Billy Collins is a Moth on a Bell

June 10, 2006 | Filed Under big ideas, poetry, reading | Leave a Comment 

When the crew is shooting nights, I’m the skeleton who holds it down in the production office while everyone else is either on set or at home in bed. So a while back, we were at the end of a week of night shoots, I think it was a Friday night, and I was at the end of my day, which was really the beginning of Saturday morning. I tell you this to set the scene: I was driving home listening to the radio, which I very rarely do at 6 am on a Saturday, and I heard a show on Album 88 that I didn’t know existed. (it’s not on their current schedule, so maybe it doesn’t.) It was a poetry show, and when I called in to ask who we were listening to, I was told that it was the first show they had ever done, and they were glad someone was out there to hear it. I hope it wasn’t the last one, ’cause it was really good, and it introduced me to a poet whom I’d never heard of, and who I’d like you to meet.Dude’s name is Billy Collins, and he was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003. In 2004, he was named the Poet Laureate of New York State, and he jokes about being the Poet Laureate of his zip code next. This guy is really something. I don’t say this about everyone, but homeboy’s a lyricist. He reminds me of a combination of Hemingway, Tom Robbins, and Shel Silverstein, in the sense that his poems are pretty declarative and straightforward, even though they often deal with some pretty cosmic concepts, but it’s all tempered with a dry, playful wit, and somehow retains a sense of wonder and optimism. Those are my impressions, at least, based on what little I heard and subsequently read. I’m defintely not gonna claim to be an expert on the guy’s work, but I’m looking into reading the rest of it.I did find one website that has a lot of his stuff online, but it’s really poorly designed and has ugly pop-ups, so check it at your own risk. A much nicer place to start would be here, where you can actually listen to Billy reading his work. I’m pretty sure this CD is what they were playing on the radio the other night. I would suggest listening to everything they have, but I especially liked “Japan,” “Marginalia,” and “Nostalgia.”You know, poetry has a bad rep, mainly because there are a lot of bad poets out there, and a lot of them love to read their stuff out loud. I know I’ve often said, and have oftened been agreed with, that I really like poetry, but hate poetry readings and dislike poets in general. But once in a while, I’ll come across some really good stuff, and I have to admit that it’s pretty enjoyable to hear it read by the poet.Of course, I’m sure a huge reason why this stuff doesn’t bother me is that Collins obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously. He gets heavy sometimes, but then he’ll catch you off-guard with something really funny… or, better yet, occasionally he’ll pull off the extremely difficult maneuver of making you think he’s being light and jokey for the whole thing until you get to the last line or stanza and he just knocks you out with something really startlingly profound. That’s a move that is in danger of seeming pretentious, and is usually unsuccessful when attempted by the less skilled, but Billy makes it seem like the natural progression of his thoughts rather than some clever trick, and it works.

McDonald’s Ripped Me Off and Gave Me a Stomach-Ache

June 6, 2006 | Filed Under art, music, projects, video / film | Leave a Comment 

Has anyone seen this new(ish) McDonald’s commercial that uses stop-motion animation with live actors? It starts out with a guy asleep in bed, who slides out from under the covers, onto his floor, and down the hallway, all while retaining his sleeping position. He continues out of his apartment, along a sidewalk, and into a McDonald’s, all the while “sliding” along the ground, asleep. When he exits the restaurant, he has his coffee now, and he’s awake and upright. It’s a really cool commercial, well-executed and shot, and it’s interesting the way it combines live action with animation. (I tried to find it online, but I couldn’t. this looks cool, tho) Hopefully, some of you have seen it.The funny thing is: I thought of that idea first. Ok, I know I can’t say with certainty that no one ever came up with that before, because I’m sure someone has, and maybe someone even did it before me, (not that I know of, though.) The fact is, I shot a short film in 2002 while I lived in Savannah that is basically the same exact concept without the McDonald’s or the coffee. Mine is more of a visual art piece that I put to music, but it totally involves a sleeping person sliding around her apartment without waking up, utilizing stop-motion animation. I seriously doubt a former classmate saw my film and then sold-out to McDonald’s, but it is really funny (but not haha funny) that someone out there had the same exact idea. It also kinda sucks that my concept doesn’t seem so original anymore. I wanted to put it in the local Underground Film Fest this year, since I know some of the organizers, but now I’m having second thoughts because it looks like I ripped off a McDonald’s commercial.… here’s my movie:

If anyone can find McD’s (much newer) version of my movie, send me the link and I’ll put it here.By the way, I am truly sorry and I humbly repent that this blog has kinda “gone fishin’” lately, but as y’all probably know, I’ve been working long, weird hours on We Are Marshall. I have, however, been loyally updating the Sketchbook blog every day, (even though no one seems to be paying any attention… ) (but that’s ok, ’cause it hasn’t gotten good yet.) (but come on, folks, you should still check it out once in a while if you’re bored.)I have also, just so you know, been collecting things to blog here. I have a bunch of stuff. I’m just saving it up for when I have time to put it on the table. proverbially, that is. no tables online. unless you’re talking about html tables. but I wasn’t talking about that kind of shit, and i hope you weren’t either.