Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's Bubby's Birthday!

One year ago today, the newest little Semester was born -- my cool nephew Owen!

It is said (even by me) that he and I look a lot alike. Here's another look:



We'd probably look more different if we quit dressing so danged much alike.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Because you want to see this, that's why...


Closing night for Smoke on the Mountain is tonight! Saturday, January 23, at 8:00pm, at Broadway Church: 609 E. 29th Street in Indianapolis. Doors open at 7:30pm, performance is presented free of charge as part of the Broadway Presents Artist Series. 

You should come!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A friend is a friend is a friend...?

I just posed a question on Twitter...

Is there a word yet for people that you consider friends 
but have only met internettily, never in person?

...which is interesting for the conversation it seems to have generated, but also because before I started using Twitter, I would never have believed that I would consider someone a friend if I had never met them in real life. 

Going all the way back to the Early Common Internet Era (the 1990s), I had college friends who would spend hours upon hours on internet chat things like ICQ, talking with people from Chicago to Australia, most of whom they had never met in person. And when those friends decided to meet these internet contacts in person, I thought it was a Very Bad Idea with the potential ultimately to be made into a Lifetime movie starring Annie Potts and directed by Joanna Kerns.

Of course, it all worked out fine, though I refrained from such internet relationships. But then I started this blog in 2006, and in 2008 I hopped on the Twitter bandwagon. Now, 1,000+ blog posts and 13,000+ tweets later, I realize that I think you can really make friends with someone without ever having met him or her in real life.

Por ejemplo, I have a [whatever the word is for Internet-Only Friend] named Clif whom I consider a chum, even though we've never met in person and, on paper, we have very little in common. I'm 36; he's 160, apparently. But we both like goofy church stuff and Lawrence Welk, and if I recall correctly, we met some time in 2007 when Clif commented on one of my blog posts. We've traded e-mails occasionally, and I consider him a good friend -- the internet-savvy yet charmingly old-timey and nostalgic great-uncle I do not have. When I sent out an invitation to our upcoming performances of "Smoke on the Mountain" (you should totally come), Clif replied with a reference to a song sung by Patsy Cline back in the day. Turns out this song is one of my solos in the show, so it was a pleasure to e-mail back and forth to get a little more in-depth with Clif on the differences between my version and the Patsy Cline version, etc. We've had a few back-and-forth exchanges over the years and, while sometimes I feel like we're using language in a slightly different way, I do consider Clif a friend-I-haven't-met-in-person-yet. (Or -- do I dare attempt to coin an answer to my question above? -- a "FIHMIPY.")

Caso en punto número dos: West-Coaster Megan Maria and I connected online after I made a funny (to me and to her, at least) comment on BestWeekEver.tv and she started following me on Twitter. We exchange jokes, indictments of workplace violators, and reflections on popular culture via tweets and the occasional blogpost generated through such tweets. Again, on paper, Megan and I share little in common -- she's a she, and I think she's far younger than I -- but our similar senses of humor and shared appreciation for Betty White and unicorns have led me to consider her another FIHMIPY.

The conversation on Twitter hasn't really reached any resolution regarding what to call friends you haven't met in person yet. Nichole just calls them "friends," Robby refers to them as "contacts," and Elizabeth suggests, "Um... stranger?" (And all of a sudden, I understand why the Television Without Pity forums have a rule about not starting any post with "Um...") 

Because there doesn't seem to be any consensus, and I trust that at least someone on Twitter would have told me if there was such a word already, I propose we adopt "FIHMIPY" as the official internet acronym for "Friend I Haven't Met In Person Yet." I further propose that it is to be pronounced 

fĭm' ĭ pē 

as though it rhymes with "finicky." A quick Google search indicates that no one else has ever before put that combination of letters onto the internet. So, FIRST! Or whatever the kids are saying these days.

I fully understand that you might not have any FIHMIPYs in your life, and that's OK. But I've got a good handful that I've met through Twitter and this blog and others, so I'm going to go ahead and make that my word. You may use it if you wish, without attribution. 

And maybe, just maybe, you can be my FIHMIPY someday, too.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Art of Carmel

I don't have all the answers (in this case, at least), but I do believe the Carmel Arts & Design District could have done a better job of convincing me today that the retail fine art scene in central Indiana was thriving.

I saw a note on Twitter* about the Second Saturday promotion happening at the local galleries and shoppes in Carmel's now-three-and-a-half-years-old Arts & Design District. And I hadn't really explored the District since its inception, so after a lovely brunch with church friends at Tulip Noir (86th & Ditch, Indianapolis, you should go), I parked at the catchily-named "Hamilton County Welcome Center - Carmel," used their convenient restrooms (well, just the one), and then headed out onto Main Street. 

I headed west toward the action, stopping first in one gallery, then the next. The work was OK, overpriced in my humble estimation, but it is possible my perspective may have changed since the good ol' days. Now that I am, shall we say, less-than-optimally employed, my concept of money is more Depression-era and less Elation-era. 

Anyway. 

I made it into Evan Lurie Gallery, which was cool -- great artwork, mostly abstract and at the high end of the priceyness continuum, so I made it clear to the gallery manager that I was not qualified to make any purchase and so relieved her from any sales-type activities targeting me. I looked around and found some cool small bronzes by Ted Gall and asked the manager about them. We got to talking and I guess a number of galleries used to be in the District but are no longer there, victims of either poor business plans or the art-business-chilling economy, or both. Which is disappointing, because this idea of an Arts District in Carmel has a lot of promise. The challenge, I believe, is figuring out a way to educate and train Midwestern art consumers -- if we all buy a little bit, the District will be in super shape. Only problem is, at $10,000 a painting, there's not a lot of us who can do that right now.

Upon leaving I walked in the frigid temps down to the next gallery, which was closed, for lunch or something? (Thanks for nothing.) And then I walked down to the other gallery, which was also closed. (See you in Hell.)

I Google-411ed Carmel's crime-fiction bookstore The Mystery Company (233 2nd Ave SW, Carmel, you should go), which used to be somewhere but is now somewhere else...somewhere near the Arts & Design District, I'd heard. After decoding Carmel's unnecessarily complicated (but once you figure it out, really quite straightforward) road-naming system, I ended up at Jim Huang's store. (I think he lives in my parents' subdivision. Seen him walking his dog a couple times.) Anyway, I bought a book and then high-tailed it back to my car, because it was freezing, with a capital F. Et oui, j'ai l'intention de double entendre.

So, a bunch of the galleries were closed, there wasn't really anything special about Second Saturday going on as far as I could tell, and I was pretty much the only one in any of the galleries (except in Evan Lurie Gallery). Not stellar. On my way back to the car, I started thinking about how today's foray into the District had disappointed me, and what maybe could be done to pump up the Arts & Designiness. In addition to "Make the temperature more than 10ºF" and "Turn this mother-humping economy around, already," I came up with some actual workable** suggestions:

Figure out what the District really is and should be. It seems to me that it should position itself as the destination for visual arts (and fashion?) in central Indiana. Which is going to take more than 5 galleries, two of which were closed at 1pm on a Saturday. (Maybe more are in the plans? But apparently some that opened years ago have already had to close...)

Embrace snobbery. Have I ever told you what happened to me the first day I went to IU? I was moving into Teter Quad for the Intensive Freshman Seminar program, and someone asked where I was from. "Carmel," I said. "Oh," was the response, with a facial expression that said, "Oh, so you're a jerk." Well, you and I both know that sometimes, yes, I am a jerk, but that has nothing to do with Carmel. My point is this: Carmel has a reputation around central Indiana; we're not going to change it. The people who matter -- the people who will be spending the money on fine art in the 46032 -- are the ones who either fit the stereotype or who work for/with the people who fit the stereotype. The District has done enough to foster "accessibility" to art, now it needs to play up the "exclusivity" of its offerings. To have world-class art -- art that you would see in the galleries of New York, LA, Chicago, and Miami --  just down the street is a big deal; it's OK to act that way. Oh! And! Avoid promoting Second Saturday with the phrase "The January event will feature a chili cook-off!" -- three reasons: (a) "Chili cook-off" should never come with an exclamation point after it, (b) Come on. If you're looking to big-city up the place, a chili cook-off is not going to do it, and (c) Not gonna lie, there was no chili in any of the galleries I visited; this displeased me.

But it has to be priced right. If I had any money whatsoever right now, I'd open a gallery in the District. I would sell mid-sized abstract oils and mid-to-large-scale abstract photography priced under $1,000, and we could probably sell the hell out of it, creating a viable business and training buyers who could then work their way up to other galleries' offerings. As long as it wouldn't violate anti-trust laws, I'd work with the owners of the other galleries to find out what they're selling and funnel prospective clients to them, if the clients didn't like what I had. The work in Mr. Lurie's gallery was probably priced about right, but the stuff I saw in the other galleries struck me as very aggressively priced, for what it was. The average person browsing in a gallery is accustomed to thinking, "$3,900 for that?!" but when someone who's worked in the field (i.e., me) thinks that, there may be an issue.

The Carmel Arts & Design District is a wonderful idea, and perhaps when the economy turns around and when people believe the economy has turned around and when the economy has turned around to the extent where people really, really, really believe the economy has turned around, the District will be in better shape. In the meantime, while I'm reluctant to call Monorail! on the whole endeavor and I hesitate to Lyle Lanleyify the civil servants and consultants*** who led the charge, I will say that, today, there was an air of "meh" about it, lo these few short years later.

Maybe by next month's Second Saturday, we'll have something better to report?


* OK, I actually clicked a link I didn't intend to click, but what the hell, it worked out fine.

** Take this all with the grain of salt labelled, "What The Hell Do I Know?"

*** I especially hesitate to Lyle Lanleyify Mr. Lurie, who seems to have sunk ("to have sunken"?) a whole lot of money into the District, what with his gallery building and the associated condos. (Whether he is, in fact, inciting fury, I can't really say, although I will tell you that I, myself, was not infuriated in the least on my visit.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

It's not your grandma's opera

I'm not sure how I stumbled across East Village Opera Company, but I'm glad I did. They are a group of musicians who take old-timey classical music (instrumental, opera, whatever) and turn it into rock-pop that is compelling, whether or not you know that it's based on centuries-old tunes.

Por ejemplo, whether you think you do or not, you know "La donna e mobile," but you've never heard it like this. If you're reading this on Facebook, ya gotta click the link, since FB doesn't allow embedded videos in auto-sucked-in blogs.



What I think is cool about this is two-fold. First fold, I think the music rocks on its own, and is very cool to listen to. Second fold, I think it's cool the way this music traces its heritage back hundreds of years, and even if Bach or Mozart or whoever could never have imagined me embedding a video in a blog to showcase a song based on their work, I think they'd be pleased by the enduring nature of their song AND they'd be honored by this creative, yet sensitive, contemporary interpretation of it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Oops, I did it again. Again.

Hey, remember when I was in Fiddler on the Roof? And I had to step into a more involved role because someone else dropped out?

Good times.

And it's happened again.

A couple weeks ago, I sang with the choir at Broadway UMC, the site of so much vocational and personal turmoil and associated whatnot for me. It was a great piece that they were singing and it was a joy to be a part of it. And my experience with the choir had always been entirely turmoil-free, so I figured it would be a positive experience, which it totally was.

Anyway, the music director at Broadway got in touch a few days ago and told me that someone had to step out of their upcoming musical production and asked if I would be willing to step in.

Because ah'm jist a boy who cain't say no, I said yes and picked up my script and score this evening. I will be portraying Dennis Sanders, the youngest (by 4 minutes) member of the Sanders Family Singers in "Smoke on the Mountain." Here's a rundown of what the show -- an old-timey country-gospel tour de force -- is about:
The play takes place in the sanctuary of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, located just west of Hickory near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a Saturday night in June, 1938. The United States is in the last years of the Great Depression. Organized religion is at its peak.

Mount Pleasant's principal industries are farming and pickle production. The Mount Pleasant Pickle Plant has lately begun laying people off at an alarming rate due to the economy. The factory makes everyone and everything in Mount Pleasant smell of vinegar and dill.

Mount Pleasant Baptist has a membership of 63 -- 64 when Becca Robinson gets baptized next Sunday. Saturday Night Sings by families of gospel singers have become the much needed and highly appreciated entertainment of the time. Gospel-singing families traditionally sing at one church on Saturday night, then do a few guest appearances on Sunday mornings at other churches in the area. The Sanders are appearing tonight after a five-year hiatus from the hospel-singing circuit. They travel in an ancient bus with "The Sanders Family" hand-painted on the side.
There doesn't seem to be so much of a plot other than "This quirky gospel-singing family is showing up at a church (the audience is the congregation) and sings a bunch of loosely-connected country-gospel-type songs," many of which are familiar to the churchy and non-churchy alike. (Although it's unlikely you've heard my breakout number, "Christian Cowboy.") (And I am not kidding.) But it looks like a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to being a part of it.

So, since I'm already two rehearsals behind and we're rehearsing at noon tomorrow, right now I am mainlining the soundtrack CD I got earlier this evening, reviewing the script and the score, and trying not to get overwhelmed by the fact that I don't know jack about bluegrass gospel music.

If you'd like to come -- and I think you'll like it, so you should totally come -- here are the details:

SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN
Part of the Broadway Presents Performing Arts Series

WHERE: Broadway United Methodist Church / 609 E. 29th Street, Indianapolis

WHEN: Friday, January 22, 8:00pm & Saturdsay, January 23, 8:00pm

HOW MUCH: Open to the public and presented free of charge; donations accepted