Hey, kids, welcome to another exciting entry of the Phile. I don't know what the weather is where you live, but right here in Clermont it is pouring, and I have the sniffles. Man, I hope I'm not getting a cold. So, how was your Christmas? Mine was pretty good. Let's see what's going on... A woman in Spain was arrested for stashing three pounds of cocaine in her breast implants. I thought, "That's quite a bust." Anne Hathaway was photographed stepping out of a car last week with no underpants on. That's still not as embarrassing as the time she hosted the Oscars. I searched all over the internet for those pictures as well. If anybody finds them, send them to me. LOL. You know the economy is bad when the most successful celebrities can't afford underwear. A 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck, once owned by President George W. Bush, is going up for auction in a couple of weeks. All the proceeds will go to military families. President Obama should buy this truck because when something goes wrong he can blame it on Bush. NBC's foreign news correspondent Richard Engel has been freed after being kidnapped and held at gunpoint for five days in Syria by rebels. Even though he was psychologically tortured, he said he was still treated better there than he was by Comcast. Sources told ABC News today that Defense Department official Michael Vickers gave sensitive inside information about the capture of Osama bin Laden to the producers of the movie Zero Dark Thirty. It’s also being reported that John McCain gave firsthand inside information to the film Lincoln. The world's oldest woman passed away at 116. They keep dying. I think that title may be cursed. You know, it's been a tough decade for Lindsay Lohan. She's either in prison or she's in rehab. She's been in rehab so many times that the rehab cafeteria has a sandwich named after her. Now Lindsay Lohan is apparently broke. To raise money, say your son's having a bar mitzvah, Lindsay will appear at your son's bar mitzvah. She's also available for New Years parties. Last week a group of chefs baked the world’s largest pizza, which is gluten-free and contains 9,000 pounds of cheese. Or as Americans put it, “You had me at ‘world’s largest pizza’... you LOST me at ‘gluten-free’... then you won me back with “9,000 pounds of cheese.’” There’s talk that Jackie Chan may join the cast of The Expendables 3, along with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Chan... which explains the movie’s next title: The Can’t-Understandables. So, you know the restaurant Denny's has a tie-in menu with The Hobbit, right? Well, that's not the first time one of those movies had a tie-in promotion with a restaurant. Remember this?
I don't know where I've been this year, but there was a new fad called Gangham Style, which is a song or a band, or a dance. I have no fucking idea. Anyway, there's a poster out for a new movie that might explain it all. I have no intention of seeing it though, like I have no intention if seeing Life Of Pi.
Well, there was no NHL hockey on this year... but there was this.
Now, that's what I call hockey. I might get into the sport now. Alright, as you know, the world was supposed to end this year, and some took advantage of it.
Okay, let's see who went to the big square dance in the sky.
Aug 22, 1934 - Dec 27, 2012
First it was Desert Shield, then Desert Storm. Now it's just Deserted.
May 16, 1921 - Dec 27, 2012
Cubs win! Cubs win! What? No? Oh...sorry.
April 27, 1922 - Dec 24, 2012
Odd man out.
Feb 28, 1923 - Dec 24, 2012
He stormed the beach at Normandy, then killed an attacking enemy soldier with a rock after being seriously wounded. After that, he went on to play Santa Claus in Elmo Saves Christmas, and then died on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure how that all fits together, but it's pretty weird.
March 1, 1927 - Dec 19, 2012
Bork: something being misconfigured or broken. Yep. That looks to be about right.
Well, like I said, I hope you had a good Christmas. I am curious, as I know you lot are, on how our good friend Laird's Christmas went. So, I thought I invited him back to tell us. Please welcome back to the Phile singer, surfer, renaissance man, and phriend of the Phile... Laird Jim. You know what time it is...
Good morning, humans. On Christmas stopped by the ex wife's to give the kids and grandkids their gifts. Yay! Had to put up with snippy remarks from the ex... her mother... and my son's girlfriend. Boo! Kept myself smiling by picturing the three of them around a cauldron with warts on their noses, cackling. Yay! Had the pleasure of meeting the ex's newest boyfriend. Yawn. He turns out to be a large type asshole who points out in front of everyone that he's taking the ex to Atlantic City for New Years Eve THEN has the nuggets to point out what a drag it must be for me... being alone on the holidays. Then it happened... "So... what're YOU doing for New Years, Jim?" I replied, "Me? I'm spending it in New York City with a gorgeous porn star who's in from L.A." That shut his snarky ass up.
Good job, Laird. Well done. I will see you back on the Phile next year. And now...
It's the cupcakes. It's the insistent, love-hate screamfest over cupcakes. That's where this movie almost lost me. Or, rather, it's the first instance of this movie almost losing me, losing itself, losing at making sense to sensible people, losing at being about the real-life problems Judd Apatow's characters usually face with such excellently R-rated mouthiness and goofball solutions. It's the cupcakes. Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, off-screen spouse to Apatow, playing a horrifying, other-dimensional Xerox of a fax of a photograph of a woman who could also be the filmmaker's wife), Knocked Up's harried marrieds, are back. They're still pretty funny when they want to be, but boy do they have problems. Their daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow) never stop fighting. Their sex life is compromised when Debbie learns Pete takes Viagra and she, in turn, interprets it as a personal betrayal. Their financial life is in peril thanks to Pete's mooching, retired father (Albert Brooks) and the couple's own bad business moves (the record label Pete founded is overextended, Debbie's boutique is losing money thanks to embezzling employees). Meanwhile, their life-partnership suffers as their communication skills drown in self-delusion and lack of awareness of how blisteringly irritating they've become. They genuinely think that everyone else is the problem and the movie itself isn't always... okay, ever... willing to rub their nose in their wrongheaded waste of resources and time, their intrinsic selfishness or idiotic ideas about what they're entitled to in life. To cope, she secret-smokes and he binges on cupcakes before throwing out the rest, over and over. This squabbling, yelling and pouting goes on for about two hours and ten minutes. It was like watching my wife and me. Think you can deal with them for that long? More importantly, think you can feel an ounce of pity for their comic pain? Rich people are allowed to have problems, even money problems. They're people, after all. But when wealth is the status quo that's never questioned, when fictional comfort and privilege hang so thickly in the air that the storyteller can't or won't recognize it and call it out, it makes for a weird, alien-like viewing experience that raises more questions than it can ever hope to answer, even during a sprawling 130 minutes. Questions like: How does a relatively young family of four pony up the cash to buy an extra-large West Los Angeles home worth several million dollars in the first place? Why do so many personal conflicts here revolve around how put-upon these people are? What sort of 40-year-old man believes, openly and loudly, that his taste in music has any bearing on the quality of his character? When facing an extreme economic downturn, why does anyone order a giant guitar-shaped birthday cake for your own party? Or employ caterers? And personal trainers? And indulge in spa weekends? Why not sell that BMW you sit in, weeping over your plight? Why are there so many Christmas presents under that tree in the background? Why so many expensive Sprinkles cupcakes, just sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be thrown out? Why not smarten up, even a little? Because the movie won't allow it. And it's not because Apatow is some kind of dummy. He's counting on this bad behavior for laughs above all else. One of the best exchanges between Rudd and Mann involves their own version of real-talk as they tell each other feel-good lies like, "We're a magnet for negativity!" "Why do people keep attacking us?" "We're doing our best!" and "We need to give each other a break!" But in the journey toward resolution Apatow forgets to hold their feet to the fire, choosing instead to indulge their obnoxiousness without comment before letting them off the hook. Worst case scenario? He really doesn't believe they need any sort of wake-up. I'm trying not to think about that possibility. All that said and done, the movie features Graham Parker and the Rumour! With all the other problems, I will buy the movie just for that reason alone. Also, it is the first movie to have three... yes, three Phile Alumni in it... Graham Parker, Martin Belmont from the Rumour and Charlyne Yi. Anyway, the movie gets a 9, and like I said, I will buy it.
Well, football season is winding down. All through the season like last year I had my good friend Jeff on the Phile to talk football and do our football picks. He was winning by six points. Let's see if I caught up. Please welcome back Jeff Trelewicz, everybody.
Me: Hello, Jeff, welcome back. Did you see the new signs on the highway?
Jeff: That's uncalled for!
Me: LOL. I just noticed the sign that says 'shit-heads'. That is uncalled for. Well, I can't believe we have only two weeks to go.
Jeff: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is week 17. Of 17 weeks. This is the end of the regular season for us.
Me: Oh, man, where did time go? So, first of, do you think Tebow is going to Jacksonville? Jen is hoping he is.
Jeff: There is more Tebow drama in New York. He is as good as gone. I think Jacksonville would be a good fit for him. They can't do any worse than that they did this past season so we will see.
Me: Also, what do you think of the Dolphins' new logo?
Jeff: The Dolphins new logo looks really cheesy. It looks like it should be on the uniform of a Pop Warner football team, not an NFL team!
Me: That's funny. So, any other NFL news?
Jeff: The biggest news are some major records falling this week, including Lions WR Calvin Johnson breaking the all time receiving yards in a season record. Adrian Peterson of Minnesota has a small chance of rushing for the most yards in a season but it is highly unlikely.
Me: Your Steelers are not going to the playoffs, Jeff. Are the Giants do you think?
Jeff: The Giants need a lot of help to get to the playoffs. It's not very likely that it will happen.
Me: Alright, let's talk about how we did. You were winning by six I think. I don't have a chance, do I? Should I get my Kleenex out?
Jeff: After Week 16, we both went 2-1 with losses for our teams. So I maintain a six point lead going into the last week. But I have all the faith in the world.
Me: Okay, this weeks picks I say Falcons by 13, Buffalo by a touchdown and Tennessee by 10. What do you say?
Jeff: It is my pleasure to introduce the Phile readers to my wonderful girlfriend Lori who will make the last picks of the week for me.
Me: Well, this is unexpected. Cool, hello, Lori, what do you pick?
Lori: I will pick Houston over the Colts by 3 points, New England will win by 7 points and finally Denver by 7 points as well.
Me: Good job, and I will see you here next week. I gotta win!
Okay, today's pheatured guest is a singer songwriter from New York whose new CD "Satellite" is available on iTunes and CDBaby. She'll be next appearing at a Joni BLUE Tribute at Christopher Street Coffeehouse in New York City on January 3rd. Please welcome to the Phile... Anna Dagmar.
Me: Hello, Anna, welcome to the Phile. How are you?
Anna: Hi, Jason, I'm doing well thanks!
Me: You're based in New York, right, but were born in England? Where in England?
Anna: Yes, I live in Manhattan. But I was born in Wellwyn Garden City, UK. I lived in St. Albans, which is about an hour north of London, until I was six years old.
Me: I'm from England as well, born in London. How long have you been in the States and how did you come to pick New York?
Anna: My family is originally from the States, although they spent twenty years in England. I am a dual citizen, which is wonderful. After spending my later childhood and adolescence in Chelmsford, MA, I went to Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Many of the students who graduated before me moved down to the Big Apple, so I followed suit!
Me: Do you get back to England often? Ever play there?
Anna: Yes! I went back to play three concerts in England during the first week of July!
Me: So, your parents are not British?
Anna: No, my dad's from Chicago and my mom was born in New York, grew up mostly in the Denver area.
Me: Your dad is a mathematician, am I right? Are you good at math?
Anna: I suck at math. My father studied math and philosophy at the PhD level. He helped me quite a bit with calculus in high school! I was very good at the visual aspects of math and understanding concepts. I was not as reliable with computation and would make little mistakes. But I did take the top class and tried to keep up with the kids who were going off to places like MIT. Don't ask me how to do derivatives anymore, it's been way too long!
Me: I don't even know what derivatives are. What do your parents think of your music?
Anna: They have been hugely supportive. I think more and more these days they understand what motivates me to write songs. They have always nurtured my classical and jazz piano studies. I am very blessed to have parents who believe music is an important pursuit and that I'm making a good contribution to culture and the arts.
Me: You've been writing music for a few years. Your latest album "Satellite" is your third album?
Anna: Technically it's my fourth full length. I did a full band record at Eastman called "One More Time in the Air", then a solo album in 2004, then another full band CD in 2009 titled "Let the Waves Come in Threes". "Satellite" is the fourth album, and is the second one which features Ben Wittman on drums and production.
Me: Did you start as a classical or jazz performer? Your new music is labelled as folk, Anna, how did you fall into scene?
Anna: Great question. I've been a wanderer! But I try to tie together all of my musical interests. I began classical piano at age seven, and I loved to practice and learn traditional repertoire such as Bach, Beethoven and Debussy. Around age 14 I had the opportunity to take jazz lessons. This was a real eye and ear opener! I began buying records by people like John Coltrane and Bill Evans. It wasn't until a couple years into my time in New York City that I started to associate with the folk world. This is because many singer-songwriters naturally fall into the folk world, as our music is so much about storytelling and lyrics. The world of mainstream pop is not always so supportive of the reflective qualities in our music. It's taken me a while to see the folk world fully as a place that also archives and celebrates long standing traditions and historical music. I don't play traditional folk, but I do have a lot of respect for the artists who preserve the threads of these sounds, and I have tried to pick up on the emphasis towards lyrics in folk music.
Me: Your song "Satellite" is kinda spiritual with the words. Is all your music like this?
Anna: No, I have a few songs that touch on spiritual content, including on my first two albums, two versions of a song called, "Facing and Angel." I am more interested in being open and uplifting in my lyrics than trying to advocate any one religious or spiritual view.
Me: When you write a song what comes first, music or the lyrics?
Anna: It's usually a combination. Sometimes I will have a set of lyrics going and some other music and one day I will realize they fit together! Other times, I play the piano for a while until I find patterns, then I sing wordless melodies along. Then the words grow out of the melodies. Other times a new tune gets stuck in my head while I'm walking around and I have to find a piano to figure it out! It's really any way that works... that's my way!
Me: What comes easier?
Anna: I think music overall comes easier. But it depends. Lyrics are sometimes brimming over in one's head because of a particular experience or emotion, and then they just flow out.
Me: I love your cover of one of my all time favorite songs, Anna, "Can't Help Falling In Love". Did you come up with that arrangement yourself?
Anna: Yes I did. I changed the chords and the time signature, yet I think it sounds remarkably natural. I tried to stay true to the essence of the song. I have to give Marc Shulman credit for that very pretty and subtle guitar texture he plays in the background. That was a stroke of inspiration he had during our rehearsal and the the other members of the band were able to form our parts around that.
Me: How did you choose to cover that song? Do you do any other covers?
Anna: I haven't recorded other covers but I've been known to perform some including "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder, various songs by Joni Mitchell and occasionally The Beatles. Then I have from time to time learned more obscure stuff like Anais Mitchell and of course lots of jazz standards!
Me: I sung "Sir Duke" in a school play once. You have been compared to Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Judy Collins and the more recent singer/songwriter Regina Spector. I can see that comparison but just because you play piano you shouldn't be compared to other piano players. Actually, do Mitchell and Collins play piano?
Anna: Yes, I think the piano thing is sometimes a label for critics, and they don't necessarily distinguish the styles between different pianists. I use the piano like a mini orchestra, in that I try to make every accompaniment very different according to the words and mood of the songs. All of the above artists also play the piano including Collins and Mitchell, but I would say our styles differ very much. I've learned to appreciate however, being compared to famous or legendary artists, even if I don't fully hear my music as the same style. At least it gives a sense many listeners could enjoy what I do if they enjoy the work of these familiar artists.
Me: Do you play any other instrument?
Anna: Nope! Well, except for voice. I'd like to learn the uke! No time but maybe one day!
Me: Who would you compare yourself to?
Anna: Gosh, when I think about comparison it's not so much the exact sound of the music as it is the intent. I like to think I am a risk taker and someone whose music is unpredictable. In that case, I would compare myself to artists like Jonatha Brooke, Jane Siberry, Sufjan Stevens etc... people that take a unique approach to their writing and try to reinvent themselves constantly.
Me: What music did you grow up listening to and what bands or singers do you listen to now?
Anna: Way too many to list. But skimming the surface right now I am listening to Simone Dinnerstein's recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations", Anais Mitchell's new album "Young Man in America," the Glyndeborne version of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," and for funky times... Bobby Womack!
Me: If you could record a duet with anybody, who would it be?
Anna: Ooh great question. How about Kermit the Frog? I've always been jealous of his singing partners... human or Muppet!
Me: I sound like Kermit when I sing, maybe we can do a duet. Did you go to school to study music? So many musicians I interviewed went to Berklee in Boston. You didn't go there though, right?
Anna: Yes, I went to Eastman School of Music. A good friend from high school went to Berklee, and yes it is known as one of the most popular places especially for contemporary music and pop. I was more interested in Eastman because I wanted to maintain my classical piano studies while working on jazz and composition. Eastman allowed me to combine all my interests, and the caliber of players there... well, it was really a butt kick for me!
Me: I have to mention the video for "Satellite", how long did it take to film that? Those ballerinas were making me dizzy going around and around your piano, with those light bulbs. Was it distracting?
Anna: Oh my! It was quite a process! I didn't shoot my own performance until 4am because we were at least six hours behind schedule. There were a lot of technical challenges, but my director had things under control and knew it was going to work out. I loved the motion of the dancers, but I know what you mean about getting dizzy. They were wonderfully open-minded about trying the GoPro cameras and Annie Sailer, the choreographer, came up with movements that were flexible and flowing, so they could get all kinds of interesting shots.
Me: I have a screenshot from the video here.
Anna: Yes! Mitch had an amazing idea to use the dancers as satellites. We honed the vision together, but I have to hand it to him, because he's the one who really "saw" in his mind what all those effects would look like! It worked out to be a lovely statement for the meaning of the song!
Me: Anna, apart from being a recording musician you teach as well, right? You teach piano?
Anna: Yes, it's a nice balance!
Me: Is that at your house in New York?
Anna: I actually go to my students. It helps me get out of the house and also have a separation between work and home life.
Me: Do you teach jazz, classical piano?
Anna: I teach both, but primarily classical. That's because I teach a lot of youngsters, and I try to give them a foundation in technique and reading before I can really get into the improvisation. We do early improvisation and composition, but not within a "jazz" context, more open in style. Later on I start introducing jazz concepts, especially if I can tell they dig they feel of it!
Me: Anna, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back when your next album comes out. I hope this was fun. Go ahead and plug your website and continued success.
Anna: Thanks again, Jason! AnnaDagmar.com. This interview was a blast.
Well, there you go. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim, Jeff Trelewicz and his girlfriend Lori Sedlacek and of course Anna. The Phile will be back tomorrow with singer Markeisha Ensley and then on Monday the last entry of the year with The Venetian. I don't know if that's a band or a singer. Anyway, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.