Friday, January 29, 2010

The Onion on Delaware

In other news, Delaware's unique competitive festival makes the Onion. Will the Sea Witch Halloween Fiddler's Fest soon follow?


When Smart People Write Stupidly

Paul Shirley, alleged ex-NBAer, has been asked to sever his ties with ESPN due to his less than empathetic remarks regarding the tragedy in Haiti.  He argues, afterward, that his comments were taken out of context. A sad followup.

When he was still warming a bench in the NBA, his blogging was highly entertianing because he was following the main rule of writing, Write what you know about.

His Haitian screed was a self-immolating act of the highest order and an unfortunate end to his ties with ESPN and ready access to his take on the sporting life.  Was/Is Haiti a truly horribly mis-governed mis-managed country?  No question about that.  Are its citizens to blame for the state of affairs BEFORE the earthquake?  That's a thorny question addressed by many more qualified people than Mr. Shirley or myself.   Shirley's untimely and poorly thought out article will forever tie him with Pat Robertson, not the brightest bulb in God's Kingdom.

What surprised me the most about Shirley's comments was the lack of empathy he had for people who were/are so recently victims of things beyond their control. As a perennial bench-warmer, I would have thought he'd know when is the time to commisserate and assist and when is the time to criticize and pontificate.

The most worrisome part of this entire episode is reading the comments (1,637 and counting) to his intial and his followup postings.  While a lot of acts gave him a hard time, a disturbing number of folks showered praise. I can't even begin to write about that without bile and vitriol spewing out.

In reaction to Paul Shirley here's some folks doing the necessary deeds. Provide them the opportunity to help the victims in Haiti. Lecturing can start in a few months; let the healing continue for now.

or Here.

Wondering as to the most effective choices to be made? Here's a place to start.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad : 2010's Pleasure Orb?

There's a scene from Sleeper where Woody Allen, entranced with the future world, takes a liking, an enormous liking, to a silver orb that, when rubbed or handled, gives the holder immense pleasure.  As with most things pleasure, an excess leaves one groggy, inebriated, and over-relaxed (read that as "sleepy").  But, once back to his own self, it's not long before the size of this pleasure orb is Super-Sized...only to bring on larger doses of post-pleasure grogginess.

The iPad was introduced today by that ultimate pleasure giver, Steve Jobs.  On video and pictures it looks like...well, like a Super-Sized iTouch.  The iPad has no camera posssibilities, weighs in at 24 oz., (quite a bit more than the 10.3 oz Kindle), and still maintains the Apple death grip connection with AT&T.   In addition, the iPad will have to alter folks' behaviour as to how large of an iTouch/iPhone they are willing to carry around.

The NYT lists some of the drawbacks:

1) No ability to play Adobe Flash animations, widely used on the Web.

2)No camera, still or video
3) No non-Internet phone function
4) Unclear whether you can bundle your AT&T iPhone plan with an iPad data plan
5) No removable battery for a device that can suck a lot of power
6) No removable storage

On the plus side, the iPad will run for 10 hours (allegedly).

Why I am not buying the iPad:
1) AT&T service.  The same reason I wouldn't have an iPhone.
2) The kindle weighs half as much and the battery life is much more than 10 hours (I've used it for over 20 hours before I plugged it in; the battery stil had 1/3 charge indicated).
3) It's large; a man-purse derivative will have to be concocted.
4) I have enough small silver pleasure orbs.  Super-sizing is not necessary.

The Pope loves it...with a few reservations..but then He gets these mindful toys for $0.00, a price we'd all be willing to pay for the next new thing.

Note bene:  I LOVE Macs and most things Apple.   I have purchased or helped purchase (i.e., good old moneybags) iMacs, iTouches, iPods, and other things   "i" that I can't recall.
I have yet to have one of these "i" things of my own, so a bitter taste lingers over seeing (very) close relatives with "i"y things while yours truly remains "i"less.  So... perhaps the stones I throw in the general vicinity of the iPad are from a chucker who won't be "i"ng for a while.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Break Out the Sleds (..and Possibly some Crutches).. Steve Mellon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes you on a panoramic tour of the steepest street in the world.

Mr Mellon does a regualr feature of these panoramic views of Pittsburgh, including...
The Cathedral of Learning
Jerry's Records! (The Holy Grail of Vinyl that I'd blogged about a few years ago here)
Allegheny River
College of Fine Arts, Carnegie-Mellon University (a personal suggestion I'd made to Mr. Mellon which he so graciously followed through on)

..and my personal favorites,
The oldest Croatian Catholic churches in North America, here and, most recently, here.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"When you go to someone’s house, meat is the first thing you get."

, says Julia Jaksic, the chef at Employees Only, the West Village restaurant on whose late-night menu she has put an untraditional "Balkan burger" made with pork, fennel seeds and other aromatics. In today's NYT Food Section, pljeskavica and cevapcici are given quite a lot of space for extolling and for encouragement of the watering of one's mouth.

The articel is particularly refreshing as the writer has a solid take on the famed pronouncements delivered by folks of the Croatian/Serbian persuasion.   For countries of comparatively minor size (Bob Costas famously announced the winner of an Alpine event in the Winter Olympics a few years back as "Janica Kostelić, from the teeny-tiny country of Croatia"), it is truly amazing that statements of larger-than-life gravity are typically spoken.  But then, there is no country that can lay total ownership on chutzpah.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kate McGarrigle

...died on Monday, the 18th of January. Her sister and singing companion Anna simply announced it on their site with "Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. "

Kate McGarrigle was born and lived around Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts (along with Montreal). Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts is about 30 miles north of Montral located in the Laurentian Mountains, one of the oldest mountian ranges in the world. It seemed she and her sister Anna absorbed this "age" into their personalities; they were a patient and far-seeing couple of folks that seemed to slow down time whenever you were in their presence.

I only had two oportunities to see Kate perform, once in her home grounds of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts and the last time at the TLA in Philly in the early '90's.

A college friend yanked me from my Pink Floyd/Alice Cooper/Rory Gallagher/Leon Russell music circle to "take a ride up North" with him. St. Saveur, he said. I was familiar with Mont Saint-Saveur as it offered great cheap weekday ski packages for the pecuniary-challenged college students, so I assumed we were in for some late Spring night-time skiing. He pulled up to a log-cabin style tavern in the village of St. Saveur, killed the engine, and cajoled me into the place for a meal and beer on him. He didn't mention that there would be some impromptu music and even some sashaying by the tavern's guests that night. There was an upright piano in the place, a bit worn at the edges and covered with dried salt on the side facing the entrance door. A long-haired woman was sitting at the piano, fooling around with the keys with a young girl. A pony-tailed guy was close by, plucking and tuning his guitar. A tall bearded young fellow with a fiddle comfortably tucked under his arm was talking to a younger woman by the far side of the piano. I remember her laugh, so comfortable and private in such a public place.
There was no announcement, there were no microphones, there was no stage lighting. I was biting into my poutine when the four of them just started playing. To most of the folks there, this seemed familiar; they simply kept eating or drinking, though their gabbing toned down immediately. To this newcomer, ears accustomed to high volume and much electricity, their non-powered sounds were a major departure. My beer got warm; my poutine, cold as I leaned back in my chair and simply listened to these friends playing without rush, without a schedule, without a check waiting at the end of the performance.
We left the tavern (I wish I could remember the name!!?) around midnight. "That was the McGarrigles", Ian said, as we slowly wended our way through the frozen parking area. It was as if he were announcing an event, a coming, not two women singing and playing with close friends on another Friday up in the Laurentians. A magical night with Kate and Anna.

Anna has it right. "She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted".

The Montreal Gazette obituary is here along with quite a few links to other information and perfromances by Ms. McGarrigle.

I blogged about one of the McGarrigles' haunting songs here, back in 2006.


When Good Enuf Is Great

A selection from NYT's 12/13/2009 Sunday Magazine article, The 9th Annual Year in Ideas (yes…I’m a tad behind on the required reading list).

Good Enough is the Next Great
by Robert Mackey
"Cheap, fast, simple tools are suddenly everywhere," Robert Capps of Wired magazine wrote this (2009) summer in an essay entitled, "The Good Enough Revolution."

"Companies that have focused mainly on improving the technical quality of their products have started to notice that, for many consumers, "ease of use, continuous and low price" are more important.

High-definition televisions have turned every living room into a home cinema, yet millions of us choose to watch small, blurry videos on our computers and our mobile devices. Cameras capture images in a dozen megapixels, yet Flickr is filled with snapshots taken with phone cameras that we can neither focus nor zoom. And at war, a country that has a fleet of F-16 fighter jets than can cover 1,500 miles an hour is using more and more remote-controlled Predator drones that are powered by snowmobile engines.
Lo-fi solutions are now available for a range of problems that couldn’t be solved with high-tech tools. Music played from a compact disc is of higher quality than what comes out of an iPod – but you can't easily carry 4,000 CD's with you on the subway or to the gym. Similarly, a professional television camera will produce a higher-quality image than a phone, but when something important happens, from the landing of a jet on the Hudson River to the murder of an Iranian protester, and there are no TV cameras around, images recorded on phones are good enough.

In February, a music professor at Stanford, Jonathan Berger, revealed that he has found evidence that younger listeners have come to prefer lo-fi versions of rock songs to hi-fi ones. For six years, Berger played different versions of the same rock songs to his students and asked them to say which ones they liked best. Each year, more students said that they liked what they heard from the MP3s better than what came from CDs. To a new generation of iPOd listeners, rock music is supposed to sound lo-fi. Good enough is now better than great.

The death knell of the CD grows ever louder (or clangier if you're listening on lo-fi). Like vinyl, scarcity of recordings will drive prices higher and, unless we CD-lovers are stockpiling (attention my lovely Ever-Loving spouse!!) CD-players in some closet, we may be left with a treasure of CD's without an instrument to play it on. This lo-fi stuff is, frankly, beyond my scope of understanding. I remember (Uh,oh, Geezer expostualiton alert) when each year brought some new technological advance that IMPROVED sound quality. Forward was the only direction as far as sound reproduction was concerned. How could this reverse sound improvement be happening and, worse yet, be embraced so quickly and lovingly?

It's a sad state of affairs.

**** Addendum 01/20/2010 ***
In reaction to this post, Whisky Prajer posted this finer entry. I especially liked the tear he went on about that thoroughly moder thoroughly reprehensible Duck Face pose that charming and attractive young ladies (like my very own daughter) take to when asked to pose for a picture. I am raising farm fowl not future young female leaders of the world! Is Quality no longer a guidepost for product/service/behaviour? Is Quality so passe '90's?

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Monday, January 18, 2010

XX marks the Spot

I've been playing selections from the XX's album on Morning After the last few months.  For once, I'm in agreement with The New Yorker's Mr. Sasha Frere-Jones.  Well, at least on his opinion on this sublimal band.  A friend recommended them last year as a band unique from all others.  I don't know if I'd go that far.  Echos of New Order (Mr. Frere-Jones mentions this connection as well) and Pauseland.

The music does grow on you, a trait I found equally present in Pauseland's Palindrome.  Subtle plans, these two bands have, of invading your earspace via a velve revolution.  Have a listen (highly recommended) and see if you also find yourself sinking deep into their youthy angst.

They'll be in the States in ealry March (March 29 at the First Unitarian Church Sanctuary in Philly)


A Major Downer

This news, from Pittsburgh, was not the way to start a Monday.  WDUQ is one fine station, a fabulously programmed jazz-all-the-time format hosted by folks who are both knowledgable and non-snooty.  If ever in the 'Burgh, WDUQ is the place to tune your car radio to.  Hopefully, things will work out and some enormously benevolent jazz afficionado will descend like the angel of mercy and buy up the station and keep its unique format going.   Take a listen to hear what may leave the airways....



In a New Yorker piece penned by the prohibitively intelligent George Packer, he notes at one point, "In Robertsonian theodicy - the justification of the ways of God in the face of evil - there’s no such thing as undeserved suffering: people struck by disaster always had it coming. "  Without first googling "theodicy", as I should have, I assumed that Mr. Packer was cracking wise at the ever self-immolating Robertson's expense by concocting a new word, "theodicy".   What a great word!!  One that combined the words "theology" and "idiocy".  A delcious new word it would be to succinctly pigeonhole Robertson and his favored practice.

Much to my deep dismay and deeper disappointment, "theodicy" has been around quite a while, pre-dating Robertson's religious ilk.  Curse you Internet!  Curse you Google!  I could have happily resided in my little Internet hovel cackling over the "theological idiocy" of one Pat Robertson!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Morning After. First Show in 2010

This Sunday, January 17th, I'll be hosting The Morning After on WVUD for my first show of 2010.  The playlist for the two previous shows, November 29, 2009 and December 13, 2009 have been updated.  Finally.

As usual, you can listen to it on FM at 91.3...if you happen to live within 5-8 miles of the station.  Otherwise, we're always available on the Internet at this connection.  I'm still working on the final playlist and I'll certainly be squeezing in some Rickie Lee Jones, The XX's (who, I hope, decide to get back together in 2010), Erik Deutsch, Charlie Hunter (recently released "Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid", Melody Gardot, Boban Markovic Orkestar, Pedronomry, and some favorites from the year that was 2009.

Tune in for something eclectic, if not interesting.

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