Undoubtedly one of our favorite Kickstarter projects Of All Time, Jonathan Mann's Song-A-Day was an inspired act of fearlessness, passion, creativity, and, oh yeah: songwriting! Starting on January 1st, 2009, Jonathan wrote and video recorded one song every day to overcome the deadliest writer's block out there — the possibility that he might suck. But, as Jonathan noted (quite triumphantly!): SO WHAT?
Back in April, Jonathan raised nearly $13,000 to write and record one song every day for the month of June. He live-streamed the entire process and asked backers to vote for their ten favorite songs to make it onto the album, which is being released TODAY, September 28th! Arranged, produced, and recorded with the Spinto Band's Nick Krill and Thomas Hughes, Matt Payne of the Glowing Stars, and Liam McCormick of The Family Crest, Song a Day: The Album is officially upon us!
Tonight, Jonathan's record release party and unveiling of the 1,000th song will go down at Red Devil Lounge at 7 pm in San Francisco. There will be a stings section at the show! Stringz!!
Jonathan's free-flowing creativity has lead to such Song-A-Days as #77's "Hey Paul Krugman (A Song, A Plea)" (which landed him a live performance on Rachel Maddow), #561's iPhone Antenna Song (later used by Steve Jobs to intro Apple's "Antennagate" press conference), and #355's "Puking My Guts" (performed live from the tub while battling what appeared to be some pretty gruesome food poisoning. Ironically one of few tracks to not go viral...). Jonathan even wrote two songs about Kickstarter! (Peep #819 for the track he's more proud of!) "Are You a Real Person?" (video above) is the second track off his new album.
Jonathan breaks his songs down to a 70-20-10 principle. Meaning, if you randomly select one out of his 1,000 songs, Jonathan thinks there's a 70% chance that song is mediocre, 20% chance it flat out blows, but a "10% — glorious 10% — chance that it will be totally, completely awesome." Thing is, watch just a few of his videos and you'll know that's a very polite lowball. Dude is kind of the man. And that's probably because "so what?" isn't just nice phrase, but a real live state of mind. We hope and trust there are some Kickstarter creators out there who feel the "so what" principle as deeply as Jonathan does. No doubt that's exactly what's led to some of our favorite projects.
Oma & Bella are two elderly Jewish women who live together in Berlin, where they spend most of their days telling funny stories, cooking traditional Eastern European Jewish food, reminiscing about times from their shared childhoods, and remembering the Holocaust, which they both survived in Germany. Oma's granddaughter, Alexa, is a filmmaker and Berlin native who has chosen these two women as the subject for her first feature-length documentary. We couldn't help but fall in love with Oma & Bella from the moment we met them (in the project video, above), and since a lot of the film's themes — heritage, identity, memory — are brought to light through these ladies' skills in the kitchen, we wrote to Alexa hoping she could share a recipe with all of us.
Lucky for us, she agreed to not only share Oma's recipe for
rugelach, but to translate it from German to English! Also included
are some screenshots of the documentary-in-progress, from the scene
where Oma & Bella make the prized rugelach I can only assume all of
us will be spending our Sunday afternoons making from here on out.
Enjoy! And if this sounds good, remember that the rewards for Oma & Bella include everything from a thank you card with a cookie recipe inside to an Oma & Bella cookbook.
Approximate time: 2-3 hours
1 cup of crème fraiche
2 and ¼ sticks of butter (Oma: “I don’t like to eat fat, so I usually
bake with oil. But rugelachs need butter; you can taste and smell the
1 cube of dry yeast (about 2 ¼ teaspoons)
4 well-packed cups of flour
4 heaping tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (can be substituted with vanilla extract)
Filling Option 1: Marmalade
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons of marmalade (can be any flavor; strawberry or apricot are recommended)
½ cup of coarsely chopped hazelnut
Filling option 2: Chocolate
2 egg yolks
5 tablespoons of bittersweet cocoa powder
½ cup of brown sugar
½ cup of coarsely chopped hazelnuts
flour, sugar, yeast, and vanilla sugar in processor until mixture is
consistent. Add egg, butter and then creme fraiche. Mix until dough
clumps together. Form dough into a ball and place in large bowl. Lightly
dust with flour and cover with plastic. Place in refrigerator for a
minimum of two hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out dough on floured work surface until thin (approximately half a centimeter).
For Marmalade filling:
Spread jam evenly on dough.
Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts evenly on top of Marmalade. Cut dough into
approximately 30 long, narrow triangles. Roll each triangle starting
with side farthest from the point. Place each rugelach on greased baking
sheet, then brush tops with egg yolk. Bake for 30 minutes, or until
crust is golden brown. Transfer rugelach to rack and let cool
For Chocolate filling: Sprinkle brown sugar,
then cocoa powder, then hazelnuts evenly across the surface of the
dough. Roll each triangle starting with side farthest from the point.
Place each rugelach on greased baking sheet, then brush tops with egg
yolk. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Transfer
rugelach to rack and let cool completely.
"The moon is one of the nine planets," my Chinese teacher once informed me. Needless to say, I did not learn much from her. Even though I can speak it, I've never really learned to read or write Chinese better than a six year old, which has caused problems when I've spent time in China. People treat you with a special kind of confusion and disdain when you are in your twenties and illiterate.
In my defense, Chinese is a particularly tricky language to try to learn, because it's not phonetic. Unlike French or Spanish or Korean, if you haven't sat down and literally memorized thousands of characters, you won't be able to read. Any kind of Chinese lessons I've begrudgingly attended in my youth used textbooks that were in 100% Chinese, which meant that if I didn't recognize a character, I would either have to ask someone what it meant or face the unique horror of dealing with a Chinese dictionary.
That's why I was excited to see Brandon Bailey and Wendy Yang Bailey's project, The Epic Adventures of Princess Moonface, which puts fun and artistry into learning Mandarin. It's a multimedia box set with an adorable graphic novel, CDs, workbooks and practice books. The narrative is about a spunky Chinese-American delivery girl in Queens, illustrated beautifully, using English, Chinese characters, and pinyin all together. We asked Wendy and Brandon to tell us a bit about their project.
What were your experiences with learning Chinese? Why'd you decide to learn it in the first place?
Brandon: I've been working on learning Chinese ever since Wendy and I started dating 4 years ago. I had always been curious about the culture, so I felt I was fairly motivated to learn. But after a few weeks of study I would loose motivation. I'm working now through Princess Moonface. Putting the book together has definitely helped me understand a lot more.
Wendy: I'm half Chinese, born in Hong Kong and raised between Hong Kong and the States, so I'd been studying Mandarin on and off in school since I was a little kid. My Chinese is far from perfect, but as I got a little older my desire to become fluent grew.
So where did the idea of the story behind Princess Moonface come from? I'm curious about your decision to use Chinese-American characters and New York City as a backdrop, instead of, say, a fully Chinese character in China.
W: Princess Moonface grew over time from a cute little story that Brandon made up to a fully fleshed out adventure. At first we incorporated characters & events from our lives. Mei has to save the moon before Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival, the same day that we got married. The white dog in the story is our dog. Lots of little things like that came together to create the world of Princess Moonface, but eventually the story took on a life of its own.
B: We're both from military families and moved around a lot as kids, and both ended up sort of settling down in Brooklyn for some time. Our familiarity with and love of New York is really why we chose to set the story there. Flushing also has such a rich Chinese culture - lots of our favorite shops and restaurants are in Flushing, so we were there all the time. Going to Flushing always made it feel like a quick trip to Hong Kong was just one train ride away, kind of a home away from home for Wendy.
W: We wanted to keep our protagonist, Mei, relatable to American (both Chinese-American and not) teenagers as well. We didn't want to dumb the series down by creating a This-Is-Life-In-China type of narrative. Diverse cultures abound in this country, a lot of people just forget to pay attention.
Your idea to use English, Chinese characters, and pinyin is pretty brilliant, I have to say. Why the hell hasn't this been done before?
It actually has been done before, just not very well. There are plenty of bi-lingual books out there, they just aren't teaching you anything because you're left staring at the page trying to figure out how this:
"Oh yeah, How did that go?" became this: “噢，对呀! 见面怎么样？
Without further explanation, it doesn't really mean anything. Synchronous Translation is a full system that helps the reader understand how the language works.
In my own experiences with Mandarin learning books, I've never seen anything that comes close to having a compelling storyline or beautiful images. Why are these elements important for this project?
Because learning Mandarin, or any language, is HARD! Self study is difficult too, so you really need as many reasons as possible to keep on track. We think an engaging story and beautiful illustrations are just the thing. We both come from creative backgrounds, so incredible illustrations and the overall look and feel of the book were essential elements. Qian Qian Liu is the illustrator, she's created a really appealing style that's a little softer and looser than traditional anime.
I gotta ask. What's with the name "Moonface"?
B: Well, Wendy has a beautiful round face.
W: Her circular face is something Mei is embarrassed of, at school some of the jerk kids call her "Moonface". I think it's something a lot of Asian girls can be self-conscious about - my best friends and I used to always argue over which of us had the biggest/roundest/flattest face. (SPOILER ALERT) Mei eventually embraces her big face and is proud of the name that comes with it when she discovers that her mother is the Moon Goddess Chang-E .
What are your plans for the future of the series?
After this book (chapters 1 - 5) goes to print, we'll be finishing the series with books 2 - 4 (chapters 6 - 20). After that - who knows? There's potential to do something similar in other languages, or create more stories around Mei and Sam. A bi-lingual tv show that's not geared for the five-and-under crowd would be incredible!
This week we announced that the Fifth Annual Kickstarter Film Festival will be hosted at thirty-two theaters across the U.S. on October 15, making it the biggest fest yet! The night will feature an incredible selection of features and shorts that showcase the depth and variety of films brought to life on Kickstarter. Find a theater and RSVP to join the fun — and, in the meantime, help ensure a great future for the cinematic medium by supporting the projects below.