Thursday, June 28, 2012

Elvis Lives— The Ultimate Elvis Tribute

On Stage Touring, LLC, in association with Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., announced today that it will kick off their 2012/2013 touring season of ELVIS LIVES "THE ULTIMATE ELVIS TRIBUTE ARTIST EVENT"  in Wilmington, DE on October 2nd, 2012. Due to incredible demand from audiences coast to coast, this season’s tour will travel to sixty cities, presenting 100 performances, more than triple the number of last season’s tour. ELVIS LIVES, which keeps on capturing the imaginations and interests of fans of all types including Broadway, concert and Elvis aficionados, is an unforgettable multi-media and live musical journey across Elvis' life featuring finalists from Elvis Presley Enterprises' annual worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, each representing Elvis during different stages in his career. The Elvis tribute artists will be joined by a live band, back-up singers and dancers, along with an Ann-Margret tribute artist, as well as iconic imagery made available from the Graceland archives; which includes a never-before-seen exhibit of life-size images of Elvis’ stage-wear that will be on display in the lobby of each theater hosting a performance.

"We are very pleased that ELVIS LIVES continues to delight audiences all over the nation and that even more Elvis fans will be given the opportunity to see these talented entertainers in these expanded markets. We hope to see finalists from the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest starring in ELVIS LIVES for years to come," said Scott Williams, Vice President of Marketing for Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. "The partnership between On Stage Touring and Elvis Presley Enterprises provides the only authentic touring showcase of Elvis tribute artists for fans who want to experience the music and live performance charisma of one of the most popular recording artists in history," said Brian Brigner, Chief Operating Officer of On Stage. "Our thriving production showcases each performer portraying Elvis in one of four eras: the 1950s, 1960s, his movie career and his concert years, so it is the complete musical package."

The kick-off in Wilmington, DE, on October 2nd, 2012, will be part of an eight show performance week in celebration of the 100th Season Anniversary of the DuPont Theatre. The nationwide tour is scheduled to begin in January 2013 with performances in over 60 markets. On Stage has retained Columbia Artists Theatricals to further develop and expand the markets for the tour. For links to purchase all of your tickets directly from individual theaters in your area, please visit or contact your local authorized box office or official ticketing agency. Elvis Lives fans are also invited to enter the "Elvis Lives" sweepstakes for a chance to win a seven-day cruise for two in an oceanview stateroom on board Norwegian Epic. For more information, visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Meat Puppets, Too High to Die

For the first time ever, the Meat Puppets' story will be told in book form, when the authorized band bio, Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, was released. Journalist/book author/long-time Puppets fan Greg Prato wrote the book with full cooperation from the band. In addition to featuring interviews with band members past and present, many renowned rock names were interviewed for the 407 page book, including Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Peter Buck (REM), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Henry Rollins (Black Flag/Rollins Band), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Scott Asheton (Iggy & the Stooges), Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Mike Watt (Minutemen/fIREHOSE), Chad Channing (Nirvana), and Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers), among many others.

Set up in an "oral history format," the book is comprised entirely of never before published interviews, which were conducted solely for this book. Also included are 15 rarely seen and/or never-before-published photos of the band from several time periods throughout the years. All eras of the band are covered, including the writing/recording of such classic albums as 'Meat Puppets II' and 'Up on the Sun,' the group's appearance on Nirvana's classic 'MTV Unplugged' episode, the story behind their breakthrough hit single "Backwater," and how the Kirkwood brothers finally reunited in 2006, after being apart for nearly a decade and some change.

As the group's singer/guitarist/songwriter Curt Kirkwood says on the book's back cover, "It's a very strange, wonderful experience to read... I love the way it all flows...a linear time capsule compendium of the band's past... so many perspectives tied together so well. I feel like I've been hanging out in these scenes just yesterday. Folks I know well and folks I've never even met giving me insights and perspectives on the band and myself that I've never considered or been aware of. Eerie and fun to find myself so captivated reading about something that has held me captive for my entire adult life... sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. This is giving me a brief glimpse of the forest... thanks for the bitchin' experience."

Later this summer, look for Meat Puppets to bring their pioneering legacy into the interactive world, as the band helps launch a new interactive music app called JamBandit. Fans will be able to experience Meat Puppets as never before, feeling the rush of genuinely playing in realtime with Cris, Curt, Ted, and Shandon, regardless of musical ability or training. To sign up for a sneak peek, For pre-order info (and for more information about the Meat Puppets), visit

Monday, June 25, 2012

Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets

For the first time ever, the Meat Puppets' story will be told in book form, when the authorized band bio, Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, was released. Journalist/book author/long-time Puppets fan Greg Prato wrote the book with full cooperation from the band. In addition to featuring interviews with band members past and present, many renowned rock names were interviewed for the 407 page book, including Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Peter Buck (REM), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Henry Rollins (Black Flag/Rollins Band), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Scott Asheton (Iggy & the Stooges), Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Mike Watt (Minutemen/fIREHOSE), Chad Channing (Nirvana), and Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers), among many many others.

Set up in an "oral history format," the book is comprised entirely of never before published interviews, which were conducted solely for this book. Also included are 15 rarely seen and/or never-before-published photos of the entire band from several time periods throughout the years. All eras of the band are covered, including the writing/recording of such classic albums as 'Meat Puppets II' and 'Up on the Sun,' the group's appearance on Nirvana's classic 'MTV Unplugged' episode, the story behind their inevitable breakthrough hit single "Backwater," and how the Kirkwood brothers reunited in 2006, after being apart for nearly a decade.

As the group's singer/guitarist/songwriter Curt Kirkwood says on the book's back cover, "It's a very strange, wonderful experience to read... I love the way it all flows...a linear time capsule compendium of the band's past... so many perspectives tied together so well. I feel like I've been hanging out in these scenes just yesterday. Folks I know well and folks I've never even met giving me insights and perspectives on the band and myself that I've never considered or been aware of. Eerie and fun to find myself so captivated reading about something that has held me captive for my entire adult life... sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. This is giving me a brief glimpse of the forest... thanks for the bitchin' experience."

Later this summer, look for Meat Puppets to bring their pioneering legacy into the interactive world, as the band helps launch a new interactive music app called JamBandit. Fans will be able to experience Meat Puppets as never before, feeling the rush of genuinely playing in realtime with Cris, Curt, Ted, and Shandon, regardless of their musical ability or training. To sign up for a sneak peek of everything visit For all pre-order information (and for more than just a whole ton of detailed information about every single one of the Meat Puppets),

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shea Vaughn Talks SheaNetics®

"I'm grateful my mom took the time to share her passion in this book. Her work ethic and her optimism have always inspired me."—Vince Vaughn, Son, Actor

Shea Vaughn, mother of actor Vince Vaughn, is a 25-year veteran of the fitness industry. As a fitness expert. professional trainer and wellness coach. Vaughn has become a spokeswoman for creating well-being at any age with her book Breakthrough: The 5 Living Principles to Defeat Stress, Look Great, and Find Total Well-Being. In Breakthrough, Vaughn offers women her Five Living Principles, along with a self-styled Eastmeets-West lifestyle, wellness and exercise practice developed from her decades of training in many disciplines and influenced by eastern philosophy, tailored to address specific issues facing women over 45. "The Five Living Principles of Well-Being: Commitment, Perseverance, Self-Control, Integrity, and Love, are an inspirational force in helping me create a positive lifestyle with a healthy body and the supportive mental and emotional paradigm to deal with changing and demanding times," says Vaughn. "One encourages the other and together they help you find balance, self-confidence and a personal state of well-being." Vaughn herself is no stranger to this phenomenon: a mother and entrepreneur, she has had similar personal challenges which led her to find a new way of living, including reconnecting her emotional health with her physical health and founding Sheanetics®, a revolutionary blend of ancient and contemporary values and movements that deliver a powerful mind-body experience. Followers of this practice get in shape, feel great and naturally make life-healthy choices.

In a broader sense, eastern thinking also generally embraces tenets or principles as a personal guide to living a good, healthy and rewarding life. SheaNetics® too embraces this same philosophy using our Five Living Principles of Well-Being as a thoughtful approach that encourages you to naturally make healthier choices and meaningful connections with others throughout your day. While many of us seek the health and balance that comes through creating harmony within our mind, body and heart, finding well-being can seem as challenging as climbing Mt. Everest. Really, it's more like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who clicked her heels and realized the answers she had been searching for were there all along— just as SheaNetics® is there for you. Your body and mind are meant to move and to connect with others. SheaNetics® with its Five Living Principles of Well-Being are the catalyst for making those connections and more. 

UPBEAT What does SheaNetics® do— how does it work? 
Shea Vaughn: "SheaNetics® helps you to reshape and enhance the overall quality of your life. It gives you the mental strength and physical ability to make on-going life-healthy changes. The Principles are always with you. They inspire your workouts, as you build strength, flexibility and Tri-Core Power and are with you throughout the day encouraging you to make positive and beneficial choices in everything you do."

UPBEAT How is SheaNetics® different?
Shea Vaughn: "SheaNetics® is a really energizing blend of the best from many great and effective formats and adds in the special performance enhancing qualities of Tri-Core Power Training. Another key difference is that SheaNetics® is a lifestyle practiceb— help you develop a positive mental approach to making regular exercise and healthy decisions a natural part of your everyday lifestyle."

UPBEAT Can you share with all of us what SheaNetics® has actually done for some of your students? 
Shea Vaughn: "My students talk from their hearts. What they have shared with me is that SheaNetics® has evoked in each of them more thought and action about healthy living and being healthy than anything they have ever done before. They share with me how it has made real changes in their lives mentally and physically. Most important, their actions are no longer just reactive. They have the tools to help them think through their actions. Now they find themselves focused, 'in the moment' and better able to take more positive control of their lives, decide what they want to accomplish and how to do it."

UPBEAT How often do you need to do the workouts?
Shea Vaughn: "Ideally 2-3 times a week for 50 to 60 minutes each time or you can break it into 20 minute segments daily and add in some cardio."

UPBEAT How is eastern philosophy part of SheaNetics® and why are the Five Living Principles of Well-Being so important?
Shea Vaughn: "We sometimes say SheaNetics® is 'meditation in motion and thought' and this body-mind connection is very much a part of eastern philosophy. My development of SheaNetics® also gives a respectful nod to the gifted Bruce Lee who earlier in his career combined the different fighting styles and philosophies he had studied into a way of life he named Jeet Kune Do."

UPBEAT What are your future plans for SheaNetics®? 
Shea Vaughn: "I want to continue to share quality information, healthy tips and newsletters on wellness to anyone who is interested in creating and maintaining a life of well-being. Along these lines we have a radio show in pre-production, as well as a book that will be coming out later this year. The DVDs and CDs have been well received, so we'll continue to produce great new workouts and inspiring music. SheaNetics® has added jewelry to its products and has a book due out in fall of 2011. We also have an excitingly new and innovative exercise machine we hope to introduce later this year as well as plans to promote a SheaNetics® clothing line. So we're staying pretty busy."

UPBEAT How can we get started? 
Shea Vaughn: "Well, we all need the right tools for the job. Visiting the website and purchasing the SheaNetics® DVD/CD collection is a great way to begin. Do the workouts 2 to 3 times a week and add the same amount of cardio to make up the core of your workout program. Stay connected with SheaNetics® by signing up for the monthly newsletter and let the Five Living Principles of Well-Being be your guide to everyday living." 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter— Immersive

Abraham Lincoln. Vampire Hunter. The very words simply evoke a juxtaposition that is totally unexpected, if not downright bizarre. Sure, it sounds like a really absurd idea: take the life of Abraham Lincoln, often cited as the greatest US president, and throw in some nasty, bad-ass vampires. It's certainly going to be very different from the Lincoln bio-pic that Spielberg is currently working on. When I first heard about the whole premise, I completely dismissed it just on principle, but the more I hear about the upcoming film, the more it seems like it takes itself as seriously as possible, using the vampires as a device to create a very social, yet character driven feature. Yet it's an idea to which the filmmakers have fully committed. Their work is a portrait of the man and leader we've all studied and the seminal events that defined him and our nation— interwoven with the immersive, visceral action of an adventerous vampire story.

At the same time, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER presents the Great Emancipator as the country's first superhero. Notes producer Tim Burton: "Lincoln's entire life mirrors the classic comic book superhero mythology. It's a duality: during the day he's the president of the United States; at night, a vampire hunter." That dichotomy is at the core of the Lincoln we meet in the film. "He was both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time," says director Timur Bekmambetov. Adds screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted his best-selling novel of the same name: "Lincoln's life story is an archetypal superhero origin story. He's as close to an actual superhero as this country's ever seen. Forget about vampires. Lincoln had neither family name nor money. His mother died when he was a youngster. In fact, everybody he loved had died. With no education, and armed with just his mind, he became president and saved the nation."

These themes grabbed the attention of Burton, his fellow producer Jim Lemley, and Timur Bekmambetov. Even before Grahame-Smith had completed the novel, Burton heard the title and his mind kicked into gear. "It sounded like the kind of movie I wanted to see," Burton claims. "It felt like it could have the crazy energy of the films of my youth, which had a lot of weird mash-ups of horror movies." Lemley, who had produced with Burton and Bekmambetov the animated film "9," says that Burton's sensibilities were a perfect match for this type of material. "What Tim does so brilliantly is to take conventional imagery and stories and turn them on their heads, and examine them from an unexpected perspective."

The "vampire hunter" portion of the story offers explosive thrills, scares, and stunts, but the filmmakers never forgot that they were also presenting a portrait of a beloved figure, as well as the monumental events that shaped our nation and continue to define contemporary discourse. "Everything had to be presented in a very straightforward way," says Grahame-Smith. "We never wink at the audience; not even once. Tim Burton really supported us and protected that vision." Grahame-Smith notes that his idea for his book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter came from an observation he made during a 2009 tour to promote his previous tome, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, another unexpected connection between disparate cultural entities. The author/screenwriter recalls: "That year marked the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, and many of the bookstores on my promotional tour had two displays: one featured books about Lincoln's life; the other was a vampire-themed display, including the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse books [upon which the television show "True Blood" was based]. It led me to think about combining the two subjects."

Grahame-Smith's vampires were polar opposites to the romantic figures captured in the pages of the books he saw on display. His creatures of the undead pay proper reverence to the classic tradition of vampires in the movies. "The vampires in our movie aren't romantic or funny, and they certainly don't sparkle," he notes. "Our vampires are bloodthirsty, viscious and cunning— and most frightening of all, they've become a part of the fabric of everyday life, working as blacksmiths, pharmacists, and bankers." The vampires' principal foe is one of history's most beloved figures, whom many consider our greatest president. This story covers 45 years in Abraham Lincoln's life, from 1820 to 1865, and is set in Kentucky, Illinois, and Louisiana and, of course, the nation's capital. So, who would follow in the footsteps of some of our most accomplished actors, and play the iconic leader and fearless vampire slayer? The nod went to stage actor Benjamin Walker, who coincidentally already had accrued some "presidential" experience as the lead in the play "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," which had a Broadway run in 2010.

"Ben brings humanity and a mischievous quality, which felt very real, to the role," says Tim Burton. Adds Jim Lemley: "Ben captures Lincoln's honesty, integrity, courage and sense of purpose." Most important to Walker was the opportunity to portray not only what made Lincoln a giant, but also a relatable human being. "What's dangerous about playing an icon is not allowing the character to be human," says the actor. "You must allow the character to be vulnerable or even silly. Luckily, Tim and Timur were open to making Abraham a flawed, funny and conflicted man."

"The human side is always the most important thing," Burton concurs. "And the character has to have a sense of humor because no one could survive as a vampire hunter without it." Walker, a 6'3" Juilliard-trained actor certainly had the physical stature to portray the lanky Lincoln. But could the young actor, 29 at the time, convey, physically, the Civil War-era figure whose iconic, aged visage graces our history books and currency? Bekmambetov, Burton and Lemley put Walker to the test— a screen test— during which the actor donned prosthetics that aged him to 55, and delivered one of the most renowned speeches in history, the Gettysburg Address. Walker more than impressed the filmmakers. "My reaction was, 'Oh my God, it's Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address!" Lemley exclaims. Looming ahead for Walker was the imperative to drop 30 pounds to achieve the requisite Lincolnesque leanness, as well as hundreds of hours of weapons training to turn him into the ultimate hunter of the undead.

Before Walker takes center stage as Abraham, we meet the character as a child. His journey begins when his mother Nancy is stricken with a disease of unknown origin— but recognizable to young Abraham as resulting from a vampire's bite. Nancy was a woman of intelligence and heart, imparting on her son the notion that, "until everyone is free, we are all slaves." Abraham never forgot those words, which came to define his views toward slavery. Nor would he ever forget the eternal evil responsible for his mother's death: a vampire (and local businessman) named Jack Barts, portrayed by Marton Csokas, against whom Abraham swears revenge. But his first attack against Barts fails, and Abraham narrowly escapes with his life. He is rescued by the charismatic Henry, a high-living and refined ladies' man. Henry, portrayed by British actor Dominic Cooper, is not interested in Abraham's simple quest for revenge. Instead, he instructs Abraham to control his rage, become stronger, and fight for the greater good of mankind. "It's a choice," Henry tells Abraham, "between doing something extraordinary or being satisfied with simple vengeance."

The combination of rich period atmosphere, a unique perspective on our 16th president, and the army of the undead he's hunting, makes for a motion picture experience like no other. For the writer who gave birth to it all, Seth Grahame-Smith, the film's release caps a journey that began with his best-selling book. A key element in capturing Lincoln's personality was making sure his humor came through. "He could be the life of the party, and was an exciting and entertaining man," Grahame-Smith sums up. "I think he'd love our movie."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Borgias Season Finale— Heartwrenching

"The Borgias", Showtime's exquisite original series, based on the life of Pope Alexander VI ended its second season with plot points worthy of several Emmy nominations. Francois Arnaund (Cesare Borgias) plays out his storyline with such conflict and conviction. "The finale reache new stages of emotional depth," actor Francois Arnaud explained. "I think it's going to be good." Viewers will hear not just one, but two confessions in "The Confession." One involves Savonarola (Steven Berkoff), the friar of Florence who preached against Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons), and the other comes from Cesare. Arnaud believes Cesare's confession lends as much drama to the finale as the murder of Juan gave last week's episode. "The killing of Juan is obviously a major event. But I think the outcome of the murder is at least as interesting as the murder itself. It's just huge," he said. "I mean, how do you stand there and tell your father that you killed your brother? It's just unimaginable. I was really happy the first time I read those two episodes actually. I think they were my favorites ever." As difficult as it is for Cesare to confess to his father that he killed Juan,

Arnaud said he doesn't think Cesare has any doubts about gutting his brother. Cesare believes he did it for the good of the family, Arnaud said. "I don't think [the murder was] something that he particularly enjoyed doing, but I think Cesare has great will power. I think it's something that he focused on and I think he can control his mind into having no second thoughts. And I think that's the only way you can rule in that era, really," he said.

"I think that ultimately, there had to be a little satisfaction in killing that useless Juan," he went on, laughing. "He's wanted him out for a while now... But I think it was probably harder for him to do than he thought it would be." Juan's death scene was hard to film as well, Arnaud said, because of the great performance by Oakes. "I told him I thought he did a great job," Arnaud said. "David's been such a strong part of 'The Borgias' on and off screen, really. It's a great character, and especially in Season 2 I think he did a hell of a job with it. I wasn't killing him for real, but it's hard to imagine going back to 'The Borgias' without David there... He made it hard for a lot people to see Juan Borgia go."

Arnaud went on to say that Juan's murder was the last scene he, Oakes and Sean Harris, who plays Micheletto, shot for "World of Wonders," a lucky break since episodes are almost never shot in chronological order. "It was great that it kind of all built up to that final scene between us. When Sean and I pushed him off of the bridge, it felt like the end of something," he said. "I think he did a tremendous job with the character." Arnaud also praised the work of "The Confession" writer Guy Burt, whom he said has "captured the strongest moments of all the characters." Burt's script also completes Cesare's transformation "into what I thought he was from the very beginning," Arnaud said, "...a warrior... I couldn't believe someone had written on paper my exact thoughts for this character for the past two years," he said, laughing. "It's like if I had written it myself, you know? I was really happy. But I haven't seen the results, so I can't say it's good or not, I don't know." Arnaud certainly didn't have to fret as the finale was rather epic.

As Jeremy Irons carries his son Juan [we see Juan as his father sees him... his little boy, his child]. The scene is absolutely heartbreaking as it is powerful... as no parent can ever understand the death of a child regardless of the circumstances. "The Borgias" closed its second season on a high note with yet another shocking final scene, and the episode is as riveting as the conclusion. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ballyhoo! Kicks Off Vans Warped Tour

The reggae/rock band Ballyhoo! will be kicking off their first full run of the Vans Warped Tour, today, June 16th in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Baltimore-based band started off their summer with a bang, performing on 311's Five-Day Caribbean Cruise and at Bamboozle Festival, with headliners the Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi. The band has been gaining momentum since signing with LAW Records for their Fall 2011 album, Daydreams, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes Reggae Charts and #4 on Amazon. predicted that Ballyhoo! would be a band to watch this year, and this foursome has certainly been living up to all of the major hype.

Performing on Warped Tour has always been a goal for the band, ever since Ballyhoo! formed over a decade ago. Howi Spangler, lead singer and guitarist for Ballyhoo!, says, "It's an honor to be invited by Kevin Lyman on such a world­ famous tour. We've been trying for years to get on this tour and are excited to finally be joining the ranks!" The band teamed up with Director, Raúl Gonzo (Thom Yorke, David Lynch, Enter Shikari, Versa Emerge) to create the music video for "Last Night," which was shot in L.A. and just released on May 29th. Ballyhoo! has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in rock and reggae including 311, Slightly Stoopid, The Dirty Heads, Pepper, Authority Zero, Toots & The Maytals and Matisyahu.

Spangler has a reputation for mixing slick lyrics with his smooth but powerful voice and drummer Donald "Big D" Spangler lays out the hard-hitting beats, which are underlined by JR Gregory's funky and witty bass lines. Scott Vandrey (aka DJ Blaze) rounds it out on the turntables and keys. Ballyhoo!'s relaxed sound mixed with the band's energetic performance style has been turning heads in the rock radio scene as well. WRFF Philadelphia, DC 101 in Washington, DC, and the syndicated rock giant, Sirius Faction, have all been featuring the band's tunes in preparation for their Warped Tour debut. 

Please head to for more updates.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

True Blood— Trippin' With The Heat

The most popular vampire series since Dark Shadows... True Blood has returned for Season 5, and fans who were eagerly awaiting the first episode have gotten more excited [if that was at all humanly possible]. The first show of the new series, titled True Blood episode 5.01 Turn! Turn! Turn!, has been aired and has fans buzzing all over the Internet. In the first episode Sookie and Alcide are seen together talking about the return of Russell. Alcide is saying that he wants to keep Snookie safe from Russell, who is on the hunt for main character Snookie. Denis O'Hare spoke about what fans could expect from his character over the coming season, and explained who brought him back. O'Hare has said, "It's somebody who nobody knows yet. It's a surprising character. And I think you get a hint in episode two, and then a big hint shows up in episode five."

O'Hare added, "He's still vicious, he's still dangerous, he's still highly charming, but they added all this stuff to him. We get to see him fall in love!" The anticipation for the new series to kick off is hitting fever pitch on social media and social networking sites. New True Blood episode, "Turn! Turn! Turn!", was THE most talked about premiere on premium cable TV... EVER. Twitter alone generated 234,374 tweets while Facebook boasts 7,476 comments total, according to Mashable. And we know those numbers are still rising.

We cannot wait to watch Tara's transition from victim to full blown predator... which will undoubtedly have serious reprocussions for both Sookie and Layfayette [not to mention the crisis of having to live with the fact that because they both refused to let her die, she is now condemned to a life of immortality, one that Tara might not have opted for had the decision been hers]. The constant conflict on this show is the foundation for the mayhem which ensues. There are also a plethora of subtleties, i.e. Bill still wanting to help Sookie as he sensed her danger while Eric stopped him and quickly moved on to explore other options. It demonstrates Bill's selflessnes, as last season he let Eric have Sookie because he believed that it would be better for her. 

So what about a potential Sookie/Alcide romance? According to the ultra-sexy Joe Manganiello who plays Alcide, "There will be interaction between Sookie and Alcide this season. I'm not going to say what that interaction is...[I get physical] in a lot of ways, not just fighting. If you've seen some of the trailer, than you can imagine [laughs]. There might be some lovin' going on." And all of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate are chomping at the bit to finally see these two together... the screen will definitely ignite! Manganiello also gives out a bit of perspective on Alcide's journey thus far... "He's still that good-hearted, dependable guy with great character but he was pushed to his limits last season. You're going to see a much more active, stronger version of Alcide. There is some real dissension in the pack this time around: there is a group that immediately worships him as their new pack master since he murdered the former one and there is yet another group that doesn't think it was at all justified or done in the ritualistic fashion."

Vampire blood makes humans act in unusual ways on True Blood, but for the first time, we'll see vamps themselves be... well, not "quite" themselves. Denis O'Hare teases that in episode 7, "...we have a really freaky scene where you see vampires behaving in ways they don't normally behave." Okay, so first  the witches threatened to pull them into the sunlight, now vampires have to deal with what Denis describes as "an acid trip"? It's so hard to be a fangster these days. The "creepy" and "mind-boggling" trip continues in episode 8, directed by Stephen Moyer. "Having the opportunity to not only participate in this psychedelic vampire haze, but to also direct it, I am very thrilled."

Thus far True Blood continues to turn up the heat... but eventually... they'll be trippin' with the heat.

Dallas— Reinventing A Phenomenon

The first time we see J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) in Dallas, which premieres at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday on TNT, he's just a frail old man living in an assisted living facility following an emotional breakdown. And for anyone who was a fan of the original series, which became an American pop culture phenomenon during its 1978 to 1991 run on CBS, the natural reaction is: "Oh, no. I knew this was a mistake." Luckily, we're being set up in that scene, because by the end of this two-hour premiere episode, Hagman's J.R. is a revitalized lion in winter, ready and eager to renew his long-running family feud with brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) over the future fortunes of the Ewing family ranch, Southfork. Given the long list of failed attempts to revisit former TV hits— for example, Charlie's Angels, Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, and Fantasy Island— it's easy to see why so many people were skeptical when executive producer Cynthia Cidre undertook this project."It just seemed natural to catch up with the Ewing family that we loved 20 years later and see where they were at this point in their lives and what had happened in the years since the show had gone off the air," Cidre says.

Jesse Metcalfe, who stars as Bobby’s adopted son Christopher Ewing and rotates top billing each week with Josh Henderson as J.R.'s son, John Ross, says he gets why so many eyebrows were raised at the news that Dallas was coming back. "I think all of us had the same question: 'Was this a good idea?" says Metcalfe, previously best known for playing Eva Longoria's young gardener/lover on Desperate Housewives. "We really didn't change the structure of the show, and the same compelling themes are in the new series: family dynamics, greed, ambition, love, loyalty, all of those things. My doubts about being a part of this project were quickly soothed after reading Cynthia's incredible script and seeing how well-defined and dynamic these characters really were."

The premiere finds the Ewing family gathering at Southfork for Christopher’s wedding to Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo) in the aftermath of a previous romantic disappointment with Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who now is dating John Ross. What few people know is that John Ross and Elena have been covertly drilling on Southfork, against the express wishes of the late Ewing matriarch, Miss Ellie, and they've just hit a gusher. That news immediately rekindles the old struggle for Southfork between J.R. and Bobby. Part of the success of this new Dallas lies in the way that Cidre has devised strong storylines for young cast members Metcalfe, Henderson and Brewster while keeping returning cast members Hagman, Duffy and Linda Gray, as JR's ex-wife Sue Ellen, a vital part of the show.

Linda Gray, who brought the iconic Sue Ellen Ewing to life back in 1978, explains how the reboot will be relevant to today's audience. "I feel that we have a global audience already built in," she said. "We’ve had, for years and years and years, these wonderful followers. They have stories related to the show— they sat with grandma, all of it. They have these delicious stories that we still hear about to this day. And then I feel that because of that, and because they have the stories, they will be taken into this new expansive show where we include the young people," she continued. "I think that they'll just go right to it. They'll be excited about it. They won’t miss a beat."

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Toy Dolls— The Album After The Last One

The Dolls' new album is to be their 12th studio release and features the band's own brand of comic punk rock that has generated them a dedicated fan-base across the World. Centered around frontman Olga, he has never fallen short of providing the guitar-widdling madness that graces each and every record as well as his lyrical input The new album features 13 of the band's latest cuts including alliterated highlights such as 'Dirty Doreen', 'Sciatica Sucks' as well as 'Decca's Drinking Dilemma'. 

The Toy Dolls formed as a quartet featuring vocalist Pete "Zulu" Robson, guitarist; Michael Algar also known as Olga (born September 21st, 1962, South Shields, England) drummer; Colin "Mr. Scott" Scott; and bassist Phillip "Flip" Dugdale. After just a few gigs, Zulu left to form his own band and was replaced by Paul "Hud" Hudson on vocals for one concert. After Hud's departure, the Toy Dolls became a trio, with guitarist Olga assuming permanent vocal duties. Scott left the band in 1980 and was replaced by Dean James for four months over the summer of 1980. James later returned to the band from 1985 to 1988 as bassist. Flip left in 1983, marking the beginning of a revolving door of drummers and bassists that would characterise the Toy Dolls line-up over the years (with Olga as the mainstay and only original member). In 1984, Zulu returned to the line-up as bassist/backing vocalist, but departed again less than a year later. 

They were initially grouped with the Oi! scene, and have also been classified as punk pathetique. One reason they are associated with Oi! is that they were championed by Garry Bushell, who was very involved with Oi! bands such as Angelic Upstarts (whom The Toy Dolls later supported on their first national tour). In 1980, a Sunderland businessman financed the Toy Dolls' debut single, "Tommy Kowey's Car" with "She Goes To Fino's" on the B-side. The single quickly sold out its initial pressing of 500 copies, but the band could not afford to press any more, making the single a collectors' item. Around the time the band signed to Volume, Olga moved to Newton Hall, in north Durham, which led to the song "Livin' on Newton Hall". 

For Christmas 1982, they released their punk rendition of "Nellie the Elephant", a classic children's song, which hit #1 in the UK Indie Chart. In 1983, they released their debut album Dig That Groove Baby. In 1984, their re-issue of "Nellie the Elephant" reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart and stayed in the chart for 14 weeks.[1] Their 1985 album, A Far Out Disc, reached #71 in the UK Albums Chart. Since then, the band has continued to release albums and to tour widely, mainly across continental Europe, South America and Japan. After a gap of 14 years since their last gig in Britain, 2007 saw a string of UK dates taking in cities from Glasgow to London, including a triumphant "homecoming" for a sold-out show at Durham University. The band released a best of album, Ten Years of Toy Dolls. 1993 saw the popular live song "I'm a Telly Addict" on the album Absurd-Ditties. In 1997 the band released One More Megabyte, which features references to computers, mainly in the lyrics of its title track, and in tracks like the outro track. A popular cover of Ricky Martin's Livin' da Vida Loca made its way onto Anniversary Anthems in 2000. The band's 2004 album Our Last Album? fooled fans in the aniticipation up to its release that it was the band's last album. The outro track on the album stated that it wasn't.

To celebrate the band's 25th anniversary in 2004, the official biography, The Toy Dolls: From Fulwell to Fukuoka, was published by Ardra Press. In 2011, the band is scheduled to release its twelfth studio album. The bands 30th anniversary in October 2009 saw the band receiving a whole load of special congratulation messages to their official website from a varied selection of musicians including Baz Warne from The Stranglers, TV Smith from The Adverts Jake Burns Stiff Little Fingers & NOFX manager Kent Jamieson. The Toy Dolls live shows consist of synchronized choreography, perfectly timed moves, dances and jumps and spinning guitars. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Desperate Housewives Actress Passes

Just as I wept during the most moving storyline of the "Desperate Housewives" finale— the death of crusty, fearless, tell-it-like-it-is Karen McCluskey— tears fell Saturday upon learning the actress who portrayed her also had passed away. Less than three weeks after nosy neighbor Mrs. McCluskey succumbed to lung cancer on the series finale of "Desperate Housewives," Kathryn Joosten— the actress who won two Emmy Awards for portraying the television character— has died of the same disease at 72. Joosten, who was also known for playing the president's secretary in the TV series "The West Wing," died Saturday at her Westlake Village home, said her daughter-in-law, Jeremy Joosten. Because Joosten was an advocate for lung-cancer awareness and research, she agreed to the plot turn on "Housewives" that mirrored her off-screen life. "This will allow the public to much more comfortably talk about lung cancer," Joosten told The New York Post in February.

The most challenging aspect of the lung-cancer story arc, she said in another interview, was "working with the producers to make sure the material was true and accurate. They have been wonderful about that. "Secondly, I joke about this being a practice session, but there is a cathartic aspect to it," Joosten said in February. Last fall, she called herself a "two-time lung cancer survivor" in a first-person account of the disease that she wrote about for the Los Angeles Times. "My first was in 2001 and my second was in 2009, two completely different lung cancers, one on each side. I am the only 'celebrity' to be public about my lung cancer. So far, I am a cancer survivor, but cancer will be with me for the rest of my life, be it as a nodule, tumor or cell someplace, or in my fears and anxieties," she wrote. "Therefore I've decided that I am 'living with cancer."

On "Housewives" and "The West Wing," Joosten was known for making the most of her sometimes limited scenes, "delivering withering one-liners in her crazy/wise style," The Times said last year. She had played Karen McCluskey on the hit ABC show since 2005. Felicity Huffman, one of her "Housewives" costars, wrote Saturday on her Twitter account: "She was an amazing woman and a wonderful actress." Born December 20th, 1939, in Chicago, Joosten did not begin to pursue her "childhood dream" of acting until she was 42. She will always be in our hearts and minds as she lives on in syndication. And "Desperate Housewives" would never have been the same without her to pull us, along with the characters, back to reality. We had hoped the show would have made it to a 10th season... but now... we are fully aware that "Desperate Housewives" left the airwaves at precisely the right time... perhaps in honor of Mrs. McClusky, who instinctively knew when it was time to finally leave the party. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Borgias— A Clever Game of Complicity

If you haven't been watching Showtime's Epic Original Series, The Borgias, then you're avoiding the brilliance that places history into a dark and manipulative game. The Borgias were an actually family. The name Borgia is synonymous with the corruption, nepotism, and greed that were rife in Renaissance Italy. The powerful, voracious Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, was the central figure of the dynasty. The Borgias is a complex, unvarnished portrait of one of history's most intriguing and infamous dynastic families. Oscar(r)-winning actor Jeremy Irons returns in his Golden Globe(r)-nominated role as the cunning, manipulative patriarch of the Borgia family who ascends to the highest circles of power within Renaissance-era Italy to become Pope Alexander VI. Seeking to consolidate his power, Alexander enlists his family to take an oath of revenge on the great noble houses that dared to stand against him, causing his Papacy to face political turmoil once again. But Alexander's real problems lie with his children, all of whom are growing up and defying his authority. Lucrezia forges an unlikely alliance between Vanozza and Giulia, and together they plot to battle Vatican corruption. The sibling rivalry between Cesare and Juan will soon turn to hatred as their father's unwavering favoritism toward Juan triggers Cesare to engage his dark side. Elsewhere in Rome, Alexander's old enemy Della Rovere has entered the city incognito and conspires to assassinate him. The story of the Borgia family's unlikely dramatic rise from its Spanish roots to the highest position in Italian society is an absorbing tale.

While rats, disease and poverty festered outside the Vatican walls, the infamous Rodrigo Borgia and his notorious family ruthlessly held all power through the Papal throne during the turbulent Bacchanalian decadence of 15th century Rome. They always ruled via intimidation and violence, crushing their enemies and fomenting fear, division, and revulsion among anyone who would dare challenge their power. They were the original "one percent." But as season two of the SHOWTIME hit drama series The Borgias truly unfolds, the greatest existential threat to Alexander's Papacy may not come from foreign adversaries or ambitious political operatives, but may linger within his own brood. His inevitable fall from power could come from the duplicitous deeds of his most trusted inner circle— his family. "The Pope has insisted that there be no family rivalry," says the Academy Award®-winning series star Jeremy Irons. "He knows rightly that if the family is to be powerful, it has to be powerful because it's united."

Filmed entirely on location in Budapest, Hungary, the series stars Oscar® winner Jeremy Irons, in his Golden Globe®-nominated role as Pope Alexander VI, a Spanish outsider whose political cunning and ruthless ambition elevated him past his rivals. "The first year, I felt the need to lay out the historical tableau with a great amount of clarity," says executive producer, writer and director Neil Jordan. "So when we came to the second season, it was like, suddenly you've got all these characters, and you can let them rip. It was a lot of fun." The Academy Award®-winning Jordan penned five scripts this season, then handed the reins over to executive producer David Leland to write four, and Guy Burt (Kingdom) to write one. Jordan (Byzantium) directed episodes 1 and 2; Jon Amiel (Creation) directed episodes 3 and 4; Kari Skogland (Endgame) directed episodes 5 and 7; John Maybury (Edge of Love) directed episodes 6 and 8; and Leland (Band of Brothers) served as director for the final two episodes.

Fraternal strife boils over. Sexual proclivities of the Pope blossom. Women unite in a new display of power. Borgia enemies multiply. As season one ended, the Pope’s beloved daughter Lucrezia had just given birth, and the family celebrated together. Almost like a happy new beginning. Almost. "All of the characters are going to darken this season," says Jordan. The cunning Cesare, engages his dark side, becoming much more like The Prince Machiavelli wrote about; the profligate Juan is ostracized by his family and turns murderous; and the increasingly independent Lucrezia refuses to be just a pawn in her family's continued quest for power. Meanwhile, the Pope faces unrelenting struggles: The French return with a vengeance, having been tricked into invading a plague-infested Naples in season one. Various Italian clans plot his demise. The devious antagonist Cardinal Della Revere trains an assassin; while in Florence the puritanical Friar Savonarola's grip on power tightens and the Borgia fortunes, deposited with the Medici Bank, are jeopardized.

Cesare begrudgingly continues serving as Cardinal per his father's edict and coveting Juan’s job as head of the Papal Army, which suffers a humiliating defeat this season. Juan's erratic and violent behavior has become a threat to the Borgia throne and the Pope senses the dangerous discord. Though competition rages between brothers, when it comes to the Pope's affection, Juan wins hands down, much to the chagrin of an increasingly cynical Cesare, who is fast becoming the "dark horse" his sibling always knew him to be. "He's not looking for his father's love as much as he did in the first season," says Francois Arnaud. "He's not even looking for his father's approval anymore. He just kind of decides to go rogue, and more often than not, knows that his ideas are just better."

As the season opens, Lucrezia is now mother to a love child, having survived a disastrous marriage to Giovanni Sforza, who betrayed her family politically, and violated her personally as a wife.  Says actress Holliday Grainger, "I think family members expect Lucrezia to sit back and resign herself to marriage, to being bullied by her brother. But she doesn't. She stands up for herself, and says, 'eah, I'm a woman, but I'm a strong woman." Though Lucrezia's innocence of season one has faded, she's not quite the monster as depicted in history books— which were often written by Borgia enemies. "Those who vilified her, without exception, were all men," says Zoltan Rihmer, Papal consultant. "That speaks for itself." In another interesting twist taken from the history books, known as in loco parentis ("in place of a parent"), Pope Alexander places Lucrezia on the throne while he leaves Rome on business, a very taboo act during those times. But it wasn't just the Papal stint that emboldens Lucrezia this season. When Juan crosses her, we learn that she too is capable of dark deeds, a Borgia trait she shares with Cesare.

Amidst the dramas of torture, warfare, and turbulent times surrounding the Borgia Papacy, at the central core is the family. "What I love about The Borgias is that it's a huge, epic tale of wars, and power, and God, and faith, and poverty, and riches," says Joanne Whalley. "But at the center of that, it's a family. It humanizes everything." Says Irons, "An audience will always be engaged by the human condition. Battles are great, political movements are great— they give tension, and they're interesting to watch... But certainly what I care about, as an audience, are people. How they interact. And I think what we're seeing is how this pretty wild family is dealing with one other. How each character is developing, getting stronger or weaker. And it's them we watch, and them, hopefully, we love, in a strange way."

What is Consciousness?

"What is Consciousness?" is not necessarily a single question, but a whole set of questions. Here are just a few: Why do we experience certain sensations not as information, but as qualities? Why, for example, do we experience a wavelength of light as blue, rather than as a colorless piece of data? How do we manage to experience things in the absence of sensations, such as in imagination and dreams? Why do our experience of things cohere as things, rather than as a distribution of points? Why, for example, do we see the world as we do, rather than as something like a surrealist painting? And why do our experiences seem connected over time, rather than as discrete events? Why do we hear a melody, and not a series of notes? How do things develop meaning? Why do they develop a coherence in the sense that we respond to them in a purposive fashion? Why do we experience ourselves as selves? How do we find a coherence that separates us from other aspects of our experiences? Where do we get the sense of self as subject or ego? Why doesn’t the information simply pass through us, as we assume it does in machines or very primitive creatures? 

The list could go on, and each question analyzed into more detailed questions, but this is more than enough to start with. The point of my observations is to help us to develop a coherent set of general answers to these questions from a judicious perspective. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, consciousness occurs when an organism is "interested" in its environment. This "interest" is based on an organism's neediness (desire, libido). We open ourselves to qualities in that which we have evolved and learned to find certain qualities relevant (meaningful) to us as organisms which must constantly adapt in order to continue to exist.