Persephone Magazine, January 19, 2015
Our favorite young detective lives on in print once more.
Let’s get this out there right away: if you haven’t seen the TV series and movie, and read the first book in the Veronica Mars book series, you probably won’t get everything in this story. The second installment picks up after last year’s The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, and frequently references past cases and plots. But the show, movie, and first book are all excellent, so you should watch and read them anyway.
Veronica is still living in Neptune, where she returned to work as a private investigator, having passed up a lucrative law career to do so, though she is no longer living with her father, Keith. She’s got her own place, where her rich-asshole-turned-Navy-guy boyfriend Logan Echolls stays when he isn’t overseas.
Mr. Kiss and Tell opens with a prologue, where local antiques/junk dealer, Frank Koslowski, is out on his usual route, scouting for abandoned gems. While investigating a potential find, he stumbles across a young woman, apparently left for dead in a field. She’s very much alive, though, and is the catalyst for the rest of the novel.
In the first main chapter, we tie up a loose end from the Veronica Mars movie, when her friend Eli “Weevil” Navarro was shot and accused of trying to rob the wealthy Celeste Kane at gunpoint, an accusation for which he is now on trial. It launches right into the haves-vs-have-nots theme that has been a constant thread throughout the existence of this universe. Neptune, CA, with its two polar opposite communities — the extremely wealthy “09ers” and the working class or poor everyone else — at constant odds.
Post-trial, Veronica and her gang, including Keith and computer whiz Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie, are at the Mars Investigations office, when the new case du jour is presented. A man representing the insurance company employed by local swanky-ass hotel the Neptune Grand hires Veronica to investigate a claim against the hotel. Remember the young woman in the field from the prologue? She is suing, claiming that she was assaulted in the hotel and has named one of their employees as her assailant.
Of course, Veronica being Veronica, she isn’t going to be satisfied to simply help the insurance adjuster avoid liability. She takes the case hoping that she’ll be able to use the assignment to catch the rapist in question, whether it’s the accused hotel employee or someone else. Of course, I’m not going to tell you how this goes; you’ll just have to read the book. But suffice to say, the story delves into some interesting topics — police corruption, college sports, rape culture — and does it with Ms. Mars’ typical brainy charisma.
The writing can be a bit uneven at times — the setting descriptions of the opening pages read a bit like a pulpy detective novel of yore, where you keep expecting someone to be described as a “dame” with “legs that won’t quit,” but that rhythm is quickly lost in favor of more typically-paced plot exposition. Still, the novel is overall engaging and delightful. You can’t help but read each line in the voices each character had on television — Kristen Bell’s chirpy snark, Enrico Colantoni’s deadpan, Jason Dohring’s smug charm — which is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a visual reference for the characters and settings, but on the other, it makes you yearn to see the story in presented in front of you as a TV episode or movie.
This is an overall solid and fun crime novel, a mystery that’s twisty enough to keep it interesting without going too far into the realm of unbelievable. It’s a welcome addition to the Veronica Mars storyline, and hopefully indicative of more books to come.
Mr. Kill and Tell will be out January 20 via Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. This review is my own uninfluenced opinion.
Death + Taxes, February 22, 2012
It’s pretty easy to get bogged down by how offensive and ludicrous all these anti-abortion measures are, so it’s a nice change when when politicians have a sense of humor about things. The Georgia legislature is debating whether to allow abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and state Democrats have replied with a healthy dose of snark.
Rep. Yasmin Neal, who represents Jonesboro, introduced a bill banning vasectomies. The legislation purposefully borrows the melodramatically emotional language often found in abortion bills.
“It is patently unfair that men avoid the rewards of unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly. … It is the purpose of the General Assembly to assert an invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men in this state and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.”
It’s true that vasectomies aren’t exactly the male version of abortion. There is no male equivalent of abortion, which is kind of the point, so they had to go for the next best thing. Obviously, no one really expects this legislation to pass, and it was only introduced to make a point that the government should be worrying about more important things than what women are doing with their bodies.
Besides, as Rep. Neal says, “It’s still not my place as a woman to tell a man what to do with his body.” Now if only lawmakers would figure out the inverse of that.
Watch the video [here] to see Rep. Neal introduce the bill.
Fleet Foxes at United Palace Theater
New York Press, May 19, 2011
Fleet Foxes performed the first of two sold-out, flannel-filled shows at United Palace last night, with Cave Singers as the opener.
This is a group that, excellent though its records are, only sounded more incredible live last night. For a seemingly mellow act, full of folky melodies and acoustic guitars, in concert Fleet Foxes produced a veritable wall of sound, probably enhanced by the venue. The density of the music was a little surprising; I’ve seen the band play live before and don’t remember being so blown away. But last time it was outside, at All Points West, and any sound-walls would have quickly dissipated into the New Jersey sky.
Somehow, though, the volume didn’t detract from the quality of the music. The live show wasn’t just louder; it was denser and more complex sounding than the studio version of the songs. Fleet Foxes still seamlessly execute their usual four-part harmonies, complicated melodies and switching-up of instruments (as an aside, I respect any band that can so easily incorporate the flute).
The band was only less than perfect during one song—singer Robin Pecknold joked that he’d screwed himself up by removing his Sub Pop Records hat, and that the lights made it difficult to tune. The audience didn’t notice, and they were keen to shout that out. In fact, the audience was pretty keen to shout out just about anything that came to mind during the set. Besides, he put the hat back on, so it was smooth sailing from there.
Pecknold admitted to being unusually nervous about last night’s performance. Maybe the group just isn’t used to playing at venues with seats, a balcony or epic gold carved walls. Any nerves didn’t really show, though. There was plenty of on-stage banter about food riders and the long trip the audience had to make from “certain areas” (ahem, Williamsburg).
The band just released its second full length, Helplessness Blues, this month, and the United Palace set was a good and balanced mix of old and new. The group played its best-known tracks, “Mykonos,” “White Winter Hymnal” and “Ragged Wood,” of course, plus mingled tracked from the new album in with music from the Sun Giant EP and the self-titled debut. The encore was Pecknold’s powerful solo rendition of “Oliver James” followed by the full band playing “Helplessness Blues.”
Fleet Foxes plays at United Palace again tonight, but the show is sold out.
Green Vinyl at Brooklyn Phono
Master's Capstone Project, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, 2010
Brooklyn Based, December 21, 2010
Some records are made to be broken; at Brooklyn Phono, they’re also made to be recycled.
The vinyl manufacturer, which is one of three in New York City and 14 in the country, presses albums for local labels like Norton Records and Crypt, based in Germany.
Typically, Brooklyn Phono uses only virgin vinyl or a mix of new vinyl and old vinyl, aka regrind, to make albums. But this year Green Owl, a label in Manhattan, specifically asked for records made from 100 percent recycled vinyl. So Brooklyn Phono had to source some of its regrind from outside its Sunset Park plant.
“We told them, look, we can’t be accountable for this material,” said Thomas Bernich, the founder of Brooklyn Phono. “We don’t know where it came from. But we actually had a great experience with it.” For their Green Owl runs, they used albums from at least as far back as the 1940s, including some Norwegian and Russian language discs.
It’s not just the vinyl itself that comes from a different era. The machine that Brooklyn Phono uses to cut into blanks is like a cross-section of records’ past.
Leandro Gonzales, who masters music at Brooklyn Phono, said the process begins by using a lathe to cut into a blank, which makes a negative mold of the record. The blank discs, also called lacquers, are made in L.A. and come in different sizes based on the final product–seven-inch records are cut on a ten-inch lacquer, ten-inch records are cut on 12- or 14-inch blanks and 12-inch records are cut on 14-inch blanks.
“This machine in particular is like a blend of different moments in the history of record-making technology,” Gonzales said. It houses an aluminum-cast lathe, for example, from the 1940s. The machine slowly cuts a groove into the blanks while a speaker provides the vibrations that will create the recording.
“It’s basically carving the sound,” he said.
Once the mold is ready, record presses in another part of the facility produce the actual vinyl records, using a process called compression molding. Records come out of the press with some excess material, which gets trimmed off. (This excess material is what is typically used for regrind.) Then they go to quality control, where they are checked for scratches and particles, and randomly selected for a listen upstairs. Once they pass muster, they’re sleeved, packaged, and shipped to the customer.
Vinyl sales are nowhere near what they were before the advent of cassettes, CDs and mp3s, but records are in the midst of a resurgence. When Brooklyn Phono opened in 2002, there were just two machines; now there are five, and they’re pressing thousands of albums a day. Still, to incorporate the ease of digital media, Brooklyn Phono albums also come with a code so the same record can be downloaded.
“The customer gets a tangible product as well as a portable product,” Gonzales said.
This tactile quality of albums–being able to lower the needle onto them, and physically skip songs–is part of the appeal for Bernich. But it’s more than just their physical qualities that he admires. “I love the sound of records,” he says. “I can’t make music, but being a part of the medium is very satisfying.”
Patti Smith at Southpaw
New York Press, November 12, 2010
“Punk rock poet laureate” Patti Smith packed Brooklyn’s Southpaw last night, along with openers Shilpa Ray, Outernational and Tamar Korn. The evening—which was a benefit for Fortnight Journal (and sponsored by BrooklyntheBorough and NYPress)—started with a short, two-song, a capella set from Tamar Korn. The jazz vocalist stunningly imitated a mute trumpet during her first song and, during the second (“Dream A Little Dream For Me”), she flawlessly played the part of a violin.
New York-based “future rock” group Outernational were next with an acoustic set. Compared to their electric live performances—like previous gigs opening for GBH and Anti-Flag—the acoustic set felt subdued and mature, but still no less energetic. The same songs, with their clear references to punk, reggae and world music, translate well to both arenas.
Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, a bluesy harmonium player-fronted group, floated through a set that was part chilled-out, part drive and power. One minute they would be slowly lilting through an indie folk ballad, the next they would push forward, with drums reminiscent of a Cure hit and a guttural scream that seemed entirely too powerful to be coming from the petite frontwoman.
Patti Smith acted as a responder for Fortnight Journal, where they pair millennial upstarts with older mentors. Her protégé, Zane Alan McWilliams, came out first and, after dealing with an uncooperative guitar strong, launched into a couple of his own songs, which showed clear homage to Bob Dylan and influence from southern life and folk rock. Smith joined him, opening with an anecdote about playing an entire set off-key because she doesn’t know how to tune her guitar, and the pair played one number together.
The rest of Smith’s band joined her for a poetic, passionate set. The folk-punk legend played a thorough roster of audience favorites, and the crowd responded to every word feverishly. She busted out “Because the Night” and the energy was palpable, then “People Have the Power,” which she said would be her last song. At the end she cried out “Use your voice” and left the stage, to come back and play “Pissing in the River” as an encore.
Age and a 35-year career haven’t slowed Smith down, she played with every bit of energy and power expected – fitting for this night, which was a proverbial passing of the torch to the younger generation of millennials that opened.
New York Press, October 28, 2010
I’d seen Bad Religion before, but it was when I was in high school and the band opened for Blink 182. It was at the Darien Lake performing arts center near Buffalo, which had seats and security guards that made you stay in them.
Really, all I remember about it was arguing with some girl in my gym class the following Monday about why Bad Religion was a far superior band to Blink. It’s cool, though, because now I’ve seen BR four times and she totally hasn’t.
October 20: The 1980s
I enter the concert with a regular ticket, not a press pass, so my first taste of Irving Plaza that night is an argument with the bouncers about taking my SLR camera inside. I stand no chance at winning this dispute, so I hand over my beloved Canon Rebel and $2 to the woman at coat check. Maybe not the best start to the evening, but at least the guy checking IDs wishes me a happy birthday.
Off With Their Heads is playing when I get upstairs, still fuming a little and slightly paranoid that my Rebel won’t be there at the end of the show. What I see of the set is pretty good, so that starts to balance out my aggravation. When it ends, there is a tap on my shoulder. Some friends. We go to the bar, where I fork over $7 for a PBR and grumble about it.
We stand around until the Aggrolites start. No one seems too interested, and I know I will see it again next week, so we make our way downstairs. We head back upstairs just before Bad Religion starts. By now it’s so crowded that the room is basically overflowing.
The lights dim. We make our way a little farther forward in the crowd, but I’m 5’6” and consequently shorter than the mostly-male audience, so I can’t see much. Bad Religion plows right into “Do What You Want,” then “How Much is Enough?” and “We’re Only Gonna Die.”
“I haven’t played this since 1983,” Greg Graffin says from the stage before the band plays “Slaves,” from its eponymous 1980 7-inch debut. No matter, it’s flawless. Surprisingly, the band plays “Billy Gnosis,” a track from the oft-purposefully-forgotten 1983 album Into the Unknown, which was a bizarre and slightly terrifying foray into synthesized prog-rock. The album was just reissued for the first time with the recent box set. Fortunately, the band didn’t bust out any keytars tonight.
The three shows are supposed to be separated by decade, and night one was releases from the 1980s, however the group did throw something in for the people who aren’t going to all three shows, playing a few numbers from the newest release, The Dissent of Man: “Avalon” and “The Resist Stance.” Bad Religion also plays “Los Angeles is Burning,” from 2004’s The Empire Strikes First as an encore, and close with “Sorrow” from The Process of Belief.
October 26: The 1990s
I’ve managed to get a photo pass for the remaining shows, so I don’t have to worry about checking my SLR at the door.
Off With Their Heads has just started when I get up there. Like last time, I’m not particularly familiar with the music, but I enjoy the set. When the Aggrolites come on, I make a point to pay attention, since I had missed out last time. At first I couldn’t figure out how a mellow-ish ska band got on this bill, but after a few minutes, it doesn’t matter. It’s good. Whether or not what the group does seems fitting between Off With Their Heads and Bad Religion, it’s OK because it’s done well. The band bounces through the set and I come out the other side pleased with what I’ve seen.
Before Bad Religion starts, I slip into the photographer’s pit in front of the stage. This is only the second concert I’ve covered where I got a photo pass, so there’s still some novelty left for me about how close I get to be. As the stagehand tapes down the set lists, I hold my camera up and snap a picture so I can see what they’re going to play. Someone standing in the front row asks if he can see my photo and I oblige. I realize that the 1990s are the decade of the band’s catalog I am the least familiar with. But I pick a few from the list I love (“Stranger than Fiction,” “Generator” and “Punk Rock Song”) and notice a few I remember hearing last week (“The Resist Stance” and “Avalon” from the new album, “Infected,” “American Jesus” and “Sorrow”). Looks good.
I’m frantically snapping pictures for the first three songs, so I barely pay attention to the music. The fourth song is “Stranger than Fiction,” and I’m praying the guards don’t kick us out yet. They don’t. Now I’m shooting while singing along, which is sort of strange. After the song ends, the photographers get ushered away.
I’m standing to the side of the crowd, outside a barricade. It’s nice not to have to obsessively protect my camera. I’m comfortably familiar with the songs, though not as well versed as I was with the 1980s, so I sing the few lyrics I know and enjoy the rest.
The band starts “Generator,” but something isn’t right. I can’t see exactly what went wrong from where I’m standing, but it may have been a mic malfunction. Restart. This time the audience takes over for the intro. It’s a great song, and apparently everyone in the building knows all the words.
The set list says the encore will be “American Jesus,” “Punk Rock Song” and “Sorrow.” Two out of three I heard last week, but “Punk Rock Song” is one of my favorites. Wait, what’s that? After “American Jesus,” the band launches into “Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell,” then into “Sorrow.” They got my hopes up. I guess that’s what I get for peeking at the set list ahead of time.
October 27: The 2000s
I’m exhausted. I’m on my third Bad Religion show in a week, plus I covered some CMJ over the weekend, I’m going to grad school during the day and I’m just getting over a cold. So I’m slow going, and I don’t get to Irving Plaza until just after 9.
When I get upstairs, the Aggrolites is a couple of songs into the set. It’s probably too late to get into the photo area, so I stand back and listen. I recognize a few of the songs from the night before, and I decide that I dig the “dirty reggae” sound.
During the set changeover, I make my way into the photo area. I don’t heed my own advice and I snap a picture of the set list, once again taking note of the songs that BR have played all three nights and my favorites. In the end, I luck out and the band doesn’t leave any of the good ones off the list this time.
I was looking forward to hearing The Empire Strikes First. That album actually meant a lot to me when it came out. I was living in a red state, and it made me feel slightly better about being practically the only person around who wasn’t taking political crazy pills. I was glad to hear “Los Angeles is Burning” again, as well as “Sinister Rouge,” “Social Suicide” and “Let Them Eat War.” The only song I can say I really wish had been played is “Atheist Peace.” But the band picked a decent sampling, and all three nights played a good cross-section of the albums featured at each show.
In case you’re playing along at home, here’s the tally. There were six songs the band played all three nights: “Avalon,” “Resist Stance,” “American Jesus,” “Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell,” “Infected” and “Sorrow.” It played “Wrong Way Kids,” “Along the Way,” “New Dark Ages,” “Devil in Stitches” and “Los Angeles is Burning” twice. And 52 other songs came up once each.
Across the board, the band didn’t disappoint. After 30 years, Bad Religion manage to play shows with energy and power, and somehow still turn an entire packed house into a massive sing-along. Some combination of talent, brains (Graffin has a Ph.D., after all), perseverance and possibly black magic has kept them going strong all this time through their ups and downs, their label and line-up changes, and everything else. At this rate, they show no signs of stopping. The world will end, and what will be left will be cockroaches, Styrofoam cups and Bad Religion.
See more photos.
The Local, October 7, 2010
Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s most accessible subway lines aren’t doing so well, according to an annual assessment by the Straphangers Campaign.
The group’s report ranks different lines by cleanliness, reliability, crowding, delays, breakdowns and announcements, and issues each line its own “MetroCard Rating,” a dollar value averaging how it performs on each.
The C is the worst line in the city, for the second year in a row. It has a MetroCard rating of 55 cents — quite a bit lower than the runner-up, the R, which received a 90-cent rating. The 2 and the 3 did only slightly better, receiving 90-cent and one-dollar ratings, respectively. The 4 and the 5 land somewhere in the middle of the rankings, earning $1.15 and $1.05. The Gdoesn’t get a MetroCard rating, however, because it doesn’t enter Manhattan and therefore the Straphangers Campaign doesn’t have reliable crowding information. In a ranking by criteria, it performed fairly well on regularity of service (tied with the N for eighth), but worst in the city on breakdowns.
The 7, once again, is the top line in the city, with $1.60 rating. City Roompointed out that the top four lines — 1, 6, 7 and L — all have a track to themselves most of the time. The G has its own track from Court Square to Hoyt-Schermerhorn, but at Bergen Street it hooks up with the F (which got a 95-cent rating).
Subway performance seems to have gotten a little better overall since last year, however, since the rate of breakdowns has lowered and cleanliness and announcements have improved across the system. This report comes out just as the MTA approved a number of fare hikes, including raising the monthly unlimited rate from $89 to $104.
The Local, August 6, 2010
Neighborhood Cuban “eco-eatery” Habana Outpostwas named the second-greenest storefront in Brooklyn, after Burrito Bar in Prospect Heights, as part of the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest.
“We’re very excited,” said Darcy Lefleming, Habana Outpost’s general manager.
The plants they have aren’t flashy, Ms. Lefleming said, because they stick to native species that are survivors. They have milkweed, which feeds monarch butterflies, lavender, which is good for bees and keeps rats away, and mint, which acts as a natural mosquito repellent.
The Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest is put on annually by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden through Greenbridge, their community environmental horticulture program. It started in 1995, and this year they received over 200 applicants. Winners are selected based on care, horticultural practice, participation, appearance, creativity, variety, soil and mulching, and maintenance.
Last year, Habana Outpost came in third, so they set out to improve their ranking, Ms. Lefleming said. They brought in a gardener, made new planters and educated the staff about their greenery, so they could take better care of the plants.
“We wanted to be first, so we worked,” Ms. Lefleming said.
The Local, August 6, 2010
Frank Romeo, pharmacist at Greene Community Pharmacy, died suddenly from unknown causes last Friday. He was 50. His colleagues, customers, neighbors and family say they remember him as a generous, community-oriented and kind person.
“As long as I can remember, he’s been around,” said Amy Linden, a long-time Fort Greene resident. She said he was willing to work with patients who were elderly, not well-off, or otherwise in need of help. He hired youths from the neighborhood to work in the pharmacy, and would send them on deliveries for customers who were unable to get to the shop.
Ms. Linden called the shop a “real neighborhood place,” saying Mr. Romeo knew his regular customers by name and would call when prescriptions were ready to be picked up.
“You were family when you went in there,” she said.
Joseph Jean from J&S Tire Shop, located across Fulton Street from the pharmacy, said that last Friday morning he saw the pharmacist park his car, and the two talked while Mr. Romeo smoked a cigar. That same afternoon, Mr. Jean received a phone call telling him Mr. Romeo had passed away.
“He’s like family,” Mr. Jean said. “It’s so sad for us.”
Mr. Romeo was always willing to donate a little money to neighborhood fundraisers, said Adrienne Rosario, who works in the pharmacy. Every winter, he would raffle off a large stocking full of toys to a neighborhood child. The pharmacy plans to continue the annual contest and community giving without him, Ms. Rosario said. She said he would help people get their medications even if they couldn’t afford it.
“He was a wonderful person,” she said.
Mr. Romeo started working at Greene Community Pharmacy in 1999. In 2001, he brought in Sam Hom, a former classmate at Long Island University, to work with him.
“We worked very well together,” Mr. Hom said. He said they joked around while they worked, but they moved through their business quickly. “Nobody waits.”
Mr. Romeo’s sister, Diana Brunetto, said her brother would do anything he could to help someone, without asking what was in it for him. She said the pharmacist, who was unmarried and had no children, was generous to his family as well. He took their elderly father on vacations and doted on his niece and nephews.
Ms. Brunetto said the family does not yet know the exact cause of death, but it may have been a heart attack. She said Mr. Romeo had not been sick.
Renee Egebo, Mr. Romeo’s other sister, said he never wanted gifts at birthdays or Christmas. Instead, he would ask his niece and nephews to get presents for children at neighborhood schools who needed them, Ms. Egebo said.
She said she knew her brother was generous, but her jaw dropped when she heard stories at his funeral about what he did for his neighborhood. He wouldn’t let anyone leave the pharmacy without their medication, whether or not they could pay on the spot, she said.
“Community meant a lot to him.”