Monday, October 12, 2015

Pheaturing Aaron Irwin From Vicious World

Hello, and welcome to the Phile for a Monday. It is once again Columbus Day, despite the fact that the holiday is enforced almost nowhere in America and becomes less popular every year outside of Italian-American communities and communities of people who just fiercely defend any day off. For those that don't know Columbus Day is a day where we can celebrate a guy who got lost, never sled for directions and ended up giving a gift that kept giving... smallpox. I find it ironic that Columbus Day is also National Native American Day.  A California mom was shocked when her child's Playmobil pirate ship set contained a dark-skinned figure wearing a neck shackle. Ida Lockett noticed it while assembling the gift her son received for his fifth birthday. The character, which appeared to be dark-skinned, with black hair, no shoes and tattered pants, came with instructions to put a gray choker-like piece around its neck. The boy's aunt, Aimee Norman, who purchased the gift for him, posted her concern on Playmobil's Facebook page along with images of the figure, the instructions, and Kunta Kinte from "Roots." I suppose it's optional as to whether a kid chooses to then place said character into chains or into a prison cell at the bottom of the ship. The company responded, explaining that the figure was meant to represent a former slave who became a member of the pirate crew. This is actually true; on the box the character is up in the crow's nest holding a map and a gun.

It's likely historically accurate that some former slaves became pirates, and also quite understandable that the point could be lost on someone assembling the set for their child.  While mass shootings on college campuses continue to end innocent young lives, Texas governor Greg Abbott has signed the Campus Carry law, which allows students to carry concealed weapons on campus. Cool. The law officially goes into effect August 1st, 2016, the first day of next fall's semester. Students at the University of Texas at Austin are protesting the dangerous law in a creative and sexy way... using dildos (which are safer, but just as phallic as guns). According to the Facebook event, which went viral just yesterday, "we are strapping gigantic swinging dildos to our backpacks in protest of campus carry." The Facebook event references obscenity as it is defined in the university's... Penal Code...  hehe, which proclaims, "No person or organization will distribute or display on the campus any writing or visual image, or engage in any public performance, that is obscene." This is a powerful, funny way to expose America's skewed values when it comes to glorifying violence and punishing sex. At risk of sounding like your dad, it's like how Lenny Bruce pointed out back in the 60s how ridiculous it is that we let our movies be ridiculously violent, showing severed limbs flying, but cry when we see a nipple, "Killing yes, shtupping no!"  Hey, are you tired today? A little rough getting up this morning? Drink too much this weekend? Well, pull yourself together, damn it! The Rolling Stones are partying way harder than you every second of every day (and they have been for the last 53 years.) Hide your daughters, moms, grandmas and great grandmas, these bad boys... can we still call them boys? These boys just wrapped up another world tour, and according to their rider, they rock it just as hard offstage as they do on. Forget green drinks, the fountain of youth may be at the bottom of a bottle. The band's hotel rider demands that wherever the band stays, illegal or not... the booze needs to flow like Eminem in 2002. Some other badass requests for Mick, Keith, and the other ones: Blacked out windows (so no one can see how freakin' hard they are partying). Extra butlers, for MASSIVE room service orders (Prune juice martinis for everyone!) After hours dry cleaning, for when things get dirty (How do I get prune juice martinis out of these leather pants?) Tons of Marlboro cigs (We're pretty sure there is no way to kill these guys.) However, there's one thing on the rider that blows up their spot... they need written instructions on how to use ALL electronics. Just goes to show, you can party hard and live forever, but at some point you'll be screaming, "Geez Louise! How do I work this dang clicker?"  It's exciting to have a viral story about college students that is not another hazing scandal. Millennials can be generous too, and they use the Internet for good sometimes! Elon University students Lucy Smith-Williams and Taylor Zisholtz wanted to honor the caring cafe worker at their campus coffee shop, so they rallied the community together to make her dream of going to Disney World come true. Kathryn Thompson has worked at the campus's Acorn Cafe for over a decade, with shifts ending at 2 am. Smith-Williams and Zisholtz set up a GoFundMe campaign to help send Thompson and her family to where I work. "I really took to her warmth," Zisholtz says of Thompson, "She was very invested in where we were from, what we were doing, and when she said ‘It’s my dream,’ I thought, 'Well there’s 6,000 people here with at least a dollar. We could probably make this happen.'" They managed to raise half of the fund in just three days, and GoFundMe employee John Jin was so moved by the story that he pitched in $1000 himself. Thompson has been such a staple of the Elon campus that alumni donated as well. According to the "Elon Pendulum," "It has been Thompson’s dream to go to Disney World because she’s always wanted to take her autistic grandson to meet his favorite character, Mickey Mouse." She told the paper, "I’m excited just to be going. To see my grandson’s eyes light up when he sees Mickey. " Now I'm crying too. Good job, Elon Phoenixes!  Don't you wonder why superstitious football fans find this picture terrifying?

In a Cleveland Browns-San Diego Chargers game last weekend, the score and timing of the game worked out so that a whole superstitious buttload of 13's and 3's appeared at the top of the screen. That includes being at 3rd and 13, with a score of 13 to 13, in the 3rd quarter, with 13 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock, 3 seconds left on the play clock, and Browns quarterback Josh McCown standing nearby in his number 13 jersey. Obviously, this moment proves that this game was CURSED... by coincidence! Also, did the graphic only show up on 13 TVs in 13 states to 13 13 year olds for exactly 13 seconds? MAYBE. Is it proof not of evil, but of the chaos of the universe sometimes aligning into an interesting coincidence? PROBABLY. Did it freak out already paranoid football fans, huddled in their never-washed lucky jerseys? DEFINITELY.  Hey, the Phile has a new sponsor.

I'm not sure what to think about this.  Did you see Trump's new campaign poster? It's kinda fitting.

Brilliant!  Sometimes is magazines they show you what celebrities look like without with their make-up. That seems pretty popular so I thought I'll do the same thing.

Haha.  So, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month as you know and I have been showing you some clever and powerful breast cancer awareness ads. Check it out...

I think that's pretty clever.  Okay, so, you know I live in Florida, right. Well, there's some stories that come out of Florida that could come out of nowhere else in the Universe. So, here once again is a pheature I call...

A homeless man in Sebastian, Florida was trying to communicate something horrible to people in his local Publix: he'd found a dead body. The message was a little bit lost, though, because he was putting on a puppet show with the deceased's skull. According to bystander Nick Pecoraro, the man was talking to the skull and showing it off to customers, then eventually left it on a trash can. He told WPBF what tipped him off to the fact this wasn't performance art: At first, Pecoraro thought the skull was fake until he got close enough to catch a whiff. "It smelled like death," Pecoraro said. He immediately called 911. The homeless man willingly led police to a nearby wooded area where a number of local homeless people camp and showed them the rest of the remains. There's no sign of who they were, their gender or what the cause of death may have been. Happy Halloween, from Florida.

That's an easy and stupid one. Let me know if you spot the Mindphuck. Okay, so, there's millions and millions of blogs out there. Not all have been around as long as this one has, or are as entertaining, but there's a lot of different ones. I like to pheature different blogs once in awhile with a pheature called for no particular reason...

Today's blog is Ancestral Breezes. This is what it looks like...

Looks very exciting. Haha. Go to but only after you finish with his entry. Alright, so, do you like snacks? Last week I introduced a new pheature about that subject. I was kinda stupid, but I thought why not do it again.

Okay, I changed the name. Anyway, here we go... This freeze-pop freezer hack.

We got Red 10, Green 37, Orange 5, take your pic. I have a box of freeze-pops in my fridge as well, but not like this. Alright, it's Monday and time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: Yo, Jeff, welcome to the Phile again. How have you been?

Jeff: Yo! Sup! I'm doing all right. Just trying to figure out what's next in life for me. Doing all right though. How about you?

Me: I'm doing okay. So, in the monologue today I mentioned the Chargers/Browns game with all the 13s. That's crazy, right?

Jeff: That is pretty funny. I mean, I'm sure it's not the first time that it's happened. It is still a rarity though!

Me: What else happened this week in the NFL?

Jeff: The biggest news is Dallas Cowboys linebacker Greg Hardy made his debut this week. He was the Carolina Panthers linebacker that was suspended for domestic abuse. He had originally been suspended for 10 games but it was reduced to 4 games. He was interviewed by Dallas media and came off as a giant douchebag. He talked about coming out "guns blazing." In the off season while he was suspended he made a rap video where he was surrounded by strippers and guns. So it is rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.

Me: Alright, last week I was in the lead. Am I still? I bloody hope so!

Jeff: Yes, unfortunately for me you're still in the lead.

Me: So, how did we do?

Jeff: You went 2-0 this week. I went 1-1. The Steelers play tonight vs San Diego. So I still have a chance to gain a point. However your lead grew this week on me. Plus the Giants won a shoot out against the 49ers earning you another point. So the standings are:17-10, you lead. Congratulations!

Me: I lead by seven! Whoo-hoo. Okay, let's do this weeks picks. I say Bucs by 2 and Packers by 7. What do you say?

Jeff: My predictions are Denver by 3 and Seattle by 3 as well. Good luck and we will talk next week!

Me: Okay, see ya next week.

A globe is a three-dimensional model of Google Earth.

Today's pheatured guest is a jazz saxophonist and a member of the group Vicious World whose album  "Plays the Music of Rufus Wainwright" and his latest solo album "Ordinary Lives" are available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Aaron Irwin.

Me: Hello, Aaron, welcome to the Phile, sir. So, how are you?

Aaron: Very well. Thank you for having me!

Me: I am guessing you are a major fan of Rufus Wainwright, am I right?

Aaron: The idea behind this music was to see if we could adapt Rufus' songs with our own vision of music. Because Rufus' songs are harmonically quite sophisticated, we found that we could use his compositions as a jumping off point for our music. So in short, yes we are fans, but the music really should stand by itself.

Me: I contacted his publicist to see if he would like to take part with this interview but have not heard anything. Have you been listening to his music for a long time?

Aaron: I think most of the band was familiar with his music. What I really liked and wanted to capture was the lush, rich, warmth of textures in his songs. I think the addition of the strings helped us to achieve that goal. I tinkered a long time with the arrangements trying to get the right balance between the strings, horns, and rhythm section and also to come up with the right textures in each song.

Me: Your band Vicious World is named after one of his songs. How did you choose that song to be the band's name? Damned Ladies would of been another good band name.

Aaron: Matt and I just liked the name. Didn't Woody Allen say something to the effect that, the world is after all a vicious, unfair, cruel place full of misery and sorrow, and yet too short!?

Me: I don't know, I am not a Woody Allen fan. Aaron, how did this project start, sir? Is everyone in the band fans of Wainwright?

Aaron: Well, Matt and I have been playing together for many years, and we had an idea to put together a group that only played singer-songwriters. We toyed with a few other people's songs, but quickly gravitated to Rufus' songs. We found that there was a lot there we could use to make our own statement. The music and the band has evolved over the years.

Me: Speaking of, who is in the band with you?

Aaron: Most everyone in the band has worked with each other in different capacities, bands, and ensembles for years. They all have their own projects and exciting music of their own and I am really happy to know them and make music with together. Matthew McDonald: trombone and co-leader,  Sebastian Noelle: guitar ,Thomson Kneeland: bass, Danny Fischer: drums Eliza Cho: violin, Maria Jeffers: cello.

Me: Have you heard from Rufus to hear what he thinks about your versions of his songs, Aaron?

Aaron: I haven't been in touch with Rufus. It would be great if he liked it, but in the end this is our music and I feel that it doesn't need anyone's validation. Although with saying that, I really do hope that he likes it!

Me: How did you go about to pick the songs to put on the album?

Aaron: I think a lot of these kind of decisions are instinctual. There are other songs that we play that we could have added, but these were the most interesting arrangements that we had.

Me: Will you be doing a follow up album?

Aaron: I am sure that we will continue to evolve as a band, and when the time comes, I imagine that we will record again, but we don't have plans to record again any time in the near future.

Me: Aaron, you're from Canada, right? I ask every Canadian I interview just about if they are fans of one of my favorite bands, so I have to ask you, Aaron, are you a fan of the Barenaked Ladies?

Aaron: I am not from Canada, unless the Illinois border has changed?

Me: Oh, I'm an idiot then. Let's talk about your other projects. Like other jazz artists, you play with a few different bands, right? Do you have both a trio and quartet? Vicious World is a septet, right? That means you play with seven people?

Aaron: I have two other projects that I play and write for. One is a quintet with two horns (usually the other horn player is Rich Perry) and rhythm section. Both Thomson and Sebastian play in that with me and we play mostly my original music. We have recorded a couple of times with the Fresh Sound/New Talent label. I also run and write for a trio that I play clarinet in which is very cool and exiting for me.

Me: I read that you not only play with your bands and music, but you also play with orchestra's in Broadway shows. That is pretty cool. What Broadway shows have you done, and do you like to do that kinda thing?

Aaron: I have always wanted to be a working musician and I value the craft of striving for perfection on my instruments. While playing shows doesn't allow for personal creativity all the time in the way that playing jazz and improvised music does, it does make certain demands on your musicianship that I find very thrilling. Some of the stuff I have done recently have included touring with the first national tour of "Ave. Q" and subbing on a number of off-broadway and broadway shows such as "The Addams Family," and "Wonderland."

Me: And you also played on cruise ships? I bet that wasn't fun, was it?

Aaron: I played on several cruise ships while I was in college. It was an invaluable learning experience.

Me: You went to the British International School? Where is that and what did you study?

Aaron: The British International School is a private school on the east side of Manhattan that I am happy to teach woodwind instrumental classes at. I did not attend the school though. I did my undergrad in music (with both Matt and Eliza) at DePaul University, in Chicago. I attended graduate school majoring in music at the University of Miami.

Me: You mostly play sax, right? Do you play any other instrument? You said clarinet...

Aaron: Besides saxophone, I play a lot of clarinet and flute in various situations.

Me: Aaron, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Do you have a website you wanna plug?


Me: Thanks again, and please come back to the Phile sometime.

Aaron: Thank you!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jeff Trelewicz and Aaron Irwin. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Canadian folk singer Phyllis Sinclair. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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

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