Stand-up guy

Well-rounded comic Steve Hofstetter

Raised in New York City, with a father who watched Dick Gregory perform in Village comedy clubs in the early 1960s, Steve Hofstetter grew up to be a smart comic. Don’t interrupt his set; Hofstetter’s retorts draw blood before an offender even knows there’s a knife in the scene. He has a YouTube page dedicated to heckler management.

Professional comedy wasn’t his destiny — until love leapt up.
“I always enjoyed watching stand-up. I never thought I’d become one,” Hofstetter said by phone in July. “When I was 13 … the girl I had a crush on told me she thought I should join the improv club in school. I was so enamored with the idea that someone I was impressed by thought I was funny enough to do that.”

Over a 20-plu-year career, Hofstetter’s made eight albums and specials; the latest is The Recipe, which debuted on YouTube earlier this year. He has a knack for thought-provoking jokes, like one with a Rorschach test punchline, “I hope you get from life exactly what you deserve.” Broadly, he specializes in observational comedy, drawing inspiration from keeping his eyes open.

“Whenever people say, ‘Where do you get your material?’ I always think, ‘How come you don’t have yours?’ — we all live in the same world and see the same things,” he said. “It’s just about paying attention and processing what’s going on around you … if I see something that’s anachronistic, I can’t not notice it.”
Improv still plays a role in Hofstetter’s comedy, in the form of a Q&A session after every show. He began doing them 10 years ago, mainly to produce content without having to give away new material online.

“I was OK posting bits I wasn’t doing anymore, but I didn’t want to post any of the current stuff,” he said, and the segments resonated, “because, partially they were watching comedy happen on the fly, and isn’t it more interesting to see something getting painted than just see the finished product?”

The sessions became good-natured roasts when he began bringing in fellow comics, the first time after he learned that his dog was dying and would need to be put down at tour’s end. “I was in no shape to think on my feet,” so Hofstetter asked two friends to lend emotional support. “They said yes, and it was great. It was so much fun to be able to bounce back and forth off each other.”

Hofstetter’s work extends beyond comedy. He’s written books and, a tireless baseball nerd, has worked in sports radio as well as writing a column for Sports Illustrated. He runs the nonprofit Steel City AF, a live/work/play environment for comedians based in Pittsburgh, where he’s lived for the past few years.

“It was always a dream of mine to have some sort of comedy-based charity, and when my dad passed, I had this realization of, if you keep waiting for stuff, you might never get there, so I decided to start it,” he said. He moved to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles, finding it was an ideal home base city with a great civic spirit.
“The thing I like about it most is just how passionate about the city residents are; people are really, really proud of it, and want to make it better. There’s this amazing camaraderie that I just really like.” The foundation has given away some scholarships, and opened a performance space in a renovated building, inspired by an experience Hofstetter had at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Beyond that, Hofstetter received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination (really) for a digital comedy club launched during the pandemic. It led to over $1.5 million worth of work for comics that had no other options. “I was also still running my foundation where I was giving out grants to comedians that didn’t have any way to make any money,” he added.

What set the effort apart was that it extended beyond the constraints of livestreaming.

“We let the audience be unmuted, which was very different than most other places, because without an audience a comedian doesn’t have timing, and it feels awful,” he said. They also limited tickets and thus audience size to make the virtual events more manageable.

An upcoming show at Nashua’s Center for the Arts will be Hofstetter’s first ticketed event in the Granite State.

“I’ve done some college shows there early on in my career, and I did some bar shows here and there,” he said. “But that was when people had no idea who they were going to see; this is the first time since anyone has heard of me that I’ll be doing a show in New Hampshire.”

Steve Hofstetter
When: Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m.
Where: Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua
Tickets: $29 and up at

Featured photo: Amythyst Kiah. Photo by Sandlin Gaither

The Music Roundup 23/10/05

Local music news & events

  • Macca: The natural right-handed front man of The McCartney Experience taught himself to play bass left-handed, one of the tribute act’s many realistic elements. Their show includes music from the early Beatles era through McCartney’s solo and Wings periods. Thursday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m., Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, $39 at
  • Zeppelinesque: Among the accolades received by Kashmir is performing at a private party for Coldplay’s Chris Martin a few years back. Lead singer and Robert Plant doppelgänger Jean Violet asked Martin how he’d found them, and he replied that friends told him that they were the best at what they do. The group began in 2001 and uses authentic gear, including Jimmy Page’s famed double-neck guitar. Friday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $35 at
  • Moving: Area 23 will become The Forum Pub at a new location, so Andrew North & the Rangers is shifting its Ranger Zone open mic to Bank of NH Stage every first Wednesday for now. Keeping their hometown spirit, the energetic, intelligent jam band performs at a favorite basement bar. Their latest release is the live LP Thanks for the Warning. Saturday, Oct. 7, 9 pm., Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Square, Concord, $5 at the door, 21+, more at
  • Moody: One of the great stories told by Justin Hayward is how The Moody Blues came to make Days of Future Past. The landmark album, which included “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin,” was intended to be a stereo test album. It became so popular that NASA astronauts listened to it on the Space Shuttle, and the band is now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sunday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua, $49.
  • Mammoth: Formed almost 40 years ago, heavy metal sci-fi stalwarts Gwar don’t have any original members, but their spirit lives on, with outsized costumes and an invented mythology centered on an interplanetary war. The group recently launched a line of action figures at the New York Toy Fair, with the first batch including Oderus, Balsac, JizMak, Blothar, Pusty and Beefcake. Wednesday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m., Wally’s Pub, 144 Ashworth Avenue, Hampto, $45 and at (21+).

Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie

The pups of the Paw Patrol get superpowers and spiffy new outfits and vehicles — each sold separately— in the feature-length animated Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie.

You (or really, your kids) don’t need to be knowledgeable in Paw Patrol lore to get the movie’s premise: Human child Ryder (voice of Finn Lee-Epp) is the leader of a team of puppies who can talk and ride around in vehicles serving as their community’s emergency response. It is, as the movie itself says, weird but go with it. The pups are police dog Chase (voice of Christian Convery); fire dog Marshall (voice of Christian Corrao); construction bulldog Rubble (voice of Luxton Handspiker); recycling dog Rocky (voice of Callum Shoniker); water rescue dog Zuma (Nylan Parthipan); airplane-flying dog Skye (voice of Mckenna Grace), who was the first core-team girl dog and the pup who gets the backstory in this movie, and Liberty (voice of Marsai Martin), another girl dog who first showed up in the first movie. In the TV show, the pups live in Adventure Bay — in the movies, the action is in Adventure City, which is similar but with tall buildings.

The movie’s first big mission for the pups is putting out fire at a junkyard where someone has stolen a giant crane with a magnet on it. The pups save the day, of course, but the missing big magnet suggests further plots afoot. Victoria Vance (voice of Taraji P. Henson), a mad scientist, plans on using the magnet to help catch a meteor that she’s discovered has some sort of power source in it. Rather than pull the meteor to her, she ends up sending it right to the heart of Adventure City and right into the Paw Patrol’s Ultimate City Tower Playset, which retails for $109.99 at Target — I mean, the Paw Patrol’s headquarters, where it smashes through the tower and onto the city’s main street, sending out pulses of energy. The Patrol takes it to their Aircraft Carrier HQ, where Skye accidentally causes the meteor to crack open and reveal seven crystals. The crystals attach themselves to each pup’s pup tag and give each pup a different power, leading them to rename themselves the Mighty Pups.

Victoria Vance wanted those powers for herself. But before she can recover the crystals, she’s sent to jail for causing the meteor to crash into the city and finds herself sharing a cell with Mayor Humdinger (voice of Ron Pardo), the (former? who knows) mayor of Foggy Bottom and schemer whom the Paw Patrol are frequently having to foil.

An aside: so many questions from the scene at Adventure City’s prison, which is disturbingly large for this city where “giant magnet theft” is one of the top crimes. And yet, despite its size, a lady mad scientist is sharing a cell with a man and his cats (Mayor Humdinger has a team of non-talking kitties who are neither as skilled nor as interested in human direction as the Paw Patrol)? Doesn’t matter — we don’t stay long in Baby’s First Arkham Asylum as Humdinger and Vance team up to break out and steal the Paw Patrol’s crystals for themselves.

Along the way, we get some backstory on Skye, who is frustrated at being the smallest of the pups. And Liberty is tasked with leading a team of Junior Patrollers — three fuzzy younger puppies who want to be on the Paw Patrol some day. Their small-dog can-do spirit helps underline the Skye storyline, gives Liberty something to do and adds yet more toy-able characters.
As with all Paw Patrol content, there is no reason to subject yourself to this movie if you aren’t watching with kids. So the main question is probably what kids is this movie for? The movie is bigger, louder and more explosion-y than the TV show and has a few pup-in-peril scenes. Maybe for ages 4 and up, depending on your kid’s temperament (Common Sense Media gives it a 5+ rating) and ability to stick it out for 90 minutes in one location. There was a point, probably somewhere around the 50-minute-to-an-hour mark, where the theater where I saw this movie seemed to fill with fidgeting, walking around and light chatter — the “bathroom o’clock” that happens when a movie loses some of the kids.

Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is actually similar to a run of “the pups get superpowers” stories on the TV show itself. It isn’t breaking any new ground but it is a perfectly fine, familiar adventure with these familiar characters. B-
Rated PG mild action/peril, according to the MPA on Directed by Cal Brunker with a screenplay by Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is an hour and 32 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by Paramount Pictures, where it is preceded by the colorful short Dora and the Fantastical Creatures.

Spy Kids: Armageddon (PG)
A new set of spy parents turn to their kids for help in defeating a bad guy in Spy Kids: Armageddon, a clever reboot/rebirth of the movie series.

As with previous generations of spy kids, siblings Tony (Connor Esterson) and Patty (Everly Carganilla) Tango-Torrez don’t know that parents Terrance Tango (Zachary Levi) and Nora Torrez (Gina Rodriguez) are spies. Tony’s biggest life concern is finding ways to foil his parents’ tech restrictions and get more time playing video games. Younger sister Patty doesn’t like all of his sneaking and cheating to get what he wants, though she does participate by, for example, making a map of all the floor squeaks in the hallway between the kids’ rooms and the family’s media room. This comes in handy after Tony wins (by cheating) a new game called Hyskor, which he downloads to the family’s network so he and Patty can play.

What he doesn’t realize is that his early access to the game is part of a plan by developer Rey Kingston (Billy Magnussen) to hack into the Tango-Torrez system and steal the Armageddon Code, a program that Terrance and Nora use in their OSS spy work to break into any network in the world. Kingston’s plan is to use the Armageddon Code to plant a virus in every computerized system in the world. Once in control, Kingston will force everybody to play Hyskor to do things like access their ATM or drive their smart car. The difference between Kingston and every other tech mogul trying to force their product on everybody all the time is that Kingston plans to use Hyskor to gamify teaching people to make better choices so that they will help heal the world. It’s an interesting take on the “villain was right” school of Wants to Rule the World motivations. And it’s an interesting component to Patty’s belief, as she learns about spying, that her parents’ kicky-punchy-explodey means of saving the day has long-term negative consequences and that truth and peace are a better approach to all situations than deception and butt-kicking.

Patty and Tony find out about their parents when Hyskor characters — an Aztec-giant-made-from-a-cardboard-box-looking robot called the Heck Knight and some minions with Aztec or conquistador stylings — come smashing into their home. Nora sends the kids off in a supercharged go-kart to a safe house, where they learn the rules of spying, get gadgets and a cool spy suit, and receive some spy training. Soon, the bad guys are also after Patty and Tony, who agree to help OSS, the organization their parents work for, to find their parents, who are being held at Kingston’s lair.

When I say the Heck Knight has a sort of cardboard-box-y look, I mean it in the best possible way. The movie, smartly, gives its bad guy an affinity for late 1990s video games, which allows for a certain amount of purposeful B-movie-ness in the way everything looks. It also sort of kid-ifies the scariness factor — like this is a monster-type thing we need to defeat but it’s not going to give anybody (anybody maybe 8 and up, at least) nightmares.
There is an overall good-heartedness to the action adventure here, which makes it solid family viewing. B

Rated PG for sequences of action, according to the MPA on Directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Robert Rodriguez and his son Racer Rodriguez, Spy Kids: Armageddon is an hour and 37 minutes long and available on Netflix.

The Roald Dahl Collection
Wes Anderson has directed and adapted four Roald Dahl stories as short films streaming now on Netflix: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (39 minutes) and three 17-minute films — The Swan, Poison and The Rat Catcher.

All of the films have a PG rating, but I probably wouldn’t show them to kids. They definitely lean in to the darker side of Dahl’s storytelling. The movies contain some combination of Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Ralph Fiennes (playing, among other characters, Dahl himself) and Rupert Friend. As you might expect from the Dahl-Anderson combination, the movies are a delight (a dark delight, but still) of artful wordiness and artful physical design. Everything from the position of people and things in the frame to the tactile nature of all the items in the scene — a typewriter, a notebook, a cup of tea — is purposeful and grabs at least a little piece of your attention. In The Rat Catcher, Fiennes’ character (the titular rat catcher) even “holds” items like a tin of poison or a ferret, neither of which are actually there but the combination of narration (sometimes by Fiennes’ Dahl and sometimes by characters in a scene) and the way the actors work pantomime the missing item makes even these things feel like some of Anderson’s self-conscious props. The sets and backgrounds are often presented as pieces wheeled in or music box-like mechanisms that fold and unfold. It all gives the films a bit of a live theater vibe, which adds to both the oddness and the charm of the stories.

Of the short films — which are all darker in tone than The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar — I think The Rat Catcher was my favorite, with its creepy performance by Fiennes and its elements of stop-motion animation. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar likewise feels like Cumberbatch having fun with fourth-wall-breaking and his intensity. The movies all have the feel of someone saying, “Have at it, do your thing” to Anderson and him fully embracing that challenge. B

Rated PG for things like violent material, thematic elements, peril, language and smoking, according to the MPA on Directed by Wes Anderson, who also wrote the screenplays, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Rat Catcher, Poison and The Swan are streaming on Netflix.

Flora and Son

Flora and Son (R)
A young woman and her teenage son find a way to talk to each other in Flora and Son, a movie from writer-director John Carney of Once fame.
And Begin Again. And Sing Street. And like those movies, Flora and Son uses music as a way out, a way for characters to unstick themselves from their turmoil and the parts of their lives that don’t work and find new ways to be. And, like those movies, Flora and Son is so much sweeter, funnier and more charming than expected.

Dublin-based Flora (Eve Hewson) is just a whisper over 30 but seems stuck in her young adulthood — perhaps because she had 14-year-old Max (Orén Kinlan) when she was a teenager. Max is perpetually in trouble and constantly angry at Flora. Flora is constantly angry at the world, easily has her temper triggered by Max and is still raw over the end of her relationship with Ian (Jack Reynor), Max’s dad, who is now living elsewhere with another woman. Flora tries to make up for forgetting Max’s birthday by getting him a gift — or rather by finding a guitar in the trash and paying to have it somewhat fixed. Max is not impressed — and over the course of the movie we learn that this may be in part because he already makes music, but largely dance music with a laptop. Flora decides on a lark to learn to play the guitar herself and finds online lessons from Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a musician living in the Los Angeles area. Their first lesson goes all kinds of yikes with Flora flirting with Jeff and eventually asking him to play for her without his shirt on. She apologizes and convinces him to try again, and over time their lessons create a bond between them as he not only teaches her guitar but they find themselves working on one of his songs together.

One day Flora comes home to Max blaring music and is incensed — until she realizes it’s his original dance track. Together, they flesh it out, with her adding vocals to go along with his rap. While they both seem hazy on life trajectory, over music they can collaborate.

Even that description doesn’t quite capture the pleasant surprise of a movie that Flora and Son is, with characters starting out as potentially one-dimensional figures — the party-girl mom, the aimless dad, the juvenile delinquent. But, thanks not only to the way the story develops but also to solid performances all around, they quickly become more complex than that — and music doesn’t “save” them in some fairy tale way but just kind of pushes them outside their ruts in life and in their relationships with each other. A

Rated R for language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use, according to the MPA on Written and directed by John Carney, Flora and Son is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed by Apple Films on Apple TV+ as well as in theaters. Want to check out other Carney works? 2007’s Once is available for rent and is currently streaming on the Roku channel. 2013’s Begin Again is on Netflix and available for rent. 2016’s Sing Street is on Tubi, Pluto TV and Vudu and is available for rent.

Dumb Money (R)
The internet’s hype of the GameStop stock results in huge paper fortunes for everyday investors in Dumb Money, a movie based on the book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich. Which I kinda want to read now, because I feel like this story of “here is a weird thing that happened” is probably better-suited to nonfiction narrative where there isn’t some cinematic pressure to Say Something About The World We Live In.

After one of those “I’ll bet you wonder how I got here”-like flash forwards, the movie begins in the autumn of the Pandemic Era, with Keith Gill (Paul Dano) a financial analyst living in Brockton, Mass. When he isn’t working or taking care of his young daughter with wife Caroline (Shaliene Woodley), he, as a hobby, posts videos to a Reddit forum about investing. Calling himself Roaring Kitty (and also “Deep Value” with a word between Deep and Value but one day this movie will be edited for TV, so mostly the movie calls him Roaring Kitty), Keith shows his balance sheet and talks about why he likes specific stocks. Recently, he has been hot on GameStop, the video game store that he feels has been undervalued by Wall Street professionals. As he talks up GameStop, his viewers follow his lead, with their purchases pumping up the price. Eventually, GameStop becomes not just a tip several people are taking but a cause — because the stock is being short-sold by a hedge fund run by Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) and because the increase in stock price is giving ordinary investors, many of them investing via the Robinhood app, crazy returns, there is a “stick it to the rich” attitude about the stock. Buy and hold — or “HODL” or “diamond hands” etc. as The Internet says — even though the first to sell would be hugely rewarded. Because one middle-class guy in his basement and one rich guy in his Miami mansion are only so compelling, we also get a peek into the lives of several of those regular-folks investors: Marcus (Anthony Ramos), who works at a GameStop; Jenny (America Ferrera), a single mom nurse; college students Harmony (Talia Ryder) and Riri (Myha’la Herrold), who are six figures in debt because of their college loans. We also meet Keith’s brother Kevin (Pete Davidson), who is largely here for comic relief and to call Keith a nerd. On the rich bro side, we also meet even richer-than-Gabe hedge fund manager Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Robinhood founders Baiju Bhatt (Rushi Kota) and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan), who particularly gives off a tech-guy snake oil salesman vibe.

Dumb Money has good details about this very odd point in history — all the pandemic things, the emptiness of roads and public transportation, the mask etiquette, the way a claim of “essentialness” could help a business stay open (GameStop can open its doors to the public because it sells computer mice). It’s interesting, even at this short remove, to remember just how weird this all was and how hot emotions were running about so many things. And the details about how this odd financial flash mob played out are also interesting in the “huh, interesting” sense. But the movie seems to feel a need to Say A Thing about all of this in a way that this story doesn’t really lend itself to. This story doesn’t feature a triumphant ending with all the struggling people coming out on top. Some do, some don’t. Nor are the guys the movie paints as the predatory rich particularly punished. The facts of the ending very much reminded me of the end of Burn After Reading, when the J.K. Simmons character asks “what did we learn” with no particular answer other than not to do whatever it was they did again. It’s a shrug of an ending, which is also what happens here — with a lot of “no charges filed after an investigation”-type end title cards.

Dumb Money has the feel of one of those HBO TV movies where the point is more in the accurate recounting of events than the story told. And, like those movies, it will be perfectly fine to view some lazy day from your couch. B-

Rated R for pervasive language, sexual material (which I think is just this one particularly dumb “Margot Robie in a bathtub to make you pay attention to this financial discussion” scene) and drug use, according to the MPA on Directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Lauren Schuker Blum & Rebecca Angelo, based on the book, Dumb Money is an hour and 45 minutes long and is distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Featured photo: courtesy photo.

Elon Musk, by Walter Isaacson

Elon Musk, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 615 pages)

In April of this year, social media had a field day when, soon after launch, a SpaceX rocket exploded 24 miles in the air and Elon Musk’s team called it a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

What most people didn’t know is that this phrase wasn’t a euphemism devised by a beleaguered PR team, but a term that SpaceX had long used to describe a strategy: Move fast, take risks, blow stuff up, learn from it. It explains why, right after the explosion, Musk said to his team: “Nicely done, guys. Success.”

That strategy is not just a business slogan but a way of life for Musk, who is not only the world’s richest man but possibly its most interesting. The tech world used to have a galaxy of superstars, to include Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Jack Dorsey. After his purchase of Twitter, Musk started taking up all the oxygen in the room, making all these movers-and-shakers in the tech world sideshows or opening acts for him.

Whether you admire or loathe him, Musk is one of the most consequential people on the planet, and Walter Isaacson, formerly head of Time and CNN, does a masterful job at explaining why in his exhaustive new biography. Spanning 615 pages before the footnotes, bibliography and acknowledgments, it’s a compilation of interviews with Musk and his family and business associates, and two years of following Musk around. Essentially, the only way you could know more about Elon Musk is to have witnessed the 52 years of his life yourself.

And while most of what we know about Musk started when he became an internet multimillionaire at age 27, it’s the formative stuff — the things that happened in childhood and adolescence — that best explains him. Unlike, say, Zuckerberg, who seems to have had a relatively stable childhood in suburban New York, Musk grew up in challenging circumstances in South Africa, the child of unconventional parents who were themselves the children of unconventional parents.

Take his maternal grandfather, who worked as a rodeo performer, construction hand and chiropractor. One day he drove past a single-engine airplane sitting in a field. He had no cash and didn’t know how to fly, but convinced the owner to trade the airplane for his car. “The family came to be known as the Flying Haldemans, and [Musk’s grandfather] was described by a chiropractic trade journal as ‘perhaps the most remarkable figure in the history of flying chiropractors,’ a rather narrow, albeit accurate, accolade.”

Musk’s mother, Maye, was part of the “Flying Haldemans” and was for a time a model, but it was perhaps his father, Errol Musk, described as “an engineer, rogue, and charismatic fantasist,” who had the biggest impact, because of his abusive behavior. Elon’s brother, Kimbal, who, like Elon, has no contact with his father today, said Errol had “zero compassion,” and Elon Musk still chokes up when talking about how his father treated him as a child, at times making him stand for an hour while his father yelled him calling him an idiot and worthless, Isaacson writes. School was no better — young Elon was constantly getting beaten up, and he was sent to wilderness-type camp during the summer where the boys were literally told to fight each other to survive, and some campers had actually died. Musk described the camp as “a paramilitary Lord of the Flies.”

Isaacson said these early experiences help explain why, even today, Musk’s moods “cycle through light and dark, intense and goofy, detached and emotional, with occasional plunges into what those around him dreaded as ‘demon mode.’” Elon’s first wife, Justine, told Isaacson that in South Africa, Elon “learned to shut down fear,” adding, “If you turn off fear, then maybe you have to turn off other things, like joy or empathy.”

The sins of the father haunted the son even as he left South Africa for Canada just before he turned 17. He went by himself and later was joined by his mother and siblings. Soon after he got to Canada, he lost all his money when he failed to return to a bus before it took off; that experience was what got him thinking about ways the financial industry needed disrupting, which eventually led him to a troubled partnership with PayPal founder Peter Thiel.

But Musk’s first millions came from a venture called Zip2, an internet startup that created city guides for newspapers. Then in 1999 he founded a venture he called, which he saw as a “one-stop everything-store for all financial needs: banking, digital purchases, checking, credit cards, investments and loans. He described the venture to Isaacson as “the place where all the money is at,” which makes X, as in the company formerly known as Twitter, seem like child’s play.

From there Isaacson goes on with astonishing detail into the creation of Tesla and SpaceX and sundry other ventures, as well as the relationships that came after Justine. Musk has 11 children with three women, the youngest (with singer Grimes) named X, Y, and Techno Mechanicus, who is called Tau.

The X obsession is more than a little strange, and the richer Musk gets, the more the world gives him a pass for his strangeness and the cruelty that he seems to have inherited from his dad.

“Do the audaciousness and hubris that drive him to attempt epic feats excuse his bad behavior, his callousness, his recklessness?” Isaacson writes. “The answer is no, of course not. One can admire a person’s good traits and decry the bad ones. But it’s also important to understand how the strands are woven together, sometimes tightly. It can be hard to remove the dark ones without unraveling the whole cloth.” Isaacson, who has also written biographies of Jennifer Doudna, Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, among others, was granted astounding access to Musk and his associates; he says Musk even encouraged his adversaries to speak with him. There will yet be other biographies written; Musk is still in the early stages of his goal to transfer human consciousness to Mars, and he seems to think time is running out to save the species. Then again, a risk-taker like Musk may run out of time himself. His grandfather, the leader of “The Flying Haldemans,” had a motto: “Live dangerously — carefully.” He wasn’t careful enough. He died when Elon was 3, in a plane crash.

Isaacson’s prose is sparse; he lets his subject and interviewees do the talking, and they all had plenty to say. This is the rare book that I recommend reading on a tablet or phone. The heft of the book makes it difficult to hold comfortably. It’s hard to pick up, but it’s also hard to put down. A —Jennifer Graham

Album Reviews 23/10/05

Wolves in the Throne Room, Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge (Relapse Records)

I remember this Olympia, WA trio from way back; the name impressed me but the music — a mixture of various disparate Bathory/Boris/Neurosis thingamajigs microwaved to extreme-metal-ish perfection for the benefit of beginner indie-metal stans — didn’t. 20 years on, this is more of the same, music that’d be perfect for gore-horror-movie man-to-ghoul transformation sequences, you know, waves of raucous, tortured monster-yelling buoyed by (place name of earl-Aughts-era Epitaph Records band here) guitar spazzing and such and so, nothing you haven’t heard before but (more or less) epic toward a bargain-bin fashion, intended to impress the easily impressed. I’ve never liked this kind of stuff, but if demon-caterwauling, pre-Sunn(((O))) noise-thrash and etc is your bag, don’t let me stop you, not that I ever have, to my eternal chagrin. By the way, “Initiates of the White Hart” starts off with a mandolin, not that that explains anything, and “Crown of Stone” is like Enya on downers. A —Eric W. Saeger

Elm Street, The Great Tribulation (Massacre Records)

Well, what a nice surprise this is. Seems like 90 percent of the jazz albums I’ve been getting for review lately have been breezy dark-coffee-house exercises (luckily there’s been a lull in singer-oriented Big Book projects; not that I don’t like hearing the 4,749th interpretation of “Nature Boy,” there’s just no need for it in current_year), but this one, the debut EP from the Manhattan School Of Music pianist, is deeply ritzy ambiance, stuff you’d expect to hear at a snobby wedding reception for which all the stops have been pulled. The difference comes by way of the fact that Fujiwara is supported by a four-piece string section, along with a vibes person and a pretty chill drummer; as well, our heroine tables a pretty dazzling, dextrous version of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” and, in a really courageous effort, offers a retrofitted version of a Japanese children’s song from her earlier life (“Hotaru Koi”). This is well worth the trip, folks. A+


  • Like every Friday, Oct. 6 will be a day on which new albums are released in a giant gust, there’s no place left to hide, let’s go look at the — wait, folks, wait, I can’t believe it, guess who’s got an album coming out, you’ll simply die: It’s none other than 1980s boy-man-toddler Rick Astley, I’m not kidding you! Astley is from the U.K., because no one else would have him, and his claim to fame is being the subject of the “RickRoll” internet meme that was first discovered in a newly unearthed Babylonian tomb from 12,000 BC, but it never gets old, am I right, folks? It’s the prank where you post something to everyone on your social media space and tell them to click a link in order to find out more information, but what happens instead is you’re sent to a YouTube of Astley, looking like a preteen, singing his one hit, in a super-serious man-voice, the famous awful song “Never Gonna Give You Up!” Ha ha, OK, Billboard announcement page, fun time’s over, if you think I’m actually going to search YouTube for a link to a “new” Rick Astley song, nudge-wink, from a totally fake album called Are We There Yet and then suddenly find myself watching Doogie Howser singing “Never Gonna Give You Up,” um, no, I’ll have you know I’m not that dumb! OK fine, I’m going, let’s see what this is, this quote-unquote, air-quotes, “new Rick Astley song,” which is called (I’m serious, folks) “Never Gonna Stop.” Huh, hold the phone, guys, it’s not anywhere near as stupid as you’re imagining, it’s bonk-bonk piano-soul, and Astley is singing sort of like Bill Withers, I would actually listen to this song if I didn’t have exactly 2,593 other CDs in my car.
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage is a Canadian indie trio, but other than that, they’re OK! Their new album, The Rise & The Fall, includes a single titled “Conductors” that is really quite muscular, a loping strummer that evokes Kings Of Leon and even a little bit of old-school emo.
  • My wife is from Texas, so it’s always hilarious when I troll her yankee-style. For example, she worked super-hard for years to lose her southern drawl, so every couple of weeks I start talking in an Alabama trucker accent, like the “Git ’Er Done” guy, Larry The Cable Guy, and after an hour or so, she starts to slip and talk about eating grits and whatnot in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader accent, it’s so funny, you’d have to be there, but another prank I like pulling is when we’re watching TV and I go off to write my book or this column or check in on my social media friends, I change the channel to CMT, because Reba McEntire’s sitcom is always on it, I don’t think they have any other shows, and before you know it there she is, drawling like Reba. Endless laughs that never get old, fam, but in this case it’s relevant, because a new Reba album is coming at us fast, titled Not That Fancy! Now just let me go and — wait, the entire world has been rickrolled by Reba, because from what I’m seeing this isn’t an album, it’s some dumb audiobook, written by a bored ghostwriter, I’m sure, so forget it, false alarm, at least I didn’t have to go listen to some new Reba song.
  • • We’ll put this week in the books with Dogstar, because their new album, Somewhere Between The Power Lines And Palm Trees, has such a long, space-filling name that I’ll finally have time to catch up on Amy Diaz’s film reviews and see if one single movie that has come out in the last three years is worth watching, I seriously doubt it! Anyway, Dogstar’s new single, “Breach,” is a grindy ’90s-rock shepherd’s pie of Marilyn Manson, Weezer and — wait, the bass player is actual Keanu Reeves, you people need to tell me these things before I start riffing! This is actually cool! —Eric W. Saeger

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

In the kitchen with Collin Beckemeyer

For Collin Beckemeyer, every long day in the kitchen is worth it to see the look on someone’s face when they taste something incredible. With 10 years of cooking experience, Beckemeyer has been the sous chef at The Birch on Elm for the last three. From preparation to line work, helping with menus and organizing, he plays a key part in making sure things run smoothly and consistently. He credits his mother for his love of food, recalling how she would always have baked goods waiting for him and his siblings when they got home from school. No matter what kind of day he was having, they were always enough to reprieve him. He says, “A great meal cures everything, at least for that moment.”

What is your must-have kitchen item?
My must-have item in the kitchen has to be a perfect flexible fish spatula. It’s multi-purpose [and] has great flexibility. I’d be lost if I didn’t have one on a busy Saturday night. Also having a fresh stack of neatly folded kitchen towels makes every night better.

What would you have for your last meal?
I think a perfect cheese pizza with great sauce and a perfect crust hits the spot every time. Pizza is done so many different ways, but when you find the perfect slice it’s heaven. For the dessert I would have my mom’s homemade pumpkin pie, which has to to be one of my favorite foods of all time. I have about two of these pies a year and I look forward to it every time.

What is your favorite local eatery?
My favorite local eatery in Manchester is the Bagel Cafe. They have fantastic fresh bagels and it’s my favorite breakfast meal before a long day at work. My favorite place to go for lunch and dinner has to be Street in Portsmouth. They have street food inspired from around the world and everything on the menu is fantastic.

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?
If I could have one celebrity come into The Birch on Elm it would have to be the Sandman himself, Adam Sandler. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid and the fact that he is a local guy makes it pretty awesome.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
My favorite thing on the menu is anything we put in our house bao buns. They are made fresh every day and have such a perfect fluffiness to them, the texture is incredible. We have a banh mi bao with crispy pork belly, duck fat aioli, pickled daikon and carrot with cilantro that is a perfect classic combination. It is done with such care and careful preparation you really appreciate each bite.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
I think the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now is simplicity at its best. It’s taking classics or food that people are knowledgeable about and bringing fresh ingredients and your own twist on them.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
My favorite thing to cook at home has to be huge “Scooby Doo and Shaggy”-type sandwiches or subs. Tons of fresh vegetables, an array of sliced meats piled high with whatever sauce I can think of. When I’m home I just like to treat myself and build crazy combination sandwiches that I know is too much food but I’m going to love it. — Mya Blanchard

Gochujang BBQ sauce
Yield 1½ quarts
From the kitchen of Collin Beckemeyer

8 roasted Roma tomatoes
2 white onions, julienned
8 cloves garlic
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup gochujang
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, diced
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup Sriracha
1/4 cup ketchup
water or chicken stock to cover

Roast tomatoes in the oven.
Sweat down onion, garlic and ginger to a medium caramelized color
Add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients.
Add water or chicken stock to your pot, just enough to cover the ingredients in it.
Cook down on medium to low heat, cooking down about 1/4 of the liquid that was in the pot.
Blend in a Vitamix or blender to get the right consistency
Put through a china cap to get the right texture.
Enjoy this with wings, ribs, pretty much anything!

Featured photo: Savannah Nemiccolo. Courtesy photo.

South of the 6

Nail and espresso bar opening in Manchester

South of the 6. Courtesy photo.

Once Kate MacKenzie left Manchester in 2004, she didn’t think she would ever come back. When she ultimately returned to the Granite State in 2015, she returned with inspiration that would manifest eight years later into South of the 6, a nontoxic nail bar and espresso bar opening on Saturday, Oct. 7, on Dow Street in Manchester, offering espresso, teas, kombucha and other beverages as well as pastries provided by the Bearded Baking Co. There will be a ribbon-cutting on Friday, Oct. 6, at 10:15 a.m.

Having grown up in Manchester after moving from Canada at just six weeks old, MacKenzie left for Nova Scotia to study psychology at Dalhousie University, where she met her future husband.

“In 2009 we said, ‘OK, we’re done with school, what’s next?’ and so we moved to Toronto and those were some wonderful, electric years in the big city,” MacKenzie said. “It’s a really unique, awesome place to be and it was a great time in my life because I was in my mid to late twenties, early thirties. Those were really kind of the golden years.”

While living there, MacKenzie and a friend would get manicures every other week, so when a new place opened they decided to check it out. What they discovered was a part cafe, part nail bar, where people could stop in, order a drink and enjoy it at the bar, or turn the corner to get a manicure while sipping on a cafe beverage.

“The concept was just mind-blowing to me because it really was the definition of self-indulgence,” MacKenzie said. “You’re sitting there, you’re getting a manicure for yourself and then you have a drink to sip on to really bring yourself into that moment and be there and take that for what it is.”

MacKenzie and her husband moved back to New Hampshire in late 2013 to be closer to her family. The concept had stayed in the back of her mind and was reawakened one spring morning in 2021.

“I wanted to make something inspiring [and] bring that sense of community, that sense of innovation to little old New Hampshire,” she said. “In that moment, that was not when my journey really started, but that was when I realized that it was going to turn into something real.”

A few months later she started working to bring it to life. She met the owner of Humble Warrior Power Yoga, who had offered for her to look at the space she had available for lease, informing her that, oddly enough, the yogis at her studio had been asking for coffee and for nontoxic nails. After taking a look, MacKenzie decided it was the perfect location.

“The space is divided so when you enter you can clearly see this is a coffee bar, this is where I order coffee, this is cafe seating,” MacKenzie said. “The nail bar is divided by a hedge wall so there is no confusion about where you’re sitting or where you’re supposed to be. … They’re more or less two separate entities, but they’re operating together so the only true overlap is that if you’re a client at the nail bar … you have access to that full cafe menu.”

The self-serve, full-service coffee shop will offer a variety of beverages including cortados, lattes, teas, kombucha and affogato, an Italian-inspired drink consisting of spiked ice cream from PopScoops with espresso poured over top. While food will not be made in-house, treats from the Bearded Baking Co., like muffins and croissants, will be available.

“This for me is really full circle because I never imagined coming back to Manchester because I didn’t really have the greatest memories of Manchetser,” MacKenzie said. “It was not a place that I felt connected to, so me coming back here and starting this business is more than just starting a business. This is me claiming my childhood and putting a different mark on it.”

South of the 6
: 155 Dow St., Manchester
Cafe hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; closed on Sundays.
Salon hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed on Sunday

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 23/10/05

News from the local food scene

  • Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival: The 11th annual Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival happens at Swasey Parkway (316 Water St.) in downtown Exeter on Saturday, Oct. 7. VIP admission is at noon and costs $60, and general admission is at 1 p.m. for $45, when purchased in advance. Visit
  • Craft beer and food trucks on the coast: The first annual Smuttynose Food Truck and Craft Beer festival will be on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Smuttynose Brewing Co. (105 Towle Farm Road, Hampton) from noon to 5 p.m. Enjoy food from 25 food trucks, craft beer from Smuttynose Brewing Co., lawn games and music. Tickets are $5 for general admission or $20 for VIP. Visit
  • Apple pie baking contest: Don’t miss the second annual apple pie baking contest at Stone Mountain Farm (522 Laconia Road, Belmont) on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m. Rules and details can be found on the Facebook event page.
  • All things chocolate: Save the date for the 2023 New Hampshire Chocolate Expo on Sunday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Expo Center (700 Elm St., Manchester). Chocolate, baked goods, cheeses, specialty food and craft beverages will be available to taste and purchase, with vendors like To The Queen’s Taste, Adirondack Winery, Chocolate Moonshine Fudge, Debbie’s Doggie Delights and Empanada Lady Food Truck. Tickets range from $10 to $40 and children under 5 years old are free. Visit

Carrot Pie

In the 1920s there seems to have been a vibrant analog online community of housewives in the Boston Globe’s cooking section. At first glance, it seems as if it was a simple exchange of recipes, but there was clearly a lot more than that going on under the surface. In this column, Winding Trails starts by thanking her virtual friend for a recipe, then offers one of her own. It seems straightforward enough. The last line is somewhat arresting, though; she doesn’t so much close out her small letter politely as plead for some form of human contact.

This was the 1920s. It had not been so many years since politicians and ministers had blasted an evil new invention, the bicycle. Without a (male) chaperone, they ranted, who knew what sorts of deviant mischief women could get up to, traveling all over the countryside? It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Trails almost trapped in an apartment in Southie or a triple-decker in Nashua, surrounded by crying children and dirty dishes, desperate for some form of adult companionship.

Some more research reveals that Skin Hincks (and wow, do I want to know the story behind her name) was a frequent, almost obsessive correspondent to the Globe’s cooking pages. It’s very easy to see her modern counterpart having a very active social media presence. There might be a very credible master’s or Ph.D. thesis comparing the two communities.

But for now, let’s look at Mrs. Trail’s Carrot Pie:

Carrot Pie
The purée of two large carrots – about 1½ cups, or 300 grams
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (99 grams) sugar 2 whole eggs
½ cups (1 can) evaporated milk
zest of 1 large orange
1 pie crust

Preheat the oven to 450º F. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Pour into the pie crust. Much as with a pumpkin pie, the crust does not need to be blind-baked. Bake at 450º for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325º and bake for a further 50 to 55 minutes, or until the blade of a knife comes out more or less clean.

Original recipe.

At first glance, this seems like a bright orange pumpkin pie, and the taste is not completely dissimilar, but the sweetness of the carrot and the brightness of the orange zest lift the flavor to something different. The spices are more subdued than in a pumpkin pie, and the custard is not so much sweeter as fruitier. Carrots and ginger are a classic pairing, and the orange zest adds a zing that makes this more of a “Yes, please, another slice would be delightful” experience.

This is a good pie to eat with a cup of tea, while hand-writing a letter to an old friend.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: Carrot Pie. Photo by John Fladd.

Treasure Hunt 23/10/05

Hi, Donna,
Saw you in the Hippo. Do you have any knowledge of these old toys’ value or the market for them? Appreciate your input.
– Tracy

Dear Tracy,

Who hasn’t played with a Fisher-Price toy!

Your collection of Fisher-Price toys does have a value in the collectibles market.

Fisher-Price is a well-known manufacturer of quality toys. The company has made toys from the 1930s to the present.

My suggestion would be to bring them to an antique shop to get a value on them. With Fisher-Price toys, condition is everything. Consider their age, the paint on the wood, the paper designs, etc., as well as whether the set is complete and in working condition.

Some prices for hard-to-find toys in excellent shape can run into the hundreds. Common and easily found ones start at $10+.

I hope this helps you find a new home for your toys, Tracy. Good luck!

Donna Welch has spent more than 35 years in the antiques and collectibles field, appraising and instructing. Her new location is an Antique Art Studio located in Dunbarton, NH where she is still buying and selling. She is a member of The New Hampshire Antiques Dealer Association. If you have questions about an antique or collectible send a clear photo and information to Donna at, or call her at 391-6550.

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