Friday, October 10, 2014

Pheaturing Phile Alum Justin Levinson

Hello, kids, and welcome to another entry of the Phile. How are you? Okay, let's start off with a story about Mike Huckabee being so mad at the GOP for not hating gay people enough. Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee announced to the American Family Association's radio audience that he is "utterly exasperated with Republicans" who aren't adequately frothing at the mouth over nationwide advances in marriage equality, going so far as to claim that he will leave the party unless everyone learns to hate their fellow humans as deeply as he does. "You lose me, I'm gone, I'll become an independent," Huckabee threatened. "I'm tired of this." "Now that gay marriage is legal what's to stop them from marrying Ebola?!!" said a Republican somewhere about to be re-elected.  Shit, I didn't wanna go on about another Ebola story, but here we go. The government of Spain had a poor, innocent dog... who may or may not have become infected with the Ebola virus by its owners, who are currently quarantined put to sleep yesterday. "Hahaha! We hate dogs," government officials most likely did not say, while signing the adorable animal's death warrant. "Though there is legitimate reason to be concerned that this mangy beast could cause additional human infections, the actual reason we are doing this is pure, evil cruelty," they almost certainly did not continue saying. Though they might as well have, the monsters! Guys, don't get so wrapped up in this Ebola thing that you forget to be terrified of bed bugs.  Actress and Internet-punching-bag Gwyneth Paltrow has announced that she's collaborating with fashion designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, and Michael Kors to create her own GOOP-branded line of overpriced clothes for all of us people online to relentlessly mock and gawk over while she slowly gets wealthier and more self-satisfied. Everybody wins! If you feel like the world is far too unjust, and you just can't take it anymore, remember: Gwyneth Paltrow is very wealthy.  A new study of post-death experiences seems to suggest that people who are clinically dead may actually continue to have some sensory perceptions for minutes after the heart stops beating. People who have come back from such conditions report experiencing several interesting things, including... "Being dragged through deep water" and "seeing lions and tigers." As if the prospect of dying weren't terrifying enough. RIP would be a lot cooler if it meant Rest In Pugs and people just hung out with tons of pugs nonstop in the afterlife.  It's 2014, so little girls can grow up to be anyone they want's wife. At least, that's the message that DC Comics and Walmart are teaming up to bring the nation's female youth with this junior t-shirt.

Yes, that's correct, it is officially-licensed DC gear, so you can't even blame this solely on Walmart. The people who are supposed to be bringing tales of outsiders who become super heroes fighting for justice also signed off on this retro-in-more-ways-than-one tee. Maybe with the 30 seconds they put into thinking up this slogan, they could have invented a female super hero whose costume uses as much fabric as this shirt... maybe they can put a full minute in and give this new girl a name that isn't a diminutive female version of an existing dude.  I mentioned yesterday that the NYCC is going on... New York Comic Convention for those that don't know. I should be there. I planned my whole vacation all wrong. Anyway, I don't think I'm missing much. Check out this NYCC exclusive they are selling...

Hahaha. Superman Big Alliance and they don't even have Superman... but they have Shrek?  So, do you guys take selfies a lot? Did you know who invented the selfie? Leonardo da Vinci. And I have proof from his original Mona Lisa painting.

That's so stupid.  A few weeks ago I told you the story about Kanye West stopping a show because a guy in a wheelchair wouldn't stand up. Well, check this kid out...

Haha. Take that, Kanye. That's great.  This time of year everything is pumpkin flavored, which I don't like. Well, it seems not just food companies are jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon...

What the hell?  So, with this whole Ebola stuff going on some people are cashing in with Ebola themed TV shows. Yesterday I showed you an ad for a new show called "Two and a Half Percent Chance of Survival". Well, here's another new show...

On Netflix only I think.  Okay, it's October and it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month so all through October I am showing you some amazing cancer survivors who chose body art instead of reconstructive surgery like this one...

"It doesn't cover my mastectomy scars because I am proud of them." said Nancy Beth. You know, I have to admit, as you know I was hesitant in showing these pictures on the Phile and you might remember I asked for your feedback if I should. I still thought I would get a fee email complaints but nope... not one complaint. So, thank you. And now for...

Go ahead and check this one off on your YA adaptation bingo card: "You're not like the others."  That line of drinking-game-level dialogue sets in motion the (possibly) multi-chapter saga of a special teenage boy (Dylan O'Brien) living in a harsh, dystopian future. His name is Thomas and he sees more, feels more, wants more, does more. Dropped into crushing, impossible circumstances, Thomas fights back and inspires others to join him. He will lead the rebellion and he will win. They always win.  And they always win because that is what YA fiction-turned-film demands. Bravery, intelligence, intuition, iron will, physical strength and, most of all, integrity are the hallmarks of the Adolescent Heroic and every obstacle and villainous overlord a station of the Teen Golgotha. It's a fixed and immobile narrative, cement-hardened by studios doing whatever it takes to build the next Hunger Games. Where there should be surprise, there is lock-step sameness.  Specifics of this incarnation: A gang of teenage boys is separated from society, each young man stripped of his memory and deposited into a giant green field surrounded by an enormous, unbeatable maze, one that shifts directions every night. The boys respond by setting up their own society of rules, roles, tasks and alliances. Every so often a load of supplies... and another new boy... is belched up onto the surface by way of a very long, underground elevator shaft. Someone is controlling it all, someone is keeping track, but nobody knows who or why.  The answer, then, might lie in the determination of elite runners who do their best to map the maze, hoping to find a way out, evading the giant spider-like monsters that populate the outer reaches. Or maybe it lies with Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the first and only girl to be delivered into the mix. But it probably lies with Thomas, who crashes the runner squad, upsetting the balance of power and dividing the population into factions. For a while this baffling set of circumstances is a rough-and-tumble mystery, engaging on the level of dumb adventure, like Lord of The Flies with a can-do attitude, devoid of despair and meaning.  And as the mystery deepens and the movie arrives at its third act station, so does the possibilty of hope: hope that producers won't overrule whatever unusual impulses first-time feature director Wes Ball might bring to the table. Hope that maybe he's going to be different, not like the others. Hope that Ball will lead a rebellion in the YA prison. Hope that he'll change up the formula.  And then he doesn't. I won't spoil it with the hows and whys. The movie does that all by itself just when you wanted it least. And that's less deeply disappointing than deeply expected, a reinforcement of exactly what tests well. Mysteries are solved, interest is drained, teens are sorted and organized. Wait for the sequel to find out more of the same. Hope just didn't run fast enough. Then it gets eaten and barfed back up by a giant spider-monster. From one to ten, I give it a seven.

This is a hard one. I realized I am always asking you to let me know if you spot the Mindphuck by emailing me and I get tons of emails. I have no idea why I want you to let me know if you figure it out or not. Crazy. Okay, so, yesterday I introduced you to a new character that turned out to be popular. You might know the Maelstrom ride at Epcot's Norway pavilion closed down to make way for a Frozen ride. In the Maelstrom there was a polar bear who was supposed to make you scared but all he wanted to do was to be a stand-up comedian. So, I thought I'd give him a chance and invite him on the Phile. I did and he was a success. So, I thought, I should have him back. So, please welcome once again to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Petter, welcome back to the Phile.

Petter: Takk, det er flott å være tilbake.

Me: Petter, once again a lot of my readers don't know Norwegian so can you just talk English?

Petter: Sorry.

Me: No worries. So, do you have any jokes for us today? You should, you're a comedian.

Petter: Yes. What's a balanced diet for a polar bear?

Me: I'm not sure.

Petter: A seal in each paw!

Me: Haha. Funny. Another one?

Petter: What did the polar bear say when it saw the igloo?

Me: Is that my house?

Petter: "Oooo! I LOVE these things! Crunchy on the outside... with a nice chewy center!"

Me: You have a lot of jokes about eating, Petter. Can you leave us with one more last joke?

Petter: A man and his pet polar bear walk into a bar. It's evening, but they're ready for a good night of drinking. They start off slowly, watching TV, drinking beer, eating peanuts. As the night goes on they move to mixed drinks, and then shooters, one after the other. Finally, the bartender says, "Last call." So, the man says, "One more for me... and one more for my polar bear." The bartender sets them up and they shoot them back. Suddenly, the polar bear falls over dead. The man throws some money on the bar, puts on his coat and starts to leave. The bartender, yells, "Hey buddy, you can't just leave that lyin' there." To which the man replies, "That's not a lion, that's a polar bear."

Me: Haha. That's brilliant, Petter. Thank you.

Petter: Du er velkommen. Se deg snart og ikke spise kalvekjøtt.

Me: Petter the Comedic Norwegian Unemployed Polar Bear, everybody!

It's 9:42 am, 76°F and Kelly's baby River visited her on the set of her new music video shoot for "Wrapped In Red".

The kid looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid. 

Jan Hooks
April 23rd, 1957 – October 9th, 2014
Wrong "SNL" woman for that era.

Okay, today's pheatured interview is a Phile Alum whose new single... which I love, "Free Love" is available on iTunes. Please welcome back to the Phile, the very talented... Justin Levinson.

Me: Justin!!! Welcome back to the Phile, man. How have to been? 

Justin: I've been swell. Working as hard as ever! 

Me: I didn't think I would be interviewing you on the Phile for a few years. Last time you were where which was April 2013 and you said you weren't going to be releasing new music for two to three years, but now you have a new single out in iTunes called "Free Love" which is one of my favorite new songs. What made you write and release a new single, Justin? 

Justin: Yeah, I'm still working on a new album but I wanted to keep the momentum going by getting some new material out to my fans this year. The new single "Free Love" is also a lot different from the newer material I'm writing and I don't think it would have fit on the record. 

Me: It is one of the catchiest songs I heard in a long time... to me it's catchier than that song "Happy" by Pharrell. Did it take you long to write and record? 

Justin: Ha thanks! I really like "Happy" but honestly prefer Weird Al's "Tacky". But to answer your question the writing came together quickly. It took about two days in the studio to track and one day in Boston for the video shoot. 

Me: Does your band The Valcours appear on the single? 

Justin: No, just my drummer Simon Plumpton and former producer Colin McCaffrey.

Me: Remind us again what a Valcour is. 

Justin: It's an island on Lake Champlain. Not to be mistaken with a Falcor (flying dog dragon) from The Never Ending Story

Me: Speaking of free love, or love in general, you have a girlfriend now, Justin... she's really cute as well. Is she a musician or an artist? 

Justin: Heck yeah! She's a vintage picker & stylist. I'm as happy as a Cherrystone Clam. 

Me: Things are going pretty good for you, you lucky bastard. LOL. Alright, let's talk about your video for "Free Love". I love that piano you are playing in the video with the records on it. I have a screenshot of the video with you playing it here...

Me: Where did you get it, Justin? 

Justin: My videographer Tone Evans told me about this street piano in Faneuil Hall in Boston. We just waited our turn to play. It was pretty fun and a lot of folks gathered around and were excited we were shooting there. 

Me: Really? I have been there but didn't go in and see it. You can just go up to it and play?

Justin: Anyone in the community can jam on it. I really like the idea. 

Me: Whose records are on the piano? 

Justin: Wish I got a better look but I can't recall. 

Me: What does it say on it, I cannot make out the words by the keys? 

Justin: Hmm... I'm not sure I remember that either. We were trying to shoot before we lost the light. I think I was in the zone! 

Me: The video was filmed in Boston, but you're from Vermont. Did you move to Boston?

Justin: I'm in Vermont now but I spent 5 years in Boston. It's definitely my second home. 

Me: Of course I have to ask who that hot girl is in the video. I have a screenshot of her as well...

Me: Is sure an actress or a friend? 

Justin: She's a friend of my last tour manager Sarah Stickle. Her name is Anna Kate and she's a student at Brown University. She was really cool and a complete natural. We didn't know each other well going in so it was nice that we clicked as friends. 

Me: My nephew is going to Brown. I wonder if he knows her. I am so mad, next week I'm gonna be in New York... Long Island to be precise and you're playing at the Iridium opening for Anna Nalick, but I will be already back in Florida then. I would of took the train to the City to see you. Have you ever played the Iridium before? 

Justin: It will be my first time touring with Anna Nalick and my first time at Iridium. I'm really looking forward to this show. I really looking forward to all of the shows with her actually. It will most likely be my last tour for a while as I will be focusing on new material and a new sound. NYC is always a blast. Last year I opened for Aaron Carter at The Grammercy Theatre in front of a thousand screaming girls. 

Me: When I went to New York in '04 I was gonna go there and see Les Paul, but never did, I am regretting it now. Did you ever see him play? 

Justin: I never have unfortunately! 

Me: Anyway, Anna Nalick... In '04 I had her album "Wreck of the Day" that I played so many times. Have you met her before? I'd love to interview her for the Phile so you gotta put in a good word for me. Haha. What do you think? 

Justin: I'll see if I can pull some strings. I will be meeting her for the first time on this fall tour. She's had an amazing career, I'm excited to hear her perform and get to know her. It's always a great opportunity to share the stage with a national artist and get to play for their fans. 

Me: One of your influences is Billy Joel, right? Are you doing any Billy Joel songs in your set? 

Justin: I used to really dig Billy Joel's album "The Stranger". Unfortunately I don't do many cover these days. 

Me: If you were to do a Joel song for a tribute album which one would you do? 

Justin: I'd do "We Didn't Start The Fire" but I'd sing it backwards. 

Me: Haha. Are you into any new bands right now? 

Justin: I'm really into The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon) and Tame Impala. I've been really diggin' psychedelic stuff. Pop music has kinda worn thin on me. I think folks that have followed my music will see some radical changes in my sound when this new record is done. The single "Free Love" was sorta the final pop song of it's kind in my catalog. I'm going to be experimenting with sound and different song forms. 

Me: You play guitar and piano, Justin... which one do you prefer to write with and perform with? 

Justin: I'd say I'm right in the middle. Both I love equally but I'm a stronger piano player. 

Me: Alright, so, will you be coming out with any new music again real soon or do we have to wait two or three years? 

Justin: I'm not sure. After the Anna Nalick tour ends in November I'll be taking off 6-12 month from touring to write this album. My best friend Adam Popick has agreed to track it in Los Angeles. He's the best musician/producer I know. Another friend of mine Zachary Donohue will likely be doing some guitar playing on it too. He just wrote and directed a film for IFC Midnight called The Den that featured some of my music. It was number one on Netflix for a while which is really cool. 

Me: That is cool. When you were here last you mentioned you have a TV show in Vermont called "The Advocacy Show"... are you still doing that show? 

Justin: We still have the show though it's been on a brief hiatus. 

Me: I know what that is like... the Phile was on hiatus for five months. Not my choice though. What is the show about and where can we see it?

Justin: The show features folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities interviewing local celebs in Vermont. I think the only way to view it is in Vermont on Vermont Community Access Vermont. 

Me: Do you perform on it, Justin? 

Justin: I don't it's all business. 

Me: Justin, as you know, on the Phile I'm asking questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? Man, I asked this question before, but not to you... Would you rather live by the beach or in the mountains? 

Justin: My girlfriend and I are looking to move to Austin, Nashville, L.A., Ashville or St. Petersburg in June. We'll let ya know soon. I love Vermont but ready for a change. 

Me: Cool. Justin, go ahead and mention your website, and social media stuff.  

Justin:, Twitter and Instagram @Jxlevinson.

Me: Thanks for being here again, take care and don't forget to pass my info on to Anna. Continued success. 

Justin: Thanks, man! Will do.

There. That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Justin for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from Long Island, and I have some really cool stuff planned and some pretty cool Long Islanders that will be guests. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Now I need to go and pack!

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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