Tag Archives: singing

Just In Case You Haven’t Seen It…

My sisters and I as kids loved old movie musicals with dancing in them probably as much as any genre.  This video making the rounds on Facebook is something I have seen posted and re-posted and have personally watched at least five times already.  I have shared it twice on Facebook, and it continually gets re-shared, especially by friends my age or older.  Why does something like this go viral?  Well, Bruno Mars is a popular young Michael Jackson clone with an amazing musicality that appeals to all ages.  And the video is beautifully edited so that all the dancers from old movie musicals are actually in sync and appear to be dancing to the beat.  But the game-breaker for me is the fact that the dancers are all the old stars that used to fascinate me with their dance moves on PBS back in the 1970’s when old movie musicals got played on Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday evenings.  I recognize Fred Astair, Gene Kelly, Buddy Ebsen, Donald O’Connor, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, the Ritz Brothers, and many more from the movies I loved like Anchors Away, Singing in the Rain, New York New York, and so many others I can’t even begin to name them all.  This mash-up brings back a whole lost world for me and gives me joy.  It connects the past with the energy of the present.  It gives me something to long for, to sigh for, and to fondly recall.  I want to see all those movies again.  But it wouldn’t be the same without my sisters there.

Blue Dawn

One has to wonder if all the time we spent on entertainment during our lifetime was a lost cause or not.  I have a rich tapestry of memories of other people’s lives, gained through movies, television, and books.  But has that enhanced my life?  Or has it taken away from my life’s work?  I know work puts food on the table and makes continued life possible.  But it also has to define the value of our lives.  I have never, though, lived a moment as a teacher when something I learned from movies or a book has actually interfered with delivering instruction.  And I can name innumerable times, looking back, when being able to recall entertainment experiences led to a unique teachable moment.  Those things can actually be the most important things we teach.  And what an entertainer in any medium manages to communicate to me validates their life’s work.

This flash mob concert makes me weep for joy every time I watch it.  It makes me realize what marvelous fulfillment there is in the act of committing a work of art.  How must poor demented and deaf Beethoven be soaring in spirit to have his work take so many people by surprise like this?  It gives me chills to think about that kind of immortality even though the composer is long since dead.  He is still giving astonishing gifts to little girls who put a coin in a hat.

You don’t even have to be Beethoven-levels of famous to create moments that will live forever in the memory of the universe.  I have watched this video of street performers across the world so many times I have it memorized and can sing along.  I have shared this video so many times that I expect others to tell me, “Just stop it already!”  But they never do.  We learn the value of art by being an audience… by being consumers of art.  And it gives me hope as well for my own artistic endeavors.  Making money is not the point.  Sharing my work with others… even long after my own personal time on earth is up… is the precious thing.  I am reminded of the culmination of the long and glorious career of Charlie Chaplin.  And the movie clip that gets circulated so often now after another tragedy like the one in Paris.  I dare you to listen to this speech and not be moved… to hear it out and not learn something important.

Thank you for letting me waste your time today.  I intended to commit no further evil in the world today, than to let you share a few of the things that everybody seems to be finding beautiful and worth the effort of sharing.

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Why do they love karaoke in the Philippines?

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This is cartoon that I actually got published in a comic book from Ben Dunn’s Ninja High School comic book series.  You could look it up.  Nobody paid me anything, but maybe it will be a collector’s item some day.

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I have been married to a beautiful Filipina for nineteen years now.  We have two handsome sons and a beautiful little girl.  I am going so far in learning a new culture that I have chosen to learn how to speak that gawd-awful language Tagalog.  Salamat.  If you gave a chicken monkey-lips and set him to caterwauling, you’d have some idea how Tagalog sounds to a jaded old English ear like mine.  I love it.  “Flowers” would be “mga blklk” in Tagalog.  How beautiful is that?  I don’t have to worry about having a sense of humor.  They will laugh at me just for my pronunciation.

I am quickly learning also to take part in the most important ritual in Filipino culture.  Karaoke.  It’s a uniquely oriental thing.  Friends and family gather around the TV and start passing around the “magic microphone”, “Magic Mike” for short.  Dang!  That’ll be my name from now on.  Just call me “Magic Mike”!  The words appear on the screen in front of rotating still pictures that vary from the aerial view of Mad Ludwig’s German Castle to a beach in Hawaii.  The words themselves have been placed there by some Japanese or Korean guy who barely knows how to speak English.  He apparently sits in his Tokyo apartment all day listening to American CD’s and trying to write the words down exactly as his Samurai brain slowly processes them.  The grammar is always twisted and goofy, many of the words are wrong.  The mistakes on the screen can throw me way off singing one of my favorite songs when it gets to the part about “birds is flying over the rainbow, so why won’t I?”  Ah!  The total comic artistry!  And get this, the machine scores the performance.  You can hit the most cat-strangling, nails on blackboards sort of notes, and if you hit the beat right, it gives you a 94 and calls you a star singer.  Sinatra is turning over in his grave.  Barbara Streisand will be turning over in her grave too as soon as my singing kills her.

Don’t get me wrong.  As silly a thing as karaoke is, I love it.  It makes me feel good to belt out a round of “I did it my way”.  I sing better than some of our friends.  But, we have some real singing talent join us on occasion.   James is smoother and more polished singing a Beatles tune than the Beatles themselves.  Ernie sings “Beautiful Sunday” so well it brings a tear to my eye.  And of course, there’s nothing that tickles me more than hearing a Filipino tenor putting his all into “My Wild Irish Rose”.

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Diz, Boz, the Bard, and Me

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I wrote the other day about the fact that my writing is music in my head.  Now, I realize there are probably a number of things wrong with my head, and Lord knows, it may truly need a good cleaning… er, well, not a brainwashing if that’s what you had in mind.  No, what I need is to clarify the meaning of what I said, to restate in a less metaphorical and obscure way.

I have this insane notion that I am a good writer.  Believe me, I am aware of the fact that every Indie author with a self-published novel has the same crazy fantasy right now.  I imagine that my humor is like Mark Twain’s, my characterizations like Charles Dickens (Boz), my themes and insights like William Shakespeare (the Bard), and my creativity akin to that of Walt Disney (Diz).

I plan to write about it in a novel that used to be called The Little Boy Crooner, and now labors on under the title Sing Sad Songs… with Clowns.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that I call this idea-thing a novel.  It is not complete.  There is no flesh on the bare bones.  If it were one of the walking dead, it would not even qualify as a zombie.  It is an animated skeleton.  It is a notion about how words and ideas become and are transmitted by musical means.

The main character is a young boy named Francois Martin, the singing clown-boy in the Paffooney above.  He is orphaned by a terrible car wreck in France, then sent to the only living relatives he has, who happen to live in Norwall, Iowa.  Yes, that same goofy little farm town where I grew up and far too many of my novels are set.  The Norwall Martins own the town tavern, where the bachelor head of the family, Victor (also known as the Vicar), is trying to make a go of it by putting in his bar a new-fangled bar-thing called karaoke.

As you’ve probably guessed, Francois, though he is awkward and unable to communicate in English, is a natural at singing karaoke.  He puts on the clown paint and sings for his supper, and brings people into the bar from all across the State, and eventually the whole Midwest.

The clown images come through his connections to the Dreamlands… the same fantasy world of dreams alluded to in the novels of H.P. Lovecraft.  Three clowns, Mr. Disney (Diz), Mr. Dickens (Boz), and Mr. Shakespeare (the Bard) help the boy and his American cousin Billy travel back and forth to the Dreamlands and learn to understand each other in ways that family members should.   I should warn you, the new title reveals the fact that all dreams are not happy dreams and all endings are not happy endings.  But we shall try… Diz, Boz, the Bard, and I.

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