Monday, May 20, 2013

Pheaturing Samuel Saint Thomas From Bovine Social Club

Hello, kids, welcome to the Peverett Phile Into Darkness. I know, I know, this month is dedicated to Star Wars, not Star Trek. Your eyes can deceive you; don't trust them.  This week will mark the 37th time House Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare. If Republicans really wanted to do away with Obamacare they should just endorse it as a conservative non-profit and let the IRS take it down. President Obama announced the appointment of a new acting commissioner of the IRS... the other guy was fired. See, they're called "acting commissioner" because you have to act like the scandal doesn't involve the White House.  A lot of critics are now comparing President Obama to President Nixon. The good news for Obama? At least he's no longer being compared to President Carter. It has not been a good week for President Obama. You've got Benghazi, the IRS scandal, this AP records scandal, and, worst of all, his Chicago Bulls got eliminated by the Miami Heat. Do you know what that means? LeBron James is going to get audited by the IRS.  The White House released 99 pages of emails on trouble in Benghazi... and one shirtless tweet from Anthony Weiner.  So, how's the weather where you are? It's so hot in Florida I was sweating like President Obama at a press conference. That last joke has been seized by the Department of Justice.  You can now get breakfast at Taco Bell. They have a breakfast waffle taco. You get your scrambled egg, and your sausage covered with maple syrup, all wrapped in a waffle taco. And it also comes with lap-band surgery. I would rather have a lap dance surgery.  A 7-year-old boy wrote a letter to the vice president. He wrote: "I think guns should shoot chocolate bullets so no one will get killed and no one will be sad." Guns that shoot chocolate bullets would be a great way to liven up an Easter egg hunt, wouldn't it? The sad part is that's the first letter Joe Biden has received since he took office.  I referenced the much-anticipated Star Trek movie at the top of the Phile. It made about $100 million this weekend. That's a lot, but imagine how much it would make if the people buying tickets were going with dates. Most Star Trek fans are men, or a reasonable facsimile.  I forgot to mention this yesterday, who saw the finale of "American Idol"? It was the finale of the lowest-rated season in "American Idol" history. You could tell the show was in trouble when they said, "The winner is what's-her-face."  Eagles' offensive lineman Evan Mathis posted a picture on Instagram that shows him relieving himself on an IRS building with a caption that says, "Audit this!" Or as the IRS said, "OK, see you tomorrow at noon."  This week, Oscar Mayer introduced a new hot dog with bacon cooked right into it. Or as Chris Christie put it, "Is it possible to reverse that lap-band procedure?" I am gonna have to try that hot dog.  Alright, so, last night I went to see the new Star Trek movie, and I was surprised at something. I know J.J. Abrams is gonna be directing the new Star Wars movie as well, but I think he got the two films mixed up... or something. Check this screenshot out.

As you can see they paid no expense on the set. Now that Disney owns the rights to the Star Wars franchise and characters, I don't think they are using them in the right way.

In an odd way I kinda like it. LOL.  So, they announced that Chewbacca is gonna be in the next Star Wars film, but I don't like the changes they made to him.

Let's just skip with the whole guy in the suit thing.  Now, as I mentioned, Obama is in a lot of trouble, but I think he hired somebody to help him out.

I dunno what a bounty hunter is gonna be able to do... but so be it.  In my spare time I like to get on Twitter and look up certain words. Well, this month I have been looking to see what people are saying about Star Tours, the ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios I work at. This is the latest Tweet I saw about Star Tours.

Tiffany has a good point. What it is, I don't know.  Alright, this year is the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi the movie that gave us Jabba the Hutt, Luke in his black outfit, the Ewoks, and of course... Slave Leia. So, all this month I am honoring that great creation. Enjoy.

And now from the home office on Coruscant, here is this week's...

Top Phive Reasons Star Wars Is Better Than Star Trek
5. In the Star Wars universe, weapons rarely, if ever, are set on stun.
4. The Enterprise needs a huge engine room with an anti-matter unit and a crew of twenty just to go into warp... the Millennium Falcon does the same thing with R2-D2 and a Wookiee.
3. Luke Skywalker is not obsessed with sleeping with every alien he encounters.
2. The Federation would have to attempt to liberate any ship named Slave I.
And the number one reason Star Wars is better than Star Trek...
1. One word: lightsabers.

Science fiction's job, one that demands as much attention as the genre's other duties to extremely important stuff like lasers, space monsters and dodging asteroids, is to tell stories about Right Now from a vantage point of The Future... or the past if you're talking about, say, "Mad Men". So it makes sense that this latest cinematic installment of the alternate timeline incarnation of the Star Trek saga would be full of ambivalent/contemporary feelings about war, specifically war with an enemy whose identity and motives are hidden and whose ASS WE MUST KICK TO DEATH.  This time around the USS Enterprise crew (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin) meets its enemy in Benedict Cumberbatch, as John Harrison, a Starfleet officer on a "9/11 was an inside job" style mission to boldly make chaos so that he can wreck everything and prevail. I'm glossing over details, obviously; this is a film built on several levels of somewhat unsurprising surprise and occasionally not-making-any-sense plot details and you should experience them for yourself. But you can know that it involves ideas about wars started over vendettas, political assassination without due process, preemptive attacks and the swallowing up of peaceful entities into the hungry-hungry piehole of militarism. This then begs the question: what do you want from Star Trek?  If your answer is you want old-school talky "Star Trek" and you hate anything that isn't old-school talky "Star Trek", then you're never going to be satisfied. You'll probably also never be as angry as a Star Wars fan, though, so you can at least feel good about that.  If your answer is that you want a blast of a summer movie, then congratulations, you win in a way. As exhilarating gut-level boomboomBOOM objects go, it's a big, exciting success. It noisily rumbles and explodes and shoots and soars with the kind of action sequences you remember long afterward and want to see happen again. It also delivers terrific performances from the ensemble, notably Quinto as Spock and Cumberbatch, who seems to love his own evil in just the right measure. There are story problems, though, those moments you think about after the most recent satisfying crunch or crash, or maybe after the credits roll and you're talking it over with friends. Those problems create questions that start with, "Hey, what about ______ and the ______?" They're the kind that make you wonder if what you saw was actually any good or not.  But Star Trek Into Darkness isn't just a mechanical plot or a collection of awesome action sequences. In spite of the dark themes of conflict and the Enterprise's appropriate role in that conflict, there's also a lightness and playfulness thanks to director J.J. Abrams, working from a script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Abrams incorporates the doom with a less heavy hand than you'd expect because the whole of the thing relies on more than a grim battle mentality. It relies on community. Star Trek has always been a kind of workplace drama about the dynamics of human (and Vulcan and Klingon and Tribble and sexy green lady) interaction, the How-To of all of us just getting the heck along. This automatically makes it more personal, about a kind of longing rather than about the nuts-and-bolts of technical plausibility. So one of the things we want from Star Trek is what Abrams wants, too... a model for teamwork and sacrifice, friendship and connection.  Superheroes in film are often functionally post-human. We can love them but we can never be them. But the Enterprise crew is something else. Called into superhero-style conflict, they're also clearly people in the non-superpower-having sense, regardless of what planet they come from. They evoke empathy much more quickly than Iron Man or The Hulk because they're easier to recognize. And what makes Abrams' vision for these characters memorable and lovable is that living, breathing, feeling stuff. It gives the space monsters (and villains with secret identities) something to fight against, something noble to balance their tragedy. The Enterprise crew is in this with you, fighting the good (and occasionally thoroughly head-scratch-making) fight. Now if they'd just get on with that five-year mission already. From one to 10, I give it a 9.

It is 11:03, 81 degrees and Kelly is rocking a Chewbacca hat.

Damn, I love that picture. Alright, so are you ready? He's an intergalactic comedian straight from the Outer Rim. Please welcome back to the Phile...

Tractor: Knock knock.

Me: Who's there.

Tractor: Beru.

Me: Beru who?

Tractor: Why are you crying?

Me: Good one. And I'm not crying, I just have a cold.

Tractor: Here's new joke for you. Shortly after the Invasion of Naboo, the newly-elected Chancellor Palpatine is invited to a special Gungan ceremony. He will be the first of the Naboo to visit the Gungan Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Palpatine arrives at the Sacred Place, and is greeted by Boss Nass, who leads him into a dank mausoleum. In the center is a large stone burial chamber, with the following words etched into its side: “The Unknown Soldier: Ganne Bopals, Gooba Fisherman.” “I don’t understand,” says Palpatine, “Why is Ganne Bopals buried here? I was told this is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier!” “It ees the Tomb-a of the Unknown Soldier,” replies Boss Nass. “As a soldier, Bopals was nobody. But as a fisherman, he was-a famous!”

Me: Very funny, Tract. Any more?

Tractor: What was the Cantina Band's favorite store?

Me: Favorite store? I have no idea.

Tractor: Bed Bith & Beyond.

Me: That's good. Okay, any new limericks? My readers love your limericks.

Tractor: His Padawan wasn't behaving, and the galaxy sure needed saving, so when he was knighted, Obi-Wan decided, he didn't have time to keep shaving.

 Me: Well done.

Tractor: Thank you, don't eat the Bantha!

The 31st artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Michael Banks, and this is one of his pieces...

Michael will be a guest on the Phile real soon.

Today's guest is a a former monk morphed into a writer, songwriter, musician, and professor by overexposure to hedonism, and the lead singer for the great new band Bovine Social Club who will be making their next appearance at Sarah Street Grill in Stroudsburg, PA on June 8th. Please welcome to the Phile... Samuel Saint Thomas!

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

Samuel: Doin' quite well, I'd say. Very busy with the BSC project.

Me: I have to tell you I discovered you from the Graham Parker tribute album "Piss and Vinegar". That was released years ago, but was just rereleased. How did you come to be a part of that album, Samuel?

Samuel: I'd been slumming around the NJ songwriter scene with my buddy Tim Carbone. Carbone's band Kings in Disguise was invited on the record. I don't remember, maybe Tim put in a good word, because, then Bye or Die Records came calling. 

Me: Were you aware of Graham's work before hand?

Samuel: I'd maybe heard a song or two on the radio. Of course, I ran out and picked up a few discs and love them.

Me: Did you choose "Mr. Tender" to do, or was that song given to you?

Samuel: The label gave us free range. I picked it out of the lineup.

Me: Have you met GP, or heard what he thinks of your version?

Samuel: Never met the guy, no! Would love to!

Me: I just downloaded the Bovine Social Club album from iTunes and really enjoyed it. That's your new band, right?

Samuel: Why thanks, glad you like it. Yes, sir!

Me: Where did the name of the band come from? There's not one cow in the band.

Samuel: Well, as it usually goes, you sit around making a list. Everyone throws one down, you know. My partner, Sara made that contribution. So the co-founder and I went for a beer and I said, "We're not gonna stop drinking till we have a name." I Googled the whole list on my phone and Bovine Social Club got zero hits. That's how we knew! Besides, cows are pretty cool.

Me: In the past you had your own solo albums out, so why start a band now?

Samuel: I had to get out the house and away from my book. I wanted some musical buddies too. Plus the idea of a band is so much more fun than the singer/songwriter thing. I hate playing alone too. Despise it. And besides, playing again was the only way to get Jeff Barg to shut up. He wanted to play again about as bad as I did.

Me: I'm glad you did, because I love the album. Did you write all the songs on it, sir?

Samuel: Thanks, man. I wrote all the songs except the old country song, "Ninety Miles."

Me: You mentioned the book you're working on called "Frying Spam and Other Things to do Before the Rapture"... I want it to be a part of the Phile's Book Club when it comes out. When did you decide to write a book, Samuel?

Samuel: I'd written a couple two three personal narratives in grad school and it sort of bounced from there. That made me happy so I wrote more of them. Soon enough it started looking like a book.

Me: The book is about your life, am I right?

Samuel: Yes it is. Kind of a K-12 romp.

Me: It's pretty entertaining and funny what I read so far on your website. Was that your goal to make people laugh?

Samuel: Well, sort of. I had no interest at all in using a psych lens, bleeding on paper. When I'd tell people stuff about growing up they'd laugh. So I went with that. It's still sad.

Me: Are your parents still alive? What do they think of the book?

Samuel: Both of my parents passed just before I started the book. I can only imagine what they'd think.

Me: Where did the title come from? Do you like Spam? I never tried it myself.

Samuel: I ate lots of Spam as a kid. It smells like dog food. That's all I can say about that. And see, there's all these things I did so I was ready for Jesus when he came in the rapture.

Me: How long did it take to write the book so far?

Samuel: Well, I put about 30 hours a week into it over two years before setting it aside because, surprisingly, the band took off. I'm jonesin' now to brush it up and send it back to the agent.

Me: So, what do you prefer, playing music or writing?

Samuel: Hmmm. Good one. Writing is by far less work in collaboration and investment. But it's lonely. And it doesn't matter because I can do both so I don't really have to kick one to the curb.

Me: You also write poetry, right? Have you published any of your poetry?

Samuel: I had quite a few pieces published in college, some even in German. Never sent anything out since. I guess that hat doesn't fit right now. Stay tuned.

Me: Is that when you started to song write?

Samuel: No, I wrote a few in high school. Then much later I became interested again.

Me: So, any poetry you'd like to share with my readers?

Samuel: There's a few pieces floating around the interwebs if you're clever.

Me: You are also a professor. I had a few professors on the Phile over the years. What do you teach and where, Samuel?

Samuel: Yep, I teach four or five writing and lit classes a year at a lovely community college in PA. It's quite relaxing.

Me: Did you go to school to study to be a teacher or professor?

Samuel: Well, yes, I have the oddball MFA terminal degree in non-fiction with big college loans to prove it.

Me: Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?

Samuel: I grew up in Coatesville, Pa. My father pastored a church there. Some call it the armpit of the world. Now I live in the woods outside New York City. Mowing grass is pretty stupid.

Me: Is that where Bovine Social Club is based?

Samuel: BSC's members are pretty spread out, so we have a home base and studio just west of NYC as well.

Me: I also read you are an accidental philosopher as well. Me too! Just kidding. What does it take to be a philosopher?

Samuel: Oh that, yeah. Doesn't it mean that one does a fair amount of examining life? Perhaps the makeup of a person that gets a rash from bullshit? And so as to know how to ask the questions, it doesn't hurt having a philosophy degree either.

Me: And what is an accidental one?

Samuel: I say that because I'd never considered that I was one at all until I'd taken a couple classes in Philosophy, sort of like finding beauty in the unexpected. The department head called me in and said, "You're a philosophy major." So by accident, I was found to be good at the search for truth, what little there is.

Me: Years ago, you recorded an album with a young singer named Krista Long. Where do I know that name from?

Samuel: Can't help ya there, buddy.

Me: Maybe I'm getting her confused with somebody else. Do you still talk to her? Does she still make music?

Samuel: She made one album, had six sold out shows, then disappeared. I heard she went off to do resort style broadway. I've Googled her once a year for ten years. Nothing. I've even thought about putting her name on milk cartons. She probably only got married.

Me: We will find her, and get her on the Phile. How long have you been a musician, Samuel? 

Samuel: According to legend, I started singing before I was potty trained! My dad sort of taught me piano. Whenever I'd screw up he'd hit me with something or just walk out of the room. So that didn't go too well. When I turned 12 or so, my dad bought me an upright bass. But my bass teacher was usually drunk and took up most of the cubicle with his big belly. So I mostly taught myself. I played in church and in my family band. That was great. The people were all so wrapped up in Jesus that they never noticed how horrid my playing was. Eventually I bought a guitar and that was that.

Me: What music did you grow up listening to?

Samuel: My dad was a professional jazz kat before he was a preacher, so Jelly Roll Morton, saved and sanctified. My sister played hillbilly gospel 45s, every day, all day!

Me: So, now the BSC album is out, are you guys gonna be recording a new album?

Samuel: We'd sure like to one-up ourselves. It's too early to say when though. The whole disc sales thing has gone south though. Stay tuned.

Me: And are you planning on writing any more?

Samuel: I lived off the grid for three years in the eighties. While teaching H.D.Thoreau I realized I'd put him to shame in mastering the simple living thing in an even much more modern world. So yeah, there's a book in there somewhere, no?

Me: I have to ask you about this, Samuel, you met the Dali Lama and Pope John Paul II? Where did these take place? Any other religious heads you met?

Samuel: I've met a whole lot of so called holy luminaries. Worked side by side. Of all places, the Dali Lama in NJ. And of course the Pope in Rome. I was invited to a mass as part of a group Catholicly curious Americans. He sought me out of the group.

Me: How were the meetings? You guys probably didn't talk, right?

Samuel: The Lama didn't say anything. Just to sit with him is a big deal. As for the Pope, I assure you it was a short exchange, maybe thirty seconds. But that's a big deal when you're a busy guy I suppose. I'm still in awe, and not knowing why.

Me: Man, Samuel, you lived an exciting life, and have done so much. What's the earliest most craziest unusual thing you did?

Samuel: Coon huntin'. I was eight I think. Yes, huntin' coon with Melvin.

Me: My father was Lonesome Dave from Foghat, and I worked for the Disney company for 25 years, and did this Phile blog for 7, and I met BB King. My life is still dull compared to yours. What about the other members of BSC? Any of them lived an exciting life like yours?

Samuel: I think they'd have to answer that, cause I suppose it would be a case of relativity, no? But you? In the belly of rock and roll is about as interesting as it gets. I can only wish.

Me: Thanks. Okay, on the Phile I ask random questions I get from a game called Tabletopics. Are you ready? Which other culture would you choose to be born into?

Samuel: For five bucks I'll take French. The cafe nation. Nice long naps and leggy women. What works for Sartre, works for me.

Me: Samuel, thanks for being on the Phile. Go ahead and plug your websites and please come back soon. All the best, Samuel. 

Samuel: Thanks, man. Be well and do good work.,

That about does it for this entry. Thanks to Samuel for a great interview. I would love to have him back on the Phile soon. Speaking of, the Phile will be back next Monday with Alex Saddic from The GoAround. On Sunday Logan and I are going to Star Wars Weekends. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!

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