Sunday, August 28, 2011

My acting debut opposite Bill Streeter in George Malich's brain surgery series

My friend George Malich is producing and directing Life is Meant for Living, a series of improvised sketch comedy pieces based on the amazing experience he currently is undergoing with brain cancer and brain surgery.

In his new episode, "Day 9: The Conspiracy," George retells a remarkable experience from his brain surgery earlier this month. The expert brain surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital kept him awake and talking for much of the surgery, to monitor what parts of his brain he was using so as to avoid cutting into any of his functional tissue while removing as much of the tumor as they could.

By all accounts, George was good, loquacious company while his brain was under the knife, as he depicts (with a fetching comic overlay) in the previous episode "Day 8: Awake Surgery." But when his surgeons woke George up, he pitched into a three-hour rage.

Curiously, the targets of George's rage were two local directors, Bill Streeter and me, Chris King. Bill is far more accomplished than me as a director, so I was flattered to be somehow sequestered in the directors' corner of George's brain with Bill.

With Poetry Scores, I have directed only one movie, though George has a prominent role in our second movie, currently in production, Go South for Animal Index. As I described in a recent post, "You Never Know What is Going to Happen, George Malich," we really had to rush and work George hard to get in his last scenes before his brain surgery. If there is a rational reason for such things, that's probably why George came out of a brain surgery in a three-hour rage at me.

But, as Rachel Cosic's character muses in this sketch, "Why Bill Streeter?" Bill -- who has never directed George -- asked himself the same thing. "Maybe George subconsciously wants me to direct him," Bill suggested.

That sounds good to me! I'm standing by to help that future project in any way. Given my highlight reel from this episode, my screen acting debut, I suspect it won't be as an actor.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"The Big Dipper" by Rick Hawkins & eleanor roosevelt (picture, song)

My friend and colleague Rick Hawkins posted this photograph he took of the Big Dipper on his typepad.

He snapped it at a summer camp (in central Tennessee, I'd guess, where he lives). Rick has a deep personal connection to the camp, he said. Also, as an artist, he appreciates "the absence of ambient light pollution. The sky is bright with stars."

His post reminded me of the song my band eleanor roosevelt wrote and recorded titled "The Big Dipper". I sent it to Rick and will post it here.

"The Big Dipper"
(eleanor roosevelt)
eleanor roosevelt

It's not our greatest work. It didn't make the cut for the next batch of songs we intend to release, Water Bread & Beer. But I like it enough as an excuse for a blogpost with Rick's picture.

I stumbled on "the absence of ambient light pollution" far from central Tennessee. I was on the wide plains of Western Canada, coming back from Edmonton, Alberta, when I saw  the sky bright with the stars of the Big Dipper and wrote the words and melody to the song. When I saw the Big Dipper, it looked like "a heavenly trickle". I took it from there, attempting an extended metaphor for what I consider to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

Not only a visual artist, Rick is a musician and singer I really want to work with in Poetry Scores. His projects Jackson Pollock Microphone and Magna Man Remembered are close in spirit to what we do. It's almost embarassing that we haven't incorporated Rick's work into one of our poetry scores by now.

Rick did host a successful event at his home in Murphreesboro for Poetry Scores' one and only (thus far) Southern Poetry Tour, and we have every intention to screen our first movie Blind Cat Black at his place.

Going back to the beginning, Rick was a cofounder of Hoobellatoo, the field recording collective that spawned Poetry Scores. Rick was with Lij and me when we met and first recorded the late Leo Connellan, the first poet we scored. Rick's striking portrait of Leo, standing on the foyer at his publisher, Curbstone Press, graces the back of our first poetry score CD, Crossing America.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bootblogging #22: Five by Bob Reuter

St. Louis songwriter and bandleader Bob Reuter is turning 60 and celebrating this Saturday, August 13 at The Tap Room (2100 Locust) with a really excellent lineup: The Union Electric, Wormwood Country and Bob's band Alley Ghost.

I have multiple, deeply rooted connections to the leaders of all these bands: Tim Rakel (of The Union Electric), Lindy Woracheck (of Wormwood Country) and Bob himself. It would tire the patience of most blog readers to rehearse it all, so I'll just say a few words about our birthday boy and then bootblog a handful of his songs.

Bob was already a veteran of the St. Louis music scene when I sprang up in the late 1980s. His band then was Kamikaze Cowboy, and they rocked hard on Bob's country-tinged songs, which more or less describes all of Bob's bands I've heard since. He had the reputation then, which he's maintained for twenty years, of being one of the best songwriters in town. He's still that.

Like most frontmen, Bob is a fairly self-absorbed guy -- a rap that has followed him, alongside the master craftsman songwriter reputation. That makes it somewhat paradoxical that he also is and has always been a highly encouraging enthusiast for other bands and songwriters. It's this generosity and passion towards other musicians, matched with those eloquent and catchy songs, that has ensured Bob always has an ace band populated by some of the best players in the scene.

Speaking from experience, my band Enormous Richard was slightly controversial among other musicians when we burst on the scene in the late 1980s. I was a terrible singer, and I recruited talented musicians by inviting them to learn new instruments onstage. I stayed with these same guys until today, so twenty years later I make music with talented multi-instrumentalists, but in the early days we could be pretty hard on the ears.

But I think we had some good songs, and we played them with abandon -- a guitar player who joined the band called it "messy hilarity". Among serious musicians in town, Bob was absolutely the first to look past our surface imperfections enough to enjoy the songs and appreciate the gusto we brought to the experience of playing in a band. To this day, twenty years ago, I still remember Bob calling me out of the blue to talk about an Enormous Richard song that he liked. He carried on like a goofy fan, rather than one of the best songwriters in town.

Having had that experience, having been touched by Bob's passion for music in that way, it does not surprise me that he has enticed gifted musicians like Robin Allen, Michael Martin and John Horton to play in his bands and serve as his sort of de facto musical directors. Since Enormous Richard were one of the kids on the scene, then, and he was the veteran, it also does not surprise me that Bob has been able to renew his band and songs in recent years by attracting some of the best musicians in St. Louis who are literally half his age to back him up.

That band, which we will see on Saturday, is Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost. They are terrific, and I have one of their CDs (which I like); but when Bob gave me the go-ahead to bootblog some of his songs for the occasion, I had to pull out what I consider to be his finest work: the Michael-Martin produced this much I know (1994).

Here are five of its sixteen songs. I'm not sure I can name a single better record recorded in St. Louis in the twenty years I have been on the scene.


"Outside Your Class"
(Bob Reuter)
Bob Reuter

"It Don't Matter"
(Bob Reuter)
Bob Reuter

"Other Shoe"
(Bob Reuter)
Bob Reuter

"Second Hand Smoke"
(Bob Reuter)
Bob Reuter

"10% of Nothing"
(Bob Reuter)
Bob Reuter

More in this series
Bootblogging #1: Three by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #2: Three elegies for local musicians
Bootblogging #3: Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #4: Three more by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #5: Chuck Reinhart's guitar circle hits
Bootblogging #6: The silly side of The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #7: Songs for "Divorcing God"
Bootblogging #8: More songs for "Divorcing God
Bootblogging #9: Adam Long presents The Imps!
Bootblogging #10: More Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #11: The Adversary Workers
Bootblogging #12: The May Day Orchestra
Bootblogging #13: Solo Career live in Santa Monica
Bootblogging #14: Four from The Funhouse (Seattle punk)
Bootblogging #15: Four more from The Funhouse (Seattle punk rock)
Bootblogging #16: I will be your volunteer! (for Bob Slate)
Bootblogging #17: Yet more The Lettuce HeadsBootblogging #18: Four by Russell Hoke
Bootblogging #19: Krakersy (is Crackers in Polish)
Bootblogging #20- Four by Grandpa's Ghost
Bootblogging #21: Eight by Jaime Gartelos