Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Lived Alone: Connie Converse & I - A Documentary

Dear humans, human-looking creatures who really have robot hearts, and androids who do and do not dream of electric sheep:

In the midst of my settling into the BK, I just wanted to let you know about a current project I am very excited about!  It's taken some time to get into motion, but some awesome steps have been taken!  

I have started researching a virtually unknown singer-songwriter from the 1950s named Connie Converse.  Connie Converse found herself in Pete Seeger’s circle, but never quite gained the fame she deserved.  She was insightful, but isolated.  Her songs were haunting, beautiful, witty, and deeply personal.  Faced with a need for major surgery in 1974, Connie packed up her Volkswagen beetle and drove off to start a new life, leaving only letters of goodbye.  Connie’s story could be expanded into a few different directions, from a study of the ins and outs of fame and the music industry of her time to a much deeper story about the relationship between creativity and loneliness.  I want to weave her haunting recordings and others’ interpretations of her songs with video footage to tell her story in a dynamic way.  Although I do not claim to have her massive talent, I feel that Connie Converse and I are soul sisters across time and I would like to document my journey of finding Connie Converse but also, in the process, offer a very blunt and real self-discovery. 

In May I will be going to Michigan to interview her brother Phil and sister-in-law, Jean.  They're wonderful people and I can't wait to learn more about Connie!  My crew and I must make this trip now as Phil and his wife are well into their 80s and I don't want to keep them hanging.  

Over the next month, I hope to hold a couple of events to raise awareness (and perhaps some cash to fund the trip, including the rental of some decent camera equipment).  I'm thinking open mics, parties, bar nights, and various other fun artsy times.

I am looking for:
 - event space ideas
 - bars
 - bands
 - filmmakers
 - performers
- enthusiastic go-getters 
who would like to collaborate on an event, or even the project itself.

Leave a comment if you know any takers! Well, in this case...givers.

Thanks for reading if you did,
Lock That Door Productions

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can't is the cancer of happen.

First thing's first: no, I don't think Charlie Sheen is crazy.  Do I think that he did/does have a drug problem?  Yes.  Are his actions toward women questionable?  Yes.  But I think that he knows exactly what he's doing.  Did you see the Charlie Sheen cooking show?  He's just tapping into a bunch of contemporary internet humor veins: Chuck Norris, machetes, "warlock, troll, tigerblood" vocabulary, hashtags (#WINNING is the counterpart to #FAIL and he even says #EPIC).  He is fitting in right with this generation.  We love to be confused by celebrities and we love "crazy" people.  I'm not saying he's Joaquin Phoenixing and completely pretending, I'm saying he's Hunter S. Thompsoning.  He may be "unstable" and doing drugs, but he sure is entertaining and eerily articulate in his rants.  I don't feel bad for him.  My bro-on-law made a good suggestion for his kids: he should send them away until they're 16 with a very nice, normal family and then come back and say, "Hey, I'm your dad. I didn't want you all screwed up.  By the way, your college is paid for in full by my tigerblood."

Paul Crik has been making videos for his campaign called "Killin' it," which seems similar to "WINNING."  So I asked him about it and this is what he said:

Winning and Killin are like neighbors on the same caribbean island; different styles and different values in the home, but the overall attitude of making your view of yourself more important than what other people think is the same. Winning It.

Moving on.  I chose the title of this post because I believe it!  I've been a can't-er for a long time, but in the past few months I basically said F-THAT.  And now I'm moving back to New York City.  More specifically Brooklyn.  Even more specifically Williamsburg.  With a pretty cool roommate.  And I will be working at NBC.  In 30 Rock. I know, I'm still absorbing all of this information.  Just waiting on that grad school acceptance...

This May I'm going to Michigan to interview Connie Converse's brother with a couple of friends (ie my production crew).  We've even gotten a UMich film student on board to be our videographer.  Stay tuned for ways you can help our cause!  We only need a few hundred dollars to rent decent camera and sound equipment.  I'm going to try and partner up with a few of my favorite local businesses to raise some funds.

Project positivity and it will all happen.  There's nothing wrong with things going right.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I can smell the rained-on cement and the food carts.

In the past week, I've spent more concentrated time in New York than I have in a long while.  I got to travel down on Saturday to pick up a bus of urban-dwelling high school kids on Sunday morning, then I decided to ride the bus back with them and spend my day off in the streets of Lower Manhattan.  It was a good decision.

On Saturday, my friend and I attempted to take a tour at the Tenement Museum, but all of the tours were sold out.  I should have known they would be, as I have gone on all the tours before and that place is always hopping.  Whenever I was bored or looking to get myself lost, I would put on my walking shoes and turn right out of my Broome Street Residence.  I would walk until it got dark, or until I felt I had cut it close enough in regards to getting back in time to write my next paper on Israeli subcultures or French Cinema.

Although disappointed, my friend - who is also a history lover - was excited that a museum tour could be sold out.  In a lot of places, museums are last resorts for tourists on rainy days.  In New York they are one of the main attractions.  And that makes me happy.

Because we couldn't buy tickets to trudge up the tenement's wooden steps and preserve the bannister with our oily hands, I led us to Washington Square Park.  Saturday was one of the first nice days out, so I knew there'd be stuff going on.  Whenever it's even remotely decent outside, there's this group of musicians that gathers called UMO.  I used to sit with them and "Write the Essay" during my freshman year before the construction on the park started.  One time they even let me lead a song.  I believe it was Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Gotta Stay All Night)."  Yes, I am kind of an NYU cliche for singing Dylan, but that song summed up (and still sums up) everything I've experienced and I had to get it out of my system!

>>Is any song worth singing if it doesn't help?<<

In the park that day, we saw a rendition of Julius Caesar in which everyone wore black formalwear.  Caesar was played by a pudgy, effeminate curly haired actor with a purple scarf.  It caught my attention, but although Julius Caesar is a personal favorite (The cause is in my will...I will not go!), I wasn't in the mood to stand through much more than 8 minutes or so.  Next up was a sand painter - he was cool, but not active enough for my attention.  Then, we found the music!  Two middle-aged musicians, a white guitarist and an awesome black bongo drummer were singing The Rolling Stones.  They didn't whip out my current favorite jam, "Beast of Burden," but it was still glorious.

Out of nowhere began Lou Reed's "A Walk on the Wild Side" and I was sold.  We sat there for a while and I bopped around very content-like.  The best part of the time spent in the park was watching all of the adorable children and their even more adorable dads.  The father in one such pairing was trying to share a slice of pizza with his daughter who had a blonde head of soft curls poking out of all sides of her bike helmet.  In this case, "share a slice" meant that the little girl rode her scooter in circles while the dad chomped away and occasionally stuck the pizza in the girls face every 4th or 5th go-around.  The wind blew and the sun was in our faces, but together we all sang "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and felt that collective appreciation for the day which is what I always thought church should be like.  (On the Sunken Treasure DVD, Jeff Tweedy says the same thing, and I think this is one of the main reasons I love him so).

On Sunday night, I was with a different friend and we found our way via the F and the L to The Sidewalk Cafe, anti-folk mecca.  I'm not sure what anti-folk is, and I think that's the point.  But anyway, I've gone to The Sidewalk Cafe a handful of times now, and I've never been disappointed.  Always entertaining, always thought-provoking - now, whether that thought is "What the fuck is this?" or "I can't believe they're singing 'John Henry' right now!"...the point is, there's always a thought.  I found out later that we stumbled into some kind of Anti-Folk Festival.  On a Sunday night.  I forget who the first act is, but they were definitely trying to channel Neutral Milk Hotel.  He wasn't quite there, but a couple songs came close to a comparable visceral tone.

The emcee, Dan Costello, continually impressed me by his ability to string his personal accounts together with intros to the various musicians that he so obviously admired and respected.  Who knew that a story about outside lavatories in Belarus could lead to a warm and welcoming intro to a favorite artist.  But it did.  He was a really impressive speaker, on the most genuine of levels.  I'm getting tired, but the highlights of the night were the random banjo player who sat in lotus position on stage during transitions between acts, the humorous whatever-it-is stylings of Beef and Jerky, and "The Adult Song" by Dave Deporis.  I could get into what I liked and loved about the acts but, honestly, you needed to be there in the atmosphere and my words would just kind of mellow it all out.

The last act, Talking Stick...featuring something or someone called Puppies Holding Hands, and some other things... was definitely anti-folk.  As the main guy kept giving a monologue-y reaction to genetically modified food, my friend thought they were just taking a really long time to tune up.  Really, that was the act.  Noise and instruments and banging and talking.  The talking guy reminded me of a combination of a billion Will Ferrell characters.  The posture and hair of Harry Caray, a delivery that kind of sounded like a defeated Alex Trebek mixed with a grass roots organic juice commercial with a bit of the high school music teacher who was husband to Ana Gasteyer's character.  It was engaging for a while, but my friend and I grew tired of being silent and wanted to get out to the bar to discuss everything that we just experienced.

By the end of the night we had met both Beef and Jerky, Dan Costello (who is from Albany!), and a few others.  I forgot how much I love weird people (no, I don't fear offending them because in this case, the "weirder" the more successful, the more entertaining, profound, etc.).  I don't mean it in the traditional sense.  I have been called weird all of my life and am trying to reclaim the meaning!  Own it! Know it! Cultivate it!

Live it.  Fly yo' weird flag high.

What would be on your weird flag?