Brave

Brave

Sara Bareilles has an album releasing in the not too distant future.  It sounds like it will be titled The Blessed Unrest.  A new single entitled Brave releases to the world on April 23rd.  Hear it here…

It’s quickly growing on me.   Sara’s last EP, Once Upon A Time, really sparked my imagination, left me day-dreaming, and brought me many smiles.  I’m not a vocalist nor musician by any stretch of the imagination.  If I was, I’m left wondering  how I would name my albums.  Here’s a fun insight into Sara’s thought process for naming her next album:

I love the classic gas station “dinging” sound for each album name.  I’ll have to make something similar for my smart phone notifications.

I don’t really know anything about Martha Graham.  I gather she has something important to do with dance (or dance ideology).  I also dance very seldom  and infrequently in public (Elaine’s dance from Seinfeld immediately comes to mind), but I was intrigued by the quote Sara mentions in the video clip.  Martha Graham is quoted as saying…

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
~ As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham (1991) by Agnes de Mille, p. 264, ISBN 0-394-55643-7.

At first glance, I’m sceptical.  What’s she really saying… a life force?  I agree, we all have a God-given soul, but I’m not sure if I’d call it a life force?  I’m reading the part about unique expression and equating to creativity (or creative spirit).  I agree.  I think God has enriched each person with unique talents and gifts, most of which too easily get dismissed or squandered away.  And it seems true, that when people suppress their gifts and talents (for whatever reason), people around them, their community, society as a whole, everyone loses out on that individual’s God-given abilities.

I would caution people to “keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”  I think I get her context, but certainly would NOT suggest that a person be open to urges that drive him to overeat or to drink in excess (or even worse things I’m now imagining as I type this).

“…No artist is pleased.”

This is such an understatement about perfectionism.  I wrestle with this in my work, my writing, my photography, my drawings, my painting, and almost every part of my life.  Just trying to write a blog just about kills me at times (maybe because I’m such a newbie).  I can relate to a consistent state of dissatisfaction with many things, creative things, and various parts of my life.  The unrest… it bugs me.   I’ve never thought of it as a blessed unrest, but it’s eerily familiar.

I find some inspiration and encouragement in the Brave song lyrics…

Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

STAGEIT… featuring Lenka

Sara Bareilles is the first performance I ever saw on StageIt.  The second, just last Sunday, was a concert hosted by the Australian pop singer, Lenka.  Never heard of her?  Neither had my wife, so consider yourself in good company.  If you’ve scene the Windows 8 commercial linked below, then you’ve definitely heard Lenka.  Not necessarily my favorite song from Lenka, but her music indeed.

The StageIt company hosts live concerts through their virtual venue online.  Typically, these concerts are smaller productions, intimate in nature, and stream live from the performer’s studio, kitchen, or living room.

Lenka’s music is something I accidentally discovered while searching Youtube for a specific scene from Inglourious Basterds, dubbed Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face.   In the Quentin Tarantino film, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), the pretty protagonist, finalizes her revenge plans upon the murderous Nazi oppressors.  Maybe it’s because I’m a part of that MTV generation, but I especially like how the film’s scenes play out to the tune of David Bowie’s Cat People (…putting out fires with gasoline).

The clip I was actually looking for was something like this…

The Lenka clip I ended up discovering along the way was this…

(As you can see above) I stumbled upon a well-edited music video where the creator uses clips of Inglourious Basterds set to Lenka’s song, Trouble is a Friend.  Technology has clearly blossomed  since the birth of early MTV; now just about anyone with a half decent computer can make their own music videos, and many of these home-brewed productions look really professional.  Lenka was new to me.  My curiosity lead me to investigate more of her music.  I end up watching her very creative offerings on YouTube (Trouble is a Friend and The Show).  I’m not what people might call a raving Lenka fan (nor anyone for that matter), but I do enjoy her music and have added it to my personal soundtrack (the ever-growing eclectic unofficial soundtrack for my life).

Like with so many of my online searches, I start surfing for one specific purpose.  Somewhere along the way I follow a link, click another, then another, and then many URLs (and hours) later I end up in a totally different place than what was planned.  It leaves me wondering, “Where does all the time go?”  This last week, I received an email invitation to see Jars of Clay at (or on) StageIt.  While investigating the concert date for Jars, I notice a banner advertising that Lenka’s backyard concert in a couple days.  It sounds cool and costs less than a latte; sign me up!

Concert Day:

Sunday is a typical spring day in Calgary–the kind that makes locals want to hibernate because of the relentless snow (more snow, and… yep, more snow).  My family and I gather round the TV to watch Lenka on StageIt’s live broadcast from sunny Sydney, Australia.  My kids watch for about five minutes before their attention spans fade.  Jana indicates that she’s not a really “into” Lenka’s voice.  I like to think her musical tastes are still developing.  Justin says, “Dad, I’m enjoying the show, but there’s video game missions that need to be completed before bedtime.”  Meanwhile, Lenka, her drummer,  a violinist, and another fellow playing the cello perform a handful of songs from her living room to our home.

During concerts, StageIt provides a way for viewers to text messages to the Performer (which are view-able by members of the audience, assuming they’re reading along instead of watching the concert).  Multitasking isn’t my forte, hence I opt to remain “textually” silent.  For a concert, the visual quality seems a bit rough around the edges, but the audio is far than I had expected, especially since its streaming from the far side of the globe.  Despite being light on production or polish, Lenka’s show totally makes up for it because of the intimate feel of the whole thing.  Before the performance, I knew of Lenka as a vocalist and musician.  It turns out she’s also an actress, a sculpturist,  a songwriter, and even an crafty artist who creates set decorations!  In highschool, if Lenka was my classmate, friends would have joked that she was becoming a real Renaissance Man (well actually a Renaissance Woman). Classmates and I stole the term Renaissance Man as a polite way of teasing someone who might be considered an overachiever.

Lenka

In between songs Lenka draws attention to this site called PledgeMusic.com.  I kind of understood it involved a charity and charities are mentioned on Pledge Music, but whatever the case…  a person can make pledges to finance artists’ projects.  So figuring I might enjoy her new album (available in June 2013), I investigate.  Much to my surprise, Lenka fans can pledge money for not just her new album, but also some pretty amazing creations handcrafted by Lenka herself… very personable.

Signed Posters, CDs, and even Vinyl — $28 to $93
Artistic Doodles on Handwritten Lyric Sheets — $63 — Great idea!
Baby Bibs — $38 — Sorry, not for me as my wife lovingly reminds me that she ONLY signed up for two kiddos *sigh*
Crafty Stuff — $48 to $138
Mystery Craft Stuff — $138 — Oooh!?  Sounds mysterious!
Crafty Fashion Stuff — $138 — Snazzy! Unfortunate for me it cost more than my whole wardrobe :-S
20 Minute Skype Chat — $100 — Intriguing!  It’s not everyday you get to speak face-to-face with a  Renaissance Woman!
Personalized Ring Tone or Greeting  — $150 – Cool! And practical too!  It’s a shame that no one ever calls me.

and the kicker…
A Personalized Lullaby — only $1,500 — Awesome! I wish I needed (or could enjoy) a lullaby, but I’m all lights out when my head hits the pillow.

jgh_LENKA_SHADOWS_cdsleevelayout_2I’m looking forward to hearing some new Lenka in June.  The Pledge Music profile describes her new album, Shadows, as “… a collection of lullabies for adults…Lenka style.”  Interesting.  Until then, I guess I’ll just sing myself to sleep.

Being naivE

Image

Many years ago, when I worked in Parks and Rec, the bottled water craze had newly infiltrated society.  Some coworkers of mine bought into the belief that the tap water they’d been drinking for years was now unhealthy compared to the new bottled water alternatives.  My water-drinking associates even preferred certain brands of bottled water over others because, apparently, certain companies made better tasting water.  Not than anyone here on earth really makes water; It’s more an art involving filtration. To me, it all just tasted like water.

I also think holding bottled water made people feel attractive.  If you compaired a mental snapshot of me drinking water from a tumbler (freshly poured from the tap) to any of my coworkers drinking from one of their branded bottles, 9 times out of 10 times their drinking definitely looked cooler and sexier.  Mind you, most of them were young women, fit life guards, and looked both cooler and sexier than me doing almost anything.

Bottled water also became, dare I say, fashionable?!  A person might stroll into a room, OR that same person might stroll into a room with a bottled water in hand.  Did the person with the bottle look thirsty?  No, not really.  Did they look prepared?  I suppose, but not boy scout overly prepared.   That bottled water portrayed the drinker as enlightened, and made statement that tap water and drinking fountains were unfit for their lips (which reminds me of a movie… but read on).naive

As you may have guessed, bottled water was never important to me.  Sadly for both the world and I, neither was fashion.  At some point, someone brought it to my attention that evian spelled in reverse was naive.  This pretty much solidified in my mind that I would never become a bottled water toting person.  It seemed very naive indeed.

dutch_parking

Being naive was something I hoped not to be. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid it forever.  In 2000. I moved into a four-plex rental in Edmonton.  The buildings were converted military barracks and had huge backyards without fences.  At the end of the backyard was the community gravel pad for parking, and at the end of my designated parking was this sign that read DUTCH PARKING ONLY.

I’d never heard of the “dutch parking” term .  Did it refer to a method of parking like angle parking?  Maybe it was like going dutch on a date?  I noticed some of the neighbors parked bumper to bumper, two cars deep.  Was that the elusive dutch parking method?  This was Edmonton after all, and I was the new guy.  Maybe along with Edmonton’s crazy traffic circles, dutch parking might have been a unique regional term.

When the property manager stopped by to have me sign some paperwork, I asked her about dutch parking.  She looked confused.  I pointed at the sign and wondered out loud what it meant.  She rolled her eyes and said, “It would be removed if it bothered me that much.”  The light finally went on in my head; it was ethnic humor placed by the previous tenant.  Now I was the one rolling my eyes, but at myself.

While writing about bottled water and being naive, drinking fountains came to mind.  I can actually remember the few drinking fountains in my life that provided reasonable satisfaction.  As a thirsty kid, nothing was more annoying than a drinking fountain that lacked water pressure.  Nobody wanted to suck the water from a public fountain. blah!  I’d rather have kissed a girl.  Later in life, I still rather kiss a gal.

The most memorable drinking fountain movie scene from my youth had to be in Michael J. Fox’s Secret of My Success movie (1987).

I can’t help but smirk at the sappy David Foster tune playing in the background, or how Helen Slater’s hair style looks eerily like Princess Diana, but that was the 80s.  Had the movie been shot two or three years later, I doubt she would have been sipping from the drinking fountain.  I’m guessing it would have been from a plastic bottled water.

Ah Snap! Another One Bites the Dust

The other day I was Googling help about an MS Word dictionary issue, and noticed this in the margin of the page…

Roger_Ebert_Dies_at_70

Immediate disappointment rolled over me like dark clouds.  “Ah Snap!  Another one bites the dust.”  (Insert my sigh, here).  People old enough to remember the PBS program Sneak Previews or At the Movies may experience similar sadness when hearing about Roger Ebert’s passing.

When I was a kid, I’m guessing twelve years old, some Saturday afternoon I stumbled across this television show called At The Movies.  It was rare that interesting shows appeared on channel 13 (a cable  PBS feed from Washington), but this one caught my attention.  Going to the theater as a child was novel and happened seldom.  Disney’s The Rescuers was the first movie I ever saw, and the whole experience was especially memorable.  For some reason, the popcorn and candy at the theater tasted amazing compared to any at home.  Despite my shoes sticking to the floors, the fold-down theater seating was cool, the sound was louder than any TV, and the screen was wider than my eyes could see.

The idea that a couple guys, dare I say friends, went to multiple movies every week for a job seemed heaven-like.  One of the shows’ introductions included a clip of each guy sneaking up to the balcony which was of course closed.  Ah, even more forbidden fruit… sneaking into places a person wasn’t aloud.  So cool!  And up until that point, the thought that a movie might be deemed “bad” hadn’t really crossed my naive mind.

I came to realize Siskel and Ebert were strongly opinionated fellows and seemed to enjoy arguing their points.  Sharing heated opinions drew my attention like a spectacle since my parents seldom argued and in my elementary school, students weren’t yet encouraged to debate each other.

From that point onward I was a fan of Siskel & Ebert, but wasn’t faithful to watch every episode.  As a teenager, I was shocked, nearly hurt for Roger Ebert, when Slappy Squarell on The Animaniacs had made fun of him and the duo during this episode:

Some of it was obviously good satire, but at about 8 minutes into the clip, Slappy serves Roger Popcorn at the theater’s candy counter and offers him “artificial butter” which is horrifically  liposuctioned from Ebert’s belly while he stands there.  That scene left me momentarily stunned and remains vividly etched in my memory two decades afterwards.

I was saddened when Gene Siskel’s died due to complications from brain cancer.  Richard Roeper was a decent enough fill-in, but the new duo’s magic was lopsided towards Roger.  I pretty much gave up on the show when Roger was forced to leave due to his own battle with thyroid cancer.

In 2011 I rediscovered Roger Ebert online at http://www.ebertpresents.com/ and although his reviews were limited and read by other actors, it was encouraging to see him doing his thing.  Roger Ebert hosted an interesting and unusual interview with Quvenzhané Wallis who starred in the film Beasts Of The Southern Wild. During the interviewed Roger, mostly off camera, uses his computer to interview the talanted young girl. At the end of the sequence we Quvenzhané shaking hands with him.

Unlike me, Roger Ebert was a critic of intelligent design, an atheist, and a secular humanist.  Shortly after the film Prometheus, I discovered an exhaustive blog where Roger Ebert and folks debated intelligent design with Randy Masters and others for nearly 700 posts.  It turns out the Roger and Randy had done this once before on some thread that lasted 3600 posts.  Randy Masters, a conservative and being on the opposite side of nearly everything Roger Ebert believed, found a genuine friend in his virtual sparring partner:

http://rmasters78.blogspot.ca/2013/04/roger-ebert-american-treasure-has-gone.html?showComment=1365162354502

I think Randy Masters saw the same personable fellow I first saw on the TV.  Sure, Roger was hard headed in his opinions, but his flawed humanity made him likable, and his passions for film review was inspirational.  Here’s a clip how Ebert started out on TV…

http://siskelandebert.org/video/GWHWHKY3W9R7/Opening-SoonOne-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoos-Nest