February 29, 2012

Making Mu$ic

The first time I heard Price Tag by Jessie J, I replayed it on the computer five times. What a fantastic sentiment. Hypocritical perhaps, given who it's coming from (the same way Christina Aguilera singing Beautiful seems a bit... funny). But no - maybe this is a desperate cry from an artist inside the industry, pleading for a gentler, kinder, less money obsessed world.

Then I saw the commercial below. With new lyrics to Price Tag.

Because, apparently, Jessie J found hers.

February 20, 2012


I"m lucky enough to be a member of Theatre by the River - a local, indy theatre company. We've recently started alternating our monthly Board Member/Artistic Core meetings with IdeaJams. Everyone brings something creative to the table that inspires them. It can be dance, food, music, a book, a sculpture or whatever.

And we had one earlier today. For my own reference - and maybe to spark something in your own mind and heart - here are some of the components from today's IdeaJam.

1) The Mad Men Mashups

To launch its upcoming season, AMC's Mad Men had these posters placed in New York City subway stations. The wide open blank space invited contributions from passerbys and the mashups took on a life of their own. Participatory advertising, as I've said, is the future.

2) Rockethub and Kickstarter

Funnily enough, two different crowdfunding sites came up today. Rockethub and Kickstarter allow those seeking financial support to connect with those seeking unique gifts. It's not fundraising; it's trading. Look at this Rockethub (for our own Derek Leenhouts band Those Guys cd recording project) to get an idea of how different donation levels get you different rewards.

3) The End of the Alphabet

TBTR's upcoming Fringe play Lungs deals with a young couple debating whether or not to have a child in this environmentally endangered, socially unstable world. The End of the Alphabet, by Canadian designer-turned-author CS Richardson looks at the other side of the coin - an older, childless couple facing the inevitable parting mortality brings with it.

The quality of a fable, exquisite and timeless - Chatelaine
This is a very difficult book to put down at bedtime, even when the final page is turned - The Globe and Mail

4) Star Wars: Uncut

The guys behind Star Wars: Uncut divided Episode IV: A New Hope into 15-second bits. Then they put out the call for fans to replace sections with their own versions. Now the parts have been reassembled into the biggest collaboration in movie-making history.

Some clips are terrible (and good in their terribility). Some are brilliant. Go team.

5) The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

There are good reasons to celebrate the move from analog books to ebooks. Portability. Reduced paper use. Sometimes - though not always - reduced cost.

And there are good reasons to love and defend printed books too; mostly the 'book culture' that they bring. Books on paper are little, permanent totems of learning and feeling, physical records of the thoughts and feelings of our species. And they're reasons to gather - the bookstore and the library aren't just any retail spaces, but cultural halls. And books are transferable in a way eBooks aren't yet. I've loaned and borrowed books (usually remembering to return them, I hope). Having an actual physical object there, existing, matters. Like the difference between a painting and a jpeg.

Oh, I do go on. Anywho, this short film from Moonbot Studios celebrates the book. Tah-dum.

6) A Place Called Manitoba

One of our Board Members is doing her Master's Degree on the cultural narratives of cities. She's interested in the official stories that are sold in culture - especially Tourism pieces - and the stories that slip through the cracks. Witness the above, but watch out in case "fine English silverware catches your eye."

7) Prisoner of Tehran

Marina Nemat was jailed and tortured as a teenager in Iran's infamous Evin prison. She would have been executed, if one of her guards hadn't decided to marry her. Now living in Canada, she published her memoir Prisoner of Tehran to acclaim and recent (ridiculous) controversy.

8) Corsican Chant

I don't even know how to begin describing this improvisational, ancient singing style. They make it up as they go based on what the other singers are doing. Amazing.

9) Transitional Singing

I can't find the online content (if there is any) but there are choirs that get together for the sole purpose of providing music as someone dies; as they transition out of this life and into whatever comes next.

My first reaction, I admit, was discomfort. My second was wanting to have such a choir for my own death. My third reaction is deciding not to die <pats own shoulder>

10) Into Eternity

Finland is attempting to build the first permanent nuclear waste disposal site - a giant underground repository where spent fuel rods can be stored for as long as they're dangerous. 100,000 years.

Into Eternity is Danish film maker Michael Madsen's documentary on the project and the attempt to design 'keep out' signs our descendants will understand and heed. Because nuclear waste will be our longest legacy to the future.

So that was our meeting. Now to soak it all in and come up with new ways to be a socially relevant, artistically provocative and financially accessible theatre company. Plus kick ass.


February 14, 2012

A Store Full of All Things Strange

In first term my advertising class wrote ads for local indy toy / child dream factory Toad Hall Toys. I was looking for a creative break from typing recently (as much as I love writing proposals) so I produced it. Or  tried to, anyways...

Is it me, or do I come across as enormously creepy?

February 12, 2012

Goodfellah Dreams

My wife and I have very different tastes in movies. I'm usually up for a good comedy; maybe a political thriller every now and then. Mel is all about the gangster movies. Since her father introduced her to them at the tender age of five (when some of us were watching cartoons), Mel's been a Goodfellas, Godfather and Casino-lover.

And I. Hate. Them.

Maybe hate is not the right word, but they give me the heeblie-jeeblies, what with their celebration of violence, ego and cruelty. I get enough of that in the news, I don't need to watch Pesci beat someone's face in with a bat.

Last night we watched Drive. Which I'm very ready to admit is a good movie. I can appreciate the craftsmanship that went into a gangster movie, even as it makes me squirm. Mel loved it. Quelle suprise.

And I dreamed about being murdered. Several times. Having my face kicked in. Having my throat cut. Being blown up. The good thing about a "dying dream" is you figure out you're dreaming fairly quickly. You continue existing, past having your jugular opened and the lightbulb goes off. But that doesn't make the night pass any smoother.

Mel, I'm glad you liked Drive. Ryan Gosling, I'm glad you're nominated for an Oscar.

You both owe me one night of sleep.

February 11, 2012

365 Days Before I Sleep

"It looks pretty good, I'm pleased with it all - it's a year of my life."

365 sketches, paintings and inks by Winnipeg artist Michael Joyal have just been installed at the cre8ery gallery on Adelaide Street. They're the final result of his yearlong quest to make an original artwork every day.

Arranged like days on calendar pages, the four-by-six pieces vary wildly in content. There are sketches of people from his daily bus ride to work, collages of animals, landscapes, and objects. A drawing of Lindsey Lohan - done on bright wrapping paper - marks Christmas Day.

"I can't remember why I did that; perhaps she was on TV."

The project begain in summer 2010 when Joyal, then 39, was browsing through an online sketchbook by German-American artist Stella Im Hultberg.

"I was going through her sketches and saw these amazing drawings - I was astonished at what she considered a sketch. They were thick with paint and ink, thick with detail - she had really worked the paper. It looked like they were aggressively attacked."

"And I felt like I had dropped the ball as an artist. I hadn't done anything in my sketchbook for a long time."

So on June 25, Joyal did a sketch before going to bed; not a quick drawing, but a longer, involved piece. The following night he did the same thing, trying to improve on the previous night's work.

"The thought of a whole year occurred to me. And as I went on, day-by-day, I wondered, 'Can I get a show out of this?'"

As the months went by, Joyal's investment in his project grew. He had to spread the work throughout the day, doing rough sketches during his morning commute, painting on lunch breaks, then adding finishing details in the evening.

"Throughout the series, it became obsessive. I'd be working on a piece and wondering what to do four days in the future."

Joyal found the discipline required to keep going on the project - as well as the time it cost - were balanced by a growing confidence in his abilities and craft. He was also encouraged by a collection of Facebook fans.

"I'd post each piece online and my family and friends, they started to get eager to see the next piece. I could never guess their response - something I thought was okay they'd think was the second coming. Something I thought they'd love - meh. It proves you can't draw for the public, you have to draw for yourself."

This past June 24, Joyal completed his final work in front of an audience at the Winnipeg Free Press Cafe. The installation on now at the cre8ery (free admission, running until February 21) is the first time all the works have been displayed together.

"I don't want to admit it," Joyal says, "but I do feel proud. Working on a four-by-six piece in a sketchbook each day, you get tunnel vision. Now, putting it all together, I realize how much work it was."

"When I look back at the whole year, I'm grateful for my wife, Suzanne. She gave up a lot of me for that year. One to four hours each day, every day. It's a huge gift she gave me."

"When we were prepping the installation, I let her put the last piece down on the calendar board. It was cool - we finished it together."

Now that 365 Days Before I Sleep is on display, Joyal hopes his work will encourage others to push their own boundaries.

"I hope this inspires people. It inspires me. Now that I've done this, I wonder, 'what else can I do?'"

February 10, 2012

The Little Tramp Speaks

After hearing that some of my fellow CreCommers have never watched a Chaplin movie (or even Casablanca - the horror!) I thought I'd put this up. One of the most moving speeches in the history of film. From a silent film star. You dig it?