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Jane and the Dragon

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Children’s books and children’s television programs are two things that I’m fairly well-versed in (it just comes with the territory when you’re a mom and also teach young kids).  Over the years, there have been some TV shows that I didn’t mind watching along with my son or students, and some that wore on my nerves (I’d be a terrible spy; if anyone needed to make me talk, all it would take is Barney episodes set on repeat.  I‘d break long before anyone had the chance to say “Super-dee-duper!”). Then, there have been those shows that I secretly--and not so secretly--really enjoy.  And on that not-so-long list is Jane and the Dragon.

Based on the book of the same name by Martin Baynton, Jane and the Dragon is a CGI animated series produced and distributed by Nelvana, a Canadian company.   Set largely in Kippernia Castle, the show focuses on Jane, a twelve year old girl who’s a knight in training, and her best friend, Dragon, who's, well…a dragon.  The backstory is that Jane had been training for the traditional job a girl of her status could expect to have in the future: a lady in waiting.  The TV show doesn’t elaborate on it much (only through a few lines in the theme song), but Jane wasn’t content with that lot in life, and became friends with Dragon after she went on a quest to “rescue” the young Prince from Dragon’s lair.  The King was so grateful that he allowed her to start training to become a knight, and so viewers join in at that point, and get to share in all of her adventures (and misadventures).

I’ll admit right away that it wasn’t a case of “love at first sight” for Jane and the Dragon and I.  The animation style threw me a little bit, because the CGI was a tad too mechanical for my taste.  I'm not sure if it was because it doesn’t always allow for a lot of subtleties in the characters’ expressions and so on, but it put me off at first.  After giving it a chance though, other elements of the show drew me in, and my interest started to snowball.  I started to enjoy the characters beyond just how they were animated.

And what a cast of characters it is who live inside the walls of Kippernia Castle with Jane.  The King and Queen preside, of course, along with the aforementioned Prince, Cuthbert, and his sister, Princess Lavinia, who looks up to and admires Jane.  Sir Ivon and Sir Theodore are the knights who train Jane, along with her “frenemy”, another knight in training named Gunther.  The rivalry between them is one of the things that provides some of the comedy and even the learning points of the show.  While adults are a part of almost every episode, it’s the rest of the children and young adults who the action usually revolves around (Pepper, the castle cook and Jane’s friend; Jester, who has a secret crush on Jane; Rake, the castle gardener; and Smithy---the blacksmith, of course).  Each one of them has their quirks and strengths and weaknesses, and that holds especially true for Jane.  For me, there’s the appeal that she’s decided to define herself in ways that (in the fictional world of the show) go against what’s expected: a female training to be a knight, who’s friends with one of the very creatures that knights are expected to slay.  This doesn’t hold true with many of the other characters who have traditional female/male roles, but that’s a different topic.

(L to R) Pepper, Jester, Rake, and Smithy
Like most children’s shows, the conflict in every episode wraps up neatly by the end credits, and there’s a segment where Dragon talks directly to the “Shortlives” watching (his name for humans), reiterating the lesson learned.  The conflicts aren’t always gentle or without tension though; in one episode, a lie leads to a decree that one of the characters be exiled from the castle.  In another, Jane has to face down one of her fears, while also facing down a pack of wolves, no less.   Still, by making mistakes but learning from them, and with guidance from the adults, Jane and the other children navigate through some universal life lessons that young viewers, and older too, can identify with.

The show’s writing is witty and fun, with plenty of humor that both kids and adults can laugh at.  Although my son is quick to say that it’s my “favorite show”, there have been plenty of episodes where he’s watching and laughing right along with me.  There’s a dash of adventure in most of the episodes too, whether it’s a mock swordfight as Jane and Gunther train, or Jane and Dragon going outside the castle walls (Dragon flies; she goes along for the ride).

The program originally aired on YTV in Canada and ABC in Australia, beginning in 2006.  For those of us in the US who want to catch reruns, Jane and the Dragon plays on the Qubo channel.  In the UK, it can be found on Five.

To delve into the realm of Kippernia Castle in much more detail, go to www.janeandthedragon.com.  And to learn more about the voice talent and other information about the show, head over to the IMDb page here: www.imdb.com/title/tt0486069.


Charles Lloyd: A Jazz Supreme

by John Bloner, Jr.

I'd thought I had a good education in the history of jazz music. I spent many hours transfixed by the sounds of the giants of this genuinely American art form: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and more. Why, then, had it taken me nearly thirty years to hear of tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd?

It wasn't that Charles Lloyd was a footnote in the encyclopedia of jazz. In the 1960s, soon-to-be jazz legends were begging to be in his band. Keith Jarrett left Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to perform with him. Jack DeJohnette placed a 4:00 a.m. phone call. "You're going about it the wrong way," Lloyd told the drummer, but gave him the gig anyway.

Along with Cecil McBee on bass, Lloyd's band released "Forest Flower: Live at Monterey" in 1966.  The record became the first jazz record to sell one million copies "There is such sheer beauty and lyricism in the music," writes John Ballon, "that thirty years later it still gives goosebumps."

In 1967, Downbeat Magazine named him "Jazzman of the Year", and the accolades kept growing. Lloyd's quartet shared stages with rock artists Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and more. They toured Europe, the Far East, and the Soviet Union. His music received heavy airplay on FM radio.

Then, it was all over..or, it was a new beginning.

I was a time bomb waiting to detonate.  Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd walked away from the spotlight, the world stage, and toward the rugged stretch of California coastline known as Big Sur.  Author and former editor of Preservation Magazine, James Conaway, describes the area as "a mythic landscape of impenetrable chaparral and massive redwoods stitched to headlands plunging into an impossibly blue ocean".  He adds, "Against this backdrop, ordinary concerns seemed to pale; to live here was to view the world through a unique lens of beauty and peril".

Lloyd retreated from stardom and its temptations for excess and found quiet solitude, his nearest neighbors a mile and a half away, in the majestic and sometimes unforgiving landscape of Big Sur.

"I was a time bomb waiting to detonate", he told the website All About Jazz. "Burned out, sick of the music business, out of touch with everything and heavily abusing various substances, disillusioned with life, and intensely needed to work on my character."

Lloyd wasn't idle during the 1970s.  He released seven albums during that decade, many with blissful titles: Warm WatersWaves and Weavings.  Some of these records include members of the Beach Boys with whom he shared an interest in transcendental meditation. He also performed in the studio and live with California's penultimate band.

His 1979 release, Pathless Path, is an appropriate title to reflect Lloyd's journey toward wholeness. Physician and author Deepak Chopra speaks of Prince Siddharta who became the Buddha by walking the pathless path. "The pathless path isn't a straight line", Chopra writes. "The journey takes place entirely in consciousness. A mind overshadowed by fears, hopes, memories, past traumas, and old conditioning finds a way to become free."

The following video shows Charles Lloyd in Big Sur, reflecting on his music, his influences outside of jazz, including Native American culture, and on weaving. "I'm very much moved in our music by the weaving quality", he says in the video. "It's as if we make tapestries when we play, and there's this wonderful quality that the music is all a weaving."

When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.
Variation on a Buddhist Proverb

In 1981, French/Italian jazz pianist, Michel Petrucciani, visited Lloyd's California home, unaware of the saxophonist's legacy.  After hearing Petrucciani's talent on the keyboards, Lloyd decided to step out of self-imposed exile in order to showcase the young piano powerhouse.

"Charles Lloyd really opened every door for Michel", writes Ron Simmonds. "It could not have been a better start for his American career."

During 1982-83, the pair performed around the world, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, released several live albums, and saw Petrucciani earn many well-deserved awards.

In 1986, a rare intestinal disorder nearly killed the saxophonist.  When his doctors cleared him to play again, he began a new chapter in his life, signing in 1989 with ECM Records.

ECM, an independent European label, has released some of the finest recordings in jazz and classical music, since Manfred Eicher founded it in 1969.  Among its landmark recordings are The Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett, Bright Size Life by Pat Metheny with Jaco Pastorius, Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich, and Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part.

Lloyd's first record with the label was Fish Out of Water, its title track echoing his famous tune, Forest Flower, from two decades earlier through its use of parallel major sevenths. He has since released fifteen additional records with the label.

(Photo by AP Photos/Gulnara Samoilova)
Charles Lloyd and his wife, Dorothy, were staying at a friend's home in Greenwich Village in September 2011. "We were in NYC to open at the Blue Note on 9/11", he told Graham Reid. "I was staying a few blocks from the World Trade Center and saw the second plane hit. It was a devastating time for all of us. I can still feel the pain of it today."

He shared the following with Paula Edelstein of JazzUSA. "We walked the streets of the Village where we were staying. It was an eerie place to be; no cars--just foot traffic and emergency vehicles. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of community and caring. We were all trying to make sense out of it, to understand the whole picture."

I used to fantasize about how art could save the world. Over the years, I've lost confidence in that idea, but listening to Charles Lloyd's 'Lift Every Voice' revives my hope.  Richard Anderson

Lloyd and his band performed at the Blue Note several nights later. "I got pretty spun out during the second set", he said.  "The next two nights we managed to dig in and lift the music to a higher plane." Over a year later, he released the two-disc CD, Lift Every Voice, containing his rendition of the song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing", otherwise known as the black national anthem, along with standards, spirituals, and his own compositions.  The record includes a jazz rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," whose words, written during the Vietnam War era, resonate even stronger in these years following the 9/11 attacks. "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate."

Bill Shoemaker, writing for JazzTimes, called the record, "an aural documentary of someone regaining his psychological and spiritual equilibrium."  Thomas Conrad of Stereophile said, "This recording references issues so cataclysmic and transforming that Lloyd is moved to strip away the last protective layers of reserve and convention and let his shattered heart speak directly through his tenor saxophone."

Basically I'm a blues man trying to sing a spiritual song. Charles Lloyd

Just as he attracted the best musicians in the 1960s, Charles Lloyd continues to perform with men and women who are titans of the music world. His records on the ECM label have included pianists Brad Mehldau, Geri Allen, Bobo Stenson, and most recently, Jason Moran.  His drummers have been the late Billy Higgins, Billy Hart and Eric Harland. Reuben Rogers is the latest bassist to perform with Lloyd, joining luminaries like Dave Holland and Larry Grenadier.  John Abercrombie is a stalwart on guitar.

Beyond the traditional jazz ensemble, Lloyd also performs with the trio Sangam, including Harland on drums and Zakhir Hussain on tabla and percussion. Matt Cibula, writing for All About Jazz.com, commented, "For Lloyd, a man who is always on a quest, these are the ultimate wingmen."

I know the winds of grace are always blowing. I must raise my sails high enough to catch the breeze. Charles Lloyd

Through this article (and the artwork from my journal below), I have attempted to express the grace that Charles Lloyd's music has brought to my life, recognizing that words are not sufficient to share the journey that my soul has taken since first experiencing Lloyd's jazz supreme sound.  "Sweet Georgia," the poet Charles Simic wrote. "I hear someone whispering, 'Without the music, Life would be a mistake'."

He can be sort of candle-glow Coltrane, all softly flickering illumination.  Nate Chinen

In 2013, Charles Lloyd turns seventy-five, yet his music is outside of time. It draws upon sounds and traditions that precede his birth in Memphis, Tennessee by many years--even centuries--and it will go on through the young men and women who perform with him, listen to his voice coming through the saxophone, flute or taragato. Just like he once said of John Coltrane--"it was church whenever he played"--Lloyd's meditations through music exemplify a higher calling (without getting high-minded about it). Fred Jung, writing for All About Jazz.com, says "Each breath blown through his instrument has deep significance."  Jazz writer Joao Moreira Dos Santos adds, "There is an omnipresent sparkle of Lloyd's soul whenever he plays."

Lloyd simply says, "I beg the creator to let me be an open vessel. I try to get out of the way."

Visit Charles Lloyd online. Click HERE for his website.  Lloyd has recently released the record, Hagar's Song, with pianist Jason Moran.  ECM Records will release five of his earliest records with ECM in 2013.


Hairdressers On Fire

by Jav Rivera

Art is everywhere.  Some mediums, such as film or highway billboards, are more apparent than others. If you look close, you can find art just about anywhere.  For hairstylists like Australian-based Kerry Lush, a model's hair is the canvas. And for models like Tamisha Franz, being a living canvas requires patience and, more importantly, trust.

Model Samantha Symes, Hair by Kerry Lush
The art of hairdressing combines haircutting, coloring, and texturing techniques.  More lavish styles incorporate decorative elements such as flowers, pins, ornaments, etc.  It's an art form that is typically noticeable in cinematic period pieces, however, they are the unspoken heroes of weddings, model photo shoots, and on the red carpet for Hollywood events.

I had a chance to speak with both hairdresser Kerry Lush and model Tamisha Franz about one of their experiences working together within this art form.  A recent photo shoot involved a black dress, a chicken, a beautiful face, and incredible hair.  I found both perspectives interesting, since they're essentially looking for the same thing from each other: trust.

Kerry Lush
The hairdresser...

When did you start working with hair?
I started working with hair around fifteen years ago. After studying art at college and completing a textile degree, I decided to retrain in something creative that would pay the bills.  I love working with hair, which I suppose is just textiles with people underneath. However, I dislike the industry intensely and find it driven by profit and cloaked in psuedo-science and fake artistry, where the client is king and bread and butter.  

Has hairdressing become more (or less) important in the arts (movies, fashion, etc.)?
Within this corrupt enviroment amazing hair artists have emerged, and true craftspeople continue to thrive. The Vidal Sassoon lot, for instance, ZGAT Academy and others strive towards excellence. Sadly, not the general rule with hairdressers.  I love avante guard work and hair for film period dramas especially.

Model Tamisha Franz
Is hairdressing taken for granted by the general public?
High end hairdressing is far removed from what the average hairdresser is expected to produce from day to day; I think the public in general appreciate a decent haircut, but it is often hard to find!

What do you look for in a model's hair and personality?
The models I use usually have long, virgin hair that is easily pliable. I choose models that have an unusual presence, far removed from the glamour look. I like my models to be confident, and happy to be directed.

Where do you get inspiration for your creations?
I draw inspiration from other photographers. Sergey P. Irons' work is amazing, with fantastic control of light, as well as his wife, Petrova Julian, who uses softer light; not as dramatic but very beautiful. Their photography is like painting. Kirsty Mitchell is a true artist and inspiration, and Tim Walker never fails to impress. I am still learning as I go with my camera. 

Model Ellen Carrol, Photo by Cindi Lee
The model...

When did you first work with Kerry Lush?
I first met Kerry when I was searching for a new hairdresser after moving to the Bayside area from the Sunshine Coast. I booked in at a salon she was working at the time. While she was cutting my hair we were chatting and realised we had similar interests in photography and modeling, and organized to collaborate and do a shoot.

What did you like most about her?
She made me feel very comfortable, especially for being at a new hairdressers. She is very down to earth and friendly, and I love her sense of creativity. Oh, and above all, I love her hairdressing skills! I have had her do my hair for two photo shoots and I loved it. She went above and beyond expectations.

Tamisha Franz

What do you look for in hairdressers?
I look for someone I can feel comfortable around and someone who is, above all, honest.

How do you know when to trust what hairdressers are doing to your hair?
I never get anything too extreme done to my hair for the pure fact that I am worried I will not like what is done to it. However, after many experiences of having my hair styled for photo shoots and the style not suiting me at all, I would feel very comfortable making more changes to my hair, as Kerry's hair styling suited me perfectly! She knows how to make people look good!

What else can you say about hairdressers in general?
I am glad I chose the hairdressers I did that day; I don't believe I could have picked anyone better. I can't wait to work with Kerry again; her combination of creative hair styling and photography is beautifully unique.

As seen in some of the images here, Kerry and Tamisha's photo shoot was certainly a success.  With Tamisha's delicacy and Kerry's artistry, the two make a great team. I look forward to seeing more work from these, and many other, hairdresser-model collaborations.

For more examples of Kerry Lush's work, visit her official Facebook page: Kerry Lush Images.  And for more information on model Tamisha Franz visit: Tamisha Franz Portfolio

TRIVIA: In Africa, it was believed in some cultures that a person's spirit occupied his or her hair, giving hairdressers high status within these communities.


Odd Man Out

by Dave Gourdoux

If I were compiling a list of the most under-appreciated films in movie history, there are a few that would come immediately to mind:  Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 The Shop Around the Corner (the film that essentially defined the romantic comedy genre), Preston Sturges' censor bending and outrageous 1944 comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, John Huston's brilliant 1979 adaptation of the Flannery O'Connor novel Wise Blood, Jack Clayton's 1961 The Innocents, Bryan Forbes' Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), and John Boorman's 1987 triumph, Hope and Glory.  These are all highly regarded films but are too often overlooked these days, and, in my opinion, should be considered required viewing for anybody with a passion for movies.

But the all-time number one most under-appreciated film in history has to be Carol Reed's 1947 masterpiece, Odd Man Out.   Not only is it one of the greatest films I've ever seen, but I've never met anyone else who's ever seen it.  It's always been difficult to find on DVD.  For a while, it was on the Netflix instant queue, but it's been taken off for some time now.  It's all too frequently forgotten in lists of the best films ever made, even though Reed's 1949 The Third Man is often and justifiably included.  Why Odd Man Out is largely forgotten while The Third Man, made only two years later, has sustained its reputation and popularity is hard to figure.  You'd think that the high regard for The Third Man would lead to a wider appreciation of Odd Man Out, just as the acclaim for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane has lead to a wider following for his The Magnificent Ambersons.

James Mason as Johnny McQueen.  Note the distorted background.  Is that a noose hanging from that crooked pole?
Odd Man Out tells the story of Johnny McQueen, an IRA-like leader in an unidentified Irish city who is shaking off the rust of a recent imprisonment and illness.  While participating in the robbery of a mill, he is left behind, mortally wounded from a bullet fired by the same man he accidently kills.  He becomes the subject of a massive man hunt by the police.   The film follows him through the course of afternoon to midnight, as he seeks refuge on the way to either his death or salvation

I won't spoil things by revealing much more of the plot.  Suffice to say that nobody did man hunts like Carol Reed.  Those who are familiar with The Third Man will remember Joseph Cotten and Trevor Howard chasing Orson Welles through the sewers of Vienna; as great as those sequences are, imagine an entire film filled with the same tension and suspense.  McQueen encounters a variety of street characters who are torn between helping and sheltering him, and their loyalty or fear of the police.  Each character approaches McQueen from a different angle - some want to help, some want reward money, a priest wants his soul, an artist wants to paint him and capture the mystery of death, and finally, there is the woman who is in love with him.  The woman (played by Kathleen Ryan) is the only one with the pure motives and courage to commit herself to Johnny; in the end, none of the other characters are willing to risk their lives to save McQueen's.  The action then becomes a race between who will find McQueen first:  the woman who loves him, the police, or death.  The suspense is unrelenting and culminates in an unexpected ending that justifies the build-up.

James Mason as Johnny McQueen.  Dark shadows, dark eyes, dark eybrows.
McQueen is played by one of the greatest faces in cinema history, the incomparable James Mason.  Mason had a uniquely expressive face, with coal black eyes seated in deep and cavernous sockets and offset by dark and bushy eyebrows that seemed almost as expressive as his eyes.  No actor ever got more from his eyes than Mason, whether expressing the all-consuming obsession of Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, or the desperation and raw exposed soul of Johnny McQueen.  It's a great performance that is sustained throughout the film, as McQueen becomes delirious with pain and begins to lose his grip on the mortal world.

F.J. McCormick as Shell, one of the street people Johnny encounters.  Is that statue crying?
Visually, Odd Man Out  is stunning.  It was shot in black and white by the cinematographer Robert Krasker, who a couple of years later would win an academy award for his work with Reed on The Third Man.  The images are bold and crisp, and hold up on television.   The film is shot like film noir, with an almost expressionistic use of light and shadows and heightened angular urban landscapes.  The camera conveys the senses of claustrophobia and isolation McQueen experiences.  Reed and Krasker, through their images, make visual the intimate universality of a man approaching his death. 

There's a lot going on in Odd Man Out.  It explores questions about the price of political activism, loyalty versus self preservation, and the moral responsibility we have for each other.  In one of the film's great scenes, McQueen, delirious and delusional, is "posing" for a rather psychotic painter, played by Robert Newton, who strives to capture on the canvas the moment of death, the moment when all secrets are revealed to us.   As he sits there waiting for the artist to stop arguing with another man, McQueen hallucinates that the artists' other portraits come to life and form a congregation, with the priest speaking but unable to be heard above the artist's incessant arguing.  He starts to ruminate how "we've never really listened to you, have we," and then remembers the passage from Corinthians that starts with "when I was a child, I spoke as a child."  Then he regains enough strength to rise from the chair and loudly recite more verse from Corinthians:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge' and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and not have charity, I am nothing."

The artist is too thick to realize that the moment he'd been looking for has arrived.  McQueen sees beyond the walls of his own death, and he hears only the artist arguing, drowning everything out as if his voice were "a sounding brass," and he can see without charity, without love for his fellow man, he is nothing.  The love spoken of in Corinthians is an action, not just an emotion, not just faith.  The passage talks of the importance to demonstrate our love for one another through charity.  McQueen's long journey through the late afternoon to midnight then becomes a search for this charity, and the film's intense suspense is focused on whether he finds it or not.

Carol Reed had a long career as a director in Britain and Hollywood, making films from 1933 to 1972.  Although he won an Oscar in 1968 for the musical Oliver!, his career was really unexceptional save for the brief period in the late 40s when he made Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol, and The Third Man.   It's a bit puzzling to watch, for example, his 1965 big budget Hollywood Michelangelo biography, the plodding The Agony and the Ecstasy, knowing that it was made by the same man who made Odd Man Out.  But Odd Man Out and The Third Man are both amazing films that have their own unique style and sensibility.  During this time, Reed was often regarded along with Alfred Hitchcock as the reigning masters of suspense, but there is nothing in Odd Man Out or The Third Man that resembles a Hitchcock film.  Reed was able, in these two films, to reveal depth and complexity of characters rarely found in any film, and he got truly great performances from his leads, Mason in Odd Man Out and Cotten and Welles in The Third Man.

The climactic scene!  With Kathleen Ryan as Kathleen Sullivan.
Odd Man Out is one of the most perfect movies I've ever seen.  And I'm not alone. Of Odd Man Out, Roman Polanski once said:  "I still consider it as one of the best movies I've ever seen and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else... I always dreamt of doing things of this sort or that style. To a certain extent I must say that I somehow perpetuate the ideas of that movie in what I do."

Now, if only we could get more people to see it ....


100,000 Interview

by Jav Rivera and Lisa Adamowicz Kless

It was the summer of 2010, and I was working for an online entertainment magazine and web TV program in Los Angeles. Among my other duties, I offered to write up an article to be featured on their website. They accepted. But I noticed something odd about my article in comparison to the other articles - mine featured an artist that reached mediocre fame back in the 90s, whereas the other articles featured younger, hipper, and more popular artists.  I thought, "Maybe I should write about newer, hipper artists." But the thought left a terrible taste in my mind.

Then I had a better thought: "Why don't I just create my own site that features articles about quality artists that just so happen to lack popularity?" Now, that was like a party in my mind, and the whole world was invited. I went to my friend, Lisa Adamowicz Kless, to see what she thought and was greeted with excitement about the project. After a few weeks of constructing the layout of the site and a few more weeks of writing our initial articles, 2nd First Look went online on October 15, 2010.

Now, a little more than two years later, the site is going strong and averages about 700-1000 hits per day. Not too shabby for an unsponsored site and no paid advertising. Currently, we're still running on word-of-mouth and the use of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I like to think that the growth in our popularity is thanks to the quality of our writers and the devotion of our readers.

--Jav Rivera

When Jav had the idea of starting 2nd First Look, he was living in California; I was in Wisconsin.  Long-time friends, part of the way we kept in touch was by sharing suggestions for music, films, etc. that we thought the other person might like.  For me, 2FL has felt like a continuation of that.  Rather than just sharing suggestions with a close friend though, we’ve extended it to, well, sharing with anybody with internet access.  Our recommendations to each other were sometimes spot on; at other times, we had to be honest and admit that we didn’t love something with the same passion that the other person did.  Still, whether that thing became a new favorite or it didn‘t quite click, my knowledge of and experience with film, music, and myriad other types of art expanded because of it.

And, that honesty and frankness carried over into the website.  My first post on 2nd First Look was fraught with indecision.  I was writing about one of my most intense experiences with art, after seeing a painting by Francisco de Goya.  In my opening sentence, I used the word “ass”.  Jav and I had just begun this new site, and we both hesitated about my use of the word.  Would it offend and drive away some readers? Would it be looked upon as setting a certain tone? Finally, Jav suggested that I just go with my gut.  I kept the word.  It perfectly conveys the exact feeling of the moment that I was sharing, and to me, that's the spirit of the site: to reveal what sparked a love of a particular piece of art, and to encourage others to check it out for themselves, hoping that they might enjoy it too.

Thankfully, it looks like there wasn’t much need to fret over my use of a “bad word”, and we seem to be doing something right; those first days turned into months and then (happy day!) a year, then two.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have fantastic writers from both the U.S. and the U.K. join us on this adventure, and we’re all still writing about what captivates and intrigues us in the creative world.  Not everyone may agree with our opinions or necessarily share the love of a particular topic, but that‘s okay.  If it inspires a reader to explore the world of arts and creativity in any form, we’ve achieved our goal.  So, a very sincere thank you to everyone who supports our site.  100,000 views and nearly two and a half years later, we simply wouldn’t be here without you.

--Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Now that we've reached the 100,000 page view mark, we thought it would be a great idea to interview some of our writers on their experience with 2nd First Look thus far.  We thank each of our writers and readers for making 2nd First Look as successful as it is.  And now…the 100,000 Interview:

- - - - - -

What made you decide to write for 2nd First Look?

Dave Gourdoux [DG]: I’ve been a fan of 2FL from the beginning.  I like the freedom the writers are given to write about whatever they want, and I like the fact that the site stays positive, and doesn’t do negative reviews.  I like that the writers are talented and passionate about their subject matter.  So when Lisa asked me if I’d like to join the staff, it was an honor and pleasure to accept.

Jenny Bootle [JB]: I've always been a fan of things a little out of the mainstream (not to say I don't enjoy a big razzmatazz blow-it-up blockbuster once in a while) so when Jav and Lisa approached me to write for 2FL, I thought the site was an excellent idea - to encourage people to take a look at something they may have missed the first time round. Also, I'm one of those annoying people who insists they were fans of anything good before everyone else discovered it... so this allows me to channel that annoyingness into something more positive!

John Bloner, Jr. [JBJr]: I needed a place where I could demonstrate my OCD tendencies--make lists and see what they look like alphabetized versus in numerical order--as well as engage in a favorite pastime: looking up stuff.  I love research.  Once a topic has seized my interest, I'll stuff real and virtual folders with my finds.  I also love to learn new terms of speech.   My recent favorite is "drone culture", i.e., our collective fascination with pilotless planes. 

How did you decide which article you would write first?

DG: My first article was a no-brainer:  my favorite movie of all time, “Shoot the Piano Player”.  It’s such a great and eccentric movie; I’ve always felt it deserves a wider audience.

JB: I agonized for a long time over what to write my first article about. I made long lists of my favourite films, music, television and books and tried to narrow it down. Eventually I picked "Adventureland" because it was a film I had seen and loved not long beforehand and I was annoyed by the way the film's trailer and marketing misrepresented it. I wanted to bring it to peoples' attention and let them know how great it is.

JBJr: I wrote my first article on the film, "Cold Souls."  I was not aware of this film's existence until the day after I received an invitation to become a writer for 2FL.  I spotted it in our library's DVD bin, while I was looking for something else.  So, my first article found me, rather than vice-versa.  

What kinds of projects do you typically like to write about?

DG: Being one of the elder statesman of the staff, I’m probably a little more out of touch with current culture than the rest of the team.  But I am older, and I’m also a true movie and music history geek.   So I think it’s that historical perspective I can bring to the site.

JB: I generally choose to write about films, as I regularly read reviews as a way to decide what to watch. I love music, but I find music reviews tough to write, as they're so subjective. I don't feel you have the same common ground to start from as you do when writing about a film.

JBJr: My interests evolve or change over time, sometimes over years and sometimes over only weeks.  Here are a couple of them.
  1. Puppets.  In the 1970s, I first learned about the Bread and Puppet Theater, which started my interest in artistic communication through puppetry.  It was like stepping through a looking glass, finding a world where puppets were much more than child's play. I'm now a puppeteer in The Puppet Underground, a newly-formed troupe in Kenosha, WI.  
  2. Comics.  As I've grow older, my aging eyes need not only larger type, but images to seize my imagination.  Fortunately, some of today's best storytelling is in the form of comics.  Some favorites include Ben Katchor and Chris Ware. 

Has there ever been a time where you thought you knew almost everything there was to know about a topic you were writing about, but you learned something new that surprised you?

DG: Yes, all the time.  This is one of the fringe benefits of writing the articles.  For example, this week while writing an article on Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love,” I noticed the similarities between his song “Spare Parts” and his famous ballad “The River”.   I’ve listened to both songs hundreds of times over the years, but until writing about it, the similarities never occurred to me.  The result was an increased admiration for “Spare Parts”, a song I never gave much thought to before.

JB: I've never approached a topic believing I know everything about it (how is that possible?) but I do enjoy researching the articles - finding out what the director or writer has said about the film, how much it cost to make, little incidental facts, etc.

JBJr: I've not been surprised, but my interest in topics has been deepened in the process of researching and writing articles for 2FL.  While conducting research for an article on the film "Cold Souls", I finally got around to reading Chekov's play, "Uncle Vanya". Prior to writing an article on the Art Ensemble of Chicago, I had not listened to their music in decades, since selling off my entire vinyl collection.  I gained a deeper respect for the musicians while I listened, and read interviews with and articles about them.

Where would you like to see 2FL go in the coming years?

DG: I like the “out-of-the-box” (an examination of broader arts than the usual movies or music) type of articles John Bloner has been posting lately, and it’d be interesting to see more of that sort of thing (although I fear I wouldn’t have much to contribute}.  Otherwise, as long as it maintains the enthusiasm and passion, I’m okay with wherever it goes.

JB: I'm not sure! I would like people to continue to visit and read the site. Getting feedback about articles or readers' own opinions of what's being reviewed is always interesting to read.

JBJr: I'm excited for the future of 2FL, looking forward to the day (coming soon!) of seeing one million views of the website.  I'd like for 2FL to provide its readers with an opportunity to share their comments, insights, and input on the 2FL site, as well as a chance to join a mailing list in order to receive 2FL news in the form of an e-newsletter or as a 2FL mobile app.  I'd also like to see 2FL provide performing and visual artists, as well as other writers, with opportunities to provide a creative response to works of art, whether it's a classic film, a well-loved tale, or some sounds that stir their souls.  A few other ideas for 2FL:
  • Create a 2FL channel on YouTube.
  • Step off the Web and into communities for discussions, performances, and interactive installations.
  • Offer live Twitter talks between an audience and guest artists, including authors, architects, designers, creative coders and more.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the 2FL staff and am thankful for its many readers and my fellow contributors.
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In the years to come, we hope both our readers and writers enjoy wherever 2nd First Look may go.  And we look forward to our next milestone - be it another 100,000 page views, another year's anniversary, or even just our next article.  To us, each moment that we remain online is a cause for celebration.  Thanks again to everyone who supports 2nd First Look.

TRIVIA: The idea to interview our writers in celebration of this milestone came from Jav's mother.