Ladies and Gentlemen… Lindsay Pagano!

Posted in things you should know on May 20, 2010 by wfon

About nine years ago, I was looking through the CD Singles (remember those, anyone?) at a Best Buy when I happened across a track called “Everything U R” by a new Warner Bros. artist named Lindsay Pagano. From the picture on the sleeve it was clear that she was quite young, so I assumed she was Warner’s answer to Britney Spears, X-tina, Mandy Moore and/or Jessica Simpson: a cute teen artist in an era of cute teen artists. This, of course, was six years before the Disney triple-threat juggernaut of Miley, Demi and Selena. Strangely, though, Lindsay didn’t fall into the ‘tween’ category where her music would be labelled ‘for kids’ but right there on the regular shelf with everyone else. (‘tween’ hadn’t really been coined yet, anyway) Times have changed. If I may digress for a second, Miley Cyrus is having a hell of a time getting any sort of adult respect at seventeen because of her association with the kid-friendly Hannah Montana but Lindsay at fourteen was recording a duet with Sir Paul McCartney. She wasn’t pigeonholed as a kid performer and she ended up in a long line of teen stars (dating back to Stevie Wonder) who had the respect of adult listeners and weren’t dismissed as something “my daughter listens to.”  So, while Miley is selling millions of records, she’s being forced to amp up the sexuality to prove that she’s not just a little girl anymore. At times it looks a lot like dress-up and it takes away from the true depth of her talent. Years ago the same thing happened to Deborah “Debbie” Gibson when she quit playing to the college guys who came to her shows and decided to be a spokesperson for little girls. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, right?  Well, maybe… except that little girls grow into fickle teenagers in about two and half years and if you’re selling your wares to them, your window of opportunity is roughly proportional to their attention spans and interest in you… which is roughly two and half years.

Lindsay, in my estimation, didn’t have this problem. Her first single was picked up as the AOL theme song and all the reports suggested this little girl from Philly was on her way. The eventual record that followed “Love and Faith and Inspiration” was produced by Jude Cole and featured the aforementioned duet with Macca. However, the hype built up around the single wasn’t kept aflame by the label and no second single appeared. The album, released during the initial implosion of the record industry, more or less disappeared. Fingers cannot be pointed at Lindsay in this mess, she was a personable, pretty teenager with a big voice. Someone needed to know how to sell that. But, chances are, everyone was looking for the next little girl who had no problem posing for the cover of Rolling Stone in trashy lingerie. This, I hazard a guess, is not Lindsay Pagano’s style. I follow her Tweets, am Facebook friends with her and she seems to be, for all intents and purposes, a sweet city girl with the Philly attitude for taking no shit from anyone. She’s Italian, too… so you know her blood runs hot!

After the Warner’s debacle, Lindsay had a strong opportunity when the Matrix (the production team behind Avril Lavigne’s initial success as well as countless radio singles for other stars) signed her to their fledgling label, Let’s Hear It. The first single there was called “Bang” and it had a mix of Philly soul with the high-concept pop that the Matrix was known for. Alas, for whatever reason, the label never happened and the single disappeared. Currently I hear the members of the Matrix are Dr. Luke’s housekeepers… just kidding. (You need to know your current pop music events to get that one!)

Lindsay went back to Philadelphia, finished high school and started college, while continuing to record demos, work with other artists, etc. This winter she was featured on a single by Josh Colon entitled “Dance Wit Chu”. That’s the Josh Colon of MTV’s Real World D.C. This week (May 20) Lindsay is back in LA presumably to take some meetings and enjoy this great spring weather and that’s why I’m writing this post. I know how important it is to have someone champion your work or say a few good things on your behalf. Recently, I’ve decided to no longer entertain anyone who doesn’t approach their work or dreams with integrity and professionalism. In a town full of talkers, we’re blessed this week with the return of a singer. A professional. Not someone who approaches life like a hobby, something to fill the time between hikes and trips to the wine bar. Nor someone who rides the coat tails of their dubious acquaintances. No! This is a performer who is dedicated to her craft and who deserves people to write blogs in support and introduce her and her music to their friends and peers.

So, to Lindsay, I say welcome back… thank you for reminding me that there are people out there who take their talent and dreams seriously. Fortunately, the others are easy to spot and easier to avoid: you’ll find it in the vacant stares, the put-on poses, the self-important introspection and the indulgent pride. That ain’t Philly soul!

-Jesse Pomeroy, Hillrose Street

RUNAWAYS

Posted in things you should know on March 19, 2010 by wfon

Floria Sigismondi’s take on the original GRRL group, the Runaways, is a hybrid of teen girl angst, rock and roll rebellion and the rise, fall and redemption of a rock band. Before this film got off the ground, and with the high-watt star power of Kristen Stewart (thanks to Twilight) getting people interested in the story and the band, the Runaways probably weren’t very well known… certainly not to fifteen year old girls today… but without the Runaways it’s fair to say we would never have seen the likes of the Go-Go’s, the Bangles, Vixen, Girlschool and a host of other all-girl rock and roll bands. Girls who played their instruments and wrote their own songs. As the guitar teacher early in the film says, “Girls don’t play electric guitar!”  Don’t forget, also, that the Runaways gave us Lita Ford (doesn’t everyone love the duet with Ozzy “If I Close My Eyes Forever?”) and, far more importantly, Joan Jett – a true rock and roll star. Sure there was a svengali in the form of Kim Fowley, the guy who made Joan’s dream a reality but, frankly, every story like this has one: there is always an opportunist (Fowley), there is always a visionary (Jett) and there is always a star (Cherie Currie) and, more often than not, that star is such because of their innate dysfunction and pain. This is the story of the Runaways.

The performances of Kristen Stewart (no doubt my favorite of the current crop of young ingenues) and Dakota Fanning anchor the film and keep it from succumbing to its weaknesses. Michael Shannon plays Fowley extravangantly and over-the-top in a good way. He also keeps the film afloat. The tour scenes feel a lot like Almost Famous and the drug-fueled sequences reference The Doors, which is okay, but the film (and it’s obvious low budget) feels very grounded in a Hollywood re-imagining of the mid-seventies. A tour of Japan is a few cars driving around the lower level streets in downtown LA. So it never really rises to the level of the aforementioned films it feels akin to. Hard to do, granted, with limited funds.

Using Cherie Currie’s book Neon Angel to lay the groundwork for the story also seems a little odd since Joan Jett is an executive producer on the film and there is no doubt the Runaways is her story. However, since the dramatic tension hinges mostly on Currie, her at-home family dynamic and eventual spiral into drug use, it makes sense that Sigismondi used the book as source material. I’ve read reviews of the film that suggest it plays things safe and I’m not sure about that: Dakota Fanning is pushed to the limit of teen porn provocation (especially since she was 15 when the film was shot) and the romantic encounters between she and Kristen Stewart are, sorry for the pun, titillating and sweet – played real but not to make too fine a point. Is it Sid and Nancy? No. But the story doesn’t tread the same sort of hopeless despairing waters of the Sex Pistols story. The girls in the Runaways were Valley girls, squeaky clean for the most part, who threw in the towel (in the case of Currie) when the reality of it all was just too much. She did what teenage girls do… she ran away.

And why do we still know Joan Jett? All these years later, why is she even more of an icon then when she first strutted out on her own? Because she was the one with the dream and she never gave up on it. I’ve always liked Joan Jett but after getting this glimpse into her background I’m even more of a fan.

Also worthy of mentioning are the incredible re-recordings that Kristen and Dakota did in making the Runaways songs their own, as the roles required. Both sound so close to their real-life counterparts that it’s scary and seeing 15-year-old Dakota growl the “hello dad, hello mom, I’m your ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb” lyric nails the feeling of how groundbreaking and rule-breaking the Runaways were in their time. Go see it!

something in the water (UPDATE)

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 27, 2010 by wfon

Well score one for common sense! The Menifee Union School District decided to return Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School (LA TIMES STORY HERE) after the principal there, responding to a complaint from a parent, removed the tome because an entry defined the term ‘oral sex.’ Had this not turned out the way it did this morning, the students in Menifee were surely to have been looking up ‘sodomy’ since that would have been what had just happened to them! It’s a Dictionary, people! – and fortunately the Menifee School District saw through the manufactured moral panic. If only more people would stand up to the bigots, racists, homophobes and knuckledraggers who always manage to get just enough air time to temper our forward progress as an upright and educated majority. The only caveat in this expedition to Absurdia is that parents will decide if they want their children to have access to the Merriam Webster Dictionary or, if viewed as too ‘mature’ for little Suzie and Tanner, will instead have to look up words in the ‘My Pet Goat’ version. Meanwhile, little Tanner just took little Suzie around the back of the portable to play ‘Mary and Joseph.’

You may ask why I’m so quick to jump on these sorts of stories with such vitriol and condemnation. It stems from my own childhood and experiences with religious zealots of all stripes: they would come up to you in the mall with government conspiracies (corporate branding, literally, and black op helicopters keeping you under control and away from God’s kingdom), or the Christian concert I attended where the singer of a rock band told us we needed to be saved OR ELSE!!!! Then there was the time when the Quakers came round to the Catholic school I was going to (don’t ask me who let them in!) to talk to us about ‘backwards masking’ on rock and roll records. Remember that, anyone? Thank God for CD’s – that was the end of that particular madness. Nonetheless, that night they pointed the crooked finger of judgement at virtually every band I liked: Queen (gay!), KISS (Kids in Satan’s Service), Styx (the river to hell), Ozzy (satanist with a taste for bats, birds and of course the song “Suicide Solution”), The Eagles (‘Hotel California’ and in particular the  line ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’ which supposedly was a nod to Anton LeVay and the Church of Satan)… the list goes on and on… they didn’t actually spin any records backwards, instead played tape recordings of records being spun backwards – which is about as uncorruptible as a Republican with the hots for boys and/or Argentinians. So, with all that, along with my lifelong indifference to anything church-related, which is I think just a product of having always been a thinker, I find myself in the position of having something to rail against and when stories like this Dictionary banning, or the removal of “Speak” or Tony Alamo, Benny Hinn, the Mormons, Prop. 8… there’s a lot of, pardon the use of such incendiary language, bullshit out there that needs to be exposed and erradicated.

Is it an easy target? Sure. Bill Maher was criticized likewise for his film “Religulous” for going after the soft targets, the ones everyone would agree were kooky. I’m an equal opportunity attacker – the Catholic church (the Big One, the Only One, the one that if it didn’t exist we would never have heard about any of this) has a policy of child abuse dating back to its inception. That needs, like the holocaust (which the church also quietly supported), to never be forgotten. There’s not enough money in the world to buy off that much trouble, try as they might. TV evangelists, evil people like Pat Robertson… big targets, and not particularly soft since they enjoy such support.

At the end of the day, though, I live in a city of 9,000,000 people… there are at least 9,000,000 stories here… when I hear absurd tales of book bannings, church-sponsored protests against the staging of works like “Rent” (the cleaned-up for high school version), gay bashing (literally and figuratively), I know where to look: Encino? No. El Monte? No. Santa Monica? No. Beverly Hills?  No. West Hollywood? As if. Burbank? Surprisingly, no. Where then? Simi, Moorpark, Santa Clarita, Meniffe, Temecula, the High Desert, Orange County, San Diego county… all conservative… all predominantly Christian-identified (American-Christian, mind you… those are the folks who’ve been around about 150 years and who have replaced Jesus’ message of love and compassion with one of ‘take what you can, leave nothing behind’, morally questionable behavior and open hatred.)… mostly white… a world all to itself that, as long as it can rub shoulders with the modern one, can be a danger to it. There is no room here for the Dark Ages, any more than there is room in the world for radical Islam’s desire to turn back the clock and live in caves.

This stuff gets under my skin because I feel a duty to stand forever vigilant and protect our great, modern world, the one we’re building everyday: a world Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of. It’s here but it’s a young child and it needs our protection from the zealots and increasingly irrelevant minority that would have us return to a time in history that is only that – HISTORY. Don’t know the word? Look it up… but ask your parent’s permission first.

something in the water?

Posted in daily musings on January 26, 2010 by wfon

Back in September, I wrote a post about a complaint brought to the Temecula Valley School District by a parent who had a problem with a book available in school libraries entitled “Speak”. The school board, who collectively had not read the book, were going to decide if this cautionary tale of teen alchohol abuse, date rape and peer pressure was too much for the young minds who might turn its pages. ”None of us had read it,” said board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins, who expressed concerns about the book at an August meeting, saying she would not be comfortable with her daughter reading it. Let’s back up: no one had read the book yet they felt justified in deciding whether or not someone else could? Well, I’ve never eaten escargot but I’m sure it’s horrible, so no one should have to endure it! So there! No snails for you!

I’m reminding you of this because today in the LA Times another winning story comes to us from the province of Christian fear and prejudice on the borderland between Riverside and San Diego counties. In the community of Menifee (yes, I know you’ve never heard of it) another outraged parent came forward with a concern about a book. A Young Adult novel with gay themes, you ask? A historical narrative with a Pagan-inspired storyline? The Koran? The Torah? Nah… the evil, bound manuscript was none other than Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary! And its crime? A definition in the book, that of ‘oral sex’ (defined therein as ‘oral stimulation of the genitals’). It defines a word or concept! That’s what dictionaries do. Hello! Now, okay, this Dictionary was found in the 4th and 5th grade reference books, which is arguably not academically collegiate (although in a community like Menifee 4th grade is probably as close as most students will get to college).

Prompted by the parent’s complaint, the principal of Oak Meadows Elementary School removed the books and housed them ‘off location.’ Later when students tried to find the definition of the word ‘cluster-fuck’ they were forced to research it online where they spent the rest of the day looking at internet porn. The Menifee school board weighed in assuring everyone the Dictionary hadn’t been banned, but it was being decided whether or not the words in it were ‘age appropriate.’ Folks, kids (and boys in particular) are going to be kids. My mother, a retired 6th grade teacher, found out very early on that using words such as ‘climax’ in their proper context (i.e. the climax of the story) often elicited knowing giggles from the precious nine and ten-year old infants in the class room. Kids are going to look up the dirty words or phrases because that’s what they do and if the Dictionary is taken away, they’ll find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

I found this interesting tid-bit on the Sigmund, Carl and Alfred blog from a former middle school employee:

“My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’

Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.
And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.”

So, let’s recap: kids look up oral sex in the Dictionary, parent gets upset, principal removes the Dictionary and in the meantime little Suzie is polishing little Tanner’s knob in the boys’ bathroom. Wow, seems like the Dictionary is the least of our worries.

I mean really, where does this conservative madness end? Obviously if a clinical reference book can cause this much trouble, how on earth can the bible still be available, in fact, usually in these circles, held aloft as The Word? What about the violence, death, destruction, sex, bestiality and incest so lovingly catalogued in those pages. I’m somewhere between blushing and offended just thinking about it. Pillar of salt, indeed!

The kids can’t read the Dictionary but they’ve been educated in loading and firing guns since they could walk. They’ve been taught to hate and judge others who aren’t like them since birth. They’ve been sedated by the Opiate of the Masses (do your own research on Oscar Wilde if you don’t know this one) since conception. They’ve been taught that to kill is fine, just not to murder. Ultimately, they’ve been allowed to re-define everything so as to pinpoint it within the perimeter of their own, narrow scope of life and the world as provided by their parents and religious leaders. Re-define it.

I guess if there are no definitive sources like a Dictionary around to set the record straight, the world begins to look entirely like Wikipedia… open to interpretation. There’s already too much of that going around, friends. Stop the madness.

Happy New Year!

Posted in daily musings, rants on January 2, 2010 by wfon

Ordinarily this time of year finds me in a frosty locale, bundled up against the elements, sipping the strongest whiskey possible just to keep warm, but also completely immersed in art and culture, in (as Markus likes to say) the Capitals of Europe. And travel, we have had our share, man (thank you Johnny Cash). These adventures started in 2000 in Aruba and have continued on to Paris, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Munich, Berlin, St. Thomas, Venice, Madrid, Barcelona and Vienna. This year, however, warmer climes were calling. So, here I sit back in Kona, my second home for all intents and purposes, in a warm tradewind breeze looking out on the bluest ocean I have ever seen. Shorts and flip-flops are mandatory. So are the Mai Tais (see image above from the Kona Inn). Last evening, we rang in the New Year jetting between the Inn and Don the Beachcomber while kids from all over the island lined up along Alii Drive and set off their fireworks.

I’m not one for too much reflection and a person could write volumes about 2009 and then entire libraries about the first decade of the new millennium, good, bad and ugly… Truth is, it hardly feels like ten years since the trip to Aruba. I know, however, that if I sit and reflect it will certainly be a decade… and a hell of one. More importantly, though, seems to me the fact that in 2009 alone, we managed to encapsulate the entire decade in one twelve month period. All the misery and pain, triumph and joy, loss and reward that lies scattered across the ten years in between have reference points in 2009: personally, professionally, globally and historically. So, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and close with a little reflection on my part for the year that was:

2009 was a year – when America made it’s greatest leap toward equality for all with the inauguration of Barack Obama (the rest will come) – it was a year of personal and professional success entirely tempered by personal and professional failure – it was a year of new love for some and the jettisoning of dead weight for others – it was a year when pretenders showed their true colors and disappeared up their own asses 🙂 It was a year when some people decided to go back into hiding. It was a year of reunion and new endeavours: It was the year that sprouted the Plant-Based Dietitian and pushed World Full of Nothing out of the nest. It was a year of burden and stress with nowhere near enough exaltation. It was the end of many long suffering and tiresome relationships and traditions and, ultimately it was a year that made me think of a Bob Marley lyric:

“From the darkness there must come out the light…”

I hope this coming year brings the light. There is no way we could all have come through the abyss of the last eight years without really feeling the pain but this too will pass… and the result will be emancipation. Thus spoke the Great Broccolini…

Let’s get busy living, ya’ll!

Kona, Hawaii, January 1, 2010

The Bigger Macque

Posted in places, things you should know on November 23, 2009 by wfon

I learned long ago to not question when the Plant-Based Dietitian makes a suggestion. So, last night after another taxing day in the trenches of Going Veg, Julieanna said we were going to dinner at her favorite place, Madeline Bistro. Conveniently, this cozy little spot is about a mile from me, on Ventura Blvd, just west of Reseda, in Tarzana –  a mere block from the soon-to-be-overly-frequented new Whole Foods (what part of ‘build faster’ are they not getting?). I’ve been around enough vegan food recently to know I can find a thing or two to nosh on even if I still can’t stand tofu – CAN’T STAND IT! So, off we went.

Walking in, Julieanna said we had to have the Bigger Macque. I replied “sure, why not” having no idea what she was talking about. Turns out, Madeline Bistro have invented a veggie burger complete with special sauce, ‘cheese’, lettuce, pickles and two non-beef patties. And yes, it tastes just like a Big Mac down the street at MacDonald’s, without the greasy compliment. I’m not kidding when I tell you, I could head over there right now and get another.

Along with the Bigger Macque, we had a Maki roll (avocado and asparagus in a sushi roll), asparagus risotto, butternut squash soup and mixed veggies. Even some sort of organic English lager. Are you hungry yet?

I’ve keeping telling Julieanna that, when it comes to this project, we have to avoid certain obstacles (i.e. general opinion of vegan culture) and instead introduce people to the healthier alternative that eating Plant-Based provides. A lot less of the ‘doom and gloom, you’re killing yourself with your food’ rhetoric that comes from certain militant vegan cliques and a lot more positive re-inforcement. She’s on the same page and visiting a place like Madeline Bistro (which I think we will be shooting at some point) only helps our cause. This is a great place, with good food, ’nuff said. The closest comparison I can draw to my adventure in the Plant-Based world so far, is when you introduce someone to sushi, someone who’s got it in their head that eating raw fish is gross, bad, etc. Come to think of it, Julie introduced me to sushi – fourteen years ago! I’d dabbled on a trip to Japan but she set me up with a taste for it. Years later, I’ve introduced a lot of people to sushi, including my parents who until they actually came to Makoto Sushi and closed their eyes, held their breath and had their first albacore (with Mako’s garlic ponzu sauce) would never have considered chowing down on raw fish. They’ve been back to Mako’s three times since and have sampled sushi in other parts of the world. See? This is how it works. Get past the activism and try the food. Your tastebuds are going to tell you everything you need to know.

So, I would suggest to anyone who’s interested in trying something new, new flavors, tastes, etc, check out Madeline Bistro. Have a Bigger Macque. And then tune into Going Veg with the Plant-Based Dietitian as we bring more examples of good eats and tons of info to the program. And just take a look at the picture below… doesn’t that look tasty? I’m lovin’ it!

And in non-Vegan related news…

Posted in people, things you should know on November 17, 2009 by wfon

Yes, there is a world outside of leafy greens and nuts…

Last night, one of the funniest guys in the world had one of the brightest, young Disney stars on his new late night show. That’s right: George Lopez had a sit-down with Demi Lovato! Viva la Raza!!!

check it out: