John Lennon

Mad Stork Cinema meets bimonthly in the art building to screen and discuss experimental films. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mad Stork Cinema | Daily Texan Staff

A dark theater in the art building is filled with around 30 students who watch as John Lennon’s face slowly morphs from a grimace to a smile. The original clip of the singer is about one minute, but, for this particular film, the short video is stretched over an hour. This is what Paul Gansky, a radio-television-film graduate student and founder of The Mad Stork Cinema, calls experimental film.

Gansky and a group of graduate students founded The Mad Stork Cinema in 2012 to bring films to UT that would not otherwise reach audiences in Austin.

“If you’re not in Los Angeles, New York or Rotterdam or taking classes at the University of Colorado at Boulder, chances are you are never even going to know these films exist, much less get a chance to see them,” Gansky said.

Experimental cinema is non-narrative and designed to be provocative, angering or unsettling. The films are produced by one or two people for noncommercial purposes, rather than in a Hollywood studio, according to Gansky.

Rachel Stuckey, a programmer for The Mad Stork Cinema and studio art graduate student, said a wide range of students come to the screenings. 

“It’s hard to say that you could go to one screening and ‘know’ about experimental cinema, especially because you could go to one and it would really not be your thing, but you could go to another one and really enjoy it,” Stuckey said. “It’s always going to be a pretty unique and challenging experience.”

Gansky said the film screenings are meant to get people excited and talking about art they normally wouldn’t be exposed to.

“We needed to create a prolonged environment in which we would not only screen these films but also create a rich discussion around them with students, faculty and staff,” Gansky said.

Radio-television-film sophomore Bridget Keene, who went to two of The Mad Stork Cinema’s screenings last year, said one of the main reasons she and her friends went was to be able to discuss the films with Gansky, who was their instructor at the time.

“It has to do with breaking the rules of narrative structure that we’ve been taught in film school,” Keene said. “And, yeah, it calls back to a lot of the original film techniques and stuff, but it’s more about going past that and experimenting more with narrative structure and aesthetics.”

Stuckey said The Mad Stork Cinema’s upcoming screening should be fun to watch.

“We’re screening what’s called CinaMenace, which is energetic video about being bad, either through misuse of video equipment or kind of narratively digging into menacing personality aspects or activities,” Stuckey said.

Mad Stork Cinema has had screenings where 250 people show up and screenings where only five people come. Although the organization welcomes any and all students, Gansky said they’re not particularly interested in building a huge presence on campus.

“It’s really about creating quality events that usually only a few people are going to be interested in it,” Gansky said. “But we want to make sure that we’re satisfying that part of the student community.”

Paul McCartney performs at the Frank Erwin Center during his Out There Tour on Wednesday night. 

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

How does someone who has grown up worshipping the Beatles reflect on seeing one of them live in concert? Are there any words too grandiose for describing the experience of seeing a knighted member of the world’s most influential band in history?

For the first time ever, Sir James Paul McCartney was in Austin, Texas and I was among the lucky thousands who got to experience it.

From my seat on the floor of the large arena I was surrounded by media types, wealthy businesspeople who were being schmoozed by company tickets and old veterans who came adorned in McCartney memorabilia. As a DJ played revamped Beatles’ remixes from the stage in the minutes before the show, we all buzzed about excitedly.

However, by the time the lights dimmed, the entire arena was transformed into a screaming mass of 1960s teeny-boppers all consumed by a potent dose of Beatlemania.

Two large, vertical screens on either side of the stage came alive with images of a young McCartney. Early Beatles song “Besame Mucho” started off a musical history of McCartney’s work that accompanied the steadily rolling images that brought us closer to the modern-day McCartney who would be performing that night.

When the real life McCartney appeared on stage, I was completely taken aback in awe and reverence. There, maybe 100 feet away from me, was a living Beatle. He is one of two who remain, and one of the four who existed.

Here was one of the men that filled Shea Stadium in 1965. Here was one of the men who stood by John Lennon when he said the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” in 1966. Here was one of the men behind Rolling Stone’s greatest album of all time – the 1967 released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

He began his 38-song set with Beatles song “Eight Days A Week” and the arena filled with an electrifying energy that remained for the duration of the performance.

It is hard to say what was more remarkable about that evening: the fact that I was graced with the presence of a living legend for almost three hours, or the fact that I was singing along to my favorite songs with thousands of other strangers in the Frank Erwin Center.

The set included 25 Beatles songs, including “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Blackbird,” “Eleanor Rigby” and, of course, “Hey Jude.”   McCartney’s voice may have deepened since the late 1960s, but the performance was so lively I expected to find John, George and Ringo up on stage with him.

McCartney had the presence of someone who has spent a lifetime on a stage before thousands, despite one minor mistake at the beginning of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which only reminded us that he was a real human.

His between-song banter ranged from incredible stories that included people he knew personally, like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, to touching memories of his close relationship with the late John Lennon. Everything McCartney said reminded us more and more that a living piece of history was standing before us, and none of us felt worthy.

Fireworks and flames illuminated the stage during the performance of Wings song “Live and Let Die,” and afterwards, though the parting smoke, McCartney appeared behind a Technicolor piano to lead a chorus of thousands in “Hey Jude.”

The band returned twice more after that for a much-appreciated double encore. Every minute of performance time felt invaluable.

Unfortunately, all good things must eventually end. Luckily for us, Sir Paul McCartney knew exactly how to end a show without leaving everyone wanting more.

As he took a seat behind his grand piano for the last time of the evening, he began playing the famed Abbey Road medley, a collection of songs that begins with “Golden Slumbers” and, rather appropriately, ends with “The End.”

The ground floor of the arena was showered in red, white and blue confetti and McCartney took a final lap around the stage, graciously thanking everyone for coming to his show.

As I walked out, I watched as excited guests scooped up pieces of confetti and stuffed them in their dresses and pockets, all trying to take some of the magic home with them. 

LONDON — The childhood homes of former Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney, where the pair wrote some of their early songs, will be preserved, the government said Wednesday.

Lennon’s house in south Liverpool and McCartney’s nearby row home will be granted a grade 2 listing, which means they cannot be altered without the permission of local officials, said Britain’s Heritage Minister John Penrose.

The decision means the homes of one of Britain’s greatest songwriting teams will be protected for generations to come. Their work has long been associated with the northern port city Liverpool, particularly because of songs like “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” that celebrated their childhood haunts.

Lennon lived at a comfortable 1930s duplex house called “Mendips” in 251 Menlove Ave. from 1945 to 1963 with his aunt and uncle after his parents separated when he was five.

McCartney lived in nearby Forthlin Road for nine years from 1955. The two musicians held early practice sessions for their first band The Quarrymen while living at these houses, and wrote The Beatles’ first number one hit, the raucous “Please Please Me,” at Lennon’s home.

Preservation group The National Trust has already restored the houses to look as they would have when Lennon and McCartney were growing up.

In a statement Wednesday, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono said: “Mendips always meant a great deal to John and it was where his childhood dreams came true for himself and for the world.”

The preservation order was granted by English Heritage, a government-sponsored body that decides which buildings to preserve. It decided not to preserve the childhood homes of Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr.

Emily Gee at English Heritage said Lennon’s and McCartney’s homes had been preserved because “they were scenes of huge amounts of rehearsal, of composition of songs, really intense, creative hubs.”

Attendees at Hargrave Arcade watch “Adventures in Babysitting” on a 14 by 20 foot screen in the backyard of Trey Baker and Bonnie Baxter’s house. Baker and Baxter run the arcade out of their house once every month.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Trey Baker’s plain white, wooden house on Hargrave Street doesn’t stand out from the neighboring houses, but on one Saturday each month, Baker switches on more than 20 TVs and video game systems in the name of charity. The inconspicuous residence transforms into an electronic symphony of the beeps and boops of dozens of classic video games.

Baker is the founder and man in charge of Hargrave Arcade, a homegrown music venue, theater and video game extravaganza that opened its doors for operation in May. Once a month, somewhere between 40 and 90 video game enthusiasts, philanthropists and people who simply enjoy good times pay $10 for the all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink video game bash. All the proceeds go to a charity of Baker’s choosing.

The arcade, which Baker operates with the help of his cohorts Bonnie Baxter, Clint Merrel and a small group of volunteers, is stocked with classic and newer consoles like NES, Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, SEGA Genesis, PlayStation One and Two and Xbox systems. They decided to go with video game systems as opposed to traditional arcade machines because the systems are cheaper to buy, maintain and free to play.

Another perk Hargrave has over traditional arcades is that there are countless games for each one. Baker keeps classic games like “ExciteBike,” “PitFall,” “Centipede,” “Missile Command” and many more on hand. He has also constructed a dual sit-down Star Wars Podracer console that’s a big hit.

And for those that aren’t die-hard video game fans, there’s plenty of other fun to be had. The Hargrave Arcade also features live music, movies projected on an old billboard-turned-movie-theater-screen, all-you-can-eat vegan friendly food ­­— including the recently discontinued (because they’re unhealthy) deep-fried, double-stuffed Oreos — and beer
from a keg.

“It’s fun. It’s so much fun,” Baker said. “I mean, people put this much effort into just throwing house parties. The hardest part was just getting it all set up when we were first starting, but now it’s pretty easy. Now that we have everything — the concept — we can put together these events now with less effort than what people will put into a regular house party. And we’re able to give a good chunk of change to a good cause.”

That concept, which is centered around the idea that philanthropy doesn’t have to be boring or painful, stems from Baker’s appreciation for action that benefits others; something he picked up from comic book superheroes and the Beatles.

“Star Wars, Batman; you know, the fight against evil,” Baker said. “Just doing something that benefits humanity. Or the world, even — not just humanity — we do stuff for animals as well. There’s a little thing inside of me reserved for superheroes. It just never went away. John Lennon also really inspired me. Yoko and him would use their art to come up with creative ways to support causes. He’s a huge influence.”

Baker envisions a day when there can be more than one Hargrave Arcade. Ideally, there would be enough so that a different arcade could host a benefit every Saturday, allowing for a steady weekend flow of philanthropic opportunities without burdening any one house-arcade with hosting duties each week. He’s in the process of creating a manual that explains how to cheaply set up and operate an in-home arcade using tricks — such as where to find inexpensive televisions and how to reuse materials (like billboard movie-theater screens) to save money — that he has discovered while running Hargrave.

Baker said he chooses each month’s cause according to how much good it does. Sometimes the organizations come to the arcade, but usually he finds out about them through the Internet and email lists. The causes he picks are often local, but not always. The only real criteria is that the group is authentic, effective and transparent with the money they’re given. The money this month is going to a group called The Adventure Project, a non-profit organization that is fighting poverty in Africa by providing farmers with low-cost irrigation pumps to increase the volume of their crops. Past causes include Texas 4000, the Inside Books Project and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Baker said that the arcade is pulling in an average of $500 for each charity. The most money ever raised during an event was $808.67 for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians in January.

“I definitely look for the causes that are really authentic,” Baker said. “It’s not easy for me to ask people to donate to things where I can’t vouch for how the money is used. For The Adventure Project, I definitely felt a connection with them when I found out about their organization. They’re really inspired to help wherever they can.”

Jenny Parrott, who sings and plays the guitar, the mandolin and the fiddle in the band, is a regular at the arcade, whether she’s playing music (Loves It! is the arcade’s go-to musical group), deep-frying Oreos or playing “Buck Hunter,” her preferred video game. She said that Baker’s vision is an inspiration to her and that, in addition to everything else, it’s a lot of fun for a small sum of money.

“The arcade is definitely one of the most innovative and cool things that any of my friends have ever done,” said Parrott, who, as a Health Alliance for Austin Musicians beneficiary, helped bring that cause to Baker’s attention. “I’m really proud to know Trey, and I think he’s come up with a really cool system for being able to contribute to the community. It’s just very well-organized. People are getting a lot for their money and having a good time. I think what’s unique about his philosophy is that he thinks charity doesn’t need to be boring or a pain in the ass — charity should be fun.”

Printed on 07/11/2011: Game Over Donate Again?