Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pheaturing Lizzy Ross

Hello, kids, welcome to another entry of the Phile, on a Sunday... Oscar Sunday. How are you? Microsoft founder Bill Gates attended a fundraiser for President Obama. He wasn't invited, but in typical Microsoft fashion he crashed it.  A new survey found that most hairdressers don’t like listening to their clients’ stories. On behalf of clients, I’d just like to tell hairdressers, "Ditto.”  A man in China discovered a new kind of fish that looks like it has wings and legs. The discovery has led to questions from biologists... and a bidding war between KFC and Red Lobster.  In New York, basketball phenom Jeremy Lin continues to whip fans of the Knicks into a lather. They're calling it Lin-sanity. I think that's what they called it when Lindsay Lohan stole that jewelry.  Bob Morris, a state lawmaker from Fort Wayne, Ind., has decided not to support a proposal to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. He believes the Girl Scouts is a, quote, radicalized organization that supports homosexuality and abortion. I'm all for freedom of speech, but that kind of talk might get you picked as Rick Santorum's running mate. Girl Scouts sell cookies. They don't promote homosexuality. They promote obesity. I love those thin mints though. My wife purchased a whole case of them for us.  At the White House they're still recovering from the other night's big concert. Mick Jagger played. President Obama said it was refreshing to see an old white guy who wasn't running against him.  Dutch scientists say they've created artificial meat from stem cells, and in about eight months they'll have a complete hamburger patty. When I first heard this, I was shocked. There are dutch scientists? It's got to be uncomfortable working in a lab with those giant wooden shoes on.  Have you heard about this artificial hamburger? There are still a lot of questions about it, like is it healthy? Does it go with cheese? Can David Hasselhoff eat it off the floor? This artificial hamburger technology is not perfected. To make a complete patty, scientists say it will cost $400,000 per hamburger. The first 10 have already been ordered by Mitt Romney.  Well, like I said, the Oscars are on tonight. And 40 million people are expected to watch it on ABC. But in fairness, half of them are just Brad Pitt’s kids cheering him on. I talked to a friend of mine, and the odds-on favorite is The Help. It's all about housekeepers being pursued by Arnold Schwarzenegger. When watching the Academy Awards side effects include nausea, headaches, and sexual dysfunction. The Academy Awards — you sit there for four-and-a-half hours waiting to take off, like a Jet Blue flight.  Alright, loing time readers of the Phile know I have a thing..a and when I say thing you know what I mean... a thing for Kelly Clarkson. I was so mad she was at Disney World the other day and I didn't se eher. Take a look at this picture.


She's hanging out with the wrong beast, if you know what I mean. LOL.  The NBA All-Star game is at Orlando this weekend, and I was surprised at one of the posters they were selling. Check it out.





Last Wednesday was the 8,000th Republican debate, or something like that. Well, I missed it so I thought I would invite someone to the Phile to give a brief recap. So, please welcome back to the Phile Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee... Patrick Gaspard.

Me: Hello, sir, welcome back to the Phile. So, what did I miss in the last GOP debate?

Patrick: Well, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney sat side by side. If one vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the other called Arizona's immigration law a model for the country. If one brought up the "dangers of contraception," the other said he'd support Cut, Cap, and Balance and end Medicare as we know it. 

Me: How are they doing in the polls now?

Patrick: They're in a dead heat in the polls... so now they're in a footrace to decide who's most extreme.

Me: So, no matter who the GOP picks, what are you up against?

Patrick: If we wait until November to protect the things we've fought for, it's too late. We're laying the groundwork now.

Me: So, do you think things will get more extreme, sir?

Patrick: Yes, with the GOP primary season dragging on, the Tea Party in charge, and no clear leading candidate, you can expect things to only get more extreme. The last congressional races taught us what can happen if we don't fight back early enough and hard enough. We've seen what it's like to work with the Tea Party in the House.

Me: Yeah, imagine a Tea Party president.

Patrick: It could happen this year without your leadership.

Me: I'd rather have a Beer Party President. Thanks, Director Gaspard, once again.

Patrick: Thank you, Jason. 


So, recently I invited a friend and major comic book buff to the Phile who talked about comics and gave some reviews. He wanted to come back and talk about comic books in general, so please welcome back to the Phile Jim Mello in a pheature I call...

Comics 101, or “Where The Fuck Do I Start?”
 I didn’t start reading comics until I was about seventeen. The comic gene laid dormant inside me like a giant mechanized harbinger of doom waits to awaken from its mountainside lair to terrorize Paris with its laser eyes, and riveted, evil claws that crush bystanders and historical monuments alike. I lived in a town with no comic shop, in a land where the word “comic” was barely heard above a whisper. So, I had to wait for my comic “balls” to drop, as it were. And they did. And it was fucking awesome (I can’t put it more eloquently). But it took a lot of research, and some serious traveling to find a place where I understood comics, and could effectively seek out and find books that I could understand without fighting the 70+ years of continuity.  I realize, looking back on the two reviews Jason allowed me to post on here, that a lot of you probably have no reference to comics outside the movie and TV adaptations. What do these random titles mean to you? Comics aren’t like books, where, if you already like to read, someone can just suggest something to you and you already have an idea of how it will look, feel, and should be read, where as comics are an entirely different art form. I mean, the taboo aside, comics read completely different, and some of the best ones are so experimental in their storytelling methods, they may throw off the casual reader or make it less enjoyable. Plus, as I mentioned above, let’s say you want to get into Captain America after last years movie. You think he’s a rad dude, and warrants a further investigation. Hello 70+ years of continuity! Where the fuck do you begin? I’ve met so many people who want to try comics, but have no jumping off point, no reference, no way to just ease themselves into the warm waters of comic culture.  Well, here, dear reader, in your answer: Hopefully, you’ve made it through the above to the real reason I’m writing this article: Comics 101. These are the titles that I’ve actually used to suck the casual reader, who is mildly interested, into comic-dom. These are my “gateway comics”. Think of me as your comic (i.e –drug) dealer, and I’m starting you off with just a taste of what comics (i.e – Drugs, or marijuana as it were) has to offer, except there are no ill side effects. I will help you bypass superhero continuity, and also explore the other (many) genres comics has to offer.  For our first day, we will start off with two books. Shall we?
For the Person Who Wants to Start Off Reading Superhero Comics:
"The Ultimates Vo.1: Super-Human". Written by: Mark Millar ("Fantastic").  Art by: Bryan Hitch.

Back in the early 2000’s, Marvel Comics had a lot of success with two of its biggest film franchises: X-Men and Spider-Man. Anticipating a possible influx of new readers thanks to the movies, Marvel decided to start the Ultimate Universe. Now, before it gets too complex and you tune out with this talk of alternate universes, let me assure you – This is simple. The Ultimate Universe was created so newcomers, possibly like you, would NOT have to sift through that 70+ years of the continuity we talked about. m It’s a new beginning, and a very firm reimagining of some of Marvel’s most popular heroes, i.e – Spider-Man, X-Men, The Avengers, etc. They update them, their origin stories, and give their personalities a facelift. We will take the book at hand for an example: The Ultimates is a reimagining of The Avengers, updating the story of how The Avengers first got together for the modern movie going audience. I’ve always referred to it as the best possible Avengers movie, because Millar gives you a simple story that is epic in scope, and Bryan Hitch’s art is panoramic, wide, and detailed. In fact, this is probably what the upcoming Avengers film will be based off of. 
Synopsis:
The Ultimates follows Nick Fury, leader of SHEILD, a world-wide peace keeping task force, as he assembles a group of super-powered individuals to help combat the growing increase of “super-terrorism”. The team comes together with the discovery that Captain America, a World War II super-solider who was thought dead, is found alive. Together they take on a completely revitalized Hulk (It’s not your Lou Ferrigno Hulk), and a shape-shifting alien race that wants to cleanse the Earth of life.  If it sounds like typical superhero fare, it is, but it’s the best possible kind. It’s fun, it’s smart, and it’s great for a new reader because everything you need to know is right there in the book. I would take bets that more of you will like this if you give it a shot then the upcoming Avengers film. Maybe that’s cynicism, but I think if you even caught of glimpse of what Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch did with this book, you’d be sucked in for good.
For The Person Who Has Vowed Never To Read A Super-Hero Comic:
"Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile". Words by: Bill Willingham. Art by: Lan Medina and Steve Leihola.

"Fables" takes what you think you know about comics, and turns it on its head. Comics just aren’t guys in tights, and girls with breasts that look like they’re ready to explode. Comics cover all genres, and in this case, they genre mash.
Synopsis:
When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber. From the Amazon.com Book Description (Because I didn’t want to fuck it up). If you’re noticing anything similar between this and the recent TV show "Once Upon A Time", you’re not the first. "Fables" was around first, and although a deal was struck to turn it into a TV show, it never was produced, but the writer of "Fables" has assured the readers that they were not stealing from his comic (They are public domain characters after all). Anyway, "Fables" is this clever, wonderful, little comic book that teases you with your familiarity with these characters, but adds its own twists that offer up some really entertaining stories. Bill Willingham really creates a new, compelling world for these classic characters to inhabit. You love seeing the Big Bad Wolf as Sheriff, and a Pinocchio still stuck as a boy (He’s mad his balls can’t drop... Honest), and a Prince Charming who uses his charm to cover his conniving, assholish ways. It’s great. The first story is a “who dun-it” that acts as a cover to get the reader familiar with the world and the characters. I always recommend a person read the first two trade paperbacks to get the full experience.  Alright, well if you made it through this, awesome. I hope you go out there and give these comics a try. If you liked this, let Jason know along with your suggestions on other characters you’d like to get an idea on where to start with. As always, please visit my Comics Make You Stronger Facebook page for all the comic suggestions, reviews, news, and discussions you could want. See you next issue. 

Thanks to Jim, he did a great job. I read both of those books he talked about, and liked them both. Alright, speaking of comics, the 13th artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery is a comic strip artist named Scott Quick who writes and draws a strip called "Camden Bottoms". This is some of his work, kids.

Scott will be a guest on the Phile a week from today. 


Today's guest is the singer or the band Lizzy Ross Band whose debut album "Read Me Out Loud" is now available on iTunes and Amazon. She'll be playing next at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 1st. Please welcome to the Phile, the very talented... Lizzy Ross.

 
Me: Hello, Lizzy, how are you? Welcome to the Phile.

Lizzy: Hi Jason, I'm great! Got a minor case of the sniffles but my sinuses are on the up and up. Thanks for having me.

Me: I love your album "Read Me Out Loud" which we'll talk about in a minute. You are looking for extras to be in your first music video, am I right?

Lizzy: Aw shucks. Glad you like it. Indeed, we were looking for extras but plans have changed. We're back to the drawing board with music videos. We hope to make three from "Read Me Out Loud", one of which will be for the song "Black River." The other two? That shall remain a mystery... until we need 300 people to come out and help us make them :) Here's a hint: one video candidate starts with a "W" and rhymes with "caves."

Me: Well, I am here to help. Where will they be filmed?

Lizzy: Darn. Given that the location's not set yet, let me give you a metaphorical equivalent: the gates of H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICK. "Black River" is a tune about a lot of things. One of its "thematic facets" (if you will) involves selling one's soul to the devil and getting the short end of the stick. There are a lot of ways to develop that theme visually, an exciting prospect that could take place just about anywhere. (The DMV? A STAT 101 classroom? That's hellish.)

Me: Shit, I live in Florida, America's wang. Anyway, how many extras do you need, Lizzy?

Lizzy: It's ok, you can still make it to Satan's lair. Just don't brush your teeth and stop it with the nighttime prayers... or at least that's what my 1st grade teacher told me. Thanks for the advice, Mrs. G. We're looking for anything from 30 to 300 extras, depending on how the video develops.

Me: I hope you get the folks you are looking for. Where are you originally from, Lizzy? North Carolina?

Lizzy: Thanks! Me too. I grew up in Annapolis. I LOVE Annapolis. As a kid, I could walk downtown in 20 minutes and spend my Friday nights loitering around the coffee shop. My more adventurous friends were daring enough to (gasp!) smoke cigarettes. I had a friend who snuck into a bar once and ran into our English teacher there. It's funny to grow up in a bar town and not be able to partake in the "bar" part... you see a whole different side of the town's personality than that offered by popular perception. It's a tourist town, but it's still a pretty small town. Folks know you and you better not play hooky, or else your dad will hear about it.
Childhood activities included: aforementioned loitering, novel reading, running wild in the woods, lacrosse, more loitering, treasure-map-drawing, guitar playing, dog walking, crabbing, more loitering, the occasional bike ride, painting, drawing, etc. As I got older, it became more and more apparent that my beloved Annapolis is the place where music goes to die. Access to bars, once granted, proved that Jimmy Buffett and Sublime cover bands were the order of the day. Nothing else could flourish in the meager musical soils, nurtured only by drunk yachters and midshipmen wrangling with all sorts of suppressed urges. North Carolina is where I really began to dig into music as a community builder. Some of my best friends sprang out of a community that revolved around making music and eating, two of my favorite activities. From there it just kept on growing. Maybe music likes red clay better than sandy coastal soil? Who can say... I just know that I love the musical community down here in NC.

Me: How long have you been writing and singing?

Lizzy: I've been singing as long as I could make noise. Little Mermaid = lifelong inspiration.
I've been playing for... maybe 9 years? I didn't get serious about it until I was in college. In my (meager but growing) study of instruments other than the voice, I've discovered that "getting serious" is a lifelong and progressively more demanding undertaking. I love it.

Me: Have you always wanted to be a performer?

Lizzy: Hmm... good question. Not so much the performing. That's kind of an afterthought to the singing/music love. Before I ever held an instrument or understood how a guitar worked, I loved to make music. Much to the chagrin of everyone around me, I wasn't usually singing in my head. Usually it was out loud. Very loud. The trend continues to this day. Music is a way for me to process the world, and singing is the easiest way for me to make music. Learning about guitar introduced me to concepts in music theory, and I've got a lot of learning yet to do. The learning helps me understand why music is so important to me, and how to grow as a musician and a communicator. Performing has been an unfolding pleasure... it wasn't fun or appealing at first, but as I've become more comfortable on stage I've gotten great joy out of sharing music with an audience and making a performance with an audience. I believe that the audience and the performer create the show together, it's kind of a loop of energy, the performer feeds the crowd, the crowd feeds the performer. It feels like a really brave and exciting thing to do, to go out there and be honest and vulnerable and sincere about what you love. People usually requite that, and the intimacy that results is inspiring.

Me: Lizzy, I have to say congrats on winning the Carolina Music Award for Rock Female, Lizzy. Did you win anything cool?

Lizzy: Thanks! Nope, just this little gold plastic man who sits on my windowsill and gathers dust. But it was cool to win it.

Me: Anyway, as I said, "Read Me Out Loud", which I downloaded from iTunes is a great. How did that song get to be the album title?

Lizzy: Thanks! You're so full of compliments. Geeze. Hmm... I went through all the lyrics on the album and picked out the phrases that meant the most to me. I looked for phrases that acknowledge a thematic connection between the songs. I found that a lot of the songs deal with processing the quickly departing past and anticipating a mysterious future. A lot of the songs on "Read Me Out Loud" deal with the never-ending process of personal evolution. Learning to navigate the world as a big kid. Building a community in a new place, watching your old friendships and family relationships change and evolve, running with new freedoms and responsibilities. The first few lines of the song "Read Me Out Loud" go like this:  
Sometimes I feel like a letter that's been lost in the mail.
All these thoughts and all these words, and no one to tell.
Carry me home, open me up.
Read me out loud. Deliver me, my love. 

So you've got a speaker who's lost and looking. Words and experiences are whirling around you in a growing storm, but you can't take shelter in the same places you used to. Still, you want someone to "read you out loud"... see who you are, acknowledge that you're there, give you something real to cling to. Change destroys some parts of our identity and reveals deeper levels of who we are. Maybe it's a honing process wherein we somehow become more ourselves? "Read Me Out Loud" is the idea of finding yourself in the midst of all that change.

Me: Is that you as a kid on the album cover?

Lizzy: Yup. I'm jumping through the hoop. My older sister Nat is egging me on, holding the hoop. I was probably pretending to be her tiger or something. The other girl is our neighbor Lisa. We've got this funny witchy hula hoop with weeds in the middle of it. What were we doing? In the background is the old Volvo and the front porch of our old house. There's a telephone pole just beyond the frame of the photo. In first grade I rode my bike into it and broke my left wrist. I think I present evidence against natural selection.

Me: How old are you in that picture? I have to put a picture of me about that age on the Phile this entry now.

Lizzy: Hmm... it was taken in 1992, so I was 4. Who was taking it? Why did they not stop me from face-planting on the sidewalk (mom)? I'm glad they didn't.

Me: There's a song on the album called "Cross the Cuyahoga"... is that a river or something in the Carolina's?

Lizzy: Nope, it's a river in Ohio. It's caught on fire many times because it's so polluted, but that's just a fun, irrelevant environmental tidbit.

Me: Recording the album, your drummer broke his wrist, right?

Lizzy: Indeed he did. Joy.

Me: How did that happen? Did he finished recording the album playing with hand? Hey, if Def Leppard's drummer could do it... and he only had one arm.

Lizzy: About two weeks into recording he went rollerblading and cracked a tiny bone in his left wrist. Everyone was delighted. We had been working in a studio, but were no longer able to schedule recording time because his healing was unpredictable. I bought Pro Tools (thanks student discount!) and an interface, and learned how to use them as we went. We worked constantly. We had unlimited time in which to experiment, and that brought new sonic possibilities to the fore. I think we ended up going a lot deeper with the music than we would have been able to in the studio, plus now I can record my own stuff! It's fantastic to be able to saunter to the next room and lay down a few tracks.

Me: Did you think for a second to replace him? I would've done.

Lizzy: For a literal second the possibility of temporarily replacing him crossed my mind. We make our living making music, so if he had been out for many, many months that would put a serious chink in lots of things. I'm so glad it didn't turn out that way... we were lucky and creative and found a way to make it work.

Me: Lizzy, I have to ask, growing up, who did you listen to? And who did you listen to now?

Lizzy: My parents got divorced and remarried (To other people. Ha.) when I was really young. I have the gigantic fortune of having FOUR awesome parents. Even better, they all have eclectic and fantastic taste in music. They brought everything from Neil Young to Coltrane to Hendrix to Debussy to the Velvet Underground to Paul Simon to Olu Dara to Eno to Derek and the Dominos to PJ Harvey to Led Zeppelin to Jon Spencer to Guy Clark to the Beatles to Joplin to Patty Griffin to Van Morrison to Sly and the Family Stone to Ulrich Schnauss to everyoneintheworldwhohasevermademusicjustkidding. Anyway, the point is that I got really lucky and have wide-ranging tastes. There are certain artists I go back to over and over again (the above among them). Like anyone else, I go through phases. I'm an obsessive listener. Some of my current favorites are Hayes Carll and Junior Kimbrough. I've been digging the new M83 album. Different week, different music.

Me: Lizzy, thanks so, so much for being here. You are great. Please come down to Orlando to play. Have you been to Orlando before?

Lizzy: Thank you! Thanks for having me! I would love to come to Orlando. I have not been there before. We will be coming to Florida for the Suwanee Springfest in Live Oak on March 24th - 25th. I know it's a long way away, but we've got guest passes if you want one...

Me: Thanks. Go ahead and plug your website and I wish you lots of luck. Please come back on the Phile soon, Lizzy, and good luck with the videos.

Lizzy: Thanks Jason! Here is it folks: my main website is lizzy.net. Go there for musings, music, videos, pictures of cute dogs, what-have-you. You can catch me on facebook as "Lizzy Ross" or at facebook.com/lizzy.net. You can catch me on Twitter @LizzyRossMusic. And last but not least, youtube (for live shows and when we finally get those videos done) is at youtube.com/lizzyrossmusic. You find my music on iTunes under "Lizzy Ross" as well as Amazon. Listen free at lizzyrossband.bandcamp.com. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. You are awesome. Jason, thanks for having me!

Well, that about does it for another entry. Is it me or do they seem to get longer and longer? Anyway, thanks to my guests Director Patrick Gaspard, Jim Mello... check out his Comics will Make You Stronger page at Facebook and of course the lovely Lizzy Ross who I'd love to interview again. The Phile will be back tomorrow with singer Martina Downey and on Wednesday it's bass player Jayen Varma who is the innovator of Indian slap bass. Next Sunday it's artist Scott Quick and on Monday it's musician Pete Donnelly who has played with Graham Parker, is now in NRBQ and has a great solo album out. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Oh, here's a picture of me when I was about 4.














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