River view

Here’s my view this weekend.

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I’m at the MIT reunion — the 25th year reunion for the Class of 1988 — and I’m staying in a graduate student dorm. Yesterday poured rain for most of my drive here, and this morning started gray and damp.

But this afternoon is the kind of afternoon that makes one want never to leave.

“Are you guys the only white rappers?”

I’ve been digging Blank on Blank, an animated videos series from PBS where they take interviews of artists and interesting people from a range of sources — you can send one in — and animate them in a rough and charming style.

Here’s an early interview with the Beastie Boys from 1985, when they were on tour opening for Madonna (a double-bill that I would have boggled at at the time but now would give all my teeth to have seen).

Other interviews I’ve found so far include David Foster Wallace and James Brown. I’m watching Jim Morrison next. Do check it out

Ambition vs. learning


David Foster Wallace on Ambition (animated interview from PBS Digital Studios)

There are lots of things that interest me about doing improv, but one of the top is that there’s no time when you’re performing improv that you can perfect anything. The scene you are making exists, and then it’s gone — it exists perhaps vaguely in your memory, and maybe a bit more clearly in the memory of the audience, but there’s nothing else to show it ever even happened. And what this means is that you can’t worry about polishing or revising or rethinking. Whatever you were able to do was as good as it could be. Continue reading

If I had a tale that I could tell you, I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile

Last Saturday night, I sang the opening lines of John Denver’s 1974 hit “Sunshine on My Shoulders” to an imaginary patch of petunias. I sang it solo and a capella, in front of a packed audience.

I am not a great singer, but it was a great moment. It was the end of a scene I was improvising with my buddy Chelsea for our Improv Level 1 Class Show. I needed to sing something, and that was the first song that came to mind. I think is was kind of the perfect song for the moment.

If you are sad you missed last Saturday’s show, do not despair. I’ll be performing again this Thursday, along with several of the quick-witted and fun people from my class plus a few more experienced improv-ers. And it’s not just a regular improv performance: It’s a competition, a battle for the hearts and minds (and votes) of the audience. It is THE CAGE MATCH. Continue reading

Art | Commerce | Risk | Trust

Amanda Palmer gives a TED talk: The art of asking.

Don’t make people pay for music, says Amanda Palmer: Let them. In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride!), she examines the new relationship between artist and fan.

Alt-rock icon Amanda Fucking Palmer believes digital content should be free, and that artists can and should be directly supported by fans via a “patronage” model.

Theater preview: 1776 – The Musical at Pittsburgh Public Theater

David De Angelo — my good friend and fellow Pittsburgh blogger — got a peak behind the scenes at the preparation underway for the Public’s upcoming production of 1776 – The Musical. And, because he’s a grand fellow, he posted all about it on his blog. He shares some insights from cast members about the politics of the play, as well as the Public’s creative set design. Check out his post. Continue reading

The personal blog of Cynthia Closkey