Monday, June 5, 2017

Pheaturing Phile Alum Wesley Stace

Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday, how are you? What's up? Well, details of the horrific terrorist attack on London Bridge and in the surrounding area the other night are still unfolding, with 7 confirmed deaths, dozens injured, and hundreds traumatized by the chaos. But the heroism of Londoners in the thick of this violence was evident from the very start.  With the attack coming late on a Saturday evening in the heart of the city, many Londoners were out drinking and found themselves either sheltering in pubs or defending them from the three assailants involved. Others had to flee their favorite watering holes... like this guy.

Yes, that's a man who, while fleeing for his life, is sure to maintain a solid grip on his glass of lager. It's like... what's that old British saying? Keep Calm and Continue Drinking? What an inspiration. As yet, the man who refused to abandon his pint remains unidentified, but he's probably nursing quite a hangover still.
At least 10 students had their offers to attend Harvard rescinded after they were caught sharing offensive memes over a private Facebook group, reports "The Washington Post." Looks like you don't have to be smart to get into Harvard after all. According to "The Washington Post," the trouble began after about 100 members of the incoming freshman class broke off from the university’s official Class of 2021 Facebook page to make a messaging group devoted to sharing memes in late December. The private group, titled "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens," became an "R-rated offshoot" of university monitored Facebook group mentioned above, and students were only granted access to it if they "proved themselves" by posting a proactive meme in the main group. Let's be honest, we all knew deep down that memes would be the downfall of us all. According to "The Harvard Chronicle," the off-shoot group was soon littered offensive images. In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by "The Crimson." Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.” Members of the group later confirmed to "The Crimson" that Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April. Harvard’s decision to rescind a student's offer is final. It's cool that these students learned a valuable lesson from Harvard without ever attending a class, though! Harvard declined to make an official statement on the incident, but a student whose admission offer was revoked did leak a portion of the email they received from the Harvard's admission's office to "The Crimson." "The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics. As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee." Harvard only admitted around 2,000 students from the nearly 40,000 applicants they received this year. "The Crimson" reports that a record breaking 84% of admitted students for the class of 2021 ended up accepting their offer from the prestigious school, but it looks like fewer students than anticipated will be attending Harvard this fall. Let's hope they had safety school.
NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation's largest healthcare delivery system, have rolled out a great new slogan on the occasion of Pride Month. In support of the LGBTQ community, they are proudly declaring, "We are an ally." The whole idea is to "empower LGBTQ New Yorkers to live the healthiest life possible" while continuing to strongly affirm their equality as well as civil and visitation rights in the hospital system. That's really heartening, but I wonder if they could have spent a little more time on some of their graphic design...

Oh. Oh, no. Well, at least those shirts will be a big hit at any Pride Parade. Just own it!
Now that millennials have entered young adulthood, we're starting to get nostalgic for the games from our childhoods, and it's showing in our Internet crazes. Last summer, we were all running around like crazy people hunting for Pokémon, and this summer, we're all going to be screaming "The floor is lava!' at our friends in public. The #lavachallenge has started making its way around the Internet. It's based on a kids' game where one person says, "The floor is lava," and everyone else has five seconds to hop up on a couch, table, or whatever is available to get away from the "lava." The madness started over Memorial Day Weekend, when Instagram/Snapchat personalities, Kevin Freshwater and Jahanna James, posted videos of themselves playing "the floor is lava" in public places to Instagram. The video shows Jahanna jumping into a literal trashcan, and Kevin (attempting to) jump onto a shelf in a supermarket. While it's probably a little annoying to the people around you, you've got to admit this looks fun as hell. A lot of people will probably say this challenge is stupid, but hey. I say there's nothing wrong with a little silly fun. Go out and tell your friends they're standing on lava!
Let the records show that yesterday, June 4th, 2017, Piers Morgan, journalist, talk show host and ass-hat extraordinaire, has admitted that he was wrong and apologized publicly for scrutinizing Ariana Grande's behavior following the terrorist attack at her Manchester concert that killed 22 last month. Following the attack Grande, reportedly distraught, tweeted her condolences, canceled future concert dates, and flew home to Florida to be with family.
It is understandable that Grande wanted to be with family during this difficult time, but Piers Morgan, who never misses an opportunity to say something profoundly stupid, criticized the singer's actions in a very public way.After someone commented about the Queen visiting the victims of the bombing in the hospital (note: she lives in England and is a public figure, and this is part of her job), Morgan chimed in to express his disappointment that Grande didn't do the same. Morgan has always been lacking in the human empathy department, so these tweets are not at all surprising, but what happened next certainly is.Cut to about a week and a half later, and Grande has gone above and beyond by paying for the funerals of those who died in the attack, donating over $1 million to victims, and setting up a benefit concert that ended up raising an addition 2 million dollars. Well, it looks like Pier's tiny heart grew three sizes after watching Grande's benefit concert in Manchester, because he then tweeted this... "I thought Ariana Grande was wrong to fly off after the #ManchesterAttack. But tonight she's putting on a fabulous show."And that tweet was followed up by a real, actual apology.

Oh, and PS? Ariana Grande did visit her fans in the hospital, you dickhead.
Hey, so, did you see Ivanka Trump has a new perfume? I think we know where "covfefe" comes from now...

I really think I discovered what "covfee" means by the way...

Ha! Hey, the president just wrote a new executive order in the Oval Office. Let's check it out...

Hahaha. I think I really know where "covfefe" comes from. They were chanting it when this happened...

I have to give it to Germany for this front page of their newspaper...

Yep. Hey, did you see Tiger Woods' new Nike ad? No? Well, I have to here...

Do you kids play with fidget spinners? I was almost gonna get one, and I tried to look them up on the Internet but I typed the wrong thing...

Hahaha. That's so stupid... that's as stupid as...

So, I usually dress in a t-shirt and shorts, but of this was the 70s I might wear this...

If you know somebody who loves drinking so much they'd do it in their sleep, two great gifts are this Budweiser nightgown and getting them professional help. Do you know what I love? Geeks that protest. Like this one...

This clever little rhyme should be a children's introduction to why pussy grabbing is not okay. So, next two entries of the Phile will come to you from an Amtrak train, and I just found out something today that mooning trains is a thing. Like this...

I hope someone moons my train. Speaking of trains, I hope it's not going to be like this...

Switzerland has large areas of land that are mountainous. Before the 19th Century, the mountainous terrain meant that it was difficult to travel across the country, and consequently communication was relatively poor. Swiss railway engineers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had to be extremely innovative, imaginative, and courageous to build a complex and efficient mountain railway system. This not only included planning and building difficult mountain routes, but also constructing the many bridges and tunnels needed to cross and go under mountainous areas. The Swiss are still investing heavily in their railway network, making it one of the most efficient and advanced in the world. One of the most impressive feats was the building of the Landwasser Viaduct, built in 1902, which carries a mountain railway track. This is possibly one of the most famous railway viaducts / bridges in the world and is seen in most Swiss travel / holiday brochures. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Startling Similarities Or Differences Between Donald Trump And Captain Underpants
5. Clearly has nothing to hide.
4. His incompetence is part of his charm.
3. Seems to have a split personality.
2. Is a bizarre cartoon character who looks like he was created by manic eight-year-olds.
And the number one startling similarity or difference between Trump and Captain Underpants is...
1. Could save the world. 

Hahaha! If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, as you know by now I live in Florida... well, there's stuff that happens in Florida that happens nowhere else in the Universe. So, once again, here is...

For three years now, Felicia Nevins and her husband have been trying to conceive a child, but to no avail. The couple decided to try artificial insemination, and got into a near-explosive situation, different from your average explosion of semen. To keep the semen cool and fresh, Nevins put the lil swimmers in a thermos with dry ice, but as the "Tampa Bay Times" reports, "by forgetting to remove a rubber O-ring, the container could have exploded." Not the first time an O has been forgotten with regard to semen. Felicia Nevins called up the Sheriff's Office "non-emergency line" for help safely opening up the semen, and a deputy and firefighters arrived, keeping quiet so the neighbors wouldn't suspect a thing. But the Sheriff's Office couldn't resist the potential Facebook likes a juicy story about near-explosive semen could get them, and shared the story on Facebook. Although the Facebook post didn't mention her name, people were able to deduce who she was from the sheriff's office's description of her age, location, and time of the incident, and camera crews arrived at her doorstep. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office defended the post, saying, "We attempt to show every day what our officers see in calls and we are a very open agency about the types of calls we see each day." While Felicia Nevins might have been publicly humiliated by her own police force, at least she now knows how to preserve semen.

An adjective is a word that when preceded by "the most" and followed by "ever" makes clicking an Internet link worth your time. 

On Saturday night, London suffered its third terrorist attack in as many months. As the "Telegraph" reports, three terrorists first drove a truck into civilians on London Bridge and then went after people with knives in the Borough Market neighborhood. Seven people were killed and 48 more wounded, according to the "Telegraph." In response to this terrible tragedy, President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday night...

President Trump's tweet did not directly refer to London or offer condolences to the victims and their families. Instead, Trump mentioned his proposed travel ban again. Realizing his blunder, President Trump did eventually tweet something kind about London and the U.K., more along the lines of what you'd expect from a world leader.

Yesterday, On Sunday, President Trump was back at it again, tweeting about how "we must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people." Trump decided to make things personal, going after London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim. Trump apparently took issue with Khan's statement to his people that there was "no reason to be alarmed." Sadiq did not respond to Trump on Twitter, or at all. Instead, the "Independent" reported that a spokesperson for the mayor said that Khan had "more important things to do" than respond to Trump's "ill-informed" statements on Saturday's terror attack. Yesterday morning, Trump invoked the "gun debate," noting the attackers used knives and a truck, not guns. Hmmm. Could that be because, according to the "Atlantic," the U.K. has tight restrictions on guns? This morning, President Trump was back at it on Twitter, where he sent out another four tweets, all about his travel ban (which, if you remember, was originally not supposed to be called a travel ban). Finally, this morning, Trump brought up Khan again, tweeting about Mayor Khan's "pathetic excuse" about there being "no reason to be alarmed." As though the Mayor should just be out in the streets yelling, "EVERYBODY PANIC!" Maybe Trump could take a wee break from Twitter and get back to the business of being president? Just a thought.

Today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alumni and author of "Wonderkid," the 60th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. He also has a fantastic brand new album out called "Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding." He's one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time so please welcome back to the Phile, the great... Wesley Stace!

Me: Hey there, Wesley, welcome back to the Phile. I am so excited to be interviewing you again. How have you been? 

Wesley: I've been very well, thank you. I can't remember when we did the last interview but I'm in good shape for a 51-year-old. 

Me: So, are you still living in Pennsylvania? Do you go back to England often? 

Wesley: I am still living in Philadelphia. I do go back to England quite often. We did a Cabinet of Wonders there earlier this year and we have another one on November. Also I'll be going there on a summer holiday with my family. My mother lives in England and my father lives in Italy so we'll be going to both those places this summer. 

Me: What made you settle in Pennsylvania, sir? 

Wesley: I settled in Philadelphia because my wife and I met in Brooklyn but is technically from, and grew up in Pennsylvania and went to school that my chidden now go to so you can kinda do the maths on that one. She had no particular urge or need to come back to Pennsylvania except we thought the time might be right to get out of Brooklyn. 

Me: I don't wanna get political as I do that way too much on the Phile as it is, but I have to mention Trump... when you lived in England did you know who he was? 

Wesley: Remember, I hadn't lived in England since 1990... more like 1989 actually. Was Trump around then? He must've been. No, I don't think I did. 

Me: I grew up on Long Island and he was always in the news and papers so I was aware of him for a while. 

Wesley: Yes, I supposed on Long Island you would've known about him. 

Me: Anyway, I saw a video or two of you singing "Mr. Tangerine Man" to the tune of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and I love it. Did it take long for you to write and come up with that? 

Wesley: The "Mr. Tangerine Man" song was an idea by a Mr. Roger Clark whose from Little Roger and the Goosebumps who added "Gilligan's Island" lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" in the 70s which is quite a legendary piece of pastiche rock songery... he came up with the idea and sent me a bunch of amorphous lyrics including, "Hey, Mr. Tangerine Man, what's that on your head." He knew I was the kind of guy that would deliver it I guess. So I kind of sculpted it from that and added a lot to it... adding two verses, because what he sent me was a kind of free association with a few rhymes. That's how the song came about. 

Me: Do most of your audiences enjoy that song? I am sure there are some supporters of Trumps who don't like it. 

Wesley: Well, I've just been on tour with the Jayhawks and when I sang it at the City Winery there wasn't a negative reaction. When I do it at a folk festival there won't be. But just played it in Nashville and someone shouted, "you're a hack" at me which is a weird thing to say because it's quite a cleverly written song really. Somebody else said I was "classless." You know, when it gets so ridiculous... The left wing have been putting up willingly and enjoying political humor aimed at their candidate for years but apparently the Trump people don't like it. The best one someone shouted, "Now sing a song about Hillary" which I take to be a Trump supporter which of course I said, "I would. I do have one about Hillary but I sing it on alternate nights and tonight is a Trump night." It's not true, but still. 

Me: Would you ever record that song and release it? 

Wes: Well, I did. I recorded it for The Believer website and I recorded it for The Philly Folk Festival and kinda added a video to it. That's what I have on The Believer. 

Me: I have to talk about your great novel "Wonderkid," Wesley, as it's now in the Phile's Book Club. Tell the readers what the book is about. 

Wesley: "Wonderkid" is about a band in the new wave era whose album is unsuccessful and repromoted as a "kindle" rock band, or a children's rock band at a time where's there's only Raffi... there isn't any Dan Zanes or that "sippy cups" or any of that stuff that is successful nowadays. And it's about them coping with that fame in that context that they were completely unprepared for. 

Me: Are any of the stories and events in the book taking from real events? 

Wesley: Many of the events in the book are taken from real events, because when I was writing my previous novel about Charles Jessold, the classical composer, I kept on thinking of good musical stories and I decided I needed to tell them in a different book, in a different way so "Wonderkid" was the book. The bit about the guy being taken by the guide to Warner Brothers and doing drugs together... that's true. A lot of the stories I heard. The story about the guy dressing up as Prince... that's true. It's meant to be a compendium of rock anecdotes. 

Me: When did you get the idea for the book? 

Wesley: I honestly don't know. The original idea came from wanting to write something about nonsense poetry and Edward Lear. I certainly went to the Kindle Convention in Brooklyn... that was very interesting and inspirational... 

Me: How long did it take to write? 

Wesley: It took about two years to write. 

Me: Do you approach writing a novel the same way as writing a song? 

Wesley: No. Songs have to be sparse and made up of few words and novels have to be fleshed out and psychological believable characters. 

Me: Where did the title of the book come from? Was it hard to come up with a title? 

Wesley: Originally it was "Wunderkind" but I was persuaded to make it "Wonderkid"... very much like the band is persuaded in the book from Wunderkind to Wonderkid. Hahaha. 'Cause I thought "Wunderkind" was a great title for a book... Of course the idea of the wonderkid is which one is the wonderkid. Is it the son or the father? 

Me: If someone approached you about making a "Wonderkid" movie, would you let them? It'll be such a great movie. 

Wesley: Yes, I would. Of course. It was already sold to NBC to be developed into a sitcom but sadly nothing happened to it after the year they had it for. I think the person who was interested in doing that just gave up or left, or was sacked... who knows. 

Me: One thing I always loved about your songwriting, ever since I heard "Hear Comes the Groom" for the first time. Your songs are stories I can picture in my head. Is that how you approach them? 

Wesley: Yes, it is. I like to have very, very concrete details so that they might be a philosophy or a thought in it there's also a thing you can hold on to. Like "Remember Me" is quite a philosophical song on the new album that's about about the recent terrorist atrocities that has happened, but each one is my particular simple memory of that thing. And that's why "paper plates and Prospect Park" are good... you might not know exactly what it is but it's a very concrete image and you can picture it.  

Me: Have you always been a good story teller, even when you were a kid? 

Wesley: Well, I take that as a compliment, and if I am a good story teller, yes, I think so. I think I was good. 

Me: You have written so many songs, are you always writing? 

Wesley: I am always writing but it isn't always songs. I'm either writing poems for the Cabinet, I just wrote a review of Mike Nesmith's autobiography for "The Wall Street Journal." I just wrote a review of The Incredible String Band book for "The Times "literary supplement... I'm writing a book with a choreographer called Mark Morris, I'm always writing a novel. I'm always writing something. So many things to write. 

Me: Do you ever let your wife and kids listen to a song first? My dad (who was Lonesome Dave from Foghat) did that as we got older. 

Wesley: Your dad was Lonesome Dave from Foghat? Right. Crazy. Savoy Brown! My kid's never really listened to me play the guitar... to be honest I never play the guitar a lot around the house. I only play the guitar when I am rehearsing a song or writing a song and they're not necessarily around for that. Although my son has taken an increased interest. 

Me: How old are your children, Wes? 

Wesley: Eleven and eight. 

Me: Alright, I have to say I love your new album "Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding." I havsw to show a pic of the cover here...

Me: When you first released music you were called John Wesley Harding, and then a few years ago started to release music as your real name Wesley Stace. I am sure I asked you this before, but why did you change that? 

Wesley: I changed my name because I released four novels under the name "Wesley Stace" and it became increasingly annoying to me and schizophrenic having two names... one for music and one for literature and I just thought fuck it. And if you have the album there's a whole description in the CD or LP there's a thing about why it's called "Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding." 

Me: It's cool your backing band on this album is The Jayhawks. Did you work with them in the past? 

Wesley: I have not worked with the Jayhawks before but I've known Marc Perlman a long time and I've known Gary Louis a long time. They both played my Cabinet of Wonders in Minneapolis. Not only that but Gary taught my course that I taught at Princeton with me at one class once and when I did the Cabinet in New York he stayed at my house... we did a benefit gig in my back garden... so I have worked with them but not as an entire band. 

Me: Did they approach you or did you approach them for the album? 

Wesley: I approached them. I saw them playing at The Queen in Wilmington and I'm really a big fan of there's. I've been listening to some Dutch pop music which is great. All Dutch music is great. I could do the greatest Dutch compilation ever. They're a great band, and when I was watching them they did this Greenfield and Cook song "Don't Turn Me Loose" and then after a bit a couple of whiskeys I was like oh, well, maybe I should be singing that song with them. I know, I'll make an album with them. So I asked them, made it very easy for them and we recorded in Minneapolis where they live. 

Me: Did you write the songs with them in mind? 

Wesley: No. I picked songs that I already had that I thought they would sound great playing. In other words it wasn't the eleven most recent I've written. It was the eleven best for the Jayhawks. They were a couple I wrote the last minute... "The Wilderness Years" and "What I Want Belongs To You" because I felt I needed a ballad and an uptempo song. It's the just the way I am, I thought it would make the album right. The songs are from various times over the last ten years. You know, some of them just wait and some of them wait to be discovered. "Your Song" is a very old song and I thought they'd sound just great with them playing it as they just made an album with Ray Davis. He wanted his album to sound like Americana which is what he called it but I wanted my album with the Jayhawks to sound like The Kinks. I want everything to sound like the Kinks though. 

Me: The CD has one cover, right? What song is that, Wes? 

Wes: "Don't Turn Me Loose." 

Me: Oh, yeah, Duh. Haha. You don't record a lot of covers, do you?

Wes: Not really, no. I did "Crystal Blue Persuasion" on an album and I did "Like A Prayer." I actually do a lot of covers, in fact one of them was released on Record Store Day... but originally it came out in 1990 or 1991 which is "If You Have Ghosts" by Roky Erickson on "Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: Tribute to Roky Erickson" which came out on Sire/Reprise Warner Brothers all that time ago and just released it on Record Store Day which is great. 

Me: I love the song "I Don't Wanna Rock 'n' Roll." Is that true? What is the inspiration behind that song? 

Wesley: Well, it's an irony because the guy does clearly want to rock and roll but rock and roll reminds him of someone that makes him sad. It's either a rocker who betrayed him or a girlfriend who left him... it doesn't really matter but it's about him giving up rock and eating cynical about it. It's not really autobiographical... 

Me: One of my favorite songs from the album is "Better Tell No One Your Dreams." Those lines in the song, are those from actual dreams you had? 

Wesley: Yes, all the lines in "Better Tell No One Your Dreams" are from actual dreams. I started to write that song years ago but I just had to dream enough dreams that I could sum up enough in a couple of lines. 

Me: I like the video for the song... where was it filmed? 

Wesley: The video was filmed in North Carolina in the back small room of The Cat's Cradle by the people of Yep Rock. We only shot for about three hours and I think it's an amazing video. I really enjoyed making that video... I planned that out so carefully. It was my idea and I literally planned out every shot so that it would be the most obvious video ever made with all those exact exactly what that lines said. That's what made it so silly and so funny to me. 

Me: I am guessing you like playing live over recording and everything else, am I right? 

Wesley: I like playing live and recording. I love recording actually. I love arranging things most of all. It's almost my favorite bit of the process. 

Me: When you release an album, Wesley, do you think ahead of what your next album is gonna be? 

Wesley: Yeah. I wanna make another album with the Jayhawks cause we had so much fun doing it. It was very cost effective and I really feel we could go to that well again and make something that is almost completely different. 

Me: Okay, so, in the past I interviewed Chas Hodges from Chas & Dave, and I am going to interview him again... I take it you are a fan of Chas, so I was wondering is there a question you would ask him. 

Wesley: Well, he supports Spurs but I don't think that is really a good thing. I don't know a lot about Chas & Dave actually. I thought about getting them to do a Cabinet of Wonders sometime but I don't know if people know them in America, do they? Please past on my best wishes, I am sure he hasn't heard of me. 

Me: Wesley, I am so glad you are on the Phile again. Mention your website and anything else you want. You have to come down to Orlando... we'll do Disney. That'll be fun, right? 

Wes: Right.

Me: Please come back on the Phile again soon. Take care, all the best. 

Wesley: Very best wishes.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile, kids. Thanks to Wesley Stace for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Saturday from an Amtrak train with comedian Mike O'Brien. 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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