Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Films - 2013

Here is my list for the best films of 2013.  There are still some films I have not seen that I will probably add to the list.

The Wolf of Wall Street, Dir. Martin Scorsese

American Hustle, Dir. David O. Russell

Before Midnight, Dir. Richard Linklater

Inside Llewyn Davis, Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

Ender's Game, Dir. Gavin Hood

Francis Ha, Dir. Noah Baumbach

Gravity, Dir. Alfonso Curan

Captain Phillips, Dir. Paul Greengrass

 Iron Man 3, Dir. Shane Black

Not Fade Away, Dir. David Chase

Prisoners, Dir. Denis Villeneuve

The Bling Ring, Dir. Sofia Coppola

Out of The Furnace, Dir. Scott Cooper

Mud, Dir. Jeff Nichols

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top Books - 2013

As posted last year, my yearly list entails books from different genres and periods of time. This was my first year teaching which tremendously cut down on my reading time, so I had to mix up fiction and non-fiction just to generate a top ten list. Here is my list of great books read for 2013 - no particular order. . . .  

The Year of the Flood (2009) by Margaret Atwood

A Visit from the Goon Squad (2002) by Jennifer Egan

The Tommyknockers (1987) by Stephen King

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (1990) by Stephen Rebello

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde

The Ice Storm (1994) by Rick Moody

Garden State (1992) by Rick Moody

Alone Together (2011) by Sherry Turkle

Talked to Death (1987) by Stephen Singular

The Gunslinger The Dark Tower I (1992) by Stephen King

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Reading and Signing of The Postcard

While visiting friends and family in the Hudson Valley this summer, I will be doing a book signing and reading from my novel The Postcard at Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, NY on July 13 at 4pm.

Set in the summer of 1990, The Postcard tells the story of upstate New York teenager James Bailey's last weekend with his metal head friends before leaving for college in California. The story follows James and his friends from hanging out in a dilapidated strip mall parking lot, to the urban pavement of New York City to see a hardcore matinee show at CBGB. Travelling with James and his entourage is Stacey, an ex-metal chick (now hardcore/punk rocker). James and Stacey share some history: a spontaneous one-night affair-a night seven months ago that continues to silently haunt their friendship.

I self-published my novel in the Fall of 2010.  Busy completing my Ph.D, I did not have the time or opportunity to celebrate the book's publication with my friends and family.

The postcard is available as e-book and paperback on Amazon

I am currently completing my second novel tentatively called "Dressed to Kill."  I expect to have the book ready for publication early next year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Live and Record...In Memoriam: Jacques Cohen (1968-2012)

This blog site was created for a graduate course I took at Claremont Graduate University, and has been used mostly for academic purposes, as well as short and random pieces on the arts. Having a friend unexpectedly pass away this week, Mike Toback, and then just learning that another good friend of mine had died last March, I thought it be appropriate to write about this.

I have been working on a number of projects this year: the almost completion of the first draft of my second novel; an article that I am about to submit for peer review; and the upcoming release of the demo I recorded with my band Skybox from New York.

Having all the materials prepared for the release of the Skybox EP, I thought it be appropriate that I contact my friend Jacques Cohen, who recorded the demo at his studio called "The Space," in Poughkeespie, New York.  It had been 4 years since I talked to Jacques, and wanted to see if he was on Facebook.  I knew he would be excited about the release.  When I googled his name, I saw that there was a memorial concert for him at The Loft in Poughkeepsie this past summer.  My heart instantly sank.  I did another search, which required to me to type the dreaded word "obituary," and learned that Jacques did pass away last March at the young age of 44.  

Anyone discussing the Hudson Valley music scene, Jacques' name is sure to come up.  A talented and gifted sound engineer, Jacques has recorded a number of bands in and around the area for a long time.  He was also known for his work with Mercury Rev.  Jacques was a very kind and giving person, who was a supporter of the music scene.  Jacques would not accept payment until the recording was completely done.  And he did not charge by the hour, because he believed that putting out quality work is the number one priority.  It not only gave him credibility as a place to record, but also gave the band a professional sound at an affordable cost.  When I was recommended by a friend to use Tune Core to sell our music on iTunes and Amazon, I did not have to worry about the quality of Skybox's sound, because Jacques had done such a great job recording, mixing and mastering those 6 songs.

I got to work with Jacques three more times.  The second was for a 9 song demo for Skybox, which we never finished.  The third was with my thrash band Smashed Rapture in 1998.  I was living in Burlington, Vermont at the time and convinced my band members that we had to make the trip from Burlington to Poughkeepsie to record at The Space.  The last recording was a small project I made with my friend and singer of Smashed Rapture in 1999.

I have great memories of Jacques, especially when he came to Burlington for a business trip - not for The Space, but for regular 9-5 work.  Me, my wife and Jacques went out for Mexican food and had a great time.   My last conversation with Jacques was right before I left to go to California to attend graduate school. I had planned to pick up the rest of our recordings that Jacques had stored for us, because I was unsure if I was coming back to the east coast.  Jacques was unable to get the tapes out of storage because he had moved the location of The Space.  Talking with Jacques, he told me about a house he had bought so he could live and record in the same place.  Live and record - that was Jacques.  I will miss him tremendously. RIP Jacques....

There is a scholarship fund created for Jacques at Dutchess Communtiy College, his alma mater.  Be sure to indicate that the scholarship is in memory of Jacques Cohen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fables - The Great Crossover

For the past two years, I have been reading the comic book series Fables, which I highly recommend.  If you enjoy the television show Once Upon A Time, you'll find some similarities in both story worlds. I just finished reading "The Great Crossover" (Volume 13) and was amazed of Willingham et al's. creative fusion of literary subjects in these 9 issues. The story basically centers on Kevin Thorn aka "The Storymaker" who wants to re-write the universe with his magic pen. To do this, he draws upon the "genres," which are played be characters, such as western, blockbuster, comedy, noir, and science-fiction. The Fables team, with the help of "The Literals," to try to stop Thorn before he re-writes them out of existence!  This was a fun and engrossing read.  In fact, if you plan to read Fables, I suggest starting at the beginning.  Another gem from Vertigo comics.

Random Review - January 19, 2013

Peyton Place (1957)
Dir. Mark Robertson

For fans of the television show Twin Peaks (1990-1991), Peyton Place is important to film to view.  David Lynch has acknowledged its influence on the show.  There are many similarities between both the television show and the film: the main source of employment is a mill; many of the characters are high school teenagers; the postcard images of a small town and the values of its community.  But most importantly is the dramatic tension in concealing secrets.  Of course, Twin Peaks was marketed as a murder mystery: who killed Laura Palmer?  In Peyton Place, there is a desire to know each others' secrets, which generates most of the narrative tension.  The patrons of Peyton Place constantly watch each other, causing one another to be conscious of their own looking.

Peyton Place is also know for its powerful use of Cinemascope photography.  There are many breathtaking shots of New England that I am sure play better on the big screen. Cinemascope and Cinerama were new technologies created in response to the popularity of television and the changing leisure habits in the USA.  

But it would be wrong to suggest that the widescreen images of Peyton Place are there just for purely spectacle means.  These gorgeous shot must be considered in relation to the space the characters inhibit.  The small town of Peyton Place is where sexuality and intimacy are taboo.  These secret places, by way of contrast, are where the young characters can escape to in order to be intimate and to express their feeling...one of many things to enjoy about Peyton Place.