Monday, November 27, 2006

Self-Promotion Alert II

My first article for The Reeler is up on their site. For those of you not familiar with The Reeler, you should get to know it. Devoted to the NYC film and culture scene, it is an entertainment site with intelligence and wit and utterly devoid of sycophanting. The Q&A is worth checking out, not because of my overall brilliance, but because the subject, Walter Mirisch is an important Hollywood figure. He and his brothers established an independent production company that worked with the studios, primarily UA, becoming a forerunner for Focus, Miramax, etc. He fostered long-standing relationships with Billy Wilder, John Sturges and many others to produce intelligent mainstream hits across all genres. Okay, that's it. If you want to know more, check out the piece.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Dead Schembechlers


Earlier this year, while working on a story for Wired, I came across a punk band known as the Dead Schembechlers. The only band spawned from a college football rivalry-- OSU vs. Michigan-- the quartet claims to have emerged from Columbus' "Wolverine hatecore" scene. All four are named Bo, after the hated Schembechler, but dress like their hero, Woody Hayes. The reason, front man Bo Biafra told me, is to "represent the inner conflict in all of mankind because we all have a bit of good and a bit of evil in us." Performing annually on the weekend of the big game in Columbus, the Schembechlers rally the Buckeye faithful with songs like "I Wipe My Ass With Wolverine Fur" and "Bomb Ann Arbor Now." They claim to have been injured almost every year, in post game riots and on stage, as when Biafra bit off the head of a live wolverine during one show and it bit him back. They have inspired loyalty in Columbus and hatred in Ohio with their rants about "the International Wolverine Conspiracy to enslave mankind." Biafra claims that that the Wolverines have never actually beaten the Buckeyes and that those who believe otherwise were placed under mind control. After Maurice Clarett was arrested this summer, he left me a message stating that the former RB, under mind control, had been sent to assassinate the band.

As the band's rants and rage have increased every year, so has their following. This year, they'll be playing at the Newport Music Hall, where luminaries like Elvis Costello have performed. The show will feature a Woody Hayes look-a-like contest. Check out their site for more details about their show and the International Wolverine Conspiracy.

Some people think the Schembechlers are joking, others take them seriously. But, one thing is for sure, in Columbus, when it comes to the Buckeyes, there is no room for kidding. I love the Schembechlers because, whether intentionally or not (I'll let you be the judge), they hold up a fun house mirror to the rabid excesses of the world of college football fandom.

Recently, I interviewed Biafra for Penthouse (on newsstands now). Unfortunately, the piece is not online accessible, but maybe I'll be able to post a pdf on this blog. Yesterday, I saw an interview that Pat Forde did with Biafra for espn.com. I wanted to jump up and down and shout that they had gotten the idea from, but that's unlikely. Really, I'm just happy to see the band get national pub.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

Recently I learned the sad news that my favorite book store in Manhattan, Coliseum Books, is going under. They're going to try to last through the holidays, but they're not sure if they'll be able to. The store, which died before, in its original incarnation on 57th street and Broadway, seemed to be successfully revived (God, will this metaphor ever end?) at its second locale on 42nd street across from the north end Bryant Park. For four years I worked on the south end of the park and would often walk through the park on my lunch break to browse through the store.

I'm going to miss Coliseum. The staff is knowledgeable about books of all types and their selection has both breadth and depth. Hopefully, it will have another incarnation, somehow, somewhere. For Coliseum's goodbye in its own words, go to the store's Web site.

But, I don't want this post to be purely an ode. While I am sad that Coliseum is going away, it brings up a larger question-- do independent bookstores serve any purpose? If you believe Slate, the answer is no. Joyce Carol Oates, according to a recent article (I can't recall the publication), loves to browse in the mega book chains.

I, however, would argue that these independent stores are worth preserving. First of all, for the benefit of the customers, each industry needs small book stores to keep them honest. If stores like Coliseum didn't stock obscure titles, the Barnes and Nobles of the world would have no compelling interest to do so and we would lose out. While used and obscure titles are much more readily available via e-tail, there is a culture of literacy, of sheer of books that the Slate article dismisses. There is value to being in a store where the employees know books and love books. On a practical level, they can help you find the right title, even if you can't remember the title or the author. There is nothing more maddening than getting a blank stare from a clerk at Barnes and Noble when you try to describe the book you're looking for. But, on a more intangible level, this atmosphere has value, even if can't be precisely quantified. If atmosphere mean nothing, why would be people value a restaurant's ambience instead of just settling for spartan-looking joints with quality food?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dana Carvey: Your Show of Shows


A while ago, a former coworker and I were discussing the amazing, obscure phenomenon that was The Dana Carvey Show. Looking at the imdb page of the short-lived—seven episode—talk show and we realized the incredible talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Listed among the writers were Dave Chappelle and Charlie Kaufman, with Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Carvey, and Robert Smigel (the man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) doing doing double duty as writers and performers.

My coworker said that is was the greatest assembled group of talent since Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Now, I wouldn't take it that far. This group doesn't quite match up to Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, but given the subsequent success of so many of them, it's surprising that this phenomenon has gone unnoticed.

I must confess that I have never seen the show (who among us has?), but it seems like an ideal candidate for a DVD release. Who wouldn't add it to their NetFlix queue just for the curiosity factor of seeing an early Carell or Colbert sketch or to find out if Kaufman' surrealist lunacy had bloomed yet. At the very least, you'd think the producers would sneak a few clips onto YouTube and see what the response was like.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Self-Promotion Alert

Recently, I interviewed AJ Schnack regarding his new documentary, "Kurt Cobain About A Son." The Q&A is really insightful-- not because of my shining brilliance-- but because of what AJ has to say about Kurt and about his aims with the film.

To hoist myself onto my soap box for but a moment, in a climate where everyone is trying to make the sensational out of the ordinary (a botched joke by a humorless senator comes to mind), it is refreshing to see someone take a figure who is inherently sensationalistic-- Kurt Cobain-- and try to demystify him. Rather than tap into the tabloid furor that still exists about Cobain (and has been explored ad nauseum in other films), AJ wants to explore his ordinariness. Or, as he says:

"...the film isn't about the bigness of him, it's about the humanity of him. The film is not about what it was like to write "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or be on the road with Tad in Europe. It's about who this one particular man was. "

Click here to read the rest of the interview.