Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Acting on impulse

I was faced with a choice at a difficult age
would I write a book... or should I take to the stage?
- "Left To My Own Devices", Pet Shop Boys


I’ve learned that acting is a real challenge. William Shatner’s autobiography was key in that realisation. It’s not that he said it explicitly, but in reading his anecdotes, detailing the rigours of delivering the scene despite all kinds of personal and professional distractions, I resolved that you have to give respect to actors for showing up knowing their action.

That’s not to say that all actors are good actors. Or even consistent actors. Or sane actors (Nicolas Cage, we need to talk about that Oscar.) 

But a professional actor is trained in a specific craft, one which is nearly nullified by the modern entertainment paradigm. Hell, I’ve tried acting on camera few times.

There was this one time... I was cast in a French movie. In French! (“The horror! The horror!” Or in fact: "L'horreur! L'horreur!"). I doubt the Academy noticed.

In my scene I had to drunkenly stumble up to a camper in a desolate part of the woods, piss on it, be surprised when a couple emerged from within, exchange a few words with them (they asked me to help them push the camper out of the brush), and see them off. Easy, yeah? Not so much.

THIS was my mark which I had to hit after a 25-metre stumble; THIS was my bottle that I had to hide in my pants when I took the leak. THIS was the direction in which I had to turn my head when I refused to help them at first... and did I mention I had to act like a New Zealander? In French?

Actually, I think they may have decided to cut me out of the movie altogether.

Never mind, I learned my lines. I took direction from the director who was very patient with me. I don’t really have performance shyness so that wasn’t the issue – but I discovered that there’s a hell of a lot to remember when you’re acting a scene. 

So I was not led astray by my moment of self-attributed celebrity. And if I was for but a moment, it was because I asked for a cup of coffee and the AD had it in my hand thirty seconds later. I had arrived! And then I was told to back to go my mark to await direction.

But I am, for all intents and purposes, a lover of the traditional concept of theatre (if there is such a thing). I love watching classically trained actors at their best. And I suppose it's not surprising that I use a lot of borrowed concepts when I'm on stage myself.

I'm not an actor, but I feel that musical performance is acting too in most respects. I think certain things can transfer, even if the brand of pop performance I do is largely by the seat of the pants.

"...but in the back of my head i heard distant feet
Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat." 
- - "Left To My Own Devices", Pet Shop Boys
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Rewriting the world: A Foreword

On the morning of June 11, 2010, the morning of the FIFA World Cup launching in South Africa, I walked the streets of my native Cape Town, my insides feeling like jelly. I was so astonished by the atmosphere on the streets (it must have been about 7 in the morning), I wrote a short editorial piece for my publication, which was published by 9:30.

The editor told me that she’d publish it because despite being sentimental (something which our columns most often are not), it was pretty moving. I decided to interpret that as... “Damn, man, you nearly made me cry.” That was the first time I really felt like what I had to say had resonated purely and absolutely with someone from a completely different background as me.

The feeling was reinforced when commenters on the story resoundingly agreed with its sentiment – another phenomenon that never happens on our forums. Again, this was and remains very meaningful for me, considering that the world cup was trashed unapologetically by most readers of a certain class...

Let me sidestep here and say that, as a black man of my particular age in South Africa, I am angry and sad about a great many things. I am not a reactionary, nor hysterical, but damn, my countrymen can be idiots. And many times over the course of a lifetime, there’s an inclination to let it all drop over the side of the ship and be done with it. But my experience of that day – June 11, 2010 - came to me as a gift.

Several times that day I was forced to hold back a torrent of tears that rose up from the pit of my stomach. Several times I failed to do so.  Those tears came for several things. For success, for failure, for happiness, for sadness, for memory of what we’ve achieved in my country, for sadness at a continuing selfishness that hurts us all, for bafana bafana, for my family, for the women I’ve loved, for friends I left behind, for football, for education, for dreams, for struggle. All of it. 

But mostly... mostly... for the idea that for that beautiful, morning, I felt like I belonged here in this country, on this continent, on this planet.

That is a feeling I've wanted all my life. The reasons that I do not feel that as often as I should was the launching point for this blog in disguise - I needed a friend to tell me that in her own unique way. I never knew it before... or maybe I just never realised it. So no more fitting in. It's time I rewrote the world the fit me.

And that’s really what I was writing about. Below I’ve “borrowed” my published column from channel 24.co.za. For the responses and such, go here.

I hope you continue to read the blog regularly.
A



We ARE the World
Published June 11, 2010


I had to get off the bus a kilometre from where I normally do, and walk the rest of the way to the work this morning. The line of buses stretched way beyond the fanzone on the Grand Parade in Cape Town, and even as the sun was struggling to break the horizon, I could see that this would be a long wait.

 This morning vuvuzelas and car horns were blasting - and still are as I write this - making it just a little harder to concentrate on work. It seems like every resident of Cape Town has invested in this most maligned and celebrated Mzansi paraphernalia.

This morning I heard that Madiba's granddaughter had died in a car crash on the way from the World Cup Kickoff Concert last night, and my thoughts went out to a man I consider to be a father in the African sense - how overjoyed on one hand he would have been to see a World Cup come to SA; but how bittersweet it will now be for this tragedy. Madiba, we are with your family in these times, as you have been with ours for so many years.

But this morning, I also felt like I felt that morning of April 27, 1994. This morning I felt like we - all of us - were actually feeling a true sense of joy and goodwill towards one another. Standing in that line on the way to vote back in '94, we looked at each other in much the same way. I saw in people's eyes then, as I did this morning, a dream realised. It's not that democracy had arrived, or that the World Cup was here, but that we felt happy about one common thing. Just one thing.

In this lifetime, it's idealistic to hope that so many of us can feel happy about a universal political ideology, a religion or even a share price. But in music, and also in sport, we come close. The World Cup is not just about football. It's about feeling - even for a moment - that we live in one world. And that at least for thirty days - at least for one day - at least for 90 minutes, we are citizens of planet Earth.

All of us. All.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Serena Manesh, Dan Sartain si - wk 24, 2010

Titles click to full reviews

Dan Sartain
Lives
Various points on Lives are vivid sound swatches of familiar rock n' roll touch points: think an all-stars album consisting of Jack White, Dick Dale, the rhythm section out of Calexico, Nick Cave on helium, and the Cramps on valium. Sure there's less punkish attitude than most of those artists (who could honestly have more attitude than Lux Interior?), and yet somehow there's enough musical zip to buy into the big picture, because as a whole the album brings forth authentic nostalgic viscera – much like Mad Men the TV show does.
****


Serena Maneesh
No.2: Abyss in B Minor
Like any good 4AD record – and there are plenty of them dating as far back as the mid 1980s – the remainder of No 2: Abyss in B Minor is a sonic hotpot of wildly delicious and colourful noise. Beautiful, even, you may say, if your palate tends to swing the way of left-centre faves Lush or medium-range Swans or even Alison Goldfrapp meets Beck on PCP.

***


Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother perforing on Ma...Image via Wikipedia


Slash 
Slash
Andrew Stockdale [pic] of Wolfmother provides the standout on "By The Sword", bizarrely channelling Ray Davies, Robert Plant and David Byron all at once (actually, the song is a bit of a Zeppelin rip, but not in a bad way). That's high praise on an album that kicks off with Ian Astbury in standard GOD-OF-ROCK form, and where even Fergie isn’t as bad a trainwreck as you’d expect.
****

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