According to TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello, actor Ken Leung will be joining the cast of Lost next season. His most recent and memorable role was as Uncle Junior’s cohort in the mental institution on The Sopranos.

Leung was Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand, and his recent credits include the films Inside Man, The Squid & The Whale, and Saw.

In other Lost casting news, Veronica Mars herself, Kristin Bell, was also invited to become a cast member on Lost in Season 4, but apparently she turned down the opportunity because of location. Rather than relocate to Hawaii, she chose New York, where she will appear on Broadway in 2008. Interesting choice…

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You know how clown dolls are scary and you fear that they’ll come alive, like the possessed one in Poltergeist II? Yeah, that’s how I feel about John Travolta in drag. Nightmares. They shall follow.

Hairspray was not my first choice to see as a matinee, but it wasn’t my turn to choose. As it turns out, I enjoyed it far more than I expected…except for Travolta. He was distracting and creepy as a woman. Which isn’t really surprising; he can be that way as a man.

Screenwriter Leslie Dixon is no stranger to camp, drag, comedy or even Travolta; she also penned Mrs. Doubtfire and Look Who’s Talking Now. Hairspray was produced by Chicago‘s executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.

I’m not one to recap an entire film or give anything away. I tend to just provide my opinion and cut to the chase. Here are the highlights from Hairspray:

Michelle Pfeiffer. She vamps her way through the movie, and steals every scene she appears in. Welcome back, Mrs. David E. Kelly. I might actually see Stardust now. And bring on I Could Never Be Your Woman (an Amy Heckerling film co-starring Paul Rudd, out in November; no trailer available yet).

James Marsden. Yes, it’s true. He of the wooden demeanor (see: all 3 X-Men films, Superman Returns, The Notebook) knocks this one out of the park as the cheesy American Bandstand-type host of a popular teen dance show.

Brittany Snow. Although her role in Hairspray resembles her character Meg on American Dreams, she kicks it up a notch and plays bitchy quite well. Those of us who witnessed her disconcerting stint as a neo-Nazi high school student on Nip/Tuck a few seasons ago recognize that there is far more to her golden image than meets the eye. I hope she takes on more glamour-free roles in the near future.

Queen Latifah. She’s pretty damn good in just about anything, even those clunkers that are best viewed on rainy Sunday afternoons (Last Holiday, anyone?). Just as in Chicago, the woman simply commands the screen and sings the hell out of every showtune.

Zac Efron. Okay, so I haven’t seen High School Musical 1 or 2, but he plays the young heartthrob with as much energy as…a young Travolta in Grease. I was pleasantly surprised by his performance.

Elijah Kelley. I had never heard of him. His only notable credit before Hairspray was last year’s Take the Lead, and that has yet to hit my TiVo. But the guy can flat-out dance.

Nikki Blonsky. It is hard to believe that this was her first film. She was born in 1988, the year that John Waters’ original Hairspray was released, and she more than filled the lead role that Ricki Lake mastered almost 20 years ago – she nailed it. Lake has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in this version, as a talent agent.

Hairspray also features Amanda Bynes, Allison Janney and Christopher Walken.

I do have to say that although I enjoyed it in the theater, I would relegate Hairspray as a rental.

And for what it’s worth, this is how I prefer Travolta and Walken.

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I am
headed to Alaska
in a few weeks, so I’ve been doing my usual vacation pre-production (packing
lists, itineraries, reservations, maps & guidebooks). Don’t laugh; in my
experience, the more prepared you are in advance, the more relaxed you’ll be when
the time comes. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Alaska that I know…from TV shows and in
movies, of course.

I watched
the first season of Men in Trees, but as much as I enjoy the show, I just can’t
get past Anne Heche. Her fair-weather days with Ellen and current relationship
with her Men in Trees co-star totally affect my opinion of her as an actress. Regardless,
the series features Alaska quite prominently,
and the fictional small town of Elmo
is almost a character itself. I never watched Northern Exposure regularly, but
I’m certainly familiar with pseudo-city Cicely,
as well.

have been many movies that take place in Alaska,
but I’ve only seen a handful. And looking at this list…none were that
successful or memorable.

30 Days
of Night
Will be
released in October 2007. No thanks: it’s a vampire movie, and it stars Josh

Alaska (1996)
Stars a
very young Thora Birch (American Beauty) and Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)

Alaska: Spirit of the Wild (1997)
Oscar-nominated documentary short film.

movie voiced by Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda…and Phil Collins.

The Edge
unbelievably bad film, considering the screenwriter (David Mamet) and cast
(Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin). Wait, I take that back. The female lead was
supermodel Elle McPherson.

The Gold
directed and starring Charlie Chaplin.

documentary from writer/director Warner Herzog; the bear activists in the film died
after being attacked by a bear while living in Alaska.

thriller starring Oscar winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
Director Chris Nolan’s follow-up to Memento. Underrated. Add it to your Netflix

writer/director John Sayles. Starring Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David
Strathairn and Kris Kristofferson.

Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Entertaining hockey
comedy written by TV producer/writer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, The
, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope). Great cast, including Russell Crowe, Hank
Azaria and Burt Reynolds.

Never Cry
film about government researcher who bonds with wolves. Starring Charles Martin
Smith and Brian Dennehy.

but true facts about this film: Jon Voight received a nomination for Best Actor,
and Eric Roberts was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Really? Wow.

A very
slow but beautifully filmed movie notable only for the lead performance by kd

Simpsons Movie
Ok, so
the family only moves there briefly. But even in the seemingly archaic style of The
animation, Alaska
looked appealing and fun.

Snow Dogs
Oh Cuba Gooding
Jr. You won the Oscar for Jerry Maguire and stole the show in As Good as It
. How do you explain Chill Factor? Rat Race? Boat Trip? As for this one…at
least the sled dogs are cute. I mean, they have to share the screen with Thong
Song master Sisqo and Michael Bolton. So there’s that.

take on Jack London’s classic. Starring a young Ethan Hawke.

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Sixteen years ago this month, I was unpacking boxes in my dorm room on the first day of college when a guy with long hair in a ponytail appeared in my doorway to chat. He was very friendly and funny, and my polar opposite – a boarding school kid from the East Coast. Although he started out as my next-door neighbor, we wound up living together for most of the next three years. Long story short, he began to date my roommate almost immediately. They have been together ever since.

His name is Matt Nathanson. And outside of family, he has been the most influential person in my life for the past 16 years. Immensely talented and musically gifted, Matt has been an inspiration to be around, as well as a very good friend. Throughout my many professional and personal endeavors, he has encouraged me to set my sights high and follow through with what I aspire to be and do. Truthfully, Matt is the reason I began to blog, and his ongoing music education has contributed to the success I’ve had at my current job.

And now Matt has graciously provided me with the opportunity to officially interview him for this Blog, as he celebrates the release of his new album.

If you haven’t heard of Matt Nathanson yet, you will soon enough. His new CD, Some Mad Hope, is out TODAY on Vanguard Records, available in stores, online and on iTunes. Matt will be embarking on a national fall tour in support of the new album beginning next month.

Before we get started with the interview, here are the essentials for you to read and watch:

Born and raised in Lexington, MA. Went to Proctor Academy in New Hampshire. Graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. Currently resides in San Francisco with his wife and cat.

1993 – Please
1997 – Ernst
1998 – Not Colored Too Perfect
2001 – Still Waiting for Spring
2002 – When Everything Meant Everything (EP)
2003 – Beneath These Fireworks
2006 – At the Point

2007 – Some Mad Hope





Appearance on CBS’ The Saturday Early Show

Live version of All We Are

Live version of Car Crash

Singing ‘Kid Fears’ live with the Indigo Girls


And now, on to the interview…

Jo: How old were you when you received or bought you first guitar? What was its life span?

Matt: I was in 5th grade.  My mother bought me a K-shaped, candy apple red Ibanez guitar. I had it until senior year in college, when I sold it to buy a Telecaster. I’ve regretted it every day since. 

Jo: Where/when was the very first time you took the stage to perform?

Matt: I had been in school plays since I was a wee lad. But the first time I ever really performed was in 6th grade, at a talent show called ‘The Big Event.’ I had a band called ‘One Way Out’ and we played a Police song and a Beatles song.

Jo: How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it called?

Matt: I was in 7th grade. The song was called “It Was Only a Dream,” and it was awful. I played it at ‘The Big Event II.’

Jo: What was the first concert you attended?

Matt: J. Geils Band at the Boston Garden. I was in 3rd grade, and went with my student teacher, who I was totally in love with. It was unrequited.

Jo: What is the story behind the title Some Mad Hope?

Matt: I was watching the movie 300 and the main character said it as he led his troops to their death. I though it fit my life perfectly.

Jo: How long, from start to finish, did it take you to complete Some Mad Hope?

Matt: I think just over 3 years. We (co-writer Mark and I) wrote the first version of ‘Come On Get Higher’ in 2004.

Jo: How did you wind up with Vanguard as your new record label?

Matt: I was really wary of signing with another major label after my stint on Universal. Vanguard were just hands down the best indie option I had. They are super enthusiastic, music nerds…and I felt an immediate kinship.

Jo: At what point did you decide that the album cover/art work wouldn’t feature photos of you?

Matt: I have never really been into the idea of having my picture on the cover. I feel like an album cover should help tell the story, help set the mood. I’m still a huge believer in a record being a whole experience, not just a collection of songs. And the cover is crucial to that experience.

Jo: From the cover art to the lyrics, this album seems more personal and exposes a darker perspective/outlook than albums past. Would you agree?

Matt: Maybe. The songs on this record follow me through a pretty serious realization that I had in my personal life. And it was pretty heavy shit…so yeah, I guess it’s heavy, but not necessarily darker.

Jo: Will ‘Car Crash’ be your first mainstream music video? Do you have an idea when it will debut, and if it will be on iTunes and/or MTV?

Matt: We are shooting a video for ‘Car Crash’ at the end of August. It’s being shot by Justin Francis – he is a total bad ass and did the new Modest Mouse video for ‘Little Motel.’ The treatment for our video is pretty rad. Not sure if it will be on MTV – do they even show videos anymore? It will definitely be on iTunes and everywhere else…

Jo: Your songs have appeared on popular television series’ like Scrubs and Men in Trees. Are there any shows you hope to add to that list with songs from the new album, or is it out of your hands when and what is submitted?

Matt: I would love to have a song on Family Guy, but I’m pretty sure they don’t do that kind of stuff.

Jo: Who or what influences your music?

Matt: My life pretty much influences my music. I’m not super good at the whole fictional storytelling stuff. My songs come from my own shit, for better or worse. And in terms of who…I’m wide open. I can be influenced from any direction. I’m pretty malleable that way.

Jo: How would you describe your fan base?

Matt: Kick ass! Truly. I am not really a fan of this word…but I am totally blessed. The folks that come to my shows are amazing. And passionate. And total freaks. And I love it!

Jo: What is the most unique thing a fan has ever said or given to you?

Matt: For a while, I was getting statues of religious figures. Like Jesus, the action figure. And Moses. I actually got a disturbing sculpture of Jesus teaching a boy to swing a baseball bat. And I’m not religious at all, so that was a pretty strange gifting period.

Jo: Have you performed in all 50 states? Anywhere outside of the US? Any plans to?

Matt: I think I’m still a few states short of 50. Definitely haven’t played Hawaii or Alaska yet. And I think the Dakotas are on that list as well. I’ve never really toured outside of the states, though that plan is starting to come together nicely…

Jo: You are an unusually gregarious performer at your live shows, with a penchant for language unsuitable for the under PG-13 crowd. Is language ever an issue – do certain venues forbid or discourage it?

Matt: Sometimes I’ll play a college where they have a swear/don’t get paid policy. I can totally refrain from swearing if I have to, but it feels like I’m playing the show with my hands tied behind my back, and use of only about half my brain. I LOVE me the swears!

Jo: Would you recommend MySpace to other musicians as way to market yourself and reach out to the fans?

Matt: It is crucial. It’s the perfect forum for spreading the word.

Jo: Do you take the time to read comments and blogs about you and your music?

Matt: If I’m feeling particularly shitty about myself, I have been known to Google my name in hopes of finding kindness from others on the world wide web. Yes, but I’m not in the habit of it…

Jo: At last count, there were over 500 clips of you on YouTube, with everything from Prison Break scenes set to ‘Laid’ and guys in front of web cams singing songs from your new album. Flattered or frightened?

Matt: Totally flattering…and hilarious.

Jo: You’ve covered songs by James (Laid on the American Wedding soundtrack), Cat Stevens (The Wind on Wake Up Everybody) and Prince (Starfish and Coffee on For The Kids Too!). Were you asked to do so, and did you have to seek permission from the original artists to perform each?

Matt: Fuck no. It’s totally legal to cover other people’s songs. Probably not legal to cover as many Journey songs as I do, but I’m in the clear on James and Prince.

Jo: When you’re on tour and have some down time, what do you like to do? Do you ever actually explore the cities you’re visiting?

Matt: I spend a lot of time exploring a 4-block radius of whatever club/theater we are playing. A lot of the time, that isn’t so spectacular. And I’m always on the lookout for a Whole Foods. If there is a Whole Foods in your town, you can pretty much count on finding me there!

Jo: What is your guilty pleasure television show? Movie?

Matt: I don’t really have guilty pleasures. I’m pretty open about my love of stuff that other people think is terrible. I have been known to watch an entire Olsen twin’s movie when it comes on cable. And I guess I’m not super proud of that.

Jo: What is on heavy rotation in your iPod right now? Who are your favorite artists of the moment?

Matt: The new National record. Tegan and Sara’s new one, The Con. Cansei De Ser Sexy. M.I.A. Lily Allen. Kiss – “The Destroyer.”

Jo: Do you have a favorite song from the new album? Is there a song from any of your previous albums that you still love to perform live?

Matt: My favorite song from the new record is definitely ‘Falling Apart.’ It just sort of sprawls out and soars in a cool way. I never get tired of listening to it. As far as older songs, I don’t really get tired of playing ‘Suspended’ or ‘I Saw.’ Those are always fun.

(Photo: Matt and I at the Mandalay Bay Beach in Las Vegas, where he opened for Pink in June of 2006.)

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When I
was a kid, I looked forward to summer because I could join the reading program
at our local library (nerd alert!). I have never been a competitive person per
se, but reading was a sport to me at that age. Bring on the stickers and
ribbons! I have no doubt that the roots of my love for creative writing were
planted in the kids section of the tiny library across the street from where I
grew up.

For me, there
is something about the way a library smells. I have very strong associations with
that distinguishable scent from my childhood and college libraries. And there is
nothing like the sound and sight of pages in old books that crinkle with joy when
released from their moldy confines in the library graveyards of forgotten
shelves on the lower floors.

That is
why, as much as I love modern technology, it makes me sad to realize that the Internet
lures far more young eyes than actual libraries these days.

But the
bright light in the big picture is that little man with the rimmed glasses and
lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Harry Potter has, quite simply,
reinvigorated the desire to read books, worldwide. 325 MILLION books, to be
exact. That is how many copies of author J.K. Rowling’s seven Harry Potter
books have sold thus far. They have been translated into 65 different
languages. And the first five movie adaptations have become the highest
grossing film series of all time ($4.3 BILLION).

Potter is a phenomenon like no other. But I can honestly say that I have no
desire to read the books. Fantasty is just not my genre, although I do appreciate the enthusiasm for the series and
have seen all but the latest film.

So this
weekend, while surrounded by nieces and nephews, I decided to investigate how
they first got into Harry Potter, and why they are so passionate about the
books and movies. Below are excerpts from their interviews, along with their

To start, here is a
summary of the entire series, as told by 8-to-16 year olds:

Potter is about a young boy of eleven who is suddenly thrust into a world of
magic. He does very dangerous challenges and is forced to take classes that he
hates. He devotes his life to defeating the dark Lord Voldemort, who murdered his
parents and other people he was close to. Each book throws new obstacles into
his path, such as dragons, happiness-sucking Dementors and the occasional
romantic relationship.”

* Warning:
Minor spoilers below for all books before Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows


“I like
Harry Potter because J.K. Rowling is a good writer and she is really detailed;
she describes everything really well. The only thing I don’t like about all of
the books is that Rowling doesn’t make Harry dark enough; it’s hard to picture
him defeating Voldemort because he thinks about using the spells but doesn’t actually
use them.

My favorite
book is the Goblet of Fire, because stuff happens in the middle. I didn’t like
the Order of the Phoenix
because Professor Umbridge is really mean to Harry.

My favorite
character is Fleur Delacour. She goes to a different magical school called Beauxbatons Academy. She’s really pretty. I also
like Sirius Black, because he’s funny and cool. He always wants to fill Harry
in on everything when everyone else says he’s too young. I also like Remus
Lupin because he’s a werewolf; he always looks ill during a full moon, but he’s
a smart person.

movies aren’t that great, but they do a good job with how the characters look…except
for Hermione. The books are better.”


“I love
Harry Potter because of the magic, and how they fight each other. I like the Goblet
of Fire
because that’s the first real battle between Voldemort and Harry. Voldemort
is evil; I like him the best.”

MAX, 8
(pictured above, securing his copy of the Deathly Hallows last month)

“I got
into Harry Potter because my babysitter started reading it me when I was five
and a half. Then I started reading it on my own, and then I started reading it
with my Dad. I like how Rowling introduced the characters, like Hagrid. He is
so big but barges through the little hut.  

I like
that the series has a lot of action in it, especially the movies. The movies
take parts out of the books and replace them with really good stuff that they
don’t have in the books. I like Harry the best because it’s all about him and
most of the time, the camera is on him in the movies.

Deathly Hallows is very grim, but it’s my favorite so far.”

JOHN, 14

sister read the first book, and said it was good. I usually read whatever my
sister says is good. I like how J.K. Rowling made characters that were really
believable in the fictional sense, and how she keeps using them continuously
throughout the books.

The Order
of the Phoenix

is my favorite because the students rebel against Professor Umbridge. I like
how they have a government that goes wrong, because it reflects actual real
life events.

favorite characters are Luna and Tonks. Luna is very spacey and really crazy.
She is very friendly but she dresses weird and is different from other people.
It’s cool. Tonks is clumsy like I am, and she can change her appearance at


remember that my parents would read us a chapter after we did the dishes. They
read us the first three books. We would do the dishes as fast as we could to
get to Harry Potter. Rowling just does such a great job with all the
characters, how real they are. She keeps their storylines straight. She created
a whole world inside these books. Harry Potter was the first fantasy series
that I read, and then I devoured all sci-fi fantasy series’ after that.

The Goblet
of Fire
and the Deathly Hallows are my favorites. I don’t really like the
movies, because the acting isn’t very good. And you can never include
everything that she has in the books.

favorite character is Ron, because of his one-liners.”

MIKE, 40

“I think
it’s a great story, in that she’s written the series not just for kids, but
adults. There are adult themes as well. After the first book, I found myself
caring about the characters. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and she really
incorporated a lot of universal themes that went beyond fantasy. Especially the
last three books, which captured a lot of emotions that 13-16 year old boys
identify with.

I like
Rowling’s personal story, that she wrote the whole book on legal paper and now
she’s the first author who’s a billionaire. I really like the Deathly Hallows.
As far as characters, I like Hermione because she’s the smartest person in the


bought the first book for the kids. Then we got the books on tape, and the guy
who voices them is awesome. We’d listen to them on 9 hour road trips and we’d
all be silent, listening. They’re engrossing; once you start, you’re there. You
can see everything.

movies have done a good job bringing to life what I’ve had in my head. Even for
characters that I pictured differently in the book, they do such a good job
with the movies that I now picture them as the actors when I’m reading. What’s
great is that Rowling got kids reading again.”


“I was a
junior high school teacher at the time, and among the kids there was a buzz about
the first book. It was kind of my duty to read them at first. But there is believability
about the books. The whole Muggles side. You feel like you’re a part of it,
even though you know in your logical mind that it’s fantasy.

I love
the Deathly Hallows because Rowling pulled out all of the stops and brought it
all together. I have a lot of respect for how she stayed strong all the way to
the end. She honored to the story and consistency, and gave it a great finish.
It would be hard to be disappointed with how she wrapped it.

I love
the Weasley twins. If I had had brothers, I would have wanted them. They seem
like they are so much fun.”

JOHN, 38

“I was
teaching sixth grade when I first read Harry Potter. I was unimpressed with the
first book. It wasn’t better or worse than anything else out there. But in the
Chamber of Secrets, she took elements from that first book and made it better. The
Prisoner of Azkiban was just good because it was darker than the others. It
proved that Rowling had a back story to go on.

Ron Weasley
is my hero. He is the quintessential best friend; he supports and trusts Harry.
And he is second fiddle to his best friend, who is famous in that world.”


So why do
YOU love or hate Harry Potter?

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