And Now a Few Words about Yevtushenko

No, not the Russian rebel poet:

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The band:

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Yesterday on ComicMix.Com, the always interesting Emily S. Whitten came up with the brilliant idea to make this week “Promote Your Awesome Friends Week,” and our most awesome friends are – yeppers, you guessed it – Yevtushenko.

Inspired by Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s anger/attitude/talent, Yevtushenko the band is the #1 Indie Rock band on the Seattle scene, which is a pretty damned high achieving scene, come to think about it.

Last week, they released their first EP, Do, and next week they hit the road for their first tour down the Left Coast, including a stop at L.A.’s famous (infamous?) Roxy Theater on April 18th, where they’ll be rocking a stage that gave a hot welcome to another Seattle band by the name of Nirvana, as well as Ziggy Marley, David Bowie, Guns N’Roses, Bruce Springsteen, etc. etc. etc.

Who are Yevtushenko? What’s Do like? Here’s what PatrickGalactic.Com has to say:

“I’m of a certain mind with a certain will”

– Amber Shine, Yevtushenko, “Tarmac”

Romance and reality. Some could argue that these are diametrically opposed forces. Some would say that one cannot exist in the same habitat as the other. Romantic love as portrayed in movies is clearly unrealistic. The romantic portrayal of the starving artist is a lovely notion…but going hungry with little to sustain your hopes and dreams as you give up your emotional privacy, predictability, and comfort is…less so. But somewhere between Hollywood and the emotional outhouse, a truth exists. A truth that isn’t obvious to the eye. A truth that constantly calls to us but is rarely heard.

Yevtushenko’s three members, Amber Shine (vocals, guitar), Jeff Bazz (guitar) and Jeremiah Johnson (drums) embody that truth as well as anyone I’ve met. They are a band without a land, all three transplants from other places (Shine from Los Angeles, Bazz from Vermont, Johnson from Alaska). They live together. They think together. They write together. They are like the Indie Monkees without the commercial breaks (Author’s Notre: Don’t EVER shit-talk the Monkees, there will be consequences). They are spiritual together. They are a band’s band. Yevtushenko is their life. Art is their life. And, as it turns out, they have all sacrificed deeply for that life.

But with sacrifice come rewards. And I don’t mind telling you that their debut EP, “Do” is a reward for everyone. Recorded over Christmas in a walk-in closet at their house, “Do” is a victory for DIY believers. Utilizing Bazz’s background as a recording engineer, Yevtushenko mixed and produced the album themselves. For a band that has only existed publicly since November 2012 that is quite a feat.

“Tarmac” kicks the album off with a gradual swell that rises to a dizzying crescendo of noise and dissonance before finally breaking, guitar and drums settling into major key, indie pop. Shortly after, Amber Shine’s voice makes it’s first appearance. “Forgotten friends I truly missed you,” she declares “All I say is ‘Hello, Farewell’”. “Tarmac” is a bittersweet love note to all those who don’t understand the unbridled pursuit of personal truth. Mothers, brothers, friends, lovers…the ones who hold on so desperately when they need to let go. “All these years I’ve been chasing dreams,” Shine continues, “I’m starting to wonder if they’re selfish things.”

Any ambiguity left in the wake of “Tarmac” is wiped the fuck away by the opening notes of “Afield”. Starting fast and dangerous, this song is a showcase for the wonder that is Jeff Bazz’s guitar playing. The song begins with a pulsing guitar riff, heavy but with serious swagger, the kind of dance music you can stab someone to. About halfway in, without notice, Bazz and Johnson on drums change suddenly to a flamenco-by-way-of-polka-by-way-of-gypsy-punk-rock vibe. Jeremiah Johnson’s manic dance beat interlocks with Shine’s aggressive vocals, sending sparks of anxiety and menace flying in every direction. “Short wave pulse by a popular hand annihilates me.” This is music to dance, fight and fuck to. Take your pick.

Perhaps recognizing the need for a comedown,“Drown” takes the anxiety out of the sound and puts it all in the lyrics. It sounds like an uplifting song, almost a pop track. But when described by drummer Johnson as “a warning and an indictment”, the lyrics take on a darker shade. Shine sings soulfully to “Drown, baby, drown all the lies in your life” before advising the listener to “be someone else, try as someone else, to love someone else.” Major chords and mid-tempo drums fill the space well while allowing Shine to take center stage. This is a quality of Yevtushenko that I like a lot. Everyone is talented enough to know when not to play.

“Last Criminal” is a shit kicker. This is old-school punk rock done through a modern filter and done really well. Written collectively, this is a track for driving fast with gritted teeth. Shine’s voice is augmented with some creative filtering through the breaks. Jeff Bazz is in Greg Ginn mode here, alternating between harshly distorted guitar and cleaner tones. The sense of disorientation is delicious, the song is just the right length. A lot of ground covered here.

“One Cup of Coffee” takes the pace down a step and may be my favorite track. Bazz’s guitar once again takes center stage but in a different way. Dissonant guitar chords hold the song together, nearly giving way to a wall of feedback…but never quite. The throbbing menace contrasts beautifully with Amber Shine’s weary lament, “Where do we go? I don’t know. I don’t care.” This is music for people with regrets and hangovers. Tom Waits is smiling…if he does that.

“I Don’t Mind” concludes the album…loudly. Jeff Bazz, guitar god and purveyor of all things hooky, makes a triumphant return. Johnson and Bazz create some good ol’ rock riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in 1973 (or 1993). There is absolutely nothing vague about this song. It’s upset, it’s been wronged, it thought you loved it, and now it’s gonna rip your face off. In fact it ends with Shine declaring boldly that she “could get me a gun and find a quiet place. I could end it all if not for your face.” Goddamn. This is love as a weapon and Yevtushenko fires it with conviction.

I took a lot from this record. No two songs sound much alike but the album remains cohesive. As bands have been pushed to find a “consistent sound” by the music industry, it seems too many have simply written the same song over and over again. Yevtushenko rises far above all that. As Amber Shine put it to me, they are “true believers in the art of the song.” This EP does nothing to dispute that.

“Do” projects strength through it’s contradictions. Because the band doesn’t have a primary lyricist, the album benefits from a broad palette of emotional insight. Shine’s self-determined swagger in “Tarmac” is a far cry from Jeremiah Johnson’s scorching indictment in “I Don’t Mind”. But the sincerity of both is evident.

Romance was not invented by cinema. The romance of a young Irish novelist drinking heavily while preparing to share his literary epic with the world is a lovely notion…but alcoholism and premature death certainly aren’t. Oh wait they are (see every dead rockstar always). But to me, the real romance in life is living truthfully. Knowing yourself well enough to sacrifice, to be wounded and to continue the struggle, no matter the cost. “Do” is a snapshot, a documented record of a band that’s existed for a very short time. Yevtushenko has presented one hell of an honest document.

Listen to “I Don’t Mind” from Do.

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Click the image and hear the song

Watch a video of “One Cup of Coffee.” (Caution: Nudity…sorta)

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Buy this album on Bandcamp! (Yeah, we mean NOW!)

EDITED TO ADD: Truth in Journalism Dept. Yevtushenko front woman Amber Shine is our Mighty Leader L.B.’s daughter. (So you know she’s good.) 

Vertical Exploitation: The Six Companies That Control Your Life

Brace yourselves for a stunning 2-part article on who really decides what all of us see and hear in the media. Well, the Old Media anyway, because TVWriter™ still holds out one Acme Ton O’Hope for New Media’s independence.

Hope being the operative word. Anyway:

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by A.J.Simpson

Imagine that you’re 12 years old. You live in New York City with your parents, and you’ve got a pretty good life. You’re a good student and an avid reader – when you were a few years younger, your favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s tale Where the Wild Things Are, and now you’re just getting into C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Your favorite movies are the Ice Age and Night at the Museum series, and your parents take you to see every one of them in the theater. Glee is your favorite TV show; you don’t get all of the jokes, but you love the music and listen to the cast’s recordings in your room all the time. And you love video games – you’re always checking out GameSpy.com and IGN.com for the latest tips and tricks.

Now, imagine that you’re the 12-year-old’s mother or father. You work your ass off, but you’ve got a pretty great life too. Owing to your line of work – something in the finance industry – you’re a little on the conservative side. You start your morning each day with the Wall Street Journal, and you usually flip on Fox News when you get home. (Bill O’Reilly. What a character!) You obsessively check the Dow Jones Industrial Average to see how your portfolio’s doing. When you have a minute to relax, your favorite show on TV is House, and you’re an enormous football fan – you particularly love the pre-game show with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and the gang. The best movie you’ve seen lately is The Descendants; you also saw Shame, but it was a little too liberal for your tastes – after all, you’ve got Sarah Palin’s autobiography on your nightstand.

These fictitious individuals seem pretty normal, right? Aside from the fact that they’re perhaps a bit higher up the economic ladder than the general population, there’s nothing much to see here. Not until you look a bit closer, at least.

Read over those descriptions again and take a look at all of the various media properties I mentioned: HouseGleeThe Chronicles of NarniaIce Age, Fox News,Shame, the Dow Jones, Fox TV’s NFL coverage, Sarah Palin’s book, the Wall Street Journal, a couple of web sites… and the list goes on.

Every one of the properties I mentioned is either owned or distributed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

If real people were to live such seemingly “normal” lives, they’d be giving all of their money to the same company.

Think about that for a second. For the first time in history, it’s now possible for a person to spend virtually all of their disposable income on products or services offered by only one multinational corporation – that’s how varied their assets are. And News Corporation isn’t the only example I could have used. By my count, there are 6 corporations that between them control an unreasonable percentage of major North American media properties, including holdings in film, television, radio, the recording industry, newspapers, magazines, video games, websites, and much more.

Consider this article a meet-and-greet with your benevolent corporate overlords. If you spend any money on personal entertainment, there’s a good chance it’s being deposited into the bank accounts of one of these 6 companies. (Check back later for Part II, which will be an exploration of the consequences of media consolidation.) And without further adieu, I present to you in alphabetical order… Big Media:

Read it all

Read Part II, um, too

This article is a serious look at serious business, showing how narrow our entertainment choices have become and what that means to us not only as consumers but as human beings. It also shows us what that means to the Big 6 Media companies.

Guess who’s coming out better?

EDITED BY MUNCHMAN TO ADD: Support interweb video! Cut your cable today! (Oh how I love the sound of slogans. Mostly because even though I believe what I’m saying I recognize how much spouting any slogan makes me sound like…a whore? Uh-oh…)

Angelo Bell: My Films Are On IMDB :)

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by Angelo Bell

IMDB is going Youtube style and I’ve been selected to upload my films to their website. Now you can view two of my films in their entirety on IMDB.

I’m particularly fond of the films, Renounced and The First Time. And now I hope you can become just as fond of them as I am.

Renounced

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1084730/

The First Time

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1084682/

Peggy Bechko: A Few Tips on Editing For Writers

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by Peggy Bechko

…Yes, I mean your own work

Editing your own writing can be difficult. There’s a lot to pay attention to and there is frequently the ‘flavor of the week’ in regard to the continually evolving dos and don’ts and ‘forbidden words’. Most of the time I tell folks not to go crazy every time a new trend or a new word to be avoided is announced.

However, there are things you can keep an eye out for – many things. Today I’m offering just a shot list of things that just might smooth your writing, make it flow a bit better and help to draw your reader in. And readers don’t try to pretend you don’t want to be drawn in – it’s why you read and why you have ‘favorite’ books and authors.

So, writers, time take heart. Don’t worry if there are a lot of the so-called forbidden words scattered throughout your work. After all there are plenty of the classics and lots of current best sellers that are peppered with them.

With the goal of improving everyone’s writing, here are a few thoughts.

One well over-used word is “Very”. There are times it’s necessary, but those are ‘very’ rare indeed. Just leave it out or reword. If you said, “The detective, a very tall man, stood close to the accused” how about “The detective loomed over the accused.” Or search your thesaurus and find another descriptive term that fits your style better. Or just sit and consider for a few moments. Something else will come to you.

Another reminder; shed clichés like a ‘duck sheds water’. Unless your character is one who spouts them or there is another compelling reason for you to use one remember clichés are just boring and worn. Their time is past. Come up with something new and fresh of your own. Be creative. That’s what you’re here for.

The words ‘up’ and ‘down’ are generally greatly overused in writing and storytelling and can be pretty much eliminated. Example: “Elizabeth put her book down on the bedside table.” Try “Elizabeth set her book on the bedside table with gentle respect.” Or: “The drought dried up the earth to the point of cracking.” Eliminate ‘up’ and we might get: “The drought dried the earth into deep fissures.” Just think about it. Simple eliminations can add a great deal of punch to your writing.

More on the elimination front: consider eliminating phrases like “John could hear,” or “John could feel.” This is where showing your reader something is much stronger than telling. Instead of “John could hear the train in the distance.” Try making it more direct. Bring in the senses and put your reader right there. How about: “John heard the distant rumble of the train.” Or, “The sound of the approaching train reverberated in John’s head.” Another example: Instead of: “Jane could see the vultures circling in search of their next meal.” Try “The vultures floated in widening circles in search of their next meal.”

Verbs ending in –ing can get to be a bit trying. That’s not to say you need to eliminate them altogether from your writing, you can sprinkle them in occasionally, in fact I doubt you could eliminate them altogether. But watch out for excess. Things like, “Joe was watching the parade while tapping his feet to the rhythm of the band.” Better: “Joe watched the parade while tapping his feet to the rhythm of the band.” Or “Joe tapped his feet to the rhythm of the band as the parade moved on.” Experiment, turn things around a bit and try to stifle the –ing urge just a little.

Don’t repeat words with great frequency. Scan your written page. Does any one word jump out at you? Does it pepper the page or reappear frequently throughout a chapter? Grab your thesaurus and have at it or visit http://thesaurus.com/.

And remember while it’s a bit distressing, it’s still true what William Faulkner has been quoted over and over as having said regarding writing, “you’ve got to kill all you darlings.”

Most of us writers believe whatever we first put down on paper or type to computer screen should be fabulous, complete, amazing. One gets a bit of a pain in the gut when thinking of pruning the words so carefully written, but, while we may spare a few of our darlings here and there the truth of the matter is Faulker was right. His point was on track. Writing the work is just half the battle.

Many times you’ll find as you write, that your original ‘great idea’ is overwhelmed by the actual story. By that I mean you’ll range far afield from the beginning inspiration that got you moving. And you’re going to find that many of your truly great thoughts and ideas will occur to you when you’re actually writing – sitting at your computer or with your legal pad in your lap – not just daydreaming and thinking about writing. So, despite your greatest hopes that your material will emerge complete and awesome at the first stroke, don’t count on it. This tripping off in other directions creates a great story, but it does leave some bumpy writing that needs tidying and ideas that need completing or revising.

Many self-proclaimed ‘writers’ want us to believe they carry all their ideas around in their heads until they can get the time to spew them down onto paper – no doubt in pristine form. However, how many of them actually do it? Presuming you’re one who actually writes, don’t get caught in that ‘romantic, artistic’ web of silliness where you believe you can work it all out in your head and write it all down later. There may have been one or two who could do it, but frankly I think they’re fibbing too.

So don’t wail and weep when you confront your rewrite, celebrate. You’ve got the guts down on paper, now is the time to really shine and turn that heap of guts into a god.

Michael Arndt’s Screenwriting Breakthrough

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(Opening scene of the Little Miss Sunshine script (PDF dated 10.9.03) written by Michael Arndt.)

by Scott W. Smith

“I didn’t really expect that the script [Little Miss Sunshine] was going anywhere. I mean, I was hoping to get an agent out of it but I didn’t bother to register it just because I didn’t think anyone was going to see it. And then I had a friend of mine who was represented by the Endeavor Agency [nowWME] and that was sort of my one hope. She read it and liked it and said, ‘Can I give this to my agent?’ so I said, ‘Yes, please do.’ And like six weeks went by and I thought no one had read it and it had falling through the cracks. And I was really unhappy because I’d spent a whole year writing it and I thought I’d have to go back and get a day job again. It was a Saturday afternoon and I got a message on my machine saying, ‘We read your script, we really liked it.’ And I called them on Monday morning and basically they said, ‘We think we can do something with this.’ And I still have those agents today. They basically saved my life. I said it at the Writer’s Guild Awards, the thing that’s standing between me being up here and me being in my basement was this agent who read my script.”
Screenwriter Michael Arndt  (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody Books (at the 33:31 mark of the FORA.tv video)

This single post/Arndt excerpt—sums up everything I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past five years. Here’s a sweeping overview of Michael Arndt’s career path:

—Graduated from NYU Film School
—Read 1,000 scripts as a script reader of which only “three or four” were turned into good films
—Wrote 10 scripts before breakthrough where he sold one
—Wrote first draft of Little Miss Sunshine in three days, but took a year—full time— to do rewrites
—Was fired off Little Miss Sunshine project—then rehired a few weeks later
—Won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine
—Wrote Toy Story 3, Hunger Games: Chasing Fire, and most recently hired to write Star Wars Episode VII

EDITED TO ADD: Scott’s Screenwriting from Iowa Blog is a must-read. You can find out more about it here and here.