Friday, November 20, 2009

Special Edition: Featuring Morgan Fahey, Celia Faussart, and Dionne Farris

Welcome! This is a special edition of North Country Entertainment Magazine, with fascinating profiles of three thought-provoking and influential entertainment figures: the reality-TV casting director Morgan Fahey, the Grammy-nominated musical sensation Celia Faussart, and the legendary and trail-blazing artist Dionne Farris. Happy reading.

After a Long Absence, Dionne Farris's "Wild Seed" Bears Fruit

By Kristen Rafferty

Dionne Farris did not fall out of the spotlight. She simply chose to step into a different one.

After her stellar first album, Wild Seed Wild Flower, and the hit single “I Know,” the Grammy-nominated R&B artist has been noticeably M.I.A. from the music scene for a decade. In a recent phone interview with an upstate New York SUNY Plattsburgh journalism class, Farris discussed her life and music as they have changed since that first blowout of stardom.

“Don’t believe everything you read,” Farris laughs as she begins the interview.

Getting her start as the backup vocalist for “Arrested Development,” and working with American Idol super judge Randy Jackson on her first album, Farris quickly learned the most important part about being in the music business.

“If you want something, you have to tell them straight out,” she says. “That initial experience with Arrested Development showed me the possibilities of what I could achieve.”

Her first album, Farris says, was pure bliss. Released in 1995, ten out of 12 songs on it were on Farris’s demo record, a nearly-unheard of achievement these days, when most artists are recognized for one or two of their own songs and then made to record other people’s music. Her hit single “I Know” hit number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy.

“I remember that song was so popular,” says amateur rapper David Smith, of NYC. “Believe it or not, the lyrical style in that song as well as a lot of her other songs inspires me with the lyrics I use in my own songs today.”

“All I remember about that song was its popular beat,” agrees Alex Silver, a drummer who currently resides just outside of the New York scene. “The vocals mixed so well with that constant percussion beat, and it was definitely one of those songs that defined the decade.”

After the billowing success, everyone expected the R&B musician with the soulfully soothing voice to become a legend in the music industry. But Farris was not to release her next full album until after the millennium—this time, under her own label, on her own terms.

“When you stop and look at the paperwork,” Farris explains, “you realize that it’s all about money for other people at the record labels. Music used to enlighten people about things in the world. Now you’re just getting what the industry pushes on you, and people are dissatisfied.”

She didn’t want to be a part of it. After taking a stand against the increasingly superficial marketing schemes of record labels, Farris turned to online forums like MySpace and Facebook in order to continue creating music in her own style. She recently launched her own label, Free and Clear, online, dedicated to promoting honesty and creativity in the artist.

“Online forums like MySpace level the playing field,” Farris says. “You need promotion and marketing for record labels, but you also need creativity and something that sets you apart from the crowd.” Farris insists on substance and value in all her music, declaring that that is the best of what she can give people, the best way to touch them with her music.

“I like things like Facebook and Twitter because they create relationships,” she says, “which is so important to me.”

Indeed. In a recent Twitter post, Farris replied to a random tweet from a Maryland college student that said “Thanks, Shazam app, that annoying song I always hear in stores is "I Know" by Dionne Farris. It sucks.”

Taking an interest in her fans—or critics, in this case—Farris responded very personally, tweeting a cheerful reply.

“Sorry to hear you don't like the song! Maybe I'll make something you will like! All my best! Dionne Farris.”

Farris’s MySpace page is similarly personal, headlined by the personal message “Back to the Beginning,” which may reference her newfound confidence as an independent musician.

“Does the title of your new record label have something to do with your past experience with misunderstandings and record labels?” asks a student from the journalism class.

“Ding Ding Ding. You got it,” Farris replies simply. “I want everyone who comes to Free and Clear records to get the benefit of the experience and blessing of their given talent.”

Farris’s struggle to create her own niche in the music industry and her eventual distancing from labels in the name of truth is the drive behind her new album, On Top of the World. An autobiographical collection of self-reflective songs, Farris described the recording process best by sharing her new motto for the album and all future endeavors.

“Your limit is your imagination,” she says. In her excitement, Farris even gave an a cappella preview of the title song to her interviewers via the Skype audio track.

Fast-paced and rhythmic, the thirty-second demo of “On Top of the World” is full of excitement, gratification. It’s a feel-good song for a really great day, a walking-down-the-sidewalk-I-feel-like-dancing song that soulfully begs you to sing along to the smooth-moving beats of Farris’s lyrics. In a pure, piercing voice that registered strong and clear over the literal miles of computer transference, Farris fearlessly proclaimed the chorus tag line, “How good of you to call when I’m on top of the world.”

Her enthusiasm is genuine, her passion overwhelming. “I’m definitely doing what I’m supposed to do,” Farris says. With an upcoming album, her own record label, and success that transcends her initial debut in 1995 to find her an established, independent musician of today, Farris’s smile is almost visible in her words.

“The one thing I can say at the end of the day to do no matter what is try to be consistent. There has always been, and will always be, a beautiful consistency in music for me.”

For another great story about Dionne Farris, click here:Farris Paved Way for Alternative Black Artists

Photo: Courtesy of Dionne Farris

Celia Faussart, aka BlueNefertiti, Builds Bridges Made of Music

By Chris LaRose

It's been said that music is one of the few means of entertainment that can bring together almost anyone from any sort of background. Celia Faussart, one half of the Grammy-nominated group Les Nubians, knows this firsthand, as she and her sister have worked extremely hard to allow their music to act as a bridge from culture to culture. The sisters combine soul, reggae, and African sounds in their music, much of which is entirely in French - however, their dream is that, regardless of the language barrier, their music can span entire cultures and backgrounds and touch different kinds of people in many different ways.

"There's a moment in the beginning where you don't know if people will be touched by your music," Celia said, "but when you see people's reactions to the sounds you're creating... you know you've done it." My interview with Celia really solidified in me that these two women wanted to change their world, or at least a few minds, with their music. Her personality is immediately warm and welcoming and she speaks with the knowledge of an adult, but the excitement of a child who's learning new things on a daily basis; it's all of these things that left me with no question as to why she has experienced so much success.

Though their success is apparent nowadays, with a Grammy nomination under their belt and many other recognitions as well, the sisters of Les Nubians (which literally means "from Nubia" as a tribute to their homeland) didn't grow up with the knowledge of how to turn their love of music into a career. It wasn't until Celia met her friend's mother who was a successful opera singer. "She was the first one to tell me that in order to succeed with singing," Faussart said, "you had to practice, practice, practice... so I did."

Armed with a slew of gifts, from her amazing voice to her obvious beauty, Celia began working with such big names as of the Black Eyes Peas, who once told Celia that she reminded him of Nefertiti, the ancient Egyptian queen. "He always said I look like Nefertiti," she said. Celia then added "Blue" to the name Nefertiti because it is one of her favorite colors and musical modes. "So when it came to choose my name for 'Paris@Night,' I knew that was going to be the name I used." Paris@Night is Celia's biggest dream coming true, something she realized could actually happen once she arrived in New York City. The show is a combination of the sister's creative ideas as well as their unique and original sound - all taking place in a cabaret setting. "It's amazing to see my dream coming true," Faussart said, "I just hope one day to be able to make it an even larger production."

Music is such a large aspect of Faussart's life and when asked how she feels about the direction that hip hop music is taking, the sound in her voice changed. Her thick accent seems to almost pace itself automatically as she answers, "In the beginning, hip hop helped us have a strong spine... today, it is quite different... but, creation has to go on." It's not shocking to hear that a woman, who is trying so hard to bridge the gap between the every day Americans and those who do not fit the 'status quo' of what it means to be American, is disappointed in a music form that often further separates groups of people and reinforces stereotypes.

The sisters cite Ella Fitzgerald, The Fugees and Miriam Makeba among their influences and these names, especially Ella Fitzgerald, are actually quite obvious listening to some of Les Nubians music. According to the sister's Facebook biography, Celia has said, "Making this record was, in part, a way for our generation to give tribute to musicians we've looked up to and see that their music gets the recognition it deserves."

Though Celia is not a fan of labeling her music, in a 2008 interview with SingersRoom she explained her reasoning, "...we don’t define our music, it’s Afropean music, it’s the only definition I can give. But to tell you it’s Soul, it’s R&B, it’s Jazz, it’s Afro, it’s Hip/Hop, and [well] it’s everything that’s there." All in all, the music of Les Nubians has certainly touched a variation of lives and many of their fans openly say that the music the sister's have created has touched moments of their lives forever. "Their music is fun to dance to, sensual, and rhythmic, as well as healing in some of the tracks," said Michelle Montgomery, a longtime fan of Les Nubians, "for me [they] have been highlights [of] moments in my life, when I felt a particular feeling, they have been there to comfort me."

For another great story about Celia Faussart, please click here: "Celia Faussart Gives Journalism Students a High-Spirited Intervew"

Photo credit: Oluwaseye Olusa

Casting Director Morgan Fahey Gives the Real Scoop About Reality Television

By Chris LaRose

With the way reality television is today, odds are you know someone who knows someone who slept with somebody who has either been on a reality show, or has at least waited in line to audition for one. But what you may not know is just how complex of a process it is for the people who cast these shows to find the right cast members. Recently, Morgan Fahey, a casting director for such shows as "The Real World" and "Project Runway," spoke to a Plattsburgh State journalism class about her career and her experiences in casting such widely known programs.

Originally, Fahey had no intentions to go into casting for television programs, however, she had worked in post-production before. It was only when an old college friend told her about a position that had opened up in casting that Fahey decided to possibly take her career in that direction. After graduating from Wesleyan College, Fahey explained that she has always thought herself to be "very curious" and had the type of personality that could get anyone to open up to her. Lucky for her, these personality traits and her education at Wesleyan would come in very handy for a career in casting.

"I like casting shows where even I can learn something," Fahey said, "it's not always about just the selected cast members learning things about themselves." While she admits to not watching much reality television, "Project Runway" is still one of her favorites and she was thrilled to cast for season five of the hit show. "Project Runway was definitely the most difficult show to cast," she said, "because you're not only looking for A+ designers, but also personalities that will shine on television." It's these extreme personalities that Fahey says she is always looking for when casting, however, it can sometimes be difficult to decipher a real personality from someone just trying to end up on television.

Having been an integral part of casting for shows such as "Laguna Beach" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Fahey says her job requires her to be "half psychologist and half investigative journalist - but without the ethics of either two." Regardless, she says she looks forward to the future of reality television, even though it seems that there are already established genres that a majority of the networks stick to. "I don't see much changing anytime soon," Fahey said, "but it will be interesting to see if anything new comes about... We've already wet the public's appetite."

What sets Fahey apart from others in her field is her strong personality and ability to talk to anyone about anything, because there is no kind of person she isn't interested in meeting. "My job has made me much more and much less social," Fahey said, regarding the impact it has had on her friendships and relationships with men. However, she admits that she loves her job and is grateful for all the opportunities it has opened up for her. "I had always wanted to be a writer," she said, "but being such an important part of the reality show business is something I will never regret."

Former 98 Degrees member releases solo album free online

By Jessica Bakeman

Free tunes for fanhood? That’s a trade Jeff Timmons, former founding member of the boy band 98 Degrees, is willing to make.

Timmons is releasing his 2009 album, a second solo project, to fans as a free online download — with hopes that they’ll tell their friends.

“Emotional High,” for which final tracks are still being chosen, will be released online between Christmas and New Year’s, an attempt to lure in listeners who have nothing to lose, Timmons said. To gain access to the album, fans simply need to fill out a survey on at, and will receive a code for downloading.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything out,” Timmons said. “I don’t expect people to know what my sound is. I’m not expecting people to spend 10 or 15 bucks on a record if they don’t know what the songs are like.”

He said the future of the music industry will depend on artists being able to market themselves.

“You’re going to use your music as a commercial for yourself as an artist. It’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to get paid for that,” he said. “If I get a million people (to download my album), that’s a million more people that are aware of my product.”

Timmons plans to use this free model, ironically, to make money. For example, he might hold a concert where tickets are free. He would then seek out a sponsor to pay him for the performance. With a guarantee of a large crowd who will want to take advantage of free entertainment, that sponsor will get its money’s worth in exposure.

“I can guarantee that 10,000 people will be there because I’m giving all the tickets away, so now sponsors base sponsorship dollars” on those consumers, he said.

The music on the album, including the title track, “Emotional High,” and the edgy (for a former boy band member) “Sexy Mama,” echo the 98 Degrees style lyrically, exploring relationships and love. There are a few ballads, but the biggest difference in Timmons’ album and his boy-band past is the tempo.

“The radio is tempo-driven,” he said. “It’s very hard to get ballads on the radio today.”

He is excited about the new release.

“It’s kind of contemporary sound,” he said. “It’s definitely a sound that’s familiar on the radio. All of the 98 Degrees fans will be reenergized by the album.”

One of Timmons’ production partners on the album, Matt Fechter, shares musical history with him that predates 98 Degrees.

Friends from high school and then at Kent State where they both attended college, the two were in a boy band whose name changed often, from 501 Blues to Four Tools in a Box, finally settling on the title, Just Us. Timmons remembers his main motivations back then: “We were trying to impress girls in college,” he said with a laugh. “We thought we were really cool, but we weren’t.”

The group went to California from Ohio to make it big, and got pretty close. Just before signing, Timmons’ buddies backed out, unable to make the commitment.

Fechter reflects on that experience: “We were at it for a about a year and being young and na├»ve, three of the members decided to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said. “And once we got home, we got a little bit homesick and unfortunately, we decided we didn’t want to pursue it, even though we were getting that close. I think we were just a little immature and didn’t realize how close we were to making it.”

After that setback, Timmons put ads in industry publications looking for new band members, and the rest of the final band, 98 Degrees, joined him. They were signed not long after.

Fechter was brought on as a songwriting partner and one of Fechter’s songs ended up on 98 Degrees’ Christmas album, “This Christmas,” released in 1999.

Fechter also shared in the success of a couple of top-10 hits overseas from Timmons’ first solo project, “Whisper That Way,” released in 2004.

“Whisper That Way” addressed more serious material than the new album, as Timmons said he was going through a difficult period emotionally.

“I was having a tough time personally. I was married and going through a divorce and had kids I was fighting for,” he said. “My career had slowed down; that genre of music we were considered — a boy band — was a blessing and a curse. It has been considered ‘trendy’ music and a lot of people didn’t think we could sing live or that we produced our own music.”

“Emotional High” represents the fun side of Timmons, which he said reflects where he is in his life now.

“I like to have fun, probably too much, and I don’t take a whole lot seriously besides my kids,” he said.

Having worked with Timmons on the production and some background harmonies, Fechter said listeners can expect a mix of Timmons’ familiar ballads and a new, exciting sound.

“There’s definitely a lot of R-’n’-B-influenced uptempos, mid-tempos and, of course, there are still a few ballads on there, too,” he said.

An avid producer and businessman, Timmons’ solo project is not the only endeavor he has in the works. After nailing down the contracts with a few suppliers, Timmons is set to introduce iamMedia, a music distribution company he started working on five years ago.

“The main reason the music industry, the paradigm, is failing is because there are not as many places to get CDs,” he said. “It’s not because of downloading, it’s because (CDs are) not that available; there aren’t many outlets to purchase CDs.”

Similar to the Starbucks model, where CDs are sold by the register to entice consumers into making an impulse purchase, Timmons’ company would put CDs in grocery and convenient stores, shopping malls and truck stops — “high traffic stores.”

“Put them at the check out line where they’re impulsive, (and customers will) buy them on the way out. There are lots of ways to make money on it,” he said.

The displays would include screens with multimedia, showing an artists’ video, and providing the opportunity to buy not only CDs, but ringtones, and other multimedia products.

Timmons said he is currently in talks with convenient stores like Dollar General, CVS and Walgreens.

“Once we get all the content providers in place we’re going to launch,” he said.

Timmons is also lending his talent to other artists. An up-and-coming R ’n’ B artist, Rhapsody speaks highly of the work he has done for her.

“I think he’s pretty rare,” she said. “He just works… he’s a workaholic.”

Former manager and on-air radio personality Chad Zimmerman — who goes by Chad Taylor in his radio work in Iowa — agrees that Timmons’ commitment to his work and fans is relentless.

“I’ve never met anyone more passionate or driven about the music business than Jeff is, and that’s a sincere answer,” he said. “This is a man who works tirelessly in the studio, but he also takes time to talk to his fans on the social networking sites.”

When fans request autographs after a show, Zimmerman said, “he would wait and sign the last autograph.”

Timmons is hoping to reach both former fans as well as a new demographic with his release, and sees college students as a major target demographic. As many of the 98-Degrees fans were in their pre-teens, that group is now in the college age group.

“I definitely want to tap into that younger fan base, but I don’t want to alienate anybody or target anyone specifically,” he said. “College kids are great and they spread the word. With technology, it’s a loyal fan base.”

As for the cursed blessing of his boy-band association, Timmons hopes it will help him gain exposure for his new album, perhaps through former fans who may now be in positions of power at magazines or other entertainment news outlets. He hopes they might want to support his comeback.

Timmons is leaning on his past success to give him a shot at listener’s attention.

“You’re never gonna get away from it. There was a time when we were on TV every day for like three years. It’s not a bad thing … to be connected to a successful genre of music,” he said. “I’m not crying about it.”

Photo credit: Jenn Hoffman Photography

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick & Easy Holiday Recipes

By Chris LaRose

'Twas the night before Christmas and you don't know what to do - holiday dinner is all up to you. You've got turkey and pies and stuffing galore, but you know that your family is going to want more. The cookbook is old and tattered, it's through, you need something special, something easy and new. And what to your wondering eyes should appear? Three holiday recipes to help you this year.

The holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends and the amazing food of the season, but as people scramble to finish wrapping presents, stuff stockings and make sure their home is filled with holiday cheer, it can be difficult to cook extravagant dishes for holiday dinner. Many people have a few quick and easy holiday recipes up their sleeve that they bring out every year and below are three of the easiest, yet cutest, recipes that I've come across. Hopefully they will bring a little holiday cheer to you and your family, while taking away some of the stress of creating unique food ideas for the holidays.

Christmas Crunch Balls

- 2 cups of Captain Crunch cereal
- 1 package of marshmallow
- 1 stick of butter
- Melt marshmallow and butter together on low heat, until melted
- Add captain crunch to mixture
- Remove from stove top, stir together gently
- Let cool and then form into balls

"My four boys ask me every Christmas to make my crunch balls," said Melissa Bushey, who invented the balls herself after substituting Rice Krispies with Captain Crunch, "they're the most random idea that has somehow become a staple in my house every year." Melissa says that when people first hear of them they expect them to be way too sweet, but after tasting them they change their mind. "They're my favorite dessert at Christmas," said Nick Bushey, Melissa's son, "I like them a lot more than normal rice krispie bars." So this Christmas if you're looking to add a little color with a delicious flare to your dinner table this season, Christmas Crunch Balls can be the solution.

Jello Ice Rink

- 4 boxes of blue jello
- 2 1/2 cups of boiling water
- a cup of little/big marshmallows
- sprinkles
- toothpicks
- Let marshmallow dissolve in the 2 1/2 cups of boiling water
- Pour into a 9/13 inch pan
- Refrigerate for 3 hours
- Cut jello to your liking
- Use marshmallows, toothpicks and sprinkles to create snowmen, igloos, or any of your own ideas

The jello ice rink is a ridiculously easy recipe that can be a great addition to your Christmas dinner, for both children and adults to enjoy. "My mother and I just thought one day how cute a little jello ice rink would look," said Nicole Couture, who has used the ice rink for the past three Christmas parties she's thrown, "and when you add the snowmen and other directions to it, the rink really comes to life." The look of the jello ice rink alone is enough to impress people, but the familiar taste of jello and marshmallows always brings people to whatever table houses the little rink at the party. "I know that I always make a bee-line for the jello every year at our party," said Justin Couture, Nicole's husband, "and my mom has been jealous since she saw it the first time."

Holiday Oreo Balls

- 8 ounce package cream cheese
- Whole package of Orea cookies
- Powdered sugar
- Soften cream cheese (leave out for 20 minutes or so)
- Mix cream cheese and crushed oreos together
- Form into balls
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Once hardened, roll in powdered sugar

"Oreo balls have been around for a while," said Kim Crockett, who put her own special twist to the recipe, "but most people dip them in white chocolate... I found that to be too intense of a taste." The Oreo balls resemble snowballs, so Kim yearly fills a tiny, decorative wheel barrel on her table with them to resemble a child's snowballs during a snowball fight. "I've gotten compliments on how adorable the wheel barrel turns out," Kim said, "and it's really such an easy thing to make." Kim's friend, Chrissy Allard, agrees. "The first time I tasted the Oreo balls I was hooked," Chrissy said, "they're decorative and delicious - and you'd never think they're so easy to make."

What's so special about the three recipes that were chosen is the fact that they all came from the heart of the women who created them, and they're easy to prepare when you're in a tight spot. With just a little imagination you can even put a twist on the recipes, whether it's adding more snowmen to the Jello Ice Rink, or dipping the Holiday Oreo Balls in white chocolate - it's all up to you. But hopefully this holiday while you're frantically searching for a quick recipe before a holiday party at work, or before your family members arrive for dinner on Christmas Eve, you'll look to North Country Entertainment for help.

Photo credits: Chris LaRose

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Death of Weezer

By Andrew Beam

Remember the early 90’s? When grunge was grabbing the world by the throat and bringing out a new sense of teen angst. The crunching guitars, the wild screams, the chugging bass, and Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain. In the middle of all of this, there was one geeky kid named Rivers Cuomo, with a bowl cut and large framed glasses fronting a band full of well-dressed gentlemen, as opposed to the bombardment of flannel and torn jeans. This band was Weezer, and they were the band that made being a nerd and a little different than everyone else, well, cooler than it was before.

There were songs like “Buddy Holly” from 1994’s The Blue Album, the pleading “Undone-The Sweater Song” from the same album. Pinkerton came in 1996 where songs like “Pink Triangle” about a man who wants to marry a woman yet unfortunately discovers she is a lesbian, or the introverted “El Scorcho.” Even The Green Album had a few good songs with “Hash Pipe”, the song Weezer should have done during the 90’s, or the fun-loving pop hit “Island in the Sun.” These were all great memories of a band that made it incredibly hard not to like. Until now, after three despicable releases, awful promotional ideas, bizarre covers, and even more peculiar guest artists on their albums, Weezer has found away to strip the life away from themselves. They now can be pronounced, dead.

It would be difficult to discuss all the past grievances, though most recently some of the more abnormal actions have been taken by Cuomo and the band. The Tripwire, an online webzine that covers a majority of the happenings in the independent, and sometimes major, music industry, has heavily scrutinized Weezer for their actions. It started when Weezer performed at KROQ Weenie Roast in Los Angeles and they covered the song “Kids” by MGMT and “Pokerface” by Lady GaGa. If there was any indication of distaste, the headline read “Oh Jesus God, Weezer Have Done It Again.” The article went on to describe Weezer’s fight to be hip as they say, “Another sign of the apocalypse, and yet another of the many signs of Weezer’s complete slide into absolute irrelevance. Confidential to Rivers Cuomo: rapping ‘I am bluffin’ with my muffin’’ may cause your audience’s ears to bleed. Just a heads up.”

The band has now moved onto releasing their seventh studio album entitled Raditude. Bryan Menegus, staff writer for Hofstra University’s school newspaper, titled his review of the album announcing, “Weezer Proclaimed Dead; Corpse Poops Out ‘Raditude.’” What he might be referring to are the suspicious collaborations Weezer has decided on with artist’s like Lil’ Wayne on the track “Can’t Stop Partying”, a song about exactly what the title entails, was also co-written with producer Jermaine Dupri. Live, the band has pushed the strange thresh-hold even more by performing with acts like Kayty Perry, Kenny G, and Gossip Girls actress Leighton Meester. This has left online publications like Pitchfork, a popular music news website, confused as author Ryan Dombol present videos of Weezer performin with Kenny G, Chamillionare, and Sarah Bareilles, with just a quick blurb stating defeatedly, “Sometimes you just have to let the videos play.”

The final nail in the coffin has come in the form of promotion for their new CD. For $30, fans were able to purchase a package where when buying the CD, they will also get a Weezer branded Snuggie, the blanket with sleeves, that has been now referred to as a wuggie. Before getting into reporting the news, The Trip Wire wrote a disclaimer stating, “We occasionally feel bad for our inability to approach anything Weezer does these days without an ounce of seriousness. But then things like these come along and remind us they aren’t taking themselves seriously, so why should we?”

It was a sign of giving up. Now the Weezer’s heart monitor has lost its beeping rhythm, and has come to a monotone flat line. Sure, Raditude won’t be the last that the world will see of Weezer, but the least they can do is bring back a little bit of the old band we knew so we can live through the nostalgia.

International Comic Creator and Animator, Svetlana Chmakova, Takes Break From Con Scene

By Amanda Sivan Kaufman

With the release of the second volume of her latest comic series and currently running children’s television series, international hit Svetlana Chmakova has decided to take a break from the convention scene to focus on her work.

Recently appearing during Halloween weekend at Bakuretsu Con, an anime convention held in Colchester, VT, Chmakova said the convention would be one of the last she would attend for a while.

Chmakova specializes in manga, Japanese style comic books, and her latest series Nightschool is currently running in the monthly anthology Yen Plus magazine. The second volume of Nightschool came out on October 27, 2009 and according to Chmakova it is the series she always wanted to write as a teen.

Focusing on the story of Alex Treveney, a special kind of witch known as a weirn, who is trying to find out what happened to her sister whose evidence of existence and memory vanished, Nightschool is described by its creator as being similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in nature. The series is expected for a minimum of four volumes, the third to be released in April 2010.

While working on Nightschool, Chmakova was also in charge of art for the children’s television series My Life Me, which began airing on Canadian stations Fall 2009. Scouted by her friend J.C. Little to be co-creator of the series, Chmakova called the experience a “learning curve” and said she prefers to work on comics than animation.

She called comics a part of who she is, having first been exposed to a series called Elf Quest back in Russia. After coming to Canada, she settled in Ontario and began going to conventions.

“I really do love animation and it would be nice to do some side projects on my own, which I could and I might,” Chmakova said in a faint Russian accent. “One of the things about animation is that it is incredibly time consuming.”

Born in Moscow, Russia, Chmakova immigrated to Canada at the age of 16 where she eventually got her animation degree. However, upon graduating she said animation job offerings were very low. She dabbled in online comics for Cosmogirl,, and her own purposes and sold her work at conventions in the artist’s alley, where a representative from the Tokyopop manga company discovered her. Eventually, her first published series Dramacon came to be.

Originally intended to be a single volume story, Dramacon’s surprising popularity led to the creation of two more books in the series. The manga is being published in 12 different countries, including Japan.

Dramacon has won the Best Comics of 2005 award, nominations for a Harvey Award in the Best New Series of 2006, special recognition Eisner Award, and making the list of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Chamkova’s other works include everything from online comics to toy designs, from short stories to animation.

Despite great reception and large fanbases, Chmakova has remained modest in regards to her talent.

“In my head it (her comics) looks like Lord of the Rings, you know, very cinematic, very beautiful backgrounds, and excellent soundtracks. And then what I get is what you see in the books,” she said. “I don’t think I am a bad artist. I’m certainly not amazing, but I certainly have a lot of room to grow and learn.”

With her busy schedule attributing to her lack of availability for future conventions, Chmakova remains in contact with her fans through online forums and her account that she occasionally has time to update.

Chmakova said her “dream job” would be to animate Dramacon and do more books because she has a lot more story to tell, although the reality of doing so is doubtful.

Unlike Nightschool, Dramacon is owned by Tokyopop and she has no direct control over any other productions involving the series.

In the future, however, she said she would like to team up with a writer and create art for a comic series.

“I would actually be very interested to be an artist on a project that is written by another writer,” Chmakova said. “When I write for myself, and I think maybe creators who both write and draw will find this, we go easy on ourselves. You make these compromises for yourself.”

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

By Cassandra Thomas

Modern, definitely! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 takes war and its plot to the next level. The seamlessly realistic and addictive videogame was released this past Tuesday.

Selling 4.7 million copies and gaining a first-day income of $310 million, Modern Warfare breaks the box office record of Batman: The Dark Knight, which crossed $300 million in ten days, according to PlanetXBOX360. Anticipated game-players have sought out to purchase the game with high expectations that has proven to be met.

Despite the extreme-action-packed game play, the grim reality of the game can cause uneasiness. Call of Duty is known for its first-person shooter and the rewarding heroic position the player is put in during the campaign; however, the player may question being the “ultimate hero.” In the three-act campaign, which is quite short and not too challenging, the player is placed in dark plots such as the “No Russian” level. You are the terrorist and you are being ordered to participate in the activities that terrorists do. Although the game gives the option of skipping this level, it still remains as disruptive as it sounds. “Parental discretion is advised.”

With high-definition graphics, the players get lost in realistic settings from Rio de Janeiro to suburban America. During the campaign, you will endure first-hand recreational activities: ice climbing, a snowmobile race and marine experience. Even while you’re an undercover terrorist or rescuing hostages, Modern Warfare 2 is guaranteed to make you feel as if you were really there.

Besides the required concentration of the dragging dramatic story, the multiplayer mode takes full-credit for the game’s success. The online multiplayer mode is competitive, rewarding the fastest and deadliest players with new skill-boosting perks. The sensational perks assist the player in being more strategic, more deadly and much more resilient.

Even if a player doesn’t reach “gamers” standards – long kill streaks, prestige rankings and minimum deaths – they are still capable in receiving experience points. More so, everyone is able to unlock guns, increase ranking, earn new equipment and gain perks. Unlike previous iterations of the franchise, guns that were only presented in the primary weapon slot are now available in secondary, meaning gamers no longer have to stick with handguns. For those who can’t handle the heat, a bullet-resistant riot shield can be equipped in primary, as well.

Modern Warfare satisfies the coordinated sharp shooters. In order to get from point A to point B, one must survive a swarm of enemies that are either repelling from a building or rushing towards your direction. Special Ops mode prepares the player for such a thrilling campaign and cutthroat multiplayer. “Switching guns is faster than reloading.” Ops mode assists the player in improving their reflexes, gaining flawless aim and coordination to completing objectives. The missions can be played cooperatively, so you can play with a friend and both can prepare to be “ultimate heroes.” Or not.

Modern Warfare 2 is ranked 9 out of 10.

WARNING: The game can cause sleep-deprivation and extreme, uncontrollable anger.

For another story about Modern Warfare 2, please click here: "Video Game Controversy: Modern Warfare 2"

Photo: Courtesy of GamerNode


By Jamela Gibson

An indie/electro band that comes from New York City brings a different sound than some people may be used to. They call themselves “Holy Hail.” Holy Hail debut album was called Independent Pleasures Club. They’re releasing their second LP called The Dying Party in LP (Long Play) which they incorporate various of mixed sounds as well as instruments.

For someone like me that likes to listen to R&B, and some positive hip hop music such as Kanye West or Common, listening to Holy Hail takes a bit of getting used to.

When first hitting play on my computer, and anxiously awaiting for the song to begin, I didn’t know what to expect. As the instruments from the song loudly explode from my speakers to my ears, for the first fifty seconds of the song “What It’s Like To Go Away,” I began to think to myself…is this the entire song? At first it’s just instruments that play for awhile. But then I hear a female voice coming through my speakers and it sounds as if I accidentally hit the fast forward button but then I realize its apart of the song. The female vocalist begins singing words fast, so fast that I am unable to translate what she is trying to say.

It’s a bit hard to understand what the female vocalist is saying. The only thing that I can make out is “What It’s Like To Go Away,” in the chorus. The song is a little over six minutes of drums and possibly piano. After awhile it can become a bit annoying listening to eighty five percent of instruments and fifteen percent of vocals. With six minutes already into the song , it begins to sounds like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie.

The song “Creaking Cries” is different type of song that cannot be played too loud or else you will begin to hear ringing in your ears. The instruments to this song that band Green Day will have for one of their songs. Again, it’s hard to understand the lyrics to the song. Again, maybe some people would appreciate the instrumental and vocals, but coming from someone who loves R&B and positive hip hop music; it’s a different kind of music in which it takes some getting used to.

All the songs on the album are pretty much the same but the titles are just different. I didn’t understand what the message was in the songs. The positive thing is that the instruments that are in the song are easy and interesting to listen too. But if you’re looking for a song for vocals and a purpose, Holy Hail’s “The Dying Party” is not something to turn to.

Maybe someone who is interested in an indie/electro genre could enjoy the album, but if you’re not a fan of indie/electro genre then it might take some time of getting used to.

But for the most part, this is a group of four people, (three men and a female) that are taking chances with their sound, and tying to get everyone to listen to their music and like them.

If I download this onto my Ipod and listen to the LP version every day then maybe someone like me can get used to it and begin to like it.

The other songs on the LP include: Keymaker’s summer; Marry on Mountaintops; Undertow; Carry On; as well as the other two songs that were already mentioned in this review called What’s It’s Like To Go Away, and Creaking Cries.

If you really want to try and listen to something new, grab a nice cup of cold water and sit through the LP and grasp a feel as to what the group, Holy Hail’s message is. Maybe there is one, or maybe there isn’t one. It depends on the listeners ear for music.

Credit: ???

Milk Investigation

By Kristen Rafferty

Author Eric Luper is not your typical writer. He wasn’t born with a passion for the classics—Dickens, Shakespeare, and Chaucer were Cliffs Notes tabs on the left side of the page—and Don Delillo, Junot Diaz, and Melvin Burgess’s edgy contemporary writings left him wanting. For most of his life, comic books were about all he would pick up.

“I was a reluctant reader,” Luper admits. “There was always too much stimulation around for me to get lost in the world of reading—other than comic books, of course.”

So how did a former comic book junkie end up the highly praised author of two young adult fiction novels, and a much-anticipated upcoming release this spring, all within two years? Steadily rising in the world of literature, his third novel, Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto, is set to be released next June, and a fourth is already in the works.

“Not until college did I develop a love for the written word,” explains Luper on his professional website. “Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.’ I just didn’t get on the boat until really late.”

Once on board, though, Luper’s career took off fairly quickly.

Though Luper struggled at first to find his niche, receiving limited feedback and “nibbles,” on his first writings, he jokes that he was “too stupid to stop”.

After a friend urged him one night to watch poker on television (a suggestion Luper has been quoted as responding to with “I couldn’t possibly think of anything more boring than watching people on tv playing cards”), an idea, THE idea, was born. Call it beginner’s luck, but Luper jotted down a chapter, shared it with friends, developed the plot, and bam. Five months later, a nanosecond in authorial time, Big Slick was written.

A story of temptation, Big Slick revolves around a teenage boy who watches poker on television and online until discovering an illegal club where he can play Texas Hold ‘em for real. The novel was nominated last year for the American Library Association’s list of Best Books for Young Adults, amidst overwhelmingly positive responses.

One especially notable online review describes Luper’s storyline as “An action-filled tale involving hot girls, hot cars, very dangerous people, serious desperation, and some seriously bad choices,” and speculates that the Big Slick “is going to be a great new title for reluctant readers.”

The more prestigious Kirkus Reviews compliments Luper’s writing, praising his first novel as an “authentic first-person narrative,” a “powerful” breakout novel.

Its success was unexpected, especially given the speed of the process.

“Big Slick was written largely at my dining room table in the evenings after the kids went to sleep,” Luper shares. “I could hear the ambient noise of the television as my wife watched Law and Order (or whatever legal/medical drama was popular at the time).” Luper says that his novel was accepted for publishing with little necessity for revision—it seemed his career had hit a turning point, and the destination was his choice from here on out.

“I tend to write by the seat of my pants,” Luper confesses. “Story ideas occur to me all the time. I jot down notes and sometimes brainstorm to develop ideas more thoroughly…if the idea doesn’t totally bore me at that point, I’ll give it a few chapters and see where I end up.”

He is not without guidance, however. “My 8 year old son wants me to write a baseball story,” Luper shares cheerfully, “and my 5 year old daughter wants me to write something with princesses and ponies.”

Intriguing and as tempting as his children’s suggestions were, Luper’s inspiration for his second novel was instead his longtime passion for horseracing (hey, it’s almost a novel about ponies, right?)

Bug Boy is a Seabiscuit-style story of Thoroughbred racing set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the elegant history of the Saratoga Springs Racetrack, where Luper actually spent part of his summer doing promotional book signings.

Released last June, his sophomore novel is quickly living up to its predecessor’s success, most recently named to the Indie Next List, a prestigious list of the best books of 2009 as chosen by independent booksellers.

Reviewed as a “well-written, engaging story” by the School Library Journal, and described as “a book that's going to make teen boys fall in love with historical fiction without ever knowing what hit them” by the increasingly popular, a social networking site for literature, Bug Boy is continuing to gain attention and praise in the professional community for its unique storyline.

Even as Bug Boy steadily climbs in reviews, Luper is gearing up for the promotion of his third novel Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto, set to begin marketing this spring.

A story of teenage love, loss, and discovery, Love Manifesto revolves around a male teenage protagonist’s podcast about his ponderings, and even has its own playlist to accompany it.

“Yes, you read that right,” jokes Luper. “I wrote a book with a playlist. My iPod has the current playlist on it and I’m tinkering with the song selections. Right now, Cupid’s Chokehold by Gym Class Heroes is playing.

If the classic-but-still-rock-and-roll song is any indication, Luper’s fourth novel is sure to be an edgy change to his previous writings.

“I love the humor in my third novel,” Luper shares enthusiastically. “It’s a great change of pace for me…really the first time I allowed myself to spread my wings and just write.”

“Just writing” seems to be all Luper will be doing this winter, and he doesn’t mind a bit. Already setting to work on finishing a fourth novel that is aimed at younger readers—name and plotline are still under wraps, but “rest assured,” Luper says, “it’s got a lot of potty humor and antics!”—Luper’s is counting on the cold days of January and looking forward to staying inside and writing.

“If I could accomplish one thing with my writing, it would be to open people’s minds to the possibility of reading a book from the young adult section,” Luper says, adding, “I don’t mind when people don’t read my book as long as they’re reading books in general.”

A far cry from his days at the Cliffs Notes rack, Luper insists that his professional writing career does not take away from his everyday life.

“My inspirations are my kids,” Luper says. “I want them to see how hard work can be very rewarding.”

The very best part about being a published author?

“I’ve seen my books on the shelves of a bookstore or library hundreds of times,” wonders Luper, “but it still makes my heart skip a beat.”

Seven Deadly Characters

By Alissa Vidulich

The seven deadly sins have been popularized in the narrative poem Dante's Commedia, through major motion pictures such as Se7en and by the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Gregory the Great proclaimed that the seven deadly sins were (in order of increasing severity): lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The origin of the concept of “capital” sins can be traced back to Proverbs 6:16-19 of the Bible where it is written, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him.”

Deadly sins or what one might today simply refer to as 'character traits' can be seen around us every day in varying degrees. From celebrities with gluttonous narcotic addictions to the sloth-like teens who waste away in a haze of Mountain Dew and World of Warcraft.. if the seven sins are truly as god-awful as implied by the scriptures then, in the words of Marilyn Manson, “it's a long hard road out of Hell.”

In no fashion are such sins better personified than through the devices of cleverly-crafted cinematography, a striking score and an arresting actor or actress (and in some cases computer generated characters). It could just be that because the seven deadly sins are so dramatically personified through characters in film that such 'sins' being committed throughout many societies are now merely seen as character traits.

While they may not be entirely to blame for the world's growing desensitization to sinful acts, there are many characters of film who personify and exaggerate the capital sins to noteworthy degrees. Here are seven cinematic characters, who could just be the best of all time when it comes to rendering the deadliest of sins. The list follows the Pope's order of increasing severity as you descend further down the wailing depths of despair toward the crestfallen accommodations of the prideful.

The vampires Lestat (Tom Cruise), Louis (Brad Pitt) & Claudia (Kirsten Dunst)
Interview with the Vampire

Tagline: “Drink from me and Live Forever”

Lestat's ceaseless lust for blood, Louis' unfulfilled longing for death and life's meaning and Claudia's undying urge for normalcy, together the treacherous trio form a lustful league of deadly proportions. Of course, they're vampires, so whether they're subject to the same degree of eternal damnation as humans are for their sins remains uncertain. Perhaps Anne Rice would be the one to ask on such matters, her screenplay for the film is based on her novel of the same title, the first in a lengthy series dubbed The Vampire Chronicles. The film was released in 1994 and was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Brave One). The iconic Dracula and American Beauty's Lester Burnham are tied for second in the lust category.

The Blob
The Blob

Tagline: “Scream now, while there's still room to breathe”

The Blob is the epitome of gluttonous. This red shapeless creature crashed to earth from outer space in the 1988 flick and quickly began consuming everything in its path with no discrimination. At least Monty Python's Mr. Creosote attempted to turn down the wafer thin mint before his stomach exploded. The Blob's entire 'body' appears to a gigantic gelatin stomach, and grows bigger and bigger as it consumes people, buildings, the world. The film was a remake of the 1958 version where much of The Blob's gruesome gluttony is implied rather than shown in great detail, as in the scene where The Blob devours a woman through the kitchen sink drain. The Blob was directed by Chuck Russell (Nightmare on Elm Street III, Eraser).

Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine)
The Muppet Christmas Carol

Scrooge is perhaps the most iconic character when it comes to greed. He's a miser, makes his employees work on Christmas Eve and cares nothing whatever of the feelings of others. Ebenezer Scrooge originates from the classic novel, A Christmas Carol. The Disney version of the Charles Dickens character even swims in a vault of gold. While there are several films, which feature the character Brian Henson's 1992 version of the film captures the emotion of the characters better than the rest, which is odd considering most of the characters were puppets rather than on-screen actors.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston)
Office Space

Tagline: “Work sucks”

The tagline of this film says it all. Peter Gibbons hates his job as a software engineer so much that after becoming hypnotized he slithers into a sublime state of sloth. He drinks booze, watches ninja movies and shows up to work at his leisure. He simply wants to do nothing and at the thought is perfectly content. It's not a good source of inspiration for aspiring software engineers, or anyone who wants food and shelter outside of living in prison. Office Space was released in 1999 and was directed by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head, the personifications of sloth on the small screen.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Tagline: “The saga is complete”
Anakin Skywalker, who becomes the infamous Darth Vader, is a shining example of wrath by Dante's terms. Dante described wrath as the “love of justice perverted.” When Anakin is told he can save his wife from death by joining the dark side of the force his noble desires evolve into a form of wrath so vicious that it leads him to murder children. Eventually his intentions and actions are so perverted that he becomes someone else, in body, mind and spirit and sets out to destroy the Jedi in the chronological remainder of the series. In a recent Yahoo! Poll Darth Vader was voted the greatest villain of all time. The film was released in 2005 and was both written and directed by George Lucas.

Saruman (Christopher Lee)
The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)

If envy is seen as a lust for possessions that lie in the hands of someone else, then Saruman's envy of Frodo and his ring fits the frame. His envy leads Saruman the White to build an army of immense destruction to destroy Middle-Earth and attain the ring of power. The character Gollum is also holds a dangerous envy for Frodo's ring and attempts to murder him for it, but it seems he is more so truly mad than altogether evil like Saruman. The films were directed by Peter Jackson and were released from 2001 to 2003.

The Devil

The Devil is a character that befits the greatest of all capital sins. He has been portrayed in countless films including The Devil's Advocate, Pure Evil and Hellraiser, but they all have one thing in common, lust for supremacy or pride. In this character's world he is number one and will sacrifice anything and anyone to attain ultimate power, supremacy over the earth and over God himself. Lucifer, Satan, Mephisto are only some of the many names used to describe the fallen angel. Call him a character of evil truth or call him the most vile creation of fiction, the Devil is without a doubt the embodiment of the worst kind of pride.

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Who says lyrics makes a band

By Nicholas Persad

“If you got Herpes let me know, I ain’t gonna tap that, No No No,” Many people if they heard this song on the radio would be offended and repulsed by such as crass statement. They might be even more shocked to learn that it is a line from a song by a band whose oldest member just turned 16. But that is exactly what it is. ‘Herpes’ as the song is uniquely titled, is an original song from ‘Made in China’ a group based in Upstate New York and whose six member’s ages range from 13 to 16.

The subject matter of the musical lyrics of artists and bands in mainstream music is a very controversial topic that continues to be fueled by artists such as ‘Lady Gaga’ and ‘Trey Songz’ who have sexually explicit songs and Caribbean sensation ‘Buju Banton’ who blatantly sings about violence toward homosexuals. Some critics believe that music referencing anything that is considered ‘taboo’ such as sex, violence or different lifestyles should not be allowed to be played on the radio and there should be restrictions as to where and when these songs can be performed. Other critics appreciate the realism and honesty that certain artists give even if it degrades or offends an entire group in society.

In Upstate New York one of the concerns that plague many of the unknown bands is whether or not they will have to ‘throw out’ their musical integrity in order to become successful. “I wanted to make the band more mainstream, and marketable enough to pull in the big crowds,” said Benny Peyton, who was previously a member of the now disbanded ‘Autums Obsession’. He said the reason for the band’s ‘break up’ was there were conflicts as to which path the band should follow. “I wanted to move the band into a more pop genre, but the other members did not want to do that,” Peyton said.

Peyton described ‘Autumns Obsession’ as a band that was heavy metal and had some screaming. He said that the lyrics did not have cursing, but it did get somewhat violent. He recalled that when the band was still together in October 2009 they performed at the ‘Expo Center’ in Watertown, New York, and out of all the bands that performed that night they were the only one whose music created a ‘mosh pit’.

Chris Smith, a guitarist with the band ‘Clinch’, said that the lyrics of his band are just based on funny stories. “They are explicit, but it’s not like porn or anything,” Smith said. He also said that he believes their lyrics suit their music, but they would be willing to censor it for certain reasons. “We could edit them to make it more radio,” Smith said. ‘Clinch’ currently performs primarily in bars where the content of their lyrics is not an issue, but Smith said that if the band wanted to become mainstream they would probably consider censoring their music but still be reserved about it. “Personally I think that’s ‘selling out’.” Smith said.

Jake Yaeger, who goes by the stage name ‘DJ Mynd Tek’, belongs to a musical genre that he knows is not normally associated with the North Country: Rap. “In the North Country a rock band is definitely going to get the gig over a rap artist because their shows are guaranteed to draw a crowd,” said Yaeger. Yaeger, who is now based in Florida, said that branching out is key to being successful if you’re in the North Country, and that the rap scene in Upstate New York is completely different than in Florida. “Upstate New York rap is not like down south music,” said Yaeger. “It’s more like poetry. You are rapping about your life whereas down here people are rapping about drugs and violence.”

Some bands, however, have found a strong following even though their music is much darker than what is considered mainstream. “The darker stuff that I do write, people dance to it,” said Evan Bujolb of the Potsdam based band ‘Echo Drive’. “It’s a way for me to express myself and to get my message out there but not depress anybody.” Bujolb does not consider the band’s lyrics to be explicit or too graphic but did say that they have a song about a lobotomy. He said that he would not consider changing his lyrics because the music scene in the North Country is not strong. “A producer in New York City, who runs an indie label, is really feeling us.” Bujolb said.

The overall viewpoint of North Country bands is very convoluted. Some of them would consider changing their lyrics while others would not. “I don’t think we will change,” said Charles Stevens of ‘Made in China’. “We like the rock genre.” But how serious do you take a band that talks about Herpes.

Horticultural Vandals or Beautifying Natives?

By Nick Will

Imagine seeing a group of people gardening in downtown LA. With spades and watering cans in hand, this group of landscapers toil on plots of dirt that require constant maintenance and care. Technically, their day to day hobby is illegal and considered a form of vandalism, but guerrilla gardening veterans Scott Bunell and Terry Aldabert don’t feel this way.

Guerrilla gardening is best described as the act of cultivating derelict public space and turning these misused plots of land in cities into beautiful gardens. It’s all about going out and making things look better on your own and not waiting for city governments to do it. “It’s the commons, I don’t own it anymore than you own it or the city owns it, they just have jurisdiction over it,” says Bunnel.

Bunnel, 49, has been guerrilla gardening for over 20 years. He is employed by the government as a mail carrier, and commits to digs in his spare time. He often finds spots that need attention on bike rides with his wife. Bunnel has committed to more than a dozen sites in Long Beach, Hollywood, and the greater Los Angeles area. By committing, he continuously returns to these sites to water and maintain the gardens. According to Bunnel you have to be “serious about gardening,” and understand that guerrilla gardening isn’t just “something to do.”

Aldabert, 35, has been guerrilla gardening in the Toronto area for a few years. She is currently the coordinator of Toronto’s “Public Space Committee”, a prominent guerrilla gardening group in the Toronto area. She, like Bunnel started guerrilla gardening from a lack of personal space to garden. She has gardened for a few years, and has coordinated in different parts of Toronto for 3. She teaches professional development at universities across Canada, and is a part time student at the University of Toronto.

According to Bunnel, the recent media coverage over the last few years has shed quite a bit of light on the project, and may be the reason for the increase in guerilla gardening. “Monkey see monkey do,” stated Bunnel. Cells of guerrilla gardeners have sprung up all over the globe in the last few years, and this can be credited to its recent media coverage.

Both Bunnel and Aldabert are advocates of the gardening aspect of it. Bunnel stated that in his twenty years of guerrilla gardening, he has only been stopped and questioned by police once. He also mentioned that he never thinks of it as committing a crime, and just continues to do what he loves—gardening.

When asked for advice for hopeful guerrillas, Aldabert and Bunnel had gave these tips: remember to water and weed what you plant or plant in an area where neighbors will take care of the gardens, start small and close to home, know everything you can about the plants you’re planting, plant native species, and bring friends. Both were insistent that guerillas were serious about gardening. “Plants are living too, you can’t just throw them in the ground and leave them,” stated Bunnel.

So get out there and plant! For information on guerrilla gardening, check out, or if you wish to read some literature on the subject, try to gey your hands on a copy of “On Guerrilla Gardening” by Richard Reynolds or “Guerrilla Gardening: a Manifesto” by David Tracey.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Issue #3

Welcome. You are now reading the third issue of North Country Entertainment Magazine, reporting on arts and entertainment in Northern New York State, Montreal, Burlington, and beyond. Happy reading.

Meet the Zukes Girls

By Chris LaRose

"I'd like a Zuke's special, please." This sentence is heard repeatedly on a daily basis at Zuke's Deli and the girls who make each and every sub for you never get sick of hearing it. "I think the customers that we get in here are sometimes the best part of the job," said Alysha Baker, 20, who is one of the "Zuke's girls" everyone has come to know and love. Zuke's Deli has been a staple in student's lives for quite a long time and although the current group of girls working at deli haven't worked there forever, they've been around long enough and that people openly recognize them in public. "I'm constantly hearing 'ZUKE'S GIRLS!' as we are walking around downtown," says Mackenzie Albin, 22, who has worked at Zuke's since coming to Plattsburgh State.

While the girls may be recognized quite often in public, many people have wondered what the "Zuke's girls" are doing when they're not making subs for hungry, hungover college students. "People will ask what we do besides working at Zuke's because they always see us working," said Devan Gallagher, the newest Zuke's girl, "and I always joke and tell them that I live at Zuke's." However, the girls certainly do have lives outside of Zuke's (come on, like they really work 24/7?) and they were more than happy to answer a few questions about the life of the Zuke's girls.

First up is Mackenzie Albin, who says her life outside of Zuke's mainly consists of playing with her dog, Mr. Pudding, and hanging out with her boyfriend and roommates. "Yes, I am taken," she joked, "so all the guys coming into the store can stop asking." When she's not working, Albin says you can most likely find her at home, but that once the weekends roll around you can always find her downtown. "My weekends start on Thursday," she said, "so I'll be at the Krazy Horse... shaking my thing." When asked to sum herself up in two words, she had to take a minute. "You know, I'm way too complicated to be summed up so easily," she said, "but I'd have to say open and crazy."

Next is Devan Gallagher, the most recent addition to the Zuke's girls, but she says she "feels like she's been there just as long as the others." Though she just turned 19 and isn't able to go downtown like the other girls, she admits to still having fun. "I can't go downtown with everyone else," she said, "but I don't just sit around and do nothing besides work." She says that working at Zuke's is an extremely fast-paced job and that her definition of what it means to be a Zuke's girl is "quick and efficient... with a great attitude." You can always find her dancing, both at work and outside of work, because it's one of her favorite things to do. "People always comment on how we dance around the deli a lot," she said, "but I'm literally always dancing."

Third is Lauren Dooley, the oldest Zuke's girl who is currently getting ready to graduate. "After this semester I'm moving to New York City for a teaching position," she said, "so it's going to be really difficult to say goodbye to this place." When she's not working, or partying it up on the weekends with other girls, you can find her with a redbull in one hand and a cigarette in the other. "It sounds so classy," she joked, "but those are my two favorite things." An extremely interesting fact about Lauren is that she drew all the menus at Zuke's and draws all the images on the quote board as well. "Art has always been something I was good at," she said, "and I really can't wait to bring it into my classroom."

Lastly is Alysha Baker, nicknamed "Sheesha" by everyone close to her. "I'm not even sure where the nickname came from," she said, "but it stuck... and I like it." When she's not making the best possible subs for customers, Baker says she's not ever doing the exact same thing as the day before. "I'm always doing something random that I haven't really done before," she said, "I'm not a fan of repetition." Her favorite part about working at Zuke's is the customers and how they interact with the girls working. "Sometimes guys will use the cheesy pickup lines on us," she said, "things like: 'do you want my footlong?'... We always just laugh in their faces." Like the other girls, she's always out to have a good time and says most people recognize her because of her "big hair" and "big personality."

So the next time you're in Zuke's be sure to look for the girl with the big hair and the big personality, or the girl with the Redbull in one hand and a cigarette in another, and say "hey", because now you know them - at least a little bit.

Credit for graphic: Chris LaRose

Art Goes Postal

By Cassandra Thomas

There’s a competition in your mailbox. You’ll find large letter stamps and creative talent on its way to the UK, fighting for a chance to be published in an art book, sold at an exhibit or posted on the web.

Mail Me Art (MMA) wants artists to mail them art via stamps and envelopes – next day delivery is acceptable. Participant and winner for May 2009, Jonathan Cusick, 31, mailed MMA a mailman with a special package made of cardboard.

“I wanted to do something different and that would raise a smile,” said Cusick. “I would have loved to have followed my little man along his journey to have seen people’s reactions in the Royal Mail -- I painted their uniform and satchel.”

Darren De Lieto, founder and co-editor of illustration-news portal Little Chimp Society, runs the British-based project. Little Chimp Society is a social network that supports the online community for all artists and gives those artists an opportunity and if doesn’t matter if you’re super talented or low in confidence. Lieto was willing to answer some questions about MMA, but didn’t stay in touch as promised, maybe there’s too much in his inbox.

The inventive mail-art, once notebook doodles, are now found in MMA exhibits being seen by people all over who would have never had the ability to see it – ‘an artist’s vanity.’ Professional and amateur artists, all ages from all over the world, mail in their work on a number of objects ranging from postcards and envelopes to boxes and pieces of wood.

“It’s a place that loves artists of all kinds,” said Tom Kane, 52, creative director of Cheil advertising and June 2009 winner. “I love the fact that any artist can participate, no one is excluded.”

Prizes are given to the winners. The winners get awarded recognition; miscellaneous items (pin badges, Football Hero cards, Tresson vinyl toy, etc.), collectable illustration pieces, a signed copy of “Mail Me Art Going Postal with the World’s Best Illustrators and Designers,” or added to the MMA gallery. Submissions are posted on the website and/or in the exhibit. According to the MMA website, the artists receive 70 percent of the sale value. MMA has hopes of releasing a follow-up book, possibly called “Mail Me More Art” and if the project continues to be successful, they’ll run another exposition.

“It’s so inclusive and accessible,” said Jonathan Hannaby, 30, participant in the MMA project. “You don’t have to be a professional artist to enter and you can be in any part of the world.”

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