Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Final Episode: The Shield

Tonight ends my addiction with the Shield. I don't have a choice. It's being taken away from me. The last episode of the series is tonight. It's extended to 90 minutes, but I know that will never be enough. How much pleading would I need to do with Shawn Ryan, the series creator, to bring it back?

Shawn Ryan talks about he end of the show in the Boston Herald. He said there will be many twists and turns and they thought about killing off everyone, but that won't happen. He did say the ending will test hard core fans. I'm guessing Vic Mackey won't be challenging Aceveda for the mayor's job. Actor CCH Pounder (Claudette) said: "I think it's the greatest finale ever. It blew my socks off. This finale is what Vic Mackey deserves."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vactican Forgives Lennon

From the BBC:
A Vatican newspaper has forgiven the late English singer John Lennon for saying four decades ago that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
In an article praising The Beatles, L'Osservatore Romano said Lennon had just been showing off.
Lennon told a British newspaper in 1966 - at the height of Beatlemania - that he did not know which would die out first, Christianity or rock and roll. At the time, the comparison sparked controversy in the US. The semi-official Vatican newspaper marked the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' "White Album" with an article praising Lennon and the Fab Four from Liverpool.

This could only bring to mind the brilliant Rutles: Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had claimed only that the Rutles were bigger than Rod. Rod Stewart who would not be popular for another eight years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Punk at Christies

Punk/Rock is showing at Christies this weekend. I took a look this afternoon. I think I need to clean out my closet and make a small fortune. Most posters are expected to go for $800 to $3000. Here's a few samples:

Expected to get between $400 to $600. How many of you also bought records at Free Being?


Expected to get between $2000 to $3000.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sam Waterson in Conversation wtih Fordham Law

Alumni status has it's perks. Last night The Forum on Law, Culture & Society at Fordham Law School presented a conversation with "Atticus Finch in the Flesh" : Sam Waterson. To start the evening Sam was presented with a faux law degree from the University. The forum director Thane Rosenbaum injected humor, sarcasm and knowledge into the conversation. If Gene Wilder were a lawyer, he would be pretty close to Thane. Topics of fairness in the law and in life permeated the evening. Sam said he plays Jack McCoy, NY DA on Law & Order, as he has been doing it for 18 years, the way the writers intend him to be played. He doesn't believe in imposing his ideals or thoughts on the character. Several clips were played and after two of them, he noted how good the writing was.

He spoke of New York being a big player in Law & Order and how it would be a different show without it. He also likes the outdoor scenes as it's a change of pace. I think everyone I know in NY has seen them filming the show. My brush with the show was a surprise. With no production trucks or crew members visible, I entered Asphalt Green one morning and standing in the lobby in a trench coat was Jesse Martin. I immediately thought I know thus guy and said good morning, He responded. After I got in the elevator, I realized they were filming and I didn't actually know him, but felt like I did as Law & Order is more ubiquitous than almost anything I can think of including Duane Reade or Starbucks. New Yorkers think of Jack McCoy as one of them, which is a testament to Sam's portrayal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Hair Raising Hobby-Baseball Card Collecting

Collecting baseball cards used to be a passion of mine. Last year I gave my nephew a complete Topps set from 1990 (I think). Space becomes more of a problem these days than accumulating. Collecting cards started with the Monkees. I still have a few of those cards. Much like the Mod Squad cards I also collected, you could flip them over to reveal a piece of the puzzle, which was usually formed a larger than life size head of Julie Barnes. From there, I went to baseball cards

In the 5th grade Sr Pat took all my cards because I was flipping them in the school yard. Her archaic reasoning was that girls don't play with baseball cards. She proceeded to give my cards to the boys. Thank God this was my only encounter with what has gone down in legend as the wrath of the nuns. Never got a ruler across my knuckles, nor did I ever see that happen.

Fearing that their market is ever shrinking, trading card companies are now offering prizes in the packages of baseball cards. Like most industries and baseball itself, they are appealing to those with money. (note: adults with money get hooked as kids, so don't forget kids in the equation) According to today's WSJ: The industry has since streamlined, but "the good old days of building a set, one 15-card pack at a time, are pretty much over," Mr. Kelnhofer [editor of Card Trade, an industry monthly] says. While cheaper packs today go for around $2, he says, "the card makers' survival is predicated on attracting and keeping the collectors who make the big-ticket purchases."

Don't be surprised in your next package if you find a scratch off card letting you know you won a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair . Topps starting offering DNA packs last year. You could win a lock of George Washington's hair. Does this mean in the future these winners will have in their hands the building blocks of cloning Pres Washington and Lincoln? The article points out that the hair is authenticated, but there is always room for a fake. There is also the issue of who owns the image of that person and for how long, which apparently varies from state to state.

There is a creepy element to these promotions. Most winners get rid of their spoils. The man who won Jackie Kennedy's hair sold it for $201. He thought he'd get more. The woman who wound up with Lincoln's hair accepted $24,000 for it. She's planning on donating some of the money to cancer research and maybe buying more cards with the rest. I'd love to know if including these hidden prizes actually accelerates the purchase of cards. I bought tons of cards to get one Tommie Agee. I'm happy to still have my Tommie Agee cards.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrating Leonard Bernstein

On November 14, 1943 Bernstein subbed at the last minute to conduct the NY Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, replacing an ailing Bruno Walter. Friday night at Carnegie Hall celebrated the 65th Anniversary of that historic debut. My knowledge of Bernstein is limited. I watched two episodes of the very informative Young People's Concerts. It was a series of TV shows he hosted to instill in children (and adults) a better understanding of music. I saw the film West Side Story for which he composed the music. A musical kinship between Brian Wilson and Leonard Bernstein cemented Leonard on my radar.

Brian Wilson is the pop heir to Leonard Bernstein. He appeared on a CBS special of Bernstein's in 1967 singing Surf's Up. Leonard introduced the song: "There is a new song, too complex to get all of first time around. It could come only out of the ferment that characterizes today's pop music scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the famous Beach Boys, and one of today's most important musicians, sings his own Surf's Up. Poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity; Surf's Up is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future." Brian wrote small or pocket symphonies (as Good Vibrations was once called). Had he not left planet earth for a few years, Brian's output may have rivaled that of Bernstein.

Bernstein's music is implanted in pop culture, which became apparent to me during the NY Philharmonic's performance of West Side Story Concert Suites No.1 and No.2. The first notes of I Feel Pretty brought to mind Madelyn Kahn's Bride of Frankenstein singing to a mirror in an SNL skit.

It was very powerful to hear the music of West Side Story performed by the NY Philharmonic. At times I was taken by the score, which seem to rival the best of a Western film. Like Westerns, West Side Story was about rivalries and turf wars. Note of trivia: Originally it was called East Side Story and based the Romeo and Juliet story around the conflict between Catholics and Jews on the Lower East Side. A streak of gang-related violence in 1956 on the Upper West Side changed the course of the musical. Maria featured tenor Paul Graves, who conveyed the song's hopefulness and enchantment. He made you remember how good a song it is. A revival of the play is planned for Broadway in the beginning of 2009.

A year after the film On The Waterfront was released, Bernstein debuted his Symphonic Suite from On The Waterfront, which is the way he intended his music to be presented. Only 35 minutes of the film contain his music. Leonard originally turned down the chance to score the film. The director Elia Kazan had finished the film before he thought about the music. The film's producer first approached Leonard, who declined. He was not a fan of Kazan who had a reputation as a willing informant to Senator McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities. Bernstein on the opposite side, was one of 50 celebrities who in 1947 signed a manifesto condemning those hearings. Apparently the FBI had a 700-page document on him. Never having seen the movie, I felt the grittiness of life in NY on the docks at that time. The music at times was foreboding, signaling something wasn't right, yet life goes on .

The middle piece, Serenade (after Plato's Symposium) for Violin, String Orchestra, Harp and Percussion, was perfectly juxtaposed to the Waterfront Suite: Calming and meditative. Glenn Dicterow was the soloist. According to the Playbill, he first learned the piece for a 1986 Bernstein-led US Tour. Dicterow remembers, "at one point during a rehearsal, Lenny turned to me and said, 'This is the best piece I ever wrote.' " The evening was filled with "best pieces".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We7 Update for UK users onlly

Per the comment from one of the programmers of We7 (see comment below), it's a UK based service, which isn't fully functional in the US. Let's hope it's available here soon.

We7-Peter Gabriel's New Streaming Site

Albums and songs can be streamed in full on the new site, We7.com, which was co-founded by Peter Gabriel. Being that it comes from a musician, the artists will get paid if their music is streamed. It's akin to Internet radio, but on demand. Artists (or their labels) get paid via an advertising based model. In theory it sounds great. There are so many artists I'd love to hear what they or their latest record sounds like. Indie911.com is a great place to stream a new record, but the choices are limited.

I did a search of artists that ranged from the classic to the obscure and here are results
  • Beach Boys delivered a bunch of karaoke versions of their songs.
  • Brian Wilson had similar results.
  • Boz Scaggs-no results.
  • James Morrison -asks if I mean Van Morrison.
  • Florence and the Machine-no results.
  • Kings of Leon-no results.
  • Black Eyed Peas -karaoke versions.
  • My Morning Jacket-no results.
  • Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood -karaoke versions
  • The most perplexing of all is Peter Gabriel yielding a karaoke version of Sledgehammer.
According to the article in NME, the site contains millions of tracks including those from Nickelback. I search Nickelback and karaoke tracks tracks were listed. Thievery Corporation was on the homepage, so I clicked and was able to listen to a track. The list of recommendations of other artists that sound like TC was headed by Zero 7, so I clicked on the link. It brought to a page that had other recommendations, a link to their bio, a button to share or join an email list. There was also a bar that measured the popularity of the band. I'm not sure how they determine that or what it actually means. Bottom Line: I couldn't find a Zero 7 track to listen to. Why would they recommend it, if it's not available to stream? I'm not a neophyte when it comes to the web. My experience on We7 has been frustrating and unproductive. If someone has had a great user experience on the site, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Goodbye Sirius Disorder

There were three things keeping me at Sirius:
  1. Howard Stern
  2. Sirius Disorder
  3. Pure Jazz
2/3 have vanished in the merger with XM. Pure Jazz is now Real Jazz which might be similar. I've threatened many times to cancel Sirius. The reception is awful. It constantly cuts in and out and it's usually right at the punch line of a story on Howard 100. I held on because of this trinity of channels. The Loft which is an XM channel will now take over for Disorder. The sound is more defined. I loved the chaos of Disorder. Having listened to Meg Griffin since she was part of the beloved WPIX in New York during my college days, I'm disheartened to see the station disappear. WPIX was a constant in my dorm room and inspired me when I DJed parties. Beach Party Tonight by Frankie and Annette would seque into Our Lips Are Sealed (where I first heard the original version) into What Do I Get. It was always a party, the DJs were knowledgeable and the music spanned the spectrum. I was a huge David Johansen fan at that time (still am). Must have seen him 40 times in four years. His Sirius Disorder show, Johansen's Mansion of Fun, was a hallucinogenic trip through the canals of his musical mind. An aria by Maria Callas, the first hit by the Cookies and the latest by the NY Dolls: all could be heard in the course of his show. I'm guessing this is gone too.

I thought the merger would be a good thing. I would finally get baseball. It looks like I'll have to get a new player and pay more to get it. I lost my music from XM. I'm enjoying the Loft today, but it's a completely different vibe. You never knew what was coming at you on Disorder and that spontaneity is sorely missing on today's dial.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nic Harcourt leaving KCRW

Nic Harcourt followed Chris Douridas as the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic on LA's KCRW. He's been there for the past 10 years. He also served as music director. In the past few years he's been consulting on films, licensing music, etc. He states having two young daughters as the impetus to leave KCRW and move on to something new.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Warner Music Will Only Do 360 Deals

TechCrunch summarized the interview with Edgar Bronfman Jr at the Web 2.0 Expo last week. Bronfman said that any new artist on the label will have to sign a 360 deal, which means the label would receive a percentage of not only music sales and master use rights, but any stream of revenue the artist might receive: This includes touring, publishing, licenses, merchandise, etc. It is usually management that gets a % of all income the artist receives in exchange for management services. Note that about 95% of the managers, never see a dime in commissions from record sales and this is not a recent development. What will Warner's be offering in exchange for that all encompassing %? Will they offer management services, music publishing, book tours?

I used to think that having management and record company under one roof would be a good thing. In the case of major labels, I no longer hold to that belief. In all cases, both the artists and management have the same goal as the record label: to sell records. How they both want to achieve that goal is usually very different. The one who might be hurt the most in a 360 deal is the artist. The scenarios could be endless. That is of course if every aspect of their career is carried out under one roof.

Having a separate management company who knows the artist well and is willing to fight for what the artist believes in is invaluable to the artist. Having a publishing company that knows how to get a song placed in an indie film even though it might mean making less money for the record company, but more exposure and money in the long run for the band would be a no-brainer for an artist, but might run counter to the labels immediate bottom line. The label wants the band to open for a completely incompatible artist who might be selling tickets, but the audience is wrong. The band might sell a few records on this tour, but doesn't gain fans for life. It would make more sense for the band to break even on a small club tour opening for the artist whose audience would love the band and staying true to their roots. The conflicts would be immense.

Bronfman says it takes a long time and money to develop and artist and he's right, so maybe this in the only way the labels can generate money to survive. The artists that are most successful are those that know what they want and surround themselves with a diverse group of people that are in their corner and help them get there. Team of Rivals, the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin has been cited lately as Barack Obama is an admirer. It's an amazing study on human nature. Lincoln when compiling his cabinet, decided to fill it with people who were his opponents during the presidential race and didn't always agree with him, but he thought they were the best candidates for the jobs. Initially hating him and disparaging him,they learned to appreciate and respect Lincoln for who he was. There is no reason that recording artists shouldn't look at their team the same way. Having one opinion, one option, one voice, one company doesn't seem like it would be in any one's best interest. Setting aside some time to read Team of Rivals is in every one's best interest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Rising

After President-elect Barack Obama left the stage at Grant Park, Bruce Springsteen's the Rising filled the air. It's been said many times over, but for me this election has truly been a unique experience. I watched more news on TV than I have in years. My sources of news come from the WSJ, The New Yorker and Howard Stern. Close to 11pm last night, Brian Williams said we'll have some important news when we come back from commercial break. When they did come back, there was a photo of Barack covering the TV screen with the words: The 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. Instantly cheers could be heard from York Avenue. I got chills. I don't remember ever seeing crowds gathered in Times Square for an election. This is a new era for our country. Barack is probably facing more hard issues than any other president in my lifetime. A Rising is what this country needs now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rocking the Vote!

I rocked the vote in about 45 seconds. It's a lovely fall morning in New York City. NY1 was reporting lines 45 minutes to an hour to vote in Harlem. They said that more people voted there by 8am, than have in the enitre last election. I vote on East 88th Street. The lines were longer than I've ever seen in my 25 years voting there. Snaking through the crowds, looking for District 76 and I come upon the only desk where there is no line. The ever so pleasant woman behind the desk asks my name. I sign in and she says you can vote now. I'm out of there in less than 2 minutes. It took longer to get through the crowd than it did to vote. This is my idea of Rocking the vote!