Tag Archives: TV

The musical handyman

This evening, the guest performers playing with the Butler Symphony Orchestra for their concert titled “Jazz” were Joe Negri and his trio.

Joe’s a well-known and uber-talented jazz guitarist, and an exceedingly nice person. He soloed on a number that is a signature tune for him, an adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. Here’s a clip of him playing it with the Wheeling Symphony.

Continue reading The musical handyman

Holiday Music Countdown: Number 20, with diamond rings underneath the tree

20. Merry Christmas Baby (Lou Rawls)

Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. Really, really happy. That pressure for everyone to be happy may be what brings some of us to long to hear the blues.

"Merry Christmas Baby" was written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore, and popularized by blues singer Charles Brown and then Elvis Presley. If you Google for the lyrics you’ll get a mishmash of stuff that appears to be a transcription of a recording by Elvis. Here’s how the lyrics should read:

Merry Christmas, Baby

Merry Christmas, baby,
You sure did treat me nice.
Merry Christmas, baby,
You sure did treat me nice.
Gave me a diamond ring for Christmas,
Now I’m living in paradise.

Well I’m feeling mighty fine,
Got good music on my radio.
I said I’m feeling mighty fine,
Got good music on my radio.
I want to kiss you, baby,
While you’re standing ‘neath the mistletoe.


Saint Nick came down the chimney
‘Bout a half past three,
Left all these pretty presents
That you see before me.

Merry Christmas, baby,
You sure been good to me.
Merry Christmas, baby,
You sure been good to me.
I haven’t had a drink this morning
But I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree.

Some artists include a final verse, which is more bluesy in spirit than the earlier part of the song — discordantly so, as though Baby put that diamond ring and a whole big bunch of presents under the tree and then left the house, never to return.

Well Santa Claus, Santa Claus,
Won’t you hear my plea.
Well Santa Claus, Santa Claus,
Won’t you hear my plea.
All I want for Christmas
Is bring my baby back to me.

Of all the versions and variations of this song, I prefer Lou Rawls’s rendition, mostly because I love how he sings. So sexy. I have this on Ultra-Lounge
Christmas Cocktails, Pt. 2
, which I recommend wholeheartedly.

Side note: In searching for a visual to accompany this post, I discovered an episode of The Muppet Show with Lou Rawls as the guest star. Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3 of that episode for your flashback entertainment.

Holiday Music Countdown: Numbers 22 and 21, with troubadours, the King, Bing, and a thin white duke

Continuing my highly-subjective countdown of the 25 best holiday songs. (See previous entry here.)

22. Blue Christmas (Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours, Elvis Presley)

Elvis wasn’t the first person to sing "BlueChristmas." It was recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1948 and became a country standard.


Of course, there’s a reason why people think of the Elvis version. It’s because Elvis was amazing. ("Blue Christmas" starts at around 00:40 in this video.)


21. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby & David Bowie)

This duet is terrific — well-arranged, wonderfully sung. It’s almost enough to make one ignore how ridiculous is the dialogue that these two had to wade through to get to the singing bit.


It has always bugged me that David Bowie supposedly doesn’t know who Big Crosby is ("poor relation from America"?), yet he knows that "White Christmas" is Bing’s signature song.

Still, the song is a pretty thing indeed.

Month Impossible: Day Twenty-seven, Murderers, animated treadmills, and yet more writing

Promotional photo for Murderers, at Pittsburgh's City Theatre

I’ve mentioned before that "Murderers," currently playing at City Theatre on Pittsburgh’s South Side, is a terrific play and well worth your time and money, yes?

The play is three monologues, each by a different actor, each beginning with the sentence, "I am a murderer." The play is by Jeffrey Hatcher, a playwright with a strange and dry sense of humor that apparently is closely aligned with my own. He also wrote "A Picasso," which City Theatre put on last year and which I enjoyed quite a bit.

"Murderers" is even better. It’s full of slight asides, charming characters, murder and revenge and people saying very unreasonable things in very reasonable tones. The sets, costumes, sound, lighting and direction are all excellent, and the performances are layered, rich, and engaging. Plus, the intimate Lester Hamburg Studio is an ideal space for these intimate tales of life and death.

What did others think? City Paper loved the play too and the Tribune-Review admired it and wondered if a crime spree was bigger than imagined, while the Post-Gazette didn’t care so much for the play although Christopher Lawson admitted he laughed along with the rest of the audience. As for me, I suggest you find an evening in your busy holiday schedule to slip down to the South Side and take in this play, as an antidote to all that’s saccharine sweet about the holidays.

"Murderers" continues through December 22. Find more information, including how to get tickets, at the City Theatre website.

In other news of things I like, my close personal friends OK Go got a shoutout on the Simpsons this week:

NaNoWriMo update: You’ll note that the word count in the meter in the sidebar is speeding upward. I’m writing my pretty fingers to the bone. thank you to everyone who has offered encouragement. It may sound a cliche, but your words help me keep generating my words.

DrawMo update: My brother Anthony sharpened all my pastel pencils, so I’m set to churn out some pretty new things. And some ugly new things too — I don’t much care right now, as long as I catch up.

Immersed in the environment

Continuing my Cambridge/Boston nostalgia trip: I ate lunch at Legal Seafoods. When I was an undergrad, my parents were apparently concerned that I would not eat properly. So my dad gave me a credit card, and instructed me to eat at Legal Seafoods once a month. He’d eaten there when bringing me up to school for the first time, and been particularly impressed by the clam chowder.

As I remember it, I said I didn’t want to go to a restaurant alone, so I was allowed to bring one person with me for my nutritious meal of the month. My favorite items were the bluefish pate and the ice cream bon bons. I took various friends to dinner in turn. I don’t think my visit did much to affect my health and nutrition, but they did create in me an appreciation for fresh fish.

When I came back to the area for grad school, I didn’t eat at Legal’s very often, but now and again my dear friend Sharon and I would get lunch there, chowder and a sassy beer from the tap.

So today for lunch I ordered a cup of chowder, a salad with goat cheese, apples, and avocados, and a pint of Harpoon I.P.A. The chowder was fine, although a couple bits of grit snuck into my cup. The salad was uninspired. But the beer was cold and crisp, a lovely compliment to a chilly fall day.

Of course, I’m not actually enjoying much of the lovely, chilly, sunny day. I’m in a theatre in the basement of a building on the MIT campus (Bldg E15, for those in the know), for day two of Futures of Entertainment. Now I’m settling in to listen to people from Linden Labs (makers of Second Life), Multiverse.net, and MTV talk about virtual worlds, online spaces, and immersive experiences. Just before lunch we had a spontaneous countdown, from ten to one, bidding tongue-in-cheek farewell to Web 2.0 (this morning’s panel talked about MySpace and fan-based communities) and welcoming in Web 3.0.

Like many people, I have opened an account in Second Life and created a self, but haven’t done anything with it (her?). In fact, she’s only half designed, wearing some weird combination of default clothes and appearance. At some point I’ll get back to her and finish the setup, and go through the training area to learn how to make my way around. I’d like to understand more about what’s available in these kinds of environments — it’s a rapidly changing space, and there’s no way to know what will happen. As with much in this conference, I’m pleased to listen, watch, and learn.

Futures of entertainment

Today and tomorrow I’m in Boston for the Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT. This conference is looking at "developments such as user-generated content, transmedia storytelling, the rise of mobile media and the emergence of social networking." (Find liveblogging by members of the Convergence Culture Consortium here.)

This is conference month for me: Last weekend I participated in PodCampPittsburgh, a two-day conference "for people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about the following: blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization." In the end, the weekend was mostly about putting video and audio media on the web and trying to make money from it, but there was talk too about content in general and more.

There’s so much to say about both these events, and about the trip in general. I’d like to take the time to put my thoughts together, but that would mean delay, and I’d rather get some things online quickly. So here’s a rapid-fire list of unconnected thoughts.

1. It’s tempting to compare this Futures of Entertainment conference with PodCamp: the topic areas overlap significantly, in that they both include online media. But they’re really quite different. PodCamp was an UNconference, in that people could and did spontaneously generate sessions, where this conference is a series of panel discussions by big industry leaders like Flickr, DC Comics, CBSNews.com, and more. Last weekend was lots of how-to, this weekend is big thinking about what new media means, where it’s all going, what we know and don’t know.

Last weekend I spent the whole time meeting people and making connections. So far today I’ve spoken briefly to only one person, and have otherwise been listening and making notes. I feel nearly at cognitive overload, soaking stuff up and processing it, thinking how to apply it to projects I have on hand and will be starting in future. I’m still processing the stuff by last weekend, so partly I may be just cumulatively full for the moment.

Another unexpected difference: PodCampPittsburgh invited sponsors, and so despite even though the conference was free to attend, there was great free food throughout the event and lots of swag. Futures of Entertainment, also free to attend, has no corporate sponsors but some academic sponsorship, so we had a small (nice) continental breakfast this morning, some terrible MIT Catering coffee throughout the day, fend-for-yourself lunch, and a little wine and cheese event on campus tonight. I don’t mind that there’s no free lunch here, but I think some networking/discussion opportunity has been lost.

Then again, we’re not being hit on the head with particular sponsor messages, which is nice. It’s a different vibe. (I am tired of the Flickr and YouTube worship, incidentally.)

2. When I stepped out of the Government Center T station last night, walking to my hotel by Faneuil Hall, I felt a rush of joy at being back in Boston. This morning, taking the T to MIT, I was positively elated, smiling at strangers and skipping through puddles. All day I’ve felt that I’d like to move back here. I think that feeling will wear off, and what it really means is that I should visit here more often than only every eight years.

3. An area where the two conferences are alike: Mac users seem to outnumber Windows users. By a lot. I believe this is due to Macs having a combination of better online and media generation tools and greater cool factor.

4. At home in Butler, I frequently find myself explaining what blogs are and why they’re neat. Here, everyone knows already. I am among my people. That’s kind of nice, but then again I feel like I have more to offer the folks back home. Again, this probably means I need to take more trips and see what’s out here, and take it home with me.

5. The MIT campus is prettier than it was in the 1980s. It’s still kinda ugly though.

6. After PodCampPittsburgh, I felt it was urgent that I get moving and get into online media. Today, in the middle of this conference, I’m practically in a panic about it. I’m having trouble staying in my seat, so great is my desire to run back to the hotel and work. But then, the information here is so interesting and valuable I also can’t leave, for fear of missing key pieces. This may also help explain why I’m not talking to anyone: I’m so tense I’ve temporarily lost my ability to socialize.

7. The Media Lab’s open wi-fi is terrific. But having a constant connection to the web during a panel discussion is beyond distracting. I’m having to shut the computer so as not to miss things.

OK, must get back to listening. Will post more later.