Fox apologized after explicit fan conversation about a sexual encounter was broadcast during U.S. Open coverage

Fox issued an apology on Friday after a microphone at the U.S. Open picked up two fans discussing a sexual encounter in very explicit terms and aired it during the live broadcast. Fans watching Patrick Reed hit his approach shot on the first hole at the U.S. Open on Friday on Fox Sports 1’s broadcast got a little more than they bargained for. Shortly after announcer Joe Buck announced on the broadcast that Reed was up next, the microphones behind Reed picked up a conversation between two fans at Shinnecock Hills discussing a sexual encounter in very explicit terms.

on Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games

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How to Save That Dead-End Conversation You Can’t Escape

Exchanges that bog down in complaining, arguing or one-sided monologues can be turned around with the right responses.
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A Candid Conversation With Brian Dunkleman, The Guy Who Could’ve Been Ryan Seacrest

He wishes people wouldn’t say he’s been “throwing shade” at his former “American Idol” counterpart.
Culture and Arts
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YouTube star prompts conversation about social anxiety

It’s like ‘falling down the rabbit hole of endless what ifs’ says one sufferer in a candid online debate
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50 TV Conversation Starters for When Your Thanksgiving Dinner Gets Awkward

TV Shows to Talk About Over ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving dinner table is a thing of legend.
It’s so filled with good food and the potential for great joy, but it’s also a place of pain. A place where your aunt might ask…

E! Online (US) – TV News

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We Haven’t Seen That Before: A Critics’ Conversation About ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’

James Poniewozik and Manohla Dargis talk about “Twin Peaks: The Return,” which was much more than a simple sequel series.
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In Conversation: Spies Like Us: A Conversation With John le Carré and Ben Macintyre

Sarah Lyall interviews two masters of espionage on the page.
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A Rare Conversation About Class Brings ‘The Bachelorette’ Into the Real World

One of Rachel Lindsay’s suitors tells her about the challenges he faced growing up in Baltimore, forcing the show to face its blind spot about class.
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A Conversation with the Infamous Buffalo Sub-Eater

Not one, but two, local heroes emerged last week.

Lifestyle – Esquire

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3 Things to Consider Before Trying to Start a Conversation with a Woman

Take it from professional sexologist Shan Boody.

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Grandparent Talk Portable Conversation Game

Grandparent Talk Portable Conversation Game


Don’t let those family stories get away! Capture the family folklore while playing the fun and casual Grandparent Talk Portable Conversation Game from Around the Table Games. This game, featuring 100 question cards attached to a carabineer clip for easy transport, helps kids and oldsters engage in a meaningful conversation and make lasting memories. With questions like How did you celebrate birthdays as a child? or Where did you hang out as a teenager? Take the award-winning Grandparent Talk Portable Conversation Game along on hospital or nursing home visits for a great ice breaker that is sure to deliver surprising answers, important life lessons, and closer relationship, and make grandparents feel important and special. Ages 3 & up. These Grandparent Talk cards can encourage children to participate in conversation with others through play and also open the door for more in depth exploration of feelings and emotions and the appropriate expression of them. Skill Areas: Social Engagement and Interaction Communication WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.

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�De viva voz!: An Intermediate Conversation and Grammar Review Course (Student Edition + Listening Comprehension Audio CD)

�De viva voz!: An Intermediate Conversation and Grammar Review Course (Student Edition + Listening Comprehension Audio CD)


�De viva voz! is an exciting new Spanish conversation text that focuses on the development of oral communication while providing a review of key grammatical structures in a very approachable and “non-threatening” manner. Intermediate students have generally had the equivalent of a first-year overview of the language and in many cases are in transition to third-year culture/literature courses. They have a lot of information “in their heads,” but they often still have the need for conversational practice that actively uses structures and vocabulary they have already studied. Through creative exercises, brief summaries of grammar, and a carefully sequenced chapter structure, �De viva voz! helps instructors realize their principal goal in a conversation course: to see their students engaged in conversation in Spanish and improving their level of oral proficiency on a daily basis.
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Number 1 Mom Necklace – Mother’s Day Jewelry – Greatest Mom Ever Conversation Heart

Number 1 Mom Necklace – Mother’s Day Jewelry – Greatest Mom Ever Conversation Heart


Number 1 Mom Necklace – Mother’s Day Jewelry – Greatest Mom Ever. -Each pendant is about 1″ across. -Each necklace comes with an 18″ bronze chain. -They are protected using high quality resin so the image will not scratch or fade. -These are made to order, and typically takes less than 72 hours to ship. -Metal is nickel free. Check out the rest of my pop art, jewelry, and housewares! http://www. etsy.com/shop/ARTWORKbyMALLORY Do you see a pair of earrings you like but can’t find the matching necklace? Convo me and I’ll make that shit happen! Buy 2 necklaces, get 1 HALF OFF! https://www. etsy.com/listing/166294812/buy-2-bronze-necklaces-get-1-half-off?ref=shop home active A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A?A? “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” -Kurt Vonnegut Like me on facebook to get exclusive offers and coupon codes! https://www. faceboo

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Youths Behaviour, Or, Decencie In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Y

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decencie In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Y


EARLY SOCIAL CUSTOMS. Imagine holding history in your hands. Now you can. Digitally preserved and previously accessible only through libraries as Early English Books Online, this rare material is now available in single print editions. Thousands of books written between 1475 and 1700 can be delivered to your doorstep in individual volumes of high quality historical reproductions. Social customs, human interaction and leisure are the driving force of any culture. These unique and quirky works give us a glimpse of interesting aspects of day-to-day life as it existed in an earlier time. With books on games, sports, traditions, festivals, and hobbies it is one of the most fascinating collections in the series.

++++

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:

++++

Youths behaviour, or, Decencie in conversation amongst men composed in French by grave persons, for the use and benefit of their youth ; now newly turned into EnglishBienséance de la conversation entre les hommes. English.Youths behaviour.Hawkins, Francis, 1628-1681.[Edition statement:] The seventh impression.Index: p. [5]-[7]Table of contents: p. [8]New additions unto youths behavior has separate t.p.Advertisement: p. [37]-[44] at end.[8], 62, [44] p. :London : Printed for W. Lee …,Wing / Y207EnglishReproduction of the original in the Bodleian Library

++++

This book represents an authentic reproduction of the text as printed by the original publisher. While we have attempted to accurately maintain the integrity of the original work, there are sometimes problems with the original work or the micro-film from which the books were digitized. This can result in errors in reproduction. Possible imperfections include missing and blurred pages, poor pictures, markings and other reproduction issues beyond our control. Because this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving and promoting the world''s literature.
List Price:
Price:

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decencie In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Y

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decencie In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Y


EARLY SOCIAL CUSTOMS. Imagine holding history in your hands. Now you can. Digitally preserved and previously accessible only through libraries as Early English Books Online, this rare material is now available in single print editions. Thousands of books written between 1475 and 1700 can be delivered to your doorstep in individual volumes of high quality historical reproductions. Social customs, human interaction and leisure are the driving force of any culture. These unique and quirky works give us a glimpse of interesting aspects of day-to-day life as it existed in an earlier time. With books on games, sports, traditions, festivals, and hobbies it is one of the most fascinating collections in the series.

++++

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:

++++

Youths behaviour, or, Decencie in conversation amongst men composed in French by grave persons, for the use and benefit of their youth ; now newly turned into EnglishBienséance de la conversation entre les hommes. English.Youths behaviour.Hawkins, Francis, 1628-1681.[Edition statement:] The eleventh impression.Index: p. [45]-[48]Table of contents: p. [48]New additions unto youths behavior has separate t.p.Advertisement: p. [41]-[44] at end.[6], 73, [44] p. :London : Printed by S.G. and B.G. William Lee …,Wing / Y211EnglishReproduction of the original in the Bodleian Library

++++

This book represents an authentic reproduction of the text as printed by the original publisher. While we have attempted to accurately maintain the integrity of the original work, there are sometimes problems with the original work or the micro-film from which the books were digitized. This can result in errors in reproduction. Possible imperfections include missing and blurred pages, poor pictures, markings and other reproduction issues beyond our control. Because this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving and promoting the world''s literature.
List Price:
Price:

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decency In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Yo

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decency In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Yo


EARLY SOCIAL CUSTOMS. Imagine holding history in your hands. Now you can. Digitally preserved and previously accessible only through libraries as Early English Books Online, this rare material is now available in single print editions. Thousands of books written between 1475 and 1700 can be delivered to your doorstep in individual volumes of high quality historical reproductions. Social customs, human interaction and leisure are the driving force of any culture. These unique and quirky works give us a glimpse of interesting aspects of day-to-day life as it existed in an earlier time. With books on games, sports, traditions, festivals, and hobbies it is one of the most fascinating collections in the series.

++++

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:

++++

Youths behaviour, or, Decency in conversation amongst men composed in French by grave persons, for the use and benefit of their youth ; with the addition of twenty six new preceptsBienséance de la conversation entre les hommes. English.Decency in conversation amongst men.Hawkins, Francis, 1628-1681.[Edition statement:] The eighth impression, whereunto is added much enlargement of three very usefull and profitable alphabeticall tables, the third table having many hard words added : not untill this year 1663, printed : last of all is added, The first entrance of a youth in the university : all which new additions may be sold by themselves.Errata: p. [49] at end.Advertisement: p. [51] at end.Index: p. [38]-[40].Added t.p. on p. [41]: New additions unto Youths behaviour, 1650, of some letters.Translation of Bienséance de la conversation entre les hommes.[6], 69 [i.e. 67], [51] p.London : Printed by W. Lee …,Wing / Y208EnglishReproduction of the original in the Bodleian Library

++++

This book represents an authentic reproduction of the text as printed by the original publisher. While we have attempted to accurately maintain the integrity of the original work, there are sometimes problems with the original work or the micro-film from which the books were digitized. This can result in errors in reproduction. Possible imperfections include missing and blurred pages, poor pictures, markings and other reproduction issues beyond our control. Because this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving and promoting the world''s literature.
List Price:
Price:

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decency In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Yo

Youths Behaviour, Or, Decency In Conversation Amongst Men Composed In French By Grave Persons, For The Use And Benefit Of Their Yo


EARLY SOCIAL CUSTOMS. Imagine holding history in your hands. Now you can. Digitally preserved and previously accessible only through libraries as Early English Books Online, this rare material is now available in single print editions. Thousands of books written between 1475 and 1700 can be delivered to your doorstep in individual volumes of high quality historical reproductions. Social customs, human interaction and leisure are the driving force of any culture. These unique and quirky works give us a glimpse of interesting aspects of day-to-day life as it existed in an earlier time. With books on games, sports, traditions, festivals, and hobbies it is one of the most fascinating collections in the series.

++++

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:

++++

Youths behaviour, or, Decency in conversation amongst men composed in French by grave persons, for the use and benefit of their youth ; now newly turned into English by Francis HawkinsBienséance de la conversation entre les hommes. English.Decency in conversation amongst men.Hawkins, Francis, 1628-1681.[Edition statement:] The ninth impression, whereunto is Lilies rules, translated out of the Latin into English verse …Includes indexes.Frontispiece port. of Francis Hawkins as a child.Second part has special t.p. with imprint date, 1668.Translation of Bienséance de la conversation entre les hommes.Imperfect: item at reel 2300:17 stained, worn and cropped.[6], 70, [38] p., 1 leaf of plates :London : Printed by S. Griffin for William Lee …,Wing (2nd ed.) / Y209AEnglishReproduction of the original in the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign Campus). Library and Bodleian Library

++++

This book represents an authentic reproduction of the text as printed by the original publisher. While we have attempted to accurately maintain the integrity of the original work, there are sometimes problems with the original work or the micro-film from which the books were digitized. This can result in errors in reproduction. Possible imperfections include missing and blurred pages, poor pictures, markings and other reproduction issues beyond our control. Because this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving and promoting the world''s literature.
List Price:
Price:

John Galliano Bares His Soul In Conversation With Rabbi

It’s been four years since John Galliano went on an infamous anti-semitic rant that got him canned from Dior, and it looks like the designer is on the road to spiritual redemption.

On Thursday night, Galliano spoke in London alongside Rabbi Barry Marcus of London’s Central Synagogue at a Jewish educational event. According to The Guardian, he came clean as he took the stage:

“I am an alcoholic. I am an addict,” he said. “This is in no way an excuse. We alcoholics and we addicts are not responsible for our disease. However, I do take complete responsibility for my recovery and making amends.”

He added: “I get a daily reprieve from this disease and that comes from total abstinence.”

The designer said burnout was one of the factors behind his vicious rant back in 2011, a time when we was creating 32 collections a year as head designer for Dior and for his own label. Though he took a long hiatus from fashion following the incident, he was recently hired as creative director of fashion house Maison Martin Margiela.

A rabbi may seem like the least likely person to help Galliano, but the Guardian reports Marcus has been instrumental in the designer’s recovery. Not only did the rabbi sit front row at Galliano’s first Margiela show in January, but he told the audience Thursday night that the designer should not be treated “more harshly” than an “endless list of celebrities” who have made controversial statements about Jewish people, and asked for everyone to show “a little graciousness.”

Read the full story at Theguardian.com.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Style – The Huffington Post
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Conversation with Artist Micki Pellerano

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On the occasion of my friend Micki Pellerano‘s solo show at American Medium in Brooklyn, I spoke to him about the things that matter to him: drawing, growing down, experiencing pain, pop music and of course love.

Below is an excerpt from a rather long talk I had with Micki exclusively for Huffington Post readers. There are plans to release the entire conversation among some of my other conversations in book form later this year.
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MP: There’s this book The Soul’s Code written by a psychoanalyst named James Hillman. He talks about this Socratic theory stating that before you’re born, there’s this ethereal being – Socrates called it your ‘daemon’ – who determines that your precise incarnation is the best suited for it to unleash its supernatural purpose into the world. It chooses you and your life as a vehicle. The book is about doing service to that.

There’s this chapter he calls “Growing Down” – how if you’re especially good at channeling this daemon energy, sometimes it requires adjustments to the confines of terrestrial existence. Like you have trouble with things like social norms or societal structure because this energy is coming out of you all the time. Then he talks about Judy Garland for example and, you know, how she had trouble being a mere mortal because she was this total beast.

I mean I’m no Judy Garland, but I sort of feel it’s time to grow down.

MN: (laughs) I don’t think you could be normal if you tried. You conforming is a funny idea to me, it’s comical.

MP: I think a degree of it is necessary if you want to be an effective artist. Joseph Campbell explores that very idea – comparing the bodhisattva to the artist. Someone who achieves this transcendental realization and then they choose to come back, and share what they have obtained with their race. And the bodhisattva has to conform to the desires of his socio-economic climate in such a way where his message will still resonate to his world.

MN: I think every artist has to wrestle with this in some way. Every once in a while you find a Warhol or a Bowie who figures it out. How they can be pop but also be scary and be all these things that speak to the animal inside you. Little Richard does it effectively. He speaks to the Lucifer inside you, but he makes it sound like lollipops.

MP: Yeah that goes for a lot of pop music in general. Except I think things are different now, and pop culture has been sanitized of its daemons. People don’t like that anymore.

MN: I wonder why? Pop music functions best when it’s not self aware, when it’s channeling something really evil under an unsuspecting guise.

MP: Well even 60’s girl groups. The Crystals, the Shangri-La’s. That music is all about death and destruction. All these harsh, painful realities and yet it was done so sweetly and palatably that people were really responsive to it. I love 60’s girl groups, it’s one of my favorite genres.

MN: Me too.

MP: And that’s precisely why: the contrast between the childish naiveté and this sinister violence, masochism, codependency, abuse. It’s all so adolescent but so painfully real. Maybe we are all adolescents when it comes to falling in love.

MN: That’s what makes the cute aspect of pop so effective.
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MP: I think this latest body of work is about embracing that wild, you might say pubescent, rage and channeling it in the service of the daemon. The show’s title, Celestial Love, is the name of a poem by Emerson, whom I didn’t know until recently. There are a lot of explicit references to alchemy in his poems, and transmuting pain into personal evolution. Sublimating it into something that makes you feel vivid and alive.

MN: He’s a transcendentalist, right? Makes sense. Your work seems very experiential to me.

MP: I actually think it’s been helping me grow down, exploring my own experience as a human among other humans. Alchemy is about eroding the things that hold back the daemon. If I can sense spiritually “Whoa, this is changing, this is dying, something’s boiling up so that a new substance can emerge.” I need to be sure that that energy is channeled is not just squandered. Consolidating something like that into a drawing is really helpful to divert that energy into a specific goal. And it’s universal because everyone is going through these processes in their own way.

I’m lucky to say that I’ve tasted love in this immeasurable, magnificent capacity. If you surrender to that and really let yourself live it, even if it’s almost unbearable, it’s a huge gift. I feel so stoked on my psychic experiences as of late. And the people and the poets who brought them about. I’ve done my best in my feeble way to put across how I see and experience that kind of immensity. It’s not an easy thing to render.

Like when your heart breaks it’s an interesting phenomenon. It separates you from one person, but then it unites you with this ocean of other people, who are experiencing life and its pain right along with you. That’s why those sentiments are so resonant in our pop songs!

MN: Pop music is the ultimate vehicle for transmuting pain because it reaches so many people, it’s almost like a religion.

MP: Anything that chips away at your limited view of yourself and opens your eyes to the immensity of what you really are can be called a religion of some sort. The real enemy is within. And so is the real guru. When you’re free of your self-imposed limitations, that’s when you can manifest your true life purpose. That’s freedom.

People hold the government responsible for taking their liberties away, but no government really has the power to do that. Or people think “the government is watching.” I mean, I would feel really special if the government were using their precious time and resources just to watch me, or read my email.

We like to see the oppressor as something outside of us but really it’s inside. The trick is to let the daemon slay the oppressor. Just like Little Richard did.
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You can see Mr. Pellerano’s exhibition of drawings at:

American Medium
424 Gates Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11216

It’s running now through June 6, 2015
*all images courtesy of the artist.
2015-05-22-1432311189-4027983-THE_VEIL_PR.jpg

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Arts – The Huffington Post
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS-Visit Adults Playland today for the hottest adult entertainment online!

Dying to Do Letterman: My Conversation With Steve Mazan

In comedy, timing is everything, especially if you’ve been given only five years to live and you’ve made it your career goal to perform on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

The occasion of Letterman’s final broadcast is an opportune time to recount one of the most triumphant moments during Dave’s 33-year tenure, the “Late Show” debut of comedian Steve Mazan, who beat the professional (not to mention the health) odds to make come true his dream of performing on his hero’s stage.

Mazan’s five-year odyssey is chronicled in the documentary, “Dying to Do Letterman,” which was also the name of his social media and grassroots campaign to bring himself to the attention of Letterman’s staff. It is available for free on Hulu.

The 45 year-old comedian, spoke with me about life, Letterman, and not letting “someday” pass you by.

Mazan, a native of the west suburban Chicago city of Hanover Park, was 12 years-old when the original “Late Night with David Letterman” debuted on NBC following “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson. For three decades, the allotted six-minute slot on “The Tonight Show” was the one most desired and sought-after by comedians.

But Mazan felt more of a kinship with Letterman. “He was so different,” he said. “He had a younger sensibility (than Carson). My parents hated him, and I think that made me like him even more. Any time I could, I stayed up late to watch him, and I continued all through college and in my time in the Navy. He was the guy who inspired me to get into comedy (professionally).”

Mazan began performing stand-up in 1999 in San Francisco. His early years were not about getting on “The Late Show.” They were about getting good. Mazan’s Midwestern work ethic told him that a Letterman appearance would surely follow,

“Work hard and good things will happen,” he said. “That has always worked well for me. I just assumed that if I went out there and kept my nose to the grindstone, the Letterman people would hear about me and invite me to audition.”

Every artist is a work in progress. “Dying to Do Letterman” captures Mazan’s maturation as a performer, but also, hilariously, some of the hellish early gigs he did, such as between-inning sets during a minor league baseball game. “That was a promotional tie-in with a local comedy club,” Mazan laughed. “The team thought it would be fun to try a comedy night. I’ve always been up for anything, but it was awful. The players were heckling me.”

During these years, Mazan put his Letterman dream on the back burner as he worked to establish himself. That changed in 2005 following a set at the famed Improv comedy club. Driving home, Mazan experienced sharp pains in his side. By the time he got home, he could barely stand. His initial thought was, least case scenario, food poisoning, and worst case, appendicitis. Doctors delivered the devastating punchline: He had tumors all over his liver. There was no treatment or cure. They gave him five years to live.

Mazan always believed that he would get on “The Late Show” someday. Suddenly, his somedays were limited. “I now had to make someday happen and chase the dream rather than wait for it to come to me,” he said.

While this sounds like something out of “King of Comedy,” Mazan was not tempted to pull a Rupert Pupkin and kidnap Letterman. Instead, he sought out comedians who had done Letterman for advice, including Ray Romano, Kevin Nealon and Jim Gaffigan, who, in the documentary, tells Mazan, that there would come a time when he thought he’d be ready to be on ‘The Late Show,’ but it’s not up to him. “When I thought I was ready,” Gaffigan says, “it was still five years until they said I was ready.”
Mazan might not have had five years. “It’ll never happen,” Nealon jokes(?) to the cameramen following Mazan’s visit.

But it did. Here is the appearance:

Mazan’s time with Letterman himself was short and sweet, he said. “After I told my last joke and he went to break, he said, ‘Great job, really funny’ and shook my hand. I asked for one of the cue cards (of my act) and he handed it to me.”

Mazan is gratified that his “Late Show” routine is cancer-free. In his regular act, he said, material about his condition might comprise five minutes at the end of an hour-long set. “I never want the audience to feel sorry for me,” he said. “I would be wondering if they were laughing because they thought I was funny or because they felt bad for me.”

The “Late Show” staff vetted him as they would any comedian, Mazan said proudly. The documentary captures the setbacks along the way, such as an early assessment that he was not “Late Show”-good.

“It was hard to get that,” Mazan said, “but at the same time, it reinvigorated me to prove to them that this wasn’t a ‘Make-a-Wish’ thing, that I’m a good enough comic to be on their show.”

Mazan reports that he currently feels great. It has been a decade since he first got the original five-year diagnosis. “The bad news is that there is no treatment or cure,” he said. “The good news is that because of that, I don’t have ongoing radiation or chemo, and the tumors have remained relatively small. I’ve been very lucky and feel as good as I ever have.”

Nor has he rested on his “Late Show” laurel. He has written a book version of “Dying to Do Letterman” for the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” publishers. He was a writer on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

But after appearing on “The Late Show,” and with Letterman retiring, what is his next big goal? How do you avoid a letdown? Being a part of the documentary, which has won awards at film festivals, he said, helped him avoid feeling a letdown, he said. “You do want to fill that void so you feel like you’re chasing something bigger. I would love to do “Conan,” (a kindred Letterman spirit). There’s always another level you want to get to career-wise, a new door to break down, a new club to get into. There is always something.”

A version of this story originally appeared on Millionaire Corner.com

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Plus-Size Models on What They’re Tired of Hearing and Where the Conversation Should Go

Plus-Model-Collage
Top: Denise Bidot, Amber Tolliver, Bree Warren, Georgina Burke, Marquita Pring, and Felicity Hayward.
Bottom: Georgia Pratt, Jennie Runk, Justine Legault, Julie Henderson, Gia Genevieve, and Emme.

Are we talking about plus-size fashion in a productive way or are we stuck in a rut?

Before you think, “But plus-size fashion and its models have been getting lots of press lately,” consider this: Many of the industry’s top models insist that we have a long way to go to change the perception of what plus-size fashion is really about. Over and over, these models get asked the same tired questions. (Ahem: What do you think of the term plus-size?)

If we want to see the conversation surrounding plus-size fashion evolve and grow beyond a single facet, we have to stop asking its models the narrow questions. Model Felicity Hayward points out, “The more people keep asking those questions, the less we’re going to be able to be equal.”

So, we asked 12 top models about what they’re tired of being asked in interviews and how we can break out of the stunted cycle we’re in with regard to plus-size modeling and fashion. Take a look:

What are the challenges of perception that you face?

Denise Bidot: [I get asked if] I care if people call me plus-size…I don’t have any problem with you calling me plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, big—I don’t really give a damn. We represent plus-size women, whether or not some of the models are smaller or larger.

Amber Tolliver: The question of should a plus-size or curvy woman be wearing certain things is infuriating. When it comes to straight-size fashion, any and all styles are fair game. Clothing options shouldn’t be different for curvy women. They should be given options and not told they can’t wear something before it’s even designed.

Bree Warren: People will ask if it’s my full-time job. What a lot of people don’t understand is that there are a lot of working models that have done, and will continue to do, very well. They don’t really understand that plus-size models work a lot.

Georgina Burke: [I get asked] how I stay in shape. It’s almost like they’re asking, “Do you actually work out?” There’s a big thing right now with all the plus-size girls showing that they’re working out and I feel like all of the interviews are saying, “Oh you don’t just sit around and eat burgers, you actually exercise?”

Marquita Pring: [I get asked if] I ever considered being “skinny” or if I have wanted to go to the straight-size world. As if the way I am is unattractive or it’s not as good as being a skinny girl, therefore, shouldn’t I want to be just like them? Never once in my career was that an option for me—not even at 15-years-old when I started—and I have never been interested in being smaller.

Felicity Hayward: [People] asking if we’ve had any negativity regarding being plus-size. People assume that because I’m bigger, I have experienced people asking me to lose weight or if I’ve worked with people that are horrible to me because I’m bigger…. The more people keep asking those questions, the less we’re going to be able to be equal.

Now, hear what they say on where the conversation surrounding plus-size fashion and modeling needs to go:

Georgia Pratt: It’s great when we can be included in conversations and questions that go beyond positive body image. The conversation needs to start opening up and approaching people such as designers, editors, photographers and other creative decision makers and influencers of the fashion industry.

Jennie Runk: It’s really important to get a message out to young girls and kids. They need to know that not only do we have Photoshop working in our favor, we have a professional hairstylist, makeup artist, and photographer…. The picture that these kids end up seeing looks—in no way—what we actually look like.

Justine Legault: At this point, I’m trying to have people get to know me as a person— that’s where I’m at in my career. [For instance], what would I recommend or say to women or young girls?

Julie Henderson: We should be focusing on how people feel when they look at us. Not “She’s too skinny or she’s too big or she’s plus-size or she’s black or she’s white.” People should say, “This is a beautiful woman. I recognize myself in her.”

Gia Genevieve: Plus-size models should also be shown in a glamorous way. I don’t see a lot of plus-size models being shown in a very sexy way, and we are very sexy. [What] I’m pushing for is that there needs to be more glamour in plus-size modeling—and less toned-down, commercial [shots].

Emme: For 20 years I’ve been wondering, How do we get the department stores to get [contemporary clothes] to size 18? They could really make much more money if they would buy more fashionable things in the size category of 12’s, 14’s, and 16’s. [I work with] the junior class at Syracuse University’s Fashion Design program to create clothing on size 2, 4, 6 forms and in the same class on 16, 18, 22 forms. We’re teaching student designers to design for all!

What do you think is most important to discuss about plus-size fashion and modeling?





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Conversation With George Clinton

Interview conducted by phone on Wed April 3/29
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For few hours I allowed myself to be an insufferable fanboy instead of my default Mr. Cool disposition when the opportunity to interview George Clinton came up. I’ve been listening to George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic since I was 15 or something. We mostly talk about music and drugs. What more could you want?

I’ve included dates and links below to his lecture and book signing events for Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York at the bottom of the interview. Don’t miss the lecture.
——————————————————————————–

GC: How you doing Mike?

MN: George- how are ya?

GC: Good.

MN: You hear me ok?

GC: I hear good. Where you from?

MN: I’m from Jersey. Woodbridge. I live in New York now.

GC: That’s where I’m from. Not far.

MN: You’re from Plainfield right?

GC: I’m originally from Newark.

MN: First time I saw you I took 4 hits of acid and saw you come out of the Mothership. I believe it was 1996. The Twentieth Anniversary of the Mothership Connection.

GC: Oh I remember, Central Park?

MN: Yes, 4 hits of acid.

GC: (laughs) Wow that was a hellava show that year.

MN: I understand you are giving a lecture at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York on the 12th. I’ve seen a fair share of Parliament/Funkadelic shows, but what does a George Clinton lecture look like?

GC: It’s going to be a Q&A, get me started on a topic and I will run my mouth. So most of the time people ask questions about Parliament. I can run my mouth on questions, but I can’t just lecture.

MN: That’s cool, so anyone can ask you questions about anything and you’re just going to be honest about it? Tell them the truth?

GC: (laughs) Best I can!

MN: Or whatever you remember, right? I understand you are 73 now. What does a normal day look like for you?

GC: I wake up and have my medical marijuana. Do a little training, exercise my bones a little bit. I go fishing, and always go to the studio.

MN: So you’ve been steadily making records.

GC: Oh yeah-studio all the time. I’m doing an album now with 33 songs on it.

MN: That’s what I like to hear. Why did you decide to write a memoir now? Why now?

GC: Because of all the corruption. Legal stuff I’m going through with my copyrights of all that music we laid. This whole thing about taking copyrights as work-for-hire has been something on my mind for a long time. I gotta make sure to tell that story to get a lot of people interested in it. It gave me something to do after I stopped being high. It’s clearly what I had to do. Do an album, tell the story and get back out here. We know how to reinvent ourselves.

MN: we have to its part of the human experience.

GC: It’s still the key.

MN: How the fuck can you sustain a 30-year crack addiction? That just amazes me. I know that scoring in different cities can be difficult.

GC: That’s what made it such a fantasy and everything. It’s bullshit you can get rid of any addiction by yourself with something to take its place. That’s what you have to do because we got all kinds of addictions we got to get over. You get used to an addiction whether it’s legal or illegal. A society plays on your habitual nature. You learn after a while when you try to score, knowing that shit is all over the place. Really you never had good dope in the first place. (laughs)

MN: (laughs) it’s true I suppose.

GC: After getting clean, I know the world of trying to score is getting some baking soda to make the crack. I’ve been to all these countries, but I remember (most) going to this place to cop that. Fuck it; it was just something I had to do. Who knows what you do when your not making music, I was keeping busy but I wasn’t that high. I was working on trying to score. It was worse and worse like you say-trying to score.

MN: It must have been damn near impossible to score in places like, uh I don’t know Japan?

GC: You know that after awhile you can score real dope anywhere. Around 84 or 85 to score real dope after that it was downgraded so far onto the level by the time it got to you it wasn’t even dope. It was always so much baking soda or whatever they put in it. With all drugs, when you try to make money you cut the shit up.

MN: That sucks man.

GC: You didn’t even care what you bought. You would go back and buy the same garbage three times (laughs).

MN: I stole one of your lines and I still use it. You had this line I read a number of years ago. “I love music that pisses off parents.”

GC: Oh yeah (laughs). New music pisses off parents and older musicians. Older musicians get pissed off when they hear new music too. When music threatens you- I embrace that music because that’s what makes it music. You can’t change music that pisses your ass off.

MN: I agree.

GC: If you’re old, get the fuck out the way.

MN: It’s true. I heard Miles Davis surrounded himself with young people.

GC: He was one of the ones that knew how to sway with whatever else is coming up. I don’t know shit about jazz. (laughs)

MN: At 73 how are you challenging the status quo? How you fucking with the adults now?

GC: Playing with my grandkids and great-grandkids. I make music with them and the band. So mixing that shit up. Kendrick Lamar is the one right now. And he’s gonna piss a lot of people off. He don’t even know why.

MN: That’s good. It’s what we want. It’s how we will move forward as a culture.

GC: Yes!

MN: My last question for you is a bit personal. Who are the band members you miss playing with the most?

GC: Eddie Hazel and Bernie Worrell.

MN: I love Hazel’s guitar playing he’s criminally underrated.

GC: and Gary Shider. Bernie Worrell was the shit….

MN: Brilliant. I have no more questions. Do you have any parting words for the readers?

GC: Tell everybody to bring two booties
——————————————————————————–
Important George Clinton dates/links:

May 12- George Clinton Lecture- 7pm
Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York
200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
$ 15

May 11- George Clinton-Book Signing, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Red Bull Academy Studios
220 W. 18th St.
Between 7th and 8th Avenues

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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A Two-Night Conversation on Free Speech

Tonight I’m joined by magazine publisher Larry Flynt, Iranian-American actor and comedian Maz Jobrani, and Peter Eliasberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, for the first of a two-night conversation on free speech. Tomorrow night we pick up this conversation with KPFK Pacifica radio host Sonali Kolhatkar, comedian Roseanne Barr, and Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In the clip below, I ask Roseanne whether there’s a fine line between what is offensive and distasteful, and what constitutes an abuse of free speech.

For more of our conversation, be sure to tune in to Tavis Smiley on PBS. Check our website for your local TV listings: www.pbs.org/tavis.
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Donny Osmond Remembers His Last Conversation With Michael Jackson

In a HuffPost Live interview Wednesday, Donny Osmond looked back on his longtime friendship with the undisputed King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

“Back in the early ’70s it was the Jacksons and the Osmonds. It was Michael and Donny. We were kind of, like, parallel,” the 57-year-old singer told host Nancy Redd.

The two came from large families, both born as the seventh children in families of nine. Their mothers’ even share the same birthday, he added.

Osmond recounted one of the many conversations the two had before Jackson’s death in 2009. Their last chat, about a year before Jackson’s death, may have been the most indicative of how the lives of both stars had changed so dramatically throughout the years.

“He said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody, but I rented one of those big custom buses, those touring buses, and I took my kids. We’re hiding in Phoenix right now.’ Hiding from the press because everything had hit the fan,” Osmond said.

Osmond was quick to offer a few words of advice to Jackson.

“And I said, ‘Why don’t you do me a favor, Mike. You’re a nine-hour drive from my home in Utah. Bring your kids. No one will know you’re here. They’ll swim in the swimming pool. Have a little normalcy in your life’,” he said.

But the trip to Utah never panned out.

“And he said, ‘You know what Donny, I think I’m going to do that.’ And he never did,” Osmond said.

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation with Donny Osmond here.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!
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A Conversation with CBS This Morning’s Anthony Mason, Plus Chase Rice, Gentle Giant’s Derek Shulman & William Gage Blanton

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photo courtesy CBS This Morning

A Conversation with CBS This Morning‘s Anthony Mason

Mike Ragogna: Good This Morning, Anthony!

Anthony Mason: [laughs]

MR: You’ve been in journalism for over thirty years. When did you start focusing on interviews?

AM: Well, it was kind of an accidental transition. What happened really was I saw a colleague of mine, a cameraman named Ron Dean who was out shooting a story one day on 25th street. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was shooting some B-roll for a piece on Patti Scialfa who is Bruce Springsteen’s wife, who I’ve been a huge fan of. I said, “Oh really? That’s really cool, who’s doing it?” and he told me that Jim Axelrod was doing it and I was like, “Damn,” because I really would’ve loved to do that story because I know all about her music and I went through a divorce, frankly, with her album. If you know Patti’s first album Rumble Doll, it’s basically a conversation with Bruce’s album Tunnel Of Love. They’re two sides of the same event, his divorce, her trying to get him to jump when he won’t, it’s a conversation which if you full know know what went on is very interesting. My now wife’s favorite album during my divorce was Rumble Doll and mine was Tunnel Of Love. That’s why I was particularly interested when Ron was shooting this stuff, and why I was lioke, “Well damn.” So I went to the guy at Sunday Morning who was kind of in charge of doing that stuff and I said, “What’s the deal?” and he said, “We’re doing this piece on Patti and ultimately, we hope to do a piece on Bruce, too.” I said, “Well who’s doing that?” and he said, “We don’t have anybody yet,” so my hand shot up right away and I said, “I’ll take that.” That was actually the first music profile that I did. Way to start at the very top, right? That was kind of terrifying because when you’re in the news business–I had never wanted to do celebrity profiles, I just hadn’t been interested, and I certainly hadn’t been interested in doing stories on actors and actresses because I found them sort of impenetrable the few times I’d done them, but music was a different thing for me. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a DJ. Up in my attic somewhere, I have hours and hours and hours and hours of tapes I made of me being a DJ in my imaginary radio station.

MR: You should broadcast someday!

AM: I don’t know, I haven’t heard them in literally twenty-five or thirty years. That is, if the tape hasn’t disintegrated, because it’s literally on cassette. But I had a really good time doing the Bruce piece as terrified as I was of it. Then they said, “We’ve got this other piece, are you interested in doing something on Neil Diamond?” and I was like, “God, yeah, sure,” because it’s not something some people like to admit but I’ve always been a big Neil Diamond fan, too. So those were the first two that I did and I was like, “This is really interesting. It actually played into a whole side of me that I’d never really gotten to in terms of basic journalism. That’s what kicked the whole thing off. I started looking for more to do and it took on a life of its own. I’m not really quite sure how, but it did.

MR: What age were you when you made this transition?

AM: The Bruce piece was 2005, so I was forty-nine.

MR: Journalism’s been your career all along, right?

AM: I started pretty much right out of college, my first job was in Tulsa at a station called HARH. I’ve been doing it for almost thirty-four years, now, thirty two of them with CBS.

MR: What got you into journalism?

AM: My father kicked me out of the house. [laughs] I’d always been interested in it, I had a lot of interests as a kid. I literally volunteered for my first political campaign when I was eight years old in 1964. LBJ FOR THE USA was this enormous sign across from the bus stop I used to get off at from school. For some reason, it just fascinated me, and I walked in one day and said, “I want to help out with the campaign.” There wasn’t really a political agenda involved that I recall. I couldn’t tell you why I walked in other than I thought the sign was really cool.

MR: I had the same thing happen with me as a kid in New York with Andrew Stein. I had no idea what his political affiliation was but I knew I wanted to work for him.

AM: I know, it’s so funny. I loved political campaigns as a kid. I loved being part of them, I loved the hoopla, I loved the bumper stickers and buttons and all of that. I just loved them. From the time I was eight until I got into college almost every time I was off from school I’d be working on a political campaign somewhere. In seventh and eighth grade in the summers there was a guy who ran for state assembly and I used to campaign with him at subway stops every morning and every afternoon. I was really into politics. I always loved television as a kid, I had my own imaginary TV station, I literally gridded out the entire programming schedule in a school notebook, I stole all my favorite shows from the other networks and then made up my own. Everything I did was being televised in my head, if I was playing a basketball game with a Nerf ball off my closet I was doing play-by-plays and picking camera angles, I was just always like that. In high school I was the editor of the paper and in college I was the features editor of the paper, so I was always into all that stuff–although when I came home, I’ll be honest with you, I moved in with my dad in New York when I got out of Georgetown and I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no plans or anything and dad looked at me one day about two weeks after I’d moved back in with him–I hadn’t lived with him since my parents got divorced when I was like six–and he just looked at me and said, “So what are you planning to do with the rest of your life?” I said, “I’m going to write a novel,” and he looked at me and said, “not in this house, you’re not.” He, God bless him, had sort of realized over the years that I’d always had a TV camera running in my head and that’s probably where I should go. My cousin had gone to Memphis and was the anchor at the TV station, so he sent me down there to meet with them. One thing led to another and the company that hired my cousin ended up hiring me at Tulsa. That’s how I got started.

MR: Did it ever become a mission of sorts?

AM: No, you know how it is. You’re always trying to grow somehow–at least I always am. I’m always trying to get better. I’ve always been very detail-oriented. Television, for me, is as much about the making of television as it is about the journalism. CBS is a very story- and piece-driven network. It’s unlike cable where you’re just trying to constantly spit out news and keep moving. CBS has always been a show-driven network which focuses on pieces, like Sixty Minutes, like Sunday Morning, or evening news in a smaller format. The craft of making pieces and the detail in those pieces is something that I always liked anyway to begin with, but it’s something that has always been paramount at CBS and probably the main reason why I’ve never left. I’m the kind of guy who will sit in the editing room working on Sunday Morning pieces and it’s not unusual for me to be there until one o’clock on Sunday morning making sure every little damn thing that I have in my head and want to be in that story is there.

Particularly with music pieces, I don’t know what it is but I feel a duty to the artist that I’m involved with, that I get the details of it right and the tone of it right. I try to make the pieces feel like the musician if you know the musician at all. It’s very daunting, as you probably know, to do a piece on somebody like Springsteen or any major artist for that matter, because they have an enormous fan base and if you screw it up and are not fair or get the details wrong, they’re going to rain holy hell down on you in social media or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not that I’m scared of that reaction but when you’re telling a story about somebody, you’re talking not only to that fan base but also to people who really don’t know anything about them, so you have to tell two stories in one. You have to actually offer something up to the people who are huge fans, but you also have to offer up a story that introduces other people to this artist.

It’s very challenging but it’s very interesting as well. That was the part that I found most intimidating in the beginning. I had never been a big interviewer and had never really tested myself that way. In fact, had largely spent the first twenty years of my career at CBS trying to write myself out of every story so that all you saw was the character in it and you didn’t really see me, but I realized that if you’re going to do an interviewing segment you have to be part of that in some way, you have to have a personality, but you don’t want that personality to overwhelm the story you’re doing, so how do you develop an interviewing technique that has its own personality without that personality becoming the focus, which I see people do often and I don’t like.

MR: Do you have any examples?

AM: God, that’s tough. It’s hard for me to judge because I judge by a different scale. I’m really picky about a lot of little things. But we did a piece with Van Morrison for Sunday Morning early on and I had heard a lot of things from a lot of different people in the music business about how incredibly difficult he could be and how much he doesn’t like to talk. It was among the more enjoyable days I’ve spent doing this, because we had a really good time talking. He obviously was reticent to talk but for some reason, he did talk that day. It was one of those moments where I remember sitting across from somebody and thinking, “My God, I’ve been listening to your music my whole life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you speak.” It was really stunning because there aren’t many people who are well known like that who you’ve never seen in any kind of lengthy conversation. Even going back, looking at old clips of him, there aren’t that many. There’s very little of Van Morrison actually being interviewed anywhere.

I’m always trying to make the artist relax and understand that I appreciate their craftsmanship, because I do. I’m not an in-your-face kind of interviewer; I’m a draw-you-out kind of interviewer. I try to leave the space open and let them come fill it. I find particularly with musicians that’s what they want. They don’t want to talk to a fan. That kind of scares them, actually. I don’t go in asking them, “Why did you do this on the third track of your fourth album?” The obsessiveness of some fans kind of scares them. I talk to them like they’re people like me. The tone I’m always trying to take is to create an environment where if I’m sitting on the sofa with the artist, the viewer is sitting on the arm of the sofa just listening in. It’s not an interview, it’s just a conversation about certain episodes in this person’s life.

MR: What do you think is behind the big success of CBS morning talk shows?

AM: I think on all of the shows in the morning now, from Sunday to the weekday show to our Saturday show, my view is that the audience is much more intelligent than a lot of TV people give them credit for and that you can find an interesting, smart and entertaining approach to almost anything if you really work at it. That’s always been my philosophy about storytelling. I feel like if I find something interesting I can make it interesting to anyone. One of the approaches we’ve taken with Saturday, somebody on the weekday show who was a big music fan said to me, “You know there’s a maxim in morning TV that music doesn’t rate.” I said, “That’s ridiculous. Music doesn’t rate if you just throw it out there and you put a band up there and say, ‘Here’s whatever band it is.'” I said, “If you introduce people to that band and you invest in them who they are in some fashion they’ll listen. If you just say, ‘Here’s Lake Street Dive’ and they come play they’ll give them about five seconds and if they don’t like the beat of the song, they’ll go make a cup of coffee.”

Two weeks ago, we did a two and a half minute piece introducing Lake Street Dive and then they played two songs. My whole philosophy was people are interested in people. If they find you interesting as a person then they’ll be interested in what you’re doing. That’s kind of the pathway that I’ve taken with music. If you look at the Sunday morning pieces I do–I always tell the artists, because they’re always trying to promote an album, I say, “We don’t do stories on albums. We do stories on people.” An album may be part of that story in some fashion. One of my favorite pieces we did earlier this year was on Rosanne Cash, an album that came out of a return to her own roots and her father’s beginning, they were redoing her father’s boyhood home in Arkansas. That’s what we focused on, her whole trip back to the south, which she’d kind of run from her whole life.

That’s a case where I was like, “Okay, this sounds interesting.” They told us what she’s done and I said, “If she can take us back to all those places, then we can make something work.” It turned out we never really did a sit-down interview with her. The whole interview was pretty much conducted as we were driving or as we were walking to these places. It’s probably my favorite piece of television that I’ve done over the last five years. It just flows like a river, that whole story. Whenever I’m talking to kids who write TV, I say, “You want to try to hide the seams. You don’t want people to see that this is a television construct. Then they forget the story and start looking at what it’s made of.” When Rosanne came on the Saturday show we used a stretch of that material of her visiting her father’s house by way of introducing it. I think the weekday show knows what it’s about, it knows what it’s trying to do and it does it really well. I think that’s certainly true of Sunday Morning and that’s what, in the last year and a half, we’ve really been trying to do with the Saturday show which has drifted between identities for a number of years and was sort of lost in its direction due to its many management changes. I think the success of any show is about a point of view, and I don’t mean that in a political sense or an ideological sense or anything like that. You’re trying to create a certain tone and a certain mood and this is what we’re about. If you can create that atmosphere and are consistent with it and deliver week in and week out on what you’re doing–the Saturday show has been known for years for having really good chefs on it and when I took over the show, I’m not a foodie at all but I said, “Look, this is the one place on Saturday mornings where we actually get rock stars, we get the best chefs in the world on this show because we’ve created an identity and a place, but we need to do that across more places,” and that’s when Brian Applegate–who’s the senior producer of the show and who’s maybe an even bigger music fan than me–we both said, “We want music every week again.”

That’s how the show used to do it some years ago, but it stopped. We don’t want just anybody who’s passing through town, we want the best musicians we can get and when we can we want to tell their stories as well as have them perform. We had Norah Jones in taping with Puss ‘N’ Boots who are her two friends Sasha [Dobson] and Catherine [Popper]. Jackson Browne is coming in, Tori Amos is coming in, John Hiatt is coming in, we’ve set a bar high for ourselves and said, “We want really talented people, we want them to know that we’re serious about putting good music on television and we want to do it every week and we want to build a reputation for that.” It started last year after I’d done a piece on Aaron Neville on Sunday and I’m like, “I want to get Aaron Neville” on the Saturday show. It took us about four or five months but we made it happen, he came on right before Christmas. When Brian Applegate, the senior producer, saw we did that he suddenly reached out to get The National. I was like, “Wow, that’s a reach,” but we got them for Grammy week and we were like, “Okay, we’ve got something going here.” We’ve kind of been on a roll ever since, musically. We’re booked now all the way into September with the names I just told you. I’m a big believer that you can be serious but have fun at the same time. You can be smart but laugh and on a Saturday morning that’s what people want. They want you to treat them seriously. They don’t want you to throw junk at them just to fill two hours of TV. We’re not doing that. We don’t have a big staff but we think really hard about everything we do.

MR: Where is the show ultimately heading?

AM: A two-hour television show is a monstrous beast. I was kind of terrified of it when they asked me to do the Saturday show. I was an English major in college, I strove to write stories with a beginning, a middle and an end and construct them in a way that they held up all the way through. I’m the kind of guy who if he goes to the movie he wants to stay to the end because I want to see how it’s made. The few times I’d subbed on the show in years earlier it was frankly kind of a mess. You’d be in the middle of it and you’d go, “What is this show about?” We’ve got fashion segments, we’ve got cooking segments, we’ve got a couple of guys helping you rebuild your house, I don’t know what this show is about. It’s trying to be about so many different things to different people but you can’t tell at the heart of it what it really is. I think more than anything you have got to find what that is and you’ve got to try to stay true to it every week.

You’re not always going to hit it. Some weeks are going to be better than others and you’re always going to ask yourself, “Why did this show work better than that show?” but we are trying to build out, segment by segment, a definition. We’re off and running with music, we’ve got food, we want to continue that to film, we want to do some different things with film and movies other than just having a list of something every week. I’m not sure what that is yet but we’re trying some things and working on that. We also have a commitment to technology and science, again, having fun with it and making it accessible to everybody. We have this guy Jeffrey Kluger from Time, he’s their science writer who is terrific and can make anything scientific interesting. Jeffrey’s on once a month and I love him, he’s great. When I first started understanding what made two hours of television work it was the week Jeffrey was on and he was talking about Mars. We had him on, we had Thomas Keller, the great chef, and we had a really fun band called The Piano Guys who just were great TV.

MR: The Piano Guys can be lots of fun.

AM: To be honest with you I was somewhat skeptical but they were great television that week and we had a really fun show where you left feeling smart, you had a great time, and I was like, “This is what I want to do every week.” You build a show across certain templates that you try to hit. Most people aren’t going to stay for two hours and can’t, but I still want to build a show that if you stay from beginning to end has a story arc to it and a flow to it and a feeling to it so if you are there for a whole thing it was worth it. That’s way more than you’ve ever wanted to know about this show, but…

MR: No, I really enjoy the passion and appreciation you have for all that goes into the process. I think you’ve made it apparent what your mission is–to explore music and artists in the best way you possibly can.

AM: I love and admire musicians in part because I am utterly unmusical myself, I can’t hit a note to save my life. My daugther will tell you I couldn’t sing if my life depended on it.

MR: Nope, you’re just being modest. If you can talk, you can sing.

AM: That’s absolutely true. And I’ve always considered the pieces I do, particularly for Sunday Morning, as my songs. There are a lot of similarities in the way a song is constructed and the way a piece of television is constructed, which is why I totally relate to songwriting and I love having conversations with musicians about the way things get built. I did have this one producer in our London bureau who’s in a band and when I said that to him he said, “You know, you’re not wrong. It actually makes sense.” A story has a rhythm to it, it has a visual rhythm, it has an audio rhythm. I’ve always heard all of that in the way a story feels. That’s why I spend as much time working on them as I do.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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photo courtesy of Snagajob

A Conversation with Chase Rice

Mike Ragogna: Chase, let’s start with your involvement in the Snagajob contest. How did that come about?

Chase Rice: Yeah, we teamed up and we’re going to give somebody the opportunity to open for me later this year in Denver. They’ve got to basically do a version of one of their original songs, submit the video and then the judges decide who the top five are. Then on August 22 we announce who the top five are and then the fans vote. They say who they think the number one person is and that person gets to open for me in Denver to a sold-out crowd, and it gives them the opportunity to break into the music business.

MR: What will the opening act spot be like?

CR: It’s one show, probably thirty to forty-five minutes, a typical standard deal. The cool part is they get to play to a sold-out Denver crowd, which will be nuts.

MR: Are you and your musical director going to work with them to make sure they’re ready?

CR: It’s up to them. I get to be a part of choosing who the top five are and then it’s up to them. They’ve got to promote as much as they can to try to be the top dog and get that opening slot. Then once they win, it’s a hundred percent on them, I’m out of the way. I just want to see them perform and see them get the crowd amped up in Denver.

MR: Since, basically, this contest will probably involve new-ish artists, let me ask you my traditional question now. What advice do you have for new artists?

CR: Just do it your way. That’s the way I’ve done it. I’ve had so many people tell me I’m not doing it the right way, that I need a label or something. If you have a vision for how you want to get your music out there, put the people around you who can help you get that vision out there and stick to it. You’ve got to surround yourself with those good people.

MR: What is the Chase Rice story? Any memories of how, possibly, your advice worked for you?

CR: I was just touring. I just wanted to tour and get my music out there instead of getting in on the radio right away. While I waited on that part–which is happening now with Columbia records involved–I wanted to tour and give my music to the fans and every single person I could. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve had some great shows, I’ve had some really horrible shows, but most of them are great.

MR: Your new project Ignite The Night is coming out in August. Can you give us a little tour of the album?

CR: It’s packed full of party songs, because that’s going to help build my career. It’s for the live show, I need those songs to do my live show the way I want to, because I want people to have energy, I want people to be raging for as long as they’re there. At the same time it’s got some depth on it, it’s got a song like “Carolina Can,” which is kind of my life in songs. It has more “story” to it. Country music deserves ballads like that. “Jack Daniels & Jesus” is on there. That’s a song that shows a deeper side of me, as well as a party song.

MR: When you’re writing, how deep does it go?

CR: It’s always different. If I know I need a party song, I’m going to do my best to have the most amped up, energetic melody–the same stuff that I hear when I’m drinking and partying, whatever the topic may be. Then there are songs that are just me and an acoustic guitar and I put out whatever feelings I’m feeling. That can always happen in a lot of different ways. It’s usually whatever mood I’m in. If I’m in a happy, party mood, I’m going to write party songs. If I’m feeling down about life, whatever it is, then it’s going to be a way more meaningful song. It can happen both ways.

MR: The single “Ready, Set, Roll” is already a hit from this record. How did that song come about?

CR: That was written with Rhett Atkins and Chris DeStefano, who’s now my producer. He started the track; we already had a bit of a melody going with guitar and he started building the track and what you hear on the radio while you were writing it. Rhett Akins was there, too. It was an all-day affair. We were digging it in, we wrote the chorus and then we got to the verses. It didn’t come easy, we had to really think to come up with some different lines. I think we did a good job of that.

MR: Do you think the songs on Ignite The Night have evolved compared to your previous material?

CR: Oh, yeah, the writing’s way better. We try to come up with lyrics that make people wonder how the hell we came up with it instead of just thinking of the same old standard stuff. We put lyrics on there that make people say, “What the hell did he just say? Why did he say it like that?” At the same time, the melody’s got to fit along with it, too. The better lines I come up with myself challenge the other writers to come up with cool lines like that, too, and the better lines they come up with challenge me to step up my writing. The better a writer’s writing with, the better the song usually is.

MR: You co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” How do you look at that song now that it’s been a hit?

CR: That was one of the ones that found us. We were writing a slow song and then that song kind of popped out. We wrote it in forty-five minutes and then went back and finished the slow song. That one happened by mistake, but the songwriting gods happened to be smiling down that day.

MR: [laughs] They must have been, it’s the most-downloaded country single of all time!

CR: Yeah, and I’m proud to be a part of that one, but at the same time I wrote a different song the next day. You can’t hang your hat one song. I’m blushing to be a part of it, but it’s onto the next one for me. I always want to write something better. That’s what I’m working on with this Ignite The Night album.

MR: Chase, you were a football player, you grew up in Daytona and had an association with NASCAR, motorsports… When did you decide, “Okay, now I’m going to be a hit country songwriter and recording artist?”

CR: I’ve been a huge country music fan my entire life. When I was done with football and NASCAR I was playing guitar and writing a little bit through that and I knew I wanted to be better than I was, so I had to move to Nashville. That’s when I started writing with great songwriters and they taught me what it was like to write a good song. Music’s a passion of mine, especially country music. I didn’t have anything going on, so I figured I’d move to Nashville and give it a shot.

MR: Where do you take it all from here?

CR: Continue to focus on “Ready, Set, Roll,” and the whole album. Get “Ready, Set, Roll” up the charts as high as we can possibly get it, hopefully, peak number one and then go on to the next single. Try and make the songs of Ignite The Night heard by as many people as we possibly can. That’s the short term goal right now and that’s all I’m really focusing on.

MR: Good luck with everything, man. One last question: Snagajob is about employing people. Do you see yourself participating more with socially-minded initiatives like this through contests, etc.?

CR: Yeah, absolutely. Social media is so big these days you can get information out much easier. If it helps someone else get the same shot guys like Dierks [Bentley] have given me, absolutely. Why wouldn’t I want to do something like that?

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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A Conversation with Gentle Giant’s Derek Shulman

Mike Ragogna: The Power & The Glory is getting a huge reissue treatment–expanded with a Blu-ray of remixes and more. How did the idea to majorly celebrate this album begin?

Derek Shulman: It actually started from a fan and a co-conspirator in our musical world, a guy called Steven Wilson who was the leader/main man of a band called Porcupine Tree in the UK. Fantastic musician. For whatever reason he was enamored by our band who in fact hadn’t performed and hasn’t performed since probably about 1980, so that’s thirty four years. He kept asking my brother, who has worked with him on several projects, “If you have the original 24 tracks, please let me remix some albums of yours. I think I can help put a little edge on some things that you might want to have had back in the day and you didn’t have time for, etc.” We figured, look, he’s a very good musician, a guy who we admire, so I said, “Hey, listen Steven, give it a shot, whatever you want to do. Make it the way you want to do it.” We gave him the tapes. We actually had them back in our possession from our license, so we actually own the masters. He basically kept pretty true to what the original style was but amplified and expanded it all with bits and pieces of things we wouldn’t have done back in the day. It came from him, that’s the bottom line. We would never have touched it. He was the propagator of this release and others, which are forthcoming.

MR: There are more coming?

DS: Yes, indeed! The fact that this has gotten so much press and excitement from our four fans out there… [laughs] No, the fact that it sounds better, not the least because we’re having someone look at it objectively. We figured, “Yeah, listen, why not give other albums a shot,” and at the same time utilize my brother’s skills at illustrating via motion graphics and video to highlight the songs and the stories.

MR: Do you feel that Gentle Giant’s music lends itself to visuals and effects like how he approached it?

DS: Yeah, actually. That’s an interesting question, which I’ve never been asked. I think it does because the songs…well, they’re not really songs, they’re music. If you listen to the music of Gentle Giant, you’ll hear the vocal lines are always part of the musical entity. I don’t want to sound pompous or pretentious, but we compose in a classical mode, so there were always themes and even the vocal lines were partly to do with the themes of the musical composition as opposed to a song line and a chord pattern and a bass drum and a kick drum and a bass line, there was always a theme to whatever piece we had. So yes, I think it does.

MR: Would you consider your music to be prog rock?

DS: [laughs] I still am quite scratching my head about that term.

MR: In your opinion, how did “prog” get such a bad rap?

DS: I think the connotation was possibly from artists in the same ilk. I don’t know if we belong in that same ilk or not. We weren’t trying to be any kind of category band. But I think the term was kind of derogatory back in the day primarily because some of the music was pompous, to be honest with you, with mellotron keyboards that dragged on for five or ten minutes and meant nothing except that it sounded like a string orchestra, which it wasn’t. We never did that. First of all, we never took ourselves that seriously. Even though we were fairly decent musicians. I think we’re self-deprecating to a certain degree but we were also musicians who pushed ourselves to be better for ourselves first. That’s something we were pretty cocooned in. As far as wanting to be something or have a title, that wasn’t on our radar at all. However we’re termed, we don’t care as long as somebody enjoyed it. At least we five musicians enjoyed it.

MR: What was the creative process like? Did the lyrics drive the music or vice versa?

DS: They went hand-in-hand to be honest with you. I think usually the musical content would come from Kerry Minnear who was our keyboardist. He was a graduate from The Royal Academy Of Music in composition studying under Sir Michael Tippett. My brother Ray was a classically trained violinist. They’d come up with a couple of ideas and they’d combine them together and then I’d come in with some ideas musically. The ideas, which were paragraphs, would lend themselves to a lyrical topic, so gradually these pieces of music evolved on their own, but it came initially from music first. To be honest with you the actual instruments evoked some other lyrical content and then we’d try to integrate those two things into one piece of music. It was kind of like an ebb and flow of whatever came first. But generally it was from the composition first. Then after a few lines of the composition, a lyrical idea would come together and then we’d integrate the rest of the song and the music into the lyrical content and it would all come together.

MR: And then did the songs drive the concept of the album? Once you found a couple of songs that fit together, was it then time to fill in the blanks?

DS: Well, The Power & The Glory, in particular, was a “concept,” although that is kind of a hack term in certain respects. It was one that I thought was important because it was the days of Watergate and a lot of other things were happening during that period. It was the corruption of power and the people who are hoping that the people who are on top would help them, but ultimately got nothing was something to be said in that day and age, and also something to be said in this day and age. It’s kind of like an overall story. We were fairly educated as people so it came naturally to make the songs sound fairly interesting both lyrically and musically.

MR: Gentle Giant albums were released on a couple of different labels, including Columbia. Did all of those masters return to you?

DS: Just about most of the material did. There are still a couple of albums, which are in Sony’s grubby little hands. [laughs] For the most part, they came back to the band in North America, that is. We were able to extricate them to our own grubby little hands and at least get a few pennies out of the meager sales that are ongoing. We were fairly fortunate in that respect with Capitol and Sony/Columbia. I’m making fun of them, but they’ve been very helpful, actually in that respect.

MR: I remember an international, double disc collection that went back all the way to the beginning. It was a really nice piece. It’s unfortunate that the United States has never had a proper compilation of Gentle Giant. It would be a nice education, and I think you’d probably be surprised at the appreciation of it by old and new fans.

DS: There are plans with me and my brother Ray to put all our grey heads together and say, “Okay, look, apparently we didn’t die, and apparently there’s still interest in this band.” There are a few things we have under our stoles to make happen. In fact some of the more interesting things are a cut that came out of the blue. I want to tell you that this music has affected some other forms, in fact, much more contemporary forms of music. I went by The Tonight Show a couple of times. Jimmy Fallon and Questlove and The Roots were there. Questlove–Ahmir Thompson–is a humongous fan apparently, which I had no idea about. He requested for us to send him the stems of The Power & The Glory. He said he wants to remix the album himself as well as Steven Wilson and do hip hop/contemporary version with–I don’t know if he’s going to bring in the DJs or Jay-Z or God knows what. Whatever it is, there’s lots of things that possibly can happen in the next twelve to eighteen months.

MR: That’s wonderful. What advice do you have for new artists?

DS: Well, obviously, the record business these days is almost nonexistent, but music is still integral to everyone’s life. As far as new music is concerned, I would say don’t just look to get your music on YouTube or Facebook and hope you’re going to be famous because you’ve had a hundred million views, because it doesn’t work that way. What you have to do first is make yourself a better muscian for yourself first. If you’re in a band, make sure your band becomes a better group, musically, in whatever genre you’re working in. Be great, not good. You’ll never have any success if you’re just good. If you want to be the leader in any field, whatever it is, you really have to not look at someone else’s place on the charts and say, “Wow, I could be that,” you have to do it on your own, and you have to do something that is only yours alone and be great at it. In some respects–and this is on an ego push myself–you asked about being a part of a prog movement. We didn’t know what prog was, we were just a bunch of musicians who said, “Let’s get together and make a band.” We had no idea what it would sound like, but we had a bunch of really good musicians making ourselves better for each other. And if we made ourselves better for each other, perhaps the city would like to hear it, and then it went from there. We really worked hard at it and played and toured and, lo and behold, some people came along. The year after that, a few more people came along, and we were able to build a career and make a living. And we didn’t listen to the radio apart from toward the end perhaps. The music I guess still lives in that respect. In so saying, it appears that if you do that, the music will survive.

MR: What does the future look like for Gentle Giant?

DS: There isn’t one, really.

MR: No small reunion?

DS: No. The thing that is important–certainly to me and my brother Ray–is we closed that chapter. You can’t rewrite history and if you try to, it becomes really besmirched. I don’t want to be a parody of myself and I don’t think any member of the band would want to be a parody of themself either. We can teach and, hopefully, younger artists will be enamored by it. But to try and replicate what we did or be who we were back in the day would be impossible. I don’t want to be a grizzled old man trying to jump around on stage and play the same music and smear whatever minor legacy we have. I don’t think that’s going to work at all.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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A Conversation with William Gage Blanton

Mike Ragogna: Gage, you are one of the newest “alt” fashion mavens of the Midwest. How in God’s name did this happen?

William Gage Blanton: [laughs] Alt fashion maven of the Midwest, huh? [laughs] Okay, well, not overnight. Persistence, really, that’s it!

MR: What got you into clothing design?

WGB: Dropping out of college. I was going through college and paying for college for something that didn’t make sense to go to college for so I left. I was paying thirty-two grand a year to go to school for fine arts and I started my company while I was doing it, so I was focusing on my company in class. It was a natural transition from what I’d been doing as a kid, which was design work.

MR: How did it all start?

WGB: It was a natural progression from me doing doodles. I’ve always been into fashion magazines and whatever fashion is going on in the world. My mom was a buyer for Nordstrom growing up, so it was always ingrained in me that this is an important part of life.

MR: Did your eye for art always go towards design, or did you start out drawing dragons, superheroes, stuff like that?

WGB: No, it was definitely design. I started out with cartoon stuff for a little while but that got boring and it went to things that made more sense to me, which was drawing people. When I drew people, I would focus on what they were wearing and form the person out of that. That’s what I did through middle school and high school.

MR: You also have a knowledge of anatomy in order to properly design clothing that would fall right on the body. How did your introduction to anatomy come about?

WGB: My cousin was a science teacher, so I had one of the anatomy and physiology coloring books as a kid. I went through a couple of those. It was a natural process because me being interested in it made me want to learn about it, so I would just study things and teach myself things I didn’t already know or have an understanding of.

MR: Do you have Ny brothers or sisters that you designed for?

WGB: I’m an only child.

MR: Did you make your friends guinea pigs for your early designs?

WGB: No, I really kept them all to myself for a long time. Nobody really knew about it until college.

MR: What about college? Did you use your friends as models?

WGB: Yeah, I did. I used my friends as critics, too. That was the main part; trying to get friends to tell me they didn’t like stuff. That was the hardest part.

MR: I know you do everything, baseball caps, shirts, blouses, what were some of the first items you were interested in creating?

WGB: Honestly, my inspiration from it was runway shows, the mod, European, dark fashion shows. That’s just because they weren’t necessarily pieces that could be worn, it’s more about the shapes and tones of what they use. Raf Simons is one of my big inspirations.

MR: Did you ever strut the runway?

WGB: I’ve done a runway show, yes, last year, and I’m doing another one this year.

MR: You’re currently located in New Orleans. Has the culture affected your designs or how you’re approaching things lately?

WGB: I guess, in a way, it has affected it because I’ve felt freer to be able to do what I have always liked and not have to tone it to more of a Midwest stance of what I know would sell. I feel like I can put out what I like and it will be accepted.

MR: You grew up Portland. What got you out to the midwest?

WGB: Well, my grandmother moved out here because of Iowa. She moved out here before anyone else did in my family. I had dropped out of high school senior year and she was like, “Well, you need to go to college.” So she made me come to Iowa and I finished up high school there.

MR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

WGB: Right now Raf Simons, Alexander McQueen’s new line is really inspirational. But Raf Simons is probably my all-time favorite. As long as I’ve been doing fashion, he’s always been an inspiration. I don’t like colors, I don’t like bright and gaudy things, I like the dark, and especially the shapes of the cuts of designs.

MR: This is related to my earlier question, maybe I’m just rephrasing it a little. Since you moved to New Orleans, have you experimented with concepts you never had before?

WGB: I actually have. They haven’t made it past certain stages of design, but I have. It’s because of the culture there, it’s very European culture, I can push the envelope more.

MR: Where is your clothing right now? What kinds of stores are they located in?

WGB: With the new release of the line, I’ve got a new PR manager so I’m getting my stuff in two stores in New York for the new line. I took clothing back to a couple places I had stuff in previously, so my new line is going to be in just New York and Europe.

MR: Gage, what is your goal?

WGB: The goal is to really do things that are timeless. A shirt is something that everybody has to wear, and a shirt is something that people can wear for twenty years if it draws them, or somebody can wear a shirt for a day and never wear it again. I aim to be that article of clothing you keep for twenty-years.

MR: Do you feel like you’re working on something right now that fits that description?

WGB: Yeah, the line I’m working on right now is very contemporary, probably not what people would expect. It’s very simplified and contemporary, but it’s more of a satire. The line is “Prescription Error,” it’s kind of speaking on the age we live in, where prescriptions run everything we do from the most minute to the largest sections of life.

MR: What’s your advice to designers who are just starting out?

WGB: Don’t be afraid to fail, because you have to fail to succeed. You can’t just expect to make it. You have to know how to fail. You have to fail, fail, fail, fail, fail. And copy whatever you love. If there’s something you like, and somebody who inspires you, just copy it as much as you can. From that copy you will find your own style, your own way.

MR: Nice. You’ve also had a music connection in that your fashion sometimes goes hand in hand with certain musical acts.

WGB: Yeah, I dabble in music, and I’m friends with some major artists and some not-so-major artists. I just like the way that in this day and age music can dictate what’s going to be in style. The imagery used in music is probably the most influential pop culture we have.

MR: Smart. What does mom think of all this?

WGB: I guess she doesn’t really get it one hundred percent, but she’s happy that I’m doing what I like. I guess she’s still nervous because she doesn’t know. “Is this going to be a thing that’s done and over with or is this going to be a lifelong thing?”

MR: But she’s wished you luck and crossed her fingers for you.

WGB: Yeah. I think at this point she gets that I’m not going to be giving up any time soon. It’s what I do, it’s what comes naturally to me at this point, i’ve been doing it long enough that I see everything in shapes and design. I can’t help but walk down the street and see something.

MR: Do you ever picture her buying any of your clothing lines someday?

WGB: [laughs] She’s a yoga teacher now. She doesn’t do buying but I do actually know buyers at Saks. That’s another thing, making connections has been a blessing of mine. I’m able to walk into places and make connections with the right people without me even knowing who to talk to.

MR: So everything has fallen in line for you.

WGB: Yeah, it’s definitely like that. As a young child, I knew I wanted to do something with art, I always have. There was never any question about it. It was not accepted by my family when I was six years old saying, “I want to be an artist, I just want to draw,” it wasn’t like, “Oh, yeah, cool, that’s what you’re going to do,” no, it was like, “You’re going to go to school, you have to get a degree and make a living.”

MR: Any info about the new line?

WGB: This new line is going to be something that’s not expected if you know any of my previous work; it’s definitely going to be on a different scale.

For more info: https://www.soloclothingco.com

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
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Dear Governor Cuomo: A Conversation with Natalie Merchant, Plus Catching Up with Freda Payne

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A Conversation with Natalie Merchant

Mike Ragogna: Natalie, what have you been up to lately beyond the new album?

Natalie Merchant: I’ve become extremely active in the fight against hydraulic fracking in New York. Where are you based?

MR: Iowa, though I grew up in New York, so this concerns me as well.

NM: Well, New York is sitting on the Marcellus Shale, which has huge reserves of natural gas, but the only way to extract them is by exploding the bedrock a mile or two under the surface and pulling the gas up using hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater which will then be contaminated. It’s also extremely radioactive down there. We’re watching what’s happened in other states with the contamination of aquifers and the devastation of previously rural areas that are now highly industrialized. There’s also quite a bit of contamination of the air that occurs with hydraulic fracturing. Anyway, I’ve been involved in that, and I made a film called Dear Governor Cuomo, because of the moratorium that was put in place by Governor Patterson before Governor Cuomo–which he has upheld.

MR: Natalie, do you think he’s weighing the economics heavily and that’s what’s affecting things?

NM: If he’s doing it for short-term gain, he would have opened the flood gates long ago. I think it’s politically very contentious because there’s a massive grassroots movement against this. Actually, we had a big victory last week, the court of appeals in New York ruled that all of the village, town, and city bans that citizen groups have put in place will be upheld. It’s a huge blow to the gas industry. Anyway, we’re just saying that it’s an extreme form of extraction that’s extremely dangerous, and we want an independent health study that tests what the impacts on the environment and health of not just humans but wildlife would be and what sort of impact it would have on our natural resources. Then we can weigh out whether it’s worth that risk. That’s happening in Colorado and North Dakota and Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia, there are these thirty-six other states where they’re fracking and there’s massive devastation of prairie. We’re also questioning whether it’s wise to make that a major export. We’re talking about energy independence. We can supply for our own needs, but if we’re talking about selling that gas to other countries we’ll need to get three to five times the amount. Anyway, that’s one thing I’ve been doing. I’ve also been involved in local activism in the domestic violence advocacy groups, and made another film called SHELTER. I’ve gotten into this new form of protest that is multimedia. We gather together the community activists, and in the case of Dear Governor Cuomo, we have scientists and victims from other states who have had their water contaminated, and then we put together a program with music that is relevant to the subject we’re trying to educate people about and put together an evening where we alternate between appealing to the heart and appealing to the mind, left brain, right brain. People take in the information in a completely different way than if it was given by a speaker. We also have visuals, photographs, film, and we film the whole event so that it can be a tool for activists between the organizing.

That’s what we did with the domestic violence issues, too. I got to go to some district attorneys’ offices in the two neighboring counties where I live in the Hudson Valley and we asked the prosecutors for statistics. We wanted to quantify the problem of domestic violence in our area because we felt it was a crisis but we couldn’t really sound the alarm without telling people how large the crisis was. The statistics had never been gathered in one place before, so we actually did a service to the domestic violence community by gathering the statistics and publicizing them. We found out there have been thirty-seven homicides over the past fifteen years related to domestic violence. They involved a child of three months all the way to a woman who was seventy-eight years old. People brutally murdered. And this was in this rural, bucolic environment. Then we started to look at how many domestic incident reports had been filed that year and the year before. There were tens of thousands. Then we checked how many arrests, how many convictions. When we actually did the event I decided that we as a community hadn’t acknowledged properly the deaths of these people, so I took all the names of the victims and I went back into the newspaper and I looked at the way their deaths had been reported. There was more written about a local football match than the brutal murder of two women. I decided that we have to memorialize these women.

MR: What was the commonality? When you looked at all the information, were there any conclusions that you came to?

NM: The conclusion I came to is that we need to have a community response. What was interesting was that I had this bias of, “I live in the country, this happens in the city.” It was not evenly distributed, but it was actually weighted a bit heavier in the countryside. There’s more domestic violence in the countryside, but the homicides are evenly distributed in both the urban and rural communities. That was jarring to me. But we took the thirty-seven names and we had a string quartet play a requiem, a piece that I had written, and we projected their names. It was an incredibly powerful moment for our community, to acknowledge that this was happening and to mourn these people. Anyway, I did that, and then I also did the Leave Your Sleep project which was a massive five-year project with a hundred and thirty musicians. I wrote a short book about the poets and spent a whole year talking to defendants of the poets and their estates and their executors, going to different institutions, finding photographs. A lot of those poets are so obscure there are no biographies–probably four of them had biographies. That was a really fun, engaging project that I could work on while having a small child.

MR: That approach was very original.

NM: It was interesting, I finished the project and I took it Nonesuch and Robert Hurwitz who’s been running Nonesuch for thirty years said it was the most original project he’d ever seen. I took that as a huge compliment coming from him. He’s worked with Steve Reich and Philip Glass for years.

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MR: Let’s get to your latest album. It’s simply titled Natalie Merchant. You could have taken that approach before, why now?

NM: I wanted to make a distinction, I wanted to set this album apart from previously, and the album that preceded it, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, which was vocal music. I wanted to say, “This is my work.” That’s what I was trying to achieve through the self-title. It’s a piece of work that’s been in progress for probably fifteen years. I was focusing on having a family and my community activism and interpreting folk music and adapting other people’s words to music. I was also in a kind of journal-keeping fashion writing my own songs because it’s a compulsion. I have to do it. It is a kind of catharsis that comes from journal writing. So much happened in fifteen years, it’s a pretty sizeable piece of time. So much happened, not just in my private life but in the world. Wars began and ended. We as a global community recognized that we are seeing the impacts of our wanton ways on the climate, Hurricanes Katrina and Irene and Sandy. We’ve seen typhoons. This ongoing crisis of people being displaced by war and natural disaster, which I ended up writing about in the end. The UN figures–I’ve read 27.5 million people displaced by conflict. I’ve also read figures up to 40 million. It depends on what state those people are living in. Some people are living under tarps, some people have had to move to other countries to build their lives, but they still count as refugees and displaced people.

MR: Do you think there’s any solution?

NM: It would take a spiritual revolution. That’s what I’ve been praying for my whole life, that spiritual revolution. And it’s not recognition of one got or one creed. The spiritual revolution that I’m waiting for and I’m praying for is when we realize what a miracle it is that we even exist on this planet.

MR: My son and I have been watching the updated Cosmos series. In relation to the time and space of the universe, what a speck of a speck of a speck times a trillion and more each human being actually is.

NM: How very minute we are. We’re just misguided. Our brains are just large enough to completely undermine our whole existence. It’s tragedy on a scale that cannot be imagined. it just devastates me every day. We have scraped away topsoil that people in the arid regions of the world would lay down their lives for and covered it with tar. Just start with that. We don’t value what sustains us. We poison the water, we poison the air, we destroy the soil. It’s maddening. You know what’s even more maddening? To explain this to a child. I didn’t really consider that when I got pregnant that someday I would have to try to interpret the madness of my species.

MR: The hardest thing is when you try to raise them to be decent people and the world throws at them messages that are contradictory to that.

NM: And you hope that you’ve given them a strong enough foundation that they can be critical enough to say, “That’s wrong.”

MR: Yeah.

NM: That’s the goal of good parenting; to raise critical children who can look at the world with a strong base and a critical eye. And then you hope and pray. The other thing that I’ve really wanted to do is provide a protective environment for her long enough to have an authentic childhood. I think every child deserves that. It’s just heartbreaking that so few children get the opportunity. That protective coating that you put on your child, it seems like the whole world is conspiring to bust it open, with the types of film that are created and the books and the video games and the violence and wanton destruction that exists in the world. I’m just constantly shielding my child. I’m really thankful that I live in the country. When I take her to the city, we’re just assaulted by the imagery. I have no control.

MR: Do you see a spiritual renaissance happening to the planet?

NM: I think it’s happening on a tiny scale. When people say, “Are you optimistic or pessimistic?” I say, “I’m optimistic about individual transformation, but it’s the massive institutions that take so long to change.” They’re so inflexible. I’m pessimistic about that. What can we do about the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world? What can we do about it? Nothing. What can we do about the carbon in the atmosphere at this point? There’s nothing we can do. What can we do about the great lakes? What can we do about the icebergs? This is going to a dark place, but that’s why I made a dark album. I just feel that people need consolation. If Billie Holiday had never recorded “Strange Fruit” 1939 would have been remembered as just the year that The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind were released and the Andrews Sisters had a number one hit about whatever, and we wouldn’t know that there were artists who saw the world for what it was, saw the dark of the world and were disturbed by it. Billie Holiday had the courage to make art about it.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

NM: I would just encourage them to dig deep into themselves, find their authentic heart and be vulnerable. Allow people to see that part of themselves, because that’s what people are going to respond to. I think that’s what’s going to be your lasting legacy. Think about that. What would you like to bring into the world. I think the most powerful thing you can put into the world is that part of yourself that’s felt so deeply.

MR: And that would probably not only be good for the art, but for the human as well.

NM: Mm-hmm. There are so many other aspects to a musician’s world these days, it started with the MTV business. Younger people are just more conscious of trends and branding. That kind of thing didn’t occur to us years ago. There weren’t that many platforms for it. You had a record cover and you had a poster, and that was it. Then came MTV and then came the internet. It’s fascinating and it’s fun to play with and there’s so much you can do with it if you have that capacity. But a lot of artists are just songwriters or singers or guitar players and that whole visual component and having to constantly promote yourself, that can be daunting.

MR: It sure can.

NM: I remember what it felt like, and it still feels like that. When you connect with another person over a piece of music that you both love… We were doing that on the tour bus the other night. My guitar player pulled out his guitar and we were singing songs for hours after we’d already played music for five hours between sound check and the show. We just love it, that feeling of connection and camaraderie, it’s so powerful. Everybody wants to feel like they’re included. That’s what music is about, to me. It’s inclusion. “I feel that. You feel that? We feel the same thing,” whether it’s feeling it with the artist or later on with someone else as you share that same piece of music.

MR: An anthem is a powerful uniter.

NM: Think of how powerful Nirvana was. Think of how powerful Bob Dylan was. Some people are like lightning rods.

MR: That’s a good way to put it. Natalie, we really haven’t talked much about the album yet, can you walk me through it just a little?

NM: This is a survey of fifteen years of work. It wasn’t that I just wrote ten songs in the last fifteen years, I probably wrote thirty or more. But this collection began to coalesce, these songs seemed to belong together more than any of the others. The thing that they all seemed to have in common was they seemed to be about transformation on some level. They also seemed to be about intensely personal subjects, or the world at large. Somehow I wanted to make that connected. I wanted intersections between public and private like we all have. I’ve always used this technique of creating characters and then either inhabiting those characters or having a dialog with them, which happened a lot on this record. “Ladybird” is a woman who has reached that point in her life where she feels extremely dissatisfied but knows that she has created a life that she can’t abandon. So it’s about self-sacrifice, it’s about yearning, it’s about limbo and assessing your life from wanting to change but not being able to because there’s so much at stake.

MR: How does it feel to have created one of the most memorable singer-songwriter albums, Tigerlily?

NM: It was as much a surprise to me as anybody. After 10,000 Maniacs, we had toured for years, we’d done that large MTV Unplugged album, it was kind of the pinnacle for us, with “These Are Days” on that last album. Then I kind of got to the edge of the precipice and I jumped off and I said, “I just want to start again and I want to make a little, quiet record with a little band.” I paid for the record myself, I produced the record myself, I did all the preproduction in my garage and I recorded it pretty quickly at Bearsville Studios. I was so close to the ground with that record, and then it exploded and sold five million copies. Still to this day, when I play those songs, there’s such a huge response. I’m actually re-recording the record next year with all these beautiful string arrangements that I’ve written for all these orchestral shows. I decided, it’s the twentieth anniversary of the release of this record and I’d like to revisit these songs. The truth is I don’t have to revisit them because they’ve stayed a part of my repertoire throughout my life.

MR: Has the material evolved as Natalie Merchant has? Have the lyrics or the arrangements changed significantly over the years?

NM: I think I was pretty precocious, because they’re still extremely relevant, songs like “Carnival” and “Wonder.” The thing that I find really wonderful is how it was embraced by people. One of the things that we’re actually doing is interviewing people at these concerts I’m doing right now about Tigerlily and hearing their stories. The song “Wonder,” in particular, because it’s become an anthem for sick children. It’s become an anthem for children with physical and mental challenges, and it’s so much about the love and support of the parents in helping those children overcome any obstacle. I’ve talked to doctors who said, “We don’t really know how to understand that impact that something like your song has on children, but it has an impact. It has healing properties.” I’ve actually had doctors tell me that.

MR: I’ve heard quite a few artists say they modeled their albums after Tigerlily.

NM: I don’t think of myself as extremely influential or important. I sort of think of myself as a fringe artist. An out there, cult artist on the fringe.

MR: Would you say that you’re still developing as a human?

NM: I hope so! I think having a child really changed me in a really profound way. I have been living on the edge of society, just passing through towns for years. If I put all the years I toured together, end to end, it would be twelve solid years of sleeping in a different bed every night. All the while I was yearning for a home and a place to belong. I think that when I settled in one place and I had a family and watched my child grow up and became somebody who people depend upon on my community in a real way, not just, “Oh while I’m in town maybe I’ll do a benefit for you,” but in an, “Oh, you need someone there at ten o’clock to set up chairs? I’ll be there. You need someone to make all these cupcakes? I’ll be there. You want me to teach the kids civil rights? I’ll be there,” way. Becoming a part of a stable community was very transformative for me. When you embrace a place as home you want to protect it. I remember when I met Pete Seeger. I’ve been in the Hudson Valley for twenty-seven years now, and Pete much, much longer. I remember we took the train together down to the city and by chance we bumped into each other at the railway station upstate. We had this lovely talk all the way down to the city and I remember him telling me, “Natalie, you just have to find a place, make it your home, and stay there.” He said, “Musicians get lost.” It was a wonderful source for that advice. So I took that to heart.

MR: What a beautiful moment. I would add–my perspective coming from being a new parent–that your child also is your home. That could be as big a part of it as one’s geography.

NM: But I think if everybody embraced and protected their home, we’d be golden. The familiarity is important. Once you know a place and love it you want to protect it. When we were organizing both the anti-fracking event and when they tried to start a logging campaign in the state parks of New York we toured all around New York state having petition drives and playing concerts and we publicized that there was this plan to allow logging in the state parks and a cement factory in the Hudson. We ended up presenting a petition to the governor with signatures from a hundred and twenty artists from New York who didn’t want that to happen. Even things like noticing that the Headstart playground was falling apart in my local town, just being more proactive. It just goes on and on. I decided I would not do shows in my community for anything but the benefit of my community. You know who I learned that from? Fugazi. When they played in Washington, if they charged money, it was to benefit their home.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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A Conversation with Freda Payne

Mike Ragogna: We have quite a few things to talk about here, especially your new album, Come Back To Me Love. So who is this love you want to come back to you?

Freda Payne: [laughs] That’s an interesting one, no one’s ever asked me that one before… “Who is this love you want to come back?” I guess all the loves I’ve ever had. The ones who are still living, anyway. [laughs] The song “Come Back To Me Love” is about a person who separated or split up for a little while but they still love that person and want them to come back into their life. I’m just saying that you can read that any way you wish.

MR: You recorded one of my favorite jazz songs, Kenny Rankin’s “Haven’t We Met?” It’s become a real standard over the years, huh?

FP: Oh yeah! I had become friendly with Kenny Rankin, I got to meet him doing a special annual benefit at the home of director Oz Scott here in Sherman Oaks. It was for The Jackie Robinson Foundation, he had it at his home, he has this huge backyard. It’s an event where he invites close to about four hundred people and it’s called Jazz On The Grass. He had artists like the late George Duke, Marcus Miller, everybody. It’s just one of those kinds of events where you could go and see Sheila E., or Lalah Hathaway or anybody like that. I’ve done it several times where I was also one of the guest artists as was Kenny Rankin. We met and got to be friends. Of course he passed away two years ago, but the thing is that I always liked that song. When I was in the process along with my fellow producer and orchestrator Bill Cunliffe I said, Bill, I’ve always liked that song “Haven’t We Met?” and he said, “Yeah, I like it, too!” and that’s how that came about.

MR: Kenny Rankin’s death was a surprise. I know that he reached a certain level of fame and appreciation, but it almost seems like especially after albums like Silver Morning, he should’ve been a household name.

FP: He was special. He was really a special musician and singer. You’re right, he should’ve gone to even greater heights of fame.

MR: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. Let’s look at some of the other material. Do you have any stories of how you related to this material when you were younger?

FP: Every single one. “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” I always thought of that as a cool standard, a swinging upbeat song to do, and of course everyone knows Cole Porter.

MR: What about the songs by Tom Robinson?

FP: Tom Robinson wrote six of the songs on the album and I like all six. “Lately” is something I think a lot of people can relate to in terms of another personal relationship that’s not quite in balance.

MR: There are two more by Gretchen, “Come Back To Me Love” and “Whatever Happened To Me.”

FP: “Whatever Happened To Me,” you know when you’re kind of perplexed and not sure of yourself, it’s almost like a psychological kind of thing where you go, “Hey, wait a minute, what’s going on here, what am I doing? Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?” [laughs]

MR: [laughs] Nice.

FP: Then there’s “You Don’t Know,” that’s like you’re on the prowl. You know that feeling when you’re out there at a singles bar, or you’re at a club or a supermarket or ayour gym and there’s somebody that comes in who’s at your spin class or your yoga class and you start noticing them–“You don’t know what I’m feeling, you don’t understand. I love you with a passion, baby, my heart’s in your hand. You’ve got to know that I just want to be with you.” You’re out there trying to hook up.

MR: It’s funny, you swing the words when you talk about it as much as you swing them when you sing them.

FP: Yeah, when you get into it–I don’t know if I told you, but I have more of myself and what I like and my choice of songs on this CD than I’ve ever had ever in my entire recording career. Usually when you work with a big company and they give you a producer or, in this case I chose my producer. I’d already worked with him and he’d been currently working with me as an accompanist as well and he has his own name, Grammy Award Winner Bill Cunliffe–as well as a Thelonius Monk Award winner. We both chose these songs and these things I wanted to do. We basically chose from about twenty two of Gretchen and Tom’s songs the six we liked the best.

MR: How about “Save Your Love For Me”?

FP: Oh! “Save Your Love For Me,” that goes back to the sixties. Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson. I always loved that song. I never sang it before I did it on the album. I never performed it ever. Now I’m doing it. I always liked that song. There are always songs you’ve always liked but you never did. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” is the only one of them on the whole album that I had been accustomed to performing prior to this.

MR: Did you discover more layers of the material as you delved into them this time?

FP: Yes I did, and guess what? As I go and start performing them in front of people in clubs and theaters and areans or wherever I’m going to perform them it’s going to get better, because I like it better as I go.

MR: And it seems like you had a blast with these songs.

FP: I’m having a blast, and I have a blast when I perform them. When you’re doing material that you love, it’s so much better. There are songs that I’ve recorded in the past, songs from the seventies where I wasn’t that into the song but I did it because the producer said, “We need to do this, this is the best song for you,” but I wasn’t that crazy about it. As a result I wound up not really performing those songs that much.

MR: Yeah, and who can blame you? It gets a little painful to sing songs you’re not into.

FP: Yeah, it is. Now, I’ve got to say, my hit “Band Of Gold” that I had back in the early seventies, I do that because people love it so much and I get requests for it no matter what I’m doing. Let’s say I do a whole jazz show and I come back with “Band Of Gold” for the last encore, people love it! They want to hear “Band Of Gold” because that’s how they know me.

MR: And also “Bring The Boys Home” during a time in history when yet again we had a war and people were raising their voices to bring the troops home.

FP: Right.

MR: “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home” were both about that same topic, was that a concept that was close to you?

FP: I’ll put it this way: I’m far from being a Jane Fonda. I am not on that cutting edge at all. I did the song because bascially number one I believed in it and number two I felt the deep, heartfelt sentiment and the emotional tag of it–that you could feel the pain of people who had relatives or loved ones or husbands or daughters over there. And to be honest with you, the company was trying to get a hit record.

MR: So was it really Holland-Dozier-Holland and Invictus Records directing that?

FP: They called me into the office to play the demo of the song and upon my first listen it brought tears to my eyes. I said, “This is right on time. This is what the public would probably want to hear,” and they said, “Yeah, we feel the same way, too. You need another hit record to follow up ‘Band Of Gold.'” So that’s how it all happened.

MR: Wow. Interesting. You weren’t exactly Crosby, Stills & Nash, but you really put a voice and a face, an identity, to the concept of, “I’m a real person, let’s bring the troops home.”

FP: Right. I mean, I wasn’t walking down Pennsylvania Avenue protesting and getting arrested, but just like Crosby, Stills and Nash and all these other singers, I was in the pop vein who did cutting edge material delivering messages through their lyrics and their artistry. A lot of poets do that, too.

MR: Exactly. You’re one of the centerpieces of the Holland-Dozier-Holland Invictus story.

FP: I am. There was a documentary done a few years ago and they entitled the documentary “Band Of Gold,” because that was the biggest seller during the time they had the label.

MR: It was a huge record. But you also brought “Joy” and “Deeper & Deeper” and other non-topical songs.

FP: And when I did “Band Of Gold” I got nominated for a Grammy for “Best R&B/Soul Singer (Female)” and then I got nominated, twice actually, for the album Contact.

MR: That’s right! That’s right! To me this is a jazz album, what you’ve just put out.

FP: It’s definitely a jazz album, on a jazz label.

MR: But jazz these days also hints towards R&B, funk, all these other areas that it has embraced over the years.

FP: Because jazz came from all of that. Jazz came from funk which came from the gospel church which came from the pentecostal church and the baptist church. Jazz has also infiltrated the hip hop world, you hear a lot of jazz infused into certain mixes.

MR: And there’s the connection to the blues.

FP: Oh yeah, the blues is jazz, too, as far as I’m concerned. You go to a jazz club and you can hear–as artistic as some jazz artists might be–when they start playing some blues that’s a whole other thing. There’s raw blues, the pure blues, and then there’s blues intermixed with jazz. It’s more of a jazz inflection on blues chords. For instance, in my show, I do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. When I do the “St. Louis Blues,” there’s a version that Ella did that I kind of emulate. She starts it off rubato but slow, the piano is playing very slow, bluesy chords, it’s funky. It might have been Tommy Flanagan or someone like that as her pianist at the time and they’re playing real funky blues for let’s say twenty four bars of the song and then they’ll jump start it and go back to the top with an uptempo version of it and do it like that. That’s a very clever way of doing the blues.

MR: Lots of people know you as a pop R&B singer, but you actually started out as a jazz singer with Quincy Jones, and now you’ve sort of come full circle. What is it about jazz that got you into this and keeps you fulfilled now?

FP: I think it speaks more to my intellect musically, based on how I’ve been trained and how I was brought up. It speaks to my inner soul, I’ll put it that way. I didn’t really get into R&B until I was in my early twenties, and that’s because of Motown becoming more sophisticated and using better arrangers.

MR: That’s a good point, they sort of took a few steps forward from what was R&B to establish “The Motown Sound.”

FP: Now we call them The Funk Brothers, but the musicians who were employed by Motown and did a lot of the Motown sessions, whom I wound up working with back then–Earl Van Dyke became my musical director for twelve years, he was one of the key Funk Brothers.

MR: But Holland-Dozier-Holland had those original Motown roots anyway–is that how the crossover happened?

FP: Yeah, absolutely. I went to high school with Brian Holland. I had met Eddie Holland when I was fourteen years old. Berry Gordy, Jr. brought him to my house. That was when Berry was trying to get me to become one of his artists. This was pre-Motown years. Berry Gordy wrote three songs for me and took me into a studio in Detroit called United Sound, recorded them, and he wanted them to sign me as an artist. My mother wouldn’t follow through with it because she wouldn’t agree to his terms.
MR: [laughs] That seems to be the cutoff with some artists, why they were or weren’t on Motown.
FP: Same thing with Aretha Franklin, don’t you think he tried to get Aretha Franklin? She had her dad, the Reverend Franklin and he sat down with Berry and said, “No go. No go.” She went to Columbia and then Atlantic and the rest is history.

MR: But it’s interesting how you’re Detroit, it’s a natural fit, you went to school with Brian.

FP: Oh, and I forgot, I’m leaving out Lamon Dozier. He’s an integral part of HDH. I went to school with Lamont all through middle school. I went to school with Lamont from the sixth grade to the eighth grade. I had more of a history with Lamont. It’s almost like we’re all from the same pot.

MR: Have you had reunions, especially with Lamont, over the years?
FP: Oh yeah, I just did a think in honor of Lamont here in Beverly Hills on June seventh. The brand new Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills which opened just last year, a man by the name of Charlie Fox–have you ever heard of him?

MR: Of course, Gimbel & Fox.

FP: He asked me to participate in honoring Lamont Dozier as well as David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Annenberg. I participated in that with my sister, who was one of the Supremes. So I just saw Lamont recently. As a matter of fact I just bumped into him at the supermarket the other day!

MR: [laughs] Nice!

FP: And also in 2011 I did a tour with Lamont over in Europe with Sir Cliff Richard. We did a nine city tour of all arenas called the Soulicious Tour. Lamont was one of the acts along with Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo, James Ingram, Percy Sledge and myself.

MR: Where is the album with all of you performing together? With all of these friendships over the years, it seems like you’d have a lot of fun doing more tours and collaboration albums.

FP: You’re absolutely correct. That’s what happened with the Soulicious Tour in the UK, but something like that would go over well here in the States, I think.

MR: I think so, too. What is your advice for new artists?

FP: It depends on what stage. If you’re trying to be discovered I’d say try to get on these talent contests that are flooding the market now, like American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, Rising Star, because that seems to be one of the quickest, easiest avenues to get exposure. The other way I see it with this world of technology that we’re being sucked into more and more, get on YouTube or Facebook or whatever. Try to perform as much as you can for local things in your city, maybe clubs or little music festivals, just get exposure. That’s the only thing I can say. Don’t be quick to turn any opportunity down. I remember once a wise person said to me, “Sometimes something good comes in a small package.” It’s not always, “Oh, this is a big opportunity, you’re going to really excel with this.” I’ve done shows where the money was just enough to pay for my weekly grocery bill, or a play where you’re doing regional theater and the money really couldn’t support me, but you do it because it could lead to something bigger and better and it comes back to you four- or five-fold. And it also enriches you as an artist!

MR: Can you remember anything in particular like that? You’ve have both overtly big breaks and nice subtle relationship with people that led to something nice.

FP: Yeah, sure, I did a musical called Blues In The Night back in 1990. The salary was like, “Are you kidding me?” but I did it for the love of the music and the art and fact that it was muscial theater and I am an Equity member from having done a string of Broadway musicals on the road. It always led to something else. I did Blues In The Night and that led to me doing Jelly’s Last Jam here in L.A. before it went to Brodway, and then that led to me doing the first and only national company after it left Broadway and making much better money for a whole year. That’s what I’m talking about.

MR: When does Come Back To Me Love, Part 2 come out?

FP: [laughs] Well that’s up to the company! That’s up to Mack Avenue if they want me to do another one. I’m certainly hopeful that it might result in that. What do you think?

MR: If there isn’t another one by this time next year I’m going to write a protest letter.

FP: [laughs] Maybe you should let them know that, too.

MR: Well, I did mention that I liked the album

FP: You know what’s so funny, Mike? I’m getting this kind of response from people who know me from “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home.” I was thinking, “All these people who like those songs so much are probably into the R&B and pop stuff and they probably won’t really like this that much,” but I’m getting very positive responses from people. And although it’s a jazz album, I call some of these songs urban pop. The one I think could be a good crossover tune is “I Just Have To Know.” Another one I like is “Lately.” It moves nicely.

MR: There must’ve been other songs you considered that didn’t fit on the album. I bet when you’re performing this album there are a few others you sneak in there.

FP: Yeah, I do some more stuff. Actually, when I perform live I still do “Band Of Gold” and I may throw in some other standard tunes.

MR: This album is like, “Hello again, Freda Payne.”

FP: All right!

MR: Is there anything left to cover? I know we only touched on Broadway a little bit.

FP: When you think of Broadway shows I’ve done, I’ve done Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, I’ve done eight companies of Blues In The Night, I’ve done some plays by a playwright named Donald Welch, I did A Change Is Gonna Come. Most recently I did a film version of play called Divorce, strictly as an actress, there’s no singing involved. You can get that on DVD.

MR: I was going to ask you about that. Do you have an acting bug? Do you want to fulfill a little more of that, too?

FP: Yeah, sure, that goes along with the territory. Look at all the singers who are doing a lot of acting, now. Especially rap artists.

MR: It’s a natural fit.

FP: There’s a lot of them out there.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
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Oprah and Shawn Achor: The Conversation Continues – Super Soul Sunday – OWN

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Oprah’s conversation with New York Times bestselling author Shawn Achor continues, as they delve deeper into the correlation between happiness and success.

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A Conversation with Chris Davies, Founder, “Photo Independent: The International Exposition of Contemporary Photography”, Los Angeles

Chris Davies is the President of Fabrik Media, a Los Angeles-based publishing and marketing agency. Concerned by the art fair under-representation of otherwise talented photographers, he founded “Photo Independent: The International Exposition of Contemporary Photography”, held this year from April 25th to the 27th at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood.

The exhibition, the first of its kind in Los Angeles, features the work of 70 photographers from around the world. The Selection Committee included Daniel Cornell, Palm Springs Art Museum, Graham Howe, curator, photo-historian, and artist, Sarah Lee, curator and gallerist, and Eve Schillo Curatorial Assistant at the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA. The exhibition also includes a Guest of Honor, Andy Summers, photographer and member of “The Police”; a Special Exhibitions section; and a series of talks, “The Dialogue,” meant to deepen one’s knowledge of contemporary photography.

JS: Staging the show in a movie studio was, to put it mildly, inspired. How did you come up with that?

CD: I’ve had the idea for this kind of fair for several years now, but wasn’t sure where to stage it (pardon the pun). Then once I saw Paris Photo last year at Paramount Studios, it dawned on me that Raleigh Studios would be the perfect venue and partner for this type of fair. I’ve been on the lot many, many times and loved the feeling of Raleigh Studios.

JS: What was your inspiration for the show? Was there an aha-moment or was it just a gnawing impression that the medium was given short shrift?

CD: Actually, not just the medium, but artists are being given a short shrift. The art fair system is such that if you’re not a gallery or part of a gallery’s stable of artists you cannot exhibit your work at traditional art fairs. I’ve been working with artists for over 20 years as publisher and marketing consultant, and have had many discussions with artists regarding art fairs and their inability to exhibit there because they don’t have a gallery representing them or their dealer that does represent them can’t bring all their artists to the fair. And as mentioned earlier this idea had been percolating for a while.

JS: Why do you think photography is underrepresented at art fairs? Is it cyclical, that is, is it because at the moment the pendulum of art swings more towards installations and painting and less towards photography? Or do you think there is something else at work here?

CD: For a long time there has been a prejudice against photography in the art world. There are still some folk that tell me that painting is art, and photography is not, because there is more than one print struck. These people do not seem to understand the changing reality of our contemporary culture. Photography is the incendiary art form of our time. Photography, Cinema, video – it has permeated our culture to the point where I sometimes wonder really, is there any other art that comes before a camera.

I am being a tad hyperbolic here, but really it’s about time that those among us who practice the art of photography and have raised the bar on the medium, should now be shown and acknowledged as the amazing artists that they are.

JS: What kind of support, especially initially, did you have from the Los Angeles art community?

CD: I have had tremendous support from the Los Angeles art community. Especially from other art fairs here in LA, specifically Photo LA and the Los Angeles Art Show, both mainstays in January’s fair season. Local organizations such as the Los Angeles Art Association, Art Weekend LA, Create:Fixate, and many other such organizations have been tremendously supportive. Not to mention the artists themselves. They are excited about what we have created.

JS: What was the Selection Committee’s mandate in choosing the work?

CD: They were trying to choose work that was both traditional and unconventional.

We wanted to show work that demonstrated both technical proficiency and creative choices that were fresh and offbeat.

JS: Who chose the contributors in the Special Exhibitions segment of the fair?

CD: These exhibitions were chosen by me. I wanted to showcase Andy Summers, not because of who he is and known for, but for who he is as a photographer. He is a great photographer who has not been given the recognition he deserves because of where he came from.

The AX3 winners are breathtaking adventurers; there are some wonderful new talents here and I wanted the world to see them. The AX3 exhibition came from a photography competition Fabrik we ran last year, and I felt this would be a great venue to showcase this talent from all levels of photography — professionals, non-professionals, students and Mobile Photographers.

JS: You’ve set up an impressive educational program. How important is education to the fair itself and to photography in general?

CD: It’s usually a component of most art fairs, and ours as well. Photography is dynamic, it mirrors technology-driven culture that we live in, and its important to me to have the fair be a conduit of information, to communicate the new modalities in the medium and maybe to be a catalyst for the pioneers among us.

JS: What were your biggest challenges in staging the event?

CD: Getting the word out, and establishing a measure of trust so that artists would feel excited about the potential a showing here would give to their careers and at the same time I wanted the artists to feel a measure of safety coming here to Los Angeles.

JS: Is there anything you will do different next year?

CD: Start earlier.

JS: A scant weekend is a very brief amount of time. Especially if the weather turns sour. Will future Photo Independents also run that short?

CD: We will wait and see.

JS: What do you want to be peoples’ walkaway impression from the show?

CD: I want people to be bowled over. Great art makes you change the way you think about the world, change the way you see. I want people to dream about a work that they saw here and think about life in a fresh new way. That is what I feel when I see some of the work here.

JS: How will you determine whether the event has been a success?

CD: The level of enthusiasm among collectors and artists opening night was gratifying. And it was reflected in sales. There are so many artists who have sacrificed alot, to print their work and come to Los Angeles, in the hope that their work would be appreciated… and they are selling. That is what its all about, really, isn’t it?

JS: What can we look forward to in next year’s installment?

CD: I’m hopeful that we will include more of an international contingency in next year’s fair and add to our programming for both artists and photography collectors.

For more information, please visit photoindependent.com.

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A Conversation with The Both’s Aimee Mann & Ted Leo, Plus A Quick Chat with Dolly Parton

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A Conversation with The Both’s Aimee Mann and Ted Leo

Mike Ragogna: Of course everybody’s asked you this, but how did you guys decide to become The Both?

Ted Leo: Well we were on the road together, we were touring in the fall of 2012. I had a song that I had actually been writing with Aimee in mind, and luckily it happened to be a song that she she responded to and approached me and asked if she could join me onstage playing it, which spared me the angst of asking her to join me on it. From that point on for the rest of the tour, our sets began cross-pollinating a little more. I was joining Aimee on a duet of hers and we started spending more and more time on stage together. It was just such a fun and energizing thing to play with her that when the tour ended and we had the conversation that people often do when these things happen, which is like, “Yeah, we should do something together sometime.” It was more serious than the usual conversation and very quickly, we began kicking ideas back and forth and churning out some songs.

MR: What’s the creative process for The Both. Is it pretty evenly balanced?

Aimee Mann: Well, more or less, it turns out to be even. A song has to get started somehow, so one or the other of us will come up iwth an initial idea and sometimes that can just be a riff or a chord progression or it could be a whole verse and a chorus and then person A hands it off to person B to come up with th enext section. There’s a lot of talking back and forth about, “What did you intend with this first verse? Where would you like it to go? What’s the narrative, or do we want to keep a narrative?” I would say one or two songs are a little more impressionistic than that but in general we do kind of have conversations about what comes next and we make sure there’s not too much time in the song before the other person chimes in with either a harmony or takes over the lead vocal. In general we tend to sing the verse that we wrote. There’s usually a lot of back and forth.

MR: And it seems like a pretty even distribution of intellegence and pop through this project. Some of my favorite lines on this project is from “You Can’t Help Me Now.” “Any time you establish a need to atone, you’re prone down the tracks you map on the seams of your own broken bones.” Wow. The visual and intelligence behind it really speaks a lot about your talents. With a lot of collaborations, I think it can be very hard to get to that point where you have a deep level of communication because you’re usually compromising within a collaboration.

TL: I appreciate you saying that. What you said at the end there is kind of crucial to how we work. The compromises that we arrive at, we make a very conscious decidion to now have it be designed by committee. It’s not the kind of thing where edges get whittled away until it’s sort of blandly acceptable to either or both of us. We really kind of challnge ourselves to get to a point with every line or even specific words within lines where we’re actively excited about what we’ve come up with and we’re not just settling for something. If one or the other of us doesn’t understand what the person is saying or has a challenge to it or thinks they might have a better idea, we really made an effort to remove our egos from the process and look at each song as a really fun collaborative puzzle to be solved and made the besat that we can make it as opposed to allowing any kind of clinging or ego-driven hurt to impede the process.

MR: Speaking of fun, was the song “Milwaukee” truly inspired by the Fonz?

AM: Yeah, in part. That was a song that I started. It was the second song we wrote together and I started it with the idea of, “I’m going to write a real Ted Leo song.” What does that translate into? A fast shuffle beat and a lot of chords. So to have placeholder lyrics I started writing about this day that we were hanging out in Milwaukee. It was probably a show pretty early on in the tour and we were walking along the Milwaukee River Walk and stumbled upon the Bronze Fonz. The Bronze Fonz is pretty ridiculous for a lot of reasons. We have since become obsessed with it and have tried to analyze all the reasons we think it’s ridiculous, but for our purposes now we don’t have to go into every reason, but just to know that as a gag I was writing about this walk and the Fonz and this other bronze duck and it was really windy. I was just putting in these details of this time when we were hanging around, but then as we were both working on it we kind of felt like, “I’m sort of into this. I’m into this very Milwaukee-specific referedce.” I do remember that show very well, it was the first show that I got to see Ted’s set all the way through and it was the first show where I thought, “I can really see how the two of us could have a musical collaboration,” I could see what it would sound like. This song, “The Gambler” was very key to that. But that was the first time I saw Ted’s show all the way through and started to think that we should do something together.

TL: Lyrically regarding you bringing up “fun,” I think we both attempt to actually kind of write about something germaine to human nature or something relatively serious when we’re writing. I think it’s kind ofrare in both of our catalogs to have something like “Milwaukee” which, while it kind of branches into other places it is essentially our origin story song. That’s part of what makes it so fun for me. I rarely write or sing about something like that. It reminds me of the fun amid which our project was created and then it adds a change of pace from our normal dark concerns. It remains fun to play and sing.

MR: You mentioned writing about human nature, and to that, one of my favorite songs lyrically on the album is “The Inevitable Shove.” How did that come about?

AM: That was started by Ted. Ted sent me this piano figure that I really liked because it is a completely different thing. It’s actually not un-showtune-like, which is actually weirdly another thing we share, we both really like musical theatre. It has a little bit of a Godspell feel, in the best way possible. I don’t want to offend you, Ted.

TL: No, no, I take that as a compliment. I’m happy to get onboard the Godspell train. Lyrically it’s just about things that we were both going through in our lives, other interpersonal issues and coming to terms with the fact sometimes that you can’t control what other people are going to think or do even in regards to yourself and you sometimes have to let go of your attempt to manipulate and control situations and let people do what they’re going to do and continue on your own path.

MR: One that’s sort of a foil to that is “Volunteers Of America.”

TL: It is sort of flipside to that. Do you want to pick that up, Aimee?

AM: “Volunteers…,” that’s a song that you started musically, I think. I wrote the chorus to it.

TL: You wrote one of the verses, too.

AM: Right, and I think I started the theme of a vague idea of the line between being helpful and of service to people and being co-dependent and a martyr and where the lines in that quadrant get drawn and how being brought up in catholocism contributes to that with the idea of faith versus work, although I’m not a catholic. That’s sort of another attempt for me to try to crawl into Ted’s brain and write from his point of view.

TL: Lord knows my lapsed Catholocism gets sprayed all over the page sometimes.

AM: But it’s in you, and it never gets out.

MR: While we’re on that subject, what’s in the news that’s got your interest?

TL: Oh God, yeah. For example, I’m most recently mortified at the situation with HSBC getting off the hook for laundering all of that Columbian drug money while there are people getting busted on the streets with a small amount of cocaine or a joint or something in a state where it’s not yet legal, or serving jail time. Stop me if I’m going too far into the weeds here, but it’s an example of going back to Eric Holder’s comment when he was Assistant Attorney General about going easy on corporate fines because of how it might affect people who need jobs if these companies go under, it’s another example of the whole idea of “Too big to fail” and the benefits of being wealthy. You can very easily fine people involved in the company without bankrupting the entire corporation. This is just yesterday, but this goes on.

AM: I love that he’s really hooked you in!

MR: [laughs] And we haven’t even talked about the Nevada rancher yet.

TL: I’m mad! But I’m always mad about something.

AM: I think that what’s always most interesting is to see how people’s personal issues impact politics and public policy and just as a broad example to see how the need to be right about things like denying climate change or people’s need to believe that that’s not possible or people confusing a vague religious belief with a political belief with a sense of anger and irritation at what they perceive to be the other side, well literally their desire and desperation and need to be right is literally leading the planet into being completely destroyed. It’s just amazing. I have a friend who says, “Yeah, you’re right. Dead right. They’ll put that on your grave stone.” “I was right.”

MR: It’s sad how so many people always vote against their best interests as well.

TL: I actually feel that there’s a willful disregard for accepting or allowing themselves to believe facts that are often presented to them that are based in–as Aimee was saying–a certain indignation, a certain need to feel agrieved or to feel that they’re the ones being put upon. It’s almost like a psychological problem that presents one from accepting facts that don’t allow them to be the agrieved party in any situation.

AM: I think the other factor is there’s this real mistrust of science and facts and a feeling of just the “other,” that somehow science and facts are the province of some undefined elite and “In defiance, I’m not going to believe what the elite is telling me,” whether it’s correct or not. People really have a problem–everyone has a f**king problem with thinking a feeling is a fact. They have a feeling about it, they’re convinced about it, and it’s a f**king fact. No one’s exempt from that, intelligent people aren’t exempt from that, educated people aren’t exempt from that, everybody has it and that’s why for me self awareness and self knowledge is the most important thing in that area. I’m always interested in that angle because I feel like it impacts everything. It also saves me from having to learn actual facts because I’m too dumb to remember them.

MR: [laughs] What advice do you have for new artists?

AM: Oh my God, Ted, you get it.

TL: Do something else.

MR: [laughs]

AM: I don’t know what somebody would do if they were just starting out. Honestly? Be good. Care. Give a s**t. Give a s**t about making good music because that will always resonate to other people who care. If all you care about is being famous, there’s no advice for you. I don’t know what to say. There are a million ways to become famous, none of them savory. It’s not that hard to become a notorious person, but caring about what you do will always resonate with you on some level.

TL: I could not have said that better.

MR: Wait Ted, it’s your turn!

TL: [laughs] I will just add that, for example, we didn’t set out doing this project with anything in mind other than crafting something that was really enjoyable for us to do and that we wanted to put a lot of work into making good. Whatever happens with that happens with it. Lord knows the music business is incredibly difficult these days. But never forget that whether you wind up making a living off of it or not, you’re making art and art is important in people’s lives. Like Aimee said, if you care about what you’re doing it’s going to reonate with somebody.

MR: Nice, beautiful. Aimee, Charmer was your last release, and Ted, you had The Brutalist Bricks. Is The Both the next step from those projects in your musical evolution? Is The Both the next part of the conversation?

TL: It feels like that for me. I wouldn’t have said that, going into it, because it feels like at the time I was still thinking about what was going to be happening with my own next “solo” project, but it really does feel like that for me now. It feels like this is the next part of the conversation. If I can speak for you for a second, Aimee, I think we both agree that we’re going to certainly keep this going for as long as we can.

AM: Agreed.

Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne

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On May 13th, Dolly Parton’s new album Blue Smoke will be released, it covering a wide range of styles from gospel to mountain to pop, taking on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice,” the witty “Lover Du Jour,” and eye-poppers like Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me” and literally a killer version of the classic “Banks Of The Ohio.” Album guests include Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, and on April 27th, Dolly will be appearing on QVC for a pre-sale of the album. The following is probably the shortest interview I’ve ever done, the result of there being like twenty other participants from Reuters to health and music zines and beyond. But it gets to the heart of what I wanted to learn about this smart, warm and honest performer.

A Tiny But Lovely Q&A with Dolly Parton

Mike Ragogna: Dolly, you’ve had an amazing recording and music history. When you look back at young Dolly Parton, what would you tell her?

Dolly Parton: [laughs] Well, I would tell her I’m pretty proud of her, because when you get older, you really reflect and you really think so many things. One of the things I think about is just how fortunate that I have been to have been able to actually see my dreams come true, because I know so many people that can’t say that. I know so many people that are far more talented than me and that have worked just as hard and came to town the same time I did and never really made it big. So you wonder, and you kind of go back to that Kris Kristofferson song, “Why Me Lord?” You just really think about all those things. But more than anything, I just think that little girl who moved here back in ’64 to try to make those dreams come true and now here I am at sixty-eight years old and so many of them have come true. But what’s so funny is I still feel like that little girl. I’m still dreaming, dreaming big. I’ve still got new dreams to dream, new dreams I hope to come true, so I just love the music, I just love to write, I love to perform and I hope to be doing this until I keel over dead in about thirty years.

MR: [laughs] Dolly, I have to ask you my traditional question. What is your advice for new artists?

DP: Well as I’ve often said, I try not to give advice, I just try to pass on some information. But I think it’s true with anything, like that old saying, “To thine own self be true,” I think there’s really so much to that, that people know what they really want, they know what their strength and their talent really is and I think you need to be willing to sacrifice that if you have to. You’ve got to protect it, you’ve got to fight for it and if you really are that good and you really have that much faith in it, if you really stay in it long enough changes are it will happen and if it don’t I’ve always said, if you’re really dreaming an impossible dream, you should know that it’s okay to change dreams in the middle of a stream. If it’s something that’s not going to happen you can still rework it and apply what you’ve learned from the other stuff to a new dream.

MR: These are very sweet answers, thank you so much.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

Disclaimer: Zac Efron never once removed his shirt during either of these interviews.
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My Conversation With Filmmaker Robert Greenwald About His Film, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars

Join me tonight on PBS for my conversation with award-winning filmmaker Robert Greenwald. He has exec-produced and/or directed more than 50 TV movies, miniseries and feature films. Through his company, Brave New Films, he also makes political video shorts and full-length documentaries — substantive investigations of social issues, told through personal stories, and creatively distributed through such outlets as the Internet and social media. His latest film, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, investigates the impact of drone strikes both here and abroad.

In the clip below, Greenwald shares his thoughts about President Obama’s “kill list” and why he is getting a pass on drone strikes.

For more of our conversation, be sure to tune in to Tavis Smiley tonight on PBS. Check out our website for your local TV listings: http://www.pbs.org/tavis.
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Songs From The Movie: A Conversation with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Chatting with Doug Paisley, Plus an Art Decade Exclusive

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An Interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mike Ragogna: Mary Chapin, you’ve got a new album, Songs From The Movie, the follow up to the excellent Ashes And Roses. Can we just dive in?

Mary Chapin Carpenter: Absolutely!

MR: It almost seems like this album is, in some respects a part two–at least emotionally–to Ashes And Roses, even though it revisits your older material.

MCC: Well, I have to say that’s an interesting thought to me. I don’t think I’ve really thought about it in that way. The differences are obvious and when you’re working with pre-existing songs, they’re not new, they weren’t all written as a piece. I’ve always approached recording as an opportunity to create something that is all, for lack of a better word, a concept album. My albums exist as collections of songs that really belong together. Given that, these were all sort of culled from so many different records; that was a different way of experiencing them right off the bat. It was an incredibly emotional experience to do this record. In that regard, I agree with you, if it’s about gauging how that affects you and how you walk into the studio every day pulling yourself up saying, “All right, here we go, hold it together now,” I would agree with you.

MR: Thank you. If we were going to use the name of the album, Songs From The Movie, as a metaphor, it seems like it’s the journey leading up to Ashes And Roses. In this context, it’s almost like commentary using aspects of your life and aspects of your catalog as another reflection of where you’re at right now.

MCC: There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to go too far in trying to make it all very tidily fit some sort of notion, although I truly appreciate your desire and efforts to put it in perspective and understand it that way. I agree that it is a continuum, and it does have a sort of way of looking at the past twenty-some years of my life in song.

MR: How about they’re exclamation points relative to what went on during Ashes And Roses?

MCC: I feel like that was a very specific period of time in my life and the songs came out of very specific experiences. Obviously, a lot of these songs were written years before that. I feel like maybe a better way to think about it is that we all have one life but our life is made up of many different episodes–“different lives,” if we think of ourselves as cats or something. These songs all sort of speak to different times in my life. The title is very impressionistic. To give it some sort of context for you, do you remember the days, years ago, when you’d go see a movie and then there’d be a soundtrack for that movie released and one record label or another would have all of those songs on the soundtrack? You’d buy the soundtrack and it would include other songs that weren’t in the actual film, but as they say, “Songs inspired by the movie.” It was always an interesting notion. From a retail perspective, it was like record labels were making the most of being associated with the film and putting their artists on this soundtrack. But you know, there was something to this idea that there were certain songs that could be written and “inspired by the movie.” The concept for this record has been kicking around in my brain for so long, that concept being that I felt that I always had certain songs that ask a lot of the listener lyrically and that in the right hands could have a cinematic kind of treatment. I said, “How do you put all of these together and have a sort of artistic sense?” In that regard, I started thinking it’s a soundtrack. There’s not a movie that goes with it, but it’s speaking to those sweeping, beautiful things that just take you someplace when you hear them.

MR: And of course with Vince Mendoza on board, that’s an easy mission.

MCC: Right! It was many, many, many years ago, but do you remember when Don Henley was putting together small concerts around the country to benefit Walden woods?

MR: Absolutely, yeah.

MCC: Okay, so he would gather a lot of female singers and pop stars and he’d put a concert on in different cities and they’d all select a song from The Great American Songbook. Larry Klein was the musical director and Vince was the arranger of all of theses songs, and I was able to take part in the one in San Francisco and I got to sing “But Beautiful.” I remember that was the first time I’d ever heard all of these songs in the context of Vince’s arrangements. They were so beautiful. I remember standing on the side of the stage watching all of these people and just listening and being mesmerized by the beauty of these arrangements. Some songs you were familiar with, some were more obscure, and that was the moment I thought if I ever had the chance do this truly–it’s an overused term, but “bucket list” project–that Vince would be the person that I would want to go to. Interestingly enough, it was about two or three years later I was driving in the car listening to my local college radio station when Joni Mitchell’s record came out that Vince did all the arranging for. I heard her sing “Both Sides Now” and I stopped the car and listened and I knew before I could even look it up that Vince had done the arrangement. His work is that distinctive. So distinctive. Besides just being enchanted with Joni’s work, I just thought, “This man is so gifted.”

MR: With Travelogue as well as the songs “Both Sides Now” and “A Case Of You,” Joni’s reinterpretation shows a new perspective coming from her being a more mature artist, her “read” shining a different kind of light on songs. Like Joni, you’re singing this older material from a later point of life.

MCC: They do have different destinations and shades and colors and they evoke different things than the original recordings, otherwise you’re just doing the same things over and over again. So I think that’s always the hope and the goal and that has been fulfilled.

MR: When you were putting the tracklist together, were you seeing the pieces of the puzzle as they were fitting together? And were there any surprises regarding the material?

MCC: It was an interesting process and the way that we did it was that there was one song I always knew was going to be on the record, “Where Time Stands Still.” I don’t know how to explain it, but I always felt that song belonged on this kind of record. That said, Matt [Rollings] my co-producer, Vince and myself, we all sort of went into our separate corners. I think I might have sent out an initial list of maybe forty songs or something like that. Everybody went into their separate corners and came up with their ten or twelve songs they thought belonged on the record and then we cross-referenced it to see which song got the most votes. There were a few that we talked through and Vince would explain for me, “Oh, I don’t think that’s a good candidate because if you listen to it, the chorus doesn’t really go anywhere or give me a lot of places I can take it.” I felt that we learned a lot from Vince in terms of what lent itself to a new arrangement in an existing song. So that was a really interesting process, but it wasn’t excruciating in any way. We all felt good and very happy with what we came up with. There were no fistfights or anything.

MR: [laughs] Were there any revelations that you had listening to this “movie” from top to bottom when it was completed?

MCC: I don’t know if there are any revelations other than that it was deeply emotional. It was emotional making the thing. I’m just one of those people who gets swept away in music. I don’t mean to speak that way about my own stuff, but this was just such a new thing and to hear these songs in such a different way, not only did I feel “known” in a very deep way by this, in the sense that I felt like he had a direct line to my heart in terms of how he wrote these arrangements. There’s a reason why music makes you cry, there’s a reason why it moves you and why it inspires you and takes you places. It affects you on a cellular level, and Vince’s beautiful notes and arrangements just did that to me. So for hearing it in its final setting, it was astonishingly beautiful to me. Just very moving. I don’t know how to explain it, really. Maybe it’s because I have yet to have enough distance from it or something, I can’t really listen to it without being utterly invested in it.

MR: And I imagine recording at Air made it a wonderful experience for you.

MCC: A tremendous experience. I was fortunate enough to be there once before in 2000 recording Time* Sex* Love*. Being able to return there was tremendously exciting. It’s such an incredible place, to be there with the orchestra was hard to describe, it was so powerful.

MR: Mary Chapin, the subtlety and matter-of-fact delivery of your performances brings out so much more than any kind of overkill that a lot of artists have to do to bring lyrics home sometimes. I feel you should be even more appreciated for your strength as a lyricist than you currently are. I think if listeners took a second look at what you’re doing, especially these days, many would say, “This is one of our best American songwriters.” I certainly think so.

MCC: Well, thank you so much, that’s just utterly lovely for you to say. The songs presented in this way, if it does give someone a second chance to listen and maybe connect to something that they may not have connected to before, the way songs do for us, to me that’s just a lovely idea. If it doesn’t, we all know that as artists we do what we do and we know that we can’t claim everyone’s ear. But if it does find its way to someone who either previously didn’t connect to it or had never encountered it before in some way, that’s thrilling and exciting and wonderful when that happens. So that’s one thing to consider once you release something like that, but the other thing, again, is that I can’t say enough about how fortunate I feel that somehow, some way, something in my career brought me to a place where I got to do this. I think that’s something else to consider. Those of us who started in our artistic careers twenty-five, almost thirty years ago, we all know how the music business has changed. I just feel like, given all the changes and how hard it is to do what we do nowadays, much less starting out, I’m just grateful I got to a place where I can do this. So that’s a whole other place that I think about this project. It’s somewhat astonishing to me that I had the support for this, because I know how hard that is to come by.

MR: Not that I would know anything about such things, but my feeling is the new bar you’ve established on your latest projects might be the result of all the personal challenges, etc., that led up to Ashes And Roses.

MCC: At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to make it all tidy and everything, I do think there’s something to be said for feeling like the right things happen at the right time. I also think you would agree with me that this is a look back and certainly a look at the present as well. I couldn’t have made this record twenty years ago. It’s about having lived a life. My life is not over by any stretch, but there’s this wisdom and experience and the things that you’ve gained that are, I think, very much a part of this record.

MR: Beautiful. Mary Chapin, where do you go from here?

MCC: Literally? Next week? I go to Scotland and launch the record, which is really exciting. I’m doing my first concert at the beautiful Celtic Connections center in Glasgow in a few weeks. That’ll be my first time singing this with the orchestra. I’m so excited. That’s the short answer. The longer answer is that I’ve been writing for a new record and I hope to start on that as a project sometime this year in terms of getting in the studio. So what’s next after this is another record.

MR: Will you take the adventures you had at Air with you creatively into the next record?

MCC: Without having a crystal ball, I’ll say I think every time you go into the studio you learn things if you’re paying close enough attention. I think what happens in sort of some result of all the things you’ve absorbed and they make their way into what you do. I always presume that what’s been going on previously finds its way into my way of thinking or executing music or writing. That’s always the way it’s been, honestly. I’ve been writing songs the exact same way I’ve done all of my life, that’s never changed. The settings change and the studios change and the people you work with change, but it all sort of starts at the place that it has always started, which is with a guitar and a voice and a yellow legal pad and a pencil with an eraser. The only thing that’s different over all of these years is that the device that I record my ideas on just keeps getting smaller and smaller. I use my phone now.

MR: What is your advice for new artists?

MCC: Oy-oy-oy!

MR: You know, to someone just starting out.

MCC: I think back to that point, the landscape of business realities and the technological advances that have occurred in the past years have changed everything. The fact that you can be fifteen years old and write songs after school and you can put them up on SoundCloud… You can make your own way. I think the possibilities that lie in being able to do it yourself, it’s a totally DIY world, that just opens it up to everybody and that’s the most exciting thing in the world. It used to be you had to get in the door of the label. Nowadays, you can just do it yourself and people can find you and you can do it yourself. So what I would say to someone with aspirations in that regard is just that the world is your oyster, be as adventurous as you can possibly be and know that it’s in your hands.

MR: And maybe be prepared to use that eraser once in a while?

MCC: Oh my God, yes.

Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne

ART DECADE’S “NUMBERLESS DREAMS”

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photo by Hadley Brooks

According to Art Decade…

“I am always looking for ways to bring motion to otherwise still artwork. With ‘Numberless Dreams,’ we took the idea of spray painted stencils into the realm of fully moving animation. Cutting out thousands of laser cut stencils and then spray painting each frame by hand, thus an otherwise motionless art form finds fluid movement.

“The music video, like all of our work, reflects the nature of the bands do it yourself approach to the creative process. Filmed mainly in our living room, and edited at our bassists house, everything has been done by us. The song and album are no exception, as we recorded, engineered, produced, and wrote everything ourselves. We wanted to make a statement defining us through our work.”

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A Conversation with Doug Paisley

Mike Ragogna: Hi Doug! Before we get into the new album Strong Feelings, let’s get caught up on all things Doug Paisley. What have you been up to since your last project?

Doug Paisley: Since my last album I’ve been traveling and performing more than ever before. So much so that I felt the need to stay at home for a while which leads to songwriting which leads to recording which leads to more travelling.

MR: Did any of this inspire your material on Strong Feelings

DP: I’m really into the challenges of songwriting. Spending so much time playing the songs from the last album made me want to go farther afield with my music and my songwriting.

MR: “Radio Girl,” to me, seems like a tribute to relationships and the good old days. Even its lead vocal seems to evoke another time. Is that also the secret behind the new album, it being about events and people that evoked strong feelings within you?

DP: I think music gets into some people more than others and it permeates their lives and their personal history with a concurrent musical history. When I think about “Radio Girl,” I imagine that profound, personal soundtrack.

MR: Are there any songs on this project which evoke particularly strong feelings and what are stories behind them?

DP: I’ve gained so much personal meaning from songs by my favourite musicians without knowing about those people or their own reasons for writing. I try and allow for the same possibility with songs that I put out.

MR: How did you approach this album differently from your 2010 project, Constant Companion?

DP: I worked with an excellent guitar player, Emmett Kelly, something I hadn’t considered before because as a guitarist it had always seemed redundant to have another one there but it really opened up the sound for me. I also tried to engender some musical chaos in the recording process with tricky projects like recording Garth Hudson on Glenn Gould’s piano in a remote northern city in the middle of winter in the middle of the night.

MR: The semi-duet “What’s Up Is Down” combines horns with a noodling piano, guitars, bass and light percussion. It’s not that it’s a-typical of the album, but it seems to be the most personal track on the project. How did you come up with this particular approach?

DP: Garth Hudson, Mary Margaret O’Hara and Colin Stetson brought a lot of the character to the song because they have such interesting musical personalities. It was one of those songs where I don’t really remember writing it so it’s remained a bit mysterious for me.

MR: You’re a Canadian artist who has a US following. How do view the differences and similarities between our two countries’ artists? 

DP: Margaret Atwood described the line between Canada and the US as a one way mirror. Culturally speaking Canadians are about as aware of the US as Americans are unaware of Canada. I think that vantage point has benefitted some major American cultural figures who come from Canada. In the wilds of the current musical landscape fledgeling musicians like me are more of a nation unto ourselves than nationally defined. 

MR: What else do you have strong feelings about, maybe on the non-musical side?

DP: As a father I feel strongly that the human stock isn’t degraded, as some people say, but it is suppressed and we will feel a whole lot better the more we participate in our enormous responsibility to young people.  

MR: What’s your advice for new artists?

DP: Don’t be discouraged when the scale of your success seems out of whack with that of others. Perseverance is what will ultimately distinguish you. 

MR: Other than Strong Feelings dropping on January 21st, what does the future bring?

DP: Sadly, I think the future will bring more bad lighting.
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Life on the Funny Side: A Conversation With Eddie Sarfaty

Eddie Sarfaty is a comic, author, teacher and TV producer in the making. His 2009 book of autobiographical essays, Mental: Funny in the Head, was a critical success. Sarfaty, known for his acerbic wit and cultural insights, will perform in Eddie Sarfaty’s F&%king Show! Saturday, Nov. 2, at New York’s Metropolitan Room beginning at 7 p.m. Here he talks about his journey to becoming a comic, who makes him laugh and how he handles remarks about his hot good looks.

Tracey J. Smith: How did you get started in comedy?

Eddie Sarfaty: I thought I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid, but when I was a theater major in college, I discovered that I didn’t like acting as much as I thought I did. I liked being in a show and being creative, but I didn’t really love the nuts and bolts of everything. While studying at the National Theater Institute, I was telling a story, and this woman in my class said, “You should be a stand-up comic.” That’s the first time I thought of it, but it took me years before I ever got the nerve to do it.

Smith: How did you get the nerve to finally do it?

Sarfaty: I took a class at The New School that was taught by a comic. He took everyone to the Comic Strip on a night when he was hosting and stuck each of us up there for three minutes between the booked acts. I was so glad to have done it, but I didn’t do it again for a year. Then, about 2001, I said, “I have to see if I can make this work.” I didn’t want to regret, when I was 70, that I didn’t try.

Smith: I read online that you were part of a comedy trio for some time.

Sarfaty: There’s a group called Funny Gay Males, headed by three guys, Bob Smith, Danny McWilliams and Jaffe Cohen, who, in the early ’90s, were the only out comics in New York. This was during the height of the AIDS crisis, and club owners were like, “I think you’re funny, but I don’t know if my audience would go for that.” They put together a show called Funny Gay Males, which was supposed to run for just a couple of weekends at the Duplex, but they ended up doing it for three years. In 2001 I got a call to work in Provincetown, Mass., for the summer and ended up working with them for a time.

Smith: How did you find your voice as a comic?

Sarfaty: It just sort of happened. The fact that I’m gay, Jewish and grew up in New York influences it. I think it’s smart, good-natured sarcasm. There’s some silliness to it. I’d like to think that it’s got emotional resonance. I don’t really approach it from a certain point of view; anything that’s funny will go in my act. People may say, “Oh, there’s that gay Jewish guy,” but I’m more worried about being myself.

Smith: How did your book deal come about?

Sarfaty: It was one of those in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time stories. I was at a party and introduced myself to a guy standing next to me at the bar. He said, “Oh, I know you. You’re that comic. My partner and I have seen you perform in Provincetown several times. You’re really funny.” And I said, “Thanks. I’m so glad you enjoyed my show. What do you do?” He said, “I’m the editor-in-chief at Kensington Publishing.” I had just gotten my first story published and told him that I was thinking of writing some others, and he told me to send them to him. A week or two later he called me and said he wanted to publish them.

Smith: Would you do another book?

Sarfaty: Right now I’m working on a novel, but it’s not comic at all. It’s actually kind of dark and twisted. It’s not science fiction or fantasy, but the characters are odd, interesting people. That’s really been fun. Not sure if it’s the best move for my comedy career, but we’ll see.

Smith: How do you market yourself?

Sarfaty: I partner with a lot of different nonprofit groups, everything from AIDS organizations to youth at-risk groups, social and professional organizations. Stand-up is easy to produce, and you can make it work in a restaurant, bar, church, lecture hall, wherever. I can say to anyone who’s having any kind of event, “Hey, why don’t you have comedy?”

Smith: What makes a good comic?

Sarfaty: I think all good comics have had some kind of profound experience of being an outsider. If you look at who’s interesting, funny and smart, they’re all either black, Jewish, gay, a woman, fat or funny-looking There are not a whole lot of straight, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men who are just hilarious! I love people whose voices are original, like Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Susie Essman. I learned a lot by watching old Henny Youngman, Burns and Allen, and Stiller and Meara footage. I admire people like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, who were the first women out there, when no one wanted them. Judy Gold makes me howl, and I’ve learned a lot from watching her.

Smith: What is the most challenging part of being a comic?

Sarfaty: Well, there’s the erratic hours and income, the desperate need for approval, the solitary torture of trying to write jokes. There have times when it’s been great, and times when it’s been not-so-great. Now I’m engaged to someone who is totally supportive. He’s been wonderful and given me the ability to focus more on it. The biggest thing for me has been the struggle to believe in myself. It took me a long time to get the courage to do this, and I still have doubts, but that helps me too, because I can make fun of myself and not crumble under my insecurities.

Smith: How do you respond to remarks about your good looks?

Sarfaty: It’s sort of weird talking about that, because you never think you look as good as other people do. I was a chubby kid, and I’ve always struggled with my weight. I usually laugh off those remarks, or “throw them away,” as my partner calls it.

Smith: How do you handle hecklers?

Sarfaty: If someone is interrupting your show, you ignore them the first and second time. If they keep doing it, then you go after them, because by that time the audience is pissed-off at them too. Sometimes I’ll just look at people and say, “You do realize this is not a conversation?”

Smith: And how do you address a joke that bombs?

Sarfaty: You laugh it off. You know, if you’re doing a joke about mousetraps and it doesn’t go over well, you say, “Well, not a mousetrap crowd.” If a joke bombs, it’s fine, because the audience is OK with you being human. There’s a certain amount of appreciation about how hard it is up there.

Smith: What is your ideal career in comedy?

Sarfaty: I don’t have a specific end-goal. I started doing comedy. I wrote a book. My friend Bob and I just finished a screenplay and pitched this reality show idea. I’m teaching. All these things are going on, and I like the variety of it. Would I like to be the new host of The Tonight Show? Sure, that’d be swell. But I don’t want to get full of anxiety because certain things aren’t happening. I want to go to work today and enjoy what I’m doing.

Smith: Do you feel successful?

Sarfaty: I do feel successful. It’s really amazing to me that people take time and pay money to watch me complain for one or two hours.

Smith: What do you want your legacy to be as a comic?

Sarfaty: The thing that interests me most is the emotional connection. I love when people say, “I was in a really bad mood, and my friends brought me to see you, and we had such a good time,” or getting an email that says, “Your book made me laugh.” For people to think that I’m good at what I do, and that I connected with or touched them, is important to me. Am I going to touch millions? Maybe.

For more information on Eddie Sarfaty’s F&%king Show! click here.
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