Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chris Knight tonight at Club Passim: It ain't easy being me

I'm pretty sure Chris Knight will be the next Ryan Bingham. Ryan just won an Oscar for The Weary Kind the theme song for Crazy Heart. Bingham and Knight are the real deal. Real country singers who don't do the Nashville thing, corporate country, or any of that prefabricated pop crap in a cowboy hat that LiveNation passes off for country. (Think Sugarland.)

Anyway, Chris Knight will be at Club Passim tonight, and if there are any tickets left you should grab one because Knight doesn't often tour very far from his home in Kentucky.

Welcome stranger, to the humble neighborhood: Joe Strummer: Bhindi Bhagee

In one of my crazier moments I actually contemplated using the lyrics to this song for a monologue. Not sure if the theater community is ready for something like that.

Well, I was walking down the High Road
And this guy stops me
He'd just got in from New Zealand
And he was looking for mushy peas
I said, no, we hadn't really got 'em round here
I said, but we do got

Balti, Bhindi, strictly Hindi
Dall, Halal and I'm walking down the road
We got rocksoul, okra, bombay duck-ra
Shrimp beansprout, comes with it or without - with it or without
Bagels soft or simply harder
Exotic avocado or toxic empenada
We got akee, lassi, Somali waccy baccy
I'm sure back home you know what tikka's all about - what tikka's all about

Welcome stranger to the humble neighborhoods
You can get inspiration along the highroad

Hommus, cous cous in the jus of octopus
Pastrami and salami and lasagne on the go
Welcome stranger, there's no danger
Welcome to this humble neighborhood

There's Balti, Bhindi, strictly Hindi
Dall, Halal and I'm walking down the road
Rocksoul, okra, bombay duck-ra
Shrimp beansprout, comes with it or without

So anyway, I told him I was in a band
He said, "Oh yeah, oh yeah - what's your music like?"
I said, "It's um, um, well, it's kinda like
You know, it's got a bit of, um, you know."

Ragga, Bhangra, two-step Tanga
Mini-cab radio, music on the go
Um, surfbeat, backbeat, frontbeat, backseat
There's a bunch of players and they're really letting go
We got, Brit pop, hip hop, rockabilly, Lindy hop
Gaelic heavy metal fans fighting in the road
Ah, Sunday boozers for chewing gum users
They got a crazy D.J. and she's really letting go

Oh, welcome stranger
Welcome stranger to the humble neighborhoods

Well, I say, there's plenty of places to eat round here
He say, "Oh yeah, I'm pretty choosy."

You got
Balti, Bhindi, strictly Hindi
Dall, Halal, walking down the road
Rocksoul, okra, bombay duck-ra
Shrimp beansprout, comes with it or without
Let's check it out

Welcome stranger to the humble neighborhoods, neighborhoods
Check out all that

Por-da-sol, por-da-sol
Walking down the highroad

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Joe Biden drops the F-bomb: Big effing deal

Joe Biden gave new meaning to the phrase, vice president. Get it?--vice president?

it's all over the Internet now, and good luck finding a copy of the video now of Vice President Joe Biden telling President Barack Obama that passing the Health Care Bill is a big effing deal. Now it's bleeped out on most sites. But right now it's the most sought after thing on the Internet, and it's so hard to hear that it's like listening for "Paul is dead" on Abbey Road.

And I'm not sure what the big effing deal is. I talk like that everyday. I guess we're expecting our elected officials to be saints. We don't want them to cuss, do drugs, or sleep around, yet all that is pretty much what the hoi polloi do.

Yep, it's so bizarre: we vote for people who we claim are like us--we want people in the White House and in Congress who represent us, who we actually are--and then when we do we blow it all out of proportion.

Anyway, it took me awhile to find one, but here for your listening pleasure is your vice president saying the word that we all say every day.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Obsolete Occupations: Jobs that are now obsolete...

The economy has taken away so many jobs. And of course, let's not forget the "new paradigm" with all of its "new market forces", i.e. sending jobs overseas to countries were the cost of labor is significantly lower, which in essence scuttles the middle class.

But before there was the economy, computers and machines took over so many jobs once done by humans. I found this story on the NPR site of jobs that are now obsolete, entire professions that are now obsolete.

Jobs like a pinsetter in a bowling alley. Elevator operator. Switchboard operator. Ice man. Milkman, although I know in some small towns and suburbs this occupation is offered, but more out of nostalgia than anything else.

But in this terrible economy, I wonder about more jobs that are slowly dying. When will checkout clerks be extinct, thanks to self-check lines? At the grocery store, I already use a hand-held scanner to scan everything that goes into my cart, then I simply download it at the checkout. It not only makes checking out faster, but it also lets me know exactly how much I'm spending, and if an item is marked wrong.

Wiill smart cards finally make toll-takers on highways go the way of the do-do? (Or better yet, how about toll roads going the way of the dodo.)

See and read the whole story here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Renting vs. owning a home: Renting comes out on top

It's an absolutely stunning day after about four days of rain of biblical proportions. Roads flooded. Basements filled with water. The MWRA let millions of gallons of raw sewage spill into Quincy Bay, otherwise the sewage treatment plant would have backed up. I walked to tech rehearsal on Sunday in the South End and from the car to the theater it was liking walking through a car wash. I had an umbrella, but I was soaked after only getting a quarter of the way there. It never seemed as if it would ever stop.

This, like so many times, is the reason I like renting. I don't want to own a house. I don't want to worry about my roof flying off in a windstorm. I don't want to worry about the roof leaking. I don't want to have to pump out a basement and clean up the mess. I don't want to be...responsible. And I don't want to pay for all those roofs flying off and all the stuff you need to clean up after a flood. I've been watching the statuses on Facebook, I remember those days of constant bailing out your basement. The backbreaking work. The worry. The mess.

I know it's not the norm in these United States. Renting is so declasse. It's so ghetto. You're not a grownup unless you own your own home. It's the American Dream to own your own little half-acre. But I like renting. A lot.

We don't have a lot of responsibilities. If it's a gorgeous day we're not tied to our house, cutting the grass. Pruning bushes. We're off on our bikes or on a trip into the city.

If something goes wrong, we call our landlord. He's a great guy. And he lives right downstairs. He's not like my old landlord who also lived right downstairs, but if he actually did fix something, it was always weeks after I told him about it and he always did a Mickey Mouse job. I mean, my toilet ran the entire six or seven years I lived there. Cooking in my oven was like cooking in a nuclear reactor. It had one setting: hot. He promised me a new stove, but I never saw one. And I hated to push the point because he was the kind of guy (wealthy who knew the cost of everything but the value of nothing--like a good tenant) who would have raised my rent to compensate himself for the cheap-ass stove he would have bought.

My old landlord, too, had this attitude that although you were paying him a boatload of money to live in kind of a fire-trap shit hole, he still looked at it as you had to live around him and his family. It really wasn't your home; it was his and he was landlording over you.

Steve, our landlord has already said Sue and I are family. We look in on his mom (who's 90 and also lives downstairs.) This is our home.

Last fall Sue bought over 100 bulbs and we planted them around the yard. Today I was out there--like I've worked in so many of my own yards--raking and cleaning up. The bulbs are coming up. We have a mulch pile where I've raked all the leaves and we put in all the compost from the kitchen--everything from coffee grinds to orange peels and egg shells. It's not the big production I once had, when I had a flock of about 25 chickens, a garden a big yard, lots of tools. But it's nice to get out there. We're going to put in an herb garden. And, Rose, our landlord's mom, wants me to plant some tomatoes for her.

It's small, but it's pleasant and doesn't take up a lot of time.

We're painting the entire apartment to our liking. It's your home, Steve has said. Do what you want.

Most Americans think renting is temporary. What if they sell the house from under you? It's not permanent. It's not yours.

Well, a lot can go wrong with a house, too. Nothing is permanent. And we like the fact that it's us who can just pick up and leave at a moment's notice too. If we want to relocate--for a job or even to another part of the city just for a change in our lives--we can. We probably won't though. Because more and more each day, this apartment is our home in every sense of the word. We're storing up memories and good times. And we're making our mark on it in the way we decorate and live in it.

The way we look at it, we have the best of both worlds. We have the freedom, and a home. Something a house doesn't let you have. It's just one of the many things I think a lot of Americans are going to wrap their heads around with this new economy. The old American model of owning your own home isn't the way to go. It may take some getting used to for some people--and some may never be able to make the change--but I am one person who is glad he did

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Country Productions produces March Meisner SLAMBoston, Diverse Voices in Theatre in Boston

Tonight is the first of three nights of BostonSLAMs. These SLAMs are special, because all participants--the directors and the actors--have received some level of Meisner training. And what's so special about that, you might ask? It makes a big difference when all the directors and actors are working from the same page, and it's becoming more of a difference as the number of Meisner actors grows in the Boston fringe theater.

First, imagine working in any kind of group where the participants have all been trained differently, who have been taught different processes, and methodologies. It happens all the time. In business, it's rare to find people who are all working on the same page. We've all experienced this, where people are constantly sniping at each other and no one gets along. It's not that they're bad people. It's just that their values aren't aligned.

But then you come across a business where there is a specific, strong culture, where people all do everything the same way, and suddenly you get a very vibrant organization made up of people all pulling in the same direction toward the same goal.

The same is true in acting. I've been on casts where there were every combination of actor, plus some who weren't trained in anything at all--the remember your lines and don't bump into the furniture types. And sure, you get a production, but it's spotty at best. We've all seen them. One or two of the actors really shines, and then there's another doing something that is just completely out of sync with the rest of the cast. And then the rest are all doing their best to keep up with the others.

But with Meisner, and particularly the Meisner students in Boston, you have one of those groups where everyone is doing the same methodology and pulling toward the same goal. That goal is the connection, and right now I've heard every non-Meisner trained actor groan, and then bellow that's what we all do. Well, yes and no. Everyone goes for the connection, but they all don't go at it the same way, and Meisner actually gives you the tools to go for it.

Most casts are script-based. They memorize their lines, and when the actors work together one of the basic exercises they do is simply run their lines back and forth. That's what you do on stage, right?--you run your lines back and forth in a believable way. And when there are problems on stage, the director will reconvene the cast in the middle of the week for a "pick up", which usually means a speed-through of the script, or simply going over the lines.

With Meisner, of course you still have to know your lines, and yes you do speed throughs and recite your lines back and forth with each other, but you also do extra work establishing the connections, the relationship with the other characters. The exercises you do are meant to break down the social barriers we all have to protect our pure, raw emotions. And the delivery of the lines comes out of that connection. Big difference.

The next three nights of SLAMs are produced by Another Country Productions, headed up by Lyralen Kaye, ACP's artistic director. Full disclosure here: Lyralen is my Meisner teacher, and has been for a few years. I started taking Meisner classes from Lyralen when I felt my own acting was growing stale. I would find myself falling back on all my tried and true "tricks" to grow a character, and I was finding it difficult to prepare for characters in more modern plays.

Another thing I saw--or rather didn't see--was so many of my fellow actors not growing. I'd sit in an audience and say to myself, I saw you do that very same thing five years ago on a different stage. And I didn't want to do that. Meisner has made me a more organic actor, one who lives in that moment on stage.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The beauty of 12-bar blues improvisation

Saturday morning and the living room turned music room is once again strewn with guitars, amps, cables, guitar cases, and music stands. There's an old dog lying next to his favorite person in the whole world. No, it ain't me: He's turned into such a mama's boy in his old age. She moved in and we started changing the sheets on the bed (sometimes twice a week!) and he started drinking out of a bowl next to his kibble and not out of the toilet. She--the prettiest, funniest, little thing in the world--has certainly turned Bob's and my world on its head.

Went to a play last night and by all intents I should have been riveted. It was about adultery and cancer and marriage--all my favorite topics and combos. There were some good actors up there, too, knocking themselves out. But it's not a good sign when you find your mind drifting to memorizing 1-4-5 chord patterns and you can't wait to get home and play them.

I started an American ensemble course with my old teacher, Lloyd Thayer at Club Passim. (He's not old; I've just studied with him before--that's what I meant.) Americana, to him and co-teacher, Eric, means playing the sound track to the Little Rascals, as Sue says. And to start improvising, we played a 12-bar blues improvisation--I,I,I,I,IV,IV,I,I,V,IV,I,V. Ok, people who know what that means will think it's pretty basic, but to me it opened up a whole 'nuther world. And it's something that I've needed for a long time, at least through these long dark winter months. Work continues to be a disappointment, though I learned a long time ago not to expect self-fulfillment with business majors who bow before the Great God Excel. For someone like me you can contribute to an environment like that only so much; they just won't allow it. Any semblance of the truth is off-brand. It's through the arts--theater, music, writing--where you'll just breeze along.

So that's where we stand on this dreary, cold, overcast, rainy Saturday. Glad you asked?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

deCastellane Gallery opens in Brooklyn with photographs by Rowland Scherman

Hans deCastellane is getting his dream of opening his gallery and his first exhibit will be "the amazing, timeless, pop-culture photography of Rowland Scherman."

You know Roland Scherman. Yes, you do, you just don't know you do right now. But if you're any kind of music lover you know the cover from the seventies of Bob Dylan's greatest hits. Yeah, that one. The blue one with Dylan silhouetted against a spot liht and his frizzy hair looking like a halo. Roland Scherman took that. And he shot images of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Janis Joplin and the Fab Four and...well, you get the picture. He shot pictures of everyone.

Then he dropped off the map for a good thirty years, finally resurfacing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

It's an amazing story and his images are even more amazing.

If you're in the NYC area, you have to check this out.

And then below that is an article I wrote on Rowland a few years back.

The de Castellane Gallery is inviting and unpretentious. Its space lends itself nicely to a division of three adjacent spaces. Experience the front gallery–an evolving exhibition of both emerging and established artists. Discover the middle gallery–a more permanent display of featured works from the gallery's roster of talent, with views out to the Atlantic Gardens. Wander to the back studio–a live viewing of Hans’ latest vision and works-in-progress, as he paints under a 15 foot wide skylight.

A photographer presses a shutter release and a person is immortalized. But who immortalizes the photographer?

From Woodstock to the funerals of the Apollo astronauts, and The Beatles to Bobby Kennedy, photojournalist Rowland Scherman chronicled the times, places, and people that had a bearing on today’s world. Then he slipped into obscurity for almost thirty years before resurfacing again, his work eventually shown in an empty storefront in Orleans on Cape Cod.

“Rowland is not a self-promoter,” explained Bob Korn, a master printer in Orleans whose clients include photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Jim Dow. So, when Scherman walked into his business one day with a slide of Bob Dylan, Korn realized Scherman was a “somebody.” But who?

To answer that question, one simply has to look at his body of work composed of images of virtually every person or event that made history in the sixties. But what makes his work so important is that it’s not just a photographic record. Scherman viewed and interpreted the world with a heightened sense of emotion and intelligence and sensibility that enabled him to record the essence of what he was seeing. HIs is an artistic rendering that comes from a personal involvement with the subject, even if the subject is totally unaware of Scherman. So whether it’s Bobby Kennedy in a sea of delegates, or Sammy Davis, Jr. looking into the camera, what the viewer gets is a visceral experience of what was happening at that precise moment when Scherman chose to release the shutter.

Scherman was never a stranger to artistic photography and journalism. His father was promotions director for Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. His uncle, Life photographer and editor, David E. Scherman, got his nephew a job as a summer intern in Life’s darkroom when he was a student at Oberlin.

After college, Scherman followed JFK’s idealistic call to arms and was the first photographer hired by the Peace. Corps. As a freelancer for Life, Scherman received a steady stream of weekly assignments that put him in the middle of the times.

He grabbed a shot of Bob Dylan arriving at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival with a bullwhip slung over his shoulder. He then slipped onstage with his wide-angle lens for an intimate view of these soon-to-be iconic figures.

From the audience he got classic shots of The Beatles. He was as close as from here to there for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech, and he was on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign plane in ‘68.

A classic story of Scherman’s charmed career was how he pushed past backstage security at a Dylan concert to fire off a few frames of Bob Dylan, then marched into an art director’s office at Columbia Records the next day who declared, “That’s the next cover of his album.” That’s the first image Korn saw of Scherman’s—Bob Dylan haloed in a spotlight used on his Greatest Hits album and that won a Grammy in 1967.

A few years later, in 1971, Scherman dropped off the national radar screen, embarking on an odyssey that seemed the perfect example a person of privilege who doesn’t know the value of what’s been given him. Divorced and disillusioned with the United States, he turned down offers to cover the Vietnam War and work for Playboy and instead went to England where he ended up herding sheep in Wales.

He did return once, in the early ‘80s, to the Life offices, but everything had changed. “They wanted to see my work,” he said, “and I told them all my work was in their magazine. But that didn’t matter.” He hadn’t done the one thing that he’d been doing for so many other people. He hadn’t promoted himself. “I thought I had left a bigger footprint,” he said about the rejection.

So Scherman moved to Birmingham, Alabama, shot products for catalogs, and worked on two photo projects: One documenting Highway 11 and the other photographing Elvis Presley fans. And he opened a bar. When a long-term relationship ended and remembering stories of his parents vacationing on Cape Cod, Scherman headed here in 2000.

Scherman says that the one thing he desires is the recognition of his peers. And he may just get it, with the help of Korn and Meri and Dave Hartford, owners of Artworks Framing Gallery in Orleans. They’ve established The Rowland Scherman Project to promote Scherman’s work to galleries and museums. Korn met with the curators for four museums associated with the Smithsonian and, in his words, they were blown away by the imagery. “They wanted to know, ‘Who is this guy?’”, Korn relates. “They were amazed that his work has gone unnoticed for all these years.”

Scherman laughs that the work he used to do with a camera and natural light is now done with five assistants and a truckload of lights. So, now he’s shooting portraits on the Cape. “In retrospect, portraits are what I’ve always done. They’re what I can do. It’s second nature to me.”

And he’s talking to groups about his work and his life. People see my work and start crying. They say, ‘This is the story of my life,’”, he says. “Maybe the sixties are becoming…”—and here he reaches for the word—and finally settles on “fashionable.”

Jiggling breasts and SEO and long hot showers

It's been over a month since I last posted to Action Bob. And I do see that people have been checking in. I've been concentrating more of my writing time--what little there is--over at

Yes, I've said it over and over: I'm a word whore. I'll write anything for money. And hired me as a Social Writer, which is just a fancy term for someone they've identified who can drive traffic to their site, adding value to it, and are willing to pay me pittance to do it. (Too bad a certain client of mine doesn't have the same confidence that I can drive traffic, and so we'll soon be parting ways.) Anyway, over the course of a thirty year career as a copywriter I've stated my job description as someone who makes wealthy men wealthier. And that's what I do. I know how to get people to part with their money through words, and just as a reminder, Bob Markle is the name of a character I've written who works in an ad agency. Yes, the belly of the beast, the engine that fueled this economic downturn we're living through now, encouraging people to buy, buy, buy even though they can't afford, afford, afford it.

But this little spot in the digital world is so comforting to me, because here I don't have to worry about Google Trends or SEO or Google-identified keywords. Writing on the Web is more about timing and trends and content is a long third, and it's something I can do only for so long. I mean, check this out:

A posting about one of the latest Facebook memes attracted 24,788 views. (Is a certain local college marcom group taking note of this?)

But a post on the unemployment figures for older Americans garnered a paltry 38. And we wonder why America is going to hell in a handbasket.

I can write about Facebook and the latest celebrity public embarrassments only so long, and then I just want to take a long hot shower with lye soap--you know what I mean?

For those of you who have been checking in, thank you for taking the time. I know I've been remiss in keeping my promise of keeping this site interesting. And for those pervs who stumble on this site because you've searched for "jiggling breast" here ya go. From May 14, 2008. I know it's not exactly what you were looking for, but life is filled with disappointments.
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