually with no financial gain whatsoever, just to share it with other people. They did it just because they wanted too, just because it was fun.
Above all else, this decade brought the internet to almost every household and person in the world. A technological invention that has become such an essential part in our lives that we can hardly remember how it was before. And as far as creativity goes, the internet has freed us all.

So, in descending order, five of the greatest online videos:

5. Dramatic Cat

I really tried not to include any cat videos. We’re all sick of cat videos. But the hell with it, this short clip is hilarious, and there’s no ignoring the fact that cats have overrun YouTube. And why not? They’re certainly the most mischievous, mysterious, cute and amazing household pet in the world. So as an honorary representative of all 1,344,988 cat videos on the internet, I present to you my favorite one.

4. Marvel Vs. DC: The Dark Knight

There are many fanboy parodies on the net. Everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Comics to anything in between. Some of these parodies I adore, but I didn’t include them because they seemed too particular, meaning, they might not make sense to the general public, or to put in a more direct way: I’m not everyone will get the joke.
But this video is much more accessible. Everybody knows Batman and everybody knows The Dark Knight. It’s a great satire of the phenomenon that the second Chris Nolan Batman film, a smashing artistic and financial success. It’s very well written and performed, and I laugh every time. Like the cat video, this is here also as the honorary representative of all the fan-made parodies out there, and it’s certainly one of the best.

3. Hey clip

I might seem less than objective here, since the performers are from my own country, but with 28 million views and countless tributes, including one by a Mr. Kevin Smith(!), I guess I’m not the only one. It’s a simple clip, but extraordinary at the same time, and a perfect proof of home-grown talent just finding its own audience in its own natural way.
Two teenage girls from a small town in Israel decided to shoot a clip in the bedroom of one of them for the Pixies’ song Hey, just on a lark. The result was a huge hit on YouTube. It’s Francis Ford Coppola’s vision materializing in front of our eyes: The girl with the cheap video camera is creating something that is on par or even better than many official music videos out there. Fantastic editing and shot selection, and the girls have perfect timing and chemistry together, and they have so much fun, and it shows, and it’s catching, and it’s real , and it just puts a smile on your face. It’s a winner.

2. Shining trailer

The first (if I’m not mistaken) and still the best of all the mock trailers that swept through YouTube in recent years. Notice that it’s not The Shining, but Shining. A grim horror film has been turned into a heartwarming family drama with the aid of music, voice-over, and again, brilliant editing. If I was an editing teacher that’s the first thing I would show my students. But it’s not just a great parody and a great example of the power and magic of editing, it’s also a damn good trailer in its own right. I mean, I wanna see this film! The part where Peter Gabriel’s chorus for Solsbury Hill comes in still sends giddy shivers down my spine. If the guy that made this isn’t cutting trailers in Hollywood right now, or even better, cutting movies, then something is seriously wrong.

1. Where the hell is Matt?

A 32 year-old American Video Game developer got fed up with it all and felt like he was missing out on life. He had money, so he began traveling.

One more thing you should know about him is that he had this sort of funny, bad dance move he used to do.

Okay, back to the trip: A friend filmed Matt doing his dance in Hanoi. Like many internet videos, it became viral and got the attention of a chewing-gum company that offered to sponsor Matt and send him around the world to do his little dance in different places. And that’s what he did.

Up to now it sounds pretty silly, I admit.

But then, in 2008, he was back on the road again.

And this time, he didn’t dance alone.

The result is one of the most uplifting, exhilarating, and heart-warming little montages I have ever seen. It does nothing short of giving me a since of renewed faith in mankind as a species. It’s stunning and beautiful in more ways than I can describe. I love it.

So here’s to music and joy and silly dancing and especially love, because that is the most powerful message of this video.

Oh, and what a gorgeous world we have.

So that’s it. Here’s hoping for more oodles of grassroots creativity on the World Wide Web as it enters its second decade and expands and grows to make us all one nation under the stars. It’s been a hell of a ride.

That’s Entertainment: A personal journey through Musical Cinema

They say people don’t change. I think that’s crap. I mean, look at me. When I was a kid, you couldn’t get me to touch a Musical with a ten-foot pole. I thought it was boring, frankly. The plot halting every once in a while because people burst out singing. I was into Spielberg and idiotic 80’s comedies like the Police Academy films (which were the funniest thing in the world as far as I was concerned). Musicals seemed old, slow, and too long. Indeed, the early Eighties didn’t see a lot of musicals, at least not many good ones. There were some movies I did like, though. I think I liked Hair from the get-go (maybe because we had the vinyl at home), and Grease too, Just because they were relatively new and fast paced. But as a genre, Musicals were at the bottom of the hip for me.

But then something happened. When I got older, and got more and more interested in Cinema and especially Genre cinema, I discovered that Musicals, good Musicals, can be splendid visual fists. Gradually, I began watching more and more of them, especially from the Fifties and Sixties. I watched That’s Entertainment and got a new appreciation for the skill and talent involved in these films. It’s very hard to do a good Musical, and a bad Musical is something really horrendous. Interestingly enough, two of the genres I disliked in my youth and came to love later in life – Musicals and Horror films – are the two most visually interesting genres cinema has to offer. Can the dancing of Fred Astaire be transmitted through Radio, or even be described? No, you have to see it. Can the shadows and lighting games and weird angles of many horror movies can be duplicated in any other form? No. Only when you learn to appreciate the visual uniqueness of theses films can you begin to really appreciate them – thematically and artistically.

Many people in the modern age don’t like Musicals. Some think they’re silly, because it’s stupid to just spontaneously sing and dance (As opposed to, let’s say, dress as a giant bat and fight criminals). I can only feel sorry for these poor saps. A good musical is a celebration of life. In a good Musical, when a character starts to sing for no apparent reason, you feel uplifted, like you’re hovering a few inches above the ground. The marriage of sight and sound is powerful. You just need to let yourself open up and be swept by it, and if you’ll do that, you’ll find that Musicals can evoke tremendous feelings of joy, excitement and emotion, like no other genre can.

In the last three decades, the world has become more and more cynical. Our entertainment and culture is dominated by money-hungry corporations. The bottom line is dollars. The materialism and each-to-his-own state of mind has seeped into everyday life. People are afraid to feel , or rather admit that they’re feeling. No, I’m not saying that guys should go and admit to their girlfriends that they cried in Titanic. Some lines should never be crossed. But the reason Musicals have practically faded out of cinemas in the last 30 years is because the genre became too out-there, too loose, to unbelievable for our reality (TV)-grounded world. So many movies today remind us that the world is a crappy place. That people are mean. That everything’s gone to shit. Hell, we know that, but every coin has two sides. I’m a sarcastic bastard myself and I still believe the world has many wonderful things to offer along with the bad ones. I think there’s a place for this kind of escapist cinema to exist next to the more realistic ones (even comic book movies have become depressing). The 30’s and 40’s and 50’s weren’t better than today. There was depression and wars. But people still went to see Musicals (and a lot of other movies), to dream in the dark for two hours. Irt was a period very different than our overly analytical, criticism-filled world.

That’s why I was so glad to see Hairspray, probably the best Musical in years. It reminded me of Grease in many ways – It is set in the 60’s, it concerns teenagers, it has John Travolta in it (who appears next to Michelle Pfeiffer, a Grease 2 alumni) – but it has it’s own spirit. It’s so fun, energetic and cool, it’s almost defies description.

So I present to you, without further ado, my favorite Musicals of all time, in chronological order. In my opinion, these are some of the best Musicals ever made and they are prime examples of what the genre, in it’s peak, can accomplish.

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Static

Well, hello.

I don’t really know who visits this blog on a regular basis and who just happens to read these lines because he searched for the words “Blond Ventriloquist” on Google and found himself unexpectedly here (gotcha!), but I just wanted to apologize. Apologize for not writing as much as I’d like to. These days leave me strangely lethargic. I think it’s a combination of the cold dry weather outside which makes one a little sleepy, and the distracting worries which plague me. Worries of the immediate nature, like finding another apartment, finding ways to save money, and worries of Meaning of Life type, which I won’t get into here, with your permission.

Now, I did write a new post the other day, but decided not to publish it. It happens sometimes, although rarely. I see this blog as my venting place, my thought pad, but I also want it to be enjoyable and worthwhile to read. When I deem a post unenjoyable or not thought provoking or illuminating enough, I decide not to publish it. So yes, the draft section of ABAIG has a few unpublished posts in it. Maybe I’ll publish them at a later date. in the meantime, they are kept there. Some of them are too personal for my taste, and some of them are just pointless rants.

So even when I don’t post anything, it doesn’t mean I haven’t written anything. That is the nature of my writing. I am myself most harsh critic.

For the past few days I’ve been riding a lot on the New York subway, an extremely efficient piece of transportation with endless opportunities for people watching. The subway is like the United Nations on wheels. (And those MTA employees inside their glass booths. Boy, are they short tempered! I guess they’ve seen and heard it all).

And in New York it’s still quite cool and very dry. My body’s oozing static electricity. I get zapped from objects like my computer, the tap in the kitchen, the chair I’m sitting on. Static is also a great way to describe my feelings in the last few days. Trying to find a cheaper, or less expensive apartment in greater New York, but not really getting anywhere. As usual for me, I play the waiting game. The big question is how long to stay in New York. That is unknown at this point, since (again) I’m waiting for things to happen on other fronts, things that I have no control or influence on.

So I’m waiting.

And in the meantime, I realized that the relative lack of music and movies is depressing me. I don’t have with me my CD’s and especially my 150 mp3′. I bought Frou Frou’s CD, but it’s just one CD. I’ve seen two whole movies since I left Israel: The Fountain (extremely boring and pretentious) and 300 (Cool visuals. Enjoyable, stylish gorefest). I toyed with the idea of renting movies through Netflix, but since I’m in a very temporary residence, it seemed a bit silly. I thought of buying some DVD’s but didn’t find any I really wanted, and besides, I think it’s stupid to buy a movie just because I want to see one. There are movies on TV (I saw 3/4 of A Time To Kill), but they are botched by endless commercial breaks, which makes the whole thing much more annoying than enjoyable.

I’ve been to a short stroll in Central Park, which looks suspiciously like Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv. Saw a lot of dogs and kids playing baseball, and found out I could cross it surprisingly fast from the east side to the west side of upper Manhattan. I really thought it would be much bigger. But then, I’ve only been to a small portion of it.

I wanted to end this post with some music, so here’s the beginning sequence of Hair, one of my favourite film musicals and a very New Yorkish film. It takes place at Central Park, and it’s featuring that infectious, great song… Well, you know which song I’m talking about.

The one about the opposite of static.

Inventory

When I go through the final preparations before travelling to the U.S of A (on my Tourist Visa, mind you, after all that work-related fuss), I find it a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot of stuff to do, but sometimes I find myself sitting on the couch and staring at the TV, unable, or unwilling, to do anything. When I think about it, I realize that there really aren’t that many things to do. A few phone calls here, some buying to do there, but not that much.

It’s just that I’ve lived so long inside a cocoon, that the change of pace wears me down.

For the past several years, it was mostly work, home, work, home. I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t even take a fucking vacation, so this is certainly exciting and scary at the same time. Travelling to other places, plaves where you don’t necessarily know “the rules”, and be an outsider, and all that.

Well, fuck it. I’ve always been an outsider. Maybe it would’ve been even harder if I had dozens of friends, childhood friends, or if I lived in the same town all my life, but that’s not the case. I don’t like being the new kid on the block, but sometimes you don’t have much choice.

I’ve got so accustomed to my little world: My apartment, my TV, my bed, my daily routine, that it seems unthinkable to disturb them like that, make them vanish. I’ve even got accustomed to the cat. It will be very hard to leave her behind. It kind of breaks my heart a little.

I’m a man of habits, whether I like it or not, and habits don’t go hand in hand with big changes. And that’s another thing: I don’t like changes. They make me uncomfortable. I have this constant battle inside me: There’s the guy that wants everything to stay the same because it’s oh-so-comfy and nice and sweet, versus the guy that demands that I get off my ass and stop bitching that I’m miserable and stuck in a rut and try and do something about it. Because bitching is so easy and addictive, while getting up and actually, actively do something about it is so hard.