Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Showin' some moxie at Moxie's

I have to make a "Creative Video Self Portrait" for film school applications, so I'm going to use my little blog here to document things and decide later what will go in the finished product....Which means you get to enjoy lovely pictures of adorable people (no I'm not conceited, I'm talking about the two nauseatingly cute little ones)...

Wooden tractors are A W E S O M E. These are all the playthings at the Schagticoke Fair I always wanted as a child.

MJ and Aunt Zeldy!

EG strangling that same Aunt Zeldy.

J and Mo!
They have a billion different types of vanilla. Mexican, Tahitian, Venetian...cuhraziness.



This makes me laugh so hard. I think it's the guy admitting that they are an "item."

Monday, May 24, 2010



I have no idea.

Empty Pocket Waltz

I do it every day.

Taking on a large project such as a documentary is a daunting, intimidating task. Especially if that documentary's purpose is to do an extraordinarily talented and complex woman justice. Even more especially when her brother knows you're working on it. Despite my lack of funds and material resources, I am doing what I can to research and plan for the film. So far I've become internet pen pals with two incredibly helpful and awesome 80 year old men. One being Connie's brother, the other being the first man who recorded her music. Both of them have so much to share about her life and I cannot wait to delve into it all. So, I'm well on my way to acquiring biographical data as well as the musical. But I want this film to be something more than just a portrait, like any good documentary, I want the story to be a microcosm of a greater issue. I want it to zoom out to capture an even bigger picture.

I've been thinking of a few methods of how this might happen. I want to interview music lovers from all walks of life, have them listen to Connie (maybe even on camera), and record their reactions. I'd also like to take a few willing participants and give them a CD of her music and have them listen to it and sit with it for a while, recording whatever comes to mind. Who does she remind you of? Who does she sound like? What is her playing style? What do you think of her voice? How does the music make you feel? What do you think of the melodies? Do you connect with the music? What kind of person do you think she is? Would you like to have known this woman? Do any of the songs get stuck in your head? What lyrics affect you the most? Do you think she should have been successful? Where would she have fit in with her contemporaries? Would she fit in? Etc, etc., etc. There's no such thing as too much footage.

I think I would also like to see if I can get any bands/singer-songwriters to cover any of her songs. I know there have been events in NYC in the past of bands doing her music, but I'd really like to have some performances in the film if I can. I want to attack this thing from all angles.

The main reason Connie's story has hit me so deeply is that I feel she and I are very similar people. I'm going to start filming the steps I'll be taking on my way to film school back in NYC to make this documentary, starting with my car ride into Brooklyn to meet with someone from Brooklyn College's film certificate program. Perhaps my quest to find out everything I can about Connie will end up as a personal discovery worth telling. Perhaps not. There's just as much of a chance of this endeavor being incredibly boring and self-indulgent as it could be entertaining. Again, there's no such thing as too much footage!

I almost admire her for the way she picked up and disappeared. I know, I know, I'm young, but sometimes there's this weird twinge in my spleen that tells me to just "go." Where to? I'm not sure. Why? I don't really know. I can't really complain about my life, there's strikes and gutters just like everyone else's. But from what I gather - and I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of her personality - Connie seemed to have a quiet, never-ending, solemn solitude that just couldn't be shaken, and I think I understand. Yet she felt a need to create, a need to be heard. It could be that even if she achieved the commercial success she was so disappointed to go without, she would still be the Roving Woman who desired even more and perhaps have felt even lonelier. I think a lot more people than we know will be able to relate to that.

Stay tuned.

Spoken in the voice of Robert Stack: If you or anyone you know might be interested in assisting in any part of the production process, from PA-ing, to being interviewed, to playing her songs, please contact me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top Zumba Tunes

For those of you who would like some examples of the different kinds of music found in a typical Zumba class, this post is for you. Here are my top 5 current favorites...

5. I really like this song and the dance that goes with it, but I really like the thoughtful pink lyrics that the video maker felt the need to include even more.

4. Ignore the lame moves. This is the only correct version of the song I could find. Our moves of course are WAY hotter...and more fun.

3. Pitbull has some catchy, dirty, dirty beats. This might be my favorite dance. I like the "we're hot, we're hot" move, to be demonstrated only in class or to my closest most personal friends.

2. Pitbull is not an attractive man.

Call me a sap, but this is my all-time first and forever favorite. It was my "gateway" song into the world of Zumba, if you will. Plus I like the part about dancing in the middle of June, which happens to be my month of birth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My Lifetime Lifelong Dream

Dear Lifetime,

I want to be the curly-haired best friend in one of your movies. She's always a little less attractive than the lead, but with way more personality and sense of humor. Typically, she is either a little sassy or a little dumb, or she has a kid. The best friend always has to be willing to point out the faults of the lead's man. Unless, of course, that is the role the lead's mother plays. These two types of the best friend character can be categorized under the following phrases: "C'mon, y'all!" or "Oh, I don't know about him." In the case where it is the mother who is against the lead's relationship, the best friend is 160% supportive and finds sneaky ways for them to be together until she finds out anywhere from the middle to the end of the plot that her best friend's man or mother is a serial killer/conman/rapist. She then tries to help by gathering a search party for the kidnapped lead (with or without the mother, depending on whether she is a "good" or "bad" mother) or formulating elaborate plots to help the lead escape the evil man or mother. Sometimes the best friend is also murdered, tortured, or otherwise thrown around. As you can see, I am well aware of the curly-haired brunette best friend's motivation and would be perfect for this role in any upcoming project. Please hire me. I will wear whatever combination of acid-washed jeans, overalls, plaid or flower-print that you require.

Most Sincerely,

Has anyone ever seen "No One Would Tell?" It's a Lifetime movie starring DJ from Full House and Kevin from the Wonder Years. In this movie, DJ is in an abusive relationship with Kevin. One can tell this from the beginning, as the foreshadowing is brilliant. Various close-ups of Kevin gripping one of those hand-exercise squeezing contraptions along with bleak music let you know that DJ is in for one hell of a relationship ride. However, I must defend Kevin. About 40% of the time he was really, really nice to her. Incredibly sweet. More thoughtful and caring and attentive than any other testicle wielding person I've ever met. I will venture to say that it almost justified the other 60% of the time he spent hitting her and throwing her into doorknobs. Come on, Deej, you really shouldn't be talking with that Jimmy guy even if your lockers are next to each other, you little strumpet. I saw you making eyes at him. And how hard was it to call Kevin whenever you went somewhere or to stop by his place every day? He obviously wanted to be together forever. And, as Patty Rosborough would agree, at least he wasn't a boring guy and you probably had a few laughs before he pushed you down the stairs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Roving Woman

Late last Friday night I found myself alone and contemplative with a couple glasses of wine in my belly. When I get this way, it feels like I'm going to explode with words and ideas and affection, so I attempt to record all of my thoughts no matter how random or half-baked or trivial. Fortunately and unfortunately, I very rarely take any kind of concrete action during this state. However, last Friday I did act. And I lucked out. Or did something inside my rib cage know this was going to happen?

Last Friday night I emailed the brother of Connie Converse. Verbose and full of admiration, I explained to him that I would like to make a documentary about her life and music. He responded in less than 24 hours with a blessing and enthusiastic offers of help. So here I go. Now I must complete this project, whether I have the skill or not. Maybe I'll develop the skill along the way. This past week something has clicked. I will go to film school. I already have an appointment with a program coordinator. I will make this documentary. Maybe I will make other things along the way, too. This path just makes sense.

But this isn't just a story of my own self-discovery. I want the average American to know Connie Converse. (Well, maybe not the average American. I'll settle for the ones who actually go see documentaries.) Lately Connie's music has been striking a deep chord with me and I've been scouring the internet for more and more information. I found out about her from Patell and Waterman's History of New York blog. Her story is of interest for so many reasons. Connie - born as "Elizabeth" - Converse was a bright kid, valedictorian of her high school, received a full ride to Holyoke College. After receiving many academic awards in the first two years of college, she decided to drop out and head to New York to pursue music much to the dismay of her very religious upbringing. Connie found herself in Pete Seeger's circle and even appeared on television with Walter Kronkite. However, these were the only small "breaks" she received. She never met anyone, either agent or other, who had the power to push her songs to the front of public consciousness. One wonders how successful and popular she would have been if she lived in this age of self-production and internet publicity...

Frustrated with New York and her lack of commercial success, Connie moved to Michigan where her brother Phil and his wife lived. Phil is still a professor at the University of Michigan, and I found him through the school's website. She worked for a journal run by the University for a time, and only played her music at parties. She had stopped writing new music. In the mid 1970s Connie wrote letters to her friends and family, claiming that she needed to restart her life someplace new. There is speculation that the prospect of major surgery along with a general disappointment led her to pack up her Volkswagen beetle and drive off, never to be seen or heard from again.

Her solemn yet witty personality comes through in her songs, and I recommend anyone interested to get the fairly recent release of some of her material on an album called "How Sad, How Lovely." I don't want to give away everything about her in this first post, so check her out...if only to hear her rhyme "squirrel thing" with "quarreling."

I'll try to keep you all updated on my very daunting excursion in the world of research and documentary film making.


Monday, May 3, 2010

A Time to Be Sexy, A Time to Be Silly

If you have had any kind of correspondence with me since I moved back upstate, it is guaranteed that you probably haven't had a full conversation with me without hearing the most amazing word of the 21st century: ZUMBA! An unlikely match, Zumba and I have developed a very close, therapeutic, and passionate relationship. It's an almost cult-like sensation. Or a drug addiction. Once you start going, all you can think of is your next fix (class), wondering if the instructor will play your favorite song, what new dances you'll learn, and whether that one lady in the corner will fart again.

I have been ruminating for a long while on what exactly has fueled the fire behind this craze, as it seems to be catching on everywhere. From the young to the old(er), the larg(er) to the small(er), those without natural rhythm and those who you would guess aren't a stranger to the pole. Zumba is a female-centric dance fitness class using many different genres of music such as salsa, cumbia, merengue, Bollywood, reggaeton, regular hip hop and dirty latin hip hop (my favorite). Some men do venture to the classes (usually one male per a whole room of sweaty females), and I suspect they have ulterior motives. But, hey, as long as they're willing to do the moves, I welcome them. I'm lookin' at you, Mikey.

My sister and cousin introduced me to this wonderful activity. The first time we cowered in the corner, completely clueless and giggly and almost soiling ourselves with how goofy we all must have looked. Everyone seems to have a similar first class experience. Needless to say, we were hooked. The routine I remember most vividly from the first time is that "Apple Bottom Jeans" song, during which one of the steps involves slapping one's own ass (iethe lyric she gave that big booty a slappp). I haven't quite worked myself up to the point where I will willingly slap my own ass, but I'm sure it will come with time. My sister, cousin, and I have progressed light years with our hot moves and are currently waiting for anyone we know to have a party or get married so we can show off...

So, what is the allure of Zumba? Well, my friends, I have theories. Personally, I finally have full use of my hips, and for this I am eternally grateful. It seems that I have spent the past 19 years of my life afraid of them. A lifetime of Catholic school combined with hitting puberty later than all of your peers plus having your only "conversation" about sexuality come from a book called The What's Happening to My Body Book For Girls will do that to you. I did not realize that you could dance "it" out without being trashy...or judged. How ignorant I was! There's something powerful about a group of women taking control of their bodies for their own sake, to have fun and dance and feel good and not worry about what other people are thinking about it. At Zumba, you very rarely notice anyone else doing anything "wrong" or "out of step" since you're so focused on yourself staying with the music and getting that beto timing just right. There's also no incorrect way to Zumba, as long as you're moving around and enjoying yourself, you're doing it. (And for anyone who knows me, you know how much I loathe arbitrary competition!) I've been known to fear/dislike women, but this estrogen-filled enjoyable environment has helped me to commence defeating this terrible tendency.

I take my class at a VFW post in the middle of nowhere, and our instructor often likes to point that out. "IN NASSAU WE GET CRAZY! SEXY AT THE VFW!" What's not awesome about a group of middle-aged white women gyrating to raunchy songs sung completely in spanish, the lyrics of which they have no idea? Try to come up with an answer, you'll be hard-pressed. Pitbull, you have so many fans up here. Sure, there are classes in gyms in hip places like Manhattan and Chicago and Troy, but I prefer the rural setting with pastel blue painted rifles mounted to the wall. It makes me feel American - the good kind of Amerrican. In the proud, "I do what I want / I'm having fun / I'm bettering myself" kind of way.

Zumba has, believe it or not, helped me with my comedy. By learning the way my body moves and by making it move in ways it didn't think it could, I'm able to tap more into the physicality of a joke and creating characters. Also, and more obviously, it's a damn good work-out. It's the only time I've ever gotten that pukey pain in my side other than running the mile in gym class or during various middle-school sports. And that pukey pain in the side signifies progress and physical fitness! My sister and my cousin look even more awesome than before and I think we all feel more confident in ourselves as well. It's the satisfaction of knowing we're doing something good for our bodies - and, to be a little risque, our future/present significant others' as well... *cough cough* (If this were 3 months ago, I wouldn't have even felt comfortable making that joke!)

It is possible that my favorite part of class is spending time in the same room with the brassy, enthusiastic, sometimes gruff instructor. Again, if you know me, I'm sure you've heard me lovingly imitate: "STEP! STEP! HIP HIP HIP!" It's entertaining and inspiring and hilarious - and she knows it. Her eye contact and encouragement really help her students in getting out of their comfort zone to let it all out.

The rap and hip-hop music makes you feel powerful.
The reggae makes you feel happy and optimistic.
The latin music makes you feel attractive.
The combination of the almost hypnotizing music plus the endorphins of collective exercise makes you feel phenomenal.

Who doesn't secretly want to have a designated place where they are demanded to shake what their mama gave them? And I mean e v e r y t h i n g, without being self-conscious. Every person has that desire. Every person in the world who I want to be friends with, at least. I happen to think that it's more fun to shimmy you have a little jiggle to your wiggle. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.