TCM Film Festival, Carole Lombard, Finest Friend

     I attended the TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Film Festival in Hollywood over the weekend, seeing 9 films – many I had seen before and a few new to me. I started the festival with a screening of the 1936 classic screwball comedy, “My Man Godfrey”, which I’ve seen many times, but this is the first time on the big screen. It was literally like seeing it for the first time – and what a fantastic film! Wow! Afterwards, it got me thinking…

MyManGodfrey

William Powell and Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey”

     The film stars William Powell and Carole Lombard, both of whom were household names at the time (and both were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances). In real life, Powell and Lombard were already married and divorced by the time this film came out, and this was several years before Carole famously married Clark Gable. William Powell started in silent movies and hit superstardom in the 1930’s and 1940’s – including his success as Nick Charles in “The Thin Man” series of movies opposite Myrna Loy (who was dubbed the Queen of Hollywood in 1936). He had a flair and a very likable quality, and was a wonderful actor and comedian. He was also my Grandmother’s favorite actor! Carole Lombard is one of my favorite actresses of all time and she is fabulous in “My Man Godfrey”. She had a rare combination of being gorgeous AND being a great actress and top notch comedienne. She was so natural, and her performances are still modern today. She was known as the queen of the “screwball comedy” (a style of comedy popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s, usually with a strong female character making zany choices amidst fast paced dialogue and farcical situations), and Carole was even the idol of Lucille Ball (TV’s queen of comedy). In “My Man Godfrey”, she was at the top of her game in creating the archetype of the screwball comedy heroine – fast talking, ditzy, and glamourous – paving the road for stars such as Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Lucille Ball, and so on. Again, this got me thinking…
     Movies were big in my family for the past three generations – since the beginning of film. I was raised on classic Hollywood movies, and have a college degree in film directing, so I am pretty knowledgeable about “old” movies. I would rush to see any Alfred Hitchcock or Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant or Jean Harlow or Ingrid Bergman or Montgomery Clift film I could find to watch (among many others). So they are a huge part of my life and upbringing. I have a memory as a very young child, being at my grandparents house when the movie “There’s No Business Like Show Business” came on the TV. My grandfather asked me if I ever saw a Marilyn Monroe film, and I hadn’t yet. Surprised, he said, “you have to see one”, and we sat down together to watch the film. I loved it and wanted to see more of her. I couldn’t get over how beautiful and appealing she was. Marilyn definitely had something special.
     As I left “My Man Godfrey”, I started thinking about how Lombard and Powell, who were world renown at the time (Lombard was even the highest paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930’s), are probably not known to very many people today. How can someone who made such a huge impact during their lifetime be so forgotten? (Funny enough, William Powell’s character in “My Man Godfrey” is labelled as a “forgotten man”!) Many “old time” movie stars and directors are not known by today’s generations. I would guess that Marilyn Monroe is probably the most famous person still recognized from “old” Hollywood, but how many people today have actually seen one of her movies?
     That is the way of the world. Time moves on no matter what. I guess what is of value is the impact we have while we are here. It’s not about being remembered once we are gone. If Buster Keaton can be forgotten, we all can – and will – be forgotten at some point. Screwball comedies impacted all films that came after them in ways we can never know. The same with actors, musicians, writers, teachers, friends, and so on. We may not be remembered for it, but we are each part of the bridge that takes human beings to the next place. It is like a stone that is thrown into a river. The stone disappears but the ripples caused by it can be seen for a while after the stone is gone from sight. And although it may not be visible to the eye (depending on how large the stone or how big the pond), the stone even alters the water line ever so minutely. This is a great reminder to me to enjoy living my life and not to focus on results. To be in the moment and soak up and enjoy what I am doing while I’m doing it.
     This feeling of rekindling times past leads me to reflect on a song from my first CD (“Infinite Man”), titled, “Finest Friend”. It was written about a couple of specific childhood friends (merged into one), and the impact they had on my life. There is a desire to hold onto things and relive them, especially things that give us meaning in our lives. But one can’t hold on to anything. Eventually everything slips by, much like a great Carole Lombard performance. When I think back to the times I wrote about in “Finest Friend”, I tried to bring back to life the innocence and joy in the moments I felt back then.
     That’s one of the things I love about music. While there is no real way to bring it back to life, music seems to be the only way to explain or share emotions from the past. Hopefully, the combination of the guitar, banjo and lyrics can communicate those days from my childhood somewhat. You can have a listen and judge for yourself below:

 

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Goodbye “Glee”, Set the “Boy” Free

This past week the TV Show, “Glee” came to an end. The show was a breakthrough on many levels: it blended episodic narrative with musical numbers; it changed perceptions about disabled, gay, lesbian, transgendered and other minorities with its messages of tolerance and acceptance; and it even made “Glee Clubs” cool! The heart of the show revolved around a group of kids who didn’t fit in, joined the Glee Club, and found acceptance with each other. We in turn accepted them. I tend to think everyone at one point or another in their lives feels like the underdog or the outsider who doesn’t fit in and longs to be accepted. I was a fan of the show, and was lucky enough to be invited to visit the set during filming in December 2011. I have very fond memories of the cast, the sets and the crew. It was magical.

Never being one of the popular kids, and never quite “fitting in”, is definitely something that made me stronger as the years passed. It helped form me into a strong individual. And, to this day, I am continually learning to embrace my uniqueness. This feeling of being an outsider is a theme that shows up in my songwriting. The most current song with this theme, is a song from my latest CD, “The Ride”, titled “Square Peg”. I will be releasing a music video for that song in the very near future. You can subscribe to my YouTube page to make sure you see it – by clicking here. Another song which is about feeling alone and apart from the crowd, is the song “Boy” from my second CD, “Ready”. “Boy” takes this theme to the next level, suggesting in its chorus, that love is the remedy:
     Set the boy free
     Let him know he is loved
     Set the boy free
     He is loved, let him know
The song “Boy” reached chart position Number 9 on the Electronic/Drum & Bass International charts – for my first Top Ten hit song! It was the first song I recorded for the album “Boy”, my first venture into Trip-Hop music, and is one of my personal favorites from my catalogue. You can hear it below:

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Personal Revelations about My Life and Music

Seeing as yesterday was the first day of spring, as well as a super moon – (when the moon is closest to the earth), seems fitting to begin a new chapter. The news stories and blogs I read about the equinox and moon say it is a great time to plant new seeds, and a high time for creativity. That has led me to think about my perception of the world and how it gets expressed in my creativity – most notably in my songs and my acting performances. Working as an actor for decades, I studied human behavior, which helped me come to my own conclusions about what it is to be human, and what is the human condition. I have a need to connect with my audience through my work on an emotional level, and have people get in touch with their own emotions. I have a desire to transform the world into a better place, by having people open their minds and look at life differently.

So springtime is very apropos for “restarting” this blog. From now on I will be mostly sharing with you how I see the world, and how it influences my creativity and art – both projects I created in the past, and new ones as I create them.
The first thing that comes immediately to my mind is the song, “I Need a Change” (which you can listen to below) from my latest CD, “The Ride”. It was written at a time when I felt I was in a slump and needed to break out and try something new. As the lyric states:
     Take me some place that I’ve never been before
     Deal me a hand I’ve never been dealt before
An important part of the meaning behind “I Need a Change” is the realization that life moves fast and one better give it your all before life is over. This is best expressed in the bridge of the song:
     Exit from this hiding place
     Go beyond my own safe space
     Stop from wanting to save face
     From now on
     Do what I dream
    Before it’s too late
As I get older, I realize that life is not quite the way I thought it would be, and accepting that is the key to peace and happiness. So online world, here I come, putting myself into the unknown, not knowing where this blog will lead. I’m in it for the ride!

 

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Creativity and Antonio Banderas

Last night I attended a screening of the new Pedro Almodovar film, “La piel que habito” (The Skin I Live In), followed by a Q & A with stars Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya. I enjoyed the film, and the Q & A was especially great. In talking about the turmoil he went through as an actor filming this film, something that Antonio Banderas said resonated with me. He was quoting something Laura Linney said to him years ago. She said something to the effect (and I’m paraphrasing) that if you are an actor on a set and you are comfortable and relaxed, you won’t bring anything to the table. You need to be shaken, stirred and on edge to do great work. It reminded me of a conversation I had a while ago with someone about creativity. I came to the insight that to be creative takes great courage. To really create something is to bring into existence something that was hidden – to expose something unseen. Antonio’s words reminded me that the nerves I often feel when being creative (acting or singing), are a vital part of the creative process. They are to be embraced rather than fought. The trick is to find that balance where the nerves and emotion doesn’t get in the way of the creative process, but are there informing it. I do believe that when emotion is true, others can feel it in themselves, and I think that’s what makes art. It was a great reminder to me! Thanks Antonio!

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Revelations

It has been a long journey, but finally I am on the eve of releasing my 3rd CD, “Revelations”, which is due out this Friday, November 19th. Of all the work I’ve done to date, “Revelations” is overall the most personal and expressive. Not that the songs are necessarily autobiographical, but I have gotten closer and closer to expressing my voice through my art. I can see how creating music (or any artistic endeavor) is a life long process. Like peeling back the layers of an onion to which there is no middle – but you get closer and closer to the core with each outer layer gone. Starting work on “Revelations”, I found myself having gained a new sense of comfort and “mastery” of my own writing and recording process from standing on the shoulders of both of my previous CD releases. Looking back, I now realize that enabled me to push the limits of my voice as a songwriter – both lyrically and musically. This has been the most fulfilling, exciting and expressive project I’ve created to date! 

I’m very excited to present and share my newest work, “Revelations”. 

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Creative Juices and Unbelievable Nature

It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog – the longest since I’ve been blogging. I think it has been because I’ve been in such a heightened and focused creative state. All my energy, focus, and everything I’ve wanted to say has been put into my work. To update you, I have finished writing my one-man-show, and am now in the process of finding a director. It has taken me approximately two years to write this show. Never having written a show before, I can now understand and appreciate the process of writing. For me it was a lot of writing, digesting, then editing, reshaping and reworking, then more writing, digesting, reshaping, and so on. I didn’t realize, much like songwriting, how much discovery comes in the writing. I thought you had to have it all figured out before you wrote anything. Once I let go of that idea, the process was easier and much more productive. I am very happy with the show, and excited that it will feature many songs from my upcoming CD. Regarding my next CD, my hope is to release it sometime in September. I am in the process of recording the last two songs. This CD will be a stretch for me in many ways. I really have pushed the limits of my songwriting, my voice, and the music. Between my new CD and my show, I can honestly say that I’m in the most creative period I’ve ever had. I’m VERY excited about my new songs! They reflect my new discoveries about life, society, and the world around us.

Speaking of the world around us, I just returned from a short break in Costa Rica. This was the second time I visited that wonderful country. I stayed (for the second time) in the rainforest on the Osa Peninsula – which has been called the most biologically intense place in the world. This time I stayed in Drake Bay, and once again was overwhelmed by how much life there was surrounding me. It is jaw dropping how all that life works in harmony. Once again I walked away with a totally new perspective on life. Living in a “man’s world”, one isn’t privy to how amazing and intelligent life beyond humans is. Two stories (told to me by guides during my stay) stuck with me. I hope I get them right in retelling them…
The first is regarding the Mahogany Trees and the monkeys. One of the favorite foods of the monkeys are the seeds from the Mahogany Trees. Scientist have discovered that to protect themselves from the monkeys, the trees have created a chemical (or enzyme – I don’t remember what exactly) in their seeds that acts as birth control for monkeys! So the monkeys are only able to reproduce every 2 to 3 years instead of all the time, regulating the monkey population so they don’t eat all the seeds of the tree! And there is an island off the coast, Cano Island, which has Mahogany Trees but no monkeys. The trees on the island don’t produce that chemical, since there are no predators eating the seeds! Pretty amazing that a tree can create a chemical when needed to regulate the birth rate of a monkey! And stupid me — living in a city, thought trees just stood there and gave off oxygen and took in CO2. I didn’t realize they have consciousness. I guess if we all knew that, we’d treat trees with more respect than we do, and think twice about cutting them down. 
The second mind boggling story, deals with Orb Spiders and Wasps. An orb spider spends every day of its life spinning a web in the shape of a circle. That is what it does — all it does. However, it seems that wasps have some sort of brainwashing or mind control over the spiders. They find one of these spiders, and sting it. They don’t kill it, but briefly paralyze it, and lay their larvae on the spider. After the wasp leaves, the spider continues spinning its web each day, while the larvae slowly feed on the spider — not killing it. The day before the larvae hatch, the spider isn’t able to make its circular web. Instead, it spins a web in the shape of a blanket (something it has never ever made before), which is a perfect size for the larvae. They then kill the spider — eating it — and cocoon themselves in the web blanket which offers great protection from weather and other insects! Studies were done where the larvae were removed from the spider before they killed it, and in a few days, the spider was able to make its circular web once again. No one understands how the wasps manipulate the spider to such a degree. Crazy!
Both of these stories (and there are others) make me realize how we are not the great mastermind race we think we are. We are just another creature on this incredible planet — and we are too smart for our own good. It is very humbling and intimidating — and incredible — to be around life in such a profound way.

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Writer’s Block, An Epiphany, and a Quote from Carl Jung

While struggling with one of the changes I have been working on with writing my show (It has been a HUGE undertaking and challenge), I finally had a bit of a breakthrough. After suffering from writer’s block for a few months now, I finally stumbled back to the place I started: the realization that I’m writing the show because there is something I want to say. Somewhere along the way, I lost site of that and started to think more about what others would think of the show. That was enough to destroy my writing and any sense of confidence. So I am finally feeling like I’m getting back on my feet, and have some direction again. I’m not sure If I’ll make my deadline of a finished show by December 31st, but at least I’m feeling like I’m on my way.
I’m not sure why, but I didn’t fall into this trap with my songwriting. I think 80% of the songs I’m planning on recording for my next CD are songs I wrote in the past few months (including the first two I’ve already started recording). And I feel they are my best songs yet. Lyrically, while most of my songs from my first two CDs (“Infinite Man” and “Ready”, and even the single “Lonely Motel”) look inward, my new songs (mostly) look outward at the world around me. I wrote what I feel with no apologies, and it is a sign of my growth as a person and an artist. I’ve gotten larger and larger doses of reality in this past decade of my life, and I’m finally making peace with it. I’m embracing reality: pain and all. As a result, in my long goal to find my “voice”, I am finally starting to hear it. I’m not sure if what I’m “hearing” is a creation, or if it is something that’s always been there and I’m now seeing it after all the illusions and delusions have been stripped away. Whichever it is, I am clear that the act of creating (music or acting) is what gives me life. It is what makes me — me. 

I’ve been going through some sort of psychological epiphany for some reason (it was not on my “To Do” list!). As I keep creating, I’m getting clearer and more accepting of life and “reality”. In my acceptance of reality, I’ve come to believe that the human condition comes with suffering and anxiety. I think that is part of what it is to be human. And if that’s the case, I see two choices in life: either feel the pain, or avoid it. If we feel it, we can actually move though it (as painful as it is) and have some sort of happiness and power (until the next pain comes our way). If we avoid feeling it (which is what we are taught to do in society), we can’t really have power or true happiness, and avoidance often leads to addiction and/or living in denial. 
I heard a quote which speaks directly to my insight (I guess it’s true that there are no original thoughts). It is no surprise that the quote is from the brilliant Carl Jung:
“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”
– Carl Jung

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My One-Man-Show, and Gilda Radner

Those of you following me on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter, know that I recently finished the first draft of my one-man-show! It was a major feat indeed!! For the most part, I’m thrilled with how the first draft came out and can’t wait to perform it! I am so surprised to have written a play (based around my music). I never in a million years thought I’d do something like that! It shows me that if you put your mind to something, do the work, and stay in action even in the face of not knowing, you can accomplish things you don’t think you can do. I’m really surprised at the outcome, and much like with songwriting, I don’t know where the characters and stories came from (the show follows the story of several people). A difficult and fulfilling endeavor. I guess that’s what creativity is? My show is not quite where I want it yet, as there are two somewhat major changes I feel I need to make. So I’m back to writing! I’m feeling a bit blocked at the moment, but I’m trusting from my experience that if I keep at it, eventually something great and unexpected will come.

Of course it reminds me of a quote. And how appropriate that it is from the brilliant actress-comedian Gilda Radner!
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
– Gilda Radner

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Glaciers and Words from Buddha

I very recently returned from a trip to Alaska – my first cruise ever. I didn’t know what to expect — both from Alaska or from the cruise, and both were surprising. Overall, I totally enjoyed the cruise in spite of eating way too much delicious food. It was one of the smaller cruise ships and they even provided fantastic commentary much of the time while cruising. The last day was at sea (on the way to Seward) and there were 12 foot waves and 45 mile and hour winds — much to my (and many other passengers’) discomfort. I realized at that point I was ready to get off the ship! However, the six previous days were pretty calm with both sun and rain, and I could have spent the entire time on the top deck watching the sea and the land pass by. I couldn’t get over the colors. The jade green waters, the blue and purple mountains, the white of the fog, clouds and snow, the green of the leaves and trees, and the blue of the ice. One of the days I took an excursion on a catamaran up the Tracy Arm Fjord to the Sawyer Glacier. It was my first time seeing a glacier meet the water. It looked like a river of ice, flowing between the mountains to the sea but frozen in time. Where the ice met the sea the ice formed 300 to 400 foot cliffs of blue ice. The catamaran kept its distance from the glacier as ice can suddenly jut out from the sea and can be quite dangerous. Just as we arrived to view the glacier, the guide announced that we probably wouldn’t see any calving (when ice breaks from the glacier and falls into the ocean) like you see on National Geographic, because if we did it would mean it was happening a lot and there would soon be nothing left. About 30 seconds later a huge chunk of ice broke off and crashed right into the ocean! Our boat was in front of the glacier for 20 minutes and we witnessed the glacier calving five times. It was quite spectacular and very disturbing at the same time. Later in the cruise, we made our way to the Hubbard Glacier (I think it is the largest glacier in the world). We were there for less than 20 minutes and saw that glacier’s 500 foot ice cliffs calve three times — again, a bit disturbing. At one of the ports, I took a four mile hike with seven other people and two tour guides in an old growth forest. It was so green and wild, with moss and different mushrooms growing, bear claws on trees, wild flowers and berries, and a river flowing through it. It made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park at times. One of the other hikers was saying that he thought Global Warming was a media concoction. I bit my tongue. The tour guide (a 28 year old guy) diplomatically said that a better way to think about it is as “climate change”. I couldn’t believe that with all the talk on the cruise about the glaciers melting faster than ever — and our witnessing so much melting, that someone can’t open their mind enough to accept the fact that the average temperature on earth is getting hotter quicker than ever before. Research is very clear that our lifestyles (from the industrial revolution on) are helping speed the temperature rise. I really don’t understand what people gain by being so closed minded. Is it so they can keep justifying their beliefs, even if all the evidence of the world is against them? I don’t understand that at all. When you are standing before something so humbling as a mountain, or the ocean, or a forest, if you allow yourself, you can realize how insignificant we all are. How beautiful and how insignificant we are. Life is bigger than all of us, and somehow we got it in our minds that we are more important that all of it. That we are above it all. I got a real clear sense of how living in our minds is not living in reality. And now being back in the “human world” for a bit, slowly things are becoming important again and find myself losing touch with the “world”. I guess we are only capable of digesting so much at one time. Life is so overwhelmingly beautiful that maybe it is too much to be present with that experience for more than a few days at a time. Perhaps our minds can’t handle it. 

I’ll close with a photo I took of awe inspiring Sawyer Glacier. I took it as our boat was leaving the glacier. There are two other boats in the photo. I’ll also leave you with an appropriate quote from Buddha:
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
– Buddha

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