Chords of Pop: G-C-Am-D

May 29, 2009

Ever notice how many pop songs use the exact same chord progression?
Axis of Awesome noticed.

One online commenter notes that this progression naturally tells a story:

“Start out with your main character (tonic).
Heap on some adversity (subdominant).
See how character responds to this adversity/climax (dominant).
Then wrap up the story (tonic again).”

Via Metafilter.


Zach Galifianakis profiled by NYT

May 29, 2009

Comic Zach Galifianakis, as profiled by the NYT.

“This advertising firm from Sweden called me out of the blue and asked me to do an ad,” Galifianakis said. “The one request they had was to not make it look too ’80s, since Absolut is perceived as kind of an ’80s brand.” He paused there for a moment, clearly savoring the memory. “That’s what gave us the idea to make the skits a kind of homage to ‘The Golden Girls.’ ”

Also, clips of Zach as his own twin brother, Seth, are pretty awesome.

Thanks to Charles for the tip.

Cats talking, and how to film & voice rodent actors

May 29, 2009

Watch a little of this clip first (if you are not a crazy cat lady, you don’t need to watch the whole thing)

Then watch this clip:

Usually in animation, the voices are recorded early on and the animators match the picture to the voice performance. But when speaking for animals, the actors have to match the voice performance to the animal behaviour, since the animals’ timing is so difficult to control.

I do a couple voices on a really cute kids series where all the characters are rodents: the lead is a hamster, and there are mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs (I know rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t technically rodents but let’s just relax with the taxonomy for a sec) and a chinchilla (what did i say about your taxonomic rigidity).

Anyway, the scripts are written ahead of time, the sets are built to animal scale (using a lot of dollhouse props), and then they pop the animals into the set and film them running around interacting with things. Lots of seeds, bits of broccoli, and peanut butter are strategically placed to get the animals to hit their marks and interact with props.

Convincing a dwarf hamster to flop over on its back and point its tiny right foot?  NOT EASY

Convincing a dwarf hamster to flop over on its back and point its tiny right foot? NOT EASY

The director shoots the animals like they were human actors, taking wide shots and closeups of them, and because you can’t really tell a chinchilla what to do, the crew ends up rolling until the animals finally approximate the behaviour that he needs, more or less by chance.

With human actors, this director usually shoots about 3-to-1 or maybe 5-to-1, which means 3 or 5 takes in order to get the 1 take you need. With furball actors, he shoots 20-1: it might take 20 takes before he gets the hamster to walk down the stairs and pause to eat the broccoli.

The hamsters are paid extra for stunts, as per the ACTRA upgrade system.

The hamsters are paid extra for stunts, as per the ACTRA upgrade system.

One thing I love about this particular director is that he goes out of his way to choose takes where the animals’ behaviour is extra-cute: for instance, perhaps all that he needs at a given moment is a closeup of the rabbit that lasts 3 seconds.

But if on one take, the rabbit were to sneeze, you can pretty much guarantee that’s the take he’d use in the episode, which means the voice actor now has to sneeze midway through his line to match the rabbit’s behaviour. It adds richness and humour to the series.

They tried to use this glossy baby gerbil in an episode but it was so cute that I ate it.  Oops.

They tried to use this glossy baby gerbil in an episode but it was so cute that I ate it. Oops.

Later, in the voice record sessions, the director plays us the footage, along with a “scratch track” of himself reading the lines at approximately the right pace, with many of the little extra details included.

He gives the actors tons of freedom and lets us create lines that reference what the animals are actually doing. I’ve gotten to improvise lines where Burfy, my shy salesmouse character, is talking, and out of nowhere she shakes herself (“Brrr! Is it cold in here or is it just me?” or where she’s speaking and the hamster randomly starts licking her face (“Sir, please! Too close! Too close!”).

You can see some examples in this clip- in the beginning a rabbit cleans his face while he’s talking, and later the hamster has one of my favourite lines from the whole series: “What the–? How the–? Blublle blubble bluuble blubble-the–?”

This series was double Gemini-nominated last year, which I thought was well deserved.

Anyway, all this to say that’s why I love the talking cats video so much. Having to match performance to an animal’s behaviour can lead to some really awesome little moments, and the cat video has lots of these. When he muffles his mouth for the cats as they hunch down and whisper while licking each other? Man. Canadian YouTube user Klaatu42, the dude who did those cat voices, totally rocked it. I wonder if he does animation?

Or maybe he just wanders around with small animals sitting on his shoulders and interprets their innermost thoughts for them, like he’s totally insane, yet oddly saintly.

Marmite Jesus

May 29, 2009

Of COURSE Jesus occasionally appears in the lid of a Marmite jar in Wales.

I think that's him.  But judging by the taste, it could also be the residue from inside a really old saxophone.

I think that's him. But judging by the taste, it could also be the residue from inside a really old saxophone.

Marmite is this blackish, viscous, very salty and umami-ish spread that’s the byproduct of beermaking. I think. Or, you know when your pet starts scooting its ass across the carpet? That’s an impaction in its Marmite glands. Or, as my friend Jonathan used to say, “It’s the stuff they scrape out of the bilges of ships after a long voyage”.

Whatever it is, it’s really good on an English muffin. By good I mean, kind of disgusting but in a delicious way. I just can’t describe it much better than that.

Thanks to Jess for the tip. Sorry I insulted Marmite, Jessie (she’s English).

Overheard in Toronto: “My Acting”

May 29, 2009

Overheard the following conversation tonight, on the subway. I was on my way home, from, ironically, an acting class.

FACT: The more times you use the word “acting” when you’re talking about your acting, the less likely it is that you’re a good actor. That’s just how it is.

“MY ACTING” a short play
transcribed from reality by Nicole Stamp

Two middle-aged people who are obviously not professional actors.
HIM: A very tall man in a jean jacket. Sort of oafish, scruffy, and loud.
HER: A fading Blanche Dubois-type blonde in overly dramatic clothing. Her hair is oddly askew.

HER: When I’m acting I sometimes feel self-conscious but it gets in the way of my acting so I try to just let it go.

HIM: Yeah, I really think that’s not a good way to feel when you’re acting.

HER: It really isn’t. It gets in the way of my acting. I have to just not think about it so I can act.

HIM: Yeah, I get that. I really need to, like, let loose and just be myself when I act.

HER: Yeah. So that scene you were acting in tonight, how was it?

HIM: I have to say, it was weird. It was weird. To be acting with her, acting like I’m her husband, I’m like, “but she’s married”. That makes it weird to act like I’m her husband.

HER: But you’re acting.

HIM: I know, but I’m acting like I’m her husband, right? If I’m her husband, listen, as a heterosexual male, acting or no acting, I’m gonna be doing SOMETHING, right?

HER: You mean kissing her?

HIM: Not exactly, more like–

HER: Lovemaking? Making love to her?

HIM: I mean like holding her hand or something!

HER: Well that’s OK!  You’re acting!

HIM: No! I mean she has a husband! And I’m acting like–

HER: But you’re acting!

HIM: I know I’m acting! That’s the point, my acting can make me get carried away when I’m acting!

HER: I think that’s ok.  When you’re acting.

HIM: Listen, you know Tim Allen?

HER: Uh-

HIM: From Tool Time?

HER: Well I know there is someone named Tim Allen. He does Santa.

HIM: Yeah, him. Well he acted in Tool Time, and on Tool Time, his wife was hot! I thought she was hot! That brunette who acted the role of his wife–

HER: Whose wife, yours? You’re married?

HIM: No. I mean Tim Allen’s wife on Tool Time.

HER: Oh, Tim Allen, yeah. Santa.

HIM: Well when he was acting on that show–

HER: On what show?

HIM: Tool Time.

And then I had to leave the subway and I almost cried, I was so sad to miss the magic. AMAZING.


UPDATE: “My Acting” has received its first off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-Broadway performance, in my friend Shannon’s living room. Click here to watch Shannon and Shannon acting “My Acting”.

In B-flat: a collaborative music project

May 28, 2009

in b flat

This is cool: 19 different videos of people playing simple music, all in the key of B-flat. You can play any or all of them simultaneously and they all sound good together.
Try it here.

Thanks to Andrea P for the tip!

Somewhat related:
This French dude sang every single sound in Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

30 Rock table read clip

May 28, 2009

Here’s a very short clip of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin doing a table read for 30 Rock.

And here’s a group interview clip that starts with Tracy Morgan behaving like someone who’s in his third year at a mediocre theatre school- lots of loud, non sequitur one-liners- for an astonishingly long period of time. You can basically skip that part- let it load and go to about 45sec to start. In this clip, Tina Fey reveals that one of my favourite lines is improvised.
It’s on YouTube here (3 min).

Via Lisa W‘s Facebook wall.