Archive | September, 2006

There’s Music in the Night

30 Sep

I told Pyles as the Jamie Cullum show was ending tonight that I should have guaranteed it, and promised to give her her money back if she didn’t enjoy it. That’s how much I love Jamie Cullum, and how strongly I can stand by his live shows. They’re just incredible, and tonight’s show at the Orpheum was no exception. No sense going into too many specifics, but from top to bottom, start to finish, I think this may have been the best Jamie Cullum show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen him four times. It was another rowdy, fun time. The crowd was into it, despite some folks who just kept getting up to go out. Our seats were great. And the set list was spot-on: Jamie played his good stuff (including “Mind Trick, which was missing from the set list the last time I saw him) and he played some really cool covers really well, particularly Norah Jones’ “Turn Me On” (which, oddly, Jamie dedicated to his father, who was in the audience, because apparently it’s his favorite song) and James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” Jamie came into the audience a couple times, and he actually sang a cover of “Nature Boy” entirely in an aisle. Otherwise, “Photograph,” “Frontin’,” and “London Skies” were great, as were “These Are the Days,” the solo version of “All at Sea,” and, of course, my favorite of his songs, “What a Difference a Day Made.” Of course, there are songs I wish he’d played (like “My Yard”), but that’ll happen when I like most everything on his three albums.

Perhaps you don’t know Jamie, despite the fact that I’ve written about him before on this site. Well, for all you who don’t know him — and those who like a little soundtrack with your reading — check out the new widget I’ve added to the blog in the upper right hand column. Just click “play” and you’ll hear one of his songs, likely “Photograph.” And know that as nice as that song is, and as good as his albums are, they don’t compare to how good Jamie is live. As I said, I’ve seen him four times now and I’d see him anytime. I guarantee his shows as some of the best ones out there.

An Open Letter to Comcast

29 Sep

Dear Comcast,

According to a recent story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Fox News Channel is seeking an increase in fees from cable operators, from 27 cents per subscriber to $1 per subscriber. Apparently, the network is prepared to mobilize its viewers; as the story says, Fox News is thinking about “unleashing the wrath of the channel’s base of vociferous viewers” to get this increase to pass, because Fox knows those people don’t want to lose the station.

I know how these things work, and how the cost increase will trickle down to the subscribers, so I’m just waiting for the memo telling me my monthly charge for cable is going up. Considering I already pay more than $80 a month for my service (including HBO and my DVR), I refuse to pay any more just so I can get Fox News on my TV. I’ve had enough of Bill O’Reilly’s closed minded diatribes, and I’ve had enough of people saying Chris Wallace was in the right (no pun intended) for his treatment of Bill Clinton last weekend. And worse, I’m disgusted that Fox News chief Roger Ailes called Clinton’s response to Wallace “an assault on all journalists.” I think it’s an insult that Ailes, O’Reilly and the rest think they can mobilize their viewers and force the rest of us to pay for their bullying, partisan news station.

I don’t watch Fox News ever, and I don’t want to have to help absorb the cost of this nearly four-times increase if it comes to pass. I’d rather not get the channel at all. Or better, I’d rather have the ability to pick and choose which channels I do get. In recent years there have been many pushes for a la carte pricing for cable. It’s like a buffet: you pick which channels you want and only pay for those. I’ll start with the basic networks (ABC, NBC, etc.), then I’ll add some MTV and VH1, MSNBC for my news, HBO, and a few other ones that I actually watch. The plan has its supporters, and I am one of them.

Sure, I am against a potential price increase because I’m against Fox News. And sure, I’d probably be against any increase in the price of cable service, even if it was for channels I like. And yes, it needs to be said that you have not yet announced any price increase to help pay for Fox News. This is all just conjecture on my part. But I wanted to say now, before this got too far, that I speak for many Comcast subscribers when I say please don’t make me pay for the channels I don’t want. Let those who actually want Fox News pay for it.

Thank you.

Listen Up, Everyone

27 Sep

It’s continually amazing to me that you can find nearly anything on the internets. For example, in a recent blurb in the “Sidekick” section of the Boston Globe, I read about a great Ryan Adams concert from 2003 that someone had heard. Finally got around to looking for the guy’s blog today and lo and behold, there it was: a posting with individual MP3s of the entire show. Too cool, and he’s right — it was an incredible show. Then I clicked around some more and found an awesome performance of “New York, New York” that Ryan did on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2001.

Anyway, about a half hour later, after going back to rbally.net, I had dug deep into the site and found MP3s of all kinds of live shows (from bands like R.E.M., the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jane’s Addiction, and Radiohead, among others), some current and some older (i.e.: from the last decade or so), and many of them worth a listen. I’ll be going back to check out more of the site. In the meantime, I’ve provided a link to rbally.net in the sidebar of this site for future reference.

While I’m on the topic, perhaps I should point out the two other music-related blogs I already have links to: Zeon’s Music Blog and Ali’s Blog. Zeon tends to have MP3s of his favorite songs, soundtracks, and artists, in addition to new stuff and rare covers and other cool tracks. Currently he’s got up a weird but cool cover of The Killers’ “Smile Like You Mean It” by, of all people, David Gray. For full, leaked new CDs (like the entire new Killers album, not out until next week) and hot singles, go to Ali’s site. That’s also where I found Justin Timberlake’s new CD a couple weeks early, if you’re interested. But because, well, it’s illegal to download these CDs at all, especially weeks before they’re publicly available, the links to them are only up for about 24 hours in most cases so Ali doesn’t get in trouble. Act quickly. (And by the way, if you want to hear a cool remix of the Killers’ “When You Were Young,” click here.)

Plain and simple, the web makes it fun to be a music fan. (No big news there, of course.) And for the record (no pun intended), I have gone out and actually bought some of the actual CDs after downloading them online. And thanks to hearing new artists on sites like these, I’ve been turned on to their music and have spent money on them in other ways. So there, record companies. Fan music sites do serve a good purpose. Just do me a favor, dear readers: if you become a frequent visitor of the sites like I am, don’t abuse them. Buy music too so “the man” doesn’t come and shut these folks down. (Stepping off the soap box now. Putting my headphones back on.)

A Winning Ticket

26 Sep

As always, I try to stay out of the political arena on this blog simply because when it comes to such topics, I’m basically an uninformed idiot. But I have to throw my hat in the ring just briefly today because of Keith Olbermann, and what he said last night on his MSNBC program, Countdown, about Fox News and the attack (and there really is no other word) that was made on Bill Clinton the other day in his interview with Chris Wallace. Keith lately has made a regular habit of editorializing and making an Edward R. Murrow–style “special comment” when the mood strikes. He did so on 9/11 to great effect, and his words last night were again well-written and well-delivered. You can watch a clip here or just read it here. It was great.

And in other news, I hereby support George Clooney for President in 2008, even if he swears he’s not running. Now there’s a guy — an actor, even — who would do great things for this country. Really. You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again: George Clooney is the man. And Keith Olbermann can be George’s vice president. It’s a winning ticket for sure.

Cupcakes … Again

26 Sep

About two weeks ago I got an e-mail from Elizabeth Holmes, a reporter from of all places, the Wall Street Journal. Seems she was writing a story about, of all things, Johnny Cupcakes, and had seen my posting about the store and how much I love it. (You know the one. It was ranked number three on my first year countdown because it’s been the most popular posting so far.) Anyway, we had a nice chat, a few laughs, and I explained to her that I’ve developed something of a reputation for hating the store and the guy, when all I really wanted the day I visited with Mitzi and Jason was a cupcake. So I wrote that on the blog, and maybe my words got a bit twisted. I mean, sure, it is cruel and a bit of a tease for a guy to name his store Johnny Cupcakes and then not sell actual cupcakes. And it’s even worse when, instead of cupcakes, he sells $40 t-shirts that are only cool to people who like spending $40 on their t-shirts. But that was all.

Well anyway, the story Elizabeth wrote is in today’s paper, on page B5 … and I’m not in it. Oh well. I’ll have to settle for being in the Boston Globe every now and then. But it’s alright. The story isn’t a fawning tribute to how swell and creative Johnny Cupcakes is. Instead, via quotes from marketing professors and other folks, it raises questions about how long Johnny’s novelty business can last. Personally, I still say if he’d only sell cupcakes in addition to his t-shirts he’d have a long-lasting business and I’d be a regular customer. Until then, he’s not getting a single cent from me.

(FYI: The story isn’t available to non-subscribers online, so you’ll have to check out the print edition if you want to read it.)

TGIF

22 Sep

It’s been a long, busy week, but I didn’t want to leave for the weekend without posting something new.

So I’ll say to all my fellow members of the tribe, L’Shana Tovah — which, for the rest of you, means Happy New Year (it’s Rosh Hashannahthis weekend).

See y’all on Monday.

Booked

20 Sep

Back in the day, I was an avid reader of Swing magazine, which was published by Ralph Lauren’s son David and aimed to inspire twentysomethings to be active members of society (or something like that). In one issue, there was a profile of a young writer named Brad Meltzer, whose new book The Tenth Justice was getting good buzz. Brad was being hailed as “the next John Grisham.” Being a young writer myself, I was inspired by Brad’s success and decided to go to a book reading/signing and meet him in person. When the time came after Brad read from the book, I stood up and asked him a question about his web site and the character sketches, which I enjoyed. Or maybe it was a question about the movie rights, which had just been sold. Or actually, I think I asked two questions.

Anyway, Brad left a good impression on me that night, and when he came out with his next book a year or two later, I went to that signing too. Of course, just like I had done at Brad’s first reading, I stood up and asked a question when he opened things up to a Q&A. Brad remembered me, and later he wrote something nice in my book, thanking me for coming back.

Long story short, Brad is one of the nicest writers I’ve ever met, one of the real good guys, and that’s why every time he’s in town with a new book, I make a point of going to his readings/signings. And yes, every time I also ask him a question, and every time Brad remembers me (tho not necessarily by name) and writes something really cool in my book. So I’ve followed his career over the years; I own all his novels (plus the graphic novels Idenity Crisis and Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest) — though admittedly, I haven’t read them all — and I watched Jack and Bobby, the WB show he created two seasons ago. (And a fun fact is that he was Real World: San Francisco cast member Judd Winick‘s roommate in college.)

I tell you all this because Brad’s in town today (Wednesday) to promote his sixth novel, The Book of Fate, which has been getting some great reviews and debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list last week. The book’s a thriller set in Washington, D.C., about an attempted presidential assassination, the secret society of Masons, and all kinds of other stuff. He wrote it with some research help from former Presidents Clinton and Bush. I’m not doing a very good job of selling the book, so I encourage you to check out Brad’s web site, where you can learn more about it. Brad will be reading from Fate at Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner at 7 p.m., and if you’re free, he’s worth listening to, meeting, and reading. Just thought I’d do my part and give him a plug here. Look for me. I’ll be there.