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A construction fence wraps around a shut down gas station on 4th Avenue and Union Street where Park Slope borders Gowanus in Brooklyn. Many Black Lives Matter demonstrations took place in this area this past month, and it is around that time this fence got covered with poignant, witty and lovely murals on three street sides. I just had to take pictures when I discovered them walking in my neighborhood.
The fence is not made to last. Eventually another 12 story residential apartment building will be erected at this site. The murals will be gone. But here they are now on my modest blog to be preserved in some form while this blog endures and to share with you wherever you happen to connect to the internet.Continue reading
The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre is now playing in the
in the NEWCOMERS SHORT 1 program
That’s right. You have another chance to watch the well-reviewed “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” at a film festival. And you don’t need to fly to New York to see it, just like you didn’t need to fly 5 weeks ago to Switzerland, because in the age of Coronavirus, for now, if a film festival is up and running, it’s doing so on-line.
Click here to get to the New York Lift-Off Festival. Find the NEWCOMERS SHORT 1 program. For $10 you can watch a wide variety of short films during the month of July. “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is listed at #61 in the NEWCOMERS SHORTS 1 program, showcasing “films from brand new voices”.
Well, I guess I am a new filmmaking voice. I’m an old showbiz hand otherwise…
While you’re at it, please vote for “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in the comments section and the festival’s special voting website. Here’s their explanation how:
Please vote by first writing VOTED in the comments section, followed by the names of your two favourite films. Then head to our website on liftoff.network/voting-system-newyork-newcomersshort1/ to fill out the more detailed voting form.
Votes with only one selection/ the same film twice will be INVALID.
Strictly one set of votes per person.
The top 2 voted “audience choice” films, plus 1 jury selection will go through to the Network Round.
The overall winning film in their respective category will receive a physical screening at next year’s New York Lift-Off, and free membership to the Lift-Off Network.
Membership entitles the production team to fee waivers across all of our 25 festivals and showcases on FilmFreeway, along with production support applications to our Lift-Off Production Support package worth nearly $75,000, Career Road-Mapping Consultations and lots more…
Season Awards nominations will be awarded to winners in their category and special mentions.
Voting will end 10pm (BST) Sunday 31st July.
After the festival, these films will be removed from the public domain.
My friend Tim Cusack posted this on Facebook:
“For all the straight white people whining about how wearing masks is inconvenient and uncomfortable, how you miss human contact and all the things you used to be able to do, bemoaning that “things will never be the same again” and worried about COVID stigma, why don’t you ask one of your gay male/trans friends who survived the 1980s/90s how we managed to do it?”
Which led to some comments and responses ultimately so powerful, especially Tim’s maxims at the end, I want to share them:
John: “It was a decade of fear. I can remember our conversations. When I made this comparison early on I was called out for it.”
Tim: “Who would call you out for that? And why?”
John: “That it wasn’t a fair comparison. I was equating the sense of dread and isolation, but they weren’t having it. I have some staunch acquaintance.”
Heather: “I have a feeling that folx near me don’t wear them because they’re Republican jerks.”
Tim: “There were plenty of white gay Republican jerks who continued to vote the ongoing Reagan/Bush administration into office despite their obvious decision to allow us to all die off. They still wore condoms because they had no desire to be part of that body count.”
Ryan: “Wild to see others wake up to the fact that the US government will not protect you/us.”
Tim: “I know, right? “How is it possible that the GREATEST COUNTRY that ever is, was, or will be could just sit by while people are dying from a terrible infectious disease and not do anything about it?” [wrings hands in despair]”
Laura: “Yes, okay.
Tim: “Value your continued existence and that of others more than what feels fun or good in the moment. Decide you have something more important to offer the world than a social life.
Accept that you must exist in community as a collective body not just an individual, egoistic being.
Allow yourself to mourn and honor the great loss of joy you are enduring.
Be creative and find ways of meaningful connection within the limitations imposed by the disease. Do something beneficial to others. We know that cultivating feelings of both gratitude and useful service release brain chemicals that boost the immune system.
Finally, as scary as this is, stay focused on the positive. We stopped thinking of ourselves as victims and instead began thinking of ourselves as people living with and surviving the new viral member of our community. We had to find a way to accommodate his presence. (I’ve always thought of HIV as having masculine energy for some reason.) Yes, people are dying horrific deaths without their familes being present to say goodbye. We know EXACTLY what that feels like. So many of us lived that experience. LOTS of others are surviving it. It’s not hopeless, and it’s not going to last forever, even if it FEELS that way.
Sanjay: “This is extremely concise and powerful.”
Harold: “Tim, you nailed it. A powerful reply from your heart.”
Tim gave me permission to post this. His main request was that add “HIV-Postive” to the title.
Covid 19 Taketh Away, but these Photos Remindeth
When Covid 19 started us sheltering at home, and I started posting daily photo reminders of lovely outdoor memories, I didn’t think I would be doing this for three months and counting.
New York State is slowly and carefully opening up – more carefully than can be sadly said of several other states in the country, states that really should have better benefitted from New York’s experience. I took my first subway ride in three months yesterday, going about important business wearing my mask and keeping my distance, as do most (if not quite all) New York City denizens. But it will be many days before I am likely to take another subway ride and even more than that before I’m living anything close to my normal city rhythm before all contracted mid March 2020.
And as to travel … Maybe again in August, our usual two-fisted touristing travel month, but who can say today to where and how then? Back in March when our trip to Europe was cancelled we felt confident we would be able go to Germany in August. Now, not so sure. America has so messed up its response to Covid, Europe would rather we didn’t visit for the time being …
So the Outdoor Memory pics will continue. The first 40 were posted there. The next 40 are collected here. And I’ll keep posting them until something close to normal travel feels possible again. Without mandatory two week quarantine.
Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #41:
Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #42:
Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #43:
Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #44:Continue reading
DAY 1 – the first film you remember watching
My memory is tricky here, but it was definitely Disney. I remember being told the first film I saw in the theater (at age 3) was either “Fantasia” or “Pinocchio” (either in a re-release).
But my first movie going memory is also the first time I went alone to the movies, at age 6 or 7. That would have been either “Robin Hood” (which I saw 4X in the theaters) or a re-release of “Mary Poppins” (I was indignant the kids didn’t have equal star billing with Julie and Dick).
DAY 2 – a film that you like that starts with the first letter of your name
First name or last name? Ah, loophole!
Last name is easy: “Amadeus” is one of my favorite films
First name – plenty films I like, but no obvious front runner…
“Down with Love”, “District 9”, “Death at a Funeral” (the British version), “Dr. Strangelove”, “Dead Again”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Delicatessen” …
I choose “Dan in Real Life”, because I like it a lot and hey, it’s my name.
DAY 3 – a film that has more than 5 words
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Day the Earth Stood Still”
The Man Who Knew Too Much
“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
“The 40 Year Old Virgin”
And for shits and giggles:
PS: not to mention those two mid-90’s long-named drag queen road movies…
OOPS! I just realize I did that wrong!
More than 5! Not 5 or more.
Well, then I will stick exclusively with just the drag queen road movies. And if it’s just one, Priscilla wins that tiara!Continue reading
I remember defending my identity as a bisexual man against gay men and women who passionately felt adding the B to what is now LGBTQ somehow attacked their identity.
I remember defending same sex marriage against those who passionately believed it imperiled “traditional” hetero marriages.
Of course these people’s fears, as passionately and sincerely but still wrongheadedly felt as they were (or still are), were and are demonstrably … without merit.
And some of these people were liberal minded, progressive and wise in many other ways. Fighting against discrimination and helping lift humanity, but falling hurtfully short in these instances.
Now again. Same old story. Affirming one minority group’s identity does not/will not erase or diminish another.
And one who in many ways led the way against bigotry and showed herself to be wise about human nature has herself fallen into the same old trap of irrational fear and blinders.
Mostly this makes me sad.
A Tell-Tale Review
I’ll share her review in full, but first a little from Lucy about her site and “Short Film Saturdays”:
“I love the way we can tell a story visually and in so many different ways, and it’s something I’m hugely passionate about. That sense of escapism that comes with watching a film is something many of us can experience, and I believe film is meant to be shared. That’s why this blog exists.
I explore a variety of genres and types, with a special focus on independent short films. Short Film Saturdays was created to support filmmakers and showcase their work.
I’ve always enjoyed short films as it’s fascinating to see how stories can be told in under an hour, sometimes no more than a few minutes. I’m constantly blown away by how talented people are.”
And now, Lucy Buglass’ review of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”:
The Tell Tale Heart is probably the most unique entry I’ve had into my Short Film Saturdays column, because the story is told entirely through song and from one perspective.
Danny Ashkenasi has adapted Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Tell Tale Heart into a series of musical numbers. It’s described as a “musicabre”, a phrase I am now very fond of.
Poe’s classic 1843 short story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, who tries to convince the reader of his sanity while simultaneously describing a murder they committed.
In this adaptation, the narrator is played by Ashkenasi, who also wrote and directed the film. It’s clear just how much work he’s put into this project to bring it to life.
The Tell Tale Heart stays largely true to its source material, which is just over 2,200 words in length. Ashkenasi’s songs are named after famous lines from the book, the first one being True, Nervous, after the iconic opening line.
His version of the narrator is just wonderful. It’s a bold performance of such an iconic literary figure, who seems to leap out of the pages and deliver that much-loved story on screen.
What struck me most was just how much emotion Ashkenasi was able to convey in his face as he sang, and at times I found myself feeling very disturbed by it.
Teamed with close ups on his expression, it makes for a very uncomfortable and claustrophobic experience.Continue reading
Who But The Lord – Words: Langston Hughes; Music: Danny Ashkenasi
The above words were written by Langston Hughes in the 1950s. It angers me that they still speak so closely to the struggles we are witnessing today, even more so than I was aware of when I set them to music in 2012.
Langston Hughes died the year I was born, 53 years ago. When I chose to set many of his poems to music for the Harlem Renaissance Festival being conducted at the Metropolitan Playhouse in NYC January, 2013, I thought of the project as a historical musical revue chronicling the 20th century African American experience, as witnessed and poetically narrated with great immediacy by Langston Hughes. I read all of Hughes nearly 1000 poems, found 200 that “sang” to me, and set over 60 in a cycle of 39 songs, that travel from the Jim Crow South, through the Great Migration, to the North, Harlem, World War 2 and Civil Rights, also illuminating the themes of Dreams Deferred, Love and the Spirit. Hughes words and ideas dictated the structure of the musical review. I hoped it would be experienced as a documentary as much as a musical.
Back when we with little rehearsal time put together a concert performance of what is now called “I Too Sing America – the Blues According to Langston Hughes”, I perhaps thought of the project mostly as a look back to where we have come from. Not a direct reflection of where we are today. But the words to “Who But the Lord?” could just as well have been written this week.
So I will share some songs from “I Too Sing America” with you today. Particularly three that are part of the larger “Civil Rights” segment. The second song in this trio, “Song of Adoration” sets one of Hughes’ most bitterly satirical poems. In today’s parlance, it is very much about “White Privilege”, the white privilege to oppress minorities. “The White Ones” completes this trio as well as the Civil Rights segment of the revue.
(I almost didn’t share this song because I am not happy with the quality of the recording, but it needs to be included to complete the trio. Hughes’ words may refer to specific socio-political events and parlance of his time, but the wider implications hold too damningly true to today.)
Song of Adoration – Words: Langston Hughes; Music: Danny AshkenasiContinue reading
While the world goes to hell …
… I looked away from the news on my lap top and pointed my camera up and about while still perched on my back yard lawn chair…Continue reading
May 25th, in happy, coincidental conjunction with my birthday, the Switzerland International Film Festival made my first short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” available to stream for one day only.
By midnight Swiss time “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” received a 9.7 out of 10 (97.37%) rating from a total of 494 votes on the SIFF site.
Here are some of the comments viewers left on their site and elsewhere in response to the film:
“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is an exquisitely conceived piece of art. On every level its impact is both breath-takingly beautiful and raw. You cannot take your eye from a moment of this exceptional piece of creative teamwork. I am breathing deeply again now, thank you!!
- C. Scott
This film is a powerful adaptation of Poe’s dark story. You may think you’re familiar with it, but the music takes you deeper inside in a clever, persuasive way. Danny Ashkenasi sings the music he composed to Poe’s lyrics emotionally and with nuance. Filming the story in unusual color tones, with lively motion and intensity , the viewer is carried on a frightening journey. The tension and the struggle of the narrator resonate long after the film is over. I recommend this film highly.
Beautifully filmed and performed realization of Poe’s psychological tale.
My friend Joanne said it best: “Wow! It was excellent. From his narration, the dramatic effect of the celli, the suspense building and the escalation of his madness and guilt. Well done!”
Zum Fürchten schön! Fabelhafter Darsteller , sehr gute Regie, Schnitt und Musik, Gratulation!
(Translation: Frightfully beautiful! Fabulous Performer, very good direction, editing and music. Congratulations!)
May 25 is my birthday.
And my party favor to you is:
you can see “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” for free!
And your birthday present to me could be leaving a positive comment/rating.
The Festival is live now!
There are some technical difficulties. The film won’t play on the SIFF site, but they will direct you to it’s original Vimeo site: WATCH “THE TELL-TALE HEART – A MUSICABRE“. But please still leave your rating and comment here.
Remember, you have until midnight in Switzerland (6pm EDT)
I’ll explain. My short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”, a musical adaptation of the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story, has been accepted into the Switzerland International Film Festival. But because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, they cannot screen their program in a traditional theater setting. So, just like many other festivals, they had to either postpone, or cancel, or move on-line. They chose to go on-line.
Which now means, you don’t have to be in Switzerland to watch, and moreover, viewing will be free of charge.
SIFF is dividing their program into 4 categories over 4 days. Short films will be available only May 25th. Which just so happens to be my birthday! Kismet!
I’m told the short film selections will be available all day, Swiss time midnight to midnight May 25.
Which I guess means 6pm, May 24 – 6pm, May 25 EDT, if you’re on the East Coast, USA.
Or 3pm, May 24 – 3pm, May 25 PDT if you’re on the West Coast, USA.
Viewer comments and ratings will help determine awards for films. So please, as a birthday gift to me, go see “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” May 25 (or already May 24 evening in the USA) in a virtual Swiss film festival, and if you like it, leave a positive comment and rating.
(And if you’ve already seen it at one of the previous festival appearances, on-line or otherwise, you don’t need to see it again – yet feel free to – have I mentioned it’s free? – but please do go to http://www.festti.com/ and leave a rating and viewer comment).
“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” has been nominated for 4 Hollywood North Film Awards for International Short Films:
Best Production Design – Nicholas Callais
Best Original Score – Danny Ashkenasi
Best Sound Design – Todd Maki
Best VFX and Colour – Austin Lepri
The HNFA 2020 Awards ceremony will be live-streamed May 31st on their Facebook events page.
The Hopi name is Wupatupqa.
Also known as Walnut Canyon National Monument, it is the place, about 10 miles southwest of Flagstaff, Arizona, where 900 years ago the Sinagua people lived in at least 25 dwelling rooms along the cliffs of Walnut Canyon, carved out by a sharp shoe lace shaped looping of Walnut Creek.
A closer look at the canyon “island”, as one walks down a steep path towards it from the visitor center:
The canyon, as one turns towards the right, when facing the “island” from the aproach.
Thanks A Lot, COVID 19!
Back in early April, when it became clear we would be hunkering indoors for at least the next month, barely getting out, and certainly not doing any traveling, I started posting on my social media accounts pictures of some wonderful vistas I took in the past in the great outdoors. I called the postings “Daily Outdoor Memory Escape”, a name I now find a bit unwieldy but I guess I’m stuck with it. And it looks very much like I’ll continue posting these for some time still, since we’ll be hunkering down in NYC a lot longer than we first assumed back in early April.
So here are the first 40 Outdoor Memory Pics, with links to the original blog posts they hail from, and which include a lot more pretty outdoor pics like them:
4/2/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #1:
4/3/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #2:
4/4/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #3:
4/5/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #4:
4/6/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #5:
4/7/2020 – Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #6: