Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pheaturing Hod O'Brien

Hey there, kids, welcome back to the Phile. How are you? Did you have a good Christmas? I have to say I had a fantastic Christmas.  Did you see a bright light whizzing by over your house last night? It wasn't Santa. A streak of bright light lit up the skies over Arizona, Nevada, and California Tuesday night. It turned out to be debris from a Russian space rocket re-entering the atmosphere, but some people with their phones at the ready didn't yet have that information as they watched the mysterious spectacle unfold. U.S. Strategic Command spokeswoman Julie Ziegenhorn says the fireball was the result of an SL-4 rocket body booster from Russia that was launched Monday. Actually, if curious onlookers had been informed it was a Russian rocket with an official-sounding name, it probably would not have eased their nerves. In November, another strange fireball lighting up the skies over California was later attributed to the U.S. government testing nuclear-capable missiles. No big deal. People near Las Vegas assumed it was a meteor or a close encounter with aliens. It's suspicious that all these curiosities keep occurring in the western United States. Hopefully incidents with both American and Russian rockets are just a coincidence. At least that's what the government would like you to believe! Trust no one.  GOP front runner Donald Trump has been escalating his racism and anti-Muslim sentiment, and it's definitely not making America great again. It's making it a pretty scary place, especially for kids who don't really understand what's going on, but may hear the hyperbole trickling down from adults who aren't thinking about little ears eavesdropping. In early December, a Muslim mom named Melissa Chance Yassini posted to Facebook about her 8 year old daughter, Sofia, who is afraid of being deported for her religion, and it is heartbreaking. She wrote, "Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way." The post soon went viral because the idea of little girl carrying around a suitcase like that is sad as hell. But there's a silver lining. The post caught the eye of an army vet in Colorado named Kerri Peek who posted her photo and commented, "Salamalakum Melissa! Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys." Peek was so upset by Melissa's post that she started a hashtag on Twitter and encouraged other army vets to respond. #IWillProtectYou is being used by hundreds of veterans to express messages of support and protection. This is what it looks like when soldiers make America great, Donald.  Shit, here's another crazy Muslim story... A British Muslim family were about to embark on their dream vacation to Disneyland with 11 aunts, uncles and cousins when U.S. Homeland Security banned them from boarding the flight to Los Angeles. With no explanation or compensation, and having had their necessary travel authorization approved by the U.S. Embassy weeks before, Mohammad Tariq Mohmood and his family were denied the opportunity to visit the Happiest Place on Earth. The Member of Parliament representing the family's district wrote a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, demanding action. Mr. Mahmood, 41, who owns a gym in North East London, was looking forward to reuniting with family members in Southern California for the first time in 15 years. The trip was planned in part by the kids, ages 8 to 19, who were excited for the Disney dream vacation. Mahmood told "Metro," "We had been planning the trip for four to five months and my kids had countdowns on their phones… We are decent people. My kids are obviously upset. They know why it happened and they know what is going on in the world." He added, "It could be because of Donald Trump, as why otherwise would all of this spring up on us?" The Mahmood family lost over £11,000, and were forced to endure the embarrassment of being turned away. Forget Disneyland; this is Dismaland. Mahmood concluded, "I respect these people need to react if there is a genuine concern but they need to make sure this concern is genuine… They need to check our backgrounds, check our accounts and check our businesses before they react like that. They can’t react like that just because we are Muslim."  A woman who may be a spy for Santa under the Twitter handle @_mayraduarte_ posted a video of a kid displaying instant disgust, disappointment and rage when he received the wrong video game for Christmas. He had been hoping for "WWE2K16," but instead he received "WWE2K15." Wrong year! The horror! Some kids are quite gracious when they receive presents they didn't want. Not him. He noticed this most outrageous oversight quite quickly. Sure, some people had to chime in on whether this was funny or the kid is a monster that should be taught a lesson. In the end, the good folks at the WWE video game franchise reached out to possibly try and create a Christmas miracle...
Ultimately, he learned a valuable lesson: if you throw a fit, make sure it goes viral so you the toy manufacturer quickly gives you your way. Kids have it so easy now. Back in the day they had to tape their tantrum on VHS and mail it to the company, it took forever.  A 7 year old girl from Old Bridge, New Jersey, called 911 in a panic after she knocked over her Elf on the Shelf. The girl, Isabelle LaPeruta, was terrified she had ruined Christmas, as she thought the elf would lose its magic after she accidentally knocked it down with a ball. The Elf on the Shelf inspires so much fear and awe in kids that one professor actually warned it teaches children how to live in a police surveillance state. Apparently that warning wasn't too far off. She eventually realizes that calling 911 was probably a bigger mistake than knocking down the elf. Or, perhaps she fears that police involvement would draw further attention to the accident and get a report sent to the North Pole. The police are required to visit a home if a child calls 911. Isabelle's mother, Lynanne LaPeruta​, had been upstairs taking a nap and awoke to Isabelle trying to quietly dismiss the police from the front porch. The responding officer had the pleasure of radioing back to headquarters with news on why the emergency call was placed. "Isabella apologized. She touched the Elf on a Shelf. She won't call 911 again.​" Old Bridge Police Lt. Joseph Mandola was also understanding about the incident. "To her, it was an emergency when she touched the elf, and she's going to ruin Christmas, so that was her emergency. In her mind, she did right, and it was fine with us." Everyone can now agree that Elf on the Shelf has gone too far as a cultural phenomenon. People pose as the elf for hire, pose their baby as the elf, and now kids are so afraid of it that they deem it an emergency if it's moved. Perhaps it's time for the elves to permanently live in a box in the basement or attic.  So, there's a new movie coming out that I am not too sure about. It might be good...

Why is Yoda there though? Hmmm..  So, the Phile has a new sponsor...

Damn, I wanna try that.  Somewhere in the world there's a skateshop and a butchers and they share a sign...

So, by now most of you have seen the new Star Wars movie, right? You know Luke is not in it that much, but he's in it a little bit more than you think. Take a look...

It's the same thing.  When I saw the movie I was thinking where did I see this before...?

And then it hit me...

Crazy Disney. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is...

Top Phive Least-Popular Stocking Stuffers Of 2015
5. Firemen Wearing Oversized Shirts 2016 Calendar.
4. Loose pudding.
3. Star Wars home pregnancy test.
2. AXE pepper spray.
And the number one least-popular stocking stuffer of 2015 was...
1. Stove Top stocking-stuffer stuffing.

Hmmm. I don't know about this one. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, while we are on this subject January starts the tenth anniversary of the Phile so I thought it'll be fun for all through January to have the Mindphucks sent in by you readers. Some I use are already sent in but throughout January all will be sent in by you kids. So, send me the Mindphucks to subject: Mindphuck 2016. Get to it. Okay, so, you know I live in Florida, right? Well, there's things that happen i Florida that happen nowhere else in the Universe. That's why I have a pheature called...

David Ziskoski and Megan Ohara of Palm Beach, Florida seem like very nice criminals. (Note: that's "Ohara," not "O'Hara." Perhaps her life of crime began when she was robbed of the apostrophe that is her Irish birthright.) They enjoy taking long walks around town, browsing local art galleries, and writing funny notes in the shops' guestbooks. We know this because when the owner of a gallery they robbed described the couple, police recognized them as regulars in the neighborhood, and also because they wrote notes in his guestbook before stealing from him.

David's face right now: "I may be under arrest for theft, but I'm TOTALLY getting away with being high af." There's no way to know whether it was Meg or David's idea (it was probably David; sorry, but the dude's hairstyle and eye-droopiness levels are whatever the opposite of a resumé is), but after walking around the Attila JK exhibition at Palm Beach's Ildiko Contemporary Fine Art (IFCA) Gallery and making multiple fake guestbook entries, they took a bracelet and ring off a desk in the gallery. The bracelet belonged to IFCA's owner and the ring to the artist. To be clear: this was not a jewelry store. It was an art gallery, and these items were the gallery owner's personal property, worth about $6,000. So, what did they write in the guestbook? The cleverest entry was probably the fake email they left, "" It was downhill after that. One entry was a drawing of a penis and a drawing of a woman's face (presumably two separate drawings next to each other, although it's an art gallery... you gotta get noticed somehow) with the name "Meg" next to it. Another simply said "Meg" with another fake email but her actual phone number. If these two ever want to be able to actually afford art, a career change is probably in order. That said, they handled their arrest quite well. Officers looking around Palm Beach for the couple spotted them and approached them in a Publix grocery store. Ohara admitted to taking the items after being confronted and produced them from her purse on the spot, which is pretty well-behaved for someone being caught out as a robber inside a Publix, the town square of Florida. Later, at the Palm Beach jail, she told officers, "If I knew they cost that much, I wouldn't have taken it." David, for his part, admitted to leaving the guestbook entries, which was less impressive. Cut your damn hair, David.

In the northern hemisphere, winter is the coldest and most Netflix bandwidth season of the year.

Today's guest is the author of "Have Piano... Will Swing!" the 42nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. He is also a legendary jazz pianist. Please welcome to the Phile... Hod O'Brien.

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

Hod: Fine.

Me: In the past I interviewed your wife Stephanie Nakasian a few times. She's really talented, isn't she?

Hod: She impressed me by sounding like singers I was used to hearing like Ella and Saray and telling me she had never really heard of them before... that was in 1980... her style sounded just like them.

Me: How is she doing? Last time she was here was a few years ago plugging her book.

Hod: She's doing fine except for the fact that the jazz cognoscenti still don't really know her and haven't recognized her for her great talents in spite of the 20 plus CDs and favorable reviews she has gotten from the critics over the many years she's been in the business. They seem interested in the latest fad...

Me: She said you met at a club in New York City in the 80s... do you remember that day like it was yesterday?

Hod: Very well. She told me her family had recently moved to Charlottesville, Virginia from New York... that was where my sister lived and raised her family. She met my nephew and he told her that I was playing in a New York jazz club and that piqued her interest and she came to the club Gregory's... where I was performing. She was working in Wall Street at the time, the rest is history.

Me: So, did you approach her or did she approach you?

Hod: She approached me and told me she knew my family and they had recommended she hear and meet me.

Me: How long before you two were married, Hod?

Hod: Thirteen years!

Me: You have worked together for a long time. Do you still like performing and working with her? 

Hod: Very much so! Especially with our daughter in the act as well... it's fun improvising together... you know "the family that plays together stays together."

Me: I love this pic of you three...

Me: What's your secret, sir, on your successful marriage?

Hod: I guess I just said it... the music... it's powerful... full of love and deep connection... we like playing together... on and off the stage. Works like a charm if you hear Stef's CD "French Cookin'" there's a song on there we actually sing together... "What Am I Doing With You?" It's about two people who are very different... as we are... and yet it works. At the end the song says, "what would I do without you?"

Me: Awe. I need to play that for somebody. Your daughter Veronica is also a very good singer. A few years ago she was going to the University of Miami. Is she still going there?

Hod: She has two more semesters as a full scholarship student in the jazz voice departments of the Frost School of Music under Shelly Berg... doing great things. She has made the Monk semi-finals... singing jazz, rock, theater, opera and writing music and performing professionally.

Me: So, are you all 'Canes fans?

Hod: Well, we're not sport folks but it's fun to route for them.

Me: Okay, let's talk about you. Steph told me you have lung cancer.. I was hesitant on bringing it up but she said it was fine, that I can. When were you first diagnosed, sir?

Hod: Just in April of 2015 was a shocker. I had severe back pain for years... thought t was from bending over the piano...

Me: Do you find playing piano has become harder with it?

Hod: Yes. Chemotherapy and other medications have adverse effects on the nervous system but I still play a lot... more than ever actually... as as long as audiences are happy... I'll keep going! The playing is my therapy.

Me: I am sure it has been rough on Stephanie and Veronica... how did you approach them and tell them?

Hod: Stephanie has been with me all through this and we told Veronica right away... she's very supportive and strong too... it has only made us closer and more alive... but I'll be 80 in Janiary... it's life you know.

Me: Are you doing any treatments for it, sir?

Hod: Early on had radiation which helped then 6 months of chemo I'm done for awhile and regaining my strength then might have some "maintenance" regime when I'm back from my touring.

Me: Okay, enough about that... let's talk about some more fun topics. You are a fantastic piano player which goes without saying. How old were you when you first started to play piano, Hod?

Hod: Age 8.

Me: Do you remember what the first song you learned to play was?

Hod: A piece of sheet music called "Blue Boogie." Also "Kitten On the Keys."

Me: How old were you when you started to play professionally?

Hod: Twenty... subbing for Randy Weston in Avalock in the Berkshires.

Me: I think you guys are based near DC now, but where are you originally from?

Hod: Stef from Bronxville, New York and I'm from Lakeville, Connecticut in the Berkshires. We live near Charlottesville, Virginia now.

Me: You played with some jazz greats... including Chet Baker. Do you have anyone that you wished you can play with?

Hod: Would have been great to play with Zoot and Al, Art Farmer and Gigi Gryce (I did record with Art). Would love to do more with Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, love playing with Joe Cohn... a a lot of the young cats in NYC.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your book "Have Piano... Will Swing!" That book is named after your album of the same name, right?

Hod: Yes.

Me: What made you write a book about your jazz experiences, Hod? Was it Steph's idea?

Hod: Yes... she was impressed that I could remember all these great and funny stories and felt that people who enjoyed my music would love to hear the colorful stories which surrounded the music in my life.

Me: How long did it take you to write?

Hod: Three to four years... on and off... with touring and and Stef's teaching... it took awhile... the cancer thing and my approaching 80th birthday got us to finish the job!

Me: Is there a story that you didn't put in the book that you wish you did?

Hod: Not that I can think of at the moment... I'm sure they will occur to me as we travel and have memories of days past...

Me: So, did Steph and Veronica read it? What did they think?

Hod: Stef helped edit it. Veronica has just received it... Stef loves it.

Me: Your music you play is mostly swing I would say, and cool music to drive to. Anyway, about 15 years ago swing music became the in thing again with bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin Daddies and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Did these bands make you cringe or were you happy that bands like these brought a new light to swing music?

Hod: Sorry, I just don't know these bands. Most of my heroes are in the past but I think anything that brings young people and new audiences into jazz is good... maybe they'll head to the classics after hearing these.

Me: What bands do you listen to, sir?

Hod: Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band is great and fun. I love hearing and working with any band of Danny Dimperios. I still listen a lot to the old bands... Red Garland, Philly Joe...

Me: If I named a few piano players tell me what you think of them with one sentence... Paul McCartney.

Hod: Good composer, musical.

Me: What about Jools Holland?

Hod: Don't know him sorry.

Me: Elton John?

Hod: Not my bag.

Me: Nick Cave?

Hod: Don't know him.

Me: Alright, so, what is next for you... apart from beating that horrible disease, any new recordings? 

Hod: Not unless I can recover more of my good control and technique. My friends in Holland show me my four page discography on it's a lot... maybe enough. I do play a few songs on Veronica's recently recorded CD (not yet released)... who knows?

Me: Hod, it is such an honor for me to have you here on the Phile. I hope it was fun. Tell the readers where they can get the book.

Hod: The book is available on my website and on and at our gigs.

Me: Please tell Steph hi, and I hope you get well soon, sir. All the best, and take care.

Hod: Thanks for your interest in my music.

Me: You're welcome, sir, get well.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Hod O'Brien for a great interview. The Phile will be back tomorrow with the last entry of the year pheaturing the kids from the duo Sit Kitty Sit. 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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