Monday, December 31, 2012

Pheaturing The Venetian

Hey there, welcome to the last Phile entry of 2012! That really goes without saying as it's the 31st. Man, what a year it has been, with me almost canceling the Phile back in Spring because I had too many computer problems, to me breaking my humerus in four places. But that's enough about me... for now.  There were a lot of phamous people have died this year. Hell, there were two big deaths on Christmas Eve. Thanks, Santa! I wonder which crusty old codger is going to have their ticket punched before the ball drops tonight.  Speaking of which, this being our first "Dickless" New Years Eve in Times Square. Tonight on "Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve"... why do they still call it that? He's gone, and it's not rockin'. Anyway, tonight on the show they'll have Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift and PSY performing. So, that means I won't be watching.  So, Kim Kardashian is pregnant... the world knows and cares. Hilary Clinton has a blood clot in her head... no one even notices. Funny how Republicans think Hilary Clinton faked almost dying but can't believe George W. Bush faked being president.  I mentioned this yesterday I think... Tim Tebow and actress Camilla Belle have called it quits. The rumor is, she caught him not having sex with another woman.  Well, kids, we got a lot to worry about. Tonight we go over the fiscal cliff. I woke up this morning thinking, wait a minute. One more day til the fiscal cliff? Where is Superman? But you shouldn't be worried. You should have faith in our representatives in Congress and the Senate. Here's what happened in Washington today. The Republicans and the Democrats got together. They rolled up their sleeves and then they took a break. Ireland is coming out with its own version of the show “Cheers.” Yeah, a sitcom about people who sit around drinking at a bar all day... or as they call that in Ireland, “Reality TV.”  So, back to the fiscal cliff... a lot of people still don't understand what it means. So, I'll explain it for you with one picture.

Get it now?  A Phile reader was in the store the other I was in the store the other day and noticed this  and sent it to me. I don't get it.

Okay, I really do get it. A lot of people were born in '69. LOL.   I haven't been to England in a few years, but it seems things have changed. Thatcher would never have done anything like this.

I wanna talk about movies in a minute, but next year there's a new Superman movie coming out. If I was making a Superman man movie, it would look like this...

Okay, granted, it would be called Woman of Steel.  A lot of people asked me how my year was, well, it was kinda crazy. So, I hooked my mind up to the computer and it read my thoughts all year. So, here, kids, is my year in review.

Oh, one more thing before we move on... yesterday I think it was I said I didn't know what Gangham Style was, and a lot of you readers felt you should try and tell me. But, I figured it out. It's dancing in a rain of cocaine with two hot chicks.

And now for one of the most popular pheatures on the Phile.

If you see it email me at And now for a special new pheature I call...

The holidays are coming to an end, and so is the year 2012. That means that the next year is upon us, as well as a brand new year of movies to look forward to and anticipate. So, here is my list of phlicks I cannot wait to come out...
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I know it’s probably a little difficult to look a full year into the future, but when it comes to the new adventures of Middle-earth, I know at least a few of you can’t blame me. While An Unexpected Journey has had its detractors and a few irreconcilable differences with the Lord of the Rings trilogy already, it’s hard to say that we’re not at least looking forward to the next stage of Bilbo’s adventure to slay the dragon. And with a vocal performance from Benedict Cumberbatch to boot, what’s not to like about what’s still coming?
While the Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner might look unremarkable from a concept level, the recently released trailer showed a big-budget thriller that looks like it could be one of the more distinctive sci-fi/action films of the last decade. While some people might be turned off by Cruise’s involvement to a degree, I don’t think there’s a lot of controversy when it comes to his involvement in science fiction (granted, this comes from someone who really enjoyed Minority Report and some of you might not share that sentiment).
World War Z
Yeah, I share the feeling on flesh eaters with some of you: “Zombies, zombies, zombies everywhere.” While it’s easy to be discouraged because of the sheer plethora of zombie fiction being produced today, a lot of people are looking at the footage we’ve seen from World War Z and thinking that it looks a little different. These are fast zombies, which have been done before in films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, but we’ve never seen literal tidal waves of infected human bodies run like a torrent through a city street. I’ll be pretty interested to see what happens when it opens up next year.
Iron Man 3
“Nothing’s been the same since New York,” according to Tony Stark in the trailer for Iron Man 3. With the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and aftermath of The Avengers showing up in the third solo outing for Robert Downey Jr.’s stint as the Invincible Iron Man, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of eyes are going to be on this one. Not to mention the fact that you have Sir Ben Kingsley bringing the character’s arch nemesis to life for the first time in live action. Iron Man 3 looks like it’ll be launching Marvel’s “Phase Two” in a big way, and it’s easy to be excited about that if you like what we’ve seen so far from the studio.
The Wolverine
While I’m not much of a fan of Logan’s last outing as a film or of X-Men: The Last Stand, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine never makes the list of components of the films I don’t care for. Back in 2000, Bryan Singer struck gold by casting the highly versatile actor as the legendary X-Man, because in addition to being fantastic in every outing he’s played the troubled, long-lived former soldier, like Wolverine, Jackman never seems to age. That’s perfect for a man like Logan, whose aging process has been slowed to a crawl due to his mutant healing factor. Beyond that though, I’m a fan of the director and have high hopes given the source material for this story. We’ll see how they all pull it off this summer.
Thor: The Dark World 
After the success of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and the praise garnered by Chris Hemsworth for his portrayal of the Asgardian God of Thunder, seeing the follow-up should make any fan of the Marvel films excited. This one is especially exciting for fans of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki character, as it’s likely we’ll see the fallout on him for the events of The Avengers. With all the major cast members returning from Thor’s previous solo outing, this looks promising, although I remain a little cautious due to the absence of Mr. Branagh in the director’s chair. This is no slight to Alan Taylor by any means; just concern for Marvel Studios’ penchant for its lack of retention for certain creative minds (Edward Norton? Patty Jenkins?).
Star Trek Into Darkness
After the fantastic nine-minute peek at the next outing for the crew of the Enterprise found before IMAX showings of the first Hobbit film, I’m currently hard-pressed to find anyone that’s not excited for this film. Coming off of the success of the 2009 Star Trek film with the same creative minds and talented actors, the sequel looks to be amping everything up considerably... from the threat, to the locales, to the stakes, the canvas here just screams much larger than any of the previous eleven Trek films. Add to that the inevitable return of arguably the greatest ensemble of characters in all of science fiction, and you have what looks to be a very promising film that will satisfy both longtime Trek fans and general audiences. A feat, by the way, not thought possible until this film’s predecessor proved everyone wrong.
Man of Steel
All this talk of anticipation for 2013 films is leading me to just one character: the Last Son of Krypton. Given Superman’s largely disappointing outing in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, it’s now time for audiences to get to know the Superman of the modern era, a character that’s been present since at least 1986, but who has never been seen on film before. No more callbacks to Christopher Reeve or to the 1978 film he starred in. The Superman that intuitive comics fans know is finally going to be introduced to everyone, and this makes me more excited for Man of Steel than any other movie of 2013. Couple that with a strong and even visionary director (Zack Snyder), a very strong writing team (David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan, Dark Knight Trilogy alumni), a producer with a keen eye for how to envision comics films in our world (Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Trilogy daddy), and a striking cast, and I think Superman is finally going to get the grandeur and status he deserves. Beyond that, though, I think that means people are going to love it.

Now, this is a big surprise... one of the most popular member of the Phile phamily wnated to come on and wish you guys a Happy New Year. So, please welcome back singer, surfer, renaissance man and one of the coolest fucking guys I know... Laird Jim. You know what time it is.

Good morning humans. So we can all pretty much agree that 2012 sucked BIG TIME. Let's all hope that the new year brings better times. Happy New Year, my freaky little darlings.

Thanks, Laird.

Okay, this is it, the last interview of 2012. Today's pheatured guest is a singer and musician from Italy whose new album "I Wanna Tell You A Story" is available at CDBaby. Please welcome to the Phile... The Venetian.

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

The Venetian: I'm good, Jason, thanks, and I hope you are the same.

Me: I'm okay, I have physical therapy in a bit. So, did anybody ever tell you you look like Harley Quinn from Batman?

The Venetian: Yes, people recognize the classic harlequin costume I wear sometimes. The idea is to remind people of the carnival in Venice to go with the Venetian. I enjoy fooling around with costumes. The one I'm using right now is like a court jester and matches the color of my guitar. I'm looking at trying out some that are more original.

Me: I have to ask, are you named The Venetian or is the band named The Venetian? You are, am I right?

The Venetian: It started off as  the Venetian Band, but most of the original band members ended up moving on to other projects. So now the name is just the Venetian.

Me: I take it the band wasn't named after the hotel in Vegas, am I right?

The Venetian: You're right. Once you hear me talking, you'll know I'm from Venice.

Me: So, Venetian, who else is in the band with you?

The Venetian: Now that it's a solo project, I work with various musicians. LA has the best musicians in the world, and I have a lot of talented friends who help me out.

Me: How long have you been in America?

The Venetian: I came here in 2006 after I worked and saved up enough money for the flight. It wasn't easy at first, especially because I didn't know English and I had to leave everything I had and everything I loved behind to follow my dream. But I knew that that was what I wanted to do in life and this is where I had to do it. I studied at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, and now I'm pursuing a career in music.

Me: Do you write in Italian mostly or English?

The Venetian: Mostly, I write in English. Even when I was living in Italy, I was writing in English (or at least trying). I do have a few songs in Italian, and I might use one on my next album, but I'll change the lyrics to English.

Me: Let's talk about the look of the band. You have a lot of crazy costumes and masks. Did you come up with the music first or the look?

The Venetian: When I was recording my first album, I went to a show where there was a male singer dressed like a woman. The music was horrible and his voice was even worse, but people really like the show. They were from New York and the place was packed (they were playing in Los Angeles). It got me thinking, and after I did the album, I looked for costumes to match the music.

Me: How long did it take you to come up with the look of the band?

The Venetian: It really came together quickly once I listened to what I had recorded. The music made me imagine the look of the Venetian.

Me: You must be inspired by theater, am I right?

The Venetian: You're right, Jason, but movies inspire me even more. I love the Kubrick and Tarantino use music to make their films even more powerful. At the same time, I love opera, like "Madame Butterfly" and "I Pagliacci." So I'm getting inspiration from them, too.

Me: What bands inspire you, Venetian?

The Venetian: One of the first was Queen. I love Freddie Mercury's voice and the band's songs. I also love The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and as far as bands today, I love Muse. Many bands inspire me, and I'm always listening to new ones on the radio or looking at their videos on YouTube. Sometimes, I see something that gives me an idea for a different approach or arrangement to one of my songs.

Me: On the new CD "I Wanna Tell You A Story" there's all originals, right, but you also play covers in the shows. Who do you cover? I am guessing Queen is one of the bands. You have that Freddie Mercury sound.

The Venetian: Thanks for mentioning me in the same sentence with Freddie Mercury. Yes, I do include Queen songs in some of my sets, and occasionally I cover Led Zeppelin and Beatles songs, too. I like to surprise my audience, so after one of my more theatrical songs, I might play Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti." I want people to listen to the Venetian, but I also want them to dance.

Me: So, speaking of shows, Venetian, what is a typical Venetian show like?

The Venetian: It's mostly about the music and connecting with the audience. Costumes can get their attention, but for them to really get into the Venetian, I know I've got to give them great songs that they can't hear anywhere else.

Me: Do people dress up when they come see you?

The Venetian: So far they aren't dressing up, which is fine with me, because I'm still experimenting with the whole costume thing. Once I decide what works best to enhance my music, we'll see what happens.

Me: I also am guessing you are a fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show, am I right?

The Venetian: "It's not easy having a good time! Even smiling makes my face ache!" I love The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The first time I saw that movie I was here in the US already, and the whole thing blew me away, especially Tim Curry. I think Freddie Mercury would also have been perfect for that role.

Me: I imagine you play all over California throughout the year, but do you get booked a lot through October and around Halloween?

The Venetian: You're right. I guess it's YouTube and Facebook, and now maybe the Phile. When people are putting on a costume party, a lot of them contact the Venetian.

Me: Ever heard of the band Witches In Bikinis? You guys could easily do a gig together, and see who can out do each other.

The Venetian: I just checked them out on YouTube. They definitely are into a fun style of rock theater.

Me: So, the album is a concept album I take it. In one sentence what is the story about you are telling? 

The Venetian: Yes, Jason, the album has a sort of concept about a family. There's a father, a mother and a son, and they're talking about life, death and everything in between on a personal level. The songs can be enjoyed by themselves, but when I put them together with the connecting parts in Italian, you see the big picture.

Me: Are you planning a follow-up album, Venetian?

The Venetian: Yes, I'm working on two projects mixed together. One is my next album, and the music on it is also part of a film project. The movie script will be very intense and maybe outrageous. In these projects and some others, I'm trying out a lot of new sounds.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back soon, this has been fun, I hope it has been for you as well. Go ahead and mention your website and continued success.

The Venetian: Thank you, Jason. It's an honor to be featured on the Phile. Your readers can find updates on what I'm doing at, and YouTube.

Me: The Venetian, everybody!

That's it, another year of the Phile done. Thanks to Laird Jim, The Venetian and a special thanks to Jon Ostrow. I also want to thank all you readers who made this year the most popular year ever with the Phile. Also, thanks to the 140 interviewees I interviewed this year. Okay, the Phile will be back on Saturday with singer Kendra McKinley. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pheaturing Markeisha Ensley

Hello, kids, welcome to another entry of the Phile. Man, it's cold. Can someone turn up the heat?  A Michigan lawyer has been arrested for manufacturing crystal meth in his office. I hope the fact that this guy's a lawyer doesn't send the message that somehow all meth dealers are sleaze balls.  Tim Tebow and actress Camilla Belle have called it quits. It just didn't work out. Kind of like Tebow and the quarterbacking thing, just didn't work out.  There's a photo going around with President Obama playing with a staffer's son who's dressed as Spider-Man. Obama was like, "Shouldn't you be fighting the Green Goblin?" And the kid was like, "shouldn't you be working on the fiscal cliff?"
The kid was really excited to meet the president, while Joe Biden was real excited to meet Spider-Man.  Are you sick and tired of hearing the term fiscal cliff? People don’t understand it. It doesn’t tell you how serious the situation is. They need more colorful metaphors. Here’s how to explain it... "It's 4 a.m. for our economy and Lindsay Lohan is behind the wheel." That says danger. People understand that.  I'm confident the fiscal cliff will get resolved before I'm able to comprehend an article about the fiscal cliff. The other day President Obama and John Boehner talked about the fiscal cliff for 45 minutes, but the White House will not release a transcript of their conversation. However, they did offer to have Joe Biden re-enact it with puppets. The Pentagon is preparing for massive budget cuts in the event that the country does go over the fiscal cliff. You can tell the Pentagon is scaling back because today it became the Triangle.  Enough of this fiscal cliff crap, let's talk about real stuff that matters. Did you guys see the "Doctor Who" Christmas special this year with the snowmen coming alive and shit? Well, it's actually happening in London as we speak...

At least they don't seem to be doing any harm. Speaking of London, there was a bus seen with an advertisement for a movie I never heard of.

This will be the last thing I'll say about England right now... in England next year for "Doctor Who's" 50th anniversary they are coming out with stamps... this is true. Check them out.

So, if any of my British readers would like to pick up a sheet for me... email me. One of the biggest movies to come out this year of course is The Avengers. You know, if I produced that movie Captain America would look like this...

And Black Widow would look like this!

Okay, it's time for another...

If you see it email me at A few weeks ago I think it was I introduced a new member to the Phile phamily. She is all the way from Scotland and is one individual who shoots from the hip, heart, camera, gun, sling-shot, tank... Please welcome back to the Phile... Debbie Bodacious.

To anyone in a relationship who acts like they were born joined at the hip in some Siamese couple mutation... you were born with your own mind and body. I highly doubt you shit together (exceptional few) so why remain glued to each other the rest of the time? Stop referring to them as your "other half". It not only causes mass nausea, but mathematically it makes NO FUCKING SENSE. If you are one of these offenders, quit being a fucking moron, grow a pair, and remember not every decision you make has to orbit around your equally moronic "other half".

Good job, Debbie. And for the record, I don't think I ever called my wife the other half. I have to ask her if she ever referred to me as her other half, but I doubt it. She probably refers to me as a pain in her ass though. Debbie, happy new year.

Today's pheatured guest is a NYC based singer-songwriter whose new EP "Talk To Me" is available on iTunes. She'll next be appearing at Sullivan Hall in New York City on February 16th. Please welcome to the Phile... Markeisha Ensley.

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

Markeisha: Hi, Jason! I'm glad to be on the Phile!

Me: Thanks. Before we get into all the things you do, I have to ask you about your name. I am 44 years old and have never heard of the name Markeisha before. What does it mean?

Markeisha: My mother made up my name. She was a fan of the name "Keisha", but wanted to add something unique to it. So, here I am, Markeisha.

Me: Do people call you Mark or Markie?

Markeisha: I actually don't really have any nicknames. One of my friends will sometimes call me Mark because she knows it annoys me!

Me: Alright, where are you from?

Markeisha: I grew up in Aurora, Colorado.

Me: You're based in New York City now, right? When did you move from Colorado to New York? Was that a big culture shock for you?

Markeisha: Yes, I'm based in NYC now and I love it here. I first moved here when I attended NYU and just ended up staying after graduation. Coming here from Colorado was the busiest, noisiest and most hectic culture shock that you could imagine!

Me: So you didn't move because of your music career?

Markeisha: When I left for college, I knew that I would wanted to somehow be involved in music, but I wasn't sure in which way.

Me: I downloaded your recent EP "Talk To Me" off from iTunes and like it a lot. I was a bit hesitant as you have been compared to Alicia Keys and Anita Baker, two musicians I don't like, but you are better then both of them put together. Are you influenced by those two women?

Markeisha: Thanks, Jason! I'm influenced by a lot of artists, definitely. I love the way that Anita Baker interprets a song vocally. You can always hear the emotion in her voice. And I love Alicia Keys' piano playing and the melodies she writes. I listen to and am influenced by all styles of music, from pop and R&B to country and musical theater.

Me: I can definitely hear some Motown influences in your work, am I right?

Markeisha: Yes, definitely! My parents were big fans of Motown, so when I was little, I'd go through their great record collection and listen to everything.

Me: "Talk To Me" is your second release. Your first was the album "Ready". How are the two releases different?

Markeisha: I've definitely grown as an artist, songwriter and singer since my first album was released. I really like my first record, but I think I've become a better songwriter since that release. I love the new album because it's got more of jazz influence and there was more collaboration with my producer and band this time around, which made the songs turn out better than I'd envisioned. As a singer, I've also grown more into my own sound on the second release.

Me: What made you follow up the album with an EP, instead of another album?

Markeisha: I had a bunch of songs that I wanted to record, but I really liked the idea of picking my five favorites and recording those. I like that I can release an EP and focus on promoting those songs and because my albums are self-financed, it's easier to budget for an EP.

Me: You started singing in a church choir, right? How old were you when you realized you wanted to make singing or performing a career?

Markeisha: I was probably 6 or 7 when I started singing in my church's children's choir. I do remember at that young age wanting to sing solos and be the one out in front! Also, there was woman in the adult choir who would play the piano and sing and I remember always loving it when she performed a song. I knew in high school that I wanted to get to New York and pursue music.

Me: You also play piano, Markeisha. Did you take a lot of lessons growing up?

Markeisha: I started playing piano when I was in high school. We didn't have a piano at home when I was growing up, so I remember whenever I was in a room with a piano, I always wanted to start playing around on it. I really started studying piano and songwriting when I was in college.

Me: I have to ask you about this, you sang at the Smithsonian in Washington DC with Lamont Dozier. How did that happen and what was that experience like? What songs did you do?

Markeisha: Singing at the Smithsonian was such a great experience! I had entered a songwriting contest sponsored by BMI and was selected to perform my song, "Spend My Life", at the museum. And as such a huge Motown fan, it was an real honor to meet Lamont Dozier and perform in front of him. A lot of the Motown songs that I love, he wrote, so it was pretty fantastic.

Me: You played all over the place, Markeisha. What was your favorite gig you have played?

Markeisha: I had a gig playing at venue in St. Barth's in the Caribbean and that was amazing! The scenery, the food, the people and performing every night was a dream! It was three weeks of heaven and I can't wait to go back!

Me: Do you have a group of steady musicians that you play with?

Markeisha: Yes, I have a fantastic band that I've been playing with for the last 3 years. They are a great group of guys that make my music sound great!

Me: Apart from singing you also did some theatre acting, Markeisha. What are some shows you have played in?

Markeisha: Two of my favorite shows that I've done are "Caroline, or Change" as the Radio and "Jamaica", as the lead, Savannah.

Me: Do you prefer singing in a concert your own songs or doing plays?

Markeisha: I really love doing both things, but I love singing in a concert the most. I love song interpretation, whether it be singing my own song or doing a cover tune.

Me: Is there one play you haven't been that you would love to?

Markeisha: I'd love to be in a production of "Little Shop of Horrors", "Aida and Porgy and Bess".

Me: You also teach, right? Is that in New York?

Markeisha: Yes, I work as a teaching artist, teaching at various schools around NYC.

Me: I take it you teach music, am I right?

Markeisha: I primarily teach music and singing, but occasionally I have a teaching artist residency teaching drama. I do a lot of work with special needs students, which I enjoy a lot.

Me: Have you been a teacher for long?

Markeisha: I've been working as a teaching artist for about 5 years now. It's a great way to do work that's artistic, but it take the focus off of yourself after you've spent so much time promoting yourself as an artist.

Me: You are a part of LIFEBeat's Heart and Voices Program. What is that and what do you do in the program?

Markeisha: I've been a part of LIFEBeat H&V for 4 years. It's a program where musicians perform for patients with HIV/AIDS and it's also another rewarding way to share your talents. I've had a great time being a part of the program.

Me: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about this, I saw a picture of you with Lady Antebellum. I have it here...

Me: Are you a fan of them? You said you like country, right?

Markeisha: I like country music because of the storytelling in the songwriting. I am a big fan of Lady Antebellum! "Just a Kiss" is one of my favorite songs!

Me: How did you meet them? And where?

Markeisha: I was able to go to the meet and greet at their concert at Radio City earlier this year. They sang a song a capella and took questions. It was a lot of fun and I really wish every artist would do that before the show!

Me: Did you tell them you were a singer as well?

Markeisha: I told them I was a songwriter and that I loved their songs!

Me: Markeisha, thanks so much for being on the Phile. I hope I didn't mess up your name. Is there a website you wanna plug?

Markeisha: Thanks for having me on the Phile, Jason! I'd love for people to visit my website:

Me: Please come back when your next release comes out, will you?

Markeisha: Most definitely!!

Me: Hey, I'd like to hear you do a country album, Markeisha. Take care and continued success.

Markeisha: Maybe the next EP will be all country tunes, that sounds like fun. I'll keep you posted! Thanks, Jason!!

Well, that about does it. Thanks to Debbie Bodacious and of course Markeisha. The Phile will be back tomorrow with the last entry of the year with The Venetian. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pheaturing Anna Dagmar

Hey, kids, welcome to another exciting entry of the Phile. I don't know what the weather is where you live, but right here in Clermont it is pouring, and I have the sniffles. Man, I hope I'm not getting a cold.  So, how was your Christmas? Mine was pretty good.  Let's see what's going on... A woman in Spain was arrested for stashing three pounds of cocaine in her breast implants. I thought, "That's quite a bust."  Anne Hathaway was photographed stepping out of a car last week with no underpants on. That's still not as embarrassing as the time she hosted the Oscars. I searched all over the internet for those pictures as well. If anybody finds them, send them to me. LOL. You know the economy is bad when the most successful celebrities can't afford underwear.  A 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck, once owned by President George W. Bush, is going up for auction in a couple of weeks. All the proceeds will go to military families. President Obama should buy this truck because when something goes wrong he can blame it on Bush.  NBC's foreign news correspondent Richard Engel has been freed after being kidnapped and held at gunpoint for five days in Syria by rebels. Even though he was psychologically tortured, he said he was still treated better there than he was by Comcast.  Sources told ABC News today that Defense Department official Michael Vickers gave sensitive inside information about the capture of Osama bin Laden to the producers of the movie Zero Dark Thirty. It’s also being reported that John McCain gave firsthand inside information to the film Lincoln.  The world's oldest woman passed away at 116. They keep dying. I think that title may be cursed.  You know, it's been a tough decade for Lindsay Lohan. She's either in prison or she's in rehab. She's been in rehab so many times that the rehab cafeteria has a sandwich named after her. Now Lindsay Lohan is apparently broke. To raise money, say your son's having a bar mitzvah, Lindsay will appear at your son's bar mitzvah. She's also available for New Years parties.  Last week a group of chefs baked the world’s largest pizza, which is gluten-free and contains 9,000 pounds of cheese. Or as Americans put it, “You had me at ‘world’s largest pizza’... you LOST me at ‘gluten-free’... then you won me back with “9,000 pounds of cheese.’”  There’s talk that Jackie Chan may join the cast of The Expendables 3, along with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Chan... which explains the movie’s next title: The Can’t-Understandables.  So, you know the restaurant Denny's has a tie-in menu with The Hobbit, right? Well, that's not the first time one of those movies had a tie-in promotion with a restaurant. Remember this?

I don't know where I've been this year, but there was a new fad called Gangham Style, which is a song or a band, or a dance. I have no fucking idea. Anyway, there's a poster out for a new movie that might explain it all. I have no intention of seeing it though, like I have no intention if seeing Life Of Pi.

Well, there was no NHL hockey  on this year... but there was this.

Now, that's what I call hockey. I might get into the sport now.  Alright, as you know, the world was supposed to end this year, and some took advantage of it.

Okay, let's see who went to the big square dance in the sky.

Norman Schwarzkopf
Aug 22, 1934 - Dec 27, 2012
First it was Desert Shield, then Desert Storm. Now it's just Deserted.

Harry Carey
May 16, 1921 - Dec 27, 2012
Cubs win! Cubs win! What? No? Oh...sorry.

Jack Klugman
April 27, 1922 - Dec 24, 2012
Odd man out.

Charles Durning
Feb 28, 1923 - Dec 24, 2012
He stormed the beach at Normandy, then killed an attacking enemy soldier with a rock after being seriously wounded. After that, he went on to play Santa Claus in Elmo Saves Christmas, and then died on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure how that all fits together, but it's pretty weird.

Robert Bork
March 1, 1927 - Dec 19, 2012
Bork: something being misconfigured or broken. Yep. That looks to be about right.

Well, like I said, I hope you had a good Christmas. I am curious, as I know you lot are, on how our good friend Laird's Christmas went. So, I thought I invited him back to tell us. Please welcome back to the Phile singer, surfer, renaissance man, and phriend of the Phile... Laird Jim. You know what time it is...

Good morning, humans. On Christmas stopped by the ex wife's to give the kids and grandkids their gifts. Yay! Had to put up with snippy remarks from the ex... her mother... and my son's girlfriend. Boo! Kept myself smiling by picturing the three of them around a cauldron with warts on their noses, cackling. Yay! Had the pleasure of meeting the ex's newest boyfriend. Yawn. He turns out to be a large type asshole who points out in front of everyone that he's taking the ex to Atlantic City for New Years Eve THEN has the nuggets to point out what a drag it must be for me... being alone on the holidays. Then it happened... "So... what're YOU doing for New Years, Jim?" I replied, "Me? I'm spending it in New York City with a gorgeous porn star who's in from L.A." That shut his snarky ass up.

Good job, Laird. Well done. I will see you back on the Phile next year. And now...

It's the cupcakes. It's the insistent, love-hate screamfest over cupcakes. That's where this movie almost lost me. Or, rather, it's the first instance of this movie almost losing me, losing itself, losing at making sense to sensible people, losing at being about the real-life problems Judd Apatow's characters usually face with such excellently R-rated mouthiness and goofball solutions. It's the cupcakes.  Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, off-screen spouse to Apatow, playing a horrifying, other-dimensional Xerox of a fax of a photograph of a woman who could also be the filmmaker's wife), Knocked Up's harried marrieds, are back. They're still pretty funny when they want to be, but boy do they have problems.  Their daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow) never stop fighting. Their sex life is compromised when Debbie learns Pete takes Viagra and she, in turn, interprets it as a personal betrayal. Their financial life is in peril thanks to Pete's mooching, retired father (Albert Brooks) and the couple's own bad business moves (the record label Pete founded is overextended, Debbie's boutique is losing money thanks to embezzling employees). Meanwhile, their life-partnership suffers as their communication skills drown in self-delusion and lack of awareness of how blisteringly irritating they've become. They genuinely think that everyone else is the problem and the movie itself isn't always... okay, ever... willing to rub their nose in their wrongheaded waste of resources and time, their intrinsic selfishness or idiotic ideas about what they're entitled to in life. To cope, she secret-smokes and he binges on cupcakes before throwing out the rest, over and over. This squabbling, yelling and pouting goes on for about two hours and ten minutes. It was like watching my wife and me. Think you can deal with them for that long? More importantly, think you can feel an ounce of pity for their comic pain?  Rich people are allowed to have problems, even money problems. They're people, after all. But when wealth is the status quo that's never questioned, when fictional comfort and privilege hang so thickly in the air that the storyteller can't or won't recognize it and call it out, it makes for a weird, alien-like viewing experience that raises more questions than it can ever hope to answer, even during a sprawling 130 minutes.  Questions like: How does a relatively young family of four pony up the cash to buy an extra-large West Los Angeles home worth several million dollars in the first place? Why do so many personal conflicts here revolve around how put-upon these people are? What sort of 40-year-old man believes, openly and loudly, that his taste in music has any bearing on the quality of his character? When facing an extreme economic downturn, why does anyone order a giant guitar-shaped birthday cake for your own party? Or employ caterers? And personal trainers? And indulge in spa weekends? Why not sell that BMW you sit in, weeping over your plight? Why are there so many Christmas presents under that tree in the background? Why so many expensive Sprinkles cupcakes, just sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be thrown out? Why not smarten up, even a little?  Because the movie won't allow it. And it's not because Apatow is some kind of dummy. He's counting on this bad behavior for laughs above all else. One of the best exchanges between Rudd and Mann involves their own version of real-talk as they tell each other feel-good lies like, "We're a magnet for negativity!" "Why do people keep attacking us?" "We're doing our best!" and "We need to give each other a break!" But in the journey toward resolution Apatow forgets to hold their feet to the fire, choosing instead to indulge their obnoxiousness without comment before letting them off the hook.  Worst case scenario? He really doesn't believe they need any sort of wake-up. I'm trying not to think about that possibility. All that said and done, the movie features Graham Parker and the Rumour! With all the other problems, I will buy the movie just for that reason alone. Also, it is the first movie to have three... yes, three Phile Alumni in it... Graham Parker, Martin Belmont from the Rumour and Charlyne Yi. Anyway, the movie gets a 9, and like I said, I will buy it.

Well, football season is winding down. All through the season like last year I had my good friend Jeff on the Phile to talk football and do our football picks. He was winning by six points. Let's see if I caught up. Please welcome back Jeff Trelewicz, everybody.

Me: Hello, Jeff, welcome back. Did you see the new signs on the highway?

Jeff: That's uncalled for!

Me: LOL. I just noticed the sign that says 'shit-heads'. That is uncalled for. Well, I can't believe we have only two weeks to go.

Jeff: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is week 17. Of 17 weeks. This is the end of the regular season for us.

Me: Oh, man, where did time go? So, first of, do you think Tebow is going to Jacksonville? Jen is hoping he is.

Jeff: There is more Tebow drama in New York. He is as good as gone. I think Jacksonville would be a good fit for him. They can't do any worse than that they did this past season so we will see.

Me: Also, what do you think of the Dolphins' new logo?

Jeff: The Dolphins new logo looks really cheesy. It looks like it should be on the uniform of a Pop Warner football team, not an NFL team!

Me: That's funny. So, any other NFL news?

Jeff: The biggest news are some major records falling this week, including Lions WR Calvin Johnson breaking the all time receiving yards in a season record. Adrian Peterson of Minnesota has a small chance of rushing for the most yards in a season but it is highly unlikely.

Me: Your Steelers are not going to the playoffs, Jeff. Are the Giants do you think?

Jeff: The Giants need a lot of help to get to the playoffs. It's not very likely that it will happen.

Me: Alright, let's talk about how we did. You were winning by six I think. I don't have a chance, do I? Should I get my Kleenex out?

Jeff: After Week 16, we both went 2-1 with losses for our teams. So I maintain a six point lead going into the last week. But I have all the faith in the world.

Me: Okay, this weeks picks I say Falcons by 13, Buffalo by a touchdown and Tennessee by 10. What do you say?

Jeff: It is my pleasure to introduce the Phile readers to my wonderful girlfriend Lori who will make the last picks of the week for me.

Me: Well, this is unexpected. Cool, hello, Lori, what do you pick?

Lori: I will pick Houston over the Colts by 3 points, New England will win by 7 points and finally Denver by 7 points as well.

Me: Good job, and I will see you here next week. I gotta win!

Okay, today's pheatured guest is a singer songwriter from New York whose new CD "Satellite" is available on iTunes and CDBaby. She'll be next appearing at a Joni BLUE Tribute at Christopher Street Coffeehouse in New York City on January 3rd. Please welcome to the Phile... Anna Dagmar.

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

Anna: Hi, Jason, I'm doing well thanks!

Me: You're based in New York, right, but were born in England? Where in England?

Anna: Yes, I live in Manhattan. But I was born in Wellwyn Garden City, UK. I lived in St. Albans, which is about an hour north of London, until I was six years old.

Me: I'm from England as well, born in London. How long have you been in the States and how did you come to pick New York?

Anna: My family is originally from the States, although they spent twenty years in England. I am a dual citizen, which is wonderful. After spending my later childhood and adolescence in Chelmsford, MA, I went to Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Many of the students who graduated before me moved down to the Big Apple, so I followed suit!

Me: Do you get back to England often? Ever play there?

Anna: Yes! I went back to play three concerts in England during the first week of July!

Me: So, your parents are not British?

Anna: No, my dad's from Chicago and my mom was born in New York, grew up mostly in the Denver area.

Me: Your dad is a mathematician, am I right? Are you good at math?

Anna: I suck at math. My father studied math and philosophy at the PhD level. He helped me quite a bit with calculus in high school! I was very good at the visual aspects of math and understanding concepts. I was not as reliable with computation and would make little mistakes. But I did take the top class and tried to keep up with the kids who were going off to places like MIT. Don't ask me how to do derivatives anymore, it's been way too long!

Me: I don't even know what derivatives are. What do your parents think of your music?

Anna: They have been hugely supportive. I think more and more these days they understand what motivates me to write songs. They have always nurtured my classical and jazz piano studies. I am very blessed to have parents who believe music is an important pursuit and that I'm making a good contribution to culture and the arts.

Me: You've been writing music for a few years. Your latest album "Satellite" is your third album?

Anna: Technically it's my fourth full length. I did a full band record at Eastman called "One More Time in the Air", then a solo album in 2004, then another full band CD in 2009 titled "Let the Waves Come in Threes". "Satellite" is the fourth album, and is the second one which features Ben Wittman on drums and production.

Me: Did you start as a classical or jazz performer? Your new music is labelled as folk, Anna, how did you fall into scene?

Anna: Great question. I've been a wanderer! But I try to tie together all of my musical interests. I began classical piano at age seven, and I loved to practice and learn traditional repertoire such as Bach, Beethoven and Debussy. Around age 14 I had the opportunity to take jazz lessons. This was a real eye and ear opener! I began buying records by people like John Coltrane and Bill Evans. It wasn't until a couple years into my time in New York City that I started to associate with the folk world. This is because many singer-songwriters naturally fall into the folk world, as our music is so much about storytelling and lyrics. The world of mainstream pop is not always so supportive of the reflective qualities in our music. It's taken me a while to see the folk world fully as a place that also archives and celebrates long standing traditions and historical music. I don't play traditional folk, but I do have a lot of respect for the artists who preserve the threads of these sounds, and I have tried to pick up on the emphasis towards lyrics in folk music.

Me: Your song "Satellite" is kinda spiritual with the words. Is all your music like this?

Anna: No, I have a few songs that touch on spiritual content, including on my first two albums, two versions of a song called, "Facing and Angel." I am more interested in being open and uplifting in my lyrics than trying to advocate any one religious or spiritual view.

Me: When you write a song what comes first, music or the lyrics?

Anna: It's usually a combination. Sometimes I will have a set of lyrics going and some other music and one day I will realize they fit together! Other times, I play the piano for a while until I find patterns, then I sing wordless melodies along. Then the words grow out of the melodies. Other times a new tune gets stuck in my head while I'm walking around and I have to find a piano to figure it out! It's really any way that works... that's my way!

Me: What comes easier?

Anna: I think music overall comes easier. But it depends. Lyrics are sometimes brimming over in one's head because of a particular experience or emotion, and then they just flow out.

Me: I love your cover of one of my all time favorite songs, Anna, "Can't Help Falling In Love". Did you come up with that arrangement yourself?

Anna: Yes I did. I changed the chords and the time signature, yet I think it sounds remarkably natural. I tried to stay true to the essence of the song. I have to give Marc Shulman credit for that very pretty and subtle guitar texture he plays in the background. That was a stroke of inspiration he had during our rehearsal and the the other members of the band were able to form our parts around that.

Me: How did you choose to cover that song? Do you do any other covers?

Anna: I haven't recorded other covers but I've been known to perform some including "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder, various songs by Joni Mitchell and occasionally The Beatles. Then I have from time to time learned more obscure stuff like Anais Mitchell and of course lots of jazz standards!

Me: I sung "Sir Duke" in a school play once. You have been compared to Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Judy Collins and the more recent singer/songwriter Regina Spector. I can see that comparison but just because you play piano you shouldn't be compared to other piano players. Actually, do Mitchell and Collins play piano?

Anna: Yes, I think the piano thing is sometimes a label for critics, and they don't necessarily distinguish the styles between different pianists. I use the piano like a mini orchestra, in that I try to make every accompaniment very different according to the words and mood of the songs. All of the above artists also play the piano including Collins and Mitchell, but I would say our styles differ very much. I've learned to appreciate however, being compared to famous or legendary artists, even if I don't fully hear my music as the same style. At least it gives a sense many listeners could enjoy what I do if they enjoy the work of these familiar artists.

Me: Do you play any other instrument?

Anna: Nope! Well, except for voice. I'd like to learn the uke! No time but maybe one day!

Me: Who would you compare yourself to?

Anna: Gosh, when I think about comparison it's not so much the exact sound of the music as it is the intent. I like to think I am a risk taker and someone whose music is unpredictable. In that case, I would compare myself to artists like Jonatha Brooke, Jane Siberry, Sufjan Stevens etc... people that take a unique approach to their writing and try to reinvent themselves constantly.

Me: What music did you grow up listening to and what bands or singers do you listen to now?

Anna: Way too many to list. But skimming the surface right now I am listening to Simone Dinnerstein's recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations", Anais Mitchell's new album "Young Man in America," the Glyndeborne version of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," and for funky times... Bobby Womack!

Me: If you could record a duet with anybody, who would it be?

Anna: Ooh great question. How about Kermit the Frog? I've always been jealous of his singing partners... human or Muppet!

Me: I sound like Kermit when I sing, maybe we can do a duet. Did you go to school to study music? So many musicians I interviewed went to Berklee in Boston. You didn't go there though, right?

Anna: Yes, I went to Eastman School of Music. A good friend from high school went to Berklee, and yes it is known as one of the most popular places especially for contemporary music and pop. I was more interested in Eastman because I wanted to maintain my classical piano studies while working on jazz and composition. Eastman allowed me to combine all my interests, and the caliber of players there... well, it was really a butt kick for me!

Me: I have to mention the video for "Satellite", how long did it take to film that? Those ballerinas were making me dizzy going around and around your piano, with those light bulbs. Was it distracting?

Anna: Oh my! It was quite a process! I didn't shoot my own performance until 4am because we were at least six hours behind schedule. There were a lot of technical challenges, but my director had things under control and knew it was going to work out. I loved the motion of the dancers, but I know what you mean about getting dizzy. They were wonderfully open-minded about trying the GoPro cameras and Annie Sailer, the choreographer, came up with movements that were flexible and flowing, so they could get all kinds of interesting shots.

Me: I have a screenshot from the video here.

Me: I was hoping Natalie Portman or Mia Kunis were gonna make an appearance. The video was directed by Mitch Jacobson who worked with Aerosmith and Paul McCartney. Did he come up with the concept?

Anna: Yes! Mitch had an amazing idea to use the dancers as satellites. We honed the vision together, but I have to hand it to him, because he's the one who really "saw" in his mind what all those effects would look like! It worked out to be a lovely statement for the meaning of the song!

Me: Anna, apart from being a recording musician you teach as well, right? You teach piano?

Anna: Yes, it's a nice balance!

Me: Is that at your house in New York?

Anna: I actually go to my students. It helps me get out of the house and also have a separation between work and home life.

Me: Do you teach jazz, classical piano?

Anna: I teach both, but primarily classical. That's because I teach a lot of youngsters, and I try to give them a foundation in technique and reading before I can really get into the improvisation. We do early improvisation and composition, but not within a "jazz" context, more open in style. Later on I start introducing jazz concepts, especially if I can tell they dig they feel of it!

Me: Anna, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back when your next album comes out. I hope this was fun. Go ahead and plug your website and continued success.

Anna: Thanks again, Jason! This interview was a blast.

Well, there you go. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim, Jeff Trelewicz and his girlfriend Lori Sedlacek and of course Anna. The Phile will be back tomorrow with singer Markeisha Ensley and then on Monday the last entry of the year with The Venetian. I don't know if that's a band or a singer. Anyway, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.