Thursday, February 21, 2008

This election year stuff is getting out of hand

As an IT professional, I get mail and email nearly every day inviting me to numerous conferences. Most of them are only tangentially related to my work so most of these go into the trash. It's not that I'm totally disinterested, but to attend these conferences, you usually have to register to the tune of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of dollars. So you can walk around an expo floor while a bunch of nerds try to sell you their latest miracle storage solution software. (Hey guys, if you really want possible clients to show up, why not make it free?) The latest one offered a $400 discount for registering early. I don't even have the slightest inkling as to how I would approach my boss with that expense request.

But the best one I've received so far came today with a special treat for those willing to attend the keynote address session. The keynote speakers are Howard Fineman, Carlos Watson, and Pat Buchanan. Yup, the main attraction for this nerdfest is a bunch of political correspondents including a failed presidential candidate. Hey, I like to talk politics and this is a busy year for it, but man, at an IT expo?

Link to expo web site

Because storage systems are a national issue for all Americans. Right.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Across the Universe

For Valentine's Day, my Lisa and I watched a movie I knew she would love called "Across the Universe". In a nutshell, it's a musical based in the 60's that's you're typical love story, boy travels the world, boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. The special part of this musical is that all of the songs were written by the Beatles. Initially that seems limiting, but because their songs have a timeless nature, and were based on cultural themes of the 60's it works rather well. We both enjoyed it both for the story and for the nostalgia of the songs.

All of the songs are new renditions and arrangements with the various actors singing the songs, so no original tracks here to create a pseudo-documentary. The arrangements were hit and miss for me. I'm not as familiar with the songs as some people are, so a few of the arrangements had me asking, "Wait - is that a Beatles' song?" (Lisa assured me they were.) There were a few stand-out songs that worked really well that deserve a mention. "Let It Be" was changed to a soulful gospel song with a full choir and it was tremendously moving and inspiring. "Because" wasn't terribly different than the original but the addition of female vocals was like getting really great icing on an already good cake. "If I Fell" was a surprise as a female vocal, and Evan Rachel Wood did a superb job with this.

Bono has a cameo as a drugged out hippie and does a memorable rendition of "I Am the Walrus". Salma Hayek plays a nurse but I'm not sure she actually sang in the movie. Joe Cocker also provided his voice for one of the characters in a great cover of "Come Together".

If you like the Beatles at all, you should rent this. If you are a long time fan of the Beatles, you just need to go buy this movie!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Grammy's: The Best and Worst of American Pop Music

Anyone else watch it? I missed the first 30 minutes, so I was bummed I missed the Beatles tribute. This year's theme was 50 years of Grammy's, so the awards were few and far between in favor of many splendid performances. I rather liked it, and I'm sure most people would prefer more music over more lame award speeches.

Kanye West is the most arrogant douchebag I've ever seen. Instead of doing the classy thing he once again took a dump on the Grammy community for not giving him every award he felt he deserved. How long will the public put up with his ego? (If history is an indicator, a long time.) Granted, the guy has talent and is entertaining to watch. But on the other hand, his performance last night was based on borrowed music and themes that other artists created. Then he rants about how awesome he is and how he has to be #1 or disappoint his poor dead mother. Talk about a serious complex.

Speaking of West's performance, did anyone else notice the Daft Punk setup? That was kinda rad, to use an 80's term. But when did dressing up like the Tron Guy become cool?

I really want to like Alicia Keys, and I really loved her performance last night. But she needs to fire her producers for her albums. "No One" is an incredible song (even Stevie Wonder thinks so!), but I just listened to the album version and it was disappointing. It starts with a very simple piano sound and the most crappy marching drum band beat on top of it. Add flourishes of 70's synth solos and end the song with mariachi brass parts. WTF! It was as if the producers were high at the studio that day and decided to see how odd they could make it sound. Her vocals by themselves are amazing, and I would pay for a piano & vocal version. Maybe I'm just not down with the latest R&B vibe, but I can't help but feel that like it could be so much better. I have similar issues with Justin Timberlake. He won a Grammy for his song "What Goes Around", and I saw him perform it live on SNL last year, and it was amazing. Then I heard the over-produced whacky studio version of the album that sounded completely unlike his live performance. Ugh, what is with R&B these days?

I had no idea Fergie could SING! Sure she can sing, but she blew my socks off last night. It wasn't perfect, but more than I knew she was capable of.

Another mixed bag was Brad Paisley. The guy can sing, and makes his guitar do backflips. But when I mentioned to Lisa that the name of the song was "(I want to search you for) Ticks", we both collectively shook our heads and wondered aloud if he really intended this song as a joke and it accidentally caught on. It's a catchy tune for sure, but any other cowboy in the heartland of America would probably get slapped for trying such a terrible pick-up line.

The Foo Fighters thing was fun to watch, but the Grammy moment contest was flat. I suspect the viewing public just picked the pretty girl, and she didn't really contribute to the song beyond any of the other string players. I was glad to see them win Best Rock Album, although it was a tight race.

I have mixed feelings about Amy Winehouse and her slew of Grammy wins. I'll give you that she's got some talent, but I am a bit befuddled by the critical acclaim she receives. These Grammy's are supposed to represent the best of the best in their respective categories. But I tend to think that the awards are handed out based on popularity amongst the in crowds of the recording industry. Is her work really that great? My opinion is that she's good but not awesome. Also, I'm the kind of person that has the nasty old-fashioned habit of connecting music, the artist, and their lifestyle. It's hard for me to listen to someone who sings about substance abuse while her life falls apart because of said abuse, and all without the slightest hint of shame, remorse, or even irony! Supposedly, she looked better last night than she had in weeks, but she looked like an anorexic drug addict to me. It's hard for me to be entertained when all I can think is, "That girl needs medical help." True, many rock stars have lived and died due to substance abuse, and it makes the tabloids a lot of money when they do. To me, the most disgusting thing about these kinds of situations is the public fascination with creative artists on a path to destruction. We see that it's wrong, but we can't turn away or seem to be able to turn them around. The exploitation of modern artists is revolting to me, and we condone and support that exploitation by purchasing their art. Her family said it best when they asked the public to stop buying her album so that her life wouldn't be ruined.

Poor Feist sounds like she can't catch her breath. Someone please just tell her to inhale before she sings and I might be able to enjoy her music. She's another case of popularity awarding an artist that, frankly, doesn't deserve a place on the Grammy stage. If you can't even learn to sing properly, then don't offend my ears.

Tina Turner still rocks!

Friday, February 08, 2008


This week WBOS changed it's format and I'm not pleased at all. I've already written an angry email to their new web site, even though I know it's too late. I just wanted them to know how much I think we don't need another alternative rock station in Boston. I really enjoyed WBOS as an adult alternative station that really seemed to care about good music. When the DJ's spoke, it was always something interesting to say and never annoying. It's a shame really.

From the Radio and Records web site:

By Mike Boyle

Late Friday afternoon (Feb. 1), Greater Media triple a WBOS/Boston changed its on-air moniker to "Radio 92.9" and has adjusted its music to be what the station is calling "a mass appeal alternative rock station that plays a combination of alternative gold, along with today’s rock and alternative."

In a statement the station added, "We felt the new name and logo would best reflect the station's music and attitude as we evolve to meet the needs of the next generation of WBOS listeners. Our goal is to tap into WBOS’s history as an adult alternative radio station and its large base of alternative music that has made it part of Boston’s rich music history. We are very proud to have been there from the very beginning in the careers of the core bands we are playing and look forward to continuing to do that in the future."

The statement also said the station's music will include Pearl Jam, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Marley, and Green Day. "In addition, we will also play new music, like Jack Johnson."

Along with the station's new direction, Dana Marshall, who has been serving as the station's interim PD for the past few months, gets the official programming nod and gives up middays.

And with the focus now more on the music, afternoon driver John Laurenti and night host Dominick Lewis exit. Morning personality George Knight will now just be doing his Sunday morning show.

Here's another blogger's opinion I entirely agree with: Pamela Rosenthal

Here's a quote from

''It's putting the station somewhat back to where it started in terms of its ideals," says Buzz Knight, operations manager for WBOS and sister station WROR-FM (105.7). ''Listener perception is that radio plays too many commercials and that DJs can be boring and irrelevant."

And I disagree with ol' Buzz 100%. Who the hell did he survey? I'm in the over 30 category that they so desperately want, but I never once found John Laurenti or George Knight boring and irrelevant. Quite often, they'd share some piece of rock trivia that I didn't know and I found it both informative and entertaining. I actually preferred their conversational style. Most DJ's get on my nerves with shouting and hype or tomfoolery that is completely irrelevant to the music.

This is just another one of those things that is turning me into a grumpy old man. Now you damn kids get off my lawn!