Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why work harder when there's no reward at all?

I am rather demotivated at the moment. Why work harder than other people if other people in the end get more for less work?
Two volunteers who work a lot less than I do (also as a volunteer) get taken to see a castle this weekend, while I have to work. One of those two is being taken to the second castle. He's been taken on a day trip before. While I have been here since November and haven't been taken anywhere once. Usually, volunteers work five hours a day. But because I am really committed to the animals, I usually work six hours, often seven or eight (as a volunteer, so it's not like I get any money for extra hours). So I work more, but get less in return. How is that fair?

It's just my life. I often put in so much effort into things, but get nothing in return. I feel like giving up. Why be reliable and hard working if it's just taken for granted? Why put in more effort when people who slack get all the rewards and extra attention?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seeking and finding motivation - It needs to come from within

I have known for a long time that motivation is something that needs to come from within yourself. At least genuine motivation needs to come from within your own soul - it is the only kind of motivation that will last. Even though I have known this, I found (and still find) it very hard to keep myself motivated, to keep the spark within alive, to not let the world and the people in it kill my dreams.

As a writer, I also read a lot. Most books are dedicated to other people, or have some sort of acknowledgment page where authors thank people who support them, people who keep them going, people who motivate them, and so on. For a very long time, I have wished I would have people I could use for these pages. I was wondering whom I would dedicate my books to, whom I would thank. But I could only ever think of fictional and/or famous characters. In real life, there is nobody who supports me with my writing and shows a genuine interest in my ideas or progress (of which there isn't that much at the moment - but at least I am doing a little bit again).

When people learn that I am a writer, they often just go "Aha." It is not seen as a serious profession. I do earn money as a freelancer, and constantly get offered new jobs. I don't even have to apply for them any longer. There's more work than I need. But my creative writing - the writing I really want to do - is suffering. I could make time to write more of my own things, but while I do not believe in writer's block (you either write or you don't - simple as that), I feel there is a barrier when I want to do my own things.

Theoretically, I am motivated to write my books. I have done plenty of writing already, and I constantly have new ideas - but I still have issues with working on my books. I am so good at giving advice to others, but following it myself is a different story!

From today on, I simply have to make myself the promise to not wait for others to support and inspire me. I will simply have to follow a routine - whether I feel like it or not. That is what many successful writers do. Writing needs to be done, it does not happen on its own.

If you are in a similar situation, I would want you to do the same thing: you don't need a circle of support. You don't need someone to dedicate your book or other pieces of art to. Dedicate it to yourself, or to your future audience. Dedicate it to someone who inspired you. To me, it could be Michael Jackson, Darren Hayes, or Jean-Luc Picard. In the end, nobody cares about your acknowledgement. Many readers won't even read those words - so just focus on what you truly want to do.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

And then it happened... There indeed IS a number 1 Michael Jackson tribute artist

Something unbelievable happened: I changed my mind about not wanting to call anybody the number 1 Michael Jackson tribute artist. Read on to find out why.

What has changed - and where have I been for the last few months?

I haven't written anything on any of my blogs in the last few months - not on my literature related one, not on the one related to my create writing, not on the one about chickens, not on this one, not even on the one I use to write on when there's nobody to talk to but I feel like communicating. I felt like I could do nothing any longer - that it was not worth it. Life in general has been challenging to put it mildly. For reasons I might explain in another post, I am struggling a lot - and I can't tell whether I just reached a plateau down in the valley of "this is going nowhere", or whether I am slowly starting to go uphill again. Only time will tell.

If you have read my entries of the past, you know that I had some issues with some Michael Jackson tribute artists calling themselves the number 1 or being called so by their fans and management. I saw a few of them live, watched them very closely, and came to the conclusion that each of them has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their act and all-around-package. It has been six years and one day since I saw Kenny Wizz - the first MJ tribute act I ever saw. Unfortunately, Kenny turned out to be someone who looks down on his fans and revealed some less than appealing sides to his character. That doesn't change the fact that he's been putting on a good show, but it definitely stopped me being a fan. I don't even want to look at his pages any longer, and unfollowed every single one. One of his actions (aimed at me, not a general one) demotivated me, personally, so much, that I almost gave up on my dream of finishing my MJ related book.

Thank the universe that there's Navi. He's got no idea, but he's the one who restored my belief in that I can actually do what I want to do if I only put my mind to it. I just am very hesitant about really putting my trust in him - at some stage in the future I would need an MJ tribute artist's support for an event, but if Navi's reaction would be the same as Kenny's, I would be shattered.

Is Navi the best Michael Jackson tribute artist out there? Why?

You might already suspect it. I am still not too happy about calling someone the number 1, but two days ago, I went to see Navi (for the fourth time). He had a show in a place called Motherwell in Scotland. It was a bit of a journey for me (one community bus, one local bus, one National Express bus from Aberdeen to Glasgow, and then other local bus to Motherwell - half a day of traveling there, a night's stay in a hotel, and then half a day to travel back "home"). Some people called that dedication. To me, it was more about needing some energy, and for now, Navi just wasn't getting any closer than that. It was definitely easier to see him when I lived in England (and who knows where the future will take me).

I was awfully tired when the concert started, not only from traveling, but from all the things life had thrown at me in the last few months. Things were so bad that I couldn't enjoy myself as much as I could/should have. When Navi came on stage, some tension left me, but this time, it seemed like even he wasn't able to get right through to me. My heart has put up a big wall around itself, to protect against hope, because hope is a traitor and trusting it just opens you up to more pain - and it turns you into a target for other people who use your dreams against you. If you ever had a dream not a single other person believed in, you might know what I am talking about.

Unfortunately for Navi and his team, there were plenty of technical problems during that night. I could see that it was getting to him. He had only arrived back from the USA on that very day, and having all these problems on stage after working hard, and traveling, can't have been a pleasant experience. However, he worked through it. And the way he did it, was the what impressed me. He was professional, he did not walk off stage. He did not throw a hissy fit like others would have done. He did his best - and even with technical difficulties he did better than most would under perfect circumstances. I am still not quite sure about the singing. I mean, when you have issues with the microphone, and your voice is suddenly gone, then it's a good sign it might really be live - but I just don't know. I was watching him very closely, but I just am not sure. He can't really be that good, can he?

Anyway, he put on a great performance - from the movements of his feet to the little moves with his fingers. The little moves show that he knows what he's doing, and that he has control over his body. I still think his song selection could be better - but that's a matter of taste. Not all Michael Jackson fans have the same preferences. His show could easily be longer, too. Kenny seemed to have the best song selection of the lot. And I wish there were more proper costume changes. I am sure Navi would look excellent in the a full "Bad" outfit. Or the black trousers and white shirt  - one of my favourite MJ looks. Simple beauty. Again, a matter of preference.

So while Navi isn't quite the way I would imagine the perfect MJ tribute to be, he's the one who has the best overall package. Others do great shows, too, but then aren't quite living up to it when you meet them after the show (IF you get the chance to meet them). Navi delivers a great show, even when there are problems, and he's friendly. He treats other MJ fans with respect, and never once did I have the feeling that he's looking down on the people who come to his shows. Not being a prick makes a huge difference. Navi just seems to be genuine.

Unfortunately, there wasn't time for a conversation during the meet & greet. The ones with Jennifer Batten were better - but that was with a VIP ticket, so there were less people, and not as much of a need to be rushed through by the manager (or whoever he is). As short as the meet & greet was, it was the one moment that helped me regain a little bit of energy. If someone like Navi is friendly to you, and tells you to take care, you better take care, right? I have so many questions I would like to ask him, and I assume a conversation with him would be an energy boost that could keep me going for more than just a few days - but that's one thing that will never happen. It's not even his Michael Jackson impersonation, I just feel like he's a very good person right down to his core, and you don't meet many people like that in this world. We do need more like him - not impersonators, but genuine, good people. I just hope he's not going to turn out to be like Kenny later on.

That is what turns Navi into the number 1 Michael Jackson tribute artist to me: he really is a tribute to Michael. Not just with the performance but with his attitude, too. There should be a simple rule: if you're a prick and look down on Michael Jackson fans, you shouldn't be a tribute - because Michael would only want to be represented by good people. At least that's my opinion.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kenny Wizz vs Navi vs Ben - Can there be only one #1 Michael Jackson tribute artist?

Last night, I have been to a place called Stevenage to watch a Michael Jackson tribute artist called Ben. He was one of only two UK tribute artists I found interesting and promising enough to spend money on a ticket, transport, and accommodation (it's too difficult to travel back home with public transport at night).

Now that I have seen three different Michael Jackson tribute artists in person, I would like to write about what they have in common, what made each of them stand out, and then answer the question: Is there really a number one? Did one of the two UK tributes manage to do something Kenny did not do? If you have read my old writings about Kenny, you know that he's very special (at least to me).

I will have a look at their looks, their energy during the performance, the song selection, the costumes, the singing (or lack of it), the moves, the band & the dancers, the overall feel of the concert, and the meet & greet after the shows. In the end, I will give my own absolutely personal opinion about who the number one is or isn't (if you don't agree, please don't add hateful comments at the end - everyone's welcome to their own opinion, so let me have mine).

The looks
The first thing you notice when you see a Michael Jackson tribute artist is their looks. While we are always told not to judge people by the way they look, it's just part of an MJ tribute to look the part - and they know it.
While I could easily see the difference between Kenny, Navi, and Ben, they all did an excellent job. You can see the difference - but all three of them achieve the same effect: they are very nice to look at, they are convincing. Kenny is the one who uses the most make-up and turns himself into a completely different person. He's the one you would not recognize without the make-up. Navi is the one who got some plastic surgery done to look more like Michael, so needs less sculpting with make-up and other things,  I guess. Ben seems to just not need much. I don't really know, but he seems the one with the least make-up.
I guess all three of them wear wigs, so not much to say about that. Ben has very long hair on stage, it looks very nice (as in too good to be true). Navi has the cute habit of playing a lot with his locks and Kenny just wears it like it's natural.

The energy during the performance
The energy they have on stage is the one thing were there are differences - even when it comes to different shows of the same tribute, there are differences. I can't say that about Ben yet. I have only seen him once. But during that one performance, he gave his all. Compared to Kenny and Navi, he is a lot younger though, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he has no (visible) issues. He danced a lot. He moved a lot. No signs of weakness there. It's kind of like the best parts of Kenny and Navi combined into one person.

Kenny has a lot of energy throughout the whole experience and in all five shows I've seen (within one and a half weeks!), he always had that incredible energy. Not once did you ever get the feeling that he feels the performance is a burden on him. He just wings it and makes it look effortless. Yes, there's a lot of sweat (would be a bad sign if there wasn't) but Kenny managed to make flying drops of sweat look like works of art. That might sound weird, but he's just that good. Kenny is also incredibly professional and tough. I know he hurt his wrist during the first performance I saw - but you wouldn't have noticed it in the following shows, he showed himself no mercy.

I've seen Navi twice. The first performance seemed a bit lacking in energy. I don't know what happened there. I loved his performance, no doubt, but it was like a shadow was hanging over the man. I just wanted him to have a break, relax, and cry it out, whatever it was. I guess others didn't notice anything, but during my first Navi experience, I felt a little worried. The second show was different. I almost felt like it was a different person on stage. He seemed to move more, have more energy, and also.... well, I wouldn't call him happy, but he seemed less "dark". I don't know what it is, but Navi doesn't smile much when he's on stage. He seems like a very serious, angry and/or sad version of Michael Jackson.  

The song selection
I guess other people will have other opinions but to me Kenny is the winner here, followed by Ben, and then by Navi. Kenny seems to sing the most songs, followed by Ben, followed by Navi. Navi's selection just misses many of my favourites. And by many I don't just mean one or two. I just have one question: Why does nobody do "Blood on the Dancefloor"? Why? And nobody ever does my favourite song - but that's okay. I doubt any of them could do it without me cringing for some reason.

Kenny stood out with his performance of "The way you make me feel" (Ben did stand out with that one, too, to be fair). And while I did not see Kenny's version of "Human Nature" live, I saw it on videos. Hard to beat. Almost impossible to beat. Ben is just as good. Navi doesn't do it, so I can't compare there.

Ben and Kenny both did "I'll be there". Navi didn't. Come on Navi. Not even "I'll be there"?

Kenny sang "Ben". He was the only one to sing that song. He was also the only one to sing "Gone too soon", "Smile", "I just can't stop loving you", and "She's out of my life".

I don't remember who sang what in which sequence - and you wouldn't want to have a song by song playlist anyway. It's just my own personal opinion that Kenny's shows included more songs. 

The costumes
Kenny wins this one. No doubt. From golden leotard with black trousers underneath to gold pants, full Smooth Criminal outfit, Dangerous suit, ripping his shirt at the end of "Black or White", the jackets, the trousers, the socks, the shirt, the hat, the glove. Right costumes at the right moment. I think he's the one who changes his costumes most often. He said he wants to get as close to the real experience as possible. And damn, if he doesn't do that well with the costumes, nobody does.

Ben also has great costumes - and wears them very well. The shirts, e.g. the one for "Man in the Mirror" I liked particularly well. And he sparkles during Billie Jean. As in: he has glitter or some magical dust flying all around him. It's beautiful.

Navi has great outfits, too, no doubt - but he mainly changes jackets during the show.

The singing (or lack of it)
This is the controversial point - as in: I need more facts.

Ben definitely sings live. I have no doubt about that. And he sings very well. It's amazing. He has no issues with any of the songs - and that while dancing. The singing is definitely the one point Ben has no competition but from Michael himself. It's the part about Ben that really makes you feel speechless.

Navi does not really sing live. Does he? He definitely doesn't have any background singers. Apparently, he mimes to Michael Jackson and sometimes sings over him. This is especially obvious in his old videos. I wouldn't mind - but I would like to have some more transparency on this. I prefer the truth more than anything. I loved Navi's performance (why else would I go and see him again?) - but I also love knowing what I am looking at. He's so damn convincing - I just don't know what to think and I hate being confused about something. During the first performance, he threw me off the idea of him singing live by signalling towards someone to the side of the stage when difficult sections of a certain song came up. The following performance, he didn't do that at all and even went into the audience during just that one particular section. Which was very weird. I mean, I admit I had a really good look at his lip and throat movements. I still have my doubts. What the hell is that man doing? But it really just sounds like Michael himself, so it probably is Michael.

Now to Kenny. Someone told me, he was not singing live but that his keyboard player was doing the vocals. Up to that moment, after five performances, I actually never had any doubts about Kenny's singing. Not one single doubt. After all, I had been on stage with him during "She's out of my life". He was singing then. And if you have a look at how he uses the microphone when he's not using the hand-free one (whatever the professional name for it is), you see that his movements correspond with what you hear.

But then I had a look at some videos. I just didn't like having doubts about Kenny. It kind of was a matter of destroying my belief into one of the few good things that happened to me in my life. Kenny Wizz, a liar? Please no. Yes, the keyboard singer does sing - but isn't he just doing harmonies / background vocals like some of the other band members? And when the guy sings a solo part in "I'll be there" he sounds very different from what Kenny sounds like. Ben's band also sings. And often, when Kenny is singing, the head of the keyboard player isn't in front of his microphone, so surely it is Kenny singing? And if Kenny wasn't singing himself, why would he not choose a perfect singer as his "live" voice? Because Kenny is far from perfect, depending on the song. He has issues with some songs. But his singing is absolutely adorable. I also found a video of a TV interview in which he sings a little during the interview. Surely that wouldn't be staged?

Anyway, in the end, Ben is the winner here. First of all because there are no doubts, and second of all: he's just that good. 

The band & the dancers
Navi's dancers and band sometimes looked a bit bored, along the lines of "let's get this job done, get the money, and go home". It was a bit of a let down during both shows, but then you have Navi to look at. But you really could get some more motivated dancers. During the two shows that I saw, Navi had Jennifer Batten with him, so that made up for the others.

Kenny had an outstanding team. The band was lovely. The dancers full of energy during every single show. I got to meet some of them, and after my last show, they handed me a used drum skin that was signed by the dancers and the band. It was really a sweet gesture and absolutely unexpected. When I asked whether the drummer could come out after a show, I was so surprised that more of them came out. They were ignored by most of the audience, but I loved meeting them as they had been part of one wonderful, unforgettable experience.

Ben's team was just as outstanding. Sure, they did not have a New Zealand guitarist (beat that), but they were excellent and very professional. I don't know much about bands, but even I could see that that band meant business. And they had fun. Ben only had two dancers but those women were just absolutely amazing to look at and full of energy. They clearly love what they are doing and it makes all the difference. 

The overall feel of the concert or: why do I want to see them again?
Each of the three made me want to see him again after just one show - so they all must have done something right. But what was it about each tribute artist that made me buy more tickets for additional shows? Good question.

Kenny: He's Kenny Wizz. I can't explain it. If he ever came to the UK, I'd go to every single show. Fortunately, my work as a freelancer would allow me to do this. I would need to  My bank account wouldn't thank me though. I would love to see him again. It's hard to explain. He's just special. He was responsible for a huge change in my life, and for that alone, I'll be forever grateful.

Ben: His singing, his dancing, his mannerisms. He's perfect. But I've only seen him once. So who knows, my opinion might chance. I know nothing about him, but for some reason I think that his connection to Michael Jackson is a bit more similar to my own than that of the other two. He's putting his soul into the show. This is also hard to explain.

Navi: Just like with the other two, I hardly know anything about Navi, but he might be the one who's a bit like Michael in real life, too. Or he seems to be someone who would like to be like Michael. I don't know, but it's kind of something that is radiating from him. Some sort of innate goodness that is hard to explain.

Great. It seems hard to explain in all three cases for three different reasons. But that's okay. The shows of Ben, Navi, and Kenny had one thing in common though - and that is easy to explain and might be the main reason why I want to see each of them again: They all made me feel like I'm not a hopeless case. Each of them made me feel like I can make my dreams come true. Of course none of them would ever care about my dreams - but they reach people like me and show that nothing is impossible. And even if it's a lie, it's nice to live that lie for a couple of hours.

The meet & greet after the show

All three of them usually have meet & greets after the show. Navi's was a little bit different because due to the presence of Jennifer Batten, you needed to buy VIP tickets to have access to the meet & greet after the show (which is not the case when Navi's on his own). This meant that there were less people and you had some more time than during the normal after-show meetings. So it might be a little unfair to give Navi the advantage here. He took me by surprise with the fact that he's actually capable of smiling. I had my doubts after the first time I saw him on stage. He was incredibly nice and very kind. I know, it is all part of his job, but I was really in need of someone being that nice. Jennifer was also lovely. And during the second time, they remembered that they had met me before. I am usually not the kind of person initiate hugs. I am very cautious around people, I don't trust easily after the experiences I made with people - but for some reason all of that went out of the window during the first meeting with Navi. Handshake? Sure thing, but then right in for a hug. I can't understand it myself. I don't usually do such things.
The second time, I was more myself again. But well, Navi remembered and this time he gave me the hug. And then Jennifer, too. I couldn't sleep all night. Jennifer terrified me with her costumes when I was a kid. But she's such a sweet woman. I also got into an argument with Navi about certain countries and which one is better. Both meeting were excellent. Navi seems to be wonderful, and has a very lovely energy around him. Very different from angry Michael on stage! To me, he seems like the kind of person I could talk to - and he'd understand and not misunderstand like the majority of people.

Kenny was also always very lovely during the meetings. Of course, he always remembered me. He just smelled incredible. Even sitting in the first row of the concert, you could smell him. It was the best smell ever. I wonder what he's using?
Anyway, it's clear he's a very good actor. He's got the Michael Jackson act down 100%. It's his job, and he's doing it very, very well. I don't want to write too much more about Kenny. It was just an experience that won't be repeated unless he comes to the UK.

When I met Ben, I was surprised that he wasn't that much taller than me. He had such an immense presence on stage, you just expect him to tower over you. There wasn't as much interaction as with the other two because there were a lot of people in the line. Poor guy must be really tired after such an evening, too.
Nevertheless, Ben was very nice, had a smile for everyone, and patiently signed people's things and had photos taken (or both). I didn't have anything signed. We know what happened after Kenny signed something for me (and if you don't: the saying he wrote down for me ended up as a tattoo on my neck. I just like it so much that I wanted it as a tattoo). He knows that I'll come to see him again because the woman who took the photo talked to me before and I mentioned I'll be moving to Scotland and then see him there, too. He seemed to be happy when people want to come and see him again. It was a short meeting, but very pleasant. He's very sweet - and seems very young still. He must be younger than me. But that's good. It means he won't retire any time soon. Just like Kenny, Ben manages to smile well on stage. And it's not an act, his smiles seem genuine and they do light up the room.

So, is there a #1 Michael Jackson tribute artist?
Most marketing teams like to call the MJ tribute they represent the NUMBER ONE. The only one to do this, the only one to do that. The one chosen by Michael. The only one to meet Michael. All rubbish. You know how marketing works. It's an intricate web of lies and truths that are made to look better than they really are. Navi isn't the only one who worked for Michael. Quite a few tribute artists got to meet him. And even though Kenny never got to see Michael or work for him, Kenny is excellent. And if Michael had ever seen him, he would have agreed. It just never happened - does that make Kenny worth any less than Navi? Absolutely not. At least not in my eyes.

Each of the three has strengths and weaknesses (I'm sure Ben has a weakness, too, somewhere. Nobody's perfect, even Michael himself wasn't). I like all three of them very much, and while there is no other in the UK that caught my eye, I am sure that there are some other excellent MJ tribute artists out in the world. They are all doing an important job for people like me, and for others who just want to be entertained.

And while all three of them are just playing the part, it gives me hope that somewhere out there, there is someone who really has a character like Michael and that I would meet this person one day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stuck in the past? People do change - even famous ones like Boy George!

Today, I got a bit annoyed because I read a few comments on Facebook about how Boy George's voice changed and that he should call it quits. They said something along the lines of him just not being the same any longer. Oh, guess what? He's gotten older, and in my personal opinion, better. It's not 1982 any longer. I was born in 1983, 33 years ago. I am not the same person I was in 1983. Or in 1993. Neither were you. No matter what your age is now, you are NOT the same as when you were 10, 20, 30, etc. years old.

One fact: PEOPLE CHANGE. Every single one of us changes. If you can't admit that, then you have a serious problem. It's not only our characters that change, but also our voices. People need to stop expecting that people like Boy George never change. Do you want him to only sing "Karma Chameleon" and "Do you really want to hurt me?" all the time? If yes, go, buy those records, put the videos on repeat on YouTube, and just keep your negativity about his development to yourselves. There are so many artists out there - I am sure one of them will be just the way you like them to be - but not forever. Wouldn't it be nicer to support those artists, tell them you like them? Tell them something positive, and spend your time on the positive things, instead of going around on Facebook groups of artists you do not like any longer?

I, for one, have only recently become interested in Boy George (I wrote about that here - so I won't repeat myself). If he hadn't change, if he'd still be stuck in an endless loop of Karma Chameleons, I probably wouldn't have wanted to learn more about him. I absolutely LOVE his current voice. The changes that happened in his life are actually the reason why I find him inspiring. I don't like every single song of his, I don't even know all of them - but I don't go onto the YouTube channels and write "I don't like this." on the songs and videos I do not like. And other people actually become so impolite and horrible when they comment about something they do not like. Why is that so? Why do they focus so much energy on the negative? I can't imagine going to the videos of artists I do not like, and abuse them verbally.

If you look at your own life, do you not see how you have developed over time? Why does it seem like many people do not give the same right to famous people? Why are they not allowed to change?

When I listened to Boy George CDs released in later years, I went "What? THIS is Boy George?" I was positively surprised. Amazed even. I love him the way he's now. I also love some of his older stuff (especially when he sings it with his current voice!) And there are plenty others who love his voice. Let us enjoy him. Stop hating changes. For some people, the changes in other people's life can be very inspiring and helpful.

George showed me, indirectly as I've never talked to him (now, that would be an amazing experience), that you can hit the bottom, get everything wrong, and then get things right, and become even better than before. Changes like that are wonderful. They give people hope.