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I’m a syndicated writer and critic with years of experience covering pop culture, skilled with synthesizing often complex topics with a conversational voice.

I’ve contributed a broad variety of stories at the L.A. Times since 2003, and I’ve served as jazz critic for nearly 10 years and still dive back into that world from time to time, but in 2016, I made a shift toward covering TV with various forms of commentary and reported features. I also write a long-running and occasionally snarky weekly column Overrated/Underrated, which has appeared in newspapers around the country.

Here’s a few select samples, but there are more out there, in addition to these rounded up by that paper where I work. Also, all of these ran in the Los Angeles Times in print and online, but some were also syndicated around the whole tronc-tastic family nationwide. Which is nice.

(Note: I’m pretty sure that 97.6% of the time my critical personality runs far closer to Bugs in the above shot than Daffy.)

  • Pop culture and general mouthing off

Overrated/Underrated (2009-present)
A weekly column where I talk about pop culture. If you trace these carefully — and oh, believe me, I do — you can almost track my activities over any given weekend.
20172016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013, part one, 2013 part two | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

This column also stretched out and walked around as a full-length essay about the artists that have reached a plane beyond criticism. This was fun.
Pop culture’s sacred cows: Just dare to dis them (May 16, 2014)

…and writing about a bit of an existential crisis on the impact of social media on the very idea of over- and underrating things. 
After a year of hot takes and backlashes, what are we doing here? (Dec. 15, 2016)

I also looked at how politically charged the Oscars felt this year and how they do/don’t matter
Overrated/Underrated: Oscars 2017 have never mattered less yet continue to stand for more (Feb. 25, 2017)

  • TV

Uproar over Bill Maher’s remarks continue — can he weather another controversy? (June 3, 2017)

With Sean Spicer’s possible retreat from on-camera briefings, will comedy be the same? (June 2, 2017)

The birth of modern stand-up is chronicled in Jim Carrey-produced ‘I’m Dying Up Here’ (May 26, 2017)

‘Catastrophe’ co-creator Rob Delaney on his show’s third season and exploring the realities of marriage (April 27, 2017)

What ‘SNL’s’ coast-to-coast live experiment says about our streaming habits, second screens and the Trump factor (April 14, 2017)

So who died? Six things we learned from that ‘Big Little Lies’ finale (April 2, 2017)

With help from Melissa McCarthy, life imitates art as three ‘Nobodies’ from the Groundlings get their shot on TV Land (March 29, 2017)

Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes get real about comedy in HBO series ‘Crashing’ (Feb. 17, 2017)

‘Planet Earth II’ is sci-fi, drama and thriller wrapped in a nature show (Feb. 16, 2017)

Super Bowl LI proves dramatic on the field, inclusive in commercials (Feb. 5, 2017)

From refugee camp to Hollywood: Brothers who write for CBS comedy ‘The Great Indoors’ on their journey and the immigration ban (Feb. 4, 2017)

Daniel Handler, Barry Sonnenfeld and Neil Patrick Harris on the ‘perfect storm’ that led to Lemony Snicket on Netflix (Jan. 12, 2017)

 

Comic Sebastian Maniscalco recounts his road from the Four Seasons to the Comedy Store (Oct. 20, 2016)
Went on a little ‘This Is Your Life’ trip up La Cienega with a rising comic star.

‘Documentary Now!’ is like ‘SNL’ all over again for Armisen and Hader (Oct. 12, 2016)
Inside the ‘Stop Making Sense’ episode of the funny IFC show.

 

Zika and dirty water: How NBC is preparing to cover the Olympic games (Aug. 4, 2016)
The Rio Olympics were fine. But at the time, it didn’t look that way.

Can Bill Simmons liven up ‘Wednesday”? (June 21, 2016)
On the former ESPN columnist turned HBO host, who is more fun to read than watch.

‘Walking Dead’ star Norman Reedus hitches a ‘Ride’ with new series (June 11, 2016)
Talking with someone for 15 minutes in a hotel room can be interesting.

Morley Safer dies at 84: A reluctant voice on camera, he helped change television news (May 19, 2016)
I grew up watching 60 Minutes, then I wrote an obituary for one of its key figures that landed on the front page.

TV review: Race and ethic punchlines don’t work in tired ‘Truth Be Told’ (Oct. 16, 2015)
Terrible shows need reviews too.

‘Idol’ vs. ‘Voice’ (Summer 2012)
I recapped ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ in 2012 and, just for fun, compared the best contenders. I decided to make fun of both equally, which probably shows some kind of journalistic impartiality

Showtracker: Season five of ‘The Wire’ (2008)
Humbly attempting to cover the end of, okay, the best TV drama of all time. Mistakes were made, but fun was had.

 

  • Music

Ojai Music Festival expands its eclectic vision under the eye of Vijay Iyer (June 2, 2017)

Appreciation: Vocalist Al Jarreau ventured further than his smooth reputation (Feb. 13, 2017)

Norah Jones looks back toward a familiar sound on new album (Oct. 7, 2016)
When you can call Wayne Shorter and Brian Blade for your album, you do.

Live review: Radiohead reflects on a timeless body of work at the Shrine (Aug. 5, 2016)
Thinking  about how some bands don’t sound dated.

Review: Radiohead looks to the organic on engrossing ‘Moon Shaped Pool’ (May 8, 2016)
I offered a quick turnaround on the latest from this up-and-coming band.

Why Esperanza Spalding’s ‘Emily’s D+Evolution’ is worth a long listen (March 2, 2016)

Five songs proving David Bowie can’t be captured in five songs (Jan. 11, 2016)
Where were you at 11 o’clock at night during the Golden Globes? I was here.

In El Vy, Matt Berninger works with dark humor and a brighter sound (Oct. 29, 2015)
The National is a lot funnier than people think.

Kamasi Washington expands jazz’s boundaries with ‘The Epic’ (May 4, 2015)
Something is happening with music in Los Angeles. This guy is near the center of it, go hear him.

‘Blurred Lines’ verdict: In jazz, the vibe is everything (March 13, 2015)
What does Robin Thicke have to do with jazz? Not a lot, which is sort of the point.

Appreciation: Jazz musician Charlie Haden spoke for beauty (July 12, 2014)
Charlie Haden called me out of the blue one day to talk music — and his career said so much more.

‘Mistaken for Strangers’: Matt, Tom Berninger on the not-National doc (April 25, 2014)
I also like The National, and their strange little movie.

The Grammys: Jazz vocal nominees look to new voices (Jan. 26, 2014)
On two inspiring new talents in Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Jazz review: Charlie Haden speaks volumes at REDCAT (Dec. 11, 2013)
I reviewed a difficult, poignant show with a jazz master as his body fails him. A strange sort of honor.

West Coast jazz great Chico Hamilton dies at 92 (Nov. 26, 2013)
My first full obituary for the paper.

Review: ‘Holding It Down’ awakens us to veterans’ dreams (Sept. 10, 2013)
Pianist Vijay Iyer with wordsmith Mike Ladd, making important music.

Wayne Shorter marks his 80th, but is far from ‘finished’  (Aug. 24, 2013)
Talking to a great like Wayne Shorter is a little like a carnival ride.

When you say ‘jazz,’ Nicholas Payton hears BAM (April 27, 2013)
A profoundly talented trumpeter talks about some serious issues with jazz.

Critic’s Notebook: San Francisco turns the sound up on jazz (Jan. 26, 2013)
This little thing landed on A-1, as in the front page. This may be bragging.

SFJAZZ Center plays another bold riff  (Jan. 5, 2013)
This ran in Sunday’s Calendar section in the L.A. Times, and Chicago Tribune seemed to like it too.

Appreciation: Dave Brubeck’s gift for timing endures (Dec. 5, 2012)
Some small thoughts after the death of a giant. Landed on the Calendar cover, which was nice.

Critic’s Notebook: Vince Guaraldi’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ score is a gift (Nov. 24, 2012)
Proud to have written about the music that got me into this mess.

Notebook: The groove where jazz and dance music meet (Aug. 26, 2012)
EDM, as the kids say, is colliding with jazz. And it is good.

Critic’s Notebook: Cutting edge jazz is missing at the Bowl (July 17, 2011)
I bark at the whirlwind. Here’s where I told the L.A. Phil they weren’t booking enough new, adventurous jazz.

Jazz Bakery finalizes deal for new home in Culver City (Jan 13, 2011)
Breaking! News! At the time, anyway.

Jazz echoes through the ribs of the Blue Whale (Oct. 22, 2010)
An unconventional space opens in Little Tokyo–and becomes the hottest room in town.

Reintroducing Fela Kuti (Feb. 21, 2010)
On two box sets concerning his legacy.

Finding jazz at a cool price: Alternative jazz venues in L.A. (Aug. 22, 2009)
There’s always good music to be had if you know where to look.

Playboy Jazz Festival plays to a wide audience (June 10, 2009)
In which I wonder why Playboy books so much smooth jazz. It’s okay, we’re friends now

Medeski Martin and Wood: Still going their own way (Nov. 21, 2008)
I talk a bit with one of the great jazz trios. There, I said it.

Interviews: El VyNels Cline, Robert Glasper, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, The Bad Plus, Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Norah Jones, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper, Esperanza SpaldingCharlie Hunter, Skerik, Bill Cosby, Anthony Wilson, Gerald Wilson, Calexico, Sparklehorse

Some live reviews: Spiritualized, Cecile McLorin Salvant,  Wayne Shorter, Atoms for Peace, Medeski Martin and Wood, Keith Jarrett, ‘Joni’s Jazz’, Allman Brothers, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Playboy Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman, Esperanza Spalding, Sonny Rollins, Ambrose Akinmusire

A few CD reviews: Pearl Jam, Dawn of Midi, Solo piano albums 2013, Best jazz of 2012, Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1969, Fred Hersch and live albums of 2012,

 

  • Movies

You know Hollywood is serious about stopping Trump when they call in the Avengers (Oct. 5, 2016)
‘Will & Grace,’ Joss Whedon and Shonda Rhimes take election year stands.

Don Cheadle makes his Miles Davis film ‘feel like Miles’ and not just be about Miles (Dec. 29, 2016)

Playing Chet Baker in ‘Born to be Blue’ was an unexpected second chance for Ethan Hawke (Dec. 29, 2016)

  • Arts

For some time I was the daily blogger for the Times’ arts and culture blog Culture Monster, which has sadly been lost to the dustbin of Internet history after various site redesigns. There’s a small collection of posts to be found here

A complicated canopy for Siqueros ‘America Tropical’ set to rise (April 24, 2012)

Bone flutes found in Germany point to roots of creativity (May 19, 2012)

  • Local entertainment

Amusing asides (Jan. 25, 2007)
A Calendar Weekend cover story on the alternative comedy scene in L.A., written long, long ago

Beyond last call (Nov 9, 2006)
Another cover story on places for after hours dining in Los Angeles. Service!

  • Travel

Get out of town: Reno, Nevada (Feb. 21, 2008)

 

But wait, there’s more — Just ask Google. Or that paper where I work.

 

 

 

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