Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weirdo Records- Niche Markets Never Die

Cambridge- Don’t be frightened by volumes of old records and cds, vintage toys, and posters of Japanese Beatlesque bands in this used record store; hard-to-find avant and experimental music is Weirdo Records owner, Angela Sawyer’s specialty. “If you’re curious and want to check out some weird stuff,” says Sawyer while updating her online record website, “You know that several people [record aesthetes] have spent a long time separating the wheat from the chaff.”

Like many record clerks, Sawyer is extensively knowledgeable. She had worked at local record shops for fifteen years when she decided to dabble with selling records online. Sawyer’s online business began in 2006. “It was just for fun, it was just two steps over from a my space page, no big deal,” said Sawyer. In nine months sales from her website were skyrocketing and her career working at a record store become a secondary income.

“The economy started to go to crap,” said Sawyer, “People were like you got that other thing and your not here any ways so …I got let go.”

In February, as her independent retailer business grew, Sawyer decided to launch a hole-in-the wall specialty record shop in Central Square. “So far business has been great,” said Sawyer, her clientele is mostly 25-60 year old male music seekers, “It’s been so busy that I can barely keep up with it.”

Sawyer is more than happy to recommend some great music to you. She is currently listening to world psychedelia from the sixties s and experimental noise. “For some people music is more important than food and they show it buy eating ramen all the time and spending all their money on it,” Sawyer said, “I listen to music when I’m awake.”

According to Almighty Institute of Music, a market firm, 3,100 record stores have closed since 2003. Sawyer isn’t concerned about music piracy, record stores going under, or the fall of the music industry. “If you look for music on the internet it’s almost impossible because there’s too much,” said Sawyer, she continued, “The way people’s heads work is not like a computer. There’s no place contemporary culture for aesthetics except in a record stores.”

As retail record stores plummet because of the recession, the niche market for record shops can perhaps remain strong due to the loyal market base.

“If the economy is the size of Central Square and the music industry is the size of this room. My store is the size of a microscopic spec on my fingernail. So even if it is sinking there is a lot of room for me to move around, said Sawyer.”

Monday, March 30, 2009


Volunteer effort can produce important results. The problem is volunteering has declined in the US. "In these times citizen service becomes even more vital to the health of our nation's communities," said the Washington Post. There is growing recognition of the importance of volunteering from spending time reading to children, donating blood, or working at a soup kitchen can have a huge impact. According to the Washington Post, "If large numbers of Americans swapped one hour of TV a week for service, volunteer rates would skyrocket and communities would improve their social and economic well-being."

Personally, the rewards of volunteering have been significant. I spend my Saturdays volunteering at 826 in Roxbury. I learn to work with children who are less privileged than I was growing up. Volunteering has also given me a higher sense of community. I feel more at home in Boston knowing that I am working to improve the condition of my city.

Clip of Dave Eggers, founder of 826 National:

Friday, March 27, 2009

My cousin made it in the NYTimes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Archive-Interview with Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2007

Brian Chase drummer (right)
I had the good fortune of interviewing one of my favorite bands a couple of years ago. Their new album is out! It's all I've been listening to lately.

MP: Where are you right now?

BC: I’m wondering through the hidden back rooms of the Orpheum Theatre right now. Kind of creepy, the rooms looks like no one has used them in awhile.

MP: Show Your Bones has been out for 11 days are you pleased with how well its doing?

BC: Of course, definitely, we only release something that we felt we can stand behind 100 percent. We’re surprised that big magazines like Time and The New Yorker, wrote about us. I think I feel more comfortable with our band in those magazines. I like how we came across. They understood her [Karen O’s] approach, which not too many people understand.

MP: Where did the album's name come from?

BC: We were actually struggling to come up with a record title for a long while. Karen was hanging out with her friend’s son whose nine and he came up with it. He had a way of describing a scenario when a cartoon character puts his finger in a light socket. Instead of getting electrocuted he called it showing your bones. We thought that would be perfect for the name of the record.

MP: Your record is created with a lot of versatile sounds, each song is different from the next. It seems like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gone through a lot personal growth do you feel that way?

BC: A lot of stuff has happened to us. There has been some significant changes in our lives. From before Fever to Tell until now. I think Show Your Bones definitely reflects more introspection through everything that has happened to us. That’s the reason for the dramatic and epic feeling from the record.

MP: Each song sounds like it has its own story.

BC: It does sound like each song is a story, or its own little movie. The songs are really different and the lyrics serve a very specific theme. I think this is one of the biggest accomplishments of this record.

MP: How was working Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel)?

BC: Overall it was great working with him. There were some clashes in the beginning. Clean had to learn our aesthetic and how we worked. Definitely, it was a learning process for both sides. He had some tricks up his sleeves when it came to recording. We all got to be really close friends with him and in the end we had a really good record.

MP: What were the challenges you faced in recording this album?

BC: Mostly what to add and take away when writing the songs. Most of the songs were written in the studio and its like being in a black hole, you don’t know what’s going to be good and what’s going to sound bad. It can be a frustrating journey all along.

MP: Some of the songs have stories that tell of a sad journey or a lost love? Whose heartbreak inspired this album?

BC: Heartbreak all around. We are big romantic saps. We all feel pain… from the heart.

MP: I enjoyed Patrick Daughter’s production of Gold Lion, but wouldn’t it make more sense if Karen’s new boyfriend, Spike Jonze produced the album?

BC: Patrick is a close friend of ours and he has done our videos before, we just decided to go with him.

MP: Is there going to be any more music videos coming out that you can tell us about?

BC: We are thinking of Turns Of You or Cheated Hearts, but it should come out in mid-May.

MP: It’s been three years since Fever to Tell in the life of a band this is a really long time to put out an album? What took you guys so long?

BC: After Fever to Tell we toured, it took about two years. We were on the road. Our band can’t write a record on the road. We had written a bunch of songs after Fever to Tell but we decided to record those for Show Your Bones. Actually, Honeybear is the only one that falls in that category.

MP: Do you think the next Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ album is going to take as long to come out?

BC: I wouldn’t be surprised if it took another few years for the next album, but who knows.

MP: The tour just began.

BC: It began a few weeks ago in D.C.

MP: How’s it been so far?

BC: It’s been a blast playing with new material, rediscovering our material live, it’s been fun.

MP: Any stories you would like to mention?

BC: No it’s too early for any crazy things to happen yet.

MP: Fever To Tell won best album of the year do you think Show Your Bones is going to win that high of an acclaim?

BC: (giggles) We will see how it goes. This is out of our control, not for us to decide. Though, it is off to a great start.

MP: So your playing in Boston tonight not too far away from your hometown in New York, what makes playing in Boston special?

BC: The dirty water of the Charles River I look forward to every time.
Click here .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Jersey Rockhoppers Defeat The Brooklyn Aces

New Jersey Rockhoppers are taking part in the final playoff of the Eastern Professional Hockey League Championship Series with a 4-3 overtime win against the Brooklyn Aces held at the Aviator Arena. Matt Puntureri scored the winning goal against the Aces on Saturday night.

The Aces started off strong with a 0-1 lead scored by Dan Carney. This dynamic quickly changed when in the first period; Pat Serpico opened the scoring and tied the game with his quick work, hitting the puck fiercely into the net. “Pat Serpico had it huge. The second goal gave us all the momentum to grab the lead. His goal was fantastic. That would have been the game changer for me.” said Brian Gratz, head coach of the Rockhoppers.

Nick Niedert, Rockhopper goalie, stopped 15 out of 16 of the shots, even though they had the added advantage of having retired Canadian professional hockey player, Ron Duguay from the New York Rangers playing along with the Aces. Duguay has come out of retirement to promote the Madison Square Garden charitable organization by playing a game for both the Aces and tomorrow for the Rockhoppers. "Ron Duguay is a great guy. The boys wanted to show a level of respect,” said Gratz. Duguay played the entire game without wearing a helmet.

Serpico thrived with more unbalanced scoring after he made another solid goal passing by the Aces’ goalie Miro Recicar.

A dog pile of both teams occurred after a fight broke out amongst the players. After minutes the referees broke up the fight when two players went down on the ice to battle it out. “Tempers were flaring right at the end of the game,” said Coach Gratz. This caused four penalties, in which two were cancelled out since both teams were penalized. From the Rockhoppers, both Matt Puntureri and Dustin Henning were sent to the penalty box. Quickly after the last minute of regulation, CJ Tozzo used a screen to put the Aces back at an equal score with the Rockhoppers. Puntureri was also able to return to the rink from the penalty box.

“Obviously, we were trying to protect our goaltender; he’s the backbone of our team. One thing led to another we were trying to pull the other team off our goaltender,” said Gratz, he continued, “I don’t think the referrer made the right decision, it should have been even up all the way around. This left us in a bad spot. They ended up scoring a power play goal out of it, which was disappointing. At the same time it shows character of the team that they are willing to stand up and fight for one another.”

With only thirty seconds left on the clock for overtime, Puntureri faked out the Aces and shot the winning goal. “It was quite a lucky play. The defense made an awful play and the goalie did as well. Luckily, I found a hole and swept it in there putting us in the play-offs”, said Puntureri.

The Aces had already secured a place in the play-offs. “Well obviously we didn’t get the turn out we wanted,” said Chris Holmes of the Aces, he continued, “We didn’t want to lose the last game this season, but we will see these guys next week. We hope to take a two for one and win the Eastern Professional Hockey Series.”

Brooklyn Aces and New Jersey Rockhoppers are scheduled to play again next Thursday for the Eastern Professional Hockey League Championship Series.

Ron Daguay known for his hockey hair and for this (sexy?) sasson jeans ad:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." Albert Einstein

The weather is rapidly getting warmer in Boston. I'm going bike shopping.
Quad bikes is a nonprofit bicycle shop that fixes up hundreds of abandoned bikes found on campuses and resells them for cheap to the Boston community. Quad bikes says their mission is to encourage people in the area to understand, use, and appreciate bicycles through bicycle repair.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Number 40

Playing pee-wee hockey is a rite of passage for most of my male cousins. Matt, 24, has played competitive hockey since he was seven years old. Today he plays up to six times a week in a local New Jersey league.

At the age of 16, he was drafted to Guelph, Canada to play while living with a host family. After high school, he moved to Winston Salem, North Carolina where he played with a semi-professional league for three years.

Hockey runs deep within my cousin and the rest of the family. My family has dreamed of producing a great atheletic player since he was a baby. His father named him Matt Vincent Puntureri so his initials would be MVP. Now laced up in shiny new skates and gloves, Matt's dream to take another tentative step into playing major league hockey is almost a reality. There is talk about him being drafted to play in Germany or The Netherlands over the summer.

Skates scraping on ice is a sound innate to my family, but not to me. I'm brushing up on the rules and tactics of the game before watching him play on Sunday. From what I'm told drinking lumpy hot chocolate and the smell of cheap hot dogs smothered in warm ketchup also part of the fervor. Especially when its enjoyed among my dutiful aunts, uncles, and cousins who will be shivering and cheering in the stands next to me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nobody Eats in LA

I love the liveliness of Echo Park. I walk and wait for Emily to call. On the left side of a convenient store, a robot shakes hands with a caveman. On the right, a keyboard typing by itself rests on a desk. My curious feet have taken me into this store to grab a pack of gum. I gaze to a slushy machine with a sign that reads "Out of Order Come Back Yesterday", past the poster with facial hair styles throughout history, to the green walls of the studio with kids being tutored. The sign above the clerk reads "Time Travel Mart." The products are a bit off. I stumbled into 826LA. Excitedly, I looked around snapping shots to show my Boston 826 colleagues. Loz Feliz and beyond, this place has character.

Its a glass noodle that drips over the edge of my mouth. I catch it with my tongue before Emily sees. I worked up an appetite watching her 19-piece-jazz band perform during their practice. We are at Toi in Los Angeles. The walls dance with music paraphernalia while they appropriately play The Fall. Its two in the morning and the Thai food is still freshly served. A mechanical dragon stretches his neck over my head. Another bite of brown rice looms toward me. I've never tasted fried brown rice. Not only does it taste of sesame oil, but there are bits of sesame seeds in it: that pop and get stuck in between my teeth.

Monday, March 16, 2009

South Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Click here for more pictures.


A blog that "tells cute animals what's what."
Fuck you penguin, the best of what blogging has to offer.
Ostriches amuse only themselves

In the same animal theme, we have this:

Like Work Should Be

I start work at Hachette Book Group on St. Patrick's Day.
Finding work relevant to what I want to do must mean I have good luck.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Do It Fast

As I walked along the dark streets the chatter of people both in
English and Spanish and the smell of street vendors sends a wave of adrenalin through me.

Hot stickiness drips out the end of my corn husk. My tamale is made with lard and I devour
it with careless bliss. I've never tasted a tamale like it before, there are chewy bits of sweet corn and
smoldering stringy cheese. I paid a meager $1.30 to the street vendor who also repairs shoes in the back of his truck.

Behind me is a boring sign that reads, "No alcoholic beverages beyond this point." This is the only thing that looks dull here. Brightly pastel colored buildings are all around. The road leads to the lake. I am told it is too cold and dark to see. I can't imagine this being possible, the colorful signs scar my eyes. When I close them I can still see the Spanish words imprinted glow on my eyelids.

It's a natural rhythm for me to give up something for lent. This time around I've decided to give up alcohol and caffeine. I want to see what its like being completely substance free and a social teetotaler. To test out how this effects my body, I am rating my mood and energy level on a daily basis. I plan to write an article based on my experience.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wedding in Tijuana

The son of a close family friend married a girl from Tijuana.
I got back in town late Tuesday night. The trip was
initially going to be for three days, but due to mechanical
problems, two of my flights were cancelled and I ended up
staying in LA for two additional days. Catching up on
work and blog updates.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A couple of years ago, I tested out being vegan and wrote the article below.

When I tell the people close to me that I am going to be a vegan, I get the same response, “But Why?” This question is usually followed by, “Isn’t being a vegetarian enough?” Maybe it is for some, but for me my curiosity led me to want to find out why somebody would become a vegan. I always thought veganism was for those die hard people whose compassion must be comparable to that of Mother Teresa or a lifestyle for those people who aren’t that big into eating in the first place. I wanted to know first hand how much of a challenge it is to live with such a restrictive diet that you have to read every label to make sure there isn’t any hidden animal derived ingredients. I also wanted to know if the benefits of eating mostly veggies, and eating ethically would be worth the devotion. I decided for the next 48 days I would become a strict vegan.

For those not familiar with veganism, the Vegan Society defines it as ways of living that seek to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This means eliminating the use of animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather, and wool. I thought of the experience as nothing more than a change in diet, like trying one of those horrible weight loss diets that restrict intake of certain kinds of food. I knew the results would be different than losing weight it might even change my worldview and I was up for the challenge.

Before my experience I considered myself a confused vegetarian. I never read labels, I ate omelettes and sushi, and I was fine with meat cooked next to my vegetarian foods. I knew from the beginning that taking on this challenge would be more than just a little difficult for me. I could rattle off a list of cheeses I ate on a daily basis from goat cheese in my salad to cheddar on my veggie burgers. Not to mention most of my favorite foods had some kind of dairy product in it.

From the beginning my experiment was complicated. I discovered that the cafĂ© I stopped by every morning on my route to work didn’t have any vegan-baked goods. The croissant had butter, their bagels were made with eggs, and muffins had both ingredients. I was shocked that the homemade granola bars weren’t even vegan (they contained honey) an ingredients I never had to think about not eating before. I went hungry on my way to work until I got to a vending machine and carefully selected trail mix, one of the only choices of vegan snacks.

On another occasion my boyfriend and I tried our hand at finding vegan food at some of our favorite restaurants. After ruling out many eateries based on their menus, we decided to play it safe by going to a local pub with veggie burgers as an option. I felt a bit annoying when asking the waitress what were the ingredients and if they could make sure that my veggie burger was cooked away from the real burgers. I learned quickly that humor helped when asking these questions. Through consulting many books on veganism and practice it became easier to make conscious decisions of what to order. After awhile, eating out wasn’t a problem and it wasn’t that difficult to ask the wait staff to tweak the menu a bit, it just meant I would need to leave a better tip.

My first realization of physical change had to do with my appetite. I began to find myself hungry every hour. The hunger would begin at work after my lunch of a salad, quinoa (protein packed grain) or sandwich with fake turkey and vegannaise (non-dairy mayonnaise substitute). To fix the problem, I decided to incorporate snacking into my diet. I ate Lara bars; certified organic and vegan bars made from whole nuts, and fruits. (pecan pie is my favorite) This didn’t help. The hunger that I felt was different then any other feeling I experienced. My stomach felt empty even after I ate. I decided to consult a friend who had been vegan for nearly nine years. His rule to vegan eating was adding fat to everything. One of the great benefits of being a vegan is being able to eat all the fat I wanted to. Vegan fat isn’t like regular fats from cheese or meat; it’s actually derived from whole foods and is good for you. To get rid of that awful hollow feeling my vegan advisor said to add more of these good fats like almond butter, avocado, and olive oils to my diet. After I took his advice my hunger problem went away, plus my energy level peaked. I was able to go through my day with more energy than I had for a very long time. I also felt the food I was eating affected my mood. I noticed in the mornings I wasn’t grumpy as I usually am when I have to wake up early for work and I felt more refreshed even though I didn’t change my sleeping patterns.

Near the end of my experience, I had a dinner party and invited my closest and most adventurous friends over to enjoy a non-diary eggplant parmesan and for dessert a vegan chocolate cake. My vegan casserole was an instant failure. The alternative cheese made mostly of soy didn’t even compare to real cheese. It turned out that the cheese even after an hour of baking wouldn’t melt. It just remained stringy and tasted bland and rubbery. Although the main course wasn’t worthwhile my three guests delightfully ate all of the vegan chocolate cake. My daring non-vegan friends sipped many of my specialty drink, vegan White Russians (with soymilk). Even if the vegan dinner party didn’t win over my friends into becoming vegans, I still view the party as a success.

I realized from my experience as a vegan that I became more creative in my restrictive diet. I believe that I fashioned more delicious and inventive dishes than I ever did before. Being so limited in my food choices had caused me to be inspired and discover endless recipes. I also felt better, my energy level remained at a high the entire time I was vegan. Although, there are plenty of benefits from being a vegan I decided I wouldn’t continue with it. I found being a vegan to be isolating from my friends and family members. I was invited out less to social gatherings mostly because family and friends were afraid that I wouldn’t have anything to eat or would have to keep justifying over and over with others my reasons for being vegan. I realized it was a difficult lifestyle especially if you are the only one in a social group doing it or not living in a large city with access to vegan food. I also decided I don’t want to be limited in my diet. Being vegan may not be right for me, but I have incorporated much of the values into my lifestyle such as eating more plant-based foods and less animal derived foods. I will still go out for a slice of pizza once in awhile, even though on a larger scale I’ve dramatically cut back my dairy intake. I have a new found admiration for vegans and their dedication for this lifestyle. I am not ruling out becoming a vegan in the future, but for right now I am content knowing where my food comes from and eating more consciously.
Tonight, I am ushering at the WITNESS event with
Toni Morrison, Homi K. Bhabha, and music by Yo-Yo Ma.

Monday, March 2, 2009

While trenching through the slush
to get to a spinning class, I realize winter isn't that bad.
I am no longer afraid of New England winter.
I'm actually enjoying what it has to offer. Fresh powder means better skiing.