Archive for December, 2008

Marianni – go Brazilian!!!

Posted in art, personal on December 30, 2008 by barryshapiro

If you enjoy the sultry sounds of Brazil and like to dance, if you’d love the sexy sound of a Brazilian beauty cooing in that breathy style made famous by the incomparable Astrud Gilberto, then sit back, hold on,  go to www.marianni.com and get a taste of Marianni Ebert. She’s beautiful, she’s talented and she’s… well, she’s about as hot as it gets.

My relationship with this astonishing talent goes back a few years. We met through a mutual friend and I was smitten at first glance. From the first time I saw her I knew she was special. The first time I heard her sing I was floored. We did manage to go out a few times but hanging out with Marianni meant you had to have on running shoes if you wanted to keep up with her. It was a seemingly endless stream of clubs to see her friends play or have her sit in for a spell. And then she’d be off to Brazil for 3 months! We did have some interesting and intimate conversations which made me realize that this was one relationship that would remain plutonic (for example – she is a devout Catholic and I am a devout athiest) but we developed a solid friendship and stayed in touch. Whenever she was in New York after a long stretch in Brazil I’d make an effort to see her perform. To catch her at the Zinc Bar is a mesmerizing experience. She redefines the word chanteuse.

You may know Marianni. She wrote and performed a song in Times Square for the big Millenium bash and she has appeared on TV here in the States as well as in Rio. I always wanted to put her in a commercial but nothing was ever a good fit when she was in New York. Marianni is a great reason to visit Brazil! I’d go see her anywhere.

So it was that Patricia and I, in the early stages of our second-time-around courtship, found ourselves having dinner at an East Side establishment that was featuring Friday night entertainment and, low and behold, out onto the stage walks Marianni. She was, as always, in superb form that night and her small combo was tight. Patricia was into the music and afterward we had the pleasure of Marianni’s company at our table. The girls hit it off and new friendships were created.

I was just looking over her new website and listening to some of her samples and decided that I just had to get the word out. I love Brazilian music. I have a small collection of CDs by the Gilberto’s (Astrud, Joao and Bebel) and other classics. I am looking forward to getting my copy of Marianni’s new CD to add to my collection. I am recommending her to the world.

Advertisements

NYCR

Posted in personal on December 29, 2008 by barryshapiro

Thanks to Bob Goodwin for his kind comments.

So far we have raised $2096 from 19 donors for the “Get a New Engine for the Bus” fund. We are not quite half way there. Anyone interestd in sending a donation no matter how big or small can mail a check payable to New York City Relief at PO Box 64, Times Square, NY 10108. Or you can send the check to me and I will se that it goes with the rest of the fund to this worthy cause.

Thanks again to Richard and Dixie and all the volunters.

Give me something new

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by barryshapiro

According to today’s New York Times, doctors at the pretigous Cleveland Clinic have successfully transplanted an entire face. The team, led by Dr. Maria Siemionow, took a perfectly good face attached to a dead person and reattached it to the head of a person without a good face but who happened to be alive. I think this is very good.

I would like to have a new face too. Don’t know what the surgery costs, but I think it would be worth it. I would like either Brad Pitt’s face or Kate Winslett’s. I considered Hugh Jackman’s but he is just looks too gay for me.

I realize that none of those people are dead…. yet. But either one could go at any moment, especially Pitt. The strain of living with Angelina Jolie and all those kids could just exhaust him to the point of collapse and if it happens I am putting in my dibs right now for his face. You can have the other body parts, all I want is the face.

You may have noticed I said Kate Winslet? I know she’s a woman but she’s British and has some very masculine features if you look very closely. So does Cate Blanchett for that matter. I just saw a large poster at a bus stop in Manhattan and it had a huge photograph of Kate Winslett’s head and at first I could swear she was a very handsome man. When I realized it was Kate Winslett I said to myself, “wow, that could be useful information someday.” Sure enough, as soon as I read the article today I knew that if she should happen to pass away in her sleep or die from an overdose of spotted dick and kidney pie, I want her face (those Brits all have terrible gastrointestinal issues).

Other faces I considered were those belonging to my old high school buddy Jeff Mathesius cause he was very handsome back then and got all the girls and still looks good at age 57. Also Will Smith cause he is such a huge movie star and he has a really cute wife. I considered young faces like Zach Efron or one of the Jonas Brothers but I honestly am not sure what they look like. And I thought about older distinguished faces like Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland but I figured that would just be another old face, albeit more macho. I thought about Donald’s son Keifer but he has those funny looking ears. And of course I thought of George Clooney. Clooney would make a great choice but I just don’t see him dying any time soon.

I am sticking with my selections and though I wish them no harm, if they should happen to croak, I want everyone to remember that I got first dibs.

Remembering the Bus

Posted in directing, personal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by barryshapiro

The response to my first letter about the New York City Relief Bus has been overwhelming and humbling. It’s amazing but I have some great friends and family out there who have responded with a total to date of over $1600. That’s just the first few days. I expect we will have that engine purchased before the month is out.

All this writing about the Bus and the wonderful work of Richard and Dixie Galloway and company made me a bit nostalgic and I remembered how I first came into contact with New York City Relief. At the time, my production company, NohHands Productions, was probably at it’s peak. We were doing 4 or  5 million dollars of business a year which I thought was fantastic for a little nobody like me. My biggest agency client at the time was Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor and the client that was paying the biggest bucks was Quaker’s Life Cereal. We were doing those spots around 2 or 3 times a year and we had the method down to a science, whereby I was making more money than I even should have. The work was fun and the spots were very good and I was feeling very good about myself at the time.

And then I got a call from a guy named Tom who was a writer at the agency but someone I had never met or dealt with before asking me if I would come in to talk to him about a special project. I was eager to do more and I was in his office the next afternoon. Tom was a junior copywriter and his was a small cramped office but he seemed like a nice guy and we got right down to business. He had heard about me from someone else at the agency and decided to ask me to work on a pro bono piece that was the pet project of Pat McGrath himself. I didn’t know McGrath but his name was on the door so I thought this would not hurt my status at the agency at all – of course I’d do it.

The project was to create a promotional film about a Christian organization that owned a bus that goes into the streets of the worst neighborhoods of the city with a skeleton crew of volunteers and tends to the homeless with food, medical attention and counselling. It was right at the word Christian where I stopped the conversation. As I told Tom, I like to think of my self as open minded but I can’t support any group or organization that is espousing some religious agenda, especially a born-again Christian agenda. He said he understood but that it would be a great favor to Pat McGrath if I would just go down to watch them in action and then make up my mind. Reluctantly I agreed and told him I would be in touch. As I was leaving the office I ran into the head of production, Peter Cohen, who inquired as to what I was doing there on that given day and when I told him he paused for a long moment and then said “Take my advice and don’t do it.” I was kind of stunned. I asked him why but he just walked on.

Now at that time I had such a great relationship with most of the people at JMCT that I often would just walk into the production department unannounced and strike up conversation with anyone I ran into. That included Peter Cohen, Judy White and almost all of the other producers and several of the creatives and even some of the account people. I felt pretty cocky and confident in my powers of persuassion but I should have been smart enough to listen carefully to the head of the department that was giving me about 3/4 of a million in billing every year. I did ask Judy her opinion but she didn’t have one so I decided that I would go down to see what the fuss was all about.

The next Wednesday morning the bus was scheduled to be at a particular spot near the Port Authority Bus Terminal at Times Square and I got there early. To my surprise, at the area where I was told the bus would be, there was a large group of homeless types already gathering. They were for the most part dirty, smelly and many of them looked to be either drunk or drugged out or simply disturbed. Men and women, the majority were black or Hispanic. I kept walking around the block until the bus arrived so as not to draw attention to myself.

Right on time the bus pulled up and the volunteers began to prepare it for servicing this motley crew. The side opened into a soup kitchen. The rear opened up into a mini medical station and the front, according to signs now being hung on the side of the bus, was open for counseling to anyone who desired it. They were able to connect people to any sort of help they might need. They had one of  those big clunky cell phones, courtesy of AT&T and after getting to the bottom of a person’s story they would find out of this or that detox center had a bed for them or if another organization might have some work or whatever. It was quite impressive.

Also impressive was how the people on the street, their numbers growing as the smell of coffee and soup began to fill the air, lined up in single file, quietly and effeciently with no fuss or muss. They seemed so happy and appreciative to be getting their soup and bread that they would do anything to cooperate. As some the volunteers began to dish out the food, others began to mingle among those on line and talk about their problems and see if there was anything else that could be done and get them set up to see the counselor inside the bus. Once inside the ‘counselor’, at that time a guy named Pepper Potter, would try to get to the bottom of their demons to find out what they really needed to do. Conversations went something like:
C “What’s going on with you?”
H “I need a job.”
C “What were you doing before?”
H “I had a job but I was fired.”
C Why were you fired?”
H “I dunno”
C “There must have been a reason.”
H “They tought I was doing drugs.”
C “Were you doing drugs?”
H “Yeah, sometimes.”
C “Are you doing drugs now?”
H “Yeah a little.”
C “What kind of drugs are you doing?”
H “Whatever I can get, smack. I was on methadone.”
C “If you want a job you’ll have to get off that stuff. Do you want to go to a detox?”

This conversation would actually go on much longer but would end up with the counselor saying something like:” OK, I can get you into ___ place today at 2 PM. It’s in the Bronx. Can you get there? If not we’ll have someone get you there.”

At one point I walked around the back of the bus where there was a makeshift medical clinic. People were lined up to see the nurse, a short blonde woman with a face that exhibited both grit and kindness. She was attending to the feet of a very large, very dirty, very grubby man whose unkempt hair was tangled up in dreadlocks and was wearing only a filthy grey blanket over his tattered shirt. Carefully she unwrapped the rags that were his shoes and uncovered his swollen and bleeding feet and ankles. I almost passed out from the smell and the sight of his grossness. But the nurse didn’t blink. She handled what must have been his very painful appendages like they were delicate orchids and began to gently sprinkle water over them and clean his wounds. She then dressed them and swaddled them in some clean cloth she had pulled from a shopping a bag she had with her. The large man thanked her twice and hobbled away. At that moment I began my long association with New York City Relief.

We made the film and later a TV commercial that ran for several years.  With that film we raised lots of money. I also helped organize a benefit and every year help raise as much as I can to donate to the cause. The ‘Christian’ thing was never an issue. As I told Tom, it didn’t really matter to me what their point of view was if they had the heart and the  guts to go down into the streets and do the dirty work then they were getting my support.

There is more to the story but that will be for another entry.

We could all use a little charity

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2008 by barryshapiro

December 4 letter to all friends and famly,

We all know that times are tough right now, especially if you are an executive at a major auto maker and your Lear Jet is stalled at a hangar in Washington, DC. But seriously, I know that many of us are having hard times just making ends meet for ourselves. I guess everything is relative which is why even those of us blessed with a good job are struggling to make payments and such. So you can probably imagine how hard it is for those who are really messed up and are scrounging just for a decent meal and a roof over their heads.

Many of you know my connection with New York City Relief for the Homeless. Over the years I have tried to aid the selfless work of it’s founders, Richard and Dixie Galloway, and their army of volunteers as they tirelessly administer to the needs of impoverished sould in New York and New Jersey. In the past we have been able to rase thousnad of dollars because of the generosity of our close group of friends and family who have donated a few bucks during the holiday season. But now NYCR is in dire straits and they need our help – FAST!

The engine blew out on one of the two buses used to bring food and counseling to the streets. The cost of replacement is $4500.00 and they are desperately trying to raise the money so thay can get the bus back on the streets before it gets to be the heart of a very cold winter.Remember that NYCR is not only a non-profit organization but it runs on a shoe stringbusget of less than a tenth of what most of the major bureaucratic agencies run for. There is no fat on that bone – just hard work and sacrifice. this is as basic a grassroots organization as you can find. No one is getting rich doing this work. These people are doing it where it counts – on the street.

The other thing I must say is that Richard and Dixie run their efforts because of their Christian faith. If you kno me personally or by my writing you know that I do not care for any religious attitudes or prostelyzing. But this is different. People have come from all over the world to volunteer to help on the bus and in the H.O.P.E. Center in Elizabeth, NJ which tends to battered and needy mothers and their kids. It doesn’t really matter what your belief system is when you are down there in the trenches fighting poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism and homelessness. these guys are making real miracles every day. I know this for a fact because I have seen the results first hand.

When I read Richard’s letter a few mornings ago I felt extreme sadness that I was not in a position to write a check for $4500 myself. I was really bummed so I took out my frustrations on my bicycle on my morning ride. And that’s when a lightbulb went over over my head and I decided to write this letter. WE CAN DO IT!

Last year we raised almost $2500 for NYCR with just an email to our friends and family. I know that we can make this message viral and get the entire $4500 and more in no time! Let’s get that bus rolling!

Please help us help them. Your contribution is tax deductible. I know that some of us are tight on cash right now and there are a lot of needy causes with their hands out too. And you already may be making sacrifices, but if you can spare $10.00 that will go a long way to dropping that engine into that frame.

Make your checks payable to New York City Relief. The address is PO Box 64, Times Square PO, New York, NY 10108-0064. Write “Barry’s Blog” on the check. I’m not looking for credit but we do want to know if this is an effective way to reach out. My goal is to collect the entire $4500.00 in the next 2 weeks and deliver a card to Richard that says: “Happy Hanukah Richard and Dixie!”

Of course you can donate on line at www.reliefbus.org. Click on nees and then donate and it will take you thru the process. But I don’t think we can track the funds – we’ll see if there is a way.

I realize that by asking in this format that I am imposing myself on you and I respectfully ask for your forgiveness up front. Believe me when I say that I would not be doing this if I did not feel so striongly about what these people are contributing to our society.Please be as generous as you can.

Someone once said that we the going gets tough the tough get going. Well it’s going to get a littel tougher out there before it gets any easier. It’s time for us all to get going and start making a difference in this non-sensical world. We can start in New York City by making a rickety old bus move across town. As an ex-pat New Yorker this means a great deal to me. It will be a great way to kick off the holidays and we can all feel a little better again.

I once asked Richard, who had come from California (Dixie hails from Oklahoma) why they came to do this in New York City? He told me it was becasue that was where the problem was the worst and needed the most help. Right now I think help is needed everywhere but NYC is a great place to start.

Thanks for your consideration. I hope you will pass this along. Peace!

Barry

What I Want

Posted in personal with tags , , on December 3, 2008 by barryshapiro

I haven’t written much in a while. At first I was distracted by a heavy work load, personal and family issues that weighed heavily on me and I was not interested in sharing in a public forum, and finally by the election, which was all consuming around my house. With the election of Obama and some of my personal issues being resolved, one way or another, I feel the urge to return to my keyboard.

But what to write about? When I first started this blog the idea was to write about advertising and marketing and use it as a business link. But writing about those subjects really doesn’t interest me as much as just writing about human nature in general, be it art, politics or just the absurdity of life. My blog got very political and very personal. 

I was questioning the point of doing this at all. Aside from a vanity project what was my point in keeping this blog going?

I was giving this entire issue some thought last week while taking Rt 60 across Florida on my way to Tampa. I was going to direct a TV spot with NFL great Roger Craig. I had not shot a commercial in almost 2 years and this should have excited me greatly but it was feeling like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. What was I doing with my life? Why was I still doing something that I didn’t really love anymore? How would I write about the experience?

I have to backtrack for a moment. As a young man I never saw myself having a career in advertising. Though I went to art school initially as an advertising major I had no interest in the subject and saw it as merely a way to get into Pratt. I also had no concept of what a career as an artist really meant. As soon as I got to Pratt and started to learn a few things about what these career paths meant and about myself and my talent I switched my major to painting. I chose painting because I had never painted before and it seemed hard. I was used to getting away with things in high school (and my first year of college at the University of Miami was a joke) because I was smart and also because I had a gift – I could draw anything. I saw myself as a cartoonist because my cartoons made people laugh and they were easy to do. So now I’m at Pratt and I meet
I then I meet some teachers who are really artists and don’t mind telling you if your work sucks.  And then their was Bonnard, Vuillard, Degas, Corbet and Monet – all blowing my mind. And there are students with serious talent and I am intimidated as all hell and I decide to really challenge myself and see if I have the goods to be a real artist.

And I was. At first I copied others. I copied the masters and I copied my friends. It was a way to learn fast. My teachers recognized my talent and encouraged me. As I became more confident I became brash and arrogant. And lazy. Eventually I reverted to my old tricks and began to coast on my reputation. Also, I was doing a lot of drugs (weren’t we all) and that didn’t help me. The drugs dulled my ambition. And the other thing that caused me to stifle my ambitions was sex. I was determined to sleep with every girl at school and I tried my best to fulfill at least that part of my ambition. But I digress…

I made it through and headed into the art world but found it to be dissapointing. Talent would not carry you through. You needed driving ambition and the ability to market yourself. Talent was secondary. So I became distracted again and wound up going in another path. That story reads like a novel and I don”t want to get too off track now so maybe I’ll get into that at another time. The point is that I was an artist not making art and needing to make money so… I became an illustrator. That was a job I really detested and so I drifted to graphic design and finally into film and TV commercial production. Yes, there I was in advertising – the one career I never thought I would enter in a million years!

But there was money in it… very big money and eventually I got into all aspects of the game. It was never by design or even desire. I just went with the flow and I fell easily into the life.

When I left New York in 2005 I was leaving not only my home town but a way of life. That I drifted into a marketing position was not surprising – just not want I had hoped for. I would have been happier teaching art or working as a bartender to be honest. The work was challenging but more for having to deal with office politics than the work itself.

So now here I am driving to Tampa to meet Roger Craig and like the song in Chorus Line: “I felt nothing!” I had to ask myself what it is that interests me. Well, art does and always has. So does food – I love to cook. So does a lot of stuff. But what gets my blood boiling? And why am I writing?

I am a decent writer and have written copy for dozens of TV and radio spots, brochures, newspaper ads, websites and articles. I’ve even witten screenplays – 4 of them – and a TV series. But the blog is something else. It’s really the only thing in the last 4 years I consider to truly represent me. Therefore I feel the need to bring it into a sharper focus.

I had a thought pop into my little brain while I was behind the wheel and I scribbled down these words in my notebook: “Absurdity” and “Injustice.”

From now on I am going to change the nature of this blog. Instead of writing about others I want to write about myself. I am of a mind to try to limit my scope in the hopes that by doing so I will become: A- a better, more diciplined writer; B- attract a better crowd of readers – actually a more consistent crowd of readers; and C- find my voice. To me this seems like a nearly impossible task but a worthy one – especially that last part. By writing about my life instead about observations of events I feel like I can learn from the past and truly grow and maybe – just maybe – I can find out what it is I really want to do when I grow up.

We’ll see hope it goes.

So now I’m going to cause a stink…

Posted in art with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by barryshapiro

So David can draw and so can Barney Bubbles. I checked out Barney B and I see some interesting photographs. Looks like some clever stuff. Here’s my question… is it art?

It has been my contention for a very long time that photography is not a fine art but rather a craft. I think I just opened up a big can of worms.

I have seen some artists who use photography and I have seen some photographers who do some very ‘artistic’ work. But unless you do something with the photographs, manipulate them in some way to create another image is it art or is it technology? I know it takes a great eye to see a great photograph but lets’ face it, it doesn’t take any eye at all to make one. Ansel Adams was a master. Edward Weston was a brilliant photographer. But were they artists?

Photography is a mechanical process. Today with digital formats and computer enhancement all kinds of imaging are possible. These technologies probably make photography more of an art form than it has ever been. But is there a difference between something created by a mechanical process and something created by the hand and eye? And dooes the advanced technological capability open the way for those less talented to be artists just because they can?

I have always questioned whether or not photography is a fine art or a craft. As a student I had the priviledge of studying photography under Susan Kleckner, one of the most brilliant teachers I have ever known and, at that time, the Director of the Photo Department at MOMA. Susan did not just show us the mechanics of the lens but opened us up to new ways of seeing and thinking and that is what I so admired about her.

Here’s an example of what I am talking about. Fot about a semester we were instructed to shoot no less than 8 rolls of B&W film a week which we were to rol ourselves. Furthermore, we were to hold the camera at arms length and never look through the lens. It made for some weird and at times awful shots but we learned the lens like it was an extension of ourselves and we learned to see the shots in a different way – before we took them. It’s very different then looking through the lens and having a constant aspect ratio inform your shots.

After a year of shooting and learning in this way and another couple of years of shooting all the time, including traveling around the world with my trusty Canon FT, I started to lose interest in the format. I had noticed that even my art (drawings, paintings) were done with this rectangular format and I needed to begin to see differently. Eventually the Canon was stolen form my apartment (10th Street was a dangerous place in those days) and I elected not to replace it. Instead I got a small Nikon F (I think it was an F, maybe an A?) which had no lense interchangability and I think had a 24mm lense with a wide angle attachment. Aftyer a while I gave that up for disposabiles. My first digital might as well have been disposible. I believe those snapshots are as valid as any ‘arty’ photos I took with the Canon.

Is photography art or craft? I believe it is mostly craft. Someone said that if you put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand typewriters they eventually would knock out all the great novels. At least I think that’s how it goes. Anyhow, if you gave those monkeys a thousand Instamatics would they create all the great photographs? You know what I’m driving at here don’t ya?

I await your reponses.