Why I Regretsy

Regretsy has turned into one of the kindest, funniest, and most tight-knit communities every to begin with snark. Run by Helen Killer (aka professional voice actor April Winchell), Regretsy pokes fun at the strange world of Etsy. I know Etsy. I’ve had shops on Etsy on and off since it first opened. I have a shop right now for my family*. I’m no stranger to this bizarre world of DIY businesses.

Regretsy takes it a step further. They screengrab the listing, link back to the shop (to encourage someone to buy the strange/misspelled/inappropriate item), and write really dry and sarcastic commentary on the item. This site drives certain Etsy sellers up a wall, which just adds to more of the fun. If you think your work is above criticism, you’re in the wrong field. No one is perfect. Once you put work out there, you’re going to be judged. It’s far better to be targeted by a site that is just trying to get a laugh than a site that actively tries to deride, harass, and destroy lives.

Here’s how the site works. Either Helen or one of the regulars at the site finds a strange item, like pants made from discarded vintage afghans. They then screen-grab the listing and write commentary about why the item might be a little unusual. The army of 97000+ Facebook fans then sets to work trying to one up each other for the funniest comment connected to the post.

There’s a big heart behind the snark, though. Continue reading

Bizarre but True: Ke$ha’s “Blow” Video

Special thanks to Intern Rusty over at Pajiba for drawing my attention to this video.

I am amazed that I somehow managed to miss seeing this music video back when it premiered in February. One, I actually rather like the song. Two, I normally make it a point to watch a Ke$ha video at least once because they’re usually very strange. Three, the song was inescapable on the radio. So how did I miss such a delightfully bizarre music video until now?

“Blow” starts with the bizarre warning that “No mythological creatures were harmed in the making of this video.” That already lays out a big claim: this video is going to be filled with strange critters. I like that. Eight seconds in and Ke$sha is holding a glass of champagne while telling a dry anecdote to a pair of unicorns, one in a suit, the other in a dress. I don’t know what’s happening here, but I’m in for the ride.

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The Best of All Possible Candides

I’ve made it no small secret that I think Candide is one of the greatest musicals ever written. Just last week, I included Kristin Chenoweth’s “Glitter and Be Gay” performance in a post to try and hook someone else on the score. The book (which one?) and score (which version?) is excellent. The problem comes in trying to sell an over the top piece of period satire as something palatable for a wide modern audience.

Candide is Leonard Bernstein’s adaptation of Voltaire’s master-work of satire. Voltaire was lampooning the various philosophies that were quickly gaining popularity based on variations of optimism. People were really getting behind movements that said things like good things come to good people and everything that happens is good because everything is meant to happen. So, Voltaire created a grotesquely absurd tale of a young man, Candide, whose life is systematically torn apart by forces beyond his control. He is exiled from his kingdom, separated from his betrothed, witnesses the repeated murder of his mentor, and faces horrid luck at every turn. Still, in spite of all of this, he keeps claiming everything that happens is good because his mentor taught him everything that happens is the best thing that can happen.

It’s a strange choice to turn into a musical for numerous reasons. One, it’s bizarre. I’m not exaggerating when I say the novel features Candide’s mentor Pangloss murdered again and again. Because only the best things can happen in the world, even being drawn and quartered is not enough to kill the man. Two, it’s episodic. Each chapter is like a miniature story on its own accord. Three, there are a ton of settings. These people travel all over the world to experience more and more absurd variations of misery. Four, by the time Berstein began working on Candide, most of these philosophies had fallen away or transformed to unrecognizable forms. That means it’s a satire that requires a historical context that is near impossible to present onstage. This requires a massive transformation of the original intent of the story to sell to a wide audience.

There have been five major mountings of this musical in NYC, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading

In Tribute: Amy Winehouse

I’ve played jazz music since I was nine years old. My first private piano teacher thought I might have a knack for it because I picked up on theory and chord changes so quickly. He pushed me to play jazz, blues, ragtime–anything in that nebulous American jazz wheelhouse. I just loved it. It’s almost seventeen years later and I’m still obsessed with jazz. I write jazz. I play jazz. I seek out shows where I can music direct or perform jazz. It’s a lifestyle.

Amy Winehouse is a big part of why jazz, blues, and soul influences have made it back into contemporary hit radio/mainstream media. She ushered in this minor wave of retro artists from England. Without her, it’s unlikely artists like Duffy and Adele would have been given a fair shake in America.

But this isn’t about who she did or didn’t pave the way for. This is about my relationship with her music. Continue reading

The Library: Mahalia Jackson’s “Summertime and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”

When I started doing The Library posts, I set out to suggest tracks that I thought would fit in any music fan’s library. Today’s selection is a little bit different.

Mahalia Jackson is The Queen of Gospel. As far as I’m concerned, she has one of the most beautiful voices ever recorded in the history of music. She performed gospel music her entire life and eventually gained a wide audience as an in-demand live gospel vocalist. She also stuck to her morals, performing only Gospel music and refusing gigs in any venue she deemed inappropriate.

Mahalia’s voice is that rare mix of control, emotion, and beautiful dark round vowels. It’s smooth as molasses and sincere as young child’s letter to Santa Claus. She did not do any excessive vocal histrionics because she did not need to. When the voice is that strong, it’s enough to just sing the song and sing it well. It’s the kind of style that inspires a singer to better themselves.

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Do It Live: America’s Got Talent: Season 6, Episode 17 (3rd Quarterfinals)

Are you excited for the live blogging action as I am? Last week, we witnessed Silhouettes pander their way into America’s hearts, as well as genuinely better acts Daniel Joseph Baker, Steven Retchless, and (much worse) Smage Brothers Riding Show move into the Semifinals. Who will join them this week?

I can tell you this much: if you’re a singer/instrumentalist over the age of 10 who doesn’t get voted through by America, you’re in trouble this season. The producers want someone other than a white guy with a guitar to win this season. Tonight’s quarterfinals are loaded with variety acts that will appeal to all sorts of different audiences. And we’ll be doing it live. As always, chime in whenever you feel like it, but keep it PG.

First up are Summerwind Skippers. They are a competitive jump rope team. We haven’t seen a complete audition from them yet. They’re talented, but is jump roping going to win over America?

There’s a discotheque/dancehall theme to the stage. They’re dressed in street clothes and jumping to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem. It’s a little slow on the tricks so far. There’s dancing as well. It’s a good decision. They’re really trying to make this a Vegas worthy act. It’s just very slow-paced so far and cluttered onstage. It’s a great idea that would have been executed better with a faster track. All their tricks are clean and it’s cute. No X’s.

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