Saturday, February 28, 2009

T-Mobile dance commercial


I love the T-Mobile dance "happening" or "flash mob" video; though it be a UK commercial, it still brings tears to my eyes. I've watched the Saatchi & Saatchi guerilla dance advert a dozen times. It's the number one viral video on the internet.

(Who remembers the "mooning" and "streaking" crazes of the 1970s? I was once mooned while driving across Golden Gate Bridge, and some of us streaked across San Francisco State campus without getting busted.)

I love the way Lulu's voice opens with a throaty "Welllllllllll" through the crackling PA system during rush hour and "Shout" positively galvanizes the commuters in London's Liverpool Street metro station. 

People are riveted as a lone commuter starts dancing to the beat, and a flash mob dancing craze spreads into the crowd in geometric exponentials—1-2-4...64— until it seems as if the entire station of the metro is walloping the Watuusi, twisting to Do You Love Me? and waltzing to Blue Danube.

Check out the Street Dance Academy backstory on the making of the T-Mobile video too. The dancing is as tight as the army induction scene in the film, "Across the Universe." Kudus to choreographers Byrony Albert and Ashley Wallen.

The train station dance certainly a fascinating social experiment. And it's not just happening at the Liverpool Street Station (made famous in The Bourne Supremacy). 

It looks like people are spontaneously breaking out into public dancing based on the Life's For Sharing" commercial. T-Mobile viral dancing has been YouTubed in many UK metros: Derby, BirminghamBristolLeeds, Glasgow, and Edinburgh to name a few. Talk about free advertising! 

Rumor has it that the T-Mobile dance is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It's "The Wave" in Macarena time. There's even a dedicated  T-Mobile YouTube channel for users to upload videos.

Many people recorded and posted the flash dance on YouTube, not knowing it was a commercial. it's an apt video update on "Reach out and touch someone" as the old AT&T commercial intoned. Ma Belle has come a long way, baby! And her real name is T-Mobile.

Last month's T-Mobile advert is so popular that there are plans to release it as a soundtrack album download for the three-minute egg, er, advert. The songs included are:

Lulu "Shout"
Yazz "The Only Way Is Up"
Pussycat Dolls "Don't Cha"
Vienna Philharmonic "Blue Danube"
Kool and the Gang "Get Down On It"
Rainbow "Since You've Been Gone"
Millie "My Boy Lollipop"
The Contours "Do You Love Me?"


On a sadder note, in 2007, when world-class virtuoso, Joshua Bell played Bach incognito in a Washington DC metro, and no one stopped to listen. No matter that his priceless 1713 Stradivarius violin set Bell back $3.5 million in pocket change, and is one of the best violins on earth.

During Bell's free 45-minute recital, only 6 people slowed down a few seconds to listen, but the only one who really stopped to stare was a 3-year-old boy. His mother yanked his arm and dragged him off. Bell had that effect on several kids.

Three nights before the social experiment (sponsored by The Washington Post), Bostonians paid an average of $100 a seat at the Boston Symphony to hear the one-time child prodigy and world class violinist, Joshua Bell, play the violin. 

Bell's net take for his free morning metro busking concert was $32.17 —$20 was from the one person who recognized him. Most commuters gave Bell quarters or pennies. Yes, pennies and not from heaven, or gilt, but, from guilt.

Of over a thousand passers-by, only 27 people stopped long enough to toss some coins in Bell's violin case. This is a musician whose musical talent is worthy to the tune of $1000 a minute! Two weeks later, the selfsame Bell played to standing room only crowd in North Bethesda. Go figure.

Adds a whole new dimension to truth in advertising/ packaging. An experiment in context. Do we recognize art when we see/hear it? Can ordinary people (in this case, bureaucrats) recognize genius out of context? 

As Washington Post's Gene Weingarten aptly queried, in his article, Pearls Before Breakfast, "What is the moral mathematics of the moment?" Do we even have time for beauty? If truth be beauty and beauty truth, it wasn't alive and well at the metro. O where is Keats when you need him?

At least the Washington Post garnered a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the social experiment article published April 7, 2007. Or was it really a strange poshumous April Fool's joke on us all?

You can listen to Grammy award-winning virtuoso Joshua Bell's complete Bach metro concert here. (Bell played the soundtrack in The Red Violin.) Acoustic aren't too bad considering it's a mall-metro. I'd suggest that Bell not consider taking up busking for a living...or add some top-ten pop tunes to his vast classic repetoire.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Remembering the Adrians (Adrian Mitchell, Adrian Henri)


To Whom it May Concen:

It's come to this, getting the news, not from poetry, as the good Doctor-Poet wrote, but from blogs. Link led to a link (Poetry Scotland)  led to the death notice of Britain's shadow Poet Laureate,  Adrian Mitchell.  

This morning I dreamt that Sebastopol assemblage artist Raymond Barnhart was alive (he died in 1996) and he repeatedly kissed me on the lips. I shied away from the old man's kisses and  I wondered who had died, because it was a kiss as if from beyond the grave...and I awoke, troubled. Not that it had anything to do with anything. His thin moustache prickled. I awoke with the feeling I was supposed to find something. I remember something, I didn't know what. Call it an assemblage of information. Why Raymond Barnhart, and why, after all these years? Assemblage indeed. 

OK, so I'm feeling a bit mortal these days. Last Saturday I was racked with fevers of 102.2, a fallout of working with kids is that I get some pretty nasty viruses. I was definitely feeling sick. Some Valentine's Day. Maybe my brain's still a bit cooked. My bleedin' cough is killing me...breath is an issue. What is breath. To breathe, Latin: inspire, to breathe into as in inspiration. As in Godhead. He was trying to breathe inspiration into me? Raymond for God. I like that. Or God as an assemblage artist? I can see it now.

I'm still a bit gelly-kneed but my cough's improving. Catching up on my reading Sunny Dunny, a Scottish poetry blog I sometimes follow, I stumbled an oblique link that lead to another link (I had no idea what I was following, searching for, or why), and suddenly there it was. I was reading about the death of Adrian Mitchell on Dec. 20. And to be sure, both  the Adrians were on my mind the past few months. it seems there's been a spate of deaths of friends and acquaintances. Getting the news indeed.

But then, I've been dredging up the past, posting old articles on the blog, letting them see the metaphorical light of day after languishing a decade or more of cyber-darkness. My friend Micaela read bits of my blog (she's probably the only soul actually reading this blog), she says I should write a book. But on what subject? Memoir without shape or form? I write (infrequent as it seems) because I have to, not because I want to. Things come up, insist on a voice and direction generally not of my choosing.

Ah, the Adrians. Yes. I remember the Adrians.  The only other Adrian I knew was a girl, Adrian Daly, Adair's twin. Adrian preferred cowgirl outfits replete with holster, gun and red cowboy boots. She was a bit of a bully in second grade and last I heard she became a cop. Adair was the poet. One Adrian in a lifetime was enough. Not a name I'd associate with poetry. But then I met the Adrians.

I first met the two Adrians (Adrian Mitchell and Adrian Henri) together one summer (ca. 1996) at Poetry International and we spent an afternoon terrorizing the citizens of Holland with spontaneous outbursts of poetry and song. After a reading, and an installation of the Poet's Wall, we went to the Pilgrim’s Pub in Delftshaven, raised a few pints, and afterwards, about a dozen of us boarded trams and sang and recited poetry, we were wayward poets with no other destination that life itself. Oh and maybe that evening's reading in Rotterdam.

A group of us led by the two pied pipers, Adrians (Henri, and Mitchell). Liverpudlian poet-painter Adrian Henri was perhaps best known for inventing the British “pop poetry” scene with the Beatles. With us was Pink Floyd “The Wall” guitarist Andy Roberts, (I don't know how he got there) but we all hopped a tram singing “Poetry, poetry, poetry. . .” to a bemused, if captive, Surinamese audience. We skipped our fare but nobody cared because we were the poets come to town.

Mitchell was the quieter Adrian, but nonetheless lively. I remember him telling me he was Scottish, or his father was. We sang Beatles songs and people ogled the crazy gaggle of mostly British poets let loose on the streets. I believe Roger McGough was there too. I was the lone "it" girl or, more like a fly on the wall for lack of a better word for it. Imagine singing "Yellow Submarine' with that lot. The tram was our  very own Yellow Submarine for the afternoon.

Besides poetry itself, we had poet teaching in the schools in common. Crazy poets, we all went into the grammar schools and turned young kids onto poetry. I was the lone American from California, Sonoma County Area Coordinator for California Poets in the Schools. I gave the Adrians some collections of my students' work. I had had a series of California Arts Council grants so I had some nice collections of poetry and art books. 

I was just so thrilled to find teaching compatriots in the UK as teaching kids poetry was an odd, if lonely profession and few poets attempt to make a living at it. Most elect for the more prestigious college circuit and by that time it's too late for poetry. The brain's well on its way to ossification with the weight of all those dead male poets cluttering the neuron pathways. Ah yes, the league of extraordinary scholar poets. 

I like the story, that as a safeguard, Mitchell wrote a preface to his poetry collections: "None of the work in this book is to be used in connection with any examination whatsoever." His riveting protest poem "Tell me Lies," originally written against the Vietman War, was revived  and dusted off for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was a ceaseless campaigner against the war, any war, or social injustice. 

We wrote and sent poetry lesson ideas for a while. Adrian Mitchell was a better correspondent than I, or the other Adrian for that matter. but then, time itself dropped away. A horrible car accident and punctured lung derailed my poetry life. Took the breath right out of me. I later wrote a few times to Martin Mooij and he said that Adrian Mitchell was still alive but sadly, Adrian Henri had died. Now the last of the Adrians is gone from us. Long live the Adrians! Thanks for an afternoon I will never forget.

Guess I'll have to make a trek up to my cabin on Forestville and haul out the old notebooks and photos to see what's there nesting in the cobwebbed memory banks of time. So this little bloggy bit is but a placeholder, a Kilroy was here tag, a reminder for writing to come. (Or not).

As for this note, perhaps like Rayond Barnhart, I too want to please the work. I want the work to please itself. Writing, like assemblage: you have to be ready to reassemble the parts. Only I'm not ready, yet. It's always a mystery. And I never have all the parts I need at the same place and time. Like Mitchell, I was run over by the truth one day, and poetry never looked back.

I an left with the odd thought of imagining God as an assemblage artist dressed like Louise Nevelson. After all, God is a woman, right? What I remember about Louise was her huge fake eyelashes  encrusting her eyes like debris at the mouth of a flooded river and her big floppy hats covering her  like a cape. She was one crazy old Ukranian bat who built entire walls out of packing crates and painted everything black.  She was putting up an installation at SFMOMA way back when—when I was an art student. But I liked this quote:

”When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life—a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created."   —Louise Nevelson