Are Vampires Real? #FreakyFriday #NanoPoblano2019

Generally, we believe that they are bat-turning man-beasts. Most times, we think they are enigmatic, sensual and sexual beings, hopefully handsome, long-haired blondes willing to be interviewed. Lately, they have been portrayed as really-old emo dudes trapped in young glow-in-the-light bodies. And then there are really scary-looking ones you wouldn’t want to be trapped with in a place where the sun does not rise for 24 days…

By now, you can tell we mean vampires. (Duh. The title?) We talk of vampires, how we know them from books and especially movies. Quite expected, really, as when the discussions go towards the are-they-real route, many—or the experts, at least—will always point out to these as the possible causes of people’s belief in vampires.

The Impaler

dracula, vlad the impaler, translyvania, vampires, vlad, vlad tepes, vlad Dracula, wallachia, real vampire

“This portrait of Vlad III, painted in the early 16th century, hangs in the museum at Castle Ambras in Innsbruck, Austria.” (LiveScience.com)

It is said that vampires originated from the Romanian Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. Historically, he is a revered Romanian folk hero. But he also earned the nickname Tepes (meaning ‘impaler’) for his reputation of cruelly impaling his/their enemies. Dracula was actually his last name, a name now perceived as almost synonymous to ‘vampire’.

It is believed that author Bram Stoker read and studied about Vlad the Impaler. He later created a character ‘inspired’ by (though loosely based on) the prince in his book titled Dracula. This book was so convincing and popular at the time, it gave birth to a whole new era of films capitalizing on horror and vampires. It started with its unauthorized German film adaptation, NOSFERATU. Later on, actor Bela Lugosi would do the biggest role of his life, playing the title role in the DRACULA film. His performance would soon define the way people saw vampires in the decades to come.

Do They (Still) Exist?

Historical accounts aside, belief in vampires has long been a part of many cultures and folklore, called by many other names. The physical features sometimes differ. For instance, unlike bat-turners, some may grow wings while retaining human form).

In the modern world, however, new kinds of vampires have become quite visible. They come in the form of vampire-lovers who either believe they are vampires or would like to live as such. Some go to such extent as to change their whole body features to look like the real deal. It’s the vampire lifestyle or vampire subculture. It’s pretend.

What is not pretend is a real psychiatric condition called Renfield’s Syndrome. It is also called by another term: “Clinical Vampirism”, a mortal’s obsession with drinking real blood. Needless to say, it is very reasonable to try and have this condition or disorder treated, for everyone’s sake.

 

So are vampires real? Are they really supernatural? Until we actually encounter one, this mystery will remain an enigma. The question is, would you really want to meet one? If you do, please let us know.

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For two or three consecutive years (except last year, I think), I tried to make #FreakyFriday posts every November. Guess it’s not too late to do that this year, too.

How about a little story I made? OBSESSION

Found this good read just now: The Bloody Truth About Vampires

Why Visualize Data #THURSDAYTIPS #NANOPOBLANO2019

What is Data Visualization? It is the visual presentation of data to inform your target audience.

These data are meant to complement the relevant information you share. They serve as proof or factual evidence to support any claims you have and to help people understand the value of the data being presented.

Image from PCMag.com

The Evolution of Visual Presentations

In the old days, these visualization tools were simple graphs, charts, tables, timelines, and maps. They were materials you could physically touch. Over time, with the arrival of better technology, we learned to make more effective presentations. They were created using computer graphics and online spreadsheets.

In the Internet age, however, visualization tools have become much more sophisticated and interactive. Various software, widgets, Application Program Interface (API), and other programs are used to make them instead.

Today’s data visualization tools include the usual but more detailed charts (bar charts, pie charts), infographics, geographic online maps, and sparklines, which are small designs for numerical and statistical information. Heatmaps are included, too, as they are snapshots that indicate two things: what catches your website visitors’ attention, and where they stay the longest in your site.

The Advantage of Newer Technology

A visualization software helps give people a better idea of your data by showing the relationships between items and the patterns and trends. They can be more detailed, able to show information that would otherwise be missed. Unnoticed details could cause unexpected problems or misinterpretations.

Meanwhile, visuals attract more attention. They help the audience to understand data. People normally get bored with dull and cold presentations. With today’s technology, we are able to maximize a material’s potential while we improve how people interpret our data.

For instance:

With the Timeline JS widget, you can show stunning, interactive timelines to impress people. But it’s not just to impress, rather, to emphasize the significance of the presented data. The timelines can have slideshow and embedabble capabilities.

ZingChart is a feature-rich API and is very interactive. It allows animation to be used in its visuals. People are attracted to visuals and they love animation. ZingChart’s JavaScript library has hundreds of chart types to choose from, which also means hundreds of ways to let your audience digest information. 

TheTableau software updates information in real-time and is great for team collaboration. It allows you to create powerful, beautiful visuals and is very easy to use with its drag and drop ability.

Now MS Excel, Google Charts and Google Sheets maybe “old”, but they are still popular. In fact, they keep up with the modern times quite well—the better to stay competitive. Try out their library of data visualization tools and see that they are not at all behind when it comes to new technology.

The Importance of Data Visualization

The question is, why get these newer tools when you can use the old ones? The problem is, it is not really advisable, especially if information may be lost using the older technology.

You like to inform. You like to write. But how do you make sure your presentation sets you apart and shows you as an authority? Today, content is king. Part of that content are data that, as said earlier, should support any relevant information you share.

 

If you want to be seen as an authority in your field, show it. Make people know you are trustworthy, competent and knowledgeable. Use effective data visualization tools. Remember, though, that being resourceful is good, but it does not necessarily make you an authority. No matter how visually striking the look, if content is lacking, you will only be wasting both your and your audience’s time.

 

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NOTE: This was written in 2018 (never published, at least, not without my consent) so the visualization tools mentioned may not be that updated. Technology changes fast.

DISCLAIMER: I am not endorsing any product, tool, or company. Any mention was just for information purposes.

JUNO The Film that Made Ellen Page? #NanoPoblano2019

***NOTE: I am back trying to complete my ten posts for November. It’s always funny in a not-so-ha-ha way that everytime I try to do writing challenges, something comes up to distract my mojo. I was doing well posting my first Nano Poblano posts daily. Then personal problems distracted me. I also suddenly have a new client (well, she was a client before) who has been giving me various writing assignments. So yeah, my brain is usually cooked by evening. I just want to binge on Netflix. Well, I do actually binge on it.

Anyway, this is a fine time to re-share a film review I did in the past. I’ve been wanting to for quite some time but I never found the right timing. Maybe this is it. I originally wanted to post for #MondayReviews but, well…

Here it is. I did some editing to make it more readable, though and updated. By the way, ALL images and video belong to the producers, okay? And, oh, for more reviews, visit the CRITIC’S CORNER, please.

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JUNO THE FILM THAT MADE ELLEN PAGE?

ellen-page-juno

Ellen Page in the title role of JUNO

It all began with a chair. No, really, it did, and it’s what the lead said: “It all began with a chair.” Honestly, I felt that the intro was rather weak until I realized why the writer began with that. The chair would somehow set the stage for what was soon to be the center of the story.

I am, admittedly, partial to movies with the word “indie” attached to them. I first heard about the 2007 Fox Searchlight film JUNO through cable-channel surfing. When I heard people gush about the so-called indie film, I said to myself, “Heck, yeah, I gotta see this flick!” Belatedly, after more than two years, I finally chanced upon a copy at a video store and whaddya know? I got me my JUNO.

Meet Juno

First, the story.

The movie tells of a girl named Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), who is equipped with sharp wit and an even sharper mouth. A die-hard rocker kinda girl with a love for slasher movies, she lived by her own rules (practically her own, anyway) sans the usual teen angsts and oh-I-hate-the-world attitude. 

Juno is mature for her own age. However, at sixteen, she is still prone to the wayward ways of the juvenile world. She makes the mistake of sleeping with her dorky male bestfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) one supposedly boring day. “Supposedly”, since she tells quirky cheerleader Leah (Olivia Thirlby), her female bestfriend, that she planned it. But the plan has resulted into something she did not expect. And she pays for it in a span of nine months. 

juno-movie-poster

Suddenly, Juno is faced with going through the inevitable phase. And then there’s the adoption to think of. She wants to make sure that her baby’s future adoptive parents (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) are the perfect ‘desperately seeking spawn’ couple she thinks they are. As one character puts it, “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch,” pertaining to Juno’s positive pregnancy test. “This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.” She needs to make it right for her kid.

Juno worries that her child might grow up in a dysfunctional family such as hers. It is emotional baggage that the seemingly-uncaring Juno has carried around for years and is now being brought to the surface.

Interesting? Well, loads of people can’t be wrong. I know what endeared this movie to critics and public audience alike; it’s what endeared it to me.

Why Love JUNO?

It’s an adorable piece of unconventional, not-too-dramatic, creative storytelling. It tackles a very real issue with a humorous take. It is not to make light of the situation. Rather, it teaches about loving, forgiving and learning to let go.

The film deserves the praises, nominations, and awards it received. First-time screenwriter Diablo Cody spun a very good tale about a girl forced to deal with matters that even some adults fear facing. (Don’t ask why her name Diablo; it’s an alias and is another story.)

The movie is a coming-of-age comedy except Juno had to mature faster than necessary, and she knew this. As she said in a scene, she was “just out dealing with things waaay beyond my maturity level.” Frankly, she dealt with the situation much more maturely than at least one of the adults.

Kudos to Cody for a wonderful script. She relayed the story in a manner that while she did not promote premarital sex and teenage pregnancy, she emphasized the value of family support during these dark times. She took a stand as well against abortion. Subtle, but a qualified stand.

What made this movie stand out more were the wickedly delicious dialogues mostly delivered by the wickedly brilliant Ellen Page. Language was often young and hip to emphasize the kind of girl Juno was. The adults had their own witty lines and comebacks as well, right at every turn. But it’s a good thing that Ellen played the lead role because she would have stolen the scenes from any other lead anyway. They were all good, but Ellen was just…well, again, wickedly brilliant!

JUNO made an instant Ellen Page fan out of me. [Ed. She’s the main reason I’m watching THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY.] So I  researched on her and found her interesting film biography. She has done roles others can only dream of. Ellen tends to play dark roles, but she has said she is open for other kinds of roles (e.g. Kitty Pryde a.k.a. Shadowkat in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, Ariadne in INCEPTION).

For JUNO, Ellen received nominations and awards. She now carries with her name the “Academy Awards Nominee” tag. She has said that one advantage is she can now choose roles. Maybe it’s a joke, but I don’t think she even had that problem before at all, anyway. Real directors know talent when they see one.

JUNO gets FIVE STARS from me for being unconventional, smart, and even delicious to the eyes (I love the bright colors!!!). And, oh, spankin’ cute soundtrack as well, honest to blog!

Meanwhile, I am now looking for copies of her movies HARD CANDY, MOUTH TO MOUTH, SUPER, THE CURED, THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, and AN AMERICAN CRIME [Ed. I posted a review of this. Just click]. Maybe I’ll try Netflix.

“THE WITCH’S BREW” #NanoPoblano2019

witch's cauldron

Image from Fandom.com

The Witch’s Brew

Coffee and cream

mixed together,

make a wonder;

add sugar

along the way.

Which is which?

Which is real?

Can you segregate

by what, by how

you feel?

The witch

and her brew –

stirring

tasting

swirling

in this little cup

that’s you.

Copyright © J.Gi Federizo

 

Last week, I was in my element and was posting from Monday to Thursday. Came Friday when I sort of had a tight schedule and had to travel for hours going home. I thought I could post anything, but I was tired and had no proper Internet connection.

I did not have Internet connection throughout the weekend, too! Sure, there was mobile data. But when I blog, I am more comfortable with a laptop. I am more at ease with an actual keyboard than with touchscreen that freakin’ messes up my words most of the time.

Came Monday. Unfortunately for my blogging, I started with a new client. My main task? To write. That’s how it’s been till Thursday. I am usually too tired to blog. So okay, to go back to the challenge, I posted another poem written years ago. I chose it for the title since it’s still November. The meaning/reason behind the poem is nothing near supernatural, though.

Hope you liked it. Well, hope you liked all my newly-posted poems so far. There’s more where that came from. Check out my POETRY NOOK.

“TAUNTED” #NanoPoblano2019

TAUNTED

I am forever taunted
by the promise
of a new day,
an elusive dream
waiting on the palm
of my hands.

I close my hands
only to find
what has always
been there —
a touch of empty air
that I, myself, molded.

The promise is my own doing.

The new day is my own dream.

Until such time, I forever hold nothing.

Copyright © J.Gi Federizo

 

For more, please check out the POETRY NOOK.

5 Ways to Drive High Quality Leads #ThursdayTips #NanoPoblano2019

Are you having trouble getting quality leads? Then, you are probably doing it wrong.

There are various ways to learn how to get those leads. They will not be easy and will require more time and effort to do.

5 Ways to Drive Great Leads

Below are five ways to do it, listed in random order. They may be things you already know, but they are there for emphasis.

1. Write unique and relevant articles. Make sure you do not simply copy off from other people’s works. Make sure your topic is related to what your business is offering.

If you do not create unique and relevant articles, you will end up listed far away from the first search engine results page. That is not going to help you drive high quality leads since searchers cannot find you. Content is considered king in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry.

2. Use Google AdWords. This can help you with great campaigns. You can create banner-type display ads and text ads. Maximize the use of their Keyword Planner Tool to include keywords in your ads. The tool will help identify keywords your site is ranking for and suggest some that you may try to rank for. Forget all the others that are not helping your site rank higher in search engines.

Understand how this powerful Google product works so you can use it well to boost your business standing. It is not an easy task and the service is not free. Still, work hard on your campaigns and check performance based on the results.

3. Use reputable analytical tools like Google Analytics. Google is emphasized because it is the most popular and trusted search engine. There are other analytical tools you can use; it depends on which search engines you trust. Bing has its own tools, for example, so use it, if that is your preference.

Analytics are important especially since they are oftentimes integrated with search engines: Google Analytics is with AdWords, Bing’s SEO Analyzer is with Bing Ads. Using them gives you a bigger picture of how your site is doing, why it’s not performing well, and what the possible problem(s) could be.

4. Do both on-page and off-page optimization. Optimize well, not just on-page but off-page. If content is king, optimization could be the queen—it can get you anywhere.

On-page SEO is done directly on the site. You can optimize titles, descriptions and links. It usually involves keyword search, allowing you to include keywords in creating descriptions, for instance. Meanwhile, off-page SEO is done outside the webpage. These are ways to promote your site through social media marketing, link building (e.g. online directory submissions), article submissions that link back to you, and others.

Hiring skilled SEO specialists is highly advised.

5. Learn online marketing strategies. You will need to learn new marketing strategies to get high-quality leads. Learn inbound marketing, inbound sales marketing, even email marketing. All can help you improve your business and get great leads.

Do not handle all the marketing, though. Make sure you have people to delegate tasks to. A marketing and a sales person/team will have separate tasks while still working together—Marketing will find possible leads (based on targeted “buyer personas”), Sales will work until the leads avail of your products or services. They must have the proper training on the new marketing strategies.

Marketing is very important. It is how you are going to introduce your business and let people know what you offer. The best strategies can boost business performance.

People’s attention span is too short, so you must keep their attention. They may visit your site, become leads and possibly convert into customers. Eventually, they may become what Inbound Marketing calls “evangelists”, the ones who will promote your business by word of mouth and increase your social media reach.

The Sandbox Show #WhatsupWednesday #NanoPoblano2019

Last October was my first YouTube anniversary. Actually, technically, it wasn’t. I’ve had the account for years. But last year, I decided it was time to do what I really wanted with it: I started vlogging.

One of my dreams was to create my own videos someday. But when I was younger, we didn’t have a camera. We probably could not afford one. Even if we could, it would be against my conscience to ask one from my parents who worked hard to raise us. If we had cellphones, they would not have had clear cameras anyway, if they came with cameras at all. Good thing that I had my chance in college where we created various video productions. And then, my first job was perfect — I wrote and produced institutional videos for a tertiary school.

But those were school- and job-related works. I wanted to create stuff for myself. I had always wanted to own a channel once I learned about people broadcasting on their own cable channels. I wanted to be the one to produce and decide what to do on my own show. But I didn’t have my own equipment and the family did not have cable…

Fast-forward to now and voila! Hello, YouTube!  It helps, too, that new technologies have made it easier for us. Now anyone can own a channel. Even a quirky wannabe like me.

Starting Out

My not-so-high-tech equipment does the trick. Of course, there’s still a lot to be desired. My detachable webcam takes vivid shots except if you move a lot, it creates a sort of visual echo. It can be quite tricky considering that I am a very animated person. I use Windows Photo Editor, which is helpful but is not as nice as other editors. In some of my posted videos, it is obvious whenever I jump from one part to another. They were the first ones I recorded.

I used the “Trim” feature to edit at the start. Luckily, I noticed sometime these last months that they have added a “Split” feature. Tried that and it proved to be sooo much better. It makes the work easier and the results less ‘jumpy’. Most times, the transitions are not even obvious. I could get a better (free) editor, but I am not sure if my laptop’s memory can handle it. Will get to that one day.

The jumps in my vids are more obvious when real-time, actual background music is recorded along with my talking. That is because in the first videos I made, I knowingly recorded while playing songs in the background. That was me being stupid, not realizing the consequences of my actions.

I sometimes get copyright claims when I post them (so I do add credits in the Description section). No strikes, though, especially since I am not earning anything from vlogging. YouTube influencer, I have no illusions of becoming. I have explained in one of my posts (“6 Reasons A Vlogger is Not Popular“). Unless the universe tells me otherwise. Until then…Anyway, I decided to ditch the real-time background music once I realized my problem. If you do encounter a newly posted vid that still noticeably jumps because of the music, that means the raw copy just recently got edited.

Honestly, in a span of one year, I have only posted eight videos on my channel. Life happens, in a good way or a bad way. Serious editing eats time. But since I am in no hurry to get famous, I figured I’d do things on my own time. If you’ve been watching vloggers long enough, you’ll know a lot of them get burnout trying to keep up with the demands of vlogging. So, no. I have enough pressures already at work and in my personal life, I’m not about to add more.

Yes, there are only eight posted videos. Still, there’s enough where they came from. I have lots of recorded copies to last me till next year, plus there’ll be new ones I have yet to make.  My upcoming New Year’s Resolution, however, does include being a more active YouTuber. Also, I’m putting (1) “Don’t buckle”, (2) “Pronounce words correctly”, (3) “Avoid grammatical errors”, and (3) “Don’t be conscious of the camera” on the list.

The Sandbox Show

The Sandbox Show is produced by The Sandbox Prodxns, a “self-owned one-woman company” that I created myself years ago (when I didn’t exactly know what to do with it). My account name has “akasands” in it, which actually means A.K.A Sands. Why it is there and what that means, I will reserve for another time. Unless you want to watch my long, boring, and awkward intro video. It’s explained there somewhere. At least, I added bloopers after, ha!

What can I say? I’m getting better at it. And I do like to play around with the editing to get my best results. I’m a visual person. I try to make my videos as entertaining as I can. Maybe I have only eight posts yet you can betcha I worked hard on evey one of them. Practice makes almost-perfect.

Anyway, I have shared some videos in the past on this blog. Below are the two most recent ones I posted on YT, if you can call them recent:

Yakult vs Delight vs Go Long Probiotic Drinks It’s one of those reviews that I call “comparative mukbang”.

Next,…

The Arya Stark Gender Debate It’s the first and, so far, only Game of Thrones-related video I’ve posted. There are more to come. Here, I discuss an issue that people felt compelled to debate on even in this day and age. Disclaimer: I did say “It does not matter” whether Arya Stark was or was not.

This is my channel, by the way: THE SANDBOX SHOW.

“SOULS” #NanoPoblano2019

It’s about time I post some poetry.

For more, please check out the POETRY NOOK.

Image from TONEPOET (click on image)

souls

bared souls

intertwine –

yet never touch

does she dare tell

the secrets of her own?

***

small talks

small souls

I turn away

***

he knows not

or perhaps

he wishes, too

for a kindred soul

but she knows not

***

two souls,

ancient,

stare at

an empty

horizon

that i

refuse to see

***

the thin line

SNAPS!

oh dear!

poor soul

hanging

by the thread

of sanity

…or what’s left of it.

***

here in limbo

the soul dies

more and more

each and every day

and every day

every day

every

ev

e

.

all that’s left is a period

deemed insignificant

 

Copyright © J.Gi Federizo

CATS Out of the Box #MondayReviews #NanoPoblano2019

In December, a new movie version of CATS THE MUSICAL will be shown in theaters worldwide. I am a huge CATS-lover and let me tell you now: So far, I’m not liking most of the changes they’ve done. But, alright, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Who knows? I might like it.

Anyway, below is the semi-review that I did on the original movie years ago. I call it “semi-review” because it’s more of a feature. Well, more of a fan-made writeup. This was posted way back in the old Multiply days. I have decided to share it again (1) since it’s timely, (2) to introduce new viewers to the original musical, and (3) to give them points of comparison once the new movie is released. I did edit things to correct some grammatical errors, shorten the piece a bit, and add some updates.

By the way, links to more reviews can be found in the CRITIC’S CORNER.

FAIR WARNING: I am posting a reaction-slash-comparison video on my vlog one of these days. Bear with me. Humor me.

A CATTY EXPERIENCE

Indeed, I could choose from a variety of movies that I have already seen. Instead, I chose to love a film that is, for sure, not on a lot of people’s favorites-list. It’s a story with a simple plot. Cinematography is good, not outstanding. The visual effects are there only because they are necessary. And then, there are glaring editing misses!

So what’s there to love, really?

CATS THE MUSICAL is simply not the kind of film most Filipinos would appreciate. Well, most people in general. But I am a musical-enthusiast, videophile, dance-lover and poetry-maker. That combination explains why I find CATS very entertaining, beautiful, and original. It is poetry in words, music, and motion, all rolled into one cool package. Great score, great singing, great dancing! In the words of T. S. Eliot, it is “ineffable…effable…eff-an-in-EF-fable!”

The History of CATS

In the past, stage musicals like OKLAHOMA and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF were made into successful films. Many were culled from classic literature such as OLIVER!, from Charles Dickens‘ book Oliver Twist. THE WIZARD OF OZ, meanwhile, was based from the 1939 film, which was an adaptation of L. Frank Baum‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As for WEST SIDE STORY, it was inspired by William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet.

Came the early ’80s and there was the musical genius Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (ALW). He of the JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA fame had a novel idea: Why not make a musical about cats based on the book his mom used to read to him — T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats?

So CATS was conceived and developed. It was made by famous theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh and ALW’s The Really Useful Theatre Company. CATS was officially ‘born’ in London’s West End, at New London Theatre, on May 11, 1981. Then the show made its Broadway debut on September 7, 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre.

The sung-through musical proved to be a hit and won many awards and accolades. For quite a time, it was the longest-running musical as it was performed on West End stage for two glorious decades! There were 8,489 shows in 21 years. On Broadway, it ran for 18 years with 7,485 shows.

A true Taurean, CATS was as stubborn as a bull, refusing to budge from its position as the “World’s Best-loved Musical”. Well, that was until LES MISERABLES took its place in 2006. Sadly, CATS bid farewell to Broadway and West End in 2000 and 2002 respectively. (Ed. Fortunately, it’s currently back in the game, enjoying the limelight, entertaining more theatre fans, and translated into multiple languages.  “As of 2019, Cats remains the fourth-longest-running Broadway show and the sixth-longest-running West End show.” Oh, and it had a worldwide gross of US$3.5 billion by 2012.)

In 1998, ALW pushed the barriers further by producing the film version of CATS. It was, in fact, the first of its kind, an actual stage performance captured on film. In essence, they picked up where they left off, only with a different medium. Directed for film by David Mallet, the musical was shot in London’s Adelphi Theater by running through the whole production twice and then adding other essential shots. They did it in a span of 18 days. Meanwhile, costumes and make-up were toned down for film.

Original performers like Elaine Paige and Ken Page took on the roles they originated on West End (her) and on Broadway (him). The show also brought in veteran actor Sir John Mills for a special role. ALW then chose actors he thought could best portray the 28 other important characters. The cast were chosen from productions that were then currently showing the musical. Judging from the performances captured by the lenses, it seems that ALW’s team chose wisely and well.

The Story of CATS

The story unfolds as the Jellicle Cats meet at a junkyard for the annual Jellicle Ball. In attendance are the adult cats and the kittens that are on the verge of adulthood, probably attending their first ball.

Led by the protective silver-and-grey tom, Munkustrap (Michael Gruber), they sing, dance, do acrobatics, and bask at the Jellicle moon. That is, while they await the arrival of their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Page). Every year, just before dawn, Deuteronomy makes what is known as the “Jellicle Choice”. He chooses the cat who gets the chance to be reborn, allowed to go up the Heaviside Layer (their kitty heaven), and “come back to a different Jellicle life”. Anyone interested could ask to be given this privilege.

During this time, the audience is given the chance to get accustomed to the characters. Some are easy to remember. That’s due mainly to particular costume designs that stage productions almost always follow . (Thanks, John Napier.)

For those familiar with the show, some characters are instantly recognizable. For instance, Victoria The White Cat (Phyllida Crowley Smith), the tuxedo cat Quaxo (Jacob Brent), the Siamese feline Cassandra (Rebecca Parker), or the twins Coricopat and Tantomile (Tommi Sliiden and Kaye Brown respectively). Some performers first show up as swing or supporting casts, wearing costumes specifically designed not to stand out. They later emerge as important characters. It is hard, though, to miss such a man (or cat) the size of Mister Page.

As the waiting continues, the presence of some adored cats are acknowledged. Jennyanydots The Gumbie Cat (Susie McKenna), with her tiger stripes and leopard spots, is a tabby perceived as lazy by her owners during the day. But she gets busy at night teaching or disciplining mice, roaches and beetles. The supposedly smart Bustopher Jones (James Barron) is a well-respected cat in his “coat of fastidious black” and “white spats”. He is revered when all he actually really does is eat.

The Rum Tum Tugger (John Partridge) also makes sure that his presence is known. He is “vain”, “perverse” and “inconsequent”. And yet, he is the object of almost every she-feline’s affection. The kittens and the sensual Bombalurina (Rosemarie Ford) idolize him like a sexy rockstar. Complete with a lion’s mane, a kiss-me curl, and gyrations, he is the show’s trademark Elvis. The Elvis theme is one that ALW plays with from time to time. Case in point: the Pharaoh in JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. Together with Munkustrap, Tugger serves as another main storyteller.

Grizabella The Glamour Cat (Paige) – ironically un-glamorized now – then enters the scene. Excited to be back after years of absence, Grizabella is saddened when the others avoid and ostracize her. Needless to say, she is forced to stay away and watch from afar. Meanwhile, the notorious Bonnie-and-Clyde tandem of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Drew Varley and Jo Gibb respectively) are caught doing their usual naughty antics and misdeed. The comical troublemakers end up staying all throughout the party.

The Jellicle leader soon appears, to the delight of his followers. For further entertainment, the cats do a parody of warring dogs, with the “intervention” of The Rumpus Cat (Frank Thompson). Dancing resumes after. At some point of the elaborate dance number, the mating process happens. It’s a sort of PG-13 moment when the kitten Victoria “becomes” an adult cat. She mates with Plato (Bryn Walters) while the others also do their – uh – thing.

When it is over, Grizabella returns and tries to join the ball once again. She is still regarded as an outcast. Feeling alone, she sings the now-popular song “Memory”, sadly reminiscing her lovely past. She does not know that Deuteronomy is still there and leaves disappointed.

Soon after, the cats return and Deuteronomy tries to explain to them the meaning of real happiness, to no avail. So to get the message across, he conveys it in simpler words through the kitten Jemima (Veerle Casteleyn). She somewhat sings entranced. Jemima’s maturity at her age is evidenced by her understanding of Grizabella. She is always the first to try and touch the outcast only to be pulled away by the older cats.

Gus The Theatre Cat (Sir John Mills), senile as he is, also attends the gathering and talks of the good ol’ days. He makes you shed a tear or two at the end of his song. He leaves behind him a sad atmosphere. which Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat (Geoffrey Garrat) enlivens again through his storytelling and pantomime acts.

Chaos erupts as the criminal Macavity The Mystery Cat a.k.a. The Hidden Paw (also Walters) emerges and catnaps Old Deuteronomy. As they worry about their leader, Macavity returns in a different form. But the sensitive and rather dramatic Demeter (Aeva May) sees through his disguise and exposes him. A fight inevitably happens and sometime later, the Jellicle leader is somehow rescued. With the help of the magical Mr. Mistoffelees (also Brent) and the kittens — the wise and sweet Jemima and the kind, queenly Victoria — Deuteronomy is finally able to make the Jellicle Choice.

Thoughts on CATS

For anyone wanting entertainment-value, CATS will not be a disappointment. But to the uninitiated, the whole story may not be easy to follow. I had to watch it several times myself before I fully understood everything.

It also helped that I had the libretto downloaded from the Internet back then. That made it easier to understand and better appreciate the actors’ various accents. Varley’s and Gibb’s were particularly harder to follow for me, to be honest. Understanding the words made their lively performance more fun to watch.

Most of the characters that were introduced/announced were old. It was natural for Deuteronomy to choose among the elders. They had been there, done that, enjoyed things they would want to relive like Gus, regretted things they would like to change like Grizabella.

Grizabella did not use her youth wisely. Once it was gone, she was left with nothing but her memories. She felt the sting of loneliness, lamenting the meaning of real happiness. The brief but memorable duet of the old and the young in “Memory (Reprise)” emphasized this. One represented hope and innocence; one represented loss and grave regrets. Meanwhile, we saw a stunning performance from both actors. It is arguably one of the best scenes from the film.

Between Griz and Gus, however, the latter gets my vote. Sir John Mills was a very convincing Gus that I actually shed some tears almost every time I watched him. A brief performance worthy of an award!

The stage production itself is to be applauded, in my opinion. Few musicals can do what CATS do. They may have one or two of the elements, but the show offers more.

There’s great poetry (with additional texts from Sir Trevor Nunn), though already antiquated from the start. Understandable. The book the show is based on is old. What’s amazing is they somehow pull it off. If you’re not into poetry, you’ll tend to forget it anyway as you enjoy watching the cats and their various antics. You won’t really notice that it’s poetry.

There’s wonderful music. A lot of times, it is operatic, which, I admit, may not suit some theater-goers. They might find the show boring because of the music. I think most avid supporters of musicals will not mind, though. Many musicals tend to be operatic.

The dance numbers are totally awesome! I am so impressed by the dancers who train really hard to move like real cats, even think like real cats. They make dancing seem easy when it isn’t. It takes dedication to achieve the craft. CATS’ dance routines also differ in genres (e.g. ballet, lyrical, even acrobatic). That makes the whole show quite interesting. Credit goes to Dame Gillian Lynne. I think productions still follow her choreography up to now. I saw a live performance some years ago and it was like watching the movie.

The set is not breathtakingly impressive compared to other shows’ and yet, very appropriate. Just imagine that you are an actual Jellicle Cat — the set will make sense. The way going to the Heaviside Layer is a bit of a turn-off for me. Other than that, well, I really don’t mind anything else.
I love other musicals as well. What sets CATS apart for me, though, is the fact that it is a complete package. I consider watching the movie as an actual adventure.
Truth be told, it isn’t really the story that has made the most impact on me. I am viewing this from the perspective of a musical-lover, not a film enthusiast. CATS is a stage musical, first and foremost. Despite its flaws, the movie deserves to be praised for the sheer originality alone. That’s what thinking-out-of-the-box is about.
And I am so glad CATS is out! 😉
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Hey, guys, I found this nice page on the musical, check it out: Cats (musical)