Last week I had a meeting here in Southern California with Chicago-based composer Trevor Watkin, my long-time best friend and infrequent collaborator. I can say with all immodesty that this may be the best show in Chicago this year. Well – maybe, maybe not. But after my meeting with Trevor, I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been about something I wrote. Continue reading ““Autumnopolis” Is Going To Be So Great”
Having majored in theatre in college, I know a thing or two about “useless degrees” and “unmarketable skills,” and I will tell you two things right now that everybody needs to hear:
1. Every single kind of degree is useless.
2. There is no such thing as a non-marketable skill.
The first thing, I know because I’ve met lawyers and doctors and PhDs of all sorts, and some of them – some who make zillions of dollars a year – have absolutely no common sense, let alone any decent skill at running their own business. They have teams of people who help them make money, and without these people, they’d be lost. They’d be working part-time at coffee shops hoping for a big break. Your JD or MD or BS or whatever degree you hold means absolutely nothing. You make your way. Your degree doesn’t make your way for you.
The second thing, I know because I have been working for so many years in various aspects of marketing. Every skill set is valuable, and the more you refine it, the more valuable it becomes.
Here’s the catch: it’s on you to make money from it. If you’re really good at painting, then sell your paintings for money. Don’t give your paintings away for free. If you’re really good at acting, then don’t act for free.
I know it sounds like a catch-22 (“How will they know I’m good at acting if they don’t see me starring in a play?”), but trust me: there’s always a way to make money. So many of us are so unwilling to become our own advocates, so unwilling to sell our services for what they are worth like Capitalist sales-pigs, that we stick our heads in the sand and pretend that if we just work for free long enough, then some generous billionaire will fall in love and sponsor us and we can quit our day jobs and live happily ever after.
YOU ARE A STUPID HEAD IF YOU THINK THAT IS TRUE.
I’m sorry to get all harsh-truth on you, but that’s the way it is.
I actually hate those bumper stickers that say, “Pay artists!” I resent them. Artists, make them pay you. Agree in advance to get paid, and then demand payment when it is due. It’s not greed, it’s self-worth. It’s not rampant corporatization of your passions, it’s ensuring that you don’t have to waste your time at a temp job when you could be using your time to make more art.
Get some business sense. It’ll make you a better artist, I swear. Take a business class if you have to. Contact me if you want. Just find a way to make money, because I guarantee this much: if you have a degree in something, then you have a marketable skill set. Use it right.
Hey nerds. Let’s talk about the new Superman movie.
I’m not a comic book guy, so I don’t have the Superman comics in my head. I have seen the originals, though not for many years, and I saw the Kevin-Spacey-As-Lex-Luthor Superman flick a few years ago. I have enjoyed all these movies, and I enjoyed the latest Nolan/Snyder/Nash/Young superfilm. Let’s not get into whether or not the excessive battling in “Man of Steel” needed editing. I’ll concede that maybe it did, but honestly, it didn’t bother me because there was consistent building, slow and meaningful, like a baseball game where an even amount of runs get scored every inning. But I get that some people don’t like baseball because they think it’s boring. We don’t really need to discuss that part of it.
But I want to hear your thoughts on what I feel are two missed opportunities with the latest, which I think are problems from the very script itself. The first wasted opportunity was the origin story, and the second opportunity was General Zod. From all that I remember (again, only from previous films) General Zod was this incredibly interesting dude, even if he and his cohorts were one-dimensional caricatures of alien villains. And their choice to make Zod a very three-dimensional character, with actual motivations and even some moments where we almost sympathize with him, was absolutely fucking brilliant, as was their choice to cast a fucking brilliant actor like Michael Shannon for the role. But this is a story that — while it has its place in the origin story, is not necessarily integral to the true origin story of Superman. And I don’t mean the origin story of him flying to Earth, I mean the origin story of him learning to reveal himself as “super” to the human race, and declaring his intentions to protect and serve. I think by squishing both the origin story and the Zod story into one movie, they did a disservice to both.
For one thing, we are forced to take for granted that OF COURSE Superman will protect and serve humanity. But let’s face it, the chronology we are shown in “Man of Steel” basically tells us that everybody was a dick to Clark except his parents for pretty much his whole life, and we have no real sympathy for the human race. Superman’s motivation NOT to pack up and head to the stars is blurry at best. If we didn’t have 75 years of Superman saving the world ingrained into our very society, this movie would make no sense.
Another thing: for as long a movie as this was, I wanted more General Zod. They did SO WELL with that character that I think he warranted his own movie. They could have called it “Man of Steel II” and it would have been like “Superman II” and everybody would have been totally cool with it. Zod’s transformation from SUDDENLY obtaining super powers on Earth – and being about as comfortable with it as an eighth-grader with a boner in math class – to a super-kick-ass mega-ninja was so interesting, I felt like this could have made for a rockin’ hour-and-a-half movie all on its own. They wasted it by tacking it on as the catalyst for the origin story.
Let’s compare Christopher Nolan’s other origin story, Batman. In “Batman Begins” Bruce Wayne learns all his fancy ninja bat-skills from a guy who threatens to destroy Gotham City, and that is where the super hero within shows up, and he decides to protect Gotham and we totally get why. Then, to seal the deal for Batman as the city’s protector, that same guy who wants to destroy the city shows up again WITH A PLAN TO DESTROY THE CITY. It fits, it makes sense, it seems the most necessary plot line to watch Bruce Wayne come into his own as Batman.
But Superman’s origin story isn’t dependent on General Zod. At least, I didn’t think so. I felt he would have been better served with a story where just Lex Luthor was involved, because this is a case where he is saving humanity from humanity, and that goes much deeper into defining “hero” vs. “savior” vs. “space cop.” You have to really dig for the truth of why Superman does what he does for the good people of Earth. That’s my opinion, anyway. I’d love to hear the arguments in favor of his first test being General Zod, or really, any other alien foe.
So that’s that. I have some other, slightly unrelated thoughts on the Superman myth which I will now stick on to the end of this little blog post:
Quentin Tarantino has this awesome quote about how Superman is always Superman — he wakes up Superman, he literally IS Superman all the time, and when he dresses as Clark Kent, he acts dopey and insecure, and Tarantino basically describes how Clark Kent is how Superman views the humans. “Clark Kent” is Superman’s critique of the human race. Good point, Q, but that’s in reference to old TV shows, old movies, and possibly even old comic books (I wouldn’t know, would I, not being a comic book reader?).
“Superman Returns” gave us the opposite — Clark Kent is his comfort zone, and Superman is the mask he wears as a front to cope with the responsibility of saving countless lives. This actually makes sense, since he was RAISED as Clark Kent and just happens to have these super powers, which he didn’t initially want and didn’t initially know what to do with. The latest Superman film took the latter path, and I’m glad they did, since not only does it make more sense, it also makes Superman much more sympathetic to a human audience. It gives him struggles that we can understand, that aren’t simply overcome with speed and strength and laser vision. It solidly grounds him as part human, part Kryptonian.
Also: Amy Adams is the hottest Lois Lane by a mile. That’s not really something that needs discussing, I only mention it in case Amy Adams is reading this and is maybe feeling like her performance was too intellectual (no such thing) and perhaps didn’t feel so great about that super-kiss in the end. It was all good, Amy Adams. It was all good.
One of my favorite professors ever has recently launched her own blog, or rather, relaunched it with a drastic makeover and a new URL.
BEHOLD, THE YEAR’S FIRST TRULY GREAT NEW SITE.
Check it out if you like art & literature. Especially noteworthy is her Brief History of Puppets.
This is real.
It is also magical.
This is an article from people who know about analytics and social media. Apparently, despite the supposed popularity of Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla,etc., people just don’t check in that much from smart phones. Not unless they get a prize for it. 9.3 Million Foursquare users and these guys still they say geolocation services are at a point where they could go away and be remembered as passing fad in the tech history books, or else just tread water until some mind-blowingly superior and lucrative technology makes use of the check-in.
As for me, I full under the category of Don’t-Need-To-Advertise-My-Whereabouts-Because-If-You-Even-Cared-You’d-Be-Here-Too.
However, that’s not stopping me from trying to get Dream Theatre Company set up on Foursquare. It’s free for businesses. Why the hell not?
I have yet to really dive into Google Analytics for BilGaines.com here, but I do pour over the Blogger stats provided in the Blogger backend. What I’m finding is that very, very, very, very few search engine results yield any conversion to the Dream Theatre Company Blog. At one point earlier in the week, the only search result that actually brought someone (note: some ONE, as in singular, as in less than two) to the blog was “wwoof hawaii” – I have no idea how this pointed to our blog, but it did.
However, as of right now, it looks like there are plenty of SERPs pulling readers to the blog, and the searches have actual relevance to the blog posts. Total of 20 for the last month or so. It might not be much, but I can’t help feeling a swell of pride. It’s like when you plant a seed, and after a few days you see a little green thing coming up out of the soil.
Of course, that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes the green thing coming up from the soil is actually the hand of a zombie, reaching up from the grave to conquer us and eat our brains. I’ll have to keep a close watch on this.
I should probably also get a shotgun.
I also happen to curate the Dream Theatre Company Blog, in case you were interested. Dream Theatre is where I have carried out nearly all my artistic endeavors of the last couple of years. It’s a magical, magical place. The show that opens on January 27, “Downward Facing,” is worth seeing. If you are in Chicago in the next month on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, do yourself a favor and see this show. Then stalk the playwright, Mishelle Apalategui, for the rest of your life. She’s worth it.
Additionally – this is something I didn’t mention in this article on the Blogger page but I’ll tell you here – I cleverly linked to the <a href=”http://wikitravel.org/en/Chicago/Pilsen#Do”>Wikitravel</a> guide to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I also took the time to add Dream Theatre to the list of things to do in Pilsen. Why not? I am sort of unofficially in charge of optimizing Dream Theatre’s online presence. I honestly have no idea how useful Wikitravel is or how much traffic they see (I personally have only heard of it once before), but hey, anywhere we can put our name online for free is positive exposure and, if nothing else, another link from one website to <a href=”http://www.dreamtheatrecompany.com”>Dream Theatre Company</a> helps me out on the SEO front.
If I can’t act in the shows, I can at least still bring in audience one way or another. Thanks, internet!