They walk among us--those agents of change--but sometimes, we just need to be reminded of who they are, especially in an era where the media remains over-focused on the backside of a Kardashian and the antics of a Bieber or an Atlanta...
Oh, the winds of fate blowing into Bates Motel are about get even more twisted. Season 3 of the hit A&E drama premieres tonight, and any doubts about whether this prequel to the famous Hitchcock Psycho juggernaut (now set in the...
They walk among us -- those agents of change. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of who they are. Take note of five stand-outs creating significant sea changes.
Let's face it: today's media has turned into...
Anniversaries are aplenty lately. Less than six months ago, back in September 2014, we got a double whammy: the 75th-anniversary markers of Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and Joseph Stalin's invasion of the country on Sept. 17. Everything changed...
I remember when it first happened. Several years ago, I was sitting across from John Travolta at a round table press interview for a film the actor was promoting when a curious feeling emerged from the nether regions of my emotional...
When you become a Northern Californian -- a true Northern Californian -- you can develop a penchant for -- how do I put this? -- spiritual things. This is not Breaking News. Californians are typically lumped into the "California woo-woo" category but...
Who are we-really? Where do we come from? What happened before us?
These may be heady questions, but now that we're 15 years into the 21st Century--yes, that's a jawdropper when you think about...
Forget those 10 Lords a Leaping. This season, Chicagoans only need two.
Meet co-workers and pals Matt Monnin and Peter Frederiksen. The spunky and enterprising duo have been generating buzz lately with their festive dance battle, dubbed the Rudolph Dance Off. It's one of the more creative endeavors to hit the town in a jam-packed holiday season filled with events all begging to be milked for attention. But this one--it's a keeper.
The concept? Have some fun. Just dance. Twenty-five dances in the 25 days.
The guys take turns sporting their grooviest dance moves to a variety of pop tunes around a boombox placed in front of a unique and different Chicago locale every outing. The dances are posted online and viewers get to vote for their favorite. It's that simple.
But watch the guys in action and you'll soon realize that their spirited endeavor is more than just a dance off. It's a powerful reminder to, well, lighten up, have some fun and pursue your passions--without thinking about recognition and monetary reward. And in a world where we're told by the minute that fame and status hold more value than, say, following your bliss (shout out to Deepak and Oprah here!), this dance soiree is downright refreshing.
Monnin, who is 34 and lives in Lakeview, and Frederiksen, 27, a Logan Square resident, are taking the competition in the spirit of fun. But the guys have some help behind the scenes. Steph Krout is art director on the project, Joel Witmer directs and Chris Mauck shoots and edits. The gang actually are co-workers at Chicago's Ableson Taylor and the genesis of the idea came from Monnin and Frederiksen's co-workers.
The Dance Off announces a winner on Christmas Day. In the meantime, dive in and see where it all began back at Day One and watch some of the other dances.
I have spent more than a decade in an emotional holding cell back in Poland and Siberia in the 1940s. Allow me explain. When my Polish uncle, John Migut, sent me a letter back in 2002 with some notes he had written about what he, his siblings and his parents endured trying to survive Joseph Stalin's mass deportations and the forgotten odysseys of some 2 million Polish citizens, I was beyond intrigued. I wrote an essay on the subject, it garnered some praise and, at the time, I thought that I had done my part -- simply write something about what my Polish family and their comrades had experienced.
I was horribly wrong in that assessment.
For years, my family's misadventure haunted me; hunted me. I seemed destined to learn more. I became a Polish Dick Tracy, searching for more clues about my family's endeavors, all the while beginning to question how much of the past lives on in us on some level. More refined details emerged: my family's memories about their deportation; how the eight of them barely survived; the subsequent "amnesty" that Stalin granted to those he had imprisoned -- Poles, Jews, others -- once he aligned with the Allies in the summer of 1941; how the family, and so many others, wound up in the Middle East and eventually Eastern Africa. In the years that followed the article, I replayed the series of audio and video interviews I had conducted with the clan. For some reason, I felt like a thick thread being pulled through the very small eye of the needle that history had forgotten. I wanted to make sense of the deportations and the experiences of the Poles; shed light on an injustice.
Eventually, I chronicled my experiences, and the plight of the family and their comrades, in my upcoming book, Grace Revealed: A Memoir, and recently, as I emerged from a thick Stalin-laced fog, I came across another writer who had also stumbled upon a piece of Polish history that would have been left untold and, perhaps, completely misplaced. His name is Glenn Kurtz and his book, Three Minutes In Poland: Discovering A Lost World In A 1938 Film, is a remarkable feat and something whose ripple effects will be felt for quite some time.
As the story goes ... Kurtz discovered, quite by chance, an old family film in his parents closet in Florida in 2009. The film had been shot decades ago by his grandfather, David Kurtz, who had been on a sightseeing trip to Europe in the summer of 1938. But what stood out was that the elder Kurtz had also captured on 16mm color film scenes of his birthplace, a seemingly thriving Jewish town in the Nasielsk, Poland. Three thousand citizens lived in the town. A year later, after the Nazi occupation, fewer than 100 survived. Just like that -- the town, its people. Gone.
Kurtz also wrote an essay about his discovery but as he continued searching for more clues about the people who were actually in the film, he began to suspect that perhaps he had discovered the item too late. He marveled at how the film showed the town's thriving occupants -- happy and content in their community -- and was befuddled about not being able to locate any more clues.
All of that changed after Kurtz donated those minutes of footage to the United States Holocaust Museum. A woman had watched the film on the museum's website. Shocked, she recognized the face of a 13-year-old boy. It was her grandfather who had gone by the name of Moszek Tuchendler, who would become Maurice Chandler, an 86-year-old living in Florida. It's here were Kurtz's journey seems to truly begin for Chandler impeccable memory allowed the writer to not only begin piecing together more information about the town and its inhabitants before the Nazi's reign of terror, but also to embark on adventure that would offer the town and its people some justice.
I interviewed Kurtz about the book, his experience and the importance of preserving moments in time that would otherwise be left forgotten.
Greg Archer: The book was released last month and I'm curious to know what you are finding most interesting in the responses you are receiving in your various book talks?
Glenn Kurtz: Two things that are making it so meaningful. The first is just the opportunity to share this story and see in the responses that it touches people. And that there's a sense of the importance of the work that people seem to feel. It's very moving to me. I always felt like it was something worth doing, but often, you work in a sort of a bubble while you are writing something and its significance isn't always in view, but you have to believe in it. And then the other thing, is people I met who did not know very much about their town. It's not so much that I found a new survivor, or information. It's that it continues to bring together this community of people to draw their ancestry from the town and know who they are in a sense. Collectively, they hold the memory of the town.
Greg Archer: I can relate on some level. It has become important for me to record family histories; to get a sense of their experiences and to honor those experiences -- and them. Would love to hear from you why you feel it's necessary to have these histories recorded.
Glenn Kurtz: Let's start with the survivors. We're living in a moment when the survivor generation is disappearing. That is totally foreseeable. One of the things that started me on the project was a sense that this was the last moment these stories could be recorded and preserved. And there's a profound change that takes place in the nature of memory; the nature of history when something passes from a lived experience to a purely recorded or documented event. Obviously, that is an inevitable transformation. And in a way, that is something that makes something history as opposed to an experience.
Greg Archer: It' a curious slope though ...
Glenn Kurtz: That kind of transformation entails a profound thinning out of the texture of what happened. Again, that thinning out is necessary in order for it to be communicable to others to become history. Written history looks at what happened and is so distinct from what somebody experienced. You may be able to capture the feeling, but to really really understand the texture of the experience ... that is a very different thing. Life doesn't happen in story form or book form. It happens in this very multi-dimensional, immersive and often very confusing way and only subsequently is that it gets ordered and arranged. It takes on a coherence that allows people who have not experienced it, to understand it. It's important now to capture those memories; to capture the texture of what it was like. Before people disappear.
Greg Archer: It's absolutely vital.
Glenn Kurtz: That's the urgency of this moment. I think that it's urgent, in general, because the way in which this life, this world, was destroyed. I often thought when I was working on this project ... You know my aunt grew up in Brooklyn and was 93 years old, the same age as these survivors I was interviewing. And her world in the 1920s and 1930s is just as gone, just as past as the world of Poland in the 1920s and 1930s. But it wasn't destroyed by violence. It was destroyed by time. But the picture of that world is just an unrecoverable now as those in Poland. And I thought it's important to try and grasp these things while it's still possible.
Greg Archer: I do appreciate, too, that you happened to 'stumble' upon this film. I'm fascinated with that idea -- whether we find things or they find us. Do you feel that way?
Glenn Kurtz: You know, there are a lot of things that did come to me in the course of this project. In a way, the most important things that came to me are in the way that Mr. Chandler's family got in touch with me having seen the film online. I couldn't have made that happen. There are so many aspects of this story ... and I don't mean to underestimate how hard I worked. Nevertheless, there is no way that I could have caused these things to happen. As an aside, I wonder why we like that feeling of things coming to us. It does feel like it does come from the outside. But of course, I feel like we are drawn to it -- like we choose to do these projects and there is something fundamentally compelling to us. It almost feels to us as if it is beyond our volition -- like we didn't choose the subject, that it chose us.
Greg Archer: Can you share some of the more compelling things about Mr. Chandler?
Glenn Kurtz: History aside, he is an interesting man. The extraordinary detail of his memory is also exceptionally interesting. He has this near-photographic memory. He's 90 years old now. For me, it was our engagement with history itself. He told me a lot of stories and after some time, I had read everything I could and met other survivors that I had come to know enough about this town to realize that it wasn't just the stories that he would tell, but to get into those things that often get left out. And to be willing to sit with somebody who is willing to explore the pockets of the unopened drawers of his memory was really really interesting. It was incredibly moving and incredibly powerful. And to search in his memory and to find things there that he didn't know he had.
Greg Archer: I'm curious. What are a few things you learned about yourself along the way?
Glenn Kurtz: This project caused me to do a lot of things that I would not what have habitually done. I had to depend on other people an enormous amount. I needed help. It wasn't my history. It was other people's history. When I was in Poland, when I was in Israel, when I was in England ... I needed logistical support from people that, in a way, I never needed. I like to work in a solitary way so it was really something different for me. Not just research help but personal help in understanding what these stories were. I had to go into people's homes and have them share with me often the most painful and personal, most guarded memories of their lives and I had to let myself be present with them while they underwent this.
Greg Archer: That requires some grace.
Glenn Kurtz: To some degree, there was a sense of struggle for them to let these memories out. I had to let myself just trust the process of gathering the story and not try to make it happen by doing something. I had to allow it to happen and be present for it.
Learn more about Glenn Kurtz
There she is: The incomparable Kathleen Turner in a pair of fiery red cowboy boots and an oversized denim button-down shirt. She sits on the floor, center stage, and makes observations over newspaper articles. "Personally, I love Americans," Turner remarks in fabulous...
They walk among us--those agents of change--but sometimes, we just need to be reminded of who they are, especially in an era that finds the media over-focused on the backside of a Kardashian or the face of a famous actress....
We live in an entertainment era filled with overdoses of testosterone. Let's face it, even Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis refuse to let go of the bravura that catapulted them toward stardom decades ago, and female protagonists -- really strong and embraceable ones -- are often overshadowed by their male counterparts....
A rare breed of spunk and spirit co-mingle in the Polish film Gods (Bogowie), the biopic about professor Zbigniew Religa, who performed the first successful heart transplant in communist Poland in the 1980s. It's a winning combination destined to win over audiences...
Admit it: You're a tad disappointed. There's not one photo of Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger here. Not one.
Tragic. Or, as the hipsters say: tragique.
Well, just breathe. Trust me: We'll all be fine here without looking at Renée. And for those...
They walk among us -- those agents of change. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of who they actually are. Take note of five enterprising women who generate a powerful ripple effect...
Let's face it, the first national touring production of 2013's Tony-winning hit Pippin (Best Musical Revival), didn't need all that much to lure in the masses. But now that the indelible Lucie Arnaz has come on...
It's not quite breaking news, but anybody with any pop culture savvy already knows that Adam Pally gives good "bro." The quintessential buddy/guy-next-door/bro-you-can-hang-with has become one of TV's more reliable supporting players. It may have started with his role...
Now that Fashion Week is officially underway in New York City, don't be surprised with the overdose of eye candy. The glitz, the glamour, the clamor for headlines and hot shots -- it's the annaul relentless ride into the wild and flashy multibillion-dollar fashion industry. And the world loves it.
On the flipside, the opportunity can unleash a trunk load of humor. If you look in the right places.
Consider Rack & Ruin. The new web series was exclusively launched by the fine folks over at the popular online portal Women You Should Know. Created and written by, and starring the incomparable Angela Dee, it is, quite simply, the one web series you should be watching -- no fashionista orgasms required, btw. But if you enjoy the fashion world, this is the show that will accessorize your creative fashion endeavors this week -- and beyond.
As for Dee... she could be the comedic find of the season.
Why? For starters, she's a rare talent, an actress who can slide into comedic realms with ease and grace but one that also reveals the haunting insecurities that plague us all. Beyond that, Dee's show is smart, inventive and refreshing. Few web series offer a protagonist that you can immediately root for but Dee does just that here in an outing that not only pokes fun at the fashion industry but also effective strips it naked to expose the insecure underbelly from which it tends to operate.
The lowdown: Saffron (Dee) is a people-pleasing Brit who lands a position at Jolie Laide, a posh yet absurdly toxic, high-end clothing boutique in New York City. Eccentric characters comprise the staff at Jolie Laide, including an off-the-wall store manager, Betsy, played by the always alluring Markie Post. Needless to say, Saffron is destined for humiliation and pain.
Dee, a delightful British-born actress who studied design and illustration in fine art at the London College of Fashion, and later went on to work in the surreal retail realms of London's Mayfair area as well as SoHo in New York, offers a delicious if not savage five-episode romp in Rack & Ruin, all of which have been directed under the keen eye of Zetna Fuentes (Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars).
I caught up with Dee as Fashion Week officially unravels in all of its glory to learn more about the web series, the mix of comedy and fashion, and the good news that the show may be destined for cable. Dive in:
Greg Archer: Fun, fun, fun web series. And good to know about what with Fashion Week and all. So, there are many good things about the fashion industry--obviously, the clothes--but are what some things you find most amusing by it, overall?
Angela Dee: That it's a lifestyle of glamour and perfection. Money. High ideals. But it's built on top of this rotting core of insecurity. Those two ingredients equal comedy.
Greg Archer: Tell us about the genesis of the web series.
Angela Dee: I used to work in fashion. Even out of high school I was torn with being an actor or being in fashion. I got a scholarship of sorts straight out of school for fashion and I thought, that's it. It was chosen for me. I stepped into that world and I was instantly traumatized and entertained by the whole experience. I started working at a boutique in London. I came up with the idea back then of writing a show--even at 18 years old--like how absurd everything was. But it wasn't until I started working in a boutique to subsidize my acting in New York (I've lived in NYC 18 years) that more ideas came. In my very first Interview at a fashion boutique here, I was asked a question and I thought, 'I have to write this script.' It was a horrific interview process. It was so weird.
Greg Archer: How so?
Angela Dee: Walking into the store that first moment, I wondered what it would be like to be in this industry. The manager of the store, at the very end of the interview, said, 'Ok, great, so we have one last question for you. Um, what is your sun sign?' And I started laughing. 'Oh that's so funny.' But they weren't laughing--the manager and assistant manager. So I said, 'I am a Pisces.' And they started to confer with each other--about Pisces'. Out loud. And I thought, 'What is happening in this interview?' From that moment, I couldn't help it. I had to do something with it.
Greg Archer: You say the web series was officially released in late June. What was the process of bringing it to life?
Angela Dee: I wrote it in two ways. I am very familiar with the way television is transforming currently; certainly people would say it's in a golden age right now. But it's also making a huge transformation as far as the medium is concerned. The very first script I wrote was three- to four-minutes long--the interview scenes--and I knew that it could stand on it's own. Thinking on it more, I wondered how this character Saffron showed up here and I had about 12 episodes that I read with some comedy and actor friends. Some of them said that the project wanted to be something bigger.
Greg Archer: A good sign.
Angela Dee: I was daunted by that, so I decided that I would write a TV pilot but knowing how precarious the industry was and continues to be, I didn't want to box myself out. I wanted to maintain some kind of control. So I wrote five web episodes embedded in the TV pilot, so that if I wanted to, I could pull them out and have them stand along as five individual TV episodes and not live or die on landing a TV deal. I submitted it to a lot places for feedback and Women You Should Know---an amazing group of women online focused on featuring women who are in the shadows but don't usually feature celebrities ever--connected with me. So that's why it was so unique. Through a friend of mine, they saw the first episode of the series and asked if I would launch it exclusively with them and it was the first time they had done anything like that before.
Greg Archer: Good timing.
Angela Dee: It was totally kismet, I guess. I am not a fatalist or anything like that but it was all very weird; a kind of amazing conglomeration of stardust that it all came together. So, it became a web series, which is what I had wanted originally.
Greg Archer: The response has been positive overall and you say there's buzz about a couple of cable channels being interested in it.
Angela Dee: Yes. We shall see.
Greg Archer: For now, will there be more--on the web?
Angela Dee: I really hope so. Five web episodes took a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of time. So many favors involved. But to really rally the troops on my own (for more)? Markie Post did it for free--flew herself over here from L.A. We didn't spend a penny on Markie Post, which is absolutely obscene and things like that only hit once; it's magical.
Greg Archer: Can you talk more about the premise, too; that underlying truth of insecurities we see in the series.
Angela Dee: I am an obsessive people watcher. I am constantly fascinated with people's motivation and behavior and the persona they show the world versus how they feel inside. It's kind of like fashion, in a sense; this unique façade we all show but then also this deep insecure self we carry that we hope nobody else discovers. I am fascinated with it in myself and I am fascinated with it in other people--how people interact with each other and what they really think of themselves. I wanted to know, and still do, what makes people tick.
Greg Archer: Well, all eyes will be on Fashion Week this week. Thoughts?
Angela Dee: I love Fashion Week. Especially New York Fashion Week. If you're walking around, especially Lincoln Center, everybody tries to express themselves a little more creatively with their wardrobe. I kind of love it. It's an absurd circus at the same time. It's the Oscars of fashion in a way without the award.
Greg Archer: I would imagine it gives you a little more material too.
Angela Dee: Exactly.
Greg Archer: Well, you wrote this, so I have to ask: What do you love most about writing?
Angela Dee: Well, writing is a whole other bowl of wax. I find some parts of writing horrible. I love it when it's all good and done, and I feel like I am finished. But it's very rare that I feel that way. It's very isolating and frustrating. But the things that I love about it is what I love about acting--digging into the psychology of the people I am writing about and finding a way to express the complete opposite of that through their persona whilst maintaining a sense of what they are really thinking. I mean really thinking.
Greg Archer: Comedy at its best.
Find more Rack & Ruin here. Updates on Fashion Week