An interview with musician, writer, artist, Iftakhar KhanIftakhar Khan is a musician with his psychedelic band Schroedinger's Cat.Iftakhar Khan is also a writer with his online magazine the SpaceZine.Here is an email interview with Iftakhar Khan.
Monday, July 11, 2022
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Hello! Here we have an interview conducted via email with artist, musician, writer, Sheila Foley.
Sheila is the founder of the Stoneham Writers Group. Full disclosure I am a member.
Without further ado here we go:
You work across multiple artistic disciplines, which is your favorite? Which is the most challenging and why?
First, thanks for considering my work blog-worthy. Yes, I practice a number of art forms, or dabble in some of them. Visual art became my career. From teaching the subject to illustrating books and magazines, to creating commissioned fine art and live painting at weddings and events, art has been my bread and butter. I'd love more time to actually paint what I want rather than try to please a client, but it's always helpful to be compensated for your work.
What artistic genre appeals to me most? I think it depends on the day, my mood, and what I want or need to say. Some things are best expressed visually. Others need words or music to speak their truth.
Why do I feel the need to do “art”? I could probably write a book to answer that question. And still not explain it sufficiently. I guess it boils down to the fact that the arts are the only way to go deep. To express thought, make other people think or feel or question. Inspire, amuse. A million reasons. And in sharing this “art” I discover more about myself as well. What makes me tick and possibly why.
When and why did you first start writing? What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?
I started writing in junior high school (in the dark ages before middle school was invented). I had two good English teachers. They taught me to appreciate poetry and literature. In eighth grade I was that kid who loved writing assignments and looked forward to feedback. We were rare. In high school I had another great English teacher who called songwriters poets. Now we're talkin'.
Since being a visual artist was almost born in me, I had never thought of being a writer. One February in the early 80s, I was upset that I didn't have a date for Valentine’s Day. Even worse, that holiday was so overblown in magazine ads and on TV. Just to get my anger out, I put pen to paper. For fun I sent the few sad paragraphs to the Boston Globe. The gall!
I had no idea how to submit a piece of writing. No surprise, it was rejected outright. Then I tried the Boston Herald. They replied that it would be published on the Op-Ed page. I didn't know what Op-Ed meant, but sure. Imagine my surprise, and delight! People even responded to my piece by writing letters to the editor. Weird.
Shortly after that, I started writing short stories and even a novel (unfinished still). I joined writers groups, wrote articles for magazines and newspapers. Small time local stuff. Minimal pay, but I enjoyed it.
When and why did you begin playing music?
As for music, I took guitar lessons as a teen. I learned to read music and to play basic chords. My teacher told me I'd be the next Joan Baez, probably because I had long straight hair, not as dark as hers though. I didn't keep up with the guitar much after college but I discovered the penny whistle or tin whistle. It's an incredibly easy instrument. And so portable. I played it for my own amusement back then, never with anyone else. I took up violin in 2002. Much too old! I was working (volunteering) at an arts center and the violin instructor needed one more student for her class to run. Oh my, was that a difficult instrument! It still is, but definitely worth the effort. I'm still a hack but I discovered Celtic music and there's no turning back. I'm addicted.
Whistler is your favorite painter. Who are some of your other favorites? How do you think they influenced you?
My artistic influences are numerous.
Visual art: James McNeill Whistler is my art hero. Then there's John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth. I tend to learn from any art I see, but these were the top influencers.
Writers/Poets: Robert Frost is far ahead of the pack here. He says so much with few words. Henry David Thoreau is also wonderful but I discovered him later. I've been a Frost fan since high school. Hmm, maybe locals who write about nature and deeper truths are my faves. I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, especially Gatsby, but I can't say his writing has influenced or informed mine.
Musicians: Too many to mention but my fiddle hero is Jay Ungar. I still think Joan Baez has a compelling female voice. My first guitar love was Glen Campbell. I saw him in concert way back when he had a TV show. Great performer. So yes, folk music, rootsy stuff, historical, Celtic. Anything you can get together with people and play. Music is more communal than the other art forms. I LOVE playing music with people. It's my absolute favorite thing to do.
What's next for Sheila Foley?
What's next? We shall see. Whatever it is probably won't be too grandiose. I've turned into a less is more type.
Sunday, May 22, 2022
Cat Out of Hell
It's no big surprise that the incredibly purlfic Cat Temper would be back with a new album. It's not out yet but here's the bandcamp link to where it will be popping up. Yes, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak into the musical cat awesome!
What is a surprise is that it is most likely now my second favorite Cat Temper album! Just behind Henry. Considering how many meowtastic albums Cat Temper has, that is no small paw job.
Yes, if you hate cat puns, stop reading right meow.
Cat Out of Hell is already a top contender for my favorite albums of 2022. I really dig the way Cat Temper distills the best 80's sounds into a fun mix of up beat instrumental madness. This should be the soundtrack to Stranger Things! This should be the soundtrack to every arcade.
There's also a felinetastic video for the song Purradise by The Dashboard Light
The video is a lot of fun and if it doesn't hit your 80s sweet spot right away check out the end with an Atari/Twin Peaks fun fest!
Cat Temper is the best temper!
Cat Temper furrever!
Yours in pawesome tunes,
Saturday, March 19, 2022
An interview with Laura and Robin Clifford from Reeling the Movie Review Show
Reeling the Movie Review Show has been produced by Robin and Laura Clifford at the Malden, Massachusetts cable access television station, MATV, since March 16, 1991 and is cablecast throughout Massachusetts and beyond (ME, CA, OR, MI, GA) as well as being available on Vimeo. Their reviews appear on the Rotten Tomatoes website and they are designated Top Critic at the Movie Review Query Engine. -From the Reeling Website
Full disclosure, I have been a volunteer crew member for Reeling for roughly about a billion years and I don't regret it at all.
What follows is an email interview with Laura and Robin Clifford about their show.
1. Do you feel being married gives the show a different dynamic than other movie review shows?
Laura: Well, when you live with someone you know all their likes, dislikes, quirks, etc., so that is bound to influence how you interact. There is also the matter of influence in that we are both exposed to the other’s preference in films on our ‘off hours’ more than say, a couple of critics paired together on another show.
6. How would you define the role of the movie critic?
Laura: It is two-fold. On the most basic level, you are acting as a consumer guide, but at a deeper level you are analyzing a film not only to point out why it works or does not but to place it in perspective against the filmmaker’s other work, the zeitgeist, etc. Then there is the art of writing itself – there are some beautifully written film criticisms which are enjoyable to read even if you do not agree with the critic’s conclusions.
Robin: I think it is to show folks what movies are out there and what we think of them, and encourage our readers/viewers to think about them, too.
7. How do you separate yourself as a fan from a critic?
Laura: Any critic who is not a fan of film isn’t a critic worth following in my opinion. Everyone has prejudices, one must simply be honest about them and be conscious of them so as not to allow them to unduly sway an assessment.
Robin: I AM a fan and a critic so I don’t separate them.
8. What movies would you watch purely for fun, and why?
Laura: Movies that I have seen before and liked enough to make part of my home library are like old friends you can let your hair down with. Occasionally I’ll watch something I know will be trash just as a lark.
Robin: Generally speaking, I will sit down happily and watch a documentary pretty much about anything if it educates, entertains and informs.
9. If you could convince people to see any one movie, which would it be?
Laura: That’s a tough one and I’d say it would have to depend on the person. For example, I knew someone older than me who had never seen “The Wizard of Oz” – I’d try very hard to convince him that he really should see it and why, but that’s not a film I would generally be promoting because almost everyone has seen it. Averse to subtitles? A specific genre? A specific subject matter? A certain actor or filmmaker? I’d try to find the best example of something someone would reject out of hand, and try to convince them to try it. Unless I agreed with them
Robin: For 2021 films, Spielberg’s “West Side Story” with the proviso that you watch the 1961 original, too.
10. At times you are at odds with other critics. Why do you think that is?
Laura: All critics worth their salt are at odds with other critics at times. I would be very suspicious of anyone who always sides with the majority as someone who doesn’t trust his/her own opinion, a ‘herd follower.’ If everyone thought the same way, life would be boring indeed. I always loved something our long-time director, Chris Zell, said about us – ‘Even when they agree, they agree for different reasons.’
(Bloggers note: Sadly Chris is no longer with us. He was a treasure and a wise ass and I miss him.)
Robin: I think it is about taste and opinion – mine, not theirs.
12. How well do you feel that you've grown and developed on the show?
Laura: I now have an incredible sense of timing! I can set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes, be in
another room, and get up to check on what's cooking and find the timer at 14:58 when I walk
into the room - do it all the time. But that's from the producing angle. I'm a lot more at ease
on camera, although it hasn't made speaking before an audience any easier. That said, I also
recognize my weak spots and try to compensate for them - I always tend to ramble on the first
movie of the show, for example, so I allow a bit more time for the first review until I get into
the rhythm and focus. And while we were well versed in film when we started, we have easily
seen and reviewed well over 5,000 films since. There's something to be said for experience
and historical perspective.
Robin: I have seen thousands of movies since we started riding in this rodeo three decades
(that sounds scary!) ago. I hope I have gotten better over the years of experience. (You tell
(Bloggers note: Yes, they both have gotten better overall.)
13. Reeling has had many long term folks on the studio crew. When you first started out, did you think about the impact that the show would have in making a network of friends behind the scenes? What do you think about that social circle that has developed around the show?
Laura: No because I never expected it would go on as long as it has and because we largely began with people we already knew. That has changed over the years and been a delightful surprise. And while some of the people who have joined in initially did so because of movies, I find it interesting that movies are far from the main topic of conversation when we get together.
Robin: Truthfully, having our friends get together ever two weeks to help us do this thing we do is the #1 reason for me – and I get to see a sh*tload of movies for free
Monday, February 21, 2022
What can one say about a book where the main character has Alice Cooper's living head stuck on his hand?
Did you ever imagine that scenario? I hadn't, but gifted Oregon author Lee Widener not only envisioned it, he turned it into a novella.
In the interest of honesty, Lee and I have been virtually acquainted for a number of years.
I've read one other book by Lee, Under the Shanghai Tunnels which is a collection of marvelously madcap stories, yet none twist so surreally as Head Case.
There are some other fun gonzo books out there, Joe R Lansdale's Drive In series being a good example. Head Case is more gonzo than most any gonzo book I can recall reading, yet it's coherent.
Chaino, the main character, isn't just a witness to the strange events, they are a part of him and he has choices to make which drive the narrative, and talk about a character transformation!
Chaino is told, “Life has no boundaries” by a guide, instead of just passively listening, the main character engages in a brief, but engrossing philosophical debate. There's a nice arc to Chaino as he isn't quite what we think he is, all the time.
If you like the surreal and often wondered what it would be like to spend time with a talking head that's attached to your wrist, here we are, this is your book. Also, this book may contain one of the creepiest characters to ever live in a shoe house.
You can get the book here
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Episodes of Sal's Show often started off with the line, “Sal's Show is your show” and it felt true as Sal welcomed any performer to be on his TV show, or most anyone to host an episode. Sal Khan was a fun and very nice guy. Sadly, Sal recently left this planet. Goodbye and good luck Sal.
Our musical weirdness, Astro Al, had the good fortune to play on Sal's Show a number of times. Here's our last appearance on Sal's Show.
We had discussed doing an appearance with our friend Tim Mungenast, but sadly that will not come to pass.
Here's a band we dig, Space Heater, who also appeared on the show.
Thanks for everything Sal.
We miss you.