Behind the Curve

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.

ROG

Musical Coolness and Lack Thereof QUESTIONS


There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about Tom Petty: Rock God Or Mere Mortal? “As Tom Petty prepares to release a career-spanning anthology next week, an attempt to determine where he falls in the music pantheon.”

The basic premise is that though he sold a lot of records, maybe because he was prolific with the pop hook, he just seems to lack the “cool” quotient. I’m thinking the way Huey Lewis & the News, even in the height of their success, was uncool. Whereas the late Johnny Cash, on whose second American Recording Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played on, was “cool”.

This has less to do with talent or chart success as it does with the artist shaking things up musically, as Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen were known to do.

There was a chart on the page suggesting coolness, from uncool to very cool, which looked roughly like this (there was also a loudness axis): Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel (sorry, SamuraiFrog), John Mellencamp, AC/DC, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Pretenders, Eagles, Jimmy Buffet. Carlos Santana is about in the middle. Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Neil Young, Nick Cave.

First, do you agree with the ranking? I always thought Pretenders were cooler, and James Taylor, not so much. Neil Diamond put an album with producer Rick Rubin a couple years ago, which always seems to enhance the cool factor; it certainly worked for Cash.

Secondly, where would you place Petty on the list? He’s played with George Harrison, Dylan and the aforementioned Cash. He put together his old band Mudcrutch and put out a decent album a couple years ago. I’d say he was at least as “cool” as the Stones, who would be cooler without most of their output of the last couple decades.

Finally, what other artists do you think fall on the “uncool” pantheon unfairly, or on the “cool” list unjustifiably? Let’s face it: Jeff Lynne, even as a Wilbury, has never been particularly cool. But I always thought Linda Ronstadt, who moved from genre to genre, was more cool than she was given credit for.

ROG

Not So Fast QUESTION

There is an article in the Wall Street Journal online – it was in the paper last weekend – by John Freeman, adapted from his book “The Tyranny of E-Mail,” that really spoke to me. It was titled: “Not So Fast: Sending and receiving at breakneck speed can make life queasy; a manifesto for slow communication”.

Cogent points:
1. Speed matters…
The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com­munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust­ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

This is a disastrous development on many levels…

2. The Physical World matters.
A large part of electronic commu­nication leads us away from the physical world. Our cafes, post offices, parks, cinemas, town centers, main streets and commu­nity meeting halls have suffered as a result of this development. They are beginning to resemble the tidy and lonely bedroom commuter towns created by the expansion of the American interstate system. Sitting in the modern coffee shop, you don’t hear the murmur or rise and fall of conversation but the con­tinuous, insect-like patter of typing. The disuse of real-world commons drives people back into the virtual world, causing a feedback cycle that leads to an ever-deepening isolation and neglect of the tangible commons.

This is a terrible loss…

3. Context matters

We need context in order to live, and if the environment of electronic communication has stopped providing it, we shouldn’t search online for a solution but turn back to the real world and slow down. To do this, we need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from effi­ciency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships. We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived…

This is no Luddite screed but a cautionary observation: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, work­place meltdowns, and unhappiness.”

But what do YOU think? I think that *I* need to turn off the computer for a while and go for a walk.

ROG

Online Comics QUESTIONS

I get e-mails:

Lacking for material to write about? No, of course not. But I’d be interested in your take on this subject. Do you think Cory Doctorow is right?

The main point of the story, titled “Boom! comics’ new series available as downloads on the same day as in stores” is that “comics publishers should — at a minimum — put up downloadable comics after they disappear from the stands, so that people who are coming to the serial after it starts can catch up. The trade paperbacks help here, but usually there’s a 2-3 issue gap between the collection and the singles.”

Well, I have no idea. In my days of retailing comics (1980-88 and again in the early 1990s), the business model was very different. I do know that a customer coming in in the middle of a story was/is maddening. I do know that dealing with back issue comics was often a pain. But does the online page of back issues solve the problem?

There seems to be an overriding premise in the piece that almost everything that comes out as singles (his term) or floppies will turn up in book form eventually, which I don’t believe to be true, any more than every TV show eventually coming out on DVD.

I also don’t buy the premise that the “publisher could spend approximately $0.00 and post downloadable singles 30 days or even 60 days after they hit the stands.” To do a quality job online does not cost nothing, assuming you have to pay someone to do it. And what of the creative team? How are they getting paid for this, beyond the flat page rate? Or should it just be considered “promotional? (Shades of the AMPTP!)

I would really like to know, from comics collectors and especially retailers: does the online model stimulate new readers, and more importantly, new spenders, or are folks just reading product online for free? What is the general quality of the existing products – easy to use or not? Of readable quality or full of eyestrain? What’s the best of the current crop, and what’s a must to avoid?
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Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal gave a plug for HowToons, an interesting site. It does have a link to a book for sale on Amazon, but I don’t know how else it makes money, if in fact it does.

ROG

A Couple Interrogatives

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this week that I found quite disturbing, but true. Here’s the abstract:

Moving On: Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?
Jeffrey Zaslow. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 23, 2007. pg. D.1

When children get lost in a mall, they’re supposed to find a “low- risk adult” to help them. Guidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage them to look for “a pregnant woman,” “a mother pushing a stroller” or “a grandmother.”

People assume that all men “have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness,” says Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety. Kids end up viewing every male stranger “as a potential evildoer,” he says, and as a byproduct, “there’s an overconfidence in female virtues.”

TV shows, including the Dateline NBC series “To Catch a Predator,” hype stories about male abusers. Now social-service agencies are also using controversial tactics to spread the word about abuse. This summer, Virginia’s Department of Health mounted an ad campaign for its sex-abuse hotline. Billboards featured photos of a man holding a child’s hand. The caption: “It doesn’t feel right when I see them together.”

So, as the article notes: The implied message: Men, even dads pushing strollers, are “high-risk.” “Very sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. What are your thoughts? Anyone wanting the whole article, please let me know.
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On a much lighter note, Jaquandor tagged me with 7 Things, but added a twist; one of these is false. Which one?

1. I had a nosebleed so bad that I was hospitalized.

2. I enjoy sushi.

3. I’ve talked with a Supreme Court justice.

4. I was terrible as a percussionist in my junior high school orchestra.

5. One of my favorite books is “Growing Up” by Russell Baker.

6. I’m cited in two books.

7. I’ve never read, never even started, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
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My Fortune Cookie told me:
You will risk becoming eternally dependent upon misguided bishops.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

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Amazon has on sale a Mel Brooks box set. It features one of my favorite films of all time, Young Frankenstein, and one of my least favorite movies of all time, History of the World, Part 1.
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I own only about a half dozen Lyle Lovett albums. He has a new one, which he describes here.
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I thought there were only eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination for President. I was wrong.
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Oh, yeah: according to my previous poll question, 13 of you have already seen the Simpsons movie, 3 will in theaters, 3 will on DVD.
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Albanians: listen to WMHT-FM (89.7) tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 6:00 p.m. — they are broadcasting Albany Pro Musica’s ‘s March 2007 concert, “From Holocaust to Hope.”

ROG