Saturday, 3 October 2009

Werner Herzog: Live in London, not eating his shoe

Hey bloggy friends,

I have come back from a lovely and accidental evening of successful Karaoke singing. Yes, oh yes, Kenny Rogers and the Muppets from 2 posts ago convinced me to take my passion to the stage, put on a cowboy hat, and tell the people they had to know when to hold 'em, etc, etc. Got off to a shaky start, but after that my North American accent ensured a good amount of Karaoke success, made all the better by my friend Bernard also donning a cowboy hat and backing me up on air guitar on stage. Quite wonderful all told. A grand bout of silliness inspired by - oddly enough, Werner Herzog, whom I saw speak at the Southbank Centre mere hours before.

I'd gone to see Mr. Herzog mostly because I'd been told that once, having lost a bet, Werner Herzog ate his shoe, and was filmed doing it by Errol Morris. This gave me an immediate respect for the man's integrity, his sense of the absurd, and of course, his digestive system, which must be made of steel or something to take a shoe on board. So even though I've only seen one of his films, I felt very comfortable paying full ticket price to see the man himself have a 2 1/2 hour chat at Royal Festival Hall.

But how - you may ask - did he inspire me to sing Kenny Rogers? Well, the wonderful thing about Herzog and chat is that he covers a myriad of topics. He definitely didn't stick to film - he talked about his favourite Dutch landscape painter, Fred Astaire and the simple magic of cinema in his dance numbers (a thought I'd had after stumbling upon one of Mr. Astaire's numbers last week), the jungle, Facebook, twitter, and - the end of everything. Thank you Werner Herzog.

When discussing the end of everything, which he very much thinks is coming, he quoted Martin Luther King who said, "If Everything ended tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today." He then went on to discuss the futile but enjoyable things he would continue to do in the face of the end of civilization. Well, the whole thing had me oddly inspired. You see, the particular Karaoke bar I go to usually only ever lets the regulars play (one drunken night I called the poor Karaoke dj a fascist), so I never bother requesting songs anymore. For some reason, after my 2nd drink of the day on a near empty stomach, this seemed oddly similar to Herzog's musings on the end of everything. What's the point in requesting a song when he'll never call me up anyway, I asked myself... but the answer was clear. It is worth requesting the song, even if the song never gets called. Plant that apple tree, take a gamble.

So I did - and for a while it seemed that I never would get called up. One of the regulars who had requested far after me was singing, and I thought, they've skipped over me. How about that? Of course it was always going to happen. But a few songs later, my time in front of that screen did come. And you know, even if it hadn't, it was worth putting some hope of singing into that little piece of paper. You should always request.

Wow. I actually managed to apply both Martin Luther King and Werner Herzog's profound sentiments about the end of everything, hope, humanity, civilization, to Karaoke at the Birdcage. Well, you gotta start somewhere, don't you?

Do me a favour and forget the last four paragraphs. Watch this instead. In the words of Werner Herzog, "Fred Astaire is as good as cinema gets." "Why?" the nice man asked him. Werner: "He just is."

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