Friday, July 31, 2009

Tomato Blight: Organic produce in peril

This year’s tomato blight in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions has arrived earlier than ever before and is predicted to destroy acres of tomato plants.  Organic farmers, unfortunately, will be the hardest hit.

The blight, often referred to as the Late Blight, is a very infectious pathogen that spreads rapidly among tomato plants. Late Blight has been connected to the potato blight that wiped out most of Ireland’s potatoes during the famous potato famine. The tomato and potato blights have been known to jump from one species to another, so tomato farmers that also grow potatoes could be hit twice.

This year, farmers are extremely concerned about their tomato crops, especially because tomatoes remain one of the most profitable of typical produce grown. Prices, typically around $15 to $20 a case wholesale, are expected to reach prices around $40 a case.

Prices this high could mean that the once-reasonable tomato salad at a restaurant will become the most expensive and in-demand item.

Non-organic farms, obviously, have the option of spraying synthetic fungicides for a chance to save the crops. Organic farmers, on the other hand, are seriously concerned about this year’s crop because infected tomatoes must be destroyed before the blight can spread to healthy plants. Although the late blight is always to be expected during late summer, this year’s early arrival is definite cause for extra concern.

Will this be a common occurrence in years to come? Has the overuse of fungicides created a Late Blight superpathogen that will eventually wipe out the tomato species?

The Legacy of Apatow

We fancy Judd Apatow here, and it’s not a bandwagon kind of love in which we find a few a recent films “funny.” We respect him as a writer-director-comedian who elicits trust and uninhibited chemistry and comic timing from his cast of cronies. In honor of today's release of his third feature-length flick Funny People (about comedians dealing with their own mortality), let’s take a look at the highlights of his career before he made short-lived shows-turned-cult-delicacies Freaks and Geeks and, to a lesser extent, Undeclared.

Since he made his directorial debut, Apatow’s resume has been plastered across TV commercials and movie trailers even when he received merely a producer’s credit. His voice was still detectable in the ‘90s comedy world when very few knew who the hell he was. He helped discover Jay Baruchel and Amy Poehler and served as a shepherd for Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and obviously Seth Rogen’s careers.

Will Apatow someday reach the heights of James L. Brooks and Cameron Crowe, two indelible sources of inspiration for him to date? He can try to go the route of these gentlemen, but for right now, he can do no harm cementing his current Hollywood status and artistic style. He’s far surpassed the limits of his career’s slow start, which portended a grim forecast in comparison.

The Ben Stiller Show (co-creator, executive producer)
This sketch show without a laugh track or studio audience aired before its time – or maybe before the concepts were developed enough to be filmed. Either way, it lasted no more than 12 episodes on FOX.

Heavyweights (co-writer, executive producer)
The 1995 Disney comedy about a fat camp run by a tyrannical health freak Tony Perkis, played by Ben Stiller, is revered by its fans, which are not the typical kiddy moviegoers. Stiller later conjured a variation of this character for his antagonist role in Dodgeball: An Underdog Story.

The Cable Guy (producer)
Audiences, critics, the blind and the deaf – not many really cared for this Stiller-directed black comedy starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick from 1996. But Judd would likely recall it as a better time in his life since it was on the set that he met and eventually wed actress Leslie Mann.

Celtic Pride (writer, executive producer)
Though Celtic Pride was another dark comedy that few people saw, Apatow at least worked on what interested him even when struggling to make a hit. Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern, a duo starring together a decade too late but perhaps that was the point. These middle-aged diehard fans kidnap the Utah Jazz shooting guard to help the Celtics win a game. Apatow co-wrote the story with comedian Colin Quinn but penned the screenplay by himself, so I guess only he can be blamed, but it’s really not that bad.

The Larry Sanders Show (writer, co-executive producer)
The Critic (consulting producer)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Early Review: Yo La Tengo's Popular Songs LP impressive

Like the Sonic Youth gang, its deadpan colleague Yo La Tengo looks pretty old. It's not easy to decide who's the sprightlier power couple: Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan or Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Yo La Tengo has been around longer than some of their fans have been alive, and they’re still putting out some of their best music.

Popular Songs, the Hoboken band’s 14th album, makes it into stores via Matador Records on September 8. The indie rock heavyweights follow up to 2006 LP I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass with a new genre-stretching collection of meek, dissonant dream tracks.

The album’s closing tracks indulge in full-on psychadelia although there’s a taste of it early on in the out-there opener “Here to Fall.” “By Two’s” evokes an electronica calm likened to if you were to fall asleep wearing headphones playing Fever Ray, inching toward a much needed REM sleep in the early A.M.

The next track “Nothing to Hide” is quite the opposite. The chorus ironically spouts the truism, “We’ve all got something to hide.” The R&B single “Periodically Double or Triple” is low-tempo coffeehouse Spoon territory.

The spirited and joyous Motown-infused “If It’s True” is the closest the album comes to a bonafide pop song at a slim three minutes. The male-female vocal alternations are pretty consistent.

Don’t get excited about short tracks though because the final three tracks equal about 60 percent of the total 75-minute running time. It’s an ambitious tail end to be sure. Though the mass escalation in track length thematically widens the gap of beginning to end, Popular Songs is a very strong showing in their already accomplished senior catalogue.

Download: "If It’s True," "Periodically Double or Triple"

Hipster Rating: 9/10
Actual Rating: 8/10

Apollo's List: The Top 10 Classic Concept Albums

In commemoration of The Mountain Goats’ forthcoming biblical concept album, we decided to compile a list of the 10 most classic concept albums of all time.

Concept albums tend to verge on the hokey, and most of these entries fit that classification as well.  And yet, it’s always fascinating to see how bands manage to hold a coherent concept throughout the duration of a record while still producing quality songs.

Albums not included on the list that are probably deserving of mention include any of The Kinks’ string of concept records, The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out! and Rush’s 2112.

10. Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
Coheed and Cambria, initially pegged as an emo band, quickly shed that label as singer Claudio Sanchez toned down the screaming and turned up the Rush-esque histrionics.  You might not know it from the cryptic lyrics, but all of C&C’s releases are chapters in an intricate sci-fi saga.

9. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
Much like the early work of Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn has been writing songs about a core group of characters since his days with Lifter Puller.  With Separation Sunday, Finn pulls out his Catholic upbringing and mixes it with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for his most concise concept record yet.

8. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The story here starts out fairly clear-cut: it’s about main character Yoshimi battling pink robots.  However, after the first four tracks, the concept dissolves into vaguer ponderings about love and mortality.

7. The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Billy Corgan’s double album represented a cycle of light and dark, life and death.  This was furthered by the sun and moon designs on the albums two discs.  It also spawned four of the Pumpkins’ most recognizable songs: “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Zero.”

6. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
This is Bowie’s futuristic story of a rock ‘n’ roll singer living in a time when rock ‘n’ roll is dead.  Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes,” recorded by Mott the Hoople, was also intended to further the Stardust storyline, as evidenced in this quote from Bowie’s mindblowing interview with Rolling Stone’s William S. Burroughs:

"The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. 'All the Young Dudes' is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite."

5. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
The storyline – about a juvenile delinquent trying to save his brother – reportedly was born from singer Peter Gabriel’s dreams.  Phil Collins has said the story actually examined a split personality, perhaps implying the main character and his brother were one in the same.  Heavy.

4. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade
Zen Arcade, the godfather album to the alternative rock movement, also tells a story across its 70+ minutes.  The main character, an unhappy adolescent, runs away from home and spends the album looking for something more fulfilling.  The band was so intent on preserving the story’s cohesiveness that no singles were released from the record.  Unsurprisingly, it was a commercial failure but a critical success.

3. Pink Floyd – The Wall
After a start in British psychedelia led by lysergically enhanced singer/guitarist/songwriter Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd was left to flounder in the early ‘70s when Barrett dropped out.  However, bassist Roger Waters found his groove with 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, and The Wall was the band’s most completely realized concept album.

2. The Who Tommy
The Who, despite a reputation as a viciously hard rocking outfit, actually released several concept albums, including The Who Sell Out and Quadrophenia.  Tommy, however, is the band’s magnum opus: a story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a pinball wizard and then a messiah.  Who can’t relate to that?

1. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The concept here is loose indeed: though bookended by “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band” and its reprise, most of the other tracks don’t adhere to the idea that The Beatles were a different group clad in brightly colored marching band uniforms.  However, although the concept wanes, the songwriting doesn’t.

There definitely are plenty of other strong concept albums out there.  Which ones did we miss?  Are there any that shouldn’t be included?

Dutch Kills: A step back in time

It sure seems like the recession has people drinking away their sorrows.  In NYC, at least.  While other businesses suffer, bars appear to be thriving.  And if bars are where people want to spend their dwindling funds, they’ll want to know which ones are worth it.  And so, I’ll be offering my takes on taprooms from time to time.  First stop: Queens.

Sasha Petraske, owner of the renowned Milk and Honey and Little Branch, among others, has ventured into Queens -- Long Island City to be more specific.  Welcome to the Prohibition Era speakeasy atmosphere of Dutch Kills, home of the lower-cost cocktail alternative to the $13 dollar drinks found at Little Branch and its brethren.

Dutch Kills offers an escape from 2009, transporting you back to the 1920s, where suspenders and pinstripes are in style.  The bar is authentic right down to its incognito appearance: The only sign that marks the bar is the little gold plaque on the black door.

Beyond that door, the art of bartending/mixology are on display, with the bartenders becoming the main attraction. Petraske has assembled a group of the best bartenders and mixologists in the country, and they’re creating some of the most magnificent and best-balanced drinks in the City.  They add a theatrical flair to their work, shaking martinis and chipping from the giant ice block.  Drinks include homemade liquors balanced well with good gins, bourbons, and rye. Don't be afraid to choose your favorite liquor and ask the bartenders to shake up a cocktail. 

Though $9 for a cocktail might sound steep, it’s a small price to pay for the works of art these ‘tenders create.  They’ll even explain the origins of your cocktail of choice.

Dutch Kills features an assortment of Prohibition-themed drinks, which are all delicious.  On Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll likely find a packed crowd, but visit during the week for an even more authentic experience, when local jazz and blues groups add to the Prohibition ambience.

Quality: 9 out of 10


27-24 Jackson Avenue (at the corner of Dutch Kills Street), Long Island City, Queens
[Take the 7, N or W trains to Queens Borough Plaza.]

(718) 383-2724

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Mountain Goats track: "Genesis 3:23"

Stereogum is streaming a new track by The Mountain Goats (technically John Darnielle and the random collection of musicians along for the ride), and it's pretty solid. It's called "Genesis 3:23." Stream it here or at Stereogum:

The Mountain Goats - "Genesis 3:23" (MP3)

The Life of the World to Come, the upcoming album by the band, will feature 12 tracks inspired by Biblical verses.


01 "1 Samuel 15:23"
02 "Psalms 40:2"
03 "Genesis 3:23"
04 "Philippians 3:20-21"
05 "Hebrews 11:40"
06 "Genesis 30:3"
07 "Romans 10:9"
08 "1 John 4:16"
09 "Matthew 25:21"
10 "Deuteronomy 2:10"
11 "Isaiah 45:23"
12 "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace"

It's a concept album, to be sure, but judging by this first track, it's not overtly religious.  From is Darnielle's explanation:
I guess the obvious question is going to be: "John, have you had some sort of religious awakening?" and while I guess lots of people might want to be coy about answering that, that's never really been my style, so: no. It's not like that. It's not some heavy-narrative-distance deal either, though, and it's not a screed. It's twelve new songs: twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of. More than that I'd want to wait to say until some people have heard it, which won't be long. Will there be more news soon, quite soon? Like, next week, even? Oh yes there will!

Hipness: 8/10
Quality: 8/10

Obama proposes 10% tax on unhealthy food

Today I found out about a new 10% tax President Obama is attempting to place on unhealthy food.  The tax, supposedly, would raise $522 billion in the next 10 years, assuming Americans keep consuming the taxed food at a similar rate.  The revenue, in turn, would be used to ease the economic pressure of increasing food costs.  With Michelle Obama promoting victory gardens and healthy eating and people like Alice Waters and Ann Cooper promoting sustainable farming techniques and eating healthy in school food programs, this could be a reality check for the obese country we have become. 

Those who know me know I am a huge supporter of local, sustainable and organic foods, especially when they're used to benefit lower income citizens who normally wouldn't be able to afford to purchase these foods.

Obama's tax will make people look at what they are eating and promote local farming and sustainable methods. It will, hopefully, also bring the family back to the table because they will be more inclined to cook dinner from scratch, rather than stop at the local fast food joint.  This, in turn, will help reduce the epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related health costs.
Read more in this article posted by Forbes and tell us what you think about these ongoing issues.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best in cinema in 2009 so far

These are my picks for the best films I've seen this year. This list will probably look completely different come December, where it will receive repeated facelifts every week until January (thanks to limited releases). I can honestly say this year is already better than last. Please comment and tell us about your favorites.


The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Sugar (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck)
Moon (Duncan Jones)
State of Play (Kevin Macdonald)


Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson)
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)
Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi)
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
The Hangover (Todd Phillips)
Whatever Works (Woody Allen)
The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh)


Public Enemies (Michael Mann)
Watchmen (Zack Snyder)
Observe & Report (Jody Hill)

The Best of the Best Music of 2009 Lists So Far

Not sure what it is about "Best of the year (so far)" lists.  It could be the sheer volume of music being released; writers need to take stock midway through the year to make sure it doesn't get out of hand.  It might just be music writers itching for something to talk about.  In any case, more than one such list has popped up in the past week or so.

Popdose's Music Picks for 2009 (So Far) is a sprawling look at some of the sites' editors' favorite albums. It's very long and in no specific order. "Supergroup" Tinted Windows' record, which I thought was dreck, appears on the list, but overall it's a good rundown of quality music from 2009.

SPIN magazine's list, via, is significantly more concise, so I'll post it here. Again, not in any order:

Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart
Peter Bjorn And John - Living Thing
Blk Jks - Mystery
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Mastodon - Crack The Skye
Amadou & Mariam - Welcome To Mali
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Regina Spektor - Far
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
Bat For Lashes - Two Sun
Mavado - Mr. Brooks... A Better Tomorrow
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Sa-Ra Creative Partners - The Age Of Love
Antony And The Johnsons - The Crying Light

Glasvegas was a relatively mundane album. On the other hand, Middle Cyclone has been getting a lot of attention.  And rightfully so.  It's my Apollo's Cred pick of midway through 2009.

That brings us to MTV's 2009 list. Neko Case doesn't make an appearance, but Lily Allen does? Get your priorities straight, MTV.

Springsteen to play entire Born to Run album

Rolling Stone's Rock Daily blog reported today that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will play Born to Run in its entirety on Sept. 20 at the United Center in Chicago.  The 1975 record is widely considered Springsteen's best.  The decision to play the album's tracks in order follows this summer's trend of bands playing entire albums at their shows.

The Rock Daily post also includes some suspiciously worded rumor mongering:

"Completely unsubstantiated Internet rumors that should be taken with a huge grain of salt claim that Springsteen will do one album a night during his five-night stand at Giants Stadium this September and October. But in the off chance the rumors are true — and based on very little (but our Springsteen intuition) — we predict he’ll do Greetings From Asbury Park, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town and Born In The USA."
 The writer goes so far out of his way to emphasize how "unsubstantiated" the rumors are that it seems like there could be some truth to them.  Why would he predict the albums that Springsteen won't be playing?  Anyway, take out Greetings and replace it with The River, if only because that's the one Steve Van Zandt wants to play.

Trailers premiere at Comic-Con to fanboys' delight

Tron Legacy
This must have led to some serious salivation at Comic-Con.
The anticipated sequel to TRON, entitled Tron Legacy, starring Jeff Bridges, is heading for theaters in Disney 3D in 2010 or 2011. The Wachowski brothers tried to make their own TRON with last summer’s eye candy overload, Speed Racer, and that flop might have only amplified fanboys’ desire for a new
Unnecessary sequels come and go every few weeks, most of them unsurprising disappointments. But in returns Tron, a franchise that might fit in with today’s level of geekdom than it could before. The 1982 original is canonized in certain social circles, and though I’m not in that circle, I can respect that. The effects look terrific in this riveting teaser.

Hot Tub Time Machine
Its Snakes on a Plane title tells us all we need to know. The first trailer for the brilliantly titled comedy, due out February 26, 2010, premiered at Comic-Con. The redband is not particularly good, but the cast certainly helps preserve that so-bad-it’s-good feeling. Cusack’s F-bomb lacks snap.
It seems like a concept some hack writer pitched to a studio 25 years ago to capitalize on the Back to the Future frenzy and the script was discarded.
Co-writer Josh Heald defended his screenplay on Cinematical last year.
After a night of drinking red bull and vodka, four friends - John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke (random age gap) – travel back to 1986 in the magic hot tub. Cusack is just there to ensure everyone knows he still reigns over his most prolific and fun-filled decade.
Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover (BATF!) are also in the film.

New Release Tuesday: 7/28/09

Looks like the end of July is a slow time for album releases. There's nothing huge out out today, unless you've been holding your breath for Ashley Tisdale's new album.

Angus Khan - Black Leather Soul
Kristina DeBarge - Exposed
Fabolous - Lose's Way
Howling Bells - Radio Wars
Kleerup - Kleerup
Owl City - Ocean Eyes
Sax Ruins - Yaqiquo
Ashley Tisdale - Guilty Pleasure
Melinda Watts - People Get Ready

Monday, July 27, 2009

Defining Local: From Thomas Keller to Green Market

September 11th enlightened most people about the significance of buying local. Local for the USA, in terms of manufactured goods, usually just means made in the United States.

For me, as a food industry professional, defining local and understanding where our food supply comes from means much more than “made in the USA.” In food production, aspects that shouldn't be overlooked include sustainable practices, harvesting and shipping methods, and organic production methods.  Many in the food industry have a different opinion on what local means to them and the importance of it.

Some people don't think local, period.  They just pick the cheapest, best product they can obtain without taking into consideration all of the economic and environmental “taxes” on growing and shipping.

While at Union Square’s Green Market this morning, I really pondered the thought about local and what it means to me. Some people place a mileage limit on locality. For me, it’s more regional. Local foods also describe seasonality. While certain fruits and vegetables might be in season in California, that doesn't mean that they are in season in New York. Green Market, then, is a great example of local. There are producers from as close as Brooklyn, to a few hours away (upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut). I consider all these options to be local.

In a recent article in the Contra Costa Times on Thomas Keller's Definition of Local, Keller states "For me, as I went through my career, as I came to understand where our product came from and where the best products came from, the term 'local' changed for me. It wasn't about geographical location, it was about quality of the product. If we could get great lobsters from Maine every day at my back door, then for me that was a local product.” Thomas Keller is a world-renowned chef who owns multiple restaurants in California, Las Vegas, and New York. I have to argue that even though Keller picks his ingredients based on the best possible criteria, that he shouldn't be calling Maine lobsters at the French Laundry in California “local.” Buying local should mean, first and foremost, supporting your local economy to better your town.

Today I picked up a list from the manger’s station at Green Market entitled “10 Reasons to Buy Local Food”:

1. Local Food Tastes Better
2. Local Produce is Better for You
3. Local Food Preserves Genetic Diversity
4. Local Food is Safe
5. Local Food Supports Local Families
6. Local Food Builds Community
7. Local Food Preserves Open Space
8. Local Food Keeps Taxes Down
9. Local Food Benefits the Environment and Wild Life
10. Local Food is an Investment in the Future.

How do you define local and what's your take on Keller's definition?

Edit: here's another list that explains the benefits of buying local, and it doesn't just focus on food.   It also includes an illuminating graphic on the subject.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What’s Out: Festival hits widen distribution

What’s Out is a new weekly feature that provides info and commentary about the latest films released in theaters.

The Hurt Locker, a big critical success (see our review here) that received a 10-minute standing O at the Venice Film Festival, and (500) Days of Summer, the breakout hit at Sundance last winter, expand into wider release today.
It amused me earlier this week to see news service picked up's story about (500) Day's release. The film/television news Web site wrote: "Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times greeted it with a rare four-star review." Hmm...somebody hasn't been reading Ebert this past decade.
Some unpromising options also premiering nationwide this weekend: G-Force (Jerry Bruckheimer’s first 3-D movie! With Will Arnett!), Orphan (What the hell is Peter Sarsgaard doing?) and The Ugly Truth (Katherine Heigl’s punishment for ever reproving Apatow & co.).

Film review: The Hurt Locker

When I first heard the film title The Hurt Locker, it imbued in me a sense of wariness. I immediately inferred it would not meet my standards nor would it be something that appealed to me. Knowing nothing about it, I pictured a shirtless Channing Tatum 'stepping up 2 the streets' to reprise his role in a Fighting sequel. And, if it was set in Iraq, I hoped it wasn’t another Stop-Loss.

Fortunately, this Kathryn Bigelow film is nearly its antithesis, and the title refers to 'a place of ultimate pain,' not a pseudo-fight club for incorrigibles. She takes a fragmentary approach to the war in Iraq rather than making a grand statement, and she shows tremendous skill in capturing it. The Hurt Locker says more about the war experience than the batch of recent Iraq war cinematic flops of the past six years. The paucity of dead spots in its 131-running time demands your attention throughout.

Set in Baghdad in 2004, the film chronicles the remaining 38 days in the tour of the Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad, men trained to dismantle improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) steps in to replace a deceased team leader. His cocky, rebellious attitude infringes upon a professional line of communication with Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty, back to Iraq after Jarhead). The viewer feels like a member of the team as they inch closer to potentially deadly situations.

The episodic narrative structure is divided into a series of taut, intense set pieces. The first scene contains so much tension it becomes almost unbearable and the release of it is shocking but not gratuitous. Bigelow and screenwriter/imbedded freelance journalist Mark Boal worked particularly hard to ensure the explosions and brimming adrenaline did not dominate the show. Actions instead determine character when a reliance on dialogue and contrived soldier bonding scenes would have inadequately conveyed their lifestyle.

James and Sanborn are two different men with divergent goals and methods. This isn’t apparent in their first meeting on the base, but in the next scene on a mission, we suddenly know them well.

There is a tender moment involving a Capri Sun juicebox, among other wordless exchanges. The visual details – a hot kettle, a kite, James’ helmet - are a salient part of the mise-en-scene as the camera chooses to linger on them.

Guy Pearce, David Morse and Ralph Fiennes each have cameo-size roles respectively as a sergeant, colonel and contract team leader.

A few quibbles: a couple missions seemed unrealistic, and the ending could have been trimmed. Otherwise, this is one of the best films released so far this year and its magnetic, tenacious depiction of war enthralls you until the end.

Channing, I suggest you give it a try.

The Hurt Locker opens nationwide today.

HIPNESS RATING: 8 out of 10
ACTUAL RATING: 9 out of 10

"Several Dozen Steps": The Demise of the Music Magazine Industry

Print journalism is in a nosedive.

Newspapers are closing daily.  People just aren't reading the news like they used to.  Supposedly, it's because they're turning to the Internet for their daily fill, but the economy certainly isn't helping.

Music-related publications aren't exempt.  Several music magazines have fallen in the past few months.  The two heavies were Blender and Vibe.  Their implosions have left yawning chasms on the landscape of music journalism.

The remaining pillars of print music journalism are keenly aware of their precarious positions.  Rolling Stone has made this abundantly clear with its frantic scrabbling.  Two Jonas Brothers covers in a year?  The formerly respectable rock 'n' roll mag is doing its best to cling to its remaining life, but the days are numbered.  When RS falls, what's left?

We at Apollo's Cred have said a little about working toward a new kind of arts and entertainment journalism.  We want to improve upon the formula that has clearly been failing.  Let this screed elaborate upon that position.

Is it any wonder the medium of print journalism is collapsing spectacularly upon itself?  It's an institution averse to improving itself and hellbent on defending outdated ideals.  The music magazines, in particular, embraced recent cultural/technological sea change like it was a cactus full of bees.  One of my personal experiences as a journalist-in-training might help illustrate this fact.

Over a year ago, I was given an assignment by my magazine writing professor: Pitch a freelance story to at least one real magazine in order to get a taste of the industry.  I chose the (now defunct) Blender because it seemed like the least competitive of the music magazines I read religiously.  I even had a small glimmer of hope that I might get my first real paid byline.

My pitch e-mail, for a simple album review, was ignored.  I sent a followup, as I had been taught, and my perseverance was rewarded with a response.  It didn't feel good at the time, but in retrospect, it spoke volumes about the reasons behind the magazine's failure.  I have included a screenshot of the e-mail for authenticity:


This was from the editor of the reviews section.  I didn't remove his name from the e-mail; he just didn't bother to sign it.  If you're really interested in finding out who he was, I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard.

In any case, I was hurt.  The professor was almost as taken aback as I.  This was, she said, the rudest rejection letter she'd ever read.

It's obvious that this editor had not only forgotten when he was in my position.  Several dozen steps?  If "a couple" means two, "a few" means three, and "several" means four or more, then this man was suggesting that at least 48 steps separated me from writing for his esteemed publication.  It's hard to believe that he completed such a rigorous journey to reach his position.

Worse than his hyperbole was the foundational meaning of his letter.  I, at 20, was "entirely too green" to write about popular music, an art that has historically been a young person's realm.

Blender's "established" writers were the very same ones responsible for a very positive review of Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's debut album, a stinker with a novelty hit single.  These guys were trying, and failing, to remain "hip," overcompensating for time passed by vigorously pandering.  Unfortunately, even though a younger voice (or "several") might have saved them, they chose the low road instead, putting down the writer who was standing where they'd stood years before.

Was this abject refusal to inject much-needed new blood into a formula that was clearly failing?  Was Blender too proud to admit its own shortcomings, choosing instead to collapse in a rotting heap of egotism and newsprint?  It certainly seems that way.

Clearly, as someone outside the organization, there's no way I can really know what Blender could have done to save itself.  But maybe, just maybe, a change would have done it good.

Bye bye, Blender.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vinyl Find: Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen - Lost in the Ozone

I found this gem at Webster's Bookstore in State College, Pa. for $8.

Commander Cody was the bandleader and pianist for the Lost Planet Airmen, a demented group that strove to combine rockabilly, country, straight-ahead rock 'n' roll and R&B. The group was known for its energetic live performances; 1971's Lost in the Ozone was its debut release.  Though Cody was the leader, Billy C. Farlow actually handles vocal duties on most of these tracks.

Lost in the Ozone features Chris Frayne's horrifying album cover. Look closely at the left end of the cigar to see the evil music note springing from the smoke.

A quick glance at the back cover reveals that the Lost Planet Airmen had a man named "West Virginia Creeper" playing pedal steel, a dubious distinction.  That's him in the upper lefthand side of the photo.

The star on this album is Commander Cody's own novelty song, "Hot Rod Lincoln." It's a humorous and surprisingly catchy country shuffle about the narrator's Model A hot rod with a Lincoln V8 engine with the memorable chorus of "Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin'/If you don't stop drivin' that hot rod Lincoln."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MGMT signs on for Blueprint 3

They're easily the most interesting of the collaborators who will be working on Jay-Z's new album.  The Brooklyn-based duo will appear on the third installment of the Blueprint albums, which is due out Sept. 11.  Spin magazine first reported the news.  Rihanna, Drake, Kid Cudi and Mr. Hudson are all also slated to appear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vinyl Find: An Introduction

This is the very first "Vinyl Find" feature post, so I figured I would provide some background for my infatuation with vinyl records.

I first discovered the magic of records when I was a sophomore in college -- not in 1977, but 2007. I acquired a turntable and started buying records.  My first purchase was The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. Since then, my collection has grown, but it certainly doesn't rival John Cusack's in High Fidelity just yet.

Here's my explanation of vinyl's superiority, written for the Penn State Daily Collegian's music blog.

And here's the article I wrote investigating the sudden popularity of records after years of obsolescence.


New Release Tuesday: 7/21/09

Here we have the list of major album releases today, courtesy of Metacritic.

The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
For The Fallen Dreams - Relentless
Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweets - Under The Covers, Vol. 2
Ian Hunter - Man Overboard
La Roux - Bulletproof [EP]
Kenny Loggins - All Join In
Demi Lovato - Here We Go Again
Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine
Our Lady Peace - Burn, Burn
Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist
Rescue Signals - Indecisions
RX Bandits - Mandala
Jordin Sparks - Battlefield
Sugar Ray - Music For Cougars
Wye Oak - The Knot

Sugar Ray's still around? You don't say.

As for Demi Lovato: I saw her open for the Jonas Brothers last year, she has a voice. What was I doing at a Jonas Brothers concert? There's a good reason, but I don't have to explain myself. Not to you, not to no one.

Nicolas Cage negotiates to appear in The Green Hornet

If you felt Nicolas Cage hasn’t mired in enough camp and schlock with his last few film choices, it might comfort you that he is in talks with Columbia Pictures to play a gangster villain in next summer’s next big comic book adaptation. The Green Hornet at least boasts a solid pedigree prior to this announcement. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Michel Gondry, it stars Rogen as the jaunty, urbane newspaper publisher Britt Reid-turned-masked avenger.

The film should commence shooting in the fall – the production was delayed when director Stephen Chow pulled out of his roles as director and actor (playing sidekick Kato). Cameron Diaz is in talks to play Reid’s love interest, Variety reports.
Lodged in the depths of my subconscious is a dream where Seth Rogen is none other than an all-powerful superhero who provides society with hope and security. I just don’t know if I see the mixed talents of all these people fitting smoothly into a movie, but I look forward to an inventive action-comedy popcorn flick like what Jon Favreau pulled off last summer.

Locavores: the new vegans

In the past few years, the term "locavore" has grown exponentially in popularity. Just like vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians, "locavore" identifies people who choose only to eat locally grown and produced food.

With the extreme rise in foodborne illness and increased availability of local food, locavorism is starting to look mighty appetizing. Local produce is becoming more and more important for the sustainability of our food sources.

Local produce is healthier for human consumption and even helps eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions that larger farming corporations create.

Locally-minded people are also demanding "locally killed meats," as described by The Washington Post in this article. These are new trends, but the methods they represent are ancient.

How do you feel about locally raised foods?

Resolution No. 2049

We've been inundated recently with news about the green movement. Nadia Johnson of Just Food, a NYC based non-profit organization that works to develop a just and sustainable food system in the New York City region, wrote in a recent newsletter:

"Resolution 2049 is the first ever to address climate change exclusively through our food system and proposes "FoodprintNYC," a citywide initiative designed to lessen the impact the City's food choices and production systems have on climate change through the launch of a public awareness campaign, greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, and the mobilization of the financial and technical support needed to sustain these efforts, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions."

This initiative is important because it's easy to take our current, unstable food system for granted when it's actually on a path to self-destruction. What are your takes on this issue?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch to undergo cancer treatment

The Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (accompanied by Adam Horovitz) announced via YouTube that he has a cancerous tumor in his neck and will be starting treatment, pushing back the release of Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1. Though it's concerning news, Yauch says in the video that the cancer is treatable.

Neko Case interview on PopMatters

Though Middle Cyclone was released several months ago, it was a stellar album and still worth talking about. Neko Case is touring with dates coming up in Philadelphia (7/29) and Pittsburgh (7/31), so it seemed appropriate to highlight Timothy Finn's interview with her.

New Coldplay Video: Strawberry Swing

Coldplay just released its eccentric new music video for "Strawberry Swing," from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. It has Chris Martin in a cape, a chalkboard/pavement background and a giant squirrel.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Early Review: Hot Leg - Red Light Fever

Justin Hawkins is back with a vengeance.

He’s perhaps better known as the flamboyant and catsuit-clad frontman for defunct arena rock group The Darkness, and he’s got a new band: Hot Leg.

Hot Leg is Hawkins, guitarist Pete Rinaldi, bassist Samuel “SJ” Stokes, and drummer Darby Todd. The group released its debut album earlier this year, with the appropriately over-the-top title Red Light Fever, and is now touring to promote it.

Too bad it’s only available in northern Europe.

Hot Leg hasn’t secured distribution for the album outside the U.K. and Scandinavia, which means Hawkins’ remaining fans in the U.S. are still waiting.

Some Darkness backstory: the group was a Spinal Tap-esque mixture of massive hard rock hooks and rockstar-cliché silliness. The group recorded its debut album for a British indie record company before Atlantic Records picked it up. Permission to Land, shoddily mixed and recorded on a tight budget, went on to sell 3.5 million copies.

However, an expensively produced second album (One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back) failed to perform to expectations. The Darkness had achieved popularity in the United States and superstardom in the U.K., but it was all for naught.

Meanwhile, Hawkins embraced the hard rock excess that his band appeared to be parodying, consuming massive amounts of cocaine and alcohol. Indications are that he snorted most of his Darkness earnings. Supposedly, he and his bandmates are sleeping on floors while touring.

Why is all this worth mentioning? Because it helps explain the way Red Light Fever sounds. Hawkins’ larger-than-life persona only serves to make his music more fun.

Sue Whitehouse, Hawkins’ ex-girlfriend and The Darkness’ former manager (the Spinal Tap similarities are almost infinite) told SPIN magazine that Hawkins wrote many of these songs during the glory days of The Darkness.

And Red Light Fever could easily be a new Darkness album. Not to diminish the roles of his past and current bandmates, but the axe-slinging and larynx-shredding Hawkins owns every song.

Hot Leg stuffs every track with hair metal guitar riffs, thunderous drums and vocal harmonies that bounce off the very top of the human hearing range. There's one obvious standout, and it's the album's first single. “I’ve Met Jesus” is a blistering sumbitch of a jam. The chorus doesn’t even rhyme, but it’s a hook that drills straight into the pleasure center of your brain. Good luck shaking it.

“Trojan Guitar” is a holdover from the pompous bloat of One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back. It clocks in at over five minutes, and with loud-soft dynamics and heroic multiple-voiced dialogue, it’s essentially an update of “’39” from Queen’s classic A Night at the Opera.

Hawkins takes the cheese a little too far with “Gay in the 80s,” which could be an Electric Six song if Dick Valentine’s vocal dexterity suddenly quadrupled. He makes chicken noises on “Chickens” and emphasizes the “cock” in the chorus of “Cocktails.” All in all, it’s par for the course.

Only the sourest, most steadfastly serious Nickelback fan could manage to hold back a smile for Red Light Fever’s entire 35 minutes. What’s wrong with having giddy fun while listening to an album?

The Darkness is no more, but Hot Leg is definitely its spiritual successor. If the band’s debut is a mission statement, the newly sober Hawkins only intends to push the limits of musical absurdity to towering new heights. The world is better for it.

HIPNESS RATING: 3 out of 10
ACTUAL RATING: 8 out of 10

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Six superior films made by the four Harry Potter directors

Despite the ridiculous amounts of money each Harry Potter film has earned, I have a hard time engaging in the universe developed by the respectable line-up of fill-in filmmakers who handled one or more outings at a time. Rowling’s books do a much better job in instilling one in that cohesive, deep-seated vision than these certainly capable craftsmen’s takes. Pennsylvania-born Chris Columbus, who helmed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, arguably had the toughest task in establishing the HP world onscreen before Rowling’s tale was even completed. He was the right pick for adapting the front-end of the series, when it was at its most docile and kid-friendly. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón stepped in for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Englishman Mike Newell took on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which boasted an excellent cameo from Jarvis Cocker…and the rest was a colossal bore). David Yates, an unknown at the time to the many Americans who would soon make him rich, rounded out the series’ final installments, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the newly released Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the upcoming two-part finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Here’s our top six of sassier affairs with which this filmmaking quartet has individually dirties his hands. Granted, David Yates didn’t have much time to prove himself before HP aside from the first few episodes of State of Play and our pick, The Girl in the Café, but it’s still more worthwhile to check out this stuff than the arid, muddled weight of the HP epics.

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

Blood on the camera lens, surprising deaths and radiating tautness propel this dystopian science fiction thriller with Clive Owen. The highlight is Michael Caine in John Lennon-style neo-hippie mode as a retired cartoonist.

Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)

The gangster subgenre inducted a new qualified member with this sharp, well-written tale of an FBI agent (Johnny Depp, 12 years before portraying John Dillinger) who goes undercover to infiltrate a Florida-based crime family. Al Pacino, who plays a low-level hit man, refrained from sleepwalking through this role. He waited until cinematic disasters 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill came along to do that.

Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

This film isn’t just about sex, I promise. But the film’s central trio makes a convincing case for it at least until the third act. The coming-of-age story about two teenagers who take a road trip with a woman in her twenties takes some unforeseen and strange turns.

Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990)

Some would say the golden age of cinema actually ended when John Hughes lost touch with the times - somewhere in the early '90s. That happened after Hughes and Columbus teamed up for the first two gleefully inane but thoroughly entertaining Home Alone films. Buzz’s girlfriend… Woof.

Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1993)

Another Columbus winner whose staying power on VHS shelves everywhere surpassed its value as a film but is better than those damn Harry Potter movies.

The Girl in the Café (David Yates, 2005)

It was frequently played on HBO a few years back. You can’t argue with Bill Nighy and that cunning wit.

Honorable mention: Chris Columbus’ screenplay for The Goonies (1985)

Diminishing fish species

We humans are overfishing our oceans. It's gotten to such a point that, in only a few years, we will essentially have fished the ocean extinct.

There are many species of fish, still commonly eaten, that are endangered. A plethora of species are simply destroying fisheries and your health.

The U.K. is currently considering a ban of the sale of blue fin tuna because of extreme overfishing. Check out the NY Times Blog for further information about what to buy and what not to.

Also, we should start thinking about the Native American proverb: “The world is not inherited from our ancestors, but borrowed from our children!” Because it is our generation that is destroying the food system for our children. Let's become aware of ongoing issues, change our lives a little, and fix the problems for our children.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What's Out: Magical Monopoly

What’s Out is a new weekly feature that provides info about the latest films released in theaters.

Harry Potter’s box office monopoly is holding firm as it broke $100 million just before the commencement of the weekend. For this week at least, there are no competitors in sight. Wednesday’s release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince saw a return to the PG-rating, to the assured comfort of the vigilant parents everywhere.
Over the summer, each Friday signifies a major studio’s attempt to dominate the box office with a powerhouse popcorn-friendly cinematic machine a la Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen although the summer movies are typically more tolerable than that one. Wednesday has been an integral day this summer, as the aforementioned Michael Bay dollar-oozing abomination, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies and the sixth installment of the Harry Potter series, were released mid-week. A common occurrence on holiday weekends, this allows films to generate word-of-mouth buzz leading up to the weekend when it’s possibly already reeled in $200 million. How long will Potter reign at the top of the charts? I don’t know, but The Ugly Truth (July 24) surely is no threat.
Other releases are scant. Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, this summer’s supposed reinvention of the stylized romantic comedy, opens in limited release today. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star.

About Apollo's Cred

Apollo's Cred is an arts-related online magazine. We intend to fill a niche, that of an electronic magazine that covers music, cinema and food, bringing the various arts together in one place.

The reason for the creation of Apollo's Cred:

Magazines and newspapers are closing down. Something's clearly not working. Journalism, and especially arts journalism, needs a kickstart.

We at Apollo's Cred believe we can improve upon traditional print magazines, bringing to you arts-related news coverage, reviews, features and commentary. All of us are recent college graduates looking for an alternative to traditional journalism. We offer a young person's perspective on the things we cover simply because we are young.

We're not motivated by commercial interests. Though we do rely on advertising revenue, our voices are independent of any large corporation. We write about what interests us and what we think will interest you.

Please participate. We value your input. Comment on our posts, follow us on Twitter (@apolloscred) or e-mail us at

We welcome submissions for review, though we can't guarantee we'll be able to write a review or that the review will be favorable. But even an unfavorable review posted online is good publicity.

Editors-in-chief: Mark Maurer and Andrew Steadman
Staff Writer: Christopher Fusco

New Tegan and Sara album title

From Tegan and Sara's Twitter account (@theteganandsara):

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From the Kitchen: Twecipes

In the age of technology, have chefs lost touch with their kitchen crews or hindered their restaurants with lack of technology?

With Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and the never-ending list of popular blogs out there, the kitchen still lacks the information technology that many other industries are embracing.

However, there is one recent example of information technology mixing with food. Celebrity chefs have started a new way of exchanging recipes on the increasingly popular social media network Twitter. These new "twecipes" feature 140 or less character recipes from popular chefs such as Rick Bayless.

The one issue with these "twecipes" is the problem of chef's lingo being necessarily used to shorten these simple and seasonal favorites in tweet form, which may present a problem for the cook at home. On the other hand, these twecipes can also be very informative about local produce in season and available at farmers markets.

Maybe Twitter is a good idea, helping to effectively expand networks in the cooking world and bring people back into the kitchen to cook for their families. In addition to quick and simple recipes, twecipes will aid in networking chefs with chefs and cooks with cooks. This might lead to a boost in the restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by the recession, convincing people to get out and eat.

Twecipes.... what's next? Chefs cooking with Blackberries?

Early Review: Modest Mouse EP, No One’s First and You’re Next

The eight-track EP due out August 4 comes as an agglomeration of the B-sides and unreleased outtakes from the band’s last two full-length albums, We Were Dead Before the Ship Sank and Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
The EP’s substantive 33 minutes isn’t merely composed of filler tracks that spilled over from the last two LP efforts but instead tracks that hold their own without overreliance on radio-friendly hooks. Vocalist Isaac Brock’s spilling of the beans about the mini-album nearly two years early in a Rolling Stone interview did not quell the anticipation built up by its tight-knit contingent of fans.
“Autumn Beds” is a relatively softer, gentler track. “Perpetual Motion Machine” and “Satellite Skin” are pretty standard stuff.
The ethereal video for “Satellite Skin” reminded me of the Where the Wild Things Are trailer crossed with a crazy-ass dream Guillermo Del Toro had last night.

Promises have been made that the music video for “King Rat,” a We Were Dead Before the Ship Sank bonus track, directed by the late Heath Ledger in 2007 – with possible animation by Terry Gilliam – will sometime soon see the light of day. Modest Mouse hinted to its release in the near future.

Track listing:
1. Satellite Skin
2. Guilty Cocker Spaniels
3. Autumn Beds
4. The Whale Song
5. Perpetual Motion Machine
6. History Sticks To Your Feet
7. King Rat
8. I've Got It All (Most)

The late summer tour, kicking off in Halifax, Nova Scotia August 17, will head over to Ohio, California and Oregon, among other states, for the following month. Guitarist Johnny Marr’s a new member of the English indie rock band The Cribs, which has an album due out in September. Ergo, Jim Fairchild of Grandaddy is subbing in on Modest Mouse tour in the interim.
Tour info here:

No One's First and You're Next
HIPNESS RATING: 7 out of 10
ACTUAL RATING: 6 out of 10

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Urban Beekeeping Followup

As a followup to our post on New York City beekeeping: a group of Pittsburgh, Pa. beekeepers are saving beehives in urban areas that have become a problem and relocating them to safer locations.

New Release Tuesday: 7/14/2009

It's Tuesday, so there are new albums aplenty available today:

The Dead Weather [Jack White's new supergroup] - Horehound
August Burns Red - Constellations
Clutch - Strange Cousins From The West
Daughtry - Leave This Town
DevilDriver - Pray For Villains
Discovery [Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles] - LP
Jessie James - Jessie James
Judas Priest - A Touch Of Evil: Live
Crosby Loggins - Time To Move
Miss Derringer - Winter Hill
The Most Serene Republic - ...And The Ever Expanding Universe
Project 86 - Picket Fence Cartel
Sick Puppies - Tri-Polar
Summer Cats - Songs For Tuesdays
Time & Distance - Gravity
Twista - Category F5

The most exciting one this week is Jack White and Alison Mosshart's Dead Weather project. Though White is known mainly for his guitar-slinging in The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, he was actually a drummer in the band that preceded the Stripes on his musical timeline. He gets behind the kit again for The Dead Weather; we'll post a review of the album shortly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

James L. Brooks shoots on location in Philly

Brooks (left) with Judd Apatow

PHILADELPHIA -- The writer-director-producer of As Good As It Gets and Terms of Endearment – and my memory erased all but the title of Spanglish – is shooting his latest project in Philadelphia until October.
The untitled rom-com, initially known as How Do You Know? in pre-production, stars Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Michael Klein, the crew is shooting exteriors outside City Hall all week. Meanwhile, soundstages have been erected at the armory at Drexel University and Philadelphia International Airport. Filming in Center City commenced last week after several weeks in Adams Morgan in Washington, D.C., where the crew apparently ate "everything" on lunch breaks.
KYW reports that the production expects to create an estimated 250 full-time and 1,200 part-time jobs and $60 million to Pennsylvania.
It’s not often Philadelphia attracts a certain star power beyond the dimming wattage of M. Night Shyamalan and the lowbrow gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Brooks’ strengths as a visionary veteran filmmaker and astute screenwriter - and the only guy who knew how to turn those Simpsons shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show into a series - make him a welcome visitor.
On a gossipy side note, an employee at Merion Golf Club, a privately owned country club in Bryn Mawr, Pa., said he spotted Nicholson and Joe Pesci playing a round of golf Saturday in the Philly burb.
In the past year, the city has seen a significant boost in moviemaking action thanks to the state tax breaks for filmmakers.
The necessity of which has sparked debate in Harrisburg this summer as the issue took a backseat to a pile-up of state budgetary concerns.

Last month, the Pa. Senate voted to eradicate the tax incentives and so the brief glory days might be nearing demise. Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, fears this is goodbye.

Pinkenson laments that the state's film tax credit program is in danger, due to current legislation that has already passed the Pennsylvania Senate to eliminate them. She urges people to contact their legislators.
For those in the area, there is a casting call for a “foreign diplomat” in the Brooks film. Producers describe this individual as gender nonspecific between the ages of 35 and 60 who owns their own national dress.
This includes saris, kufi caps, kaffiyehs, thawbs and turbans, as I’m sure many out-of-work actors have lofting around in their attic disguise kit.
Send a photo of yourself wearing said costume and your phone number to Heery Casting at
More updates on the A-list production will come your way as soon as we hear it.

Restaurant Week NYC

Just a quick alert: Restaurant Week in NYC starts Monday, July 13 and runs through the end of the month.

For readers who don't know what restaurant week is: the event was created by city restaurant owners in 1992 and, more recently, has helped to boost the economy after September 11th.

Many popular NYC restaurants offer a lunch deal for $24.07 and some offer a dinner special for $35. Restaurant week is a great chance to support the local economy and try places that might be a bit pricey during normal times.

And so, NYC residents: get out, go support the local economy, and eat some great food at affordable prices.

Apollo Approved: Outlaw Beekeepers

Non-New York residents may be unaware of the recent buzz around the Big Apple, but this should get you up to speed.

That's right. NYC has renegade beekeepers, dodging LEO (law enforcement officers) and producing some potent product (honey).

The city has regulations prohibiting owning hundreds of other animals within its limits, including livestock -- bad news for anyone with an urban egg production scheme -- and bees fall under that umbrella.

However, bee keeping has been an ongoing issue for "underground" beekeepers, who face fines upwards of $2000. "Underground" is a little bit of a misnomer, since contraband beehives are often located on city rooftops.

Now, there are bills in legislation to legalize beekeeping in the city. Beekeepers, who are turning out in force to push legalization, say the bees would be good for the environment and to help grow a diminishing bee population. Additionally, honey draws its flavor from the terroir of an area, creating honey with a unique flavor. NYC beekeeping also counts advocates of sustainable food sources among its proponents.

Legalize it!

Beekeeping, that is.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Apollo Approved: Dave Carroll

Dave Carroll, member of Canadian group Sons of Maxwell, was on a United Airlines flight to Nebraska with his band. On the plane with him, in the cargo hold, was his $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar.

Only one of them disembarked intact.

It was the guitar that didn't survive the flight. The Taylor's neck was broken somewhere along the way.

The guitar cost $1,200 to repair, but it never played the same again.

Carroll tried to use the normal routes of filing a complaint with the company, but he was rebuked. United denied any responsibility for the damage to the guitar.

So he did what any musician worth his salt would do: he wrote a song. The resulting track, "United Breaks Guitars," cuts right to the chase with its title and doesn't let up. It became an Internet sensation and United has changed its tune.

The video was a big enough deal that CNN picked up on it.

After realizing what a public relations disaster this song was, United contacted Carroll and also said his music video would be used internally to prevent future cases of damaged luggage. Unfortunately for United, the damage to its image had already been done.