always now

This morning, I exited my apartment to find Jim, our next door neighbor, walking his dog. Jim and I cross paths most mornings. We always exchange a quick hello and, “Have a great day.” He typically looks like he just rolled out of bed. Today, Jim wore a suit under his overcoat.

“Looking sharp,” I said.

“Why, thank you!”

Jim could be my grandfather. Smokes cigarettes and wears white whiskers. He and his wife own the house next to where we rent. They’ve lived there for over fifty years.

“Why so spiffy?” I asked.

“Going to the wake of a dear friend.”

“Wow. I’m sorry. I’m actually going to a wake today, too,” I said, holding up my suit bag. “Christy’s cousin passed away earlier this week.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that. Give my best to Christy.”

“Thank you. Something we all have to deal with.”

Jim smiled a wide grin. “True. True.”

We wished each other well, and I left Jim to head into my day. As I walked to the subway, a couple plodded in front of me. I’d seen them before. They are an Asian couple who live at the senior citizen apartment complex on the corner. They always look beautiful. Today, I shot a little video of them, and I wrote a quick haiku.

Hand in hand they walk
Morning rays on wrinkled skin
Once more, together

I imagined morning walks with my wife in 40 years. I thought about the last time we held hands. I remembered I’m going to see our cousin’s face for the last time. Someone who went too soon. Someone who won’t ever hold hands again.

A few hours later, I read this: Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82

Things Fall Apart shaped my childhood. It was the first time I understood how storytelling creates empathy. As a white, middle-class boy from a small town in Illinois, I felt for the protagonist Okonkwo, and – though I didn’t know it at the time – his story influenced my views on racism and colonialism. It taught me nothing lasts forever. I love this tale.

Tears filled my eyes. Time quickened.

A text popped up on my phone from my father. It was about my stepsister:

Jessica had baby girl at 9:17. She has reddish blonde hair. No weight or measurements yet. Both mother and baby doing very good.

And so it continues. Another day. Another death. Another life.

In a week, Christy and I move away from Brooklyn, where I have lived for 15 years. I won’t see Jim in the morning any more. Who knows if I will ever see him again? But it was good to see his sweet smile today. That is what matters. Today.

Recently, on the online social spheres, I shared a personal insight I had. I’m offering it again here because I want to remember:

Woke this morning and realized this is the best time in my life. Wishing you similar realizations. Now.

_______

PS. I suggest playing India Arie’s Growth while watching the video of the couple on the street.

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10 artists to follow on vine who are not adam goldberg, james urbaniak, will sasso or steve agee

For the past 45 days, I’ve been slightly obsessed with a new app called Vine. You’ve probably heard of it. Either you signed up to try it out, got bored and left, or you have made MANY more six second videos that you ever imagined creating before this mini-movie app appeared in January.

vine-logoFor those who haven’t heard about it, Vine allows creators to make six second shorts by tapping on an iPhone screen to shoot quick snippets of video. People typically use it to make tiny comedy sketches, mini stop motion stories, manic animations, and (of course) cat videos.

One of the biggest criticisms of the app (aside from some complaints with its UI), is that many Vines are so bad they induce nausea or seizures. It’s true. Most people don’t know how to make a good video. It’s much harder than a single shot on Instagram. And Vine doesn’t have funky filters to improve that crappy video of your lunch. It just shoots what it sees (and hears – you can’t mute the sound, so no MOS).

Still, there are some talented people on Vine. And I’m not talking about Adam Goldberg, James Urbaniak, Will Sasso or Steve Agee. These guys are all shooting fun work. I follow and enjoy them. They’re featured everywhere. But there are other spectacular, non-famous Vines artists who should be getting props, too.

For the naysayers who think Vine is a vomit-inducing mess of crappy videos, or for Vineheads seeking new, talented, non-famous creators, check out my list of 10 artists to follow on Vine.

(In alphabetical order. Click the artists names to see all their videos).

Brittany Furlan
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HERSELF & HER DOGS
It took a few videos, but Brittany Furlan grew on me. And that’s a good thing. A sketch comedy performer out of “Hollyhood,” Furlan has three schicks: booty dancing in inappropriate places (funnier than it sounds), a reoccurring show “Jokes with a Beekeeper,” and conversations with her asshole dogs, which are goddamn brilliant. She does other bits, too, but these are my faves.

Handymartian
GENRE: AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: CLAY, MUSIC
Andy Martin, is an animator, illustrator and music maker from the UK who uses these skills to make some of my favorite stop-motions on Vine. Essentially, they are studies of music and colored clay. Andy imbues globs of earth with personality by revealing secret sounds from within. They are are super cute eye and ear candy. Check out his website, too. His long form animation reel is gorgeous.

Jack Shelby
GENRE: BRAIN BENDER
STYLE: ANIMATION
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATIONS  
Want to have your head messed with? Check out Jack Shelby’s simple, twisted illustrated loops. His edits are superb, creating a trance-like state for the viewer. “Stabby Mouse” is one of the most disturbing videos I’ve found on Vine. It doesn’t seem like it at first, but watch it twenty times in a row and you’ll have nightmares.

Jack doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account. Twitter is the only way to embed vines on Word Press, but you can watch his work at seevine.com. It’s the closest thing to Vine on the web, since Vine doesn’t have its own web-based aggregator (much like Instagram in its early days.)

Jack Shelby Vine #1

Jack Shelby Vine #2

Jack Shelby Vine #3

Khoa
GENRE: FUN/CUTE
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: CONSTRUCTION PAPER
I debated adding Khoa Phan. Mainly, because (as of this writing) he has 10,672 followers on Vine. This is a list of Viners who aren’t famous. In a very short time, Khoa’s construction paper stop motion vignettes have swiftly risen to be one of the most popular feeds on Vine. There are a couple reasons for that. They’re damn good and they’re damn cute. And they’re timely. He made Vines for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Dr. Seuss’ birthday. And they’re all fun and imaginative. Khoa isn’t famous outside of Vine, but he should be. And that’s why he’s on this list.

Marlo Meekins
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HERSELF
A cartoonist by trade and a kook on Vine, Marlo is another early Vine superstar (she just cracked 10K followers and made a perfect video to celebrate). It makes sense a cartoonist might master a six second video medium. After all, they typically tell stories in three to six illustrated panels. Now, the panels can move. Mostly, Marlo’s Vines are set up expectations that she smashes with her warped sense of humor. Her Vines range from the ridiculous to the really ridiculous. Oh, yeah. And she plays the ukelele. Swoon.

MC and Friends
GENRE: COMEDY
STYLE: OLD SKOOL FLIP-BOOK
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATION/VOICE OVER
Whether taking the piss out of CSI: Miami or manifesting Dupstep Oprah (hilarious), the funny voice impressions and simple flip-book illustrations make use of Vine’s time limit in a different way. Instead of stop motion, MC and Friends literally flips pages and adds to the silly snippets of weirdness.

Watch Dub Step Oprah here. (C’mon. You know you want to.)

Meagan Cignoli
GENRE: AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Meagan Cignoli is a joy. She plays with household items, like bottles and chopsticks. Sometimes, she plays with her food. It’s all stop-motion, but not in the classic sense. She’s not creating characters out of clay or construction paper to tell a story. Meagan uses the items to create seamless loops. Her designs are delightful. She’s a prime example of someone who is experimenting with the form and (I presume) reflects the aesthetic from her other work as a photographer of people.

Peter Heacock
GENRE: COMEDY & AUDIO/VISUAL
STYLE: SIX SECOND SKETCHES
SUBJECT: HIS BABY & THE WORLD AROUND HIM
Peter is from Philly. He’s super sweet. And he is in PR. My interactions with him were the first that really felt social on Vine. The comments he leaves on my feed are encouraging, and he genuinely appreciates the love people give him. His coolness earned him a follow from me on Twitter, too. Aside from his winning personality, Peter experiments with light and sound, and he seems to have started his own “news channel,” ViNews. But my favorite videos feature Peter teaching his baby boy about The Wu-Tang Clan. Those Vines, alone, are worth following Peter.

Pinot
GENRE: CUTE & VISUAL
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: ILLUSTRATION, PAINTING & HIS KIDS
An Indonesian father of three glorious children and a graphic designer who lives in Kuwait, I want Pinot to be my dad. Okay, not really, but when I have children, I want to play with them like Pinot does his kids. Primarily working in stop motion, Pinot creates time-lapse Vines of illustrations that make you want to watch them over and over for each detail he drops into the frame. His “painting in the air” series is mind blowing, and the stop motion Empire Strikes Back he created with his daughters is just about the cutest thing you’ll find on the platform.

Yell Design
GENRE: FOOD PLAY
STYLE: STOP MOTION
SUBJECT: FOOD
Matt Willis takes playing with his food to a new level. From Australia, Matt is another artist I started following on Twitter because he is so darn genuine. The Vines Matt makes are pretty intense. They’re not just your run-of-the-mill-stop-motion. He deconstructs and reconstructs whole pineapples. From the can. He resurrects raisins to grapes. And he gives breakfast in bed a whole new meaning.

MY VINES
Of course, I’ve been having fun with the app, too. Sometimes, I shoot spontaneous Vines inspired by my surroundings, and others are more planned out, like a mini-series I’m calling #jdjames. It’s a glimpse at my id. Or, something.

I hope, if you were a naysayer, you’re showing a bit more interest. If you’re a Vine lover, you discovered some new artists. Who knows if Vine will be around in a year? For now, I’m enjoying new bits of art from around the world. And that makes my present moment a little bit better.

artsfwd blogging fellowship

EmcArts_Header

Recently, I was invited to join the ArtsFwd Blogging Fellowship. From now until the end of June, I’ll be offering my suggestions on innovation in arts administration. ArtsFwd is an extension of EmcArts, a social enterprise for learning and innovation in the arts.

From EmcArts website:

We serve as a nonprofit intermediary for many arts funders, and as a service organization for the arts field around innovation. We exist to strengthen the capacities and effectiveness of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, serving their needs in the design and management of innovative change, and assisting them in building their adaptive capacity.

Think of ArtsFwd as EmcArts’ arms embracing the online community. Blogs, podcasts, videos, and interviews give industry professionals’ tools to actively improve their organizations. ArtsFwd even offers a place for you to share your own innovative projects.ArtsFwd_fbook_coverphoto2-1Yesterday, ArtsFwd published my first article, What’s the Value of Transmedia Storytelling for Organizations? Here is a taste:

Transmedia is the art of sharing a narrative over multiple media platforms (print, online, stage, film, social networks), where unique content is delivered through each platform. For example, Fringe, the hit television show, used transmedia to expand its storyworld and reward its biggest fans. To learn more about how Fringe used transmedia, read my case study about the multiple platforms implemented over the show’s five seasons.

Though arts organizations are different than television programs, I believe it is increasingly imperative that arts organizations employ transmedia thinking as a way to expand a story over multiple media platforms.

Read the rest of the article on ArtsFwd.

The ArtsFwd program is inspiring, and I’m having great fun so far. Shout out to Karina Mangu-Ward, Director of Activating Innovation, and Kendra Danowski, Associate Editor, for spearheading this important outreach initiative. Thanks for having me on board.

Excited about the future.

fresh frontier of french film

This feature first appeared on Culturadar, an arts listings website for New York City. You can read the original post here.

It’s no surprise The Film Society of Lincoln Center offers an annual festival of French films. The French are to cinema what Cuba is to cigars. Other countries produce them, but not quite like France. They birthed cinema. Now, France aims to deliver audiences a new era of storytelling: the age of transmedia.

Rendezvousbanner

Transmedia is the art of sharing stories over multiple media platforms. Channels include online videos, comic books, mobile devices, alternate reality games, books, puzzles, and social media. In 2012, The Film Society of Lincoln Center decided to explore this media mixing and launched Convergence as part of The New York Film Festival. Over two days, immersive theater, interactive group video games, and panels on film and television extensions took over the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Thus began an exploration of the shift in storytelling in the 21st century.

After the success of Convergence, The Film Society looked for ways to develop this examination beyond its annual fall festival. Knowing transmedia isn’t solely American, the next clear step was highlighting transmedia work from around the world. With Rendez-vous with French Cinema on their season’s horizon, a special project came into focus.

ALT_MINDS is a fast-paced immersive experience that casts the audience in the role of an investigator. Creator Eric Viennot requires the audience to engage in the action and play an integral part in the expanding narrative. When six promising scientists disappear while on assignment, their kidnapping sparks a manhunt across Europe. Mysterious online videos, mind bending puzzles, and clues point to a dark conspiracy that threatens to ensnare the team of investigators charged with unraveling the mystery.

“ALT_MINDS is cool because it really blurs the line between fiction and reality,” said Matt Bolish of The Film Society of Lincoln Center. “You can become as involved as you want. There’s more going on than meets the eye.”

A big hurdle for this kind of mobile-based multi-platform storytelling is distribution in the United States. There aren’t many companies taking the risk. In France, ALT_MINDS received development support and distribution through the communications company Orange. Additionally, artists receive government support more easily. Between corporate and government support, creators like Mr. Viennot have more opportunities than American creators. That is one of the reasons The Film Society at Lincoln Center is offering this special event as part of Rendez-vous with French Cinema. They want to introduce this innovative work to an American audience.

“We are really excited to move ahead and start navigating transmedia and the development of transmedia in an audience,” said Mr. Bolish. “It’s important to have a global perspective.”

AltMinds1To sneak a peek at the next exciting revelation in cinematic storytelling, stop by ALT_MINDS and the art of French Transmedia on March 2. Creator Eric Viennot presents the project and offers a sample of what players experienced. He will also screen a portion of the web series and discuss how French creation is different from the United States. For more information about ALT_MINDS and the Art of French Transmedia, visit The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s website.

________________

ALT_MINDS AND THE ART OF FRENCH TRANSMEDIA
ERIC VIENNOT, 2012
Saturday, March 2 at 5:00pm
FILM CENTER AMPHITHEATER

FREE

reach out and touch someone

This feature first appeared on Culturadar, an arts listings website for New York City. You can read the original post here.

A woman appears on a computer screen and smokes a cigarette in a tiny London flat. She coyly asks if you’ve ever followed a stranger to a hotel room. In Australia, a bouncy blonde wearing what looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume pops up on a laptop, insisting she met you hundreds of years ago. Together, you have a plan to save the world. A third woman – a Romanian – shares a sad tale about her boyfriend, photographs and donuts.

This isn’t a private adult video chat you discover after accidentally clicking a link in a spam email. This is theater.  Long Distance Affair, produced by PopUp Theatrics, takes the audience on a journey around the world. And you don’t even have to get on an airplane.

Creators and directors Tamilla Woodard and Ana Margineanu create intimate theatrical experiences for one person. Digital theater for one. Some of the performances are interactive, requiring audience members to engage with the character. Others are passive, offering a more traditional theater monologue. Each piece is more unpredictable than the previous.

With Long Distance Affair, Ms. Margineanu and Ms. Woodard partnered a director, a playwright and an actor to create eight minute bits of theater performed live from the actor’s own home. The audience views these performances via Skype from New York City’s The Gershwin Hotel. Here’s the catch (as if there wasn’t enough of one already): None of the creators live in the same country as their collaborators. In two weeks, they write, rehearse and perform the short plays. All over Skype.

PopUpBanner“In Romania, the director is considered a god,” explained Ms. Margineanu. “In America, the playwright is god. In Russia, the actor is god. You can imagine what happens when three gods try to work together.”

Not only is it an experiment in form and process. It’s a test of endurance. Actors must perform the same eight minute piece up to 30 times in one evening – sometimes at 3:00am, if they live seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

PopUp Theatricals is devoted to unpacking the creator’s relationship with the audience. With their other major production, Hotel Project, PopUp again assembled international creative teams. In another exclusive performance, a lone audience member becomes a fly on the wall while a scene plays out around her or him.

Long Distance Affair runs through February 28, and tickets are limited due to the intimate nature of the event. Because of the staggered schedules and time differences of actor locations, audiences can attend multiple nights and might see different plays. Don’t think this is an entirely digital experience. There are analog elements that allow audience members to connect with the characters, too. Who knows? You might even receive a present from a new friend in another part of the world.

_____________________

LONG DISTANCE AFFAIR
THE GERSHWIN HOTEL
7 east 27th street, NYC (next to the Museum of Sex)
Tickets ONLY $25
Available at ovationtix. com or by calling 866-811-4111