Author Archives: alazebnik

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Winston Ford’s Information Highway

“Our site grew dramatically through the word of mouth”- Winston Ford

Winston “Stone” Ford
Owner and CEO of
Twitter: @couchsessions | @thisisstone

Sit on your couch and pop out anything with an internet connection, because The Couch Sessions will blow your mind.

Created in 2005, The Couch Sessions is the premier online destination for alternative urban music  and culture. The site is dedicated to spotlight the artists that are trying to make a name for themselves in the world of music. The site contains interviews with artists such as: Big K.R.I.T, Ryan Leslie, Dallas Austin, Dawn Richards, and many others. The blog is the brain child of Winston “Stone” Ford, who wanted to create an outlet where the music he liked would be spotlighted.

“I would spend weekends going through [my father’s] vast record collection when I was little. My father was a huge music nerd, but what he taught me was not to segregate my music choices. He was as huge a fan of a band such as: The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Commodores and Donna Summer. I also became fans of such artists as Marvin Gaye and Parliament Funkadelic. I feel like any artist who can pursue their art, remain happy, and expand their audience is an inspiration to me. There are so many names that come to mind that I would be sitting here for days trying to list everyone,” says Ford.

“Stone” began blogging in 2002 but instead of covering the art of music, he covered the art of war. Winston began covering the Iraq War and found himself disillusioned with politics. Who could blame him when most of the contradicting news articles were more confusing than Lil Wayne’s lyrics.

“I’ve always been musically inclined and I thought I could use the power of the Internet to make my voice heard. I felt like it was my obligation to give these artists their just due. Some of the artists that we’ve profiled have sold out shows after being spotlighted,” says Ford, who started the blog as mainly a hobby.

“When the site began, it was mainly an outlet to write about the music I liked. I would update the website when I got bored at work. I never thought that I would be making money from it at all. Now, it’s a business. While the content remains the same, we have advertising targets to meet and guidelines to uphold,” Ford says.

One of the main guidelines that The Couch Sessions upholds is their commitment to their fans and readers. In 2010, Winston met with the top one hundred fans of The Couch Sessions. In the five year span of its inception, the blog has maintained a growth in their audience. “Our site grew dramatically through the word of mouth,” says Ford. The word of mouth in 2011 includes the use of social media sites such as: Twitter, Facebook, Tumbir, and even Myspace (the three people who still use it). “I’m able to interact with fans from all over the world. I’m able to have instant and real time discussions with fans in Brazil, New Zealand,and the UK. When I travel to a new city, I always find new fans of the site to connect with. Social media has expanded rapidly, but I feel like the next five years will focus on cutting through the clutter and information overload. Social Networks will get more specific. There will be networks created based on your interests, says Ford.

Ford also thinks that music is expanding as well.

“It’s a very interesting time for the music industry. Music is no longer controlled by a few powerful gatekeepers and major labels will rapidly lose their market share to the indies. In the next 5 years there will be a pop star, who will forgo the traditional music route and create their own record label, while keeping a substantial share of profits and royalties. Music will also become more less of something you consume and more of a social and lifestyle experience. Services such as MOG, Spotify, Google Music, and Apple’s upcoming iTunes in the cloud will change the way the next generation of listeners experience music. I also see brands like Mountain Dew, who already has Green Label Sound, which is home to artists such as Chromeo, jumping into the music label game as well,” says Ford.

Whatever the case may be, The Casting Couch will be on the top of everything. With social media, television, and entertainment expanding, one can gather information right on the couch. Let the The Couch Sessions help you enjoy your sessions anywhere.


A Recent Video That Was Featured On His Site which features rapper Aloe Blacc
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Posted in Independent Film | 3 Comments



Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 9 PM

Whether it costs money or the admission is free, music could be just loud and obnoxious sometimes.  Free concerts sound like a great idea, but there is a reason why the music is free.

The Bamcafé holds many events that include free performances. The BAMcafé is a small part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which was founded in 1861. This makes BAM America’s oldest continuously operating performing arts center.

Located on 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, BAM consists of a 2000-seat opera house, a 800-seat theater, and four other cinemas. Because an escalator can only be able to hold so many people, space in BAMcafé becomes a priority. Just like any other building, it can only hold as much as regulated. If you are even a minute late, you can still miss the show.

Once one enter the caliginous hall, the first thing you may see are the arrays of individuals just standing. Seating is limited, which means one must come at least a hour in advance to each event. One may order food as well if they are seated. The ones who are left standing are left to gather around the bar, where anyone could like the music that is played.

From April 22nd till June 4th, the BAMcafé will add a spice to their everlasting melting pot of cultural events. This spice is the ¡Si Cuba! Festival, which is from March to June. It is held throughout fourteen New York City locations to celebrate or showcase Cuba’s rich culture. BAM will feature seven Cuban bands that includes Quimbombó.

Quimbombó is not your typical plate of gumbo. It is not spicy and it is quite loud. With congas, trumpets,  saxophones, and flutes Quimbombó is as traditional as the spicy dish.  On Friday, April 22, 2011, Quimbombó performed at the BAMcafé.

Quimbombó includes: Nick Herman (director, composer, and arranger), David Oquendo (lead vocals and  guitar), Igor Arias Baro (lead and background vocals), Steve Gluzband (trumpet), Alex Fernandez Fox (third lead vocals), Ricky Salas (congas, vocals), Arun Luthra (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and clarinet), and Jorge Bringas (bass and vocals). Although the band has eight members, their performance at the BAMcafé included only five with David Oquendo as the main vocalist.

Oquendo, a native of Havana, founded the Latin Grammy-nominated group, Raices Habaneras. He has personally worked with many top artists including Paquito D’Rivera, Cachao, Willie Chirino, Marc Anthony, and Johnny Pacheco. When Oquendo sings, it becomes amateur hour on the dance floor. As young couples look like fools when trying to do the samba, Oquendo pours his heart out on stage. While some were dancing and enjoying themselves, I could not help but feel distant from the music.

No yo no gusto Quimbombó. For those who do not understand spanish, I just said I do not like Quimbombó. The music did not connect with me but it can for other people. Maybe I should have enjoyed the bar like the others did.

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Posted in Music, music reviews | 2 Comments

Great Accents…Great Music

How did the colonialists win the Revolutionary War? With a massive army that could topple empires, the British still lost to the revolutionaries. Some people believe that England was losing too much money and were outmatched in enemy territory. Instead of honing their skills with guns and naval artillery, I believe they honed their skills with clarinets and pianos. I can proof it too. While it is not in any of our history books (insert a World War II fact), I could prove it by showing you anyone’s playlist.

The Beatles

Pink Floyd

The Rolling Stones


The Sex Pistols

Black Sabbath

Judas Priest

Led Zeppelin

The Who

Before I get carpet tunnel by pressing enter again, I have to admit that I was taken back by the amount of music that is exported from Britain. It still hurts me that people who made “Stairway to Heaven” were not hippies from California.

While there is great talent from the United States, they are not in the same league as the Brits. Americans rock hard, but the Brits rock harder. Even today, the British are well represented in music. With bands like Muse, Franz Ferdinand, The Artic Monkeys, and Coldplay selling out venues, the English are well represented today. What makes them stand out.


Dominic Brown, the drummer for Muse once said in an interview with that he likes music because “it makes [him] feel the most free [he has] ever felt in [his] entire life and gives [him] the freedom to do anything without much consequence.”  What makes them stand out is how free their music. Supposedly the United States is the home of freedom, but yet music is limited by Record Companies. Unique and different does not sell. Once an artist starts to break out they have to water down their product to accommodate the norm.

Band of Skulls

The XX


One of those accommodations is the role of women in Rock music. Once a female artist begins to become a brand, she is quickly adjusted to Country or Pop Music.  Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland and Haley Williams from Paramore are exemplars of this transition. Rock Music should not be a male dominated avenue, but the facts still remain that these women have made more money on dropping the bass and drums kit for more album sales. The XX and Band of Skulls are two unique British bands that are beginning to gain notoriety with their uniqueness and their lead singers.  Both bands have both a female and a male lead singer. The XX consists of vocalist Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim [bass]Baria Qureshi [guitar] and Jamie Smith [beats/production]. Band of Skulls consists of Russell Marsden [guitar/vocals], Emma Richardson [bass/vocals], and Matt Hayward [drums]

Honestly both female leads sound identical but it is evident that both bands have a different voice. I rather hear this on the radio then most of the “music” on the radio.


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Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

Posted in Independent Film | 13 Comments

What’s a Tamar-kali?

A Picture From The Couch Sessions

Just saying Tamar-kali gives me headache. Her song “Pearl,” which feature Jean Grae is actually a single on her album, “Bottom Black.” Even Jean Grae could not save this song. She was actually forgettable, which is suprising considering her collaborations with other artist such as: Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco and Chrisette Michele.  The video features a lot of close-ups, a train, and a sofa on top of a roof. The video did n othing for me except give me a headache.

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Chris Cornell, Being Himself

With the release of Radiohead’s newest album, Kings of Limb, Radiohead released a music video for their single, Lotus Flower. The video features Radiohead’s lead singer and ex-lead singer of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell. Throughout the black and white video, Chris Cornell basically pranced around like he smoked a lotus flower. Just like a classic Radiohead song, Cornell was just “Being Himself.” Unfortunately “Lotus Flower” is not a classic

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Marinara Ambitions

Enter any pizzeria and watch what everyone orders. As a countless number of round pies are devoured within a single day, watch as the square slices gather dust.

An inch thicker, with more dough, sauce and cheese, the Sicilian slice is the fat Sicilian cousin of the traditional Neapolitan slice. Unlike its colleagues, the Sicilian slice is left on the cold and lonely corner of every pizza display. No matter how much sauce and cheese a person puts on this product from Sicily, everyday is Grey for the Sicilian Slice.

This past weekend the sky was draped in remorseless Grey.  Shades of red hover over one particular part of Brooklyn, NY. Many flock to obtain this strong color even if results in a Scarlett letter. The “Hester Prynn” of this scene are not scapegoats or sinners but they are pizza connoisseurs who happen to forget to take a napkin when they eat a Sicilian Slice.

Grey Skies do not have remorse. Neither does marinara sauce.  Not only does marinara sauce ruin everyone’s favorite shirt, it is the staples of a Brooklyn establishment that tries to brighten the day of many residents in Bensonhurst and 86th street. L&B Spumoni Gardens is this establishment as it stabs local’s taste buds with their signature Sicilian Slice.

Both a round slice and a square slice cost $2.25 each. A Sicilian pie that includes 12 slices costs nineteen dollars. A Sicilian pie that includes twenty-four slices costs thirty- six dollars. One may order either inside or from the front, where the steam of fresh pizza creates a frenzy of hungry Brooklynites.

Pizza lovers choose L&B Spumoni Gardens to take a bite of Sicilian nostalgia and heritage. Nick, 49, has been going to the garden of marinara for nearly four decades! Although he wouldn’t give out his last name, he went into detail on his love for Spumonis. “My parents took me to Spumonis. My grandparents took me to Spumonis. I take my kids and nephews to Spumonis,” says Nick. “I plan to take my grandkids until my gut won’t let me, he laughs.” Nick is not the only one who enjoys L&B Spumoni Gardens and he won’t be the first.

Two Square Slices

Known for their famous Sicilian slices, Italian ices, and outdoor seating, L&B Spumoni Gardens has been in business for over seventy years. Only closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day, Spumoni Gardens hosts lines of hungry customers who want a piece of Ludovico Barbarti’s dream.

Originally from Torella Di Lombardi, Italy, Ludovico Barbarti began his pizza career with a simple wagon. With his prized horse, Babe, Barbarti rode along Gravesend and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, selling his products. By 1939, he decided to buy a vacate piece of land on 86th street. With the help of friends and family, Barbarti was able to build a second building in the same piece of land in the mid 1950’s. With the pizzeria established, they built a third building, which became the dinning room. L & B Spumoni Gardens is now in its fourth generation. “Grandfather Ludovico” has fed a lot of families in the Italian enclave of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. There must be something in the sauce

“There’s too much sauce and the regular slice sucks. I don’t see what’s so special about the pizza. I have been to this place a couple of times and I don’t see why it gets so much attention,” says Vlad, a college student, who just like Nick wants to remain mysterious. Its a common theme in this experience. In four days, I was only able to get five interviews. Within those five interviews all I could get were a couple of cheesy quotes. Ironically both the manager and the owner were not available for those four days. While I could not get an interview, it was evident that their business will never slow down. Within a thirty minute span, I saw ten to twenty customers. They all came from different directions. For more than seventy years, L&B Spumoni Gardens has lived through several wars and two different recessions. Often imitated but never duplicated, Spumoni Garden’s business will always be admired for their name and reputation. Unfortunately for me I even got denied by a group of teenage girls (not as creepy as it sounds). Outside of that sad fact, the pizza passed the eye test and the interview with my taste buds.

Posted in Food | 3 Comments

Spicy Prices

Hate high prices? Do you always feel like you over paid for food? Well empty your pockets and show Baluchi’s some money.

Food with spices from traditional & regional Indian cuisine can light up anyone’s taste buds. Baluchi’s, an Indian restaurant, combines both elegance and quality.  Chandeliers of crimson and sapphire (exaggerating a bit) light up Baluchi’s, while the walls host several items that represent the Indian culture. While the restaurant passes the eye test, my wallet does not appreciate the price of admission to this miniature palace.

Baluchi’s has twelve locations throughout three boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.  With ten locations within just Manhattan, it would be hard to find a difference between each restaurant.  The Baluchi’s on 25th St. and 3rd Ave. is small but warm. The service is receptive even though one of waitresses may have got my order incorrectly if I ordered more than one entrée. The menu offers many choices such as Chicken Vindaloo, a spicy staple.

Chicken Vindaloo

Tantalizing peppers, vinegar, and red Kashmir chilies make Vindaloo Curry. When one adds pure white meat chicken and potato with this spicy mixture, one creates Chicken Vindaloo. Compared to other Indian Restaurants, Baluchi’s Chicken Vindaloo is not very spicy. The chicken is great and the curry is thick enough to add more flavor into the meal. Even though it costs $13.95 do not expect a large portion. While it tastes very good, it cannot even fill the appetite of most people. Four chucks of chicken is not a meal!

Basmati rice and Nan are sold separately. Nan costs $2.95, which is ridiculous. You can not even get Pappad , Indian Nachos for free. For a meal that costs nearly two meals should have something on the side except water. If you’re sweating the prices then do not fret. Baluchi’s does offer a lunch special from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM. This lunch special offers a fifty percent discount on most items. This allows one bill into a new array of options.



Chicken Malai Kabab

As a person who actually likes soup, I was excited to try soup from an Indian Restaurant. I took the Chicken soup, which costs $5.95, and I was pleasantly surprised. This creamy blend of chicken and vegetables make a great blend. It could have been spicier but beggars can’t be choosers.  Speaking of begging and choosing, I beg you to not get the Chicken Malai Kabab. It can be chosen either as an appetizer or as an entrée, which is priced at $8.95 and $14.95 respectively. In my opinion Chicken Malai Kabab is now the black sheep of Indian food. How can anything Indian be so tasteless?  At least there was one cucumber and one tomato in the meal. I can not have rice but I can get a cucumber and a tomato. Oh did I mention there was a carrot too.  This dish does not do justice to Baluchi’s. Baluchi’s is a good restaurant with a great selection of food. There are better Indian restaurants out there, but that does not mean Baluchi’s is a bad choice.

Keep your wallet close to your stomach.

Posted in Food, restaurant reviews | 4 Comments

Sweaty Comedians and Teen Moms

On March 22, 2011, Adrian Leblanc, author of “Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx,” had a reading at the Newman Library Conference Room. This reading dealt with both Random Family and her newest investigation in stand-up comedy.  “Stand-up comedy is similar to journalism. It takes time to find your voice,” says Leblanc. It took her ten years to find her true voice in completing Random Family and she remained resolute throughout the process, which is very inspiring. Leblanc, this spring’s Harman-In- Residence, took many questions from the audience of enthusiastic fans, students, and professors. “I think I am a genuine person,” says Leblanc. Her genuineness is evident in the way she takes every investigation.  She puts herself in every situation that may come her way, which is refreshing.  I found the experience very insightful and I hope to read her future work.

Posted in Independent Film | 1 Comment

Can I Have a Cheeseburger Without the Cheese?

Am I the only the person who does not like cheeseburgers? Why does everyone insist on ordering it only? I like variety. I enjoy variety.  As a well-nourished person, I like and enjoy variety in my meals. Why take a menu or why even order in the first place if you’re just going to eat the same thing over again?

I am a man, who likes his burgers. I believe that the cheese ruins the taste of the most important aspect of a hamburger, the beef. Whether I use Angus or a piece of ground meat, I consider myself an expert in this delicious craft. One may call me a George Foreman Grill technician.  Do not expect this technician to use any ketchup!

A well done 9oz hamburger from Kool Bloo, 221 East 23rd Street, New York

Adding ketchup to a burger is like adding makeup to a woman. Does ketchup make the Burger taste better? Does makeup make a woman look better? Did I just compare hamburgers to women? In my opinion a good hamburger, just like a good women, is hard to come by.

McDonald’s burgers are made out of plastic.  Burger King’s burgers are elastic.  Wendy’s burgers look Jurassic. Not all burgers are created equally. There are places where quality out rules quantity.

What you can expect in Burger Bistro

Burger Bistro is where fancy burgers meet casual prices. This burger establishment joins many gourmet restaurants on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. What separates this small and cozy restaurant from the others is that anyone can customize their meal in any way they want. This customization does not only include how you want the meat cooked. From caramelized onions to guacamole, one may add any topping on their menu.  Even if you’re crazy to like cheese on your burger, do not expect to only have American cheese on their menu. One may put chesses such as: gouda, asiago, pepper jack, and etc. The quality was great and the portion size was just right.  I had a well-done burger on whole-wheat buns with Portobello mushrooms and peppers.  It was great.  I love to eat hamburgers but just do not put cheese and ketchup on it.

Posted in Independent Film | 15 Comments

Green Destiny

A sword by itself rules nothing. It only comes alive in skilled hands.

If you needed subtitles, that quote is from Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Ang Lee’s film, centers on a bunch of people fighting over a sword called Green Destiny. Many individuals gravitated towards the action and the story of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. One of those individuals was Ling Li.

A scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Not to be confused with the main character of the movie, Master Li Mu Bai, who is played by Yun- Fat Chow, Ling Li was not part of the cast that helped collect ten Academy Award nominations in 2001. It won four Academy Awards, which includes: Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Art Direction, and Best Foreign Language Film.  In 2000, Li, who everyone calls Leo these days, was just a child when he saw this critically acclaimed movie.  “I just really like that movie. I guess that is when I started to love film, says Leo. Leo Li was born and raised in China. As a young adult he emigrated to the United States with the same dream and passion in film.  After going to Baruch College for a year, Leo Li transferred to Columbia University.  After contemplating an accounting career, Li decided to go study his passion.  He joins a student body that amounts to nearly thirty thousand people.  Fall enrollment in 2008-2009 was 25,459 people.  In 2008-2009, 1865 students were awarded Bachelor Degrees and 5526 students were awarded master degrees.  Only fifteen students were awarded a bachelors degree in Film Studies. There are more students who take Art History as a major. Seven more people! Even more people take statistics for a major. Who really would want to take that?  “I don’t know if I truly wanted to do a business degree. It’s always in the cards if this film thing doesn’t work out. I don’t think I would be happy if I were to do a career in finance or accounting,” says Li.  “I liked my time in Baruch, but Columbia is where I wanted to be.”

What’s the difference between Baruch and Columbia? “It’s the price obviously,” Li jokes.  “There isn’t a huge camaraderie in Columbia also. Maybe after a couple more semesters, I will be more accumulated to the film department,” he says.  Alex, a film student in Columbia and a person who is too shy to give out a last name, believes that Columbia is “very difficult.” “You can get lost in the shuffle,” Alex says.

Leo likes his classes very much. “They are interesting but challenging. I have to know the conceptual aspects of the films. One class I like particularly is Chinese Film,“ says Li.

Columbia University

Richard Pena teaches his Chinese Film class.  Pena, who teaches Topics In World Cinema every semester, serves as the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival since 1988. Filmmakers covered in this class includes: Xie Jin, Chen Kaig, Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, King Hu and Wong Kar-wei.

Richard Pena serves as the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival since 1988

Leo has two other film classes where he spends a couple of hours watching a film. If he manages to stay awake then he has to participate in a class discussion of what he and fellow classmates saw.  “While that sounds fun, I have to watch older movies. Some are good and others are just there,” says Li. He plans to join an alumnus that includes Lisa Cholodenko, Kathryn Bigelow, Henry Alex Rubin, and Albert Berger. They all went through the same program and achieved success in recent years.  While ‘The Kids are all Right” and “The Hurt Locker” were huge successes, Leo Li will pave his own way through the film industry. One day he is sitting in a classroom and the next day he is standing on a podium accepting an award. Li hopes to own the Green Destiny of Film.

“Without Green Destiny, you  are nothing!”

Posted in Independent Film | 5 Comments