Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bottomless Links: The Ho Ho Ho Edition

Holiday Tunage

Kellen muses about Vince Guaraldi's genius soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." (a personal fav of mine too!)

Came across this blog dedicated entirely to Christmas music on record. I now feel very inspired to dig up my 1983 Care Bear Christmas album and play it on my record player.

Winter Wonderlands

Neil posted some beautiful pics of his Midwest home in the snow.

... so did Swinebread in Portland.

Holiday Inspiration

from Races In Places encouraging you to run off those holiday cookies!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bottomless Picture of the Day: Bottomless Cup

C'mon... how could I not post this?!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays

Here's to holiday cookies, hot beverages, shiny packages, festive music, friends, family, and lots and lots of snow!

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The return of the Wednesday


I have not been to Midtown Comics, or any comic book store, since Tuesday, September 23. I can't even remember the last time I went on a Wednesday. Until yesterday.

The decision to stop buying comics was not a conscious one. Not really. Not at first. I just found myself not going. I haven't had too much spare change lately, and frankly, I've been a bit disenchanted with the comic scene recently. Whereas Infinite Crisis tantalized me seductively into the DCU, Final Crisis rubbed me wrong, ushering me coldly back out.

But... I've never been one to hold grudges, not for too long at least, and I now feel ready to slip in the back door unnoticed and slowly start to feel my way back into the nerdy multiverse I've come to miss. Plus I've got some great titles for some new tunes (how does "Booster's Gold"and "Earth-11" sound?) and have some requests, but need to do the reading before I start the writing.

So, to test the waters, yesterday I timidly climbed the flight of stairs to Midtown's 7th Ave location, completely in the dark as to which titles released this week and how far behind I was in my former collections.

Stepping into the shop, I immediately remembered why I avoided Wednesdays, or at least Wednesdays after 5:00. The place was packed! Jammed full of over-grown boys eager to grab their bags and peruse the long boxes. I humbly made my way to the new release rack and stood back, taking in all the issues I hadn't heard of and trying to remember exactly where I left off.

Now I've been asked many times by my male friends what it's like to be a girl in a comic book store. Do I constantly get hit on? Is there obnoxious staring involved (what is that? a girl?)? And the truth is, I've never been hit on- I'm hardly ever noticed. I'm telling you, these boys want their comics, not to pick up some chick. Besides, at a place like Midtown, girls aren't really an anomaly. This, however, was not my experience yesterday.

Looking like crap (read: no make-up on, dirty hair pulled back, and large overcoat on in a failed attempt to cover my running clothes as the gym was my next stop) I was approached by an overzealous Midtown employee. No, I don't need any help, thank you, I politely told him, I'm just browsing. I couldn't dare admit to my ignorance of the past few months. After a bit of looking, I finally located the most recent WW and picked up a Tiny Titans. I was at a bit of a loss as I was expecting to pick up massive back issues and so didn't bring any cash; there is a $10 credit card minimum and my 2 books barely made $5. How should I make up the difference? I was contemplating this when the dude came back! I see you are buying for children, he states with a friendly smile.




No, I reply with slight impatience, I just really like Tiny Titans. They crack me up.

Oh yeah, they're great, he converses. My mind is screaming leave me alone! but I smile with as much politeness as I can muster. He points out the WW book and comments on how great that issue is. I again respond with a noncommittal smile. Honestly, I'd been shopping all day, was tired, no longer wanted to go to the gym, felt gross, was disappointingly uncomfortable in my grand return to comics, and just wanted to be left alone! You know Terra is a great book, he ventures. OMG!!! I DO NOT NEED F*CKING RECOMMENDATIONS!!!! That's cool, I reply.

After a few awkward jokes about superheroes dying and coming back, he leaves me be. I grab 2 issues of Birds of Prey, and beeline to the register. Moments later I sit back on the 1 train and open my WW for the ride home as has long been my tradition.

Ahhh... I smile. It's good to be back.

Friday, December 12, 2008

RIP: Bettie Page

RIP Bettie Page: 1923-2008

Atomic Romance
The Beat

When asked, I answer

If you are unfamiliar with Glowing Realm's 10 Questions column, you should definitely check it out.

GR was kinda enough to interview myself in the most recent questioning.

Past interrogations include Jessica Pavone, Darcy James Argue and Matana Roberts to list just a few.

While your on the site, check out the rest of Glows in the Dark's blog, whose music is to cult movies what mine is to comic books.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bottomless Links: The Superchick Edition

I haven't bought a comic book in over a month.

It makes me sad and I miss them. But hey, times are tough and it's just too hard to go into Midtown and buy just one.

And then I hear news about cancellations and I get even sadder.

Word came out a few days ago that DC was canceling not only Batman spin-offs Nightwing and Robin, but also my beloved Birds of Prey. Reports are not sure whether these cancellations are in order to tie into Grant Morrison's Batman R.I.P. or just a result of bad sales. Either way, I may have to dig through the couch cushions for enough change to buy the remaining few BOP issues.

Sad as I am, this commercial cheered me up:

Now I'm sure this commercial offended some people, but I make no apologies. I love Christina Aguilera and if any celeb was going to make a comic book reference, it may as well be her!

Speaking of celebs as superheroes, I learned from Occasional Superheroine that Beyonce is vying for the role of Wonder Woman. Matt Brady reports further at Newsarama.

My take? If the still unannounced movie is going to go the route of shiny PG superhero movie, then why the hell not? I still have my fingers crossed for a darker take on the Amazon Princess, more Batman Begins then Superman Returns. Personally, if we can't have Joss, I would love a WW movie directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chocolate Superheroes!

Superheroes stormed the NYC Chocolate Show! Among the rooster were Wonder Woman, Bat Girl, Iron Man, and Xena.

Great pics by the City Sweet Tooth here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I've spent this past evening completely tied to the computer sending out thank yous for all those who attended the BCJO gig last week.

This has taken several glasses of wine, and many, many hours. Why you ask? Not because I've been sending out individual thank yous, but because I, like so many of my contemporaries, have fallen into the trap of internet over-saturation.

First it was the thank you blog post, then the thank you website emailer, then the thank you Facebook fan page update, not to mention the uploading of tunes and video to ReverbNation, MySpace and YouTube. I sincerely feel bad for the people that in attempt to show support have signed up as "fans," etc. and have received my "Thank You" on repeat ad nasseum tonight (and to those people I offer my sincerest apologies)!

The problem is, in attempt to self-promote, it is easy to over do it. With all the available tools at hand, and with the trends ever changing (remember when Friendster was cool?), one finds themselves signed up to so many "communities" they begin to cancel each other out. My boyfriend laughs at me when I am online for long periods of time because I invariably keep a million tabs open at one time, each with one of my 3 active email accounts open, as well as Facebook, Sitemeter sometimes, and invariably some other community that I check with an OCD compliance every hour on the hour in addition to the one or two others that I am actually actively using.

One almost starts to equate their self-worth and confidence with the amount of activity generated by this internet socializing, particularly as it relates to one's music. Do I have another fan? Has anyone commented on this new post? Why not? How many plays do I have today? It can really create a false sense of security.

Not to mention confusion for those who truly want to support you as a "fan." Do they really need to be your MySpace friend, sign up to your mailing list, be a Facebook fan, a ReverbNation fan, and follow your every Twitter status update (which I found myself signing up for tonight!) to prove they support your music? Does one really expect these people to follow your every move, download your latest upload, and comment on every wacky status update you post? All in the name of promoting your music? And with so many reminders and updates from so many places, it wouldn't be completely unreasonable for said fan to start to ignore it all. Again with the canceling each other out.

And yet... I don't see myself cancelling any of my accounts. It's like an addiction almost. And a morbid curiosity to see which outlet will actually prove effective.

I suppose if one had the budget, one could do away with the generic Dynamod website and pay to have your music branded into a single website with a built-in blog, mailing list and downloading capabilities complete with trackers and statistics and filters galore.

But I know I am not there yet.

And while I could stand to cool it on the compulsive refreshing, I will continue to streamline as best I can under my given situation. This is the part where I point out the ReverbNation "fan collector" to the right of this post.

Do you want to receive emails with probably the same information you'll read on this blog? Do you want access to "exclusive" fan downloads for tunes you will most likely listen to just once? Then go ahead, enter that email address into the little green box and enable my internet addiction and false sense of popularity (as of the start of this post I had 14 fans on RN, let me check... sweet! I got one more!).

In all seriousness and impending hangover non withstanding, I am attempting to streamline what little fandom I have into ReverbNation. I welcome feedback and advice from those more experienced (and sober) in these matters and hope you will join me on this flighty dot-commy self-promoting ride (so drop that email into that green box)!

I now leave you for my warm bed and a tall glass of water with this last little bit of internet promotion:

That's Mike Fahie soloing on the second take of "The Injustice League" at the Brooklyn Lyceum this past Oct. 15.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

We get by with a little help from our friends

Mike Fahie solos on The Injustice League

Last week
the Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra has it's debut at the Brooklyn Lyceum. It was an incredible experience to be in front of so many great musicians hearing my music played and an even greater experience to hear people say they liked what they heard. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people made it out and wanted to send a public heartfelt thank you to all of you who came with open ears and hearty applause, making the night a success.

I don't think fans realize how important their role is to musicians like myself. When one spends hours upon days upon weeks upon months writing and rewriting and revising and cleaning and printing music, sacrificing coffees with friends, blog writing, marathon training, good weather and precious hours of sleep in addition to hour upon hour of phone calls, emails, text messages, and Facebook messages to musicians and potential audience members, it can be a crushing defeat to have few attendees present to witness the fruition of all your hard work. In the beginning, when few people know you, and you are still ironing out logistical bumps and personal writing style, an emerging artist like myself can really only rely on friends and family, many who would not normally find themselves at a "jazz" or "new music" show, filling the empty chairs. I feel extremely grateful that more than the expected 3 people showed up last week. It is with their support that music like mine can continue its growth and evolution into something that can one day be enjoyed by more than just close, obliging and supportive friends.

Being a musician, much less a composer and bandleader in the jazz genre, which is a genre that continues to gray as musicians who started off as "jazzers" find themselves cross-pollinating with other genres, is a bit of a masochistic endeavor. No one really listens to jazz. Those that do are usually other jazz musicians. The definition of jazz continues to become looser and looser and in the process people are taking sides a la Heroes, and there go a few less audience members. It costs WAY more money to put on a show than what is received from your half of the door (half if you're lucky), making fan attendance crucial if in no way other than from a financial standpoint.

When looked at plainly (and a bit bitterly), a composer like myself uses all of her time to write music for an extremely minuscule pool of listeners, losing money in the process. As Darcy James Argue said in Glowing Realm's Ten Questions column, "Believe me, if it was remotely possible for me to do something other with my life than lead an 18-piece big band, I’d do that. In a heartbeat."

But what keeps us from getting dark upon our career choice are nights like last Wednesday, when expectations are exceeded and one finds herself supported by enthusiastic applause and smiles from the audience. You can't help but feel an incredible sense of gratitude, not only to your musicians who do the rehearsals and gigs for barely enough to cover that night's dinner, but to your friends, your fans, your supporters.

Speaking of Darcy and the need for support, Darcy is embarking upon a venture that most of us only dream of: a studio recording. If putting on a big band show is expensive, recording a big band album is obscene. These days its not hard for most musicians with small groups to record, many in their own homes. The home technology is amazing, unless you have upwards of 15 people in your band. So for now, until space for a large recording studio becomes a common amenity for NY apartments, big bands are stuck doing either live recordings or relying once again on those family, friends, and fans for the financial support to make a studio recording.

And all of this is contingent upon finding a record label that doesn't completely rob the artist of the money to be made off the recording. Darcy, the intrepid entrepreneur that he is, has discovered a record label that not only allows the artist to keep an initial 80% of the profits, but does not dictate the music to be recorded, as so many other labels are fond of. Darcy explains it better:

...what I like best about New Amsterdam is that the label brings together a group of artists that feels like a community without feeling like it's bound to a specific musical ideology. Beyond a basic agreement on a set of core principles that would go without saying in most circles -- "popular music is art," "embracing diverse influences is cool," "grooves feel good," "smart music can be fun" -- there's really not a definitive sound or style that you could pin down as being "the New Amsterdam thing." And while it's not exactly a "jazz" label, I feel that the kind of music I've been pursuing with Secret Society is, in a lot of ways, closer in spirit to what many NewAm artists are doing than it is to contemporary mainstream jazz.

Now, given some of my anti-record label comments on this blog in the past, some may be surprised that I am going with a label at all for our debut recording. Labels, we are told, are over. The contracts are irredeemably exploitative -- you have to give up ownership of your creative work, and these days they don't really do all that much to help you anyway. In fact, there's every chance they will seriously fuck you without your knowledge or consent. The thing to do is to put it out youself.

Well, sure. That's one way to do it -- and more power to those who do. But there is also value in being part of a movement. There's value in being associated with like-minded artists. There's value in trying to be constructive, in trying to build a mutually supportive scene. This is what New Amsterdam has set out to accomplish. And it's not just a bunch of hand-wavy crap either. Founders William Britelle, Judd Greenstein, and Sarah Kirkland Snider are all formidable composers themselves, and they are genuinely commited to fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between artist and label. Don't believe me? New Amsterdam's Arist Agreement is a publically available Google Document. You can read it right here.

Some highlights:

• You retain full ownership of all material on your album, including the master recording itself.

• Gross proceeds from album sales are split 80/20 [in the artist's favor] until artists costs are recouped, at which point the split moves permanently to 50/50.

• Proceeds, including CD sales, from live performances that are booked/presented by New Amsterdam are split 80/20 in favor of the artist. New Amsterdam gets nothing from shows that are booked/presented by the artists.

• This agreement is valid for 4 years from the release date of each record (on a record-by-record, not artist-by-artist basis). At the end of the term, both parties may agree to extend this term. If the term is not extended, New Amsterdam will no longer collect any proceeds related to the master recording.

Compare that to a typical major label contract. No, go ahead. I'll wait.

While it is incredibly exciting to find such a caring label, the reality is they are not giving away freebies. Money still has to be raised, and that is no easy task. Darcy explains further:

Last Sunday I posted in praise of New Amsterdam Records, who will be releasing our debut recording. I also posted a link to the NewAm Artist Agreement, which details, in plain English, the financial arrangement I have with them. As you can see, it is extremely artist-positive — I retain full copyright of the recording and proceeds from album sales are split 80/20 in my favor until the recording costs are recouped.

The flip side of this, however, is that the artist does not get an advance to pay for recording costs. However, since in a traditional record contract, the "advance" is often a one-way ticket to perpetual indentured servitude, the NewAm terms are ultimately much more favorable. But it does mean that the responsibility of raising the necessary capital to make the recording in the first place is 100% on the artist. And recording a big band in the studio is a crushingly expensive proposition — which is why I have avoided it thus far.


The reality is, we cannot make this album without your help.

Basically, in addition to a few monetary compensations from recent awards won, Darcy is relying solely on the generous hearts and wallets of his fans, of his supporters, to pay for the initial fee. He is taking a leap of faith that enough people out there will extend their support past filling an empty chair to filling the missing dollars needed to make this next step towards furthering the path of contemporary music.

The sad truth is, we are not the popular music. There are no talent scouts or "big breaks" to be had in our area of the musical neighborhood. When I told my dad I had a gig with my band at a venue in Brooklyn, his first question was, "Any chance some talent scouts will be there? Maybe this could be your big break!" If only the remote possibility of this were to exist! No dad, mine is not the music of talent scouts and record producers. My music and others' like it exist entirely without the padding of record advances and media hype and only on the immediate support of it's listeners. And this why extremely talented musicians like Darcy are forced to rely financially on his fan base in order to progress.

I have long since been a fan of Darcy's Secret Society. I beseech you, if you haven't checked out his music, do it. Visit his blog, MySpace, Facebook, or New Amsterdam listing, whatever floats your Internet boat, and consider donating. If you have ever read his blog or downloaded his free live recordings, consider donating. If you are interested in being a part of small things that lead to greatness, consider donating.

It's a hard time financially and you have every right to want more information before willingly handing over the few dollars that could upgrade tonight's dinner from pasta noodles in butter to pasta in olive oil with spinach salad and wine. Read his plea, listen to his music. If you don't like it, go buy that bottle of red. But if you do like what you hear, consider this: You have a a chance to be a part of something reactionary. Something that is literally taking today's artistic music to the next ground. Something that is defiant to the economic crisis put upon us by those who probably have one Wynton Marsalis CD and consider themselves culturally well rounded. Music may be getting cut from the schools to save money, but we do not have to let music die entirely!

I thank everyone who supported me in my recent pursuits; I hope you will consider supporting Darcy as well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dark Nights: Music for Superheroes & Their Alter Egos

Dark Nights
Music for Superheroes & Their Alter Egos

The Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra's NYC Premiere!
You don't want to miss this history making night of coffee, comics, and music!

Wed, Oct. 15, 2008

at the Brooklyn Lyceum

2 sets at 8:00 & 9:30

$10 cover



Erica vonKleist
Geoff Burke
Janelle Reichman
Joseph Edward Perez
Tom Abbott


Sam Hoyt
Jason Weisman
Nadje Noordhuis
Lis Rubard

Mike Fahie
Pete McIvor
James Zeller
Max Seigel


Aaron Kotler
Zaid Shukri
Jerome Jennings

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bottomless Picture of the Day: Orange Mocha Frappuccinos!

Orange Mocha Frappuccino!

I'm not one for political commentary, but I do love Zoolander. So when this image, titled "Sarah who?...we got this!" appeared in my inbox courtesy of my sister, after laughing my ass off, I felt obliged to share.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Races in Places

Running keeps my abstract compositional mind stable. I devote a good deal of time and energy towards training for marathons partially to burn off the chicken vindaloo and paratha I seem to consume on a daily basis, but also because running keeps me from going out of my mind when in writer's mode (which, if you've been reading, is supposed to be a full time job now). The endorphins help battle the musical depression and the training runs force me out of my apartment, oftentimes making it the only time I leave.

In addition to complimenting my music driven lifestyle, my recent trip to Australia (posts on that soon to follow, I swear!) showed me just how much running can enrich that getting-to-know-you of a new town. I decided that in addition to wanting to be a rock star musical journalist, I also deem to be a rock star running journalist... or something. Basically, I just want to continue to travel and explore the world and I see a way through music and running.

My best friend J and I have joked about our "club" Races in Places as far back as our first marathon in 2001, the Mayor's Midnight Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. We've decided to make it somewhat official and open it up to the many other anonymous runners out there who, like us, scrape our pennies for the chance to run in a new place. It is our hope to build a community of like-minded runners to share resources and awareness of running in other cultures with an ultimate goal of organizing events and publications to use this ever popular sport to promote global harmony.


(think that will get me some grant money to go running in Madagascar?)

In all seriousness, if you're into running, whether it be for health or competition, check out our new blog. Like this one, it focuses less on the nitty-gritty of the sport and more on the peripherals such as the comradery and of course... the travel that are involved in running.

And I know what you may be thinking... didn't I quit my job so that I could stay home and become a composer? Not full-time blogger?

Well, we all know how I like to procrastinate...!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Life and Music

from Matt's site

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back 2 School... or not

Today just over 1 million New York City public school kids and teachers joined millions more of likeminded individuals across the country to end the summer with their first day of school. For the first time in 24 years, I was not one of them.

I, like so many other musicians, have followed an academic calendar in one way or another since the day I first got on that yellow school bus as a shy 5-year-old. Whether as a student or teacher, the waning hours of daylight, the resurgence of new TV episodes, and those first tentative scents of apple cinnamon and ginger molasses have translated to one thing: the start of classes. But this September I will not be joining the ranks of the pencil wielders and rule givers. This past June I decided to quit my elementary school and not look for a job replacement. I feel very passionately that when a teacher reaches burn-out, they have a responsibility to themselves, their students, and the profession to not remain in the classroom. So out of the classroom I have removed myself. I have also been frustrated with the direction my composition career hasn’t taken, and the seeming necessity for a musician to have to teach in order to earn any significant form of income. And so I enter this fall curious to see how life functions without lesson plans and hopeful that I can I figure out a way to make an actual living off of composition, sans teaching.

Ah, to be free from 55 minute time intervals and name memorization! Yet, I must admit to feelings of guilt as I watch my friends’ Facebook statuses announce their reluctant return to school. The concept of the Teacher Musician has been successfully hammered into my psyche. It seems a necessity, even an obligation, for musicians to also be teachers. I certainly agree that when someone has honed a talent and skill, it is their duty at some point in some way to pass on their knowledge. If they didn’t, then the skill would die, or never evolve. But this transference should only happen when the giver is ready to give. It should not occur simply because it could, and definitely not because others think it should. Yet it seems society dictates that in order to be make a career out of music, if primarily only for financial support, one must also teach.

Or is that really society’s voice and not a lemming-like tendency to simply follow what others before have done? Too often musicians “fall back” to teaching as a way to supplement, or support, their income. It is incredibly frustrating that after years of studying and practicing, the reality sets in that playing music, particularly jazz music, does not pay the bills. Even professionals are forced to take up college jobs to make ends meet and that is part of the lifestyle we have come to expect from our chosen profession. Teaching seems like a natural solution as it still involves the music we are passionate about, and usually pays better than the hourly wage at Starbucks.

But teaching is not a cake job. Teachers are not people that drift in and out of lives unnoticed like this morning’s barista. Teachers have a profound effect on their students and that responsibility should not be taken lightly. I firmly believe that aside from practicing medicine, or perhaps construction, teaching is the worst profession to mess up. To me, a bad teacher is one of the worst things in the world. We’ve all had them, and they suck! If we are lucky, a bad teacher simply teaches us nothing and inspires even less. In the worst case, a bad teacher can give us false information, confuse us, ill-prepare us, set us on the wrong paths, or even inspire a self-doubt that takes years to overcome.

What makes a bad teacher? What makes a good teacher? Teachers are fallible. They are not perfect and like parents, they are destined to make mistakes that have unintended effects on their students. What makes a teacher excel is the desire to recognize and overcome these mistakes; to remain humble and continue the learning process; to listen to criticism and be willing to try new things; to adapt to changing times and attempt to connect with the student; to have patience and keep the student’s potential a priority; and to be able to know when to keep their own insecurities, frustrations with administration, and day-to-day troubles out of the classroom. In order to do these things, a teacher must have a passion and love for teaching. They must recognize and enjoy the small rewards of teaching enough to endure the multitude of stress and frustrations that accompany education. If a teacher does not have a sincere desire to help the students, everything that the teacher preaches will become hollow, and the students will know it, and it will not pass unrecognized.

In addition to the academia, teachers are responsible for an invisible curriculum. These are the lessons that teach children (and adults) how to respond and interact in different environments and circumstances. Students observe and often mimic how their teacher treats others, how problems get resolved, and how discomfort and stress is dealt with. For me, this was one of the hardest parts of teaching. Every time I disciplined a child, I hoped that I was teaching a positive lesson, and not creating a monster (which I feel happens way more than we like to admit). Teachers are the ultimate role model. Again, a job not to be taken lightly. If a person does not have the awareness to deal with all of this responsibility, if they can not balance their personal life with their educational life, that person should not teach.

For the past year I have been privately teaching a first grader to play recorder. She has probably been my toughest student to date. For about 4 months I could not crack a smile or a joke without her completely disregarding my authority and acting like a spoiled brat. Our lessons were like boot camp with me relentlessly in her face informing her in my firmest voice that I was her teacher and if I said she played a B instead of a G then she should not argue with me and instead play the G correctly. Eventually I earned her respect and now our lessons are as they should be- fun, lots of smiles and jokes, and significant progress on learning to read and play music (both Bs and Gs!). Last May we were preparing a trio of “Scarborough Fair” for her spring recital. We had been working on this song for almost 4 months and there was one part in the song where she held 2 tied half notes over the barline while my alto part moved in quarter notes. For some reason she missed this part EVERY time. Now, I don’t know if it was because I had been correcting this measure and isolating it for months to no avail, or if it was simply because when she missed the tie and moved on to the next measure I didn’t get to play my pretty counterpoint, but on one particular day in May, I lost it. LOST IT. I have never felt such rage and violence erupt inside me, EVER. I have no idea how I ended that lesson with out completely tearing her to shreds both verbally and physically. I was shocked by the depths of which I could feel such hatred for such a small child. It was a wake up call to me. I realized that day that my patience reserves were bone dry. I also realized that I had lost the perspective that teaching is not exclusively about the music. Did it really matter that she missed this tie? Large scale. Did it? Did the world really depend on whether or not this 7 year old let the 30 year old play the counterpoint? Did her action warrant my reaction?




And it was then that I realized that I was no longer fit to teach.

At least not right now. I had reached that point of burn-out that can erode teachers away to bitter, bitter creatures. I did not want that for myself, or for my students.

I found that I was blaming and resenting the teaching and by extension, the students, and music in general, for taking away precious time that could be used to advance my rock star composition career. So I am taking time off. I fully expect to return to teaching after a little break, and to be honest, I have kept a little private teaching on my weekly schedule. But I’d like to take the jump and see what it’s like to be a full time composer. (We’ll see how that goes and I’ll keep ya updated!)

Meanwhile, I am obviously back from Australia and have a bunch of things from the trip I’ll be posting over the next week or so. Unfortunately, my laptop decided it could not function in the southern hemisphere so I wasn’t able to post real-time (note to self: ditch the PC and get a Mac).

Good luck to all those teachers who returned to work today, or within the last few weeks and weeks to come. I admire your commitment, and I wish you the clarity, creativity and patience that I myself lost. I also hope that if your heart is not in it, you will have the wisdom to recognize this, and pull out or reevaluate before you drown in that cold, bitter sea of resentment. I will soon rejoin the ranks and help to pass on the passion for music and composition that I hope to rekindle in all my upcoming “free” time.

They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.
-- Anonymous

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bottomless Picture of the Day- Manly News Headline

I thought this was funny.

From a mural of odd news headlines painted along the Corso at Manly Beach.

For more pics click the link along the right hand side of this blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Musical Journalist

The day started off quite cloudy this morning in Sydney.

But true to the cheerful Aussie way, the clouds have parted, showing off it's beautiful blue sky and letting in the warm sunlight that keeps this winter a mild 15C, or 59F.

This morning I was set loose at Manly Beach as Nad had various errands and appointments to attend to. I relished my freedom, roaming randomly from street to street, zig-zagging between the harbour side and the ocean side. I had no shame snapping pictures on my outdated camera of the beach and shops.

Really, this area of town is not much different from the states. It actually reminds me a lot of Honolulu, with a noticeable lack of Starbucks, Niketowns, and Cold Stone Creameries and not nearly as crowded. And clean, SO clean. And not just in the lack of trash on the streets (London wins my award for cleanest streets). But in the air. The air is so fresh! Not that Sydney is without it's share of pollution, but compared to the grime that saturates the air of NYC, this is a truly refreshing break!

Not only is the air cleaner and the views amazing, but the food so far has been incredible! I had the best fish & chips at The Bower overlooking Shelley Beach. Last night's chicken vindaloo was the perfect balance of spice! Or perhaps the grass is always greener on the other country.

But GOD! I LOVE traveling!

Once again I question my career choice. Why music? I should have been a travel guide writer, or host a show like Samantha Brown!

But perhaps there is a way to incorporate travel and composition. I would LOVE to be paid to travel to a city, embrace its culture, and write music in reflection. Hell, I'd love to be paid to write music! But seriously... could there be a future in this? Maybe with the right grant writing skills?

I think I will use this holiday to practice. I'll make it my goal to write, or at least sketch out, 2-3 tunes in reflection of my time here. We'll see what happens, and perhaps I will find a way to embrace my two loves of travel and composition.


Dedication. Commitment. Discipline.

These are words I use often with running, or composing. Occasionally they are used when describing teaching, or a relationship. Dieting, maybe. Financing, definitely! Or even when attempting to read a classic (Jane Austen anyone?). They are not terms I would have related to blogging. But oh how they apply!

I started this blog a little over a year ago, just feeling the waters, not really sure what I intended to do with it. I've really enjoyed my dabbling, and have a few ideas on how I would like to expand upon it. I've actually had these ideas since January but have yet to implement them.


Because, like so many other aspects of my life, I lack the dedication, commitment, and discipline to running a successful blog.

I am not alone in this syndrome. The "I'll try to be hip and start a blog and be real active for about 8 mos then let it peter out to nothing" syndrome. I've seen far too many friends fall victim to this disease!

But alas, I am determined to fight back, and reactivate this blog once and for all!

I currently am in Australia, and plan to find quirky yet significant things to report upon, along with my first attempt at some musical journalism (more on that later!).

Thanks to all that have checked back repeatedly, to see the same old last post (and thanks to all that commented on the Sandman performance!). I will not let you down!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Enter Sandman... sorta

The day before our dress rehearsal my elementary jazz band had yet to be able to make it to the end of our version of Enter Sandman.

We had only decided on the ending the day before. I had told them that if on the dress rehearsal we couldn't make it all the way through the song without stopping, it was getting cut. I had prepped myself to hold firm to this ultimatum.

Amazingly, I didn't have to.

Here is a video of my lovely kids performing Metallica's Enter Sandman as posted by an anonymous student. My ego cautions me against sharing it as you will hear we got 2 beats off when I failed to cue the saxes in midway through the verse. But, as I've related my frustrations and trepidations about doing this tune several times on this blog, I'd be remiss not to share the grand summation of the Enter Sandman Saga.

I'm not quite sure what this performance says about the state of music in today's educational system. Nonetheless, I give you Enter Sandman, elementary jazz band style:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Marine Corp Historic Half Marathon Race Course

Sunday morning, 7:00 AM, I become a runner again.

Nad and I are running the Inaugural Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon this weekend, held in my (sorta) hometown of Fredericksburg, VA. I am so not trained. For those of you who are, check out this write up of the course by the WhiteKenyan:

I met up with B, M and a few other guys Sunday morning and we ran the “Historic” Marine Corps ½ Marathon coarse for our long run. It was pouring rain when we started but in the upper 50’s so it wasn’t too bad.

The Expo Center has tons of parking and there are lots of parking lots near by so it won’t be bad getting there to morning of the race.

Most of the first mile is flat. As you make the left onto Cowan Blvd. there is a small hill. After the mile 1 marker there is a medium hill that takes you over I95. It’s pretty much downhill through the mile 2 marker and the rest of Cowan Blvd. After making a right onto Keeneland Road there is a short fairly steep hill. After cresting the hill it’s downhill to the mile 3 marker. Route 3 is pretty much flat from what I remember. You run up a decent hill after making a left onto Williams Street. As you approach UMW and your left it’s downhill to the 4 mile marker. After making a left onto Sunken Rd. there is a slight uphill followed by a slight downhill. The coarse weaves through the neighborhood as you pass mile 5 and follow Kenmore back to Williams Street. There is a bit of and incline when you’re on Williams street before making a left onto Washington. There is a nice downhill as you pass mile 6. After mile 6 it’s mostly flat as you run though Old Town F’burg until about 8 ½ miles. There is a short hill after going underneath Route 1. There is a little bit of a downhill around mile 9 ½. You will be on the canal path as you pass mile 10 (pretty much flat).

About mile 10 ½ as you turn onto Mary Washington Blvd you start to climb the most significant hill of the race. The hill actually flattens out about half way up it for little bit. The first half is less steep then the second half. By the time you hit the traffic circle at mile 11 it flattens out and there is a downhill as you turn and run down Cowan. Keep in mind once you turn on Cowan you are running the opposite way from Mile 0-2. There is a step hill as you approach I95 but it’s nothing after getting up the hill by the hospital. Once you get to the top of the over pass it’s down hill then flat the rest of the way.

Over all the most significant hills are as you cross the 95 overpass (both ways, ~mile1.25 and just before mile 12). The beginning of Williams Street at ~3.5 miles). And finally the Hospital hill from mile 10.5 to 11.

I’m probably slightly bias on what is considered a hill since we run these roads all the time but it’s really not that bad. Get ready to have some fun!!! See you May 18th.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Give the people what they want?

In all honesty, I can't STAND "Take the 'A' Train."

It grates on me almost as much as "Satin Doll," which is my #1 most hated song. I love me some Duke, but I could honestly live out the rest of my life never hearing either one of those two tunes again!

I was just raging about "A Train" the other day to Joseph. Which is why I sat in complete shock, giving him my dirtiest teacher glare, when the other night at his Garage hit, near the end of his second set, I heard the iconic piano intro to "Take the 'A' Train." "WTF?", I glared with my eyes. He gave me a "give the people what they want" shrug and launched full on into the opening melody.

"Yeah! Take the A Train!" exclaimed the boyfriend of my friend whom I was sitting with.

"Excuse me," I muttered, deciding this was the ideal time for a bathroom break.

A few minutes later I returned to the bar, and became cognisant of an increase in noise level. Why are these half drunk trendy twenty-somethings sitting next to me all of a sudden so rowdy? And my awareness was shifted back to the band, where the pianist, Brooks Hartell, was banging out a 6 chorus, perfectly crafted, fantastically inspired stride piano solo, and the people were actually cheering him on!

I shut my eyes and for half a second felt transported back into "the day." The day when the unknown pianist sat at the out of tune piano at the local speakeasy playing for the non-musicians who actually liked the blues licks and improvised solos, inspiring them to dance and become rowdy, giving "jazz" the reputation of being devil music. This is what is must have been like, when people liked jazz and appreciated jazz, and the music was more about the sounds as they happened and less about the harmonic analysis or intellectual composition techniques.

We jazzers certainly like to (dare I say) over-think our music. There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the place of vocabulary (read the comments) and education (IAJE's bankruptcy) within the vast, yet vague world of jazz. These are complicated issues with circumstantial answers. And yet I can't help but feel that we as jazz musicians, whose very nature is intrinsic to making order out of chaos, bring on the complexities of our genre ourselves. Our world is very small, very young, and currently very under-appreciated. It's hard for us to just let music be music, be it bebop, third stream, dixieland, big band, avant garde, or any other sub-genre of jazz. We feel the need to understand and define every aspect of the creation of the music, the social impacts of the music, the education or "street cred" of the music, and the category that the music falls into. Our egos are easily bruised and we look to one another for validation.

It is because of this jazz trait that I can't let "The 'A'' Train" go. I can't help but ponder the popularity of the song. Is it because it's about a subway line (an unreliable one at that!) in NYC and everyone (including New Yorkers) are fascinated with anything NY? Is it because Duke did an exceptional job of promoting this song back in the day so that it became ingrained in everyday life? Perhaps it was the educational system who chose this song as it's token jazz tune, thereby brainwashing America into thinking it is the only good jazz tune. Or maybe it's because that opening line is just so damn catchy?

Why? WHY! my over analytical brain screams! Duke, and others, had so many great songs, why was THIS the one that is recognizable by almost every non-musical person out there?

And then I think...

What does it matter? Aside from perhaps wanting to discover a magic formula for making my own tunes so popular, does it really matter why audiences love "Take the 'A' Train?" At least it's a Duke tune and not some crap like "Yakkity Sax."

And the thing is, it does work like magic!

For the first set and a half, Joseph and his quartet played a great balance of standards and originals. It was wonderful playing, but they really could have been up there reciting scales over and over for all the patrons of the restaurant cared. No one applauded after solos, and no one acknowledged the band when they were introduced at the end of the set. That's not so abnormal, as the venue is after all a restaurant and bar, not a jazz hall. However, after hearing "'A' Train," the now drunk twenty-somethings were all into the music, cheering for all the tunes, and even staying for all 4 sets. All of a sudden the music was alive to them, and there was an energy and communication in the room. Isn't that what we as musicians, any musician regardless of genre, strive for? A connection to the listener?

Now I think it's safe to guess that the drunkards did not stick around because they were instantly transformed into active jazz listeners, eager to interpret the improvisations and arrangements of the tunes to come. But it is highly likely that the music created such an energy and vibe that fit the mood of the pending hook-ups, that the crowds stayed, if not for the genius of the music, but for the environment it created. I think we need to realize that our music does still serve that function. While we with our educated compositional minds do yearn to express and communicate various personal agendas with our music, we need to remember that if we want to call our music jazz, then we need to embrace the historical roots of jazz as (deep breath)... entertainment.

The word "entertainment" has a negative connotation these days. I hear "entertainment" and I think Britney Spears, cheesy chick flicks, and rag mags. But entertainment is defined as "something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement, esp. a performance of some kind."

Our music is amazing in that it has the ability to be intricate, multi-layered, and in need of a (musically) intelligent listener to fully grasp the fullness and genius of the music. At the same time, the music can appeal to those who simply want to be diverted, pleased, and amused. We need not always have both goals within the same song, set, or performance. I do think there is a time for a more serious concert performance, and a place for the "lite" set. I also think it is possible to achieve both at that same time. Regardless of the your intent as a musician, I don't think we should value one goal above the other.

It is for that reason that I feel a bit ashamed of my elitist reaction to "the 'A' Train." My snobbery doesn't help the cause of jazz, or the essence of music for that matter. I won't quit trying to perfect the high level of expression and storytelling I hope to achieve through my compositions, but when it comes to playing for a young crowd, on a Saturday night, at a bar, after a long work week, isn't it okay, especially if it helps reel listeners in, to just count off a swing beat, and give the people what they want?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Celestial Bodies

I got my first Lois Greenfield calendar back in 2001, I think.

I never tire of seeing each month's amazing depiction of dancers caught mid-movement in a sort of immortal expression. I find the strength and poise of the dancers' bodies frozen by Greenfield's quick eye to be an inspiration of creative expression, and motivation to get back in the gym!

I was quite saddened this year when I could not find the 2008 Breaking Bounds calendar and have been with out my monthly dose of awe. So I was very excited when I received an email from Dance New Amsterdam announcing an exhibit of Greenfield's work.

Celestial Bodies opened last night in the gallery at Dance New Amsterdam, my favorite dance studio in the city. DNA, as we like to refer to it, has really remade itself in the last few years. When I first started taking class there in 2004, they were located in SOHO in a run-down converted factory on Broadway, and was called Dance Space Center. The place had an established, gritty feel to it that will never be replaced by its new shiny and polished studios, now located in the Financial District. But with the location and name change, many new opportunities have presented themselves to the dancers of DNA. The current location offers a theater, studio and office space rentals, a pilates and wellness studio, performance opportunities, and now, an art gallery.

Joseph and I arrived to the opening night reception fashionably late. We barely managed to snag the last two glasses of the obligatory free wine before the drink table closed. I was a bit disappointed to see that there were only two walls of photographs on display; we made our first round in under 5 minutes. With our second lap, wine securely in hand, we lingered and were more comfortable whispering impressions of the photographs. Not unlike listening to a new CD for the first and second times, far more detail and emotion stood out on this second walk through. Words such as "discomfort," "sensual," and "biblical" were exchanged in a pseudo-intellectual attempt to see more depth in what at first glance are simply mostly naked, really fit men and women. We marveled at the use of fabrics and mirrors to create a multi-dimensional image. We had fun playing (if not geeky) games of "what sounds/music do you hear looking at this picture" and "which photos would you collect in a set for your living room wall."

The space is rather small and I scanned it religiously on the slim but possible chance of seeing someone I knew. My presence in the dance world was too short lived, but several dancers that I went to school with and others that I met during my three summers at the American Dance Festival are here in NY working professionally and are affiliated with DNA. I am constantly yearning to resubmerge myself into the world of modern dance, both as a musician and a dancer.

As expected, after attending this exhibit, seeing the beautifully photographed dancers as well as the living, breathing dancers who were also in attendance, my motivation to return to dance is renewed. Chambers Street, where DNA is located, is quite a trek for ten or so photographs, but if you have some time, or happen to be in the area, a stop into the gallery will yield nothing if not an awesome appreciation for the dancers' sculpted bodies, and perhaps elicit an emotion or two to inspire and motivate you toward your innermost aspirations.

"Celestial Bodies" will be on exhibit until Aug 31. Dance New Amsterdam is located at 280 Broadway, 2nd Floor (entrance on Chambers). Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday–Sunday. 212.625.8369

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Sandman finally Entered, and a slow death followed

Today the Jazz Band made it from the beginning of my crude arrangement of Metallica's Enter Sandman all the way up to the half time section. But before the horn section could shout, "Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight," I died. The music, or lack of, heartbrokenly killed me. Or killed whatever sliver of hope I had left in my being that the band will be able to pull of ES on our May 22 concert.

It would have been kinder if my death had come quickly. But as cruel and unusual deaths go, mine was dragged out for maximum pain, over the entire 50 minutes of today's third period.

The first stab was delivered by a 5th grade trumpeter, who informed me that there had been too much homework over spring break, from which we just returned this week, to practice. Right, I replied. Practicing was part of that homework. A pause, then blank stares. And I died a little bit.

In a futile attempt to not give up sweet life so easily, I gave (yet another) rather stern lecture about the importance of practice. I brought home my point by sharing the anecdote of the time Jo Jones threw a cymbal at Bird for daring to play so badly on a jam session. As the band sat in awed silence at the thought of physical violence as a repercussion of a poor performance, hopefully remembering that our concert is now three weeks away, I felt a premature victory. Then a 6th grade tenor sax player asked, Who is Charlie Parker? And I died a little more.

From here on it was the proverbial snowball set in motion down the hill, gathering speed and size, its only goal to take me out Indian Jones style:

My 6th grade 2nd chair electric guitar player forgot her music, and I died.

My 6th grade bass player forgot his bass, and I died again.

The D string on my 1st chair electric guitar player's guitar snapped when I foolishly tried to tune his permanently screwed down strings. He of course, has the main riff of the song, and for the rest of the class he played it an almost half step flat, allowing me to die even more.

My two tenor players still don't remember how to finger F# (IT IS APRIL OF THEIR SECOND YEAR OF PLAYING!!!!) and as I leaned over to reprimand their laziness, I realized the reason they were not making eye contact with me was not because they were ashamed, but because the shirt I wore was just a little too low cut for those 5th and 6th graders! And I died yet again.

After too many four bar isolations, with too many reminders of fingerings, explanations of where 2 is and how many beats a quarter note rest get, repeated demonstrations of steady eighths on the drum set (AGAIN!) and last ditch efforts of Just listen to how I sing it and copy that, we tried one final run through...

(dramatic pause)

The opening riff was in a new, indistinguishable key, there was a noticeable lack of bass, the drummer's eighth notes hailed from some undiscovered dimension like Earth 527, the tenors honked, the trumpets strained, the pianists' hands were moving but I heard nothing over the noise that was akin to a Reich phase, and as we reached measure 36 (that's right folks, we've been working on this for over 2 months now and we can only get to measure 36), I took an invisible knife, stabbed myself in the heart, and collapsed onto the dirty auditorium stage floor... and died my final death.

Memorial services will be announced later this week. Condolences can be made in the form of chocolate, foot massages, and tequila shots.

POST SCRIPT: Classroom violence is no joking matter, and is all too real. I use the above expression of being killed by the music because that was truly my emotional reaction to today's rehearsal. I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart. I mean no disrespect to teachers and students who deal with real violence at schools, a place which should be a safe haven meant to foster growth and education, not fear and duress.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


My favorite lesson that Fran and I do with kindergarten involves the second track of the Putumayo World Playground CD called "La Mariposa." Go here to listen to the first minute of the tune. It's about a Bolivian slave dance called the Morenada. It's fun, catchy, and I like singing along because I feel like I'm speaking Spanish. The syncopated chorus of con las manos, con las pies, la morenada, gets pleasantly stuck in my head all the time.

That, however, is not the reason I have once again committed blog negligence.

I really have no excuse this time around. No looming deadlines, no marathons, not even a big copy job. I've had nothing. In fact, it's been that nothing that I've greatly enjoyed the past month or so. So much that I have not blogged, or even kept up with my blog reading (so my apologies to my sudden lack of commenting!). My Google reader shows over 500 unread entries.

And speaking of Google reader... I'm not sure I prefer using a reader to just visiting a blog. I can never access comments, and I enjoy looking at the writer's blog format. Perhaps I'll use the reader just to alert me to new entries, then click directly onto the blog of choice for a change.

And speaking of change... in the spirit of reentering the world of productivity, I have lofty goals of undergoing a slight reorganization and refocusing of this blog. But more on that later (if I can get around to it, that is).

In the meantime, I am leaving the apartment for the afternoon to enjoy New York in the spring, which, by the way, is simply enchanting, and to lie in the sun and daydream of mariposas.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Passion

An exact quarter of my mom’s homemade lemon meringue pie.

That’s what I had for breakfast this morning. I haven’t eaten sweets since Tuesday, Feb. 5, and I had to make up for lost time.

Veteran readers and close friends all know that for the 40 days leading up to Easter, I observe Lent by abstaining from sweets. I’ve been doing this for years. I love the challenge, and feel detoxified from the Christmas gorging. Plus… there is just something about Lent.

No, I don’t really practice my Catholic upbringing any more. But I am certainly grateful for it, particularly the Lenten season.

It was during Lent that I experienced one of the most profound and influential musical experiences of my childhood which fueled and ignited my passion for music, and had a direct impact on the direction I would take music in my life.

When my father was stationed at Quantico, VA for the second time, I was in grades 3-7. This was the time in my life when we were most active in the church; my mom played guitar for the Saturday night masses, and I sang in the children’s choir which sang in the Children’s Masses (once a month I think). I’ve mentioned this before, but the director of the children’s choir and the Saturday night Folk Masses was named Carol Hayes. She had the most beautiful singing voice I had ever heard and in many ways I idolized her almost as much as Wonder Woman. Listening to her and my mom play every week definitely showed me how meaningful and fun music could be.

One year, the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) staged a Living Stations of the Cross. Mrs. Hayes and my mom were involved in producing the music for this presentation which used only narration, silent acting, and music to tell the story behind each station. I remember sitting up in the choir loft with my mom, peering over the railing, and watching the tragic story unfold to the mournful melodies of the choir. I remember how eerie and shocking it was when the music cut out, heightening the drama as a boy portraying Jesus was nailed to the cross- the silence interrupted by the sounds of the hammer hitting the wood and the boy crying out sent bolts down my spine and still cause my stomach to flip when I think of it now. I had never at that point in my life been so moved or felt such passion as a result of music and drama. I was brought to tears, which I innocently let fall.

In the following years, I became more involved in the Living Stations, singing and later (after a move to Camp Lejeune, NC) directing the music. I remember searching for instrumental incidental music (as I now know it’s called) and settling on the soundtracks from Somewhere In Time and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (still two of my favorite scores). I remember cutting and cuing the tapes (yes, cassette tapes- this was the early 90s folks!) and fading the music in and out as I watched the action below with a hawk’s eye so that I could perfectly time the music for ultimate dramatic effect.

My 9th grade year was my last involvement in the Living Stations as a bad experience involving a youth retreat, the beach, and Zima severed our relations with that church. In the years since, my distance from the Catholic Church has grown considerably. But I am always brought back just a little at Lent. I have never forgotten the passion felt first as an observer and later as a participant in the Living Stations.

More importantly, I attribute those Living Stations experiences to my drive to tell stories and portray dramatic empathy through my compositions. It’s practically impossible for me to write anything if there is not a story, real or fictional inspiring it. I understand now that it is that same emotional reaction that I had to the Living Stations that I hope to create for my listeners and players.

Today on Easter Sunday, as I type away on the Amtrak heading back to NY, eating my mom’s homemade tea cookies to the envy of my seat partner, I marvel at the realization that my life’s goals may not have been cosmically predetermined, but rather a result of an isolated experience. And I can’t help but smile as I am again reminded that children do not always learn the lesson you are trying to impress upon them. I remember the Living Stations like I do my dreams- by the emotion felt during the telling. I do not remember what each of the stations is about, or even how many there are, but I will not forget the lesson of how music (or lack of) can be used to tell a story. And because of that experience, no matter how distant I find myself from the spiritual meaning of Easter, I will always be brought back, just a little, by the music.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On a side note...

Does anyone else using Blogger have problems with the html and image formatting? I find their interface extremely frustrating and unreliable. What I see in the compose view, and in the preview view, is never what I see when I publish the blog. I am always forced to edit the post over and over trying to get spacing, etc. correct. It seems to adjust on it's own when I hit the "publish" button.

Anyone else have this problem? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Mingus in the New Frontier

The last couple of weeks have been good comic weeks for me.

I'm back on board with Birds of Prey. I've always loved Black Alice and wished Gail had used her more. I'm finally warming to Misfit and am over the ridiculous robot destruction of Metropolis.

I am also surprisingly enjoying Teen Titans: Year One. Okay, maybe that's not surprising as I am a sucker for all Year One stories.

More accurate is the kick I got out of Tiny Titans. Maybe I've been teaching elementary school too long now, but I found the little tykes adorable and the light story lines refreshing.

I am also psyched about the return of The Gunslinger. I love Jae Lee and Richard Isanove's art and don't think I could have imagined Hambry or it's inhabitants any better. I loved reading the Dark Tower and book 4, though a slower read then the last 3, was one of my favorite of King's worlds. I haven't started The Long Road Home yet, but look forward immensely to it.

However... the highlight of the past few Midtown trips has by far been Justice League: The New Frontier.

I became a huge fan of JLTNF a couple years ago when a friend loaned me the original singles. I am currently saving up for the $75 Absolute HC edition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the animated version that just came out and regret not springing for the extra bonus edition DVD. I thought the art stayed consistent with the original comics, and loved the opening music (though found some of the later scoring to be a little too cliche superhero fanfarish). The total running time was around an hour and half and so a lot of the supporting story lines were cut, which was the only real downfall.

In addition to the DVD, I picked up the supplemental Justice League: The New Frontier Special. I read this while in the laundromat and shared it with a little 4 or 5 year old that was hanging out while his mom was doing laundry. He was really into it and I considered giving him the comic, but then got really greedy and kept it for myself.

My favorite out of the three stories was the last one, featuring Wonder Woman and Black Canary (SPOILERS) infiltrating a Playboy type night club (will WW never be able to escape association with Playboy?!) It was my favorite only for the following two reasons:

Wonder Woman's Burning Breastplate


Charlie Mingus Cameo... sorta

Now, this is the Mingus Trio as drawn by J. Bone:

Here is a picture of the Mingus Trio circa 1951:

Notice a distinct difference in instruments and, um, race? The bass player in the comic definitely looks white to me, but if Cooke was in fact referencing Charles Mingus, then he should have been drawn to match Mingus's mixed heritage of Chinese, Swiss, and African-American decent (this according to Wikipedia.)

I did a cursory Internet search of trios that Mingus played with in the 50's and could find no instance of him playing in a trio with a pianist and trumpet. Not that he didn't. In fact, if anyone knows of such an ensemble, please let me know! The trio that I did come across most often is the one pictured above, with Tal Farlow (guitar) and Red Norvo (vibes) in 1950 and 1951.

While I appreciate the nod to one of my favorite jazz musicians, I do wish the proper research had been done to assure authenticity.