10/28/09

Why I Still Love Huey Lewis...and always will


When I was a kid, I simply could not fathom the idea that there were people who didn’t like Huey Lewis and the News. Mr. Lewis was one of my favorite celebrities. In my eyes, he was right up there with Michael J. Fox and Patrick Stewart. While other girls were obsessing over the “New Kids on The Block”, I was steadily crushing on him instead. And I couldn’t understand what all those other girls saw in all the regulars from Tiger Beat.

After all, my Huey was the voice of a generation. He was the genius behind the “Back to the Future” theme song. He was a music-video super star. I mean, have you seen the video for, “Happy To Be Stuck With You”? (That song, by the way, was played in my wedding ceremony with the slide show before everyone’s walk down the aisle. And it was perfect.)

So not only did he leave his stamp (and a cameo appearance) on one of the classic film franchises of all time, and grace the small screen regularly in entertaining videos, but he was also a good role model. A good role model from rock and roll? "Impossible!" you say. Well, you're wrong.

It was the eighties, while everyone else was singing about sex, drugs, and rock n’roll, Huey was just singing about the latter. Thanks to him, I STILL believe that it’s hip to be a square. You just try finding another top 40 hit that talks about staying fit, watching what you eat, not cheating on your spouse, and getting a nice haircut. Go on…I dare you.
But two disturbing things happened to me when I was a kid that caused me to raise an eyebrow over my beloved Huey and his merry band of back-up singers.

Trauma the first: I was watching, “Amazon Women on The Moon” one day. (If you don’t know what that is, I will let you find out for yourself.) In a Twilight Zone-ish side plot, a man is magically transported into his television and his wife has the remote. As she changes channels to attempt to free him from his entertainment prison, he takes a zany adventure through many t.v. shows and films.

At one point, he ends up as one of “the News” in the Huey Lewis video for the smash hit, “If This Is It”. (I can call it a smash if I want to, it’s my blog.) I remember seeing that and thinking, “Whoa…lucky guy!” Just as I was thinking that, the man turns to his wife while everyone else is singing and starts talking about how he’d rather be anywhere but in a Huey Lewis video. I brushed it off as peculiar, but it did set me to wondering.

Trauma the second: A year or so later, I was at the mall with my family. I saw one of those sandwich boards sitting in the middle of the food court. You know the kind, nothing fancy, plastic letters, white background, and more often than not some sort of food stain.
On that sandwich board, very unceremoniously, was an announcement about Huey Lewis and the News coming to play the mall. My first thought was, “How do I get myself to THAT concert?”

My second thought was, “Wait a minute, what is Huey doing playing in a mall? (Long thoughtful pause) He should be playing giant stadiums. They should be doing, “Duran Duran” sized tours. Right? RIGHT?!”

For some kids, the beginning of the end of childhood arrives via some accidental information about where babies come from or what holiday entity may or may not be real. (I dare not publish anything more specific.) But that was it for me. Right there.

The thought that the masses didn’t love Huey Lewis plunged me into the depths of a highly philosophical line of questioning. I was born a populist, a happy person. So Huey Lewis typically suits my mood. Always has and at age 27, I feel confident enough to say that it always will.

But at that moment, little Audrey was suddenly aware that there were people in the world who wouldn’t get Huey's brand of happy. Also, I wondered, what had made Huey uncool? When had the transition happened and why hadn't anyone told me about it?

I was so bummed that I never even asked my parents to bring me back to see him in all his glory. Because Huey Lewis playing a mall just didn't feel right. It’s not where he belonged. It's not the way I wanted to see him, like some sort of caged rock and roll animal. That would be like taking Stevie Wonder and making him the featured performer on “The Lawrence Welk Show”. It’s kind of just...wrong.

As the years have gone by, I’ve continued to be baffled by people’s lack of appreciation for Huey Lewis and the News. I can understand when we laugh at videos from the 80's or old hairstyles, but the honest truth is, the man made good music. And good music never goes out of style.
Huey deserves our respect. He and the News made happy rock, rock without angst, but rock still loaded with what I believe Jack Black would call, "face-melting greatness". When a Huey Lewis song comes on, you just can't help but feel good or sing along. That’s a feat of no small proportion for any artist, whether you like to feel happy or not.

I often question why they aren’t working anymore, and I wonder when will the day come that people wake up and realize that Huey has been unfairly stigmatized? There was Huey’s appearance in the film, “Duets”, which I know he caught flack for.

I hear people talking about the band sarcastically now and again on one of those endless cable clip shows about the eighties. And it still irks me. I kid you not, I actually really get to feeling defensive. It's easy to mock anything from the eighties, but some things just shouldn't be lumped in with Zubaz pants and flourescent everything and El DeBarge.

But even if the world today doesn't know what to do with Huey Lewis and his upbeat message and his short-haired rock and roll…I know a place where he’ll always belong. Forever in my Ipod and safe in my heart. I still love you Huey.






P.S. I just watched some of these videos for myself and I can honestly tell you, my heart still kind of skips a beat when I see him...

10/21/09

10 Life Lessons on Art and Creativity from Don Hahn (and Don's "How To Create" List)

I hate this picture of me. But I didn't feel like asking
Mr. Hahn if he was willing to wait for me to refresh
my hair and makeup. Or hire a stand-in...
Am I the only one who lives in cyclical phases of obsession and inspiration? Anyone else out there watch movies like they're studying for a test?

Let me give you an example of this obsession that leads to kind of a crazy story.

A couple months ago, I entered a major, "Beauty and the Beast" phase. I'm loving the color palette of the film. I'm using still frames as a desktop background. I'm listening to the soundtrack a lot. You get it.

These bouts of obsession can also include things like wanting to bake french bread or Google famous stained glass windows of the world.

Typical phases for me include all the Indiana Jones movies, WWII History, Disney animation, black and white musicals, the history of the Haunted Mansion, Bollywood films and a few other reoccurring themes.

On Sunday, I decided to watch, "The Haunted Mansion". Then I watched it with commentary, something I'd never done before. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The next day, I had tickets to a Heartland Film Festival seminar. Who was the first speaker of the day? It just so happened to be Don Hahn, Oscar-nominated Disney producer who worked on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Haunted Mansion". These in addition to his other works "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and many more. The man is prolific, to say the least. A man whose name I learned, whose voice I had only heard for the first time on the Haunted Mansion commentary the day before.

Twilight Zone theme music, aside...

How I didn't know who he was and didn't know he would be there and somehow managed to prepare for the event will always mystify me. The presentation he gave on creativity that day even touched on themes of obsession.

I looked back through my notes and decided to share 10 Life Lessons on Art and Creativity from Don Hahn... 


1.) Study your inspirations and love them.

If you love something, and it catches your eye, heart, attention, whatever...go with it. Study it, live with it, dissect it and don't even be afraid to imitate it.

All the greats have done this, including Disney animators who regularly draw on other artist's work for inspiration. No pun intended. (i.e. Hirschfeld caricatures for the design of the genie in, "Aladdin".)

Hahn's words on this, "fill your cup."

2.) Use everything to tell your story, including a setting.

Don't forget, the landscape details of your story can be just as revealing as the characters. The first time you see Cruella DeVil in, "101 Dalmatians", she's in silhouette behind a door with a glass pane that resembles a spiderweb, instantly and symbolically signifying danger.

3.) Simplify your story.

If you can't tell your story in one or two sentences, go back and start again.

EX: Lilo adopts Stitch, who she thinks is a dog, but who is really an alien. Chaos ensues.

Simba is traumatized by his father's death, runs away, and must seek the bravery it will take to go home and defeat the evil that rose up in his father's absence.

See? Simple stories.

4.) We want to create because we all want to make something worthwhile and leave a mark, and that's reason enough.

If you are creative, don't feel bad about it. Just go with it.

5.) Try and fail and try and fail and try and fail, just don't quit.

Here, Hahn showed all the rejected concept sketches for, "The Beast' and played Elton John's original demo for, "The Circle of Life". None of these things were even close to their end results, but if Disney animators and legendary musicians wrestle with the creative process, you will too.

6.) "Don't expect everyone to cheerlead you in your creative endeavors."

There are naysayers, and that's okay. Not everybody has to believe in you. You can't always be seeking everyone's approval. You shouldn't waste energy trying to get it. Spend your energy working instead. Just work and keep going, no matter what people say.

7.) In storytelling, first impressions are everything.

They "mean something, you can't un-ring a bell." Remember that when you're shooting or writing. Make your introductions count.


8.) Follow your first creative instincts, because your instincts are raw emotion, and emotion informs art.

Hahn spoke about the way that legendary architect Frank Gehry used to make sketches on napkins, and more often than not, his finished designs ended up looking almost identical to his first sketch.

9.) Make the effort to collaborate.

People who aren't willing to collaborate won't see their work improve, won't learn, and likely won't succeed.

10.) "Great artists borrow, great artists steal!" After this, he showed a multitude of slides demonstrating this. "The Bathers" done by Renoir, repainted by Cezanne, repainted by Picasso, done again by Matisse.

Norman Rockwell's paintings all started out as well-known photographs, Disney animators looked to artists who were already very popular (European artists such as Kley and his mastery of motion and animals, such as the picture to the left.) to define style. Animators even drew over top of live action film for Cinderella and Alice In Wonderland.

It's not the idea that makes you a great artist, it's the way you make it your own that makes you special and distinct. In other words, you don't have to re-invent the wheel, just do your own thing with it.

Here are a few more gems I took away in quote form:

"Prepare and practice, don't shuffle through life, live it."

"Surround yourself with what inspires you to perform."

"Spend the same amount of time expressing yourself as you do taking in impressions of the world." He talked on this a lot, saying that we take in so much information in a day. Artists have to find an outlet all of that, or we become pent up. I definitely agree.

I made a mental note to find a way to write and film as much as I take in other writing and film. Can you even imagine how much work you could get done if you lived by this rule?

"It's okay to follow dead ends." He also really drove this one home, saying that not everything pans out into a finished product and you shouldn't let that deter you from following those little mental tributaries, they're always worth it.

Here is a numbered list he gave us, and this is exact. It's called:

"Don's, 'How To Create' List"

1. Create lots of stuff - don't be precious with your art.
2. Organize it
3. Edit out the junk
4. Present it to the audience
5. Weep openly in a bathroom stall
6. Listen and adjust
7. Repeat last three as needed

His point? Move FORWARD. If something is painful to hear, so be it, but that's no reason to guard yourself. Often when things are painful or difficult, that's right when they're getting better and improving.

The takeaway for me from the entire day, but especially from being lucky enough to hear Don Hahn speak, is to just keep going. In fact, if I felt weird before for decorating based on Disney rides and for listening to music some would consider immature and for feeling like a slightly obsessive personality, now it will probably just get worse...

If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, don't pass it up. And do take a look at his website, which I'll post a link to below. He's that type of person who's just brimming with useful information. If you have any creative aspirations whatsoever, you should definitely geek out over his films and books.


P.S. He also showed an amazing animated short titled, "Lorenzo" which is INCREDIBLE and he is currently working on the feature length stop-motion version of, "Frankenweenie" with the man, Tim Burton himself. Cool news, eh?

I'll also post a second entry later showing many of the images that Don used in his presentation, he gave us a list of artists to look at that have inspired many Disney animators, but some of the art he introduced us to was incredible. I haven't reacted to art this way since I first discovered Mary Blair on the special features of the, "Cinderella" DVD.

10/14/09

Sherlock Holmes, Meet Mr. Spock


Well, I've finally gone and done it. No turning back now. I have written the first little seed to my first Star Trek story. Next Gen, of course. I fully intend to flesh this out, a chapter a day until it's done, just the way that Louisa May Alcott finished "Little Women". It's a shame she never wrote about space...

Anyway, here's the link to my little seedling, it's just a tiny little thing now, a spark of an idea. So be gentle.

They say, "write what you know", and boy howdy...do I know my Trek. So theoretically, this should be far easier than any writing I've ever done before. I'm no stranger to writing about Trek, just new to the fiction genre. Here are some links to a few other Trek (and even a Holmes) article. Also, if you click on the Star Trek tag underneath this blog entry, you can read several blog entries I've written on Trek.

How to Live like a Star Fleet Officer
Any good Trekkie worth his/her salt will know what a Star Fleet officer is. For the rest of you, a Star Fleet officer is known as the best and brightest that the fictional future has to offer.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1390132/how_to_live_like_a_star_fleet_officer.html

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Why You Should Be Watching This Show on DVD
Bad writing is KILLING the art-form of storytelling via television! What lessons can this show from the late 80's/early 90's teach us about what good writing can do?
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1062651/star_trek_the_next_generation_why_you.html

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
And you thought, "Spaceballs" was the only space comedy from the eighties.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1559577/star_trek_iv_the_voyage_home_1986.html

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" Stories: 5 Reasons to Read Them
There are still plenty of good reasons to be reading these stories.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1514859/sir_arthur_conan_doyles_sherlock_holmes.html

10/12/09

7 Classic Halloween Cartoons

You know, I put one of these up the other day and then took it down. Because I always feel a little weird about not putting up original content. But to be honest, Halloween is something that I majorly geek out over. So why not? It counts! Here are some of my favorite Halloween videos, and you can bet I'll do the same thing for Christmas...

10/8/09

The Battle Cry of a Grown Up Geek


I wrote this for a now defunct Forces of Geek column in January 2009. But I took a look at it again tonight as I'm starting to consider my thesis in graduate school. I dusted it off, made some changes, and low and behold I kind of had a mission statement not only for this blog, but for my entire life.

 
Hi, my name is Audrey, and I’m a huge geek.

I didn’t name my blog, “Born for Geekdom” for the way it rolls off the tongue. It’s not the most convenient turn of phrase.

But my whole philosophy on life has developed around the idea that although geeks may sometimes be socially awkward or full of useless knowledge, we have absolutely all the fun in life.

We're extremely passionate about what we like and why and we want to share that with anyone who will listen.

Years of teasing have worn down our inhibitions, which leads us to go on all kinds of madcap adventures to theme parks, conventions, movie premieres and the like without a second thought.

Sure, survival in grade school and middle school were tough. Like so many others that have come out as full-fledged geeks since, I was forged in the burning fires of a painful geekhood.

Yes, bringing, “Aliens” to a slumber party had tragic results when all the other girls showed up with romantic comedies.

Sure, bragging about all my knowledge of the Klingon home world didn’t score me bonus points in the gym class locker room.

Today, the physical signs of my geekdom are mostly gone. My giant “Scooter and Skeeter” glasses are no more. (Giant pink and purple frames with a stick-on unicorn on the lower left lens.)

My teeth may not be perfect, but thanks to braces they’re a far cry from the set of chompers I was working with as a child. (They would’ve made Gollum recoil in horror and politely suggest braces.)

I don’t know why, but I didn’t match my clothes. Ever. I had weird hair. Everything from a bowl cut to some seriously Vulcan bangs. To top it off, I was a late bloomer. So while all the other girls in my class were becoming experts with curling irons and hairspray, I still looked like a 9 year old boy with feet too big for my body.

I was loud, which sometimes saved me. Random outbursts of accidental class-clownery sometimes put me in the smart-aleck category, and the time I got sent to the office for not being willing to stop impersonating Roseanne Barr kind of lent me a brief rebel sheen. Soon after such incidents, my over-eager, what I would now call “Mary Catherine Gallagher-ness” usually put me right back at the bottom of the social food chain.

But, in my life, the end results of such early humiliations have been desirable. My penchant for all things once considered “uncool”, such as black and white movies and all things science-fiction, have found me a decent place in my modern community. (Nobody knew the INTERNET was coming and soon the geeks would close ranks. Ha!)

What I thought was a curse as a kid turned out to be an amazing gift as I grew older. It didn’t take me as long to “find myself” because I grew up learning not to apologize for what I liked. The teasing gave me a thick skin and I ended up with some seriously amazing friends, because no superficial people would come near me.

I tried new things frequently because I had nothing to lose; I was already being teased anyway. As time wore on and high school came and went, nobody cared anymore. The negative geek stigma left me, but all the benefits of my early geekhood stuck.

I’ve based the beginnings of my extremely humble career on the idea that I am a full-fledged geek. I am Trekkie, hear me roar! I am obsessed with things I am way to old to care about (cartoons) and I find myself suffering long bouts of intense inspiration with things that might seem strange to others, such as my cyclical relationship with the Haunted Mansion. I don't write for the New Yorker or Literary journals, but I do regularly appear in Geek Monthly magazine and guest in publications like Animation World, Orlando Attractions, Haunted Attraction, and so on.

I also lucked out with a fabulously geek chic husband, one who can follow me down every ridiculous rabbit hole that I end up distracted by while attempting to maintain normal adult status. For example, while talking to him on the phone today, I rambled on passionately for a good ten minutes about why Worf and Troi should've ended up together and not Troi and Riker...see? Did he tell me to get a life? No way. He joined in...and that's love.

I peddle myself as a lady geek, and usually list it in my byline. Lots of people use that shtick today, so I often wonder if identifying myself as such is all but white noise. Nowadays, “geek” is a brand that can sometimes be achieved by a pair of drugstore glasses and the espousing of some superficial pop culture knowledge. And don’t even get me started on the woes of modern lady geekhood…

So why do I do it? Because, I’m proud. Because it’s true. Because I couldn’t always be proud of it as a kid, but you better believe I can be now. And you should be too.

10/2/09

Audrey Visits the James Dean Festival

I visited the James Dean festival for the first time ever recently. The day was a hoot, the people were really fun and sweet, and we threw this together just for fun. We get fairly sarcastic just for laughs, but everyone participating in the video laughed and joked with us and had a great time.

(There's some audio mishaps at the end there, but I was just too lazy to fix it after another whirlwind week of graduate studies...)


Audrey Visits the James Dean Festival from Jake Williams on Vimeo.