Bob Allen talks about George Jones on the Breakfast Club show

Bob Allen, author of George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend, met up with the folks at the Breakfast Club on WBUT in Butler, Pa., to talk about his book and the life of George Jones! Check out the podcast here.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00122446George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend by Bob Allen  is a hard-hitting portrait of one of the most revered singers in the history of country music.  Jones’s nearly six-decade-long career has had a profound impact on modern country music and has influenced several younger generations of singers, including Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, and others.

Jones, who died last year at the age of 81, recorded classics like “Why, Baby, Why” (1955), “Window Up Above” (1960), “The Race is On” (1964), “Golden Ring” (1976 as a duet with ex-wife tammy Wynette) and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980).  These Jones hits and others have earned indelible inclusion in the pantheon of all-time country classics. Along the way, Jones recorded duets with everyone from Garth Brooks, Linda Ronstadt, and Elvis Costello to Ray Charles, Keith Richards, and Gene Pitney.

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For his longevity and influence, Jones was awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 2008, and that same year, was inducted into the Country Music Hal of Fame. In 2012, he earned a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

In George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend, Allen recounts Jones’s larger-than-life tale of rags to riches and (at least for awhile) back to rags again. From the start, Jones’s life, as often reflected in his music, was shaped by misdirection, chaos, turmoil, and emotional strife aggravated by a ferocious appetite for alcohol.  Fame and adulation seemed to only intensify his personal travails.  As he once observed, “All my life, it seems like I’ve been running from something.  If I knew what it was, maybe I could run in the right direction, but I always seem to end up going the other way.”

 

Listen: Scott Von Doviak on Pop Culture Tonight

Scott Von Doviak, author of the Stephen King Films FAQ met up with Patrick Phillips on Pop Culture Tonight to talk about his book and the King of Horror!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

Stephen King Films FAQOver the past four decades, the Stephen King movie has become a genre unto itself. The prolific writer’s works have spawned well over 100 adaptations for both the big and small screen, ranging from modern classics of horror (CarrieThe Shining) to Oscar-nominated fare (The Shawshank RedemptionThe Green Mile) to unapologetic, B-movie schlock (the King-directed Maximum Overdrive). The filmmakers to put their stamp on King’s material include acclaimed auteurs Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, and Brian De Palma; masters of horror Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, and George Romero; and popular mainstream directors Rob Reiner, Frank Darabont, and Lawrence Kasdan. Stephen King Films FAQ is the most comprehensive overview of this body of work to date, encompassing well-known hits as well as forgotten obscurities, critical darlings and reviled flops, films that influenced King as well as those that have followed in his footsteps, upcoming and unmade projects, and selected works in other media (including comic books, radio dramas, and the infamous Carrie musical). Author Scott Von Doviak provides background information, analysis, and trivia regarding the various films and television productions, including “Bloodlines” sections on related works and “Deep Cuts” sections collecting additional odd facts and ephemera. All you ever wanted to know about the king of horror onscreen can be found here.

Q&A with Leonard Slatkin

Conducting Business by Leonard Slatkin gives a unique look inside a unique profession. Slatkin recently sat down with Stay Thirsty Magazine to answer some questions about his book and how he himself rose to the position of maestro. You can read the rest of the interview here!

 

00333460I’d like to begin with a biographical note from your 2012 publication, Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro (Amadeus Press). You were effectively assured of victory had you entered the international competition to determine an assistant conductor for the NY Philharmonic. This was back in the 1960′s, when Leonard Bernstein was at the podium and arguably at the height of his popularity (via the Young People’s Concerts, which ran on CBS from 1958 to 1972). Essentially, you “turned him down.” Did you ever fear repercussions in your career? Also, what are your thoughts vis-à-vis competitions for conductors?

At the time, I was still a student, and I really hadn’t thought about my career. I had a number of options to consider, beginning with getting drafted! I might have been in the army, in which case I would have been an arranger for NORAD. I was also offered the opportunity to become the assistant conductor at St. Louis, and I had this chance to go to the Mitropoulos Competition. The latter, however, I had to turn down, because I simply did not want to be in a position that I hadn’t earned legitimately. No, I didn’t really “think about it” all that much. It bothered me; it disturbed me. I realized I could win the competition not for what I could do, but simply for who I was. I found that notion annoying. I should append that to this day I generally recoil at the idea of competitions as the way to “spot a talent,” even though I’m involved with one – the Van Cliburn Competition. Moreover, there will be an announcement fairly soon about my relationship with that organization, and it will become clear why I have chosen to accept it.

Competitions are arguably more suited for athletics, and the similarity dissipates pretty quickly. Of course, we “play” music or some sport, and the competitor is deemed only as “good” as he is on that particular day. However, we really need the “long-term” to be able to judge, particularly with a conductor. How does the individual relate to the orchestra? Other questions arise as well – knowledge of the score, technical command, and ability to garner the respect of the orchestral musicians. It’s really pretty difficult, if not impossible, to tell that in a conducting competition, and I hope I never have to be in the position of judging one.

Of course, I do have to judge other conductors, especially when we audition assistant conductors, but usually I can start that process during the course of an interview that takes place. Obviously, one needs to be able to conduct and relate well to the orchestra, but I want to see what other things the applicants bring to the table – communication skills; whether they write well and speak well; the ideas they may have for educational programs:  in other words, the “total package.” However, these intangibles are not what judges score, and so I’m decidedly not a fan of conducting competitions, since I feel I can’t really learn anything substantive from them.

 

I agree. In fact, I am reminded of Arthur Rubinstein’s famous quote, “Competitions are for horses, not people.” 

I suppose that for some it’s a necessary evil. There are those who attune their entire mentalities toward the objective of winning a competition. However, what do they do for the rest of their lives?

 

 

 

 

An unexpected “Mimi” in Saturday’s La Bohème!

La Bohème can stake its claim as the world’s most popular opera. It has a marvelous ability to make a powerful first impression (even on those new to opera) and to reveal unexpected treasures after dozens of hearings.  Last Saturday’s performance at Metropolitan Opera, however, had one especially large “unexpected treasure”. In fact, this performance is sure to go down in history in terms of last-minute cast changes! At 7:30 AM on the airing date of La Bohème’s broadcast performance of the Met’s Live in HD series, soprano Kristine Opolais received a call asking her to stand in as the leading lady in that afternoon’s show. Anita Hartig, the soprano who had been rehearsing for the part of Mimi, unexpectedly took ill and had to step out of the performance. Opolais, who has just hours previously sung the title role of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, graciously agreed to  perform in the show that would be broadcasted not only to the Met’s audience of 3,800, but would also be transmitted to radio stations and to movie theaters around the world. 

Read the New York Times’ article on Opolais’ unexpected performance HERE .

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The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Puccini’s La Bohème is the latest in the Metropolitan Opera Presents Libretto Library Series by Amadeus Press. In this groundbreaking book series, classic and well-known operas are presented in a fresh new package. Each book features the complete libretto; color image inserts from Met Opera productions, including stage scenes, costumes, and set photos and illustrations; a Met Opera libretto “In Focus” feature; and official Met Opera program notes.

Q&A with Robert Blumenfeld

Robert Blumenfeld, author of Teach Yourself Accents: Europe, chats with The Playbill Collector about his new book on April 4th. Click here for the full interview!

What is your background in dialect coaching?

 I studied French as an undergraduate at Rutgers where I also studied German and Italian and got into accents and dialects there.  I continued my French studies in grad school at Columbia, and took courses in phonetics and teaching French, including the accent. When I got into professional acting, I also started coaching accents. And I have taught accents at professional studios, and done private and production coaching.  I use lots of accents in my various audiobook recordings.  Audio recording is the majority of where I spend my time now.

When was your first book released?

In 1998 I released “Accents: A Manual for Actors”.

What was the main reason for writing your newest book “Teach Yourself Accents: Europe“?

The book is for a new generation of actors.  I wanted to provide something that has an easy method to follow.

Who is your target audience?

Younger actors but the series is equally useful to seasoned professional actors and amateurs.

00109570Teach Yourself Accents: Europe, A Handbook for Young Actors and Speakersthe third volume in dialect coach Robert Blumenfeld’s new series on accents, covers the European accents most useful for the stage and screen: French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Yiddish. The most important features of each accent are detailed, enabling the actor to begin immediately to sound authentic, and Mr. Blumenfeld’s unique approach makes the accents easily comprehensible.

 

John D. Luerssen on Kurt Cobain

Cobain Lives

By John D. Luerssen

Nirvana FAQ available here

Although I’d much rather think of my new book, Nirvana FAQAll That’s Left to Know About the Most Important Band of the 1990’s as a celebration of the band’s achievements timed to coincide with the trio’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, I have been fielding questions about my thoughts on Kurt Cobain’s suicide, which took place 20 years ago this week.

I remember Friday, April 8, 1994 – the day an electrician named Gary Smith discovered his body – pretty clearly. By mid-afternoon, Kurt Loder was on MTV reporting the news and I sat stunned, choking down a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich on my couch in the small apartment I shared with my fiancée, now my wife.  As Rolling Stone writer David Fricke – who had previously interviewed Cobain – spoke live in the studio with Loder about Kurt, I slid a blank tape in my VCR and recorded it.

I hadn’t looked at that tape for nineteen years until last spring, when I found it while I was cleaning out my basement. At the time I was in the throes of writing my third entry in Hal Leonard’s FAQ book series (I am know writing my fourth, The Smiths FAQ), I watched a few minutes of it before I turned it off and  threw it out. It was a sad piece of rock history that I had little desire to relive.

Last week I had the same reaction as the media got ahold of unreleased photos from the scene of Kurt’s suicide. Here’s a cigarette butt. Here’s Kurt’s heroin kit. Man, what a drag.

As troubled as Kurt’s life had been, there was also a ton of humor and a lot of joy in his existence as I have chronicled in the pages of Nirvana FAQ. Cobain was a world class wiseass, who once told an interviewer that Budweiser “tastes like piss,” goaded Axl Rose by calling him an “obnoxious idiot” in the media, called Andrew “Dice” Clay a “stupid f–k” and stood up to chauvinist jerks whenever he could. Ultimately, he became a champion of gay rights who endorsed individualism.

He also proudly exposed the bands he loved, like the Vaselines, the Breeders, the Melvins, the Butthole Surfers, Jad Fair and Teenage Fanclub to a wider audience. The day after Kurt wore his Daniel Johnston t-shirt on Saturday Night Live, I went to Vintage Vinyl in Fords, New Jersey to seek out his music. I had gotten there too late. Johnston’s catalog had sold out.

On top of all of this, Cobain penned one of the most memorable hard rock songs of all time with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When interviewers tried to praise him for the effort, including Fricke in a 1994 interview before his passing, Kurt dismissed it as “such a clichéd riff” and admitted he nicked it – in part – from Boston’s 1976 classic “More Than a Feeling.” It was one of the rock bands he discovered through his father’s subscription to Columbia House in the late 1970’s.

When I think about Cobain’s legacy, I always think of and beyond his catalog to his willingness to push boundaries. He absolutely loved to break balls. Even when he couldn’t speak, he’d find a work around. Of course we all remember Nirvana’s April 16, 1992 RS cover, in which he famously wore the homemade t-shirt that read “Corporate Magazines Still Suck.” He was, and remains, one of a kind.

The Zombie Film excerpt

Here is an excerpt from The Zombie Film by Alain SIlver and James Ursini!  Take A Closer Look here!

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Zombies (and the Movies About Them)

by Linda Brookover

10. They’re ugly. Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body notwith- standing (was Jennifer really a zombie, after all), taken as a horde or as individuals with their swollen tongues, yellow eyes, skin that suggests much too long a stay in a tanning bed/grave, and sunken (or missing) cheekbones…I’ll grant that “R” in Warm Bodies has a certain je ne sais quoi; but he gets de-zombified. Before that was someone actually considering sex with a zombie. Deadgirl may turn on some desperate jocks but, seriously, guys, could you really imagine getting it on with the lovely pictured below? These hideous creatures give the Frankenstein’s monster and just about any ghoul that ever haunted the screen a shuffle for their money.

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 1.22.13 PM

 

9. Speaking of that: They can’t dance. Yes, yes, I’ve seen the “Thriller” video and that is the exception that proves the observation. Sure boyfriends may have come back from the cemetery to attend the prom, but they were still geeks with no sense of rhythm.

8. They’re undead and uncouth. They have no sense of personal space and constantly seek to violate that of whomever they encounter without compunction, such as bashing their heads through car windows. As for table manners, well, if you have seen just one of these movies, enough said.

7. They’re not very romantic—in the literal rather than the literary sense, but actually not in that sense either. Even in the misbegotten comedies that involve teen couples, they are simply never huggable. Can you imagine a zombie date, a zombie valentine, or, perish the thought, zombie sex? Even the most hardcore necrophile would have to be repulsed.

6. Despite no sex, they breed faster than rabbits. Sure you could argue that it is not actual breeding, but what else would you call it? It starts with just one zombie moving into the neighborhood, and before you know it the kids next door are inviting themselves to lunch…off your flesh.

5. They have no fashion sense. They look like they slept in their clothes. Even if they never spent time in a coffin but went right from ordinary life to zombiefied after being bitten, their previously unremarkable wardrobe is suddenly very shabby and somehow still looks like it was worn inside a freshly dug grave: it’s dirty, shredded, and bloodstained. If vampires rep- resent the height of movie monster fashion, zombies without question are the nadir.

4. They look like they smell bad. One can only presume that from the reactions and occasional com- ments of those who encounter them, so thank heaven Smell- O-Vision no longer exists. I mean Scent of a Mystery was one thing, can you really imagine Scent of a Zombie. Eew!

3. They’re pathetic. Okay, there may be the occasional zombie for whom the word “hope- less” has some emotional heft, who is capable of experiencing some angst, as in Warm Bodies or Zombie Honeymoon or Deadheads; but 99% could never strike a tragic pose or express anything other than a ravenous hunger. Except for a coup de grâce, nothing can be done to help them as they overrun the environment. Perhaps the real reason people like to watch them on screen is to feel better about themselves.

2. They tried to kill Brad Pitt, probably the only person that could get me to pay hard- earned money to see a zombie movie. It’s one thing to threaten the unknown (at the time, and probably still) low-budget performers in Night of the Living Dead and hey, would you really have cared if they managed to devour Jesse Eisenberg (his attitude was a tad conde- scending) in Zombieland; but hands off Brad.

And the Number 1 reason to hate movie zombies:

You can show me all the Zombie Strippers you want, like the one above and I’m sorry but They’re boring. Conversation is limited to the occasional grunt or perhaps a rattle in their throat like a reverse hiccup, often accompanied by the clacking sound of their deformed teeth biting together in anticipation of finding your neck. If the “dissedents” in Juan of the Dead really had a political agenda, it might be something more than a biting satire about biting people. Tragically some of these post-persons were probably lively conversational- ists when still were still breathing, but now.