Archive for November, 2009

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TOO CLOSE TO HOME

November 25, 2009

It’s become “one of America’s great reality shows.”

This, according to Peggy Drexler, author and assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University, is the life of Sarah Palin.

“Reality TV has a formula,” says Drexler. “One of the surprisingly numerous guides I found to selling a reality show said that the key is the right mix of four elements: talent, love, torment and sex. Others pointed out that the most important thing is letting people watch other people fail at something they desperately want to do.

“Studies show that American Idol loses a large segment of the audience after the ritual tortures of the early rounds. Another attraction, the guides point out, is spying on our neighbors without risking a restraining order. We don’t necessarily feel their pain. We just like to watch it.

“One of the best story lines is to yank people out of their normal lives, and throw them into unfamiliar situations — think wives swapping families. It’s even better when you do it to a C-list celebrity — think Paris Hilton shoveling manure.”

This “reality show” passed through my home town a few days ago. I wouldn’t even be mentioning it except for the video that showed up on YouTube of people waiting in line to get a glimpse of Palin outside a local Border’s Bookstore – twenty minutes away from my house.  😦

That’s too close to home.

There was an interviewer on the scene asking people why they support Palin.

 

They were also asked about Palin’s views on issues and policies. Here’s a few gems.

There’s SO MUCH more. Here’s the whole video.

Let’s face it: you can’t fix what is wrong here without therapy.

Drexler describes her reality show comparison. “We take a C-list first-term governor from a state with a population the size of the city of Charlotte. She’ll have this hot-for-teacher thing going on; tight skirts, high heels, hair tied up in a twist. She’s a huntin’, fishin’, scrappy hockey mom, who tells it like it is.

“She’ll have a pregnant daughter. She’s hot. She’ll have a hunky husband who doesn’t say much. He’s hot. The pregnant daughter will have a boyfriend. He and the mother say they love each other, but as the story line progresses, they hate each other. He’s hot, too — kind of a young Donny Osmond, but buff. They’ll all live in the same house.

Later she writes, “The boyfriend will make the cover of America’s leading liberal magazine, space usually reserved for stars, models and politicians.

“Just when the audience thinks it’s over, she’ll write a book, which will sell out before it’s published.”

Towards the end of the article, Drexler writes, “She won’t rule out running for president, which gives us a bridge to a second season. She’ll hug Oprah.”

Drexler closes by saying, “It’s great TV.”  This is where Ms. Drexler and I part ways in our thinking. I am not a fan of reality shows. I doubt that I’ve seen even one, beginning to end. My idea of great TV includes well-written and acted scripts, great character development, talented actors and actresses, great music, good lighting and sound – the works.

The “Sarah Palin Show” is the anathema to great TV.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com 

PS1 – Deepak Chopra wrote an article on Palin recently called “Fooling None of the People, All of the Time.” I think he’s right.

PS2 – Martha Stewart was asked about Palin in this brief interview.

I’m not a huge fan of Martha’s, but I agree with her statements here.

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THE POWER OF A SONG

November 23, 2009

“It’s really popular right now.”

“It is?”

“Yeah. My daughter loves the tune. I think it’s a theme song for some TV show she watches. She says young people really identify with the message.”

“Hmm. This might explain why the group is so popular again, after all these years.”

It became a must-learn song for our band.

But it presented a huge challenge. We had to find someone who could sing it with the energy and power of the original vocalist. That took one year. Most groups would just drop the tune and pick an easier one that could be sung by a current member of the band.

But this is not just any tune and we have no plans to be just any band.

Nearly thirty years ago, the composers had no idea the impact it would have. Even the record company didn’t think it should be released as a single – at least not the first single from the album – because they didn’t think it had enough mass appeal.

Released in 1981, it reached #8 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart, and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was never a #1 one hit.

Today, the song has appeared in a number of film and television series, including The Wedding Singer, Family Guy, Monster, Shrek the Halls, Bedtime Stories, Yes Dear, King of the Hill, The Comebacks, View from the Top, South Park, Cold Case, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, My Name Is Earl, Just Shoot Me, Laguna Beach, American Idol, Australian Idol, X Factor, Scrubs, The Sopranos, and Glee. It gained national press for its use in the final scene of HBO‘s The Sopranos from the series finaleMade in America.” It’s even been used in a Presidential campaign. It is now considered the signature song for the group that recorded it.

One of the song’s writers is easily the best-known rock vocalist of all time. The other writers were the keyboardist, Jonathan Cain and the lead guitarist, Neal Schon. When the singer decided to move on, the band went through lead singers for ten years searching for one that could handle the lead vocals without losing their voice. Today, the band’s music is so popular that there are over 60 “tribute” bands performing it world-wide.

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, featuring the unmistakable voice of Steve Perry, has made its mark as one of the most memorable songs in popular music’s history. It has one of the broadest demographic appeals of any song in my lifetime – and I’m no “spring chicken.”

Here’s a two part interview from July, 2009, with Perry about the tune by Canada’s CBC Radio One host, Jian Gomeshi. Enjoy the slide show while listeneing.

A few days ago, I set up two microphones in the rehearsal room to record us reviewing nine tunes, one of which was “Don’t Stop Believin’.” This is a “live” recording – no individual tracks, no “do-overs.” Although we still have some areas that need improvement, I feel we’ve captured the essence of the song. And yes, for those reading who might be musicians, we perform all of our songs in their original keys.

Steve Perry and Journey raised the bar for rock music in the ‘80s and their music continues to influence rock today. They make those of us “covering” their songs, better vocalists and instrumentalists. When I sent an e-mail of our version to one of my relatives who used to play hard rock in the ’80s, he said, speaking of our lead singer, “Man, that guy has a great voice!” and later in the e-mail he said, “…you totally nailed the keyboards…”

“Totally nailing” keyboard parts is what I do, dude.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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CONTENDER

November 19, 2009

As we approach the mid-term elections in 2010, it seems all of the focus is on the inevitable: the Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate. The erosion of a president’s approval rating is also part of the political cycle. We Americans like diversity in our government. When one party controls both houses of congress and the White House, we get a little nervous.

Although the Republican Party is leaderless, the hardcore Conservative Movement has many leaders (*see the partial list below) and is pushing hard to cleanse the party of moderates. This is a HUGE mistake. Moderates attract independent voters. Without them, you’re left with the extremists in your party. By the time we get to the next Presidential Election, the number of people who call themselves independents will probably grow to about 40% of the voting population – not a good sign for the hard right or the hard left.

There’s been much discussion about who will be the Republican Nominee in 2012. Naturally, people go back to the names they know: Palin, Huckabee, Romney, etc. But there is a Republican you may not have heard about.

He’s fiscally conservative, voting “nay” on virtually every appropriations bill that comes up, including T.A.R.P. Obviously, he is already holding an elected office in congress. He is Pro-Life and pro-guns, including advocating for conceal carry laws. He seems to be moderate on climate and energy issues. He’s also seems to be down-the-middle on education issues, but does think “No Child Left Behind” is a good model for improving our schools. He’s very pro-military, possibly bordering on neo-conservatism.

According to Real Clear Politics, he’s considered a “dark horse” for a presidential bid in 2012, but I disagree. He knows how to raise money. (He’s sitting on $5.5M for his re-election bid next year.) He’s younger than most of the potential candidates, camera-ready, and could easily appeal to conservative independents.

Could he beat Obama in 2012? I doubt it – unless our President completely falls apart in his first term – an extremely unlikely scenario. But he could use the exposure in 2012 to make a very strong bid for the White House in 2016. Typically, second terms for Presidents are not as strong as first terms. Because of this, vice-presidents running for their boss’s position are not usually successful, historically speaking. Considering Biden will be 74 years old on November 20, 2016, there is a very good chance he won’t run for President. This would certainly create a scenario that could give a well-known, seemingly moderate Republican, a 50-50 shot at winning the White House. If Obama’s second term goes well, a Republican’s chance of winning decreases substantially against a formidable Democratic candidate.

The Republican I speak of is John Thune of South Dakota. 

Among the other “dark horses” mentioned in the Real Clear Politics article are Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.

There was one other “dark horse” mentioned: Dick Cheney.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

* Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, among others.

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ANIMAL INSTINCT

November 18, 2009

“I firmly believe she will say or do something that will completely eliminate her from even considering a Presidential bid – ever.” 

My quote back in July, from Not in 2012 – Not Ever, seems to have become reality. Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” has eliminated any hopes she might have for a presidential bid. This golden opportunity to show she could possibly have some depth and gravitas as a viable national candidate has been squandered on petty gossip and fabrications about last year’s election and her version of events within the McCain Campaign. At least 18 statements were debunked within hours of the book’s release.

And sales?

NewsMax.com is offering the book for FREE with a subscription to their magazine. This means they had to have purchased thousands of copies at a ridiculously low price for this promotion.

According to MediaMatters.com, the book, which was released November 16, 2009, can be purchased at Amazon, Walmart and Target, among other retailers for $9 and less. It is also being used as a loss leader to attract customers. By comparison, Barack Obama’s two books, which were written in 1996 and 2006 are still selling for over $25.00 each.

Sarah’s quest for fame appears to be far more important to her than seeking elected office. Personally, I think she knows she can’t hold up under any real media scrutiny, and does not intend to be a candidate for any office. For entertainment’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.

And now, it seems that some may be looking beyond the former governor to the “next” Sarah Palin – Carrie Prejean. Lest you think I jest, here’s what Rep. Jason Caffetz (R-UT) has to say about the now infamous, un-holier-than-thou, Ms. Prejean.

I wonder how his wife of 18 years feels about the sex-video beauty queen?

Is the Conservative Movement embracing beauty instead of brains? Is animal instinct now a part of the vetting process? Why would anyone think that either of these women are remotely capable of winning an election for any national office? If you’re anti-gay, you qualify? If you’re Pro-Life, you qualify?

Does it matter that both are clueless on the foreign and domestic issues affecting our country?

Apparently not.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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“WE’RE GOING TO PASS”

November 18, 2009

IT HAPPENS 99.9% OF THE TIME

THE REAL REASON FOR THE DECISION IS SELDOM REVEALED

ANYONE IN THE BUSINESS KNOWS THEY MUST TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS 

Facebook, Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

There’s always questions:

Was there something I could have done differently?

Did I upset the producer, or the stage manger?

Did I see too much into their praises?

Why did they bother to give me a night?

How could I have better prepared for their network?

Should I go in an entirely different direction, or pitch this concept to another network?

None are answered quickly – some are never answered. You gather the remnants of what used to be your life – which was blown up over the last several weeks preparing for this project – and you re-assemble it.

We parents understand what it feels like when we have a son or daughter that is going through a tough time and there’s very little we can do to help, other than “be there” for them.

Those of us in the performing arts understand this on a very different level. The unacceptance of an effort that took hundreds of hours to create is mind-numbing. So much creativity, and so many skills, arbitrarily dismissed – with no definitive reason given – is mentally and emotionally crushing.

But you’ve been here before, and in all likelyhood, will be here again. You’ve come this far. You now know many more people in the business than you knew eight months ago. You have supporters all over the country. One person’s opinion is no deterent. You move on.

Do as you have always done, son.

Stay the path.

Love,

www.MichaelKontras.com

 

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THIS WAS IT

November 17, 2009

I lead a “safe” life.

Even when I was playing music for a living, I approached it like a small business owner – fiscally conservative, watching expenses, creating my own marketing, pricing my show competitively, not taking gigs for next-to-nothing just to be performing – a financially dangerous precedent you learn quickly not to set. I performed in places that I knew liked my style of music, going to the same venues every one or two months, seldom taking chances with “new” audiences. It was steady, weekly employment that yielded decent results for nearly 40 years – an accomplishment few musicians have experienced.

Adam has taken the chances I never took when I was in the entertainment business. He’s pushed himself way beyond his comfort zone, instinctively knowing it’s what he had to do to succeed at a high level. He moved across the country to follow a dream, undeterred by naysayers. As he continued to hit brick wall after brick wall, facing rejection year after year, he did not alter his path. He stayed with it, always creating, always trying new approaches and ultimately, moving forward with every step – regardless of what it looked like to others.

This is why I don’t exhibit pride for Adam’s successes – I have nothing to do with them. To say that I am happy for him is a HUGE understatement, but I am not the boastful “proud parent.” He knows how I feel, and that’s all that matters to me.

Now comes November 12, 2009.

 

I arrived in LA the day before, around 11:00am. Adam picked me up and we went straight back to the house. His friend from Columbus, Marty, had arrived yesterday. There were technical glitches to work out: a loud audio “hum” and a laptop that had to be incorporated into the show for the pre-recorded segments. By the time 11:00pm rolled around, he was ready for the first run-through of the entire show.

We never finished a complete run-through. Everyone was exhausted. We finally hit the sack about 12:30am – a 22+ hour day for me.

Adam was up and re-editing parts of the show long before I got my “six.” He was soon ready to pack everything and get going – still not having rehearsed the show in its entirety.

We had to make two trips to the Hudson Theatre to get all of the equipment to the venue.

Once there, we set everything up and the audio hum we thought we had reduced was back, in spades.

Along with the wonderful stage crew at the Hudson, we spent well over an hour trying to isolate the problem, concluding it was in the PC being used to project the four videos for the TVs.

Finally, Paul Stein, the Artistic Director for Comedy Central, brought the speakers from the PC in his office and connected them to the video PC, greatly reducing the hum. After throwing a microphone in front of the speakers, the hum was insignificant enough not to affect the show.

 

It was time to write down the cues for sound and lighting – a technical run-through. This was not a complete run-through, i.e. “dress rehearsal,” start-to-finish, as Adam had hoped. Shortly after the lighting and sound cues were established, cameras and cameramen arrived. Because we were running behind schedule, and to Adam’s dismay, the crew was told to take a break for dinner.

He would have to rehearse on his own.

Somehow, it all came together. The background music faded away and the room went dark. The big screen came to life with the intro.

 

A few minutes later, Adam is live, introducing the Egos.

 

Laughs came quickly, even in places where no one expected them. The applause was abundant throughout the show. And then, almost as fast as it started, it was over. It was the fastest 31 minutes I’d ever witnessed.

Adam probably presented the most unique comedy show the attending TV executives had ever seen. (This is my opinion, experience and knowledge speaking – not pride.)

It was so good that he did not have to say anything to convince them it could be a half hour weekly TV show. He simply performed and let his show speak for itself.

And it did!

Jim Sharp, Comedy Central’s Senior Vice President for Original Programming and Development (West Coast) spoke with Adam immediately after the show and said he could “…absolutely see it as a TV show…” on Comedy Central. He then said what every creator/entertainer wants to hear – “Call me next week” – as opposed to “We’ll call you.”

Josh Lieberman, a manager at 3 Arts Entertainment (a production company with a huge list of shows to their credit) joined Jim with kudos for Adam, saying the characters Adam created were very “…real…” and “…well-acted.”

 

It doesn’t get any better than that.

After taking the equipment home, we went out for a bite. Adam was receiving texts of praise from those who were either there or had heard about the outcome.

 

I sent e-mails back home saying I would call in the morning.

The next day, we returned equipment and Marty returned to Columbus. It was time to decompress. We made calls and returned texts and e-mails.

Mentally reviewing the conversation with Jim Sharp and Josh Lieberman from the night before, Adam could not think of any way the next conversation could go other than in a positive direction – whatever that might be. (I’m not one to speculate.)

We watched the nail-biting OSU v Iowa game on Saturday, in 1080p high definition, sitting eight feet away from a ten foot screen. (Now THAT’S the way you watch a football game!)

On the flight home Sunday, I realized how blessed I am to have been included in such a pivitol moment in Adam’s life. He won’t know how pivitol for a short while.

Congratulations, Adam.

In my opinion, this was it!

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

Here’s the show’s intro.

Here’s some miscellaneous videos tied together with Adam and I playing Beatles’ Rockband for the background music.

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MY AFFAIR

November 10, 2009

Stingray Concept Emblem - Transformers II 2009 

I thought I was over this.

I haven’t thought about it for nearly twenty years. This is silly. I should be over it. And yet, I’m not. Oddly, I’m not embarrassed about it.

My affair was in 1989.

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It was over by 1992. I shouldn’t be affected by anything that happens after all these years.

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Right?

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Sigh.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com