An Acting “Silver Medal”

I’m happy to report that I won Runner Up Best Actor of Year 2020 from Flicks Film Festival for my performance in “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.

I’ve already posted about the Flicks Film Festival giving me an acting award in November 2019 and the long and winding road that led to me finding out about it.

This month the festival announced the semi-finalists and the finalists and finally the winners for the year on their facebook page.

Like every other festival this year, Covid 19 seriously effected how they would proceed:

So, July 14 the full list for the Best of the Year 2020 were announced. This required more than one page. I’ll share the page that includes my category (middle of the right column):

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The Tell-Tale Poster Shines on a Big Billboard over Broadway

Last night Ed and I travelled to Times Square to watch the poster for my gothic musical short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” be broadcast over Times Square.

Here a quick clip of the moment it happened:

And now for the whole story, including more pics and video.

My musical Poe adaptation is part of the Shockfest Film Festival 2020. As such it has also been included in their Poster Competition.

Last night Shockfest commandeered (or rather, rented time on) “the most technically advanced screen in the United States, Silvercast Media’s ‘Godzilla Billboard’ located smack dab in the middle of Times Square, the largest billboard in all of New York City.”

Part of their presentation was featuring all the entries in the poster competition. Ed and I could either watch the Shockfest show live on-line culminating in the airing of the billboard presentation. Or we could go to Times Square and catch that part live in person.

Haunted horror house.

We decided to go to Times Square.

It would be only my second subway ride since mid March, when the Covid 19 lockdown began. Even though New York City has so far weathered the worst of the pandemic and is slowly, responsibly opening up, subway ridership remains low (and well masked) and Times Square is sparsely populated, nothing like the mass of tourists that thronged the area all day long in the past.

Ed wearing his “rainbow bandit” mask.

The Shockfest billboard presentation was scheduled for 9:30pm. We arrived at Times Square around 9:20pm and perched ourselves across the street and waited.

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See you in … 2021?

Below is the 2020 Official Trailer for the Denali Film Festival. It’s a beautifully put together trailer, full of lovely images of the great outdoors. You get a strong sense for the festival’s overriding theme, of nature and humanity placed in a diverse, panoramic landscape.

And then you get the exception that proves the rule: me smirking satirically into the camera, the first of three clips edited into the trailer from “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, a gothic, interior chamber piece without the slightest bit of sunlight or nature.

When I first saw the trailer, I joked on facebook:

I looked at this really cool trailer and thought “one of these things is not like the others…”

To which the festival directors responded: “You fit right in! Excited to see you in 2021!

This after they already privately told me “We both really enjoy your work! We sang ‘true, nervous, very very dreadfully nervous’ most days the last month“, establishing them in my mind as among the sweetest festival directors I have interacted with so far.

But however my film fits in to the wider festival, I am still taken with how much the Tell-Tale clips stand out in this trailer – and I mean that as a compliment for how well the trailer is put together, and uses those quick clips as contrasting punctuation.

I get a kick of how the edit follows up my criminal smirk with a close-up of a bird of prey. And how the other two clips from Tell-Tale also appear to be chosen for being of most startling contrast to the rest of the trailer. (I include screenshots of all three at top and just below.)

I’ve now watched the Denali Film Festival trailer almost as much as my own trailer for Tell-Tale, which is another way of saying I really like it, how it represents the Denali Film festival, and how it positions my little gothic musical within its program.

But there’s more to this post, as you might have surmised by the title, and by what one sees at the end of the Denali Film Festival trailer:

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I’ve been taking long walks in Brooklyn lately. And the other day in Cobble Hill I came upon this amazing facade festooning the brownstone at 108 Wyckoff Street.

It’s a fantastic riot of mosaics and messages, colored stones and mirror glass, lace and silhouettes, toy figurines and goddess statues, lovers and angels, flowers and kittens, outrage and whimsy. “Please enjoy, look, touch, but do not take the objects”.

I just had to take copious pictures to try to capture this work of art and activism and then share it with an audience that is less likely to amble by this Brooklyn side street anytime soon.

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My husband turns 61 today. Happy birthday, Ed!

And just like every year for the past 27, I composed a viola piano duet for us to play. Each one is called an Evocation.

This year’s birthday duet, Evocation XXVII, takes on a stately air, something that puts to my mind classical Americana. The melody just came to me one morning at breakfast, and I quickly sketched it in a notebook. With both Ed and I together at home practically 24/7 since March, it was tricky finding moments where I could take to the piano and computer unnoticed and complete the composition. The most opportune time would seem to be when my psychotherapist husband conducts his sessions on-line, since then he’s in another room behind closed doors. But I couldn’t play the piano then, as the sound bleeds through the walls and would be heard during therapy.

Here is the audio of the computer program doing its inhuman best reproducing the music:

Evocation XXVII

After the break, I’ll share the full piano/viola score. But before that, a little Coronavirus treat: Ed and I in the rainbow masks Ed gifted me on my birthday in May. Here we are as the Rainbow Bandits, demanding not your money or your life but your Manolas or your Louboutins.

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UPDATE – AUGUST 1, 2020:

Central States Indie FanFilmFest has named “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” Best English Language Featurette of the year.

After earlier awarding my musical Edgar Allan Poe adaptation Best English Language Feature/Featurette for the Winter Quarter 2020, the festival is now announcing the winners for the year. Most category winners were listed on their website last night:


The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” wins Best English Language Feature / Featurette from Central States Indie FanFilmFest 2020

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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.

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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-reviewedThe 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 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.

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The Landscape of Red Rock State Park – The Art in the Galleries

Detail of northwestern Arizona, with Sedona and Red Rock State Park centered
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An HIV Positive Gay Man’s Advice on Living in the Age of Covid

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.

How? ❤️

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.

Rob: “#guru”

Sanjay: “This is extremely concise and powerful.”

Harold: “Tim, you nailed it. A powerful reply from your heart.”

Tim Cusack

Tim gave me permission to post this. His main request was that add “HIV-Postive” to the title.

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40 More Days of Outdoor Memories

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:

Kitzbühel, Austria

Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #42:

Tirol, Austria

Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #43:

AIDS Memorial, Greenwich Village, NYC

Daily Outdoor Memory Escape #44:

Painted Hills, Oregon, during the total eclipse of 2017

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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

For Romance:

“Call Me By Your Name”

For Sci-Fi:

“The Day the Earth Stood Still”

For Suspense:

The Man Who Knew Too Much

For Horror:

“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

For Comedy:

“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…

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
“To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar”

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!

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Trans Women are Women. Trans Men are Men. Non-binary People are Non-binary

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.

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Lucy Buglass

A Tell-Tale Review

Lucy Buglass runs the site “Lucy Goes to Hollywood“, where she just posted a four and a half star review of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” as part of her series “Short Film Saturdays“.

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.

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Who But The Lord – Words: Langston Hughes; Music: Danny Ashkenasi

I looked and I saw
That man they call the law
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head of being laid out cold and dead
Or else murdered
By the third degree
I said
O Lord, if you can save me from that man!
Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!
But the Lord he was not quick
The law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!
Now I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality
Being poor and black
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me
We’ll see

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 Ashkenasi

I would like to be a white man, wouldn’t you?
There’s so many lovely things that I could do
I could lynch a Negro
And never go to jail, you know
I would love to be a white man, wouldn’t you?

I would love to be a white man, wouldn’t you?
So many tasty things that I could do
I could tell the starving Indian nation
To go straight to damnation
Oh, I would love to be a white man, wouldn’t you?

I would love to be a white woman also, too
There’s so many cultural things that I could do
I could belong to the DAR
Tell Marian Anderson stay out the DAR
I could adore being a white woman, wouldn’t you?

I’d love to be a white congressman, too
There’s so many helpful things I could do
Just to get the Negro’s goat
I wouldn’t let no soldiers vote
I would love to be a white congressman, wouldn’t you?

Oh I’d love to be a white Christian, ain’t it true
I’d act just like my fellow Christians do
For Jesus I would search
With no black folks in my church
Amen, I’d love to be a white man, wouldn’t you?
Halleloo! O Halleloo! Halleloooooooo
Langston Hughes
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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…

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