Three Cups of Tea: Promoting Peace

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is an inspiring account of one man’s work to build schools in some of the most dangerous areas of Asia.

Greg Mortenson with some of the Korphe children

In 1993, Greg Mortenson, an experienced mountain climber, sets out to conquer the world’s second highest mountain, K2, in hopes of placing his recently deceased sister’s necklace on top. After his struggles to climb and his eventual failed attempt, Mortenson finds himself in the tiny city of Korphe, a town full of impoverished and malnourished children.

Greg can’t ignore the desperate attempts of the children to learn, as he watches them in the most inclement weather using sticks in the dirt to complete math problems. Determined to change the lives of these children and to repay the community for their honest hospitality, Mortenson dedicates himself fully (and I stress fully) to a promise of returning and building a school for its children.

After his return to America, Mortenson sends out hundreds of letters to the rich and famous, explaining his plan and asking for small donations to help. Jean Hoerni, a dying Silicon Valley pioneer, is the sole dedicator, writing Mortenson a check for 12,000, in exchange for a photo of the school before his death.

Greg spends the next few years traveling from American to Korphe, saving as much money as he can and balancing his new wife and child.

Three Cups of Tea will take you on Mortenson’s adventure and inspire anyone who believes that one person can make a huge difference.

Christina Paone


The Rise of the Awful Band Name

January 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

If you want to make it in the music industry these days, you’re gonna need a good band name.  Change your name, move to Canada, Brooklyn, the UK, Omaha, or the South immediately if you have any hopes of “making it.”  And by making it I mean being signed to Taang Records, and playing shows at Kungfu Necktie.

Look onward, you, with your great band name, playing at Kungfu Necktie soon!

Don’t focus on your sound focus on your name.  For example, the road to success is paved by band names that include animals, band names with the word “black” in them, band names that are nauseating, or band names that make absolutely no sense.

Animals.  Only band names using wolves, deer, horses, bears, and birds are acceptable at the moment.

There’s Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade, Sea Wolf, Peter & The Wolf, Patrick Wolf, We Are Wolves, Turbo Wolf, and Wolf Mother.  There’s Deerhoof, Deer Tick, Deerhunter, Dear & The Headlights, The Deer Tracks, Reindeer Selection, and Elvis Perkins in Deerland.

There’s Horse Feathers, Night Horse, An Horse, Toy Horses, Drunk Horse, Sparklehorse, Band of Horses, Horse the Band, and New Young Pony Club.  There’s Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Bear In Heaven, Angry vs. The Bear, Bear vs. Shark, Panda & Angel, and Minus The Bear.  And there’s The Bird & The Bee, Birds of Tokyo, Birds of Whales, The Late Birds, Wallis Bird, Thunder Birds Are Now!, Bird Man, Bobby Birdman, and The Dodos.

Other notables include:  Fleet Foxes, Frightened Rabbit, Dr. Dog, Atomic Kitten, Dinosaur Jr., Lipstick Liontigers, Baby Lion Teeth, and my personal favorite, So Cow.

Please raise your hand now if you have heard of any of these bands.

Pissed Jeans...

Bands that use the word black are definitely on top of things, because it is always best to let your audience know that you will be singing about very dark subject matter.  Black Lips, Black Keys, Black Gold, Black Kids, Black Tide, Black Stone Cherry, Black Sheep, The Black Crows, Black Moth Super Rainbow…

Please if you are going to start a band, give it a name that makes your audience want to throw up at its utterance.  For instance: Pissed Jeans, Ringworm, Discharge, The Moldy Peaches, The Blow, Cattle Decapitation, and Cute Lepers.

Or, if you can’t think of your own name, please steal it from somewhere else: The Devil Wears Prada, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Love, She Wrote, Sinatrah, Drink Up Buttercup, or Titus Andronicus.

Let’s not forget all those talented DJs out there composing from their MacBooks; they have good names, too.  In the Philadelphia area alone there’s DJ Sammy Slice, DJ Frosty, DJ Deejay, and DJ F@#! Yeah.

We’ve even figured out a way to pronounce a punctuation mark, thanks to !!! (enunciated “Chk Chk Chk,” since you had to ask).

And where exactly does one go to find out about all these wonderful bands coming to you?  R5 Productions, of course.  R5 is a “Do It Yourself” show promotions agency, informing teens and twenty-something music lovers of the “indie” scene, of every show in the Philadelphia area.  R5 is a “for the kids by the kids” type of operation.

If somehow you get on their mailing list, you will receive 75 emails a week about the upcoming Ting Tings show.

Braids is opening for Baths, seen above.

Hold on, I just got another update.  “Laying Waste has been added to Superdrag,” “Qatsi added to Feelies Show,” and “Boy With Robot added to Takka Takka Show.”

And due to popular demand the Pomegranates’ show with Hot Tub (yes, that is a band), has been moved to the Starlight Ballroom!

Maybe it’s just that all the good names are taken.  Who’s to say what a good band name is anyway?  Maybe it is “Motionless in White With My Hero is Me.”  Don’t forget to get your tix!

P.S. I hadn’t glanced at R5 lately, and it seems there’s never a shortage of new and great band names: Baths, EyehateGod, Murder By Death… And good news: Pissed Jeans is still going strong, rock on!

By: Liz Harrington

Eric Henkels: Wearing His Heart on His Sleeve

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Vulnerability and openness are two feelings one can anticipate before they listen to the serene, melodious tunes that Eric Henkels so honestly produces. Former member of Find Vienna, Eric now spends his time wholeheartedly absorbed in his most recent solo project.

At the age of three, with his grandfather’s eager ear listening to his erratic banging on the keyboard, Eric discovered his calling and his passion.

“Music has been in my life literally as long as I can physically remember,” he says.

Finding his direction, Eric played in numerous bands covering a wide variety of genres. From punk rock to pop, indie to jazz, Eric finally “grew into himself” with his realization that singer-songwriters like Elliott Smith and Ben Gibbard were his true heroes. “If somebody can sit there and listen to you play a song alone and think ‘oh my god that’s beautiful’,” he said, “imagine what you can do when you add instrumentation.”

A little boy claps as Eric and friend play guitar.

Although Eric enjoys playing numerous instruments, he admits that piano is his favorite (with guitar as a close second). Playing the piano comes easy to Eric, as having a conversation or texting somebody comes easy to everyone else. “There is nothing quite like the rush I get when I start going nuts on the piano,” he confesses, “I’m so comfortable with it.”

When it comes to song writing, Eric is his own worst critic. However, despite the quickness he has to admit this, Eric produces songs that are both smooth and easy to listen to. His favorite, Robes and Crowns was the result of a life-changing experience after visiting Ireland and England. “I came home, put my guitar in really weird tuning, and just started playing,” he said, “[Robes and Crowns] was the first thing I came up with, and I’m really proud of it.”

Like all musicians, Eric’s music has evolved enormously. The first song Eric ever wrote with his best friend, Mike, was called “3 PM”, amusingly because that’s the time that his middle school let out. “That’s the beautiful thing about music,” he says, “it changes and moves and grows up as you change and move and grow up.”

Speaking of changing and growing, Eric is sure to impress any listener with his recent cover of his favorite Bon Iver track, Blindsided. This brave and adept rendition wells up all your emotions at once. Using his voice as a musical tool, Eric sings acapella and creates a beautiful harmony by layering different tracks of his voice. The result is a calming, moving piece that only a skillful musician could produce.

"Inspiration is a weird thing in that it can strike you in the strangest places."

“The thing that makes Blindsided so beautiful to me is the way that the harmonies intertwine with the driving acoustic guitar riff,” he says.

Right now, Eric is concentrating on recording his solo album, which will be called “Every Day is a Year.” The album will consist of two separate sides, one called “A Day” and the other “A Year.” An idea he has been toying with for quite some time, Eric hopes to demonstrate two separate sides of himself with this album. A Day will contain mostly acoustic, lo-fi intimate songs while A Year will be louder and bigger. “I want people to see and hear the wide range of emotions that I feel on a weekly basis.”

To listen to the tracks from Every Day is a Year, be sure to check out Eric’s bandcamp. Some of his other covers can be heard on his myspace.

“I want my music to reach everybody, no exceptions,” Eric admits, “There’s not a single person out there that I don’t want to touch with my music. It’s idealistic, but…. Hey. Whatever.”

By: Christina Paone

The Coen Brothers prove their ‘True Grit’

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Coen brothers do not remember enough of the original version of True Grit to remake the film, given the fact that they have not seen it since they were young boys.  No, what they truly meant to remake was the 1968 novel of the same name, by Charles Portis.

Not influenced by John Wayne’s portrayal of Marshall Rooster Cogburn, the Coens were rather taken by the bold characters, morality tale and ominous tone of the 19th century west represented in the novel.

The story follows the young and determined Mattie Ross, played by Hailee Steinfeld, on her journey to avenge her father’s murder.  In the film’s beginning, the 14-year-old Mattie travels to handle the unfinished business of her father.  Displaying her dauntlessness, she spends a night in a funeral parlor, and successfully bargains her way to a horse and $300 from a horse trader trying to cheat her. Through her persistence, Mattie prods Rooster Cogburn, a disheveled, hard-nosed drunk, and the grittiest Marshall in town, to aid her in capturing the outlaw Tom Chaney by venturing into Indian territory.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges

Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon, is also tracking Chaney, but for the $1,000 bounty accrued for the killing of a Senator and his dog.  The stiff, long-winded and humorless LaBoeuf embarks with the one-eyed, facetious Cogburn, as they agree to split the reward.  However, this was not part of the agreement for Mattie, who hired Cogburn to have Chaney hang for murdering her father, not shooting a Senator’s dog.  She is intent on seeing the job done, setting the three on a course that will test their true resolve.

It is exceptional to see a western that isn’t romanticized to its core.  There is nothing appealing about living in essentially 1870s western anarchy, where life expectancy is short in a kill or be killed society (and the pragmatic Marshall Cogburn chooses the former) .  But the Coens’ darkness is always paired with light.  A dying cowboy pleads to be buried.  Later, after neglecting the cowboy’s wish, Rooster explains, “Ground’s too hard. Them men wanted a decent burial, they should have got themselves killed in summer” (it is in the dead of winter after all).

The Coen brothers have the ability not to simply parody a genre, but recreate it.  Whether it’s a prohibition Irish gangster film, a 1960s suburb version of Job, or homage to the fast-talking newspapermen dramas of the 1930s, the trace of the Coens is undeniable, but also not diverting.

One of the ways the filmmakers achieve a convincing portrayal of this time period is simply by staying true to the novel.  Most of

One of the many eccentric characters that embody a Coen brothers film, in their 2010 release "True Grit."

the dialogue was taken directly from the book, which was written in the vernacular of the old west.  In most period pieces the language is indistinguishable from any other film in which the speech sounds like a Hollywood script.  The language cements an essence of other worldliness. Joel Coen said, “It was a frequent occurrence on the set that an actor would inadvertently use a contraction, and we would ask them not to…  And the actors welcomed that to be faithful to the book.”

After months of searching for the right girl to cast, the Coens were lucky to find Steinfeld, who steals the movie with a compelling performance.  Herself only just turning 14 in December, she exhibits poise and intelligence in mastering the language of the film (a main inhibitor of casting the part), and heart of the role.  She embodies wisdom beyond her years in her spirit that makes her an equal match for anyone, and at the same time a naivete in comparing the capturing of a murderous fugitive to a coon hunt.

And although the part of Rooster was written only from the novel, and not with any particular actor in mind, Jeff Bridges was the obvious choice on what the Coens admit was a short list.  The consistency and depth of the role is masterful, engulfing the gruff, flawed and in turn very human character.  It is only Bridges who can be pictured half drunk and snoring in his underwear, and still have the audience find him lovable.  No role is wasted, and all the actors appear unrecognizable in what the viewer finds himself absorbed in for the film’s duration.

The Coens may have been in awe upon viewing True Grit in 1969.  But since, they have only watched the trailer.  The Coen brothers simply like to tell good stories, stories that show the real grit of humanity, and as long as they do, they will always have an audience.

By: Liz Harrington

Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events

January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Elizabeth Street, a novel based on true events, tells the story of the Italian immigrant experience at the start of the 20th century.

Using her own family history as a template for her story, Laurie Fabiano introduces the main character, Giovanna Costa, as a strong and independent bride-to-be.

Laurie Fabiano, author of Elizabeth Street

Giovanna immigrates to America a few months after marriage to mourn the loss of her recent husband, Nunzio. Setting out to make a new life for his family back in Italy, Nunzio was killed in a dangerous construction accident leaving Giovanna to fend for herself. Desperately trying to move away from her suffering, Giovanna tries to see the beauty and promise that her husband saw in America.

In all of her anguish, Giovanna tries to make a new life in a brand new world. Trying to familiarize and save herself from fading into the fast-paced New York environment, Giovanna surrounds herself with familiar smells and sights of Little Italy in New York’s Lower East Side.

Elizabeth Street view in 1912, New York.

After exploring the streets of New York and recognizing her desperate need for companionship, Giovanna reluctantly settles into a second marriage with two children. Her marriage brings along a new and thriving business in which Giovanna proudly takes part of. Not soon after the business picks up, Giovanna and her husband are harassed by the undercover and notorious Black Hand. Giovanna resists the threats of the Mafia, desperately trying to preserve her newly constructed life.

Elizabeth Street paints a picture of an underprivileged Italian family and debunks any previously romanticized depictions of the mob.

By: Christina Paone

Nicole’s Threads: Colorful, Comfortable, & Cute

January 17, 2011 § 1 Comment


Nicole's favorite piece right now is a green dress with patchwork pockets. Highly influenced by traditional american folk art and quilts, Nicole saves her scrap pieces and incorporates them into her line.

From a small town in Vermont, where the sun rarely shines in winter, a determined twenty-four year old girl works at producing a unique and hand-made clothing collection.

Nicole Erin Carey of Wolcott, Vermont, moved from Philadelphia and carried her talent along with her.

Inside her apartment, where she lives with her boyfriend and two dogs, Nicole works endlessly at producing a vivid collection with an array of colors and textures. Using her everyday life as inspiration for her designs, Nicole strives to make Nicole’s Threads comfortable and easy to wear.

“I design mostly with my own ideals for what I like wearing,” she says.

Fabric covered button earrings, $10.00 on Etsy

Nicole’s clothing screams vagabond chic. Her articles vary from cow neck sweaters to long plaid skirts and vibrant legwarmers. It is clear that Nicole works tediously and patiently as most of her clothing has some form of intricate mélange that can only be achieved by her obvious dedication.

Each of Nicole’s pieces is mostly one of a kind. With this mindset, Nicole ensures the individuality of her designs by using a variety of accents and combinations.

Nicole works mostly with vintage and remnant fabrics and carefully incorporates them into her designs. Her use of scrap fabric explains a lot of the patchwork that appears within her work.  “I love how little things like buttons, rickrack and other trim can entirely change the mood my garment sets.”

Without a set method to her design process, Nicole’s fabric carries her inspiration.  Instead of sketching or mapping out an idea, Nicole lets the fabric and colors encourage her and follows in the direction they lead.

Nicole’s creativity is not limited to her line of clothing. Not unlike the construction of her clothes is Nicole’s rustic jewelry some of which consists of scrap fabric and others are made with ceramic material. Her wide varieties of antiquarian button earrings add a finishing touch to her garments.

Patchwork neck/head warmer lined with green fleece. $40.00 on Etsy.

Nicole sits in high spirits as a part of something she feels is continuing to grow. With hopes for her business on Etsy, Nicole’s is sure to continue to thrive. “It’s a happy community that is very self-sustaining and supportive of one another,” she says.

Looking forward to the production of her next line, Nicole will design using mostly organic, hand-dyed cotton material.

“It’s coming soon, look out!” she warns.

Nicole’s customers are very satisfied with her fast delivery, comfortable items, and cute packaging.

With an Etsy shop featuring more than 70 articles of clothing, 62 pairs of earrings, and 50 plus accessories, there is sure to be something for everyone. Visit Nicole’s On-line Etsy Store here or view her music side project.

By: Christina Paone

Peasant Strives for Artistic Perfection

January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Speaking for the wind: Damien DeRose of Peasant.

Damien DeRose is his own worst critic.  Founder and sole member of the acoustic folk band Peasant, out of Doylestown, PA, DeRose sets his own standard for art in today’s music industry, and sets it high.

In the dynamics between popular artists playing in stadiums and an abundance of independents playing in local dive bars, DeRose is mainly on a quest to write the perfect song.  While he classifies his music as Folk Pop Dream, he calls most of the pop on the radio “crap.”

DeRose’s songs are characterized by his solemn voice laced over acoustic guitar and piano.  His reverence for nature (album covers featuring an oasis in the woods, or photo shoots of DeRose lying in an open field) comes through songs with earthy moods.  In one he declares, “I am speaking for the wind.”

His sound burns with the fervor of releasing his innermost convictions, with a mix of slower guitar based folk songs and more resonant alternative tracks.  “We’re Good,” off his first album, occupies a thin realm between joyfully optimistic and haunting uncertainty:  “Time’s got so much in stock I don’t know where to start,” he opens.

Since he decided to pursue his passion as a career, Peasant has attained success, whether in the studio or on tour.  DeRose has compiled three albums: Shady Retreat, On The Ground, and the single The End.

Now signed to the independent label Paper Garden Records, DeRose will be recording this winter.  A break from an international tour which included shows in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Netherlands, London, Norwich, Hüllhorst, Germany, Amsterdam, and Clermont-Ferrand, France.

“I had no expectations,” he said upon entering music as a career.  “Therefore I have more than fulfilled them.”

DeRose returns to the recording studio this winter.

Influenced by The Beatles and The Beach Boys at a young age, today he strives to stay true as an artist, and is more than optimistic about the music industry in the age of media piracy.

When asked about file sharing and its impact on record sales, DeRose exclaims, “It’s fantastic!”  DeRose is satisfied with any way to spread his art.  “If people truly love your music they will still buy your records and pay to see you play live,” he says.  The Internet allows audiences access to Peasant’s music, and DeBose appreciates the opportunity “to get into peoples ears.”

As weekly album sales hit a record low last September, selling out venues is a vital way for an artist to make a living musically.  And as for those who sell out arenas?  “Musicians shouldn’t be cardboard cutouts who do the dance moves they are told to do,” he says.

“If you wish to create something that is pure and from yourself, as soon as you start trying to please people you stop being yourself and that’s not what art is about,” he continues.  But even with the profuseness and brief staying power of musicians today, DeRose believes it is still possible to become a legend, citing Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain as modern day luminaries.

For now, DeRose is content with plucking his guitar.  “I would like to keep doing this all my life, until I am dead with a guitar in my hand,” he says.

But when he does write that perfect song?  “I may feel fulfilled completely.  But I doubt that will happen before I’m in the ground either.”

By: Liz Harrington

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