January 24, 2013

An Evening with Cesar Millan: The Dog Whisperer

Discipline isn’t about showing a dog who’s boss; it’s about taking responsibility for a living creature you have brought into your world.”
- Cesar Millan

The Paamount hosts all varieties of acts (not just  performing artists), including some of the best communicators and storytellers around. Over the seasons, I have marveled at the relevance of these storytellers to my own life. On any given night, you may be moved by what you see or hear. Not only is it compelling to hear the journeys, but it's remarkable how universal their stories can be. You can come away with a renewed spirit, a warmer sense of empathy, or have your whole perspective altered about the world you live in. A good storyteller can fan the flames of your heart and mind, recalibrating you with the connection you feel with the story. Friends, it's the power of true connection.

It's moments like those when you know something has transcended and touched all audiences despite our cultural and societal differences. But what if a particular storyteller could rise above more than culture lines? What if communication could cross over different species also? Well, it appears at least one man can cross these barriers. His name is Cesar Millan: author, television personality and star of his own National Geographic TV show, "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan."

At this time, some of you may be asking, "what the heck is a dog whisperer?"

In a nutshell, it's someone who can identify and speak to behaviors and the reasons they happen. Cesar is not just a trainer with a dog whistle and a bag of Milk Bones as rewards. If you've ever watched his show and seen a demonstration, you know his methods for dog training are direct and often nothing short of remarkable.

So how does he do it? Is he speaking at some frequency that only dogs can hear?

No. The key is to not rely merely on the verbiage of a command. After all, dogs do not technically know any human language. For instance, save yourself the trouble of speaking louder when canines can't understand or follow a command. That tactic will work just as well as the notion that speaking louder to a foreign national will somehow magically make them comprehend English. Instead, be mindful of attitude. Dogs can detect your vibe and smell your assertiveness (or fear). THAT is what they will respond to, not your booming voice. Remember it's Dog Whisperer, not Dog Shouter.

Millan emphasizes that one must bond with your dog. A pet should not simply be relegated to becoming a chore like washing dishes or taking out the trash. They are just as much a part of the family as a sibling, a parent or a child. Treat them as family, but remember that they have a dog's needs, not human needs. It's a bold new path to obidience than most of us are not used to. Cesar's methods are a mix of understanding the dog's nature, demonstrating assertiveness and exercising patience. Yes, it's a tall order for conventional pet owners, but no one said it was ever easy whispering with "man's best friend.

While it may not be a Jedi mind trick, it certainly requires a Yoda-like zen.

Millan's story itself is quite a remarkable tale of perseverance, determination and fortitude in the face of controversy over his methods.

Born in Mexico, Millan grew up working on a farm and found his aptitude for dog handling at an early age. He illegally immigrated into the U.S. as a young adult with no prospects, no family and no knowledge of English. However, years of toiling paid off as he set up his own dog facilities. This led to him being "discovered"and later to naturalization as a U.S. citizen. In the dog-eat-dog world of modern America, Cesar found his calling and made it work. That's an American success story to be sure, and that road is a struggle we can all identify with at some level.

More over, his attitudes about life balance can provide audiences with lessons that reach deeper than what the dogs will comprehend. Millan's philosophies can be applied to many other aspects of life, and can even be a guide to build or repair family dynamics.

Like dogs with bad habits, we also can sometimes stand to be reconditioned ourselves. Too often we can feel fenced in, stressed, and in the doghouse. Rather than merely barking and growling at everything we find bothersome, maybe we should just "unlearn what we have learned" and let those sleeping dogs lie.

So come listen to his stories, the highs and the lows, his approaches to life and learn more than just tips for four-legged friends. You never know. He may be able to teach all of us old dogs some new tricks.

Spend an evening with Millan on Sunday, January 27th at 7:30 pm at The Paramount. When selecting your seats, choose the "APA/AAC" ticket type and $5 of every ticket goes to Austin Pets Alive! and Friends of Austin Animal Center!

We assure you the dogs will make sure the funds are put to good use...

January 5, 2013

Shatner's World. We Just Live In It.

"We were basically one and the same, although Jim [Kirk] was just about perfect, and, of course, I am perfect."
-William Shatner 

 A new year, a new frontier for The Paramount.

They say history is performed nightly at The Paramount Theatre, and it's a vivid chronicle full of colorful acts and characters. Award-winning actors, directors, authors and recording artists grace the stage, but seldom all at the same time. Next will be a titan amongst pop culture icons, and a man that fits the title of every artisan listed above. Look, up on the stage! It's Captain James T. Kirk, it's T.J. Hooker, it's Denny Crane! It's the legendary William Shatner.

Let's go ahead and address the elephant in the room first. Yes, pretty much everyone on the planet knows him as Star Trek's own Captain Kirk. William portrayed Kirk as a cocky and often bullheaded hero, establishing himself as the centerpiece of a memorable ensemble cast that included DeForest Kelly, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and Leonard Nimoy as a half-alien who is cooler than a cucumber.

Although Star Trek lasted only three seasons, Shatner's unique brand of bravado and dialogue delivery helped position the show as a pop culture phenomenon that has been rejuvenated time and again over the decades. Trek resurfaced as an animated series, various spin-off TV series, and a number of cinematic adventures. Heck, they've even rebooted the original series in a new anthology of big screen adventures directed by J.J. Abrams. Try as you might, Chris Pine. There's still only one James T. Kirk.

It's an iconic role, to be sure. And anyone in such a role would be in danger of typecasting. It didn't help that many considered Shatner and Kirk to be one and the same. And in the early 1970s, William struggled shedding the mantle of Star Trek. However, while other Trek alumni were running from their pop culture alter egos, Kirk decided to embrace the melodramatic icon of awesome that was Kirk. Do you remember that Leonard Nimoy autobiography he wrote called "I am not Spock?" Yeah, you better believe that if Shatner had written an autobiography around the same time it would've gone in a much different direction.

Not that "Trekkies" are the only ones to champion the persona of Shatner. He took a path that embraced the cultural persona and perception of William Shatner and parlayed it into years of continued television success. In the early 1980s, he reappeared on TV in the police drama T.J. Hooker, and later hosted the reality series Rescue 911. After portraying versions of himself as a commercial pitchman, he finally garnered critical acclaim (and two Emmy awards) for his role as Denny Crane in the legal dramas The Practice and Boston Legal.

Not content to reside only in film and television, Bill's career choices were often as varied as Star Trek adventures. One could safely say his ventures in the musical realm boldly went where no career had gone before. A hybrid of spoken word, performance art and "singing," his melodic riffs and covers are unlike anything you're likely to hear on this planet. Take, for instance, this cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man."

And, in case you're wondering... there are no Grammys on his mantle.

Did you know that Shat is a scribe also? I don't mean just captain's logs from the final frontier, but rather he has penned numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. He has directed television episodes and even a feature film (STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER). Bill Shatner's a jack of many trades, and is nearly omni-present in the media. He continues acting on TV, does voiceover work in that signature stilted delivery of his, and continues to lampoon his own persona as a cultural icon. He's serious about not taking himself to seriously, yet remains a pop cult of personality.

Over the decades, William Shatner has crafted a world unto himself. After making a splash as the most famous star captain in history, he found a novel way to break away from one defining role: by running head on into it and making it work to his advantage. Now we can partake of his stories and experiences. With his depth of background and a fifty year career, I can easily seeing this show go in any one of a billion different directions. It's his world, after all, and it's one where one man can tackle and conquer anything he sets his phasers on. Where Shat happens.

Worry not, it will definitely be worth it. This performance will be unique, rewarding and most certainly will not be a con.

Oh, excuse me. I meant... not be a KHAAAAAN!

Come hear William shoot the Shat on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.