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Saturday, May 30, 2015

What I'm Watching: Old NYC-Area TV Commercials

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Television and radio commercials occupy a strange netherworld in popular culture — and in our memories. Designed to be catchy but short of shelf-life, advertisements often worm their ways into our memory banks, where they continue to occupy little nooks long after their relevance has waned. They’re both disposable and highly memorable.

I grew up in the New York City metropolitan area, the nation’s largest television market, then and now. The regional TV commercials that I saw during my younger years were, like every U.S. region’s TV commercials, hokey and low-budget, but they were also of a marginally higher caliber than those of other cities. A larger potential viewership translates, in most cases, into a higher advertising budget. We New Yorkers are sophisticates, you know; we demand that our viewings of the nightly news be interrupted only by the finest in abrasive, haranguing advertising.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Style Patrol: Prepositions Are Creeping Up on Us

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 3:29 PM

DREAMSTIME.COM/ BRAD CALKINS
  • Dreamstime.com/ Brad Calkins

What's wrong with these sentences?

Maisie is obsessed with prom, so she volunteered to head up the decorations committee.

Every morning I rise up and brush my teeth.

When she makes an omelette, she adds in feta and fennel for an unusual flavor.

He despised the ruling regime, so he joined up with the resistance.

When Frank knelt down to look, he could see the floor was strewn with crack vials.

I'm guessing most readers don't see anything "wrong" here. When I edit stories for the paper, I see constructions like those bolded above all the time. And they're not incorrect — not in the sense that verb-with-preposition constructions such as "The desert lacks of water" and "We discussed about trade policy" are incorrect (for more examples of those errors, see here). All the verb forms above are familiar in colloquial English.

What they also are, in my view, is unnecessary. Cluttering. And more and more common in journalism and other writing.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

NPR Considers Vermont's Dog Mountain

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2015 at 11:20 AM

Dog Chapel, St. Johnsbury - COURTESY OF DOG MOUNTAIN
  • Courtesy of Dog Mountain
  • Dog Chapel, St. Johnsbury
Hey, fans of Dog Mountain, Stephen Huneck's artwork and/or dogs: National Public Radio's "Weekend All Things Considered" will feature "Dog Mountain: A Love Story" on Sunday, May 31. That program airs 5-6 p.m. on Vermont Public Radio.

The audio documentary was produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, a married couple who, like thousands of people before them, were enchanted with the late Huneck's Dog Chapel during a visit several years ago. The unique shrine-to-doggies-past has been the subject of many an article, including in Seven Days, as well as TV and radio programs. Through their nonprofit media company Long Haul Productions, Collison and Meister also created a website that "continues the story online."

The story is about Stephen and Gwen Huneck, who tragically died in separate suicides; as well as about the love that dog owners have for their furry friends. Woof.


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What I'm Watching: "Emma" by Hot Chocolate

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2015 at 9:00 AM

A few weeks ago, the musician Errol Brown died of liver cancer at the age of 71. Brown’s name is probably unfamiliar to most Americans, but his voice is not. Brown was the lead singer of the British soul-funk band Hot Chocolate, whose hit “You Sexy Thing” was big in 1975 and got even bigger in subsequent years. The frequent use of “You Sexy Thing” in ads and films (most memorably The Full Monty and Boogie Nights) means that Brown’s soulful hollering is burned into the audio-memories of many millions of people. Guy had a great set of pipes.

Brown and Hot Chocolate are far better known in the UK than they are in the U.S.; though the news of Brown’s death was overshadowed by Britain’s recent election results, it made more headlines there than it did here. The singer was even named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (inasmuch as a “British Empire” still exists) in 2003, but in the U.S. his name is barely recognized, and his band is known, if at all, as a one-hit wonder.

Turns out the Brits are on to something. Hot Chocolate was a damn fine band. It’s a shame they didn’t gain a larger following on this side of the Atlantic. America does seem to have an odd fixation with making sure its one-hit wonders never get recategorized, and that’s a pity.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

The First 50 Pages: Up, Back, and Away

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 2:01 PM

click image Artist Juan Wijngaard did this gorgeous cover, which really helps differentiate the book from other self-published titles. - COURTESY OF KIM VELK
  • Courtesy of Kim Velk
  • Artist Juan Wijngaard did this gorgeous cover, which really helps differentiate the book from other self-published titles.
In this twice-monthly Live Culture feature, I review the first 50 pages of a local book — and sometimes, if I feel like it, more. Go to the first installment for a more involved explanation.

This week, the book is Up, Back, and Away, a young-adult time travel adventure by K. (Kim) Velk of Stowe. She self-published print ($14.99) and e-book ($4.99) editions starting in 2013. The e-book currently appears on three Amazon subcategory bestseller lists.

The author
Velk is an assistant attorney general for the state of Vermont who calls herself "a writer by nights, weekends, etc. since forever." She used to write for Albany's alt-weekly Metroland. And she's a knowledgeable Anglophile, as her book-themed blog demonstrates.

The deal
Fifteen-year-old Texan Miles McTavish is on a mission. He must make his way to the top of a Vermont peak lugging an antique Royal Sunbeam bicycle, find a steep trail that leads between two birches, and ride the aforementioned bike down that trail while clutching a magic stone. If he does all this, he'll be transported back to 1928 — England in 1928 — where he must aid a "girl born out of her time."

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Bernie Sanders
Even Dogs Love Bernie

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 7:57 AM

"Beanie for Bernie" - COURTESY OF DAVID KLEIN
  • Courtesy of David Klein
  • "Beanie for Bernie"
When Sen. Bernie Sanders officially kicks off his presidential campaign next Tuesday, May 26, at Burlington's Waterfront Park, it will no doubt be a zoo. And at least one of the supporters there will be an exotic creature: a blue dog named Beanie.

"Beanie for Bernie" is the latest creation of East Calais artist David Klein, who has been making Beanie art for several decades. The original pup was quite vocal, apparently, hence the name Beanie the Singing Dog. And she, like her owner, is an activist, pacifist and comedian. (Klein works as a standup and actor and says he runs the monthly People's Café at Bagitos in Montpelier.)

Klein is also a master of wordplay ("Beanus of Willendorf," "Romeo and Beaniett"), art history appropriation ("Beanies Descending a Staircase") and alliteration. "Beanie for Bernie" meets that standard quite nicely.

Beanie creations are mostly folk-style dioramas of wood and papier-mâché, brilliantly painted in acrylic, though Klein also makes figurines. He made 200 of them for his daughter's wedding in 2009. "It took me a couple years to recover," he says. The couple in his box "Tessa and Adam" now have a child, which surely will inspire a baby-watching Beanie.

For now, Beanie is all about Bernie, and aims to bark the message loud and strong: Enough is enough. "It's a message that needs to get out," Klein says. "We demand a better world. Animals and people unite!'

Will doggie dioramas and posters help? Klein says yes. "Bernie has been saying the same thing for years, and it's more true than ever," he says. "With Beanie behind him, he's got a chance."

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Soundbites in Brief: Music News

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2015 at 12:26 PM

Dino Bravo - COURTESY OF DINO BRAVE
  • Courtesy of Dino Brave
  • Dino Bravo
This week's Soundbites column was a bit unusual in that it focused on a single subject, and a nonmusical one at that: local comedian Kyle Gagnon and his upcoming hourlong solo show as part of the Green Mountain Comedy Festival. But a few odds and ends from the local music scene are worth passing along this week. Here they are in a miniaturized extra edition of Soundbites.

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Going to the Pixies at the Flynn tonight? Of course you are. Before you go, check out our interview with Pixies drummer/magician David Lovering. Then, after you've rocked out to "Velouria" and "Where Is My Mind," swing by Nectar's for a free after rparty featuring local rockers Dino Bravo. There will be booze.

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Eclectic local country band the Woedoggies officially celebrate the release of their latest record, Sorrytown, with a gig at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington this Friday, May 22. The album has actually been out for a little while now, but it's worth belatedly celebrating. It's a fusion of country, blues and rock that offers a woozy, twisted take on Americana convention. Local bluegrass band Breakaway reunite for the show, which is also a benefit for the Humane Society of Chittenden County.

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The voting for the Seven Days Local Band Contest is heating up. With about a day to go — voting ends Friday at 5 p.m. — no clear favorite has emerged. That means there's still time for your favorite local band to make one last charge and win the honor of opening this year's Grand Point North Festival. Vote here.

———-
Last but not least, the music world was saddened by the recent passing of blues icon B.B. King. It's hard to overstate how greatly the man impacted modern music. And it's hard to put into words how much fans will miss King and how grateful we are to him.

So we turn to local guitarist and songwriter Dwight Ritcher (Dwight & Nicole). He sums it up nicely with his song, "Thank You BB." Thank you, Dwight.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

With Cofounder Departing, Spielpalast Cabaret Faces the Future

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley - COURTESY OF HEATHER HAYES
  • Courtesy of Heather Hayes
  • Phinneus Sonin and Lois Trombley
Now in its 14th year, Burlington's Spielpalast Cabaret has plenty of sassy, sexy history under its collective garter belt. Inspired by 1930s cabaret performances in Europe, the annual production presents a bevy of dancing, singing beauties and an always-awesome band. True to the Weimar era, Spielpalast mixes in skits that address topical issues — particularly that evergreen one, abuse of power.

It's gratifying to say that this saucy entertainment has become a Vermont institution that in no way, shape or form has anything to do with cows. This year's production — entering its last week at Main Street Landing's Black Box Theatre — offers what one has come to expect from Spielpalast: a freewheeling variety show featuring both borrowed and original music (primarily by musical director Zoe Christiansen) and a spirited band; just enough corny jokes; women whose attitude is at once flirty and don't-fuck-with-me; mesmerizing ensemble dance numbers; and a slightly fatalistic undertone that suggests we're all going to hell in a hand basket so we might as well have fun.

This while everyone's clad in lingerie or costumes that show a sea of tattooed young flesh to excellent advantage. (So ample is the body ink that its various artists ought to have considered handing out business cards during intermission.)

The 2015 production of Spielpalast Cabaret has another undertone: Cofounder Phinneus Sonin has announced it will be his last. "At least as the MC," he says of his juggling, impish impresario character, Maxi.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

What I'm Watching: Peeping Tom

Posted By on Sat, May 16, 2015 at 9:07 AM

Mark's first victim — as seen from his / his camera's / Michael Powell's / our point of view — in Peeping Tom - ANGLO-AMALGAMATED FILM DISTRIBUTORS
  • Anglo-amalgamated Film Distributors
  • Mark's first victim — as seen from his / his camera's / Michael Powell's / our point of view — in Peeping Tom
I can’t presume to add anything novel to the half-century of analysis of Michael Powell’s 1960 masterpiece Peeping Tom. Even though I’ve now seen it perhaps 20 times, this marvelous film remains inspiring and thought-provoking.

Peeping Tom is so clever, dense and gloriously cinematic as to be absolutely essential viewing for anyone who’s even marginally interested in film. I don’t put much stock in those “best films of all time” lists that appear in entertainment magazines on slow news weeks, but Peeping Tom truly belongs on them. As a musichead friend of mine once remarked after delving once again into the catalog of the Velvet Underground, some canonical texts have been ensconced in the Canon for some damn good reasons.

Just as the VU have earned a rightful place in the canon of popular music, so has Peeping Tom earned its place in the canon of Great Films. Both the Velvet Underground and Peeping Tom are massively creative, original and influential.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Lit News: River Arts Prepares for 'Celebration of Vermont Book Publishers'

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 4:36 PM

click image River Arts of Vermont building in Morrisville - COURTESY OF RIVER ARTS
  • Courtesy of River Arts
  • River Arts of Vermont building in Morrisville
Right now New York publishers are counting down to BookExpo America, the mega book-trade fair that takes place late every May in that city. Meanwhile, up in Morrisville, Vt., the folks at community arts center River Arts are planning a book fair on a rather smaller scale. It's a brand-new event called the Craft of Small Publishing in Vermont, subtitled "a celebration of Vermont book publishers."

Have you self-published a book? Then there could be a place for you at the event, scheduled for Sunday, June 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., "to kick off the summer reading season." River Arts is still seeking authors who'd like to reserve limited space to promote their books for a $20 participation fee.

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