October 29, 2011

Paul Simon: Graceland or Bridge Over Troubled Water Giveaway

Last night we went to a Paul Simon concert. It was amazing. This teeny little 70-year-old man whose songbook is nearly as old as I am, with horrendous arthritis, entertained a happy audience along with his eight-member band for more than two hours.

The concert began with an opening act: The Secret Sisters, two sisters from Alabama who performed old school country music. I am no fan of country music, but they captivated me with their harmonies, the songs they sang, and how they connected with the audience. T Bone Burnett produced their first album, and they are currently at work on their second. If you want to be transported musically to Mayberry, and I mean that as a compliment, consider The Secret Sisters.

After this astonishingly good opening act, Paul Simon strolled onto the stage, to a standing ovation, and proved throughout the concert just why he deserved it. Though I would have liked a few more of his Simon & Garfunkel songs, his solo acoustic version of Sounds of Silence answered a question I've had for years: How good would a S&G song be without Garfunkel? Very good indeed, because his guitar playing was so lyrical.

Each of his band members played multiple instruments; one of his two guitarists played a saxaphone, the keyboardist played either the marimba or the vibes, and one of the two percussionists played the washboard in a Zydeco piece. And let me say this: Audiences love Jewish boys who sing gospel (cue Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis).

Simon's lyrics are unique; many of his songs are not the typical love song. Obviously he was politically active in the 60s and what worked then is equally prescient today in the current climate. Carwash and My Little Town, in particular; the latter of which reminded me of Sarah Palin and her talk about small town virtues in a way I'd never considered before when hearing that song.

Some of my favorite moments came when Simon played songs off his landmark Graceland album. I ask you: Who among us does not adore Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes? The only song missing as far as I was concerned was You Can Call Me Al. He came out for two encores, and each time I hoped I'd hear it start, but after his final song in the second encore, Still Crazy After All These Years, the house lights turned up and it was, sadly, over.

In honor of Paul Simon and Graceland, I'm giving away one of two favorite Paul Simon goodies:

(1) A remastered version of Graceland on iTunes.

(2) The 40th anniversary edition of Bridge over Troubled Water, which includes not only the CD, but two DVDs. One reissues S&G's Songs of America documentary and the other is an amazing look into the history of recording BOTW. Earlier this year I watched that history documentary on cable, and loved it so much I bought this CD/DVD set...even though I saved the doc on my DVR and already own BOTW.

If you would like to be eligible to win one of these...the winner can choose between the two...click here and send me an email. Type Paul Simon into the subject line and include in your email whether you want (1) Graceland or (2) Bridge Over Troubled Water, as well as your snail mail address so I can mail your prize if you choose the second option. If you go for the iTunes download, provide the email address associated with your iTunes account. You must live in the U.S. to qualify and I must receive your entry by midnight, Eastern Time, November 11th (I like the symmetry of 11/11/11).


October 28, 2011

New at H&H: A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss

Yesterday I had a cortisone shot in my shoulder (ouch!), and on Wednesday discovered a desk in our house at precisely the right level to type without hurting said shoulder, so...I'm once again able to write. Which means that online today from me at Heroes & Heartbreakers: A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss.

During my last year at AAR I wrote an ATBF column about one of my DIK reads, Lora Leigh's Dawn's Awakening. This new article for H&H rifs off that one, answering this question:

What do these things have in common?
  • The Science of Kissing
  • The Argument For and Against Romance Bond Mates

Click here to read A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss, then post a comment over at H&H.


October 14, 2011

Forced Hiatus

A couple of months ago I injured my shoulder. I thought it was a pulled muscle, but when it didn't get better itself, I finally went to a doctor a few weeks ago, who put me on Celebrex. Earlier this week she sent me to a specialist, who diagnosed me and prescribed a month's worth of physical therapy on top of the Celebrex. The shoulder issue radiates pain down my upper arm to just below my elbow, and typing exacerbates the situation. As a result I'm trying to stay offline as much as possible; most of my posting for the past several weeks has been via my Droid, simply linking to various articles on FB and Twitter.

I hope to be back to full strength shortly; if not, I'll be getting a cortisone shot at the very least (epidurals were mentioned). Once I'm back to normal, look for me to start posting here again, and to return to Heroes & Heartbreakers; I have two articles I stopped mid-way through. Even more frustrating is that reading a print book makes the discomfort worse, so on top of everything, I'm depressed that my favorite pastime now hurts (the irony being that it's how I read that led to the injury over a long period of time in the first place). My Kindle is getting a major workout, but that doesn't help with the PW books I've been assigned to review as none so far have been in digital format.

Anyway, here's to hoping my forced hiatus ends soon.


October 1, 2011

Snarked on Net Neutrality

I've written before about Net Neutrality, and probably a quarter of my tweets relate to the issue. The FCC's Net Neutrality rules just went into effect, and Free Press is one of several entities to file suit against the FCC. The rules, you see, don't provide for true Net Neutrality; while they address the issue where land-based computers are concerned, they don't for wireless.

It's hard to get a handle on how much profit Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint make per cellular customer, but enough is never really enough, is it? AT&T recently eliminated the ability to buy a limited number of texts in favor of a $20.00 option for unlimited texts. I believe wireless companies make approximately a 10,000% texting profit. Another example: When I tried to change our existing plan to less than 700 minutes, I learned the 400 minute option—which would have worked for us as our daughter does most of her talking at night and on weekends— had disappeared. Like restaurants charging more for ever-larger plates, cellular providers are closing out less expensive options in favor of larger profits. And as there's so little competition, who's to stop them?

Free Press, a national, nonpartisan group working to reform media, sends out daily emails about media-related news. Many of those news items these days relate to the activities surrounding the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger (different filings made by AT&T as various items have leaked surrounding costs and jobs, lobbying money spent on Congress, unions, and corporations to win their support, and the recent Justice Department's Anti-Trust filing) to the fight for and against Net Neutrality.

I spend a lot of time reading articles linked to by Free Press in newspapers, magazines, online journals, The Huffington Post, etc., because the issue of Net Neutrality is important to me as a writer and former web publisher. You can imagine, then, that I was more than a little perturbed when I read the following headline yesterday on the Techland blog for @Time by @MattPeckham: Net Neutrality Proponents Sued by Net Neutrality Proponents? Though Peckham eventually cuts to the chase, it's not until four paragraphs in that he addresses the issue; until then the suit is made to sound frivolous and nonsensical. Here's the lead-in that follows the headline:

The folks who just officiated over net neutrality Internet regulations, the Federal Communications Commission, are being sued by—yep, the folks who fought to make net neutrality happen. Net neutrality's advocates suing net neutrality's enforcers?

True story.

Again, Peckham eventually makes Free Press' case, along with the FCC's response, but to me the article's headline, that snarky lead-in, and the lack of context related to the issue frustrated me. What's ultimately at stake is what the creators of the Internet envisioned, not a two-tiered system that cellular providers have already begun to force on customers.

It's clear that corporate interests already have a disproportionate impact on legislation, but articles like Peckham's do nothing to dispel the idea that corporate interests now infect journalism. The media bias I fear comes from corporate America, and that's what I worry filtered through into this particular article. "He said, he said" doesn't provide readers with the information they need to understand what's going on, any more than allowing politicians and their spin-meisters from making lies without being called on their bullshit because we've so perverted the concept of equal time that lies and reality now share the stage.

Yesterday I tweeted my displeasure and early today Matt Peckham answered me in a tweet. And then he snarked me by posting about a #Superficial #Reader" and linking back to his article on the Techland Blog. Ouch!