Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pheaturing Liz Queler

Hello, kids, welcome to another entry of the Phile, thanks for stopping by.  Let's start off with something sad, or happy, depends on how you look at it. Katie Holmes has divorced Tom Cruise. I didn't know Rock of Ages was THAT bad. The divorce was finalized this past week, just 11 days after it was filed. That Legal Zoom is amazing, and for just $25.  Mitt Romney's campaign raised $35 million more than President Obama for the month of June. Out of force of habit, Mitt stashed it all in the Cayman Islands. Speaking of Mitt, there was an awkward moment for Mitt in Colorado. A homeless guy asked him for a dollar, but all he had was Swiss Francs.  Anybody watch the All-Star Game? There's nothing more entertaining than watching the players give 50 percent. The American League got busted up pretty bad and the National League actually got so cocky toward the end of the game they let the wives play. The American League was defeated 8-0. The American League also lost the 2011 All-Star Game as well as the 2010 All-Star Game. Under President Obama, America's own league is on a losing streak. Mitt Romney will fix the American League and make it competitive again.  By the way, speaking of Obama, I don't know if I can mention this yet, but I will anyway. He's making his rounds on different blogs and it's possible next week the President will be a guest on the Phile. It's not 100% so don't get to excited, but it's possible. How many readers does the White House think I have?  Anyway, back top baseball... Baseball used to be our national pastime before it was replaced by the Kardashians. Mitt Romney gave a speech at the annual NAACP conference in Houston. Why, I don't know. Maybe he confused NAACP with NASCAR. The event got off to a bad start when Romney pulled up in front of the convention center and he instinctively locked the doors to his limo. Romney isn't very popular among African-American voters. In fact, diabetes is more popular among African-American voters than Mitt Romney.  Steven Tyler announced he won't be returning to host "American Idol." I don't understand how anyone leaves that job. It's like, "Okay, we'll give you $20 million to just sit at a table and say 'I just wasn't feeling it' for 12 weeks."  The 43rd Comic-Con kicked off at the San Diego Convention Center this week. When I was a kid we didn't have Comic-Con. We just had Chaka Khan. NASA discovered that Pluto has five moons. We have just one moon. We're moon-ogamous here on planet earth.  John Boehner, who is speaker of the House of Representatives, is super tan, he cries, and he drinks. He should be speaker of the "Jersey Shore" house.  Well, I mentioned Comic-Con which I have never been to... one day. Anyway, I was surprised they were selling inspirational posters there.

Actually, it's not clear who is holding the sign. I see a guy with a Clone mask on that is crooked and a woman who is holding one side of the sign. Oh, well.  Anyway, I like The Avengers poster they are selling there.

Speaking of super heroes, next week the new Batman movie comes out. I am excited. I love the movie poster they just revealed at Comic-Con.

If Adam West is in the movie I really want to see it.  So, how many of you have DirecTV? They were pretty direct with Viacom. We lost a lot of channels because they are not seeing eye to eye. Greedy bastards. Anyway, Viacom released this new ad in the trades.

So, Spongebob lives in Bikini Bottom, and all through the month of July we have been celebrating bikini's here on the Phile. Man, am I good at segue's or what? If you like the idea of using solar energy to power up your electronics, you may really like the idea of solar clothing. There is a new solar concept that could help you look sexy and keep you cool at the beach without an effort. Designed by Andrew Schneider, the Solar Powered Bikini is part of his iDrink line. This standard medium-sized bikini with a USB connection provides new and fun possibilities with solar power. Made with 1" x 4" photovoltaic film panels (which supply 6.5 volts at 1.5 amps), a solar bikini like this can come in handy when you want to tan and stay refreshed at the same time without getting in the water. In other words, the solar bikini allows you to power up your ipod, keep your drink cold, in an environmentally friendly manner, while you tan.

And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is this week's...

Top Ten Signs You're Not Ready For Swimsuit Season
10. In addition to drawstrings, your bathing suit has support cables.
9. Your body type is "Newty".
8. Whenever you take your shirt off, a rancher brands you.
7. The only thing you have in common with Michael Phelps is a 12,000 calorie diet.
6. Favorite swimsuit season cooling beverage: pancake batter.
5. Beachgoers complain that your body mass affects the tides.
4. People put tokens in your nose thinking you're a bus.
3. Your body is 45% water, 55% gristle.
2. No time to get in shape while governing New Jersey.
And the number one sign you're not ready for swimsuit season is...
1. You jump into a swimming pool... you break it.

Well, next week I might have President Obama here on the Phile, or some intern who is answering for him... LOL. But this week I have the best looking Democrat I know to talk about Romney raising more money in the month of June. So, please welcome back to the Phile the National Finance Director of the Democratic National Committee... Hildy Kuryk.

Me: Hello, Hildy, welcome back to the Phile, so how are things?

Hildy: We've got a problem.

Me: Things can't be that bad. What is wrong?

Hildy: This week, we learned that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party out raised us for the second month in a row.

Me: By how much, Hildy?

Hildy: This time, it was by more than $35 million.

Me: So, is this fundraising race the only way to beat Romney?

Hildy: No, we don't need to win the fundraising race to beat Mitt Romney. But the gap is growing at an alarming rate, and if we don't start closing that gap right now, it will be too late.

Me: Okay, so what do you guys do?

Hildy: President Obama and Democrats across the country are counting on our grassroots operation.

Me: And this'll help?

Hildy: In 2008, we showed that elections can be waged, and won, based on the idea that many voices could overpower those of a few. And it worked.

Me: And this year?

Hildy: This year, we need to prove it in the face of unprecedented spending from super PACs and outside groups. We need to show that ordinary people can still control the outcome of an election.

Me: And what can myself or my readers do, Hildy?

Hildy: I hope you're ready to fight... one supporter, one dollar at a time. Let's show what we're made of. Pitch in whatever you can to help close the fundraising gap today.

Me: Thanks, Hildy, and the President might be on the Phile next week, right?

Hildy: He is reaching across different blogs and other internet and media outlets to reach out to the people.

Me: Thanks again, Hildy. Talk to you soon.

Hildy: Thanks, Jason.

The 20th book to be pheatured in the P.P.B.C. is...

The Whiskey Rebel will be a guest on the Phile tomorrow. Look forward to that.

Today's guest is a singer who Billboard Magazine said is "a singer's singer". She has a new CD out called "The Edna Project" and a special song called "Hallelujah (Sing For The Hope)" which is the reason I wanted to have her here on the Phile. Please welcome to the Phile... Liz Queler.

Me: Hello, Liz, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Liz: I'm doing great, thanks for your interest in our project.

Me: You have such an amazing career, actually, both you and your husband Seth do. You have been a performer and singer for a long time, right?

Liz: I started singing professionally with the children's chorus at the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center when I was eight years old. I loved it and stayed with it until I was sixteen. In addition to the fifteen different operas I was in, the chorus opened up other opportunities and I got to do a limited run Broadway show, a national TV jingle and a record.

Me: Is that how you met Seth who is also a musician?

Liz: Seth and I met through a mutual friend in the business.

Me: I have interviewed many musicians who have worked and recorded or in bands with their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and so on. That always blows my mind. I can never do that with my wife and sisters. How long have you and Seth been working together?

Liz: We started working together before we were dating... over twenty years ago. We gig a lot together but we're freelancers so we pick up many jobs independently of each other as well. Our lives revolve around music and it's wonderful to be with someone who understands intimately the playing, performing, writing and working aspects of our field, not to mention the time and travel commitments we have to make. Seth's also an incredible musician, collaborator, sounding board and a great guy, so overall, I totally lucked out.

Me: Does it put a strain on your marriage and relationship?

Liz: Working together has always been great. We really respect each other professionally and value one anothers input and feedback. We also make great music together. The times that get tough are more around being on the road. Seth toured for many years with Odetta and Willy DeVille. Sometimes he'd be away for three months and that got hard especially when our son was younger.

Me: Liz, as I mentioned in the intro Billboard Magazine called you a singer's singer. Man, that's quite a compliment. What went through your mind when you read or heard that?

Liz: I was blown away, and very, very grateful.

Me: You have performed all over the world I am sure, but I think you are only the 4th singer or musician I interviewed that has performed at Carnegie Hall. What was that experience like? It's hard to get in there, isn't it?

Liz: For over forty years my mother has been the music director and conductor for the Opera Orchestra of New York, which bases its concert series out of Carnegie Hall. I'd been backstage and on that stage probably a hundred times before actually singing on it. My opportunity came as a soloist with a production of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass."

Me: Were you nervous about being there?

Liz: Even with my familiarity with the concert hall, or maybe because of it, I was thrilled beyond belief and a bit terrified as well. There's really nothing like it.

Me: I want to ask you briefly about The Edna Project. Is that the band you and Seth are in or a name of an album?

Liz: Seth and I set 21 poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay to music. The Edna Project is both the title of our CD and what we call our concerts. The songs are largely in the Americana genre... folk, bluegrass, rock and jazz. In fact one of the songs from the CD,"Keen" was nominated for an Independent Music Award in the Best Americana Song category.

Me: Who is Edna?

Liz: Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman poet to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 1923.) She was born in Maine in 1892 and was a true rock star for her time.

Me: Liz, you're from New York, right? Whereabouts?

Liz: Born and raised in Manhattan.

Me: I used to live in Port Jefferson, out on Long Island. Ever been there?

Liz: Yes, I know Port Jeff. Have even played there a few times.

Me: Your mom is a famous opera conductor, right? You must of grew up around music like I was. My dad was a musician.

Liz: Yes, I did and it was great.

Me: Alright, let's talk about the reason I wanted to interview you, Liz, your, View-A-Thon and the song "Hallelujah (Sing for the Hope)". Tell the readers what it is you are raising money for, Liz.

Liz: Every penny we raise goes to the Alzheimer's Association which is a national organization dedicated to supporting people suffering with Alzheimer's, as well as family members and care givers. They also support research toward a cure. They were a total lifeline for me when my father was going through stages of the disease that I was completely unprepared for and, unbelievably, their services are all free.

Me: You don't hear a lot about Alzheimer's Disease in the media. Actually, you don't hear a lot about any disease in the media. But I think you hear less about Alzheimer's. Am I right?

Liz: My grandmother had Alzheimer's and I remember back then there was something shameful about it. People referred to senility in hushed tones. With all the medical breakthroughs, people are living longer lives which unfortunately means many more people live long enough to develop some form of dementia. Celebrities are starting to share their experiences (Maria Shriver, Brooke Sheilds, Madeleine Albright) and Hollywood has started taking note. Julie Christie was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in "Away From Her" and "Grey's Anatomy" has had ongoing story lines about the disease. I think as a society we've moved toward a far more compassionate understanding of this truly devastating disease but there's a long way to go, so I'm trying to do what I can to help raise some awareness as well.

Me: Your dad has Alzheimer's... when did he first start to show signs?

Liz: I think he knew long before he was actually diagnosed which was in 2006. He was a lawyer and it was affecting his ability to work, but otherwise it was easy enough to cover it up... until he couldn't any more. We were in denial for a long time.

Me: There isn't a cure for it at all, Liz, is there?

Liz: No. They're hopeful perhaps in ten year's time to have a cure. They seem to be making some progress at least.

Me: When I first heard you recorded a song called "Hallelujah", I thought it was the Jeff Buckley song. And then I heard it and read you wrote this song. How long did it take you to write it?

Liz: I initially sat down to write a song for a kid's chorus Joey was singing with. It morphed into a song for my dad somewhere along the way. As soon as I realized what I was writing about, it happened pretty fast. It was one of those songs that pretty much came out in an afternoon with some minor tweaks in the days that followed.

Me: When your dad was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's, did you know right away you wanted to write a song and record it to raise money for awareness or did it come to you years after?

Liz: No, I had no thoughts along those lines at all.

Me: When you first played the song for Seth, what did he say?

Liz: I didn't play it for him right away. I needed to live with it for a while. I actually wanted to hear all the vocals so I did a quick garage band version, singing all the parts. I played that for him, and he loved it... he's a tough critic.

Me: When you told your mom about the idea what did she say?

Liz: The idea of the video fund raiser developed over a long period of time, and in stages... I didn't all of a sudden present this fully baked idea. That said, she loves the song and that I've been so motivated to make a meaningful contribution to the cause. She's used to me turning pieces of my life into songs and she's always been enormously supportive. I think she was more surprised to be singing in the choir than anything else.

Me: When you wrote the song did you plan to have a chorus in it?

Liz: Yes... I'd written it for a choir.

Me: A choir, that's what I meant. It's wonderful you had so many friends and family go to the studio to help, Liz. I am guessing their wasn't a dry eye in the house. How long did it take to record?

Liz: We recorded the tracks a few months earlier when we were in the studio for "The Edna Project". I just snuck it in between songs because I was so anxious to hear it with a full band. Seth, Joey and I did all the background parts and it sounded great but every time I listened to it, I still wanted to hear a choir on it, so we hatched a plan to send out an e-mail blast to all our singer/musician friends in NYC and invited them down to lend their voices to our cause. At the time, I still wasn't quite sure how I was going to proceed with the fund raiser. I just kept taking one step forward and then I'd think... hey... what if I...

 Me: It's really cool you had the day filmed as well for the video. Did you plan to have it that way? As a video, not just a song?

Liz: When I realized we were actually going to make the choir recording session happen I thought that we really should shoot it, but again, I had no major plan. I asked a few friends to help out. Jeanne Korn, an actor, held our little camcorder. On a whim I mentioned the shoot to Kevin Scott a filmmaker and the husband of Joey's school teacher. He was available and happened to have two excellent HD cameras which he was generous enough to bring. He used one and our friend Phil Hack, a TV producer, held the other. If Kevin hadn't brought these great cameras we wouldn't have had anything worth looking at. In hindsight, I can only say the heaven's were aligned, because I didn't plan at all for it, and I got extremely lucky. The initial editing was done by our friend Andrew Brill who generously spent a ton of hours piecing together the concept which I finished at a studio with Sandra Kratc. As I write this, I'm awed once again by everyone's passion and generosity.

Me: Not only does your husband Seth perform on the song, but your son Joey does as well. He's just a little boy, right? How old is he?

Liz: Joey's now 13.

Me: I saw a great picture of yourself, Seth and Joey singing.

Me: Does he wanna be a singer or musician as well when he grows up?

Liz: He's a singer and musician now. I think he'd like to play for the Mets when he grows up.

Me: Your mom is in the chorus as well, right?

Liz: Yes.

Me: Have you played the song for your dad at all? Was he at the studio as well?

Liz: He wasn't at the studio. I played the video at his assisted living. The families in the photo montage at the end of the video are all from his residence and we had the opportunity to show it them all as a group. It was pretty intense, but my dad's pretty unaware at this point. I couldn't even really get him to look at the screen.

Me: You know, I have been doing the Phile for six years, and interviewing people for about five years, and this proves it's a small world. A Phile Alumni is on the song as well, Lisa Brigantino. How do you know Lisa, Liz?

Liz: That's great. Lisa and I served on the board of directors of Women in Music for eight years. She's terrific. She brought her sister Lori with her, so both Brigantino sisters are represented in the video.

Me: How much money has the song and video raised so far?

Liz: Over $12,000.

Me: Do you have a goal in mind?

Liz: Yes, $50,000.

Me: Liz, go ahead and mention the website in case Phile readers wanna donate to the cause. And they better.

Liz: People can donate at: If they can't afford to donate dollars, they can contribute by viewing the video and sharing it. We need hits too. I'm hoping if we can get this to go viral, we might get some corporate support.

Me: Have you met a lot of other people who have Alzheimer's in their life?

Liz: Unfortunately, yes I have.

Me: Liz, you and Seth did an amazing job with this, and you have to be commended. Well done. I hope this interview helps a little. Thanks again for being here, Liz. Please come back real soon as I wanna talk about The Edna Project and interview both you and Seth about your careers. Can you do that?

Liz: We'd love to Jason, thanks so much for your interest and support!!!

Me: Thanks again, and go ahead and mention the website once again. Take care, talk to you soon.

Liz: Yes, please visit: Watch the video, share it, like it... and donate. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Well, that about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Hildy Kryrk and of course Liz Queler. That is a real good thing she's doing. Please donate to her cause, readers. Okay, the Phile will be back again tomorrow with author and member of the band Rancid Vat, The Whiskey Rebel. Then next week it's Alumni Burning Jet Back, who used to be The Whiskey Saints... speaking of whiskey. And Nick Moran on Monday. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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