now playing: toto, "99"

children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

maya angelou, i know why the caged bird sings

i'd like to introduce you to someone.

this is grace. grace oughton.

grace is not yet two years old.

she was diagnosed this past christmas (!) with neuroblastoma, an agressive form of cancer for which she's currently being treated at children's hospital in boston.

i found out about grace when my friend angela here at work sent me an email from the company's old travel agent, whos' a friend of the family. the familys' community has responded to this in a big way, and a circle of supporters have sprung from this simple email that asked for nothing but prayers a week or so ago.

there is now a website, savegrace.com, with news, pictures, a journal, and yes - a place to send donations.

this is a working family, good people, who just want their child back.

some of you will read right past this and go about whatever you were doing. and that's fine, i suppose - we all cope with things like this differently.

i hope that at least one or two of you will take the time to visit the site and stop by the journal and get to know these people and get a look at what parents go through when they're hit with something this devastating...and how truly resilient children are - even in the face of something as life-altering as cancer.

van halen's fault

now playing: shame, "turn you on"

ok, i know it's probably old news, but nonetheless, it appears that debra lafave has struck a plea - which may mean something to those of you who follow the news more closely than i do, but today was the first i'd heard about this case....to summarize, this 25 year old teacher was apparently having sex with a 14 year old boy - a lot in a short time, as a matter of fact. something like 3 times in 4 days...it's all in the story. go look.

i don't know what people are saying about this, because it hasn't really come up around the watercooler here, if you know what i mean....but my immediate reaction can't be that far from what most other guys i know would be. which is to say, take a look at this woman for a minute:

my immediate thought was, "where the hell were the teachers that looked like that when I was 14?"

seriously - she's HOT! i mean, who is it exactly that complained about this? if a normal 14 year old boy came forward and said to someone, "listen, i've got a serious problem, man...i'm banging my incredibly hot teacher whos' ten years older than i am...and i'm not sure what to do. should i tell my parents or go to the police?" - i mean, can you really even visualize that? 3 times in 4 days...most teenage boys masturbate more often than that, fer chrissake!

now, granted, just because she looks like that doesn't mean she's necessarily got any, uh, skills....but let's say that she's at least passable, for the sake of argument. i mean, i knew a bartender once who insisted that there's absolutely no such thing as bad sex...and at 14, i'd be inclined to think that even if that's not true, that you wouldn't have had enough sex at that point in your life to know the difference. either way, this kid definitely has stories to tell that none of his friends will be able to top.

i guess what i'm trying to say is that this is all van halen's fault. if they hadn't made that indecent video all those years ago, this concept wouldn't even have occured to any of us.

did i mention that she's HOT?

editors' note: just to make sure we're clear on this - the subject of "what if the genders were reversed and my daughter were having sex with her 25 year old male teacher" is not open for discussion at this juncture. this is a purely incredulous male ponderance, and was never meant to be politically correct.

but what about the real world?

now playing: pure prairie league, "early morning riser"

a quote from my friend drew:

"people bitch all the time that they don't play music on MTV anymore. honestly, that doesn't bother me. i do, however, wish they'd play some on the radio now and then."

roger that, brother.


like father, like son - example #683-A

now playing: dan fogelberg, "the innocent age"

storybook endings never appear
they're just someone's way of leading us here
waiting for wisdom to open the cage
we forged in the fires of the innocent age

back at the start, it was easy to see
no one to hold to, nowhere to be
deep in the heartlands, a sad memory
calls to me....

i woke up this morning to the sound of the trashman at a little before 6 am from one of the craziest dreams i've had in ages...i mean, it made absolutely no sense..but yet it was both incredibly vivid and hazy at the same time, and i've been kinda jumbled up about it ever since...

i mean, it's not something that revealed anything about myself to me or anything like that - it just cast a bunch of unlikely people together that didn't make any sense...and it combined some details of some things that have been on my mind of late in a truly twisted way.

as the day has gone on, it's subsided somewhat...it's probably something that might require that i just get out a piece of paper and put it down in front of me and see what comes out (a la julia cameron).

then, once i sprang out of bed, i had to take dylan for bloodwork before i took him to school today...yet another seemingly routine activity, right? well, just like his father two decades before him, dylan had something of an "episode" when they went to take his blood...no sooner had she put the needle in did he mention that he felt lightheaded, and within seconds, his eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped backward in the chair. his face flushed to a grey color, and he started convulsing - not in an intense manner, he just went very stiff and jerked a couple of times, and then went limp again. the nurse who was taking his blood was looking all over the office for smelling salts and couldn't find any - in the meantime, i kept slapping his cheeks to try to get him to come around. after about a minute or so, he focused his eyes on my face and responded to me when i said his name...it took a while for his color to come back, but by the time we left, he was back to normal. a little lethargic, but that's become somewhat commonplace for him of late.

you never know, on a given day, which dylan is going to get out of bed...the usual, joke-cracking dylan, or the other one - the one that i got today. the can't-be-bothered-to-lift-a-finger dylan...the one who makes getting dressed look like manual labor.

anyway, i wanted to take him for something for breakfast, but he declined...saying he didn't feel like eating anything. so i took him to school and dropped him off and watched him walk into the building under his own power, and reluctantly drove on to work.

i know what you're thinking - why would you take your child to school after something like that? i'm thinking the same thing...but the fact is, dylan is positioned to fall hopelessly behind again if he misses any more school than he has...and he's not one to make gigantic efforts to catch up when something like that happens. so, from where i sit, i have to be the uber-bad guy and force the shit out of the school issue, just to make sure that it's clear that i see school as a priority, even if he doesn't.

and yeah, maybe that's an extreme means by which to drive such a point home...taking him to school after something like that...but if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile, and he's far enough back as it is. by that time his color had come back and his breathing had become normal...and i wasn't going to be the one to make that call. i'll let the school nurse register that vote every time. i just feel better letting them register the opinion that he doesn't belong in school, as opposed to continually keeping him out.

does that make any sense? i dunno.

there's apparently a name for this phenomena - the whole passing-out-after-having-blood-drawn thing. i remember having heard it after it happened to me when i was still in the navy, stationed in DC and working at the pentagon.

i had seen those ads in the city paper - you know, the "come let us give you drugs and draw your blood and test your reaction for a couple of days and we'll pay you $1500 for the privelege" ads? they're nowhere near as prevalent in the philadelphia city paper as they were in the DC version, but at that point in time they were dripping out of the back of the thing...in between the 976 numbers and the "find hot man action tonight!" ads.

at the time, i was working a schedule that they referred to as 2/24/2/96 - which meant you worked two twelve hour day shifts, had a 24 hour break, worked two twelve hour night shifts, and then had 96 hours off. and i figured, what better way to spend my four days off than to be sequestered in a medical testing compound being prodded and poked and given repeated doses of mystery tablets, right? i mean, c'mon...pinch me, man!

anyway, i called 'em up, got the pertinent "be at this address at this time" information, which included instructions not to eat anything after 8pm the previous night, and i was on my way to the initial testing phase.

i got there at around 10am, to find that the place was packed...people of every walk of life were filed into this place, waiting for their opportunity to flip death the bird for $1500 - college kids, immigrants who didn't speak english, folks who looked a rent payment away from homelessness sitting next to cardiganed philosophy majors...it was quite the human highway, believe me.

well, with that many folks to weed through, the process took quite a while. in fact, it was well after 5pm by the time i got to the all-important "take several gallons of blood" phase of the testing...having filled out forms and stood on scales and said "aaaaaaagghghgh" any number of times up to that point. in that sense, it was very much like the enlistment process all over again.

so i go in, sit down - i notice that it's getting dark outside - and put my arm on the arm of the chair...i can hear the radio playing in the room...phil collins...she puts the rubber hose around my arm...everything still fine now...gets several tubes from a box and lays them out on the table next to her...preps the needle..."billy, don't you lose my number...'cuz it's the only one..."...i'm looking across the room at a poster on the wall detailing the path taken to traverse the human digestive system...

the next thing i remember is the sound of the phlebotomists' voice saying "i need some help over here" and the linoleum floor coming into focus - i had slumped over in my chair, that much i knew...but what happened before that, i couldn't tell you. i don't know if i went through any of the stuff that dylan did yesterday or not, in terms of the seizure-like physical stuff or not...all this time, i thought i just slumped over in my chair and that was it. now, i don't really know.

i can tell you that i never got a phone call from them after i finished the process that day.

guess they figured that they didn't want to go through that every time they starved me for 24 hours and then took my blood.


dylan made it through the morning...went to the nurses' office around 4th period and laid down and fell asleep, and the nurse called his grandparents to come pick him up.

so he was a trooper about it...he did his best to ride it out.


good vibes

now playing: little feat, "fat man in the bathtub"

thanks to my longtime buddy heinrich for his kind words this week. he made mention of some long-and-likely-thankfully-lost tracks that were done in one of many drunken stupors back in the day that, i told him, will probably be archived someday if The Great Digitization ever actually takes place...

and, while i'm on the subject - thanks to all of you who were so kind and supportive in reply to the inaugural issue of the mailing list recently. encouragement can be hard to come by, and it's truly appreciated. thank you.

like very pretty rats from a sinking ship

now playing: lynyrd skynyrd, "simple man"

looks like the chicks are about to join the elite group of country superstars like emmylou, lyle lovett, rosanne cash, willie nelson, loretta lynn, and God only knows who else on the list of formerly embraced nashville stars who've had to take their business elswehere for acceptance. not that i have a problem with the man or his work, but i'm just glad they didn't jump on the daniel lanois bandwagon. that just wouldn't have worked for them.

Nashville Pines for Dixie Chicks

Country stations eagerly await new music from formerly banned trio

When the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines made her infamous anti-Bush, anti-war comments almost three years ago, she exposed a shocking truth: Country music, as it turns out, is not 100 percent Republican.

With radio stations across the nation boycotting their music and outraged commentators predicting walkouts at their concerts, the Chicks were made to seem like very lonely liberals in the love-it-or-leave-it world of country. In hindsight, however, the group set off a political bombshell of an altogether different sort: They blew open the door for a remarkable number of closeted Music Row Democrats.

In fact, that's the name of a high-powered Nashville advocacy group that sprang up in the wake of the controversy. The blackballing of the Dixie Chicks was a prime motivation in the founding of the left-leaning political action committee, says co-founder Bob Titley, a prominent talent manager (Brooks and Dunn, Kathy Mattea) and a confirmed Democrat. "There was a failure in our community to step up to their defense," he says.

The Music Row Democrats now claim more than 1,300 members, including key Nashville executives, songwriters and artists such as Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. "The organization grew spectacularly fast," says country music historian Robert K. Oermann, a founding member. "People were hiding in corners, afraid to come out. Now the community is more mobilized."

As the political tides turn -- not just in Nashville but nationally -- the Chicks are preparing to release their long-awaited follow-up to 2002's Home, an as-yet untitled album recorded with renegade producer Rick Rubin. "Instead of making a country album with a rock side," Rubin recently told Rolling Stone, "we wanted to do a rock album that leaned country, like [Tom] Petty or Gram Parsons."

Hints like that have unnerved some in the country industry, where sales were recently reported to be down about ten percent from 2004. From an economic perspective, it's tough to argue with an act that has sold more than 22 million copies of its first three major-label studio albums, according to SoundScan.

"We need them," says Clay Hunnicutt, Clear Channel's vice president of country programming nationwide. "Radio is always looking for great artists with great music, great hits."

Yet the Dixie Chicks -- Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire -- may have already moved on. "We don't feel a part of the country scene any longer," Maguire told the German magazine Der Speigel in September 2003. "We now consider ourselves part of the big rock & roll family." (The group, lying low in anticipation of the new release, declined to comment for this story.)

There are a few hardcore holdouts who continue to boycott the Chicks. In Lubbock, Texas -- Maines' hometown -- the staff at KLLL 96.3 ("Country for Texans") has recently tried spinning an occasional Chicks track after more than two years of banishment. Many local listeners, says PD Jeff Scott, are still upset that a hometown product would declare she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," as Maines did.

Lubbock, Scott notes, recently took second place in a poll of the most conservative cities in the nation. "People still have a lot of anger over what was said. It's been a real lightning rod for us."

Elsewhere, however, there are nagging questions about the legitimacy of some of those complaints. Titley is one of several people interviewed who claimed that the rash of angry calls demanding boycotts were at least partly the result of a coordinated effort by conservative political activists.

Despite the controversy -- or perhaps because of it -- the Chicks continued to prove their commercial viability, selling almost six million copies of Home and mounting the top-grossing country tour of 2003. Now, as they prepare to reenter the spotlight, some speculate that the group might be poised to shun the industry that shunned them.

"If I were the Chicks," says Oermann, "I wouldn't give a rat's behind if [country] radio played us."

Titley, too, thinks a little payback may be in order. "Now that things have fallen apart politically on the right," he says, "there might be a certain vindication."

But industry gatekeepers say it will be hard to ignore the Dixie Chicks' commercial track record when the new album comes out. Mike Peterson, program director for Chicago's WUSN ("America's Country Station"), says he's keeping his fingers crossed that the new album will work for his station's format. "I can't wait to hear it," he says. "I want to own the Dixie Chicks in this market."

"It doesn't matter to me which side of the political spectrum pulls for them," says Brian Phillips, executive vice president and general manager of country music network CMT. "The Dixie Chicks captivated the limelight to the extent that it caused a lot of conversation."

And he says that's good for business: "We're not looking for wallpaper."



reading the comments from KLLL'w program director, i can't help but wonder if he harbors the belief that they were ashamed that the president was from texas...as opposed to the more correct emphasis being that they were ashamed that the president was from texas...

boy, you just never really know, man.



now playing: brave the day, "fire trucks"

well, i'm glad that's over...for the most part, anyway.

some of you got the official notice yesterday that the website was being relaunched - it's now up and online. there's still some additional content to be added, but all the pieces are in place, and it works...unless there's a link somewhere that i didn't test, which feels to me at this point as if it's highly unlikely.

so - i apologize for my inattentiveness to this particular element of my online prescence of late...with everything that's going on right now, something has to give. this may continue for a few weeks, but it's only a temporary thing.

since it's the weekend, there's a ton of stuff that i have to do while certain things wouldn't be considered a nuisance to the neighbors...so i'm gonna get at it.

oh, and happy new year.


thinning the herd

now playing: pure prairie league, "the cost of doing business"

i might have mentioned here some time back that i was playing with charlie degenhart right before christmas...it was at the tin angel in philadelphia...i took my gibson lap steel, my newish agile mandolin with the pickup in it, and my gretsch anniversary with the bigsby tremolo on it. i realized, after i got there, that every instrument i'd brought with me had a tobacco sunburst finish on it - i kinda felt like a tool for having matching instruments. it was funny, we got a laugh out of it, and moved on...the show itself would've been great, but i had this awful hum coming from my amp which i thought originally was a result of being plugged into the same outlet as the lighting fixtures...but i moved it and had the same result. anyway, i soldiered on - the mandolin was unaffected because it went directly into the pa, and it was present but somewhat tolerable on the lap steel. the gretsch just wasn't cutting it, though. it didn't sound - well, like a gretsch.

and that night, i wrote it off to the troubles of the day. but then i brought it home and played it for a bit, and i had a rare revelation.

maybe it's time to let this one go.

now, that might not seem like an earth-shaking sentiment to most people...maybe even to the majority of people who know me. but to truly understand this, i guess you really have to know my fascination with gretsch guitars.

i never caught onto the whole brian setzer thing when it hit. never cared for rockabilly at all, still don't, really. but when i really dove into the crosby, stills, and nash catalog hard - back in the late 80's/early 90's, believe it or not...it took me that long - i became enamoured of them. i loved the way they sounded, i loved the way they looked, and i had to have one.

well, around that time, i got my opportunity - a sunburst 1959 country club that i bought from an ad on the wall at a supermarket. it was a package deal - i got that guitar, a 1946 martin 00-17, and a blackface fender deluxe amp for $1250. it was one of a few unbelievable deals that i've been in the right place at the right time for in my life. but i had to sell that one during the period of time when i was playing full-time due to a lack of funds. my next gretsch was a double anniversary model that i got in '96 or so - it was a casualty of my split with the kids' mom.

and for a long time, i've thought about getting one, and i just haven't found the right one.

this particular one, the sunburst double anniversary in the picture, was an eBay purchase. i landed a couple of computer builds in a row that yielded some decent money, and it showed up at just the right time, and i grabbed it. i immediately took it to the first following stone road gig and played it - it was adequate for rhythm work, but it didn't really feel right for soloing. i used it a couple of times after that, but i wouldn't call it part of my regular work stable.

when i got down to brass tacks on this latest project, though, i went through the arsenal and pulled out the guitars that i thought would be most appropriate for the project. i put away the PRSes and the heavy duty stuff, and this one came out. so when it was time to pack for charlies' gig, i thought - what the hell? and i brought it along.

turned out to be its last show with me. i sold it to a nice guy on the west coast, who seems thrilled with it. and i got to buy new gear for the studio, which i needed. so everybody wins.

and it wasn't as painful as i thought it would be...the whole "letting go of a guitar" thing. if i hadn't needed additional gear, i might have just held onto it...but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me at the moment. there's a pretty major space crunch staring me in the face in the not-too-distant future, and i need to start thinking about that...where the studio is concerned.

anyway - she was a nice ol' gal, and i'll miss her...


the internet continues to swallow the record biz - film at eleven

now playing: jars of clay, "art in me"

dunno if it's because of their attorney generals' valiant efforts to finally curtail the record industries' decades-old practice of paying radio to play their product, or if they just find it more newsworthy of late than normal, but the new york times has been all over the web-ization of music distribution lately...this from todays' issue:


Buying Music From Anywhere and Selling It for Play on the Internet

Working in the media and entertainment group of the consultants McKinsey & Company, Greg Scholl got a firsthand look at the inefficiency in the music business: the major record labels focus on creating hits, and they rarely make money on releases that sell less than a few hundred thousand copies.

Now, as chief executive of the Orchard, a music distributor that sells to iTunes, Napster, Yahoo and other digital music services, Mr. Scholl is trying to exploit that inefficiency.

The Orchard is seeking to make money by purchasing music from small independent and foreign labels, and then distributing it to digital music services. In most music stores, CD's of, say, Chinese or Kenyan pop music would be consigned to the world-music bin as a good will gesture. But the economics of online stores is changing the financial calculations of the music business, making it profitable to sell a relatively small number of copies of a song, as long as a compact disc is not manufactured and distributed.

So instead of trying to sell millions of copies of hundreds of albums, the standard music industry strategy, the Orchard hopes to sell hundreds of copies of thousands of albums. In that way, the company is anticipating that sales will follow a pattern known as "the long tail," in which a large number of only marginally popular items can eventually produce significant revenue.

"We're not trying to make something a hit in order to make a business work," Mr. Scholl said. "We cast a very wide net, and we're going to catch some hits in it."

So far, the Orchard has made deals to sell about 650,000 tracks from 72 countries to various services, including ring tone outlets. Those tracks include music from relatively well-known bands like Black Uhuru as well as thousands of Chinese pop songs. Much of that music is not yet online, and the company is not sure if all of it will ever be. The plan is to add music to various services gradually, so it can be promoted appropriately.

The Orchard is not the only company looking to strike gold in the more obscure parts of the music business. One of the Orchard's rivals, the Independent Online Distribution Alliance, recently got the rights to digitally distribute 60,000 albums worth of music from a Chinese state-owned record company. The Orchard also faces competition from distribution companies owned by major labels.

The bet that executives of these businesses are making is that online services will increase demand for music that was not previously popular, just as eBay stoked the sale of old books and trinkets once considered largely worthless.

As Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research, put it: "In the world of shiny plastic discs, there are two barriers to getting the music you want: It's not in the store, or you've never heard of it. With digital distribution, the first barrier disappears. The second gets eased because of search engines, recommendation engines, technology like that."

The Orchard was founded in 1997 as a distribution company by Scott Cohen and Richard Gottehrer, a songwriter whose hits included "My Boyfriend's Back." Named after its original location, on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it began losing money and eventually acquired a reputation as being less than prompt with payments.

In 2003 the Orchard was purchased by Dimensional Associates, the private equity arm of JDS Capital Management, for what Mr. Scholl indicated was less than $10 million. Dimensional also owns the online service eMusic and a music publishing company, and was interested in the Orchard partly because of the digital distribution rights it had acquired.

"We were aware of the reputation," said Mr. Scholl, who was brought in to run the company, "and we worked to pay everyone back and begin more transparent accounting."

The Orchard, Mr. Scholl said, is a "digital aggregator," a middleman between small independent labels and digital music services. Major labels, as well as most sizable independents, deal with such services directly or through an established physical distribution company like the Alternative Distribution Alliance, owned by Warner Music.

The Orchard, as well as the Independent Online Distribution Alliance, mostly represent small labels in quantity. Along with a smattering of tracks recorded by stars before they signed with major labels, they offer an embarrassment of niches: free jazz, black metal and, in the case of the Orchard, a label that specializes in calliope music. And as the cost of putting tracks online is low, anything that can sell a few copies is worthwhile.

"I'd say we more or less want everything," remarked Kevin Arnold, founder and chief executive of the independent alliance.

Most digital distribution deals give the distributor 15 percent of the wholesale price of a track, usually somewhere around 65 cents, according to several people in the industry. Mr. Scholl said that the Orchard generally receives a higher percentage because it can effectively promote music to the services that sell it. To generate attention for some of the music from China, for example, it arranged for Jackie Chan to provide a list of his favorite tracks.

"It's the equivalent of taking the music from the backroom, where you'd have to look for it, into the store," Mr. Scholl said.

For some of the Orchard's international partners, the strategy is working. Epsa, an Argentine tango label, distributes about 500 albums through the Orchard. Laura Tesoriero, the label's chief executive, who also works with the Orchard as a representative in South America, said it had sold 10,000 digital tracks last quarter - no more than a rounding error by the standards of the United States pop music market, but enough to leave her feeling encouraged about the future of digital sales. A significant number of those sales, she expects, were to Argentines living in this country.

The most significant growth in the sale of foreign music could come as the idea of buying online gains traction among such immigrant communities.

"People in China don't think of Chinese music as world music and neither do Chinese people in the U.S.," said Yale Evelev, president of Luaka Bop, an independent label owned by David Byrne that specializes in pop music from Africa and South America.

The Orchard will face greater competition as major labels sell the music they release internationally in the United States. The EMI Group, for example, plans to make available in this country a majority of the music it sells anywhere in the world, Adam Klein, a vice president, said. As an example of the potential of this, Mr. Klein said that Hotei, a band signed by EMI in Japan, had one of the top 10 rock albums on iTunes after one of its songs appeared on the soundtrack of "Kill Bill: Volume 1."

Even with a business model that does not rely on hits, they would be welcome. "One man's niche is another man's mass market," Mike McGuire, a Gartner analyst said.


the ramifications of time travel

now playing: marvin gaye, "mercy mercy me"

i remember seeing a rolling stone special once where smokey robinson said that if this album (what's going on) were to come out today, it would be a smash...

well, smokey...i guess i'm just gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you, there...

records come out every day, every week, every month, that people don't understand, don't accept, don't appreciate....and yet ashley simpson is everywhere you turn. i'd venture to say that if marvin gaye was reincarnated in the year he died (1984), he'd be 21 now, and would probably be an anomaly - he'd probably be writing songs and recording them in his apartment, shopping for a deal right about now...and if he was making the same kind of music he made in his day, he'd be taking his first steps down a long, disappointing road.

i can't even imagine what kind of a conversation that'd be - the one between marvin's manager and the a&r guy? "well, you know, if it were up to me, i'd love to put this out...but i'm not hearing a single here. seriously, baby, where's the hooks here, huh? the choruses just don't come up quick enough, and the drums just aren't up enough in the mix. i mean, i love it. i do. but i just can't sell this one to the man, baby. can't sell it."

so he'd have to resort to the internet, most likely...he'd put up a myspace page, start a blog, and sell his stuff on itunes, and get a day job fixing computers to pay his bills...

...and eventually, he'd probably get discouraged, stop writing, and start playing covers at a piano bar. and the world would be poorer for not having heard "what's going on", "mercy mercy me", "make me wanna holler", "what's happening, brother", etc., etc...

so there, smokey. put that in your pipe and smoke it.

in other, more pertinent news....

some of you are already aware that i'm going to be playing at the colonial theatre in phoenixville on february 10th, opening for friends and heroes poco. it's going to be a full band show - i'll have some details about that for you in the coming days as well, but suffice to say, it's gonna be a kick-ass band, with some guests that, frankly, surprise even me. :)

i wish i had more time and/or fuel to continue on a bit about this, but the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be done over the course of the next month is making my head hurt - so i'll check back in a bit later. i just don't like letting this space go for too long unnoticed. i read an article on cnn.com a while back about how over half of all blogs on the internet are abandoned (see my sidebar for some examples), and i developed this resolve to never let mine be one of them...although it often may appear as such.


a new corporate holiday

now playing: brave the day, "fire trucks"

i, your humble IT technician, do hereby declare today, the fourth day of january in the year of our lord 2006, to be Stupid Question Day.

henceforth, on this day, you will be not only allowed but encouraged to come up to me and say ignorant shit like this:

"i just saved a spreadsheet and now i can't find it."

ever hear of the search button, dick? and you're supposed to be an engineer?

"i got an error in my email program this morning when i tried to open an appointment."

me: what did it say?

"i don't know."

then i don't know what to tell you about how to fix your problem, captain specific. now get the hell outta my office!

"i'm leaving for vacation soon. what do i do so that i can take my laptop with me?"

(backstory: this user has had his company-issued laptop for almost two years now. in that time, it has never once left its docking station. about a month ago, i went to this users' home to work on his personal laptop, at which time i set it up with VPN access and company email. so now, of course, he wants to take his other laptop with him.

no, this isn't mixerman, and no, i'm not capable of making this kinda shit up...)

(in response to email about new spam filter interface): "so if i don't want it anymore, do i delete it?"

no, don't delete it...print 4500 copies of it, bind them together with duct tape, and beat yourself over the head with it until you forget my goddamn phone number.

in all seriousness, i'm not sure what's wrong with the people in this building today - it's as if all capability for logic or deductive reasoning has been sucked out through the HVAC ducts or something. i mean, there's always one or two of those kinds of questions thrown into the mix over the course of a week, but every one of these scenarios has occured before lunch today.

ok. i already feel much better, just by virture of having written this down.

all better now. nothing to see here.

just walk softly if you're coming down the hallway towards my space with a goofy-assed question.

sleep is for slackers

now playing: mark kozelek, "kentucky woman"

i have really....really....got to re-evaluate my sleeping habits with an eye towards trying to be a little more discliplined about how i go about this whole routine.

not that insomnia doesn't have its rewards - the solitude that is becoming increasingly difficult to come by, for instance.

i came home last night from work dead tired, having only slept for a couple of hours before getting up for work...i had a freshly printed out "to-do list" in my hand, and sat down to set about the tasks i'd laid out for myself, only to end up frustrated with one in particular - so i laid down on the love seat and fell dead asleep. i woke up a little before midnight to the strains of the orange bowl drifting from the television - it was the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and the battle of the shitty kickers was really just getting underway...i watched as two teams took turns taking futile shots at the end zone, only to send their crooked-legged kickers onto the field to respectively miss field goal after field goal. finally, on the final posession of the third overtime volley, the penn state kicker (who had missed two field goals that any NFL kicker could've made sitting down) finally put the winning kick between the uprights.

i can't wait....seriously, cannot WAIT - to see chris bermans' top ten plays of the week this sunday on NFL primetime.

anyway, i tried to go back to sleep after that, but at around 2:30 i gave up and came downstairs...i finished a couple of web design things that i've been putting off, got some things together that i have to ship out for ebay and cdbaby, and some various and sundry tasks that needed my attention.

among all that, i found this piece on cameron crowe's official site...i know that one of these days, i'm gonna get in trouble for reprinting this stuff, but this was just too special not to share....



I went back home to San Diego for a wedding recently.

I stood in the doorway of my old room. It's about the size of a closet, and while I was growing up the walls bulged with albums on both sides. Somewhere in between, breathing a small sliver of air, I did most of my writing for ROLLING STONE. In the mid-Seventies, ROLLING STONE was just about the only place for a musician to stretch out, to talk about things that mattered, to be taken seriously. Very few artists wouldn't sit for an interview with the magazine. Carole King was one; she pleaded privacy. Joni Mitchell was another; she hadn't appreciated the family-tree drawing of her ex-boyfriends. The most elusive interview subject, though, was Jimmy Page.

Led Zeppelin's founder and star guitarist, Page had never done an interview with ROLLING STONE. He swore he never would. Page's loathing for the magazine was well known in rock circles. ROLLING STONE had run five straight negative reviews of the band's albums, but it was the scathing dismissal of Zeppelin's debut LP that stayed with Page. He was sure it was personal. "Why should I deal with that magazine?" he said in 1973. "They tried to destroy my band." I was then interviewing him for the Los Angeles Times, but I didn't dare tell Page that I was a regular contributor to ROLLING STONE, too. He might have ended the interview right there. I was a die-hard fan, and Page seemed to appreciate my detailed fan-oriented questions that day. ("Exactly whose voice says, `Have you seen the bridge?' ") When the band came to the States to tour in 1975, I was one of two journalists invited to go with them. (Lisa Robinson was the other.) Armed with an assignment from editor Ben Fong-Torres, my goal was to talk Led Zeppelin into a cover story for ROLLING STONE. The English hard-rock bands were my favorites, and this helped build my relationship with the magazine. I came along at a time when the original faction of RS writers, great ones like Ben and Lester Bangs and Robert Greenfield, didn't really care to spend, say, a Southwestern swing through America with Deep Purple. (I still run into metalheads who refer to the famous Steak-Throwing Incident, from a '75 interview with Ritchie Blackmore.)

For me, on-the-road reporting was a dream - and a constant irritation to my parents. I'd leave home for a few days and come back weeks later. Because I was still in school at the time, it drove my parents nuts. At the height of my rock-journalism beat, I was on my way back from a Lynyrd Skynyrd tour and ran into a Rory Gallagher tour in the airport. I joined the tour for a few days for Creem, then jumped over to a Crosby and Nash tour for ROLLING STONE. As Annie Leibovitz reminisced recently, picking up a prestigious photography award: "I always believed my life would never be as exciting as the people I went on the road with."

In many ways, I grew up on the ROLLING STONE beat. I lost my virginity, fell in love, interviewed my heroes, left home. Back to the Led Zeppelin cover. Working with the band's publicist, Danny Goldberg, I hatched a plan to get Zeppelin to agree to the story. It had to be done carefully. I would join the tour in Chicago, and we would ease the band into the delicate ROLLING STONE issue along the way. Touring with Led Zeppelin meant huge crowds, sleek limousines, the finest hotels . . . and still, an underdog feeling in the air. Zeppelin was the black sheep of English hard rock.

It was inevitable that every time Led Zeppelin would tour, so would the Rolling Stones. Zeppelin would outdraw the Stones easily, but you'd never know it from the media coverage. In its day, Zeppelin's life was lived mostly out of the spotlight. On the road, Zeppelin was a family. The band members' squabbles were open, their infidelities were open, drugs were not. The only drug used in my presence was amyl nitrite, gleefully snapped in my face by piratesque road manager Richard Cole, much in the same way others might hug hello. (On many assignments throughout the Seventies, cocaine was the obvious drug of choice. My aversion to the drug probably made me more popular with the musicians who used it.) Every once in a while someone would say, "Shh, there's a writer here." And Page would always reply: "He's all right. He's family." Robert Plant was the first to agree to the ROLLING STONE interview. (Page said no immediately.) Sick with a cold in Chicago, Plant sat in the Ambassador Hotel and talked for hours. Like most artists with something to prove, he had a great interview in him. Page was still the focus of the band; Plant was thought of, almost secondarily, as the Singer. In our interview he revealed himself as the major collaborator that he was. I transcribed our conversation that night. "Stay after Jimmy," said Plant. "He'll give in. If he doesn't, you've always got me for your cover." Page would not give in. I stayed with the tour, hoping for a wind of change. Back home, I had been canceled out of two classes. I didn't care. Nightly, tour photographer Neal Preston and I would fly out to Zeppelin shows in Cleveland and Indianapolis on the band's plane, the Starship, watch the concerts from onstage and then return with the band to its tour base in Chicago. The Starship was Zeppelin's sanctuary, a place to discuss the creative competition, study videos of California Jam or The Girl Can't Help It or just watch drummer John Bonham thundering up and down the aisle, bellowing Monty Python routines. We spent hours together, but Page refused to bring up the ROLLING STONE subject with me. Finally, in Detroit, bassist John Paul Jones agreed to an interview. Then Bonham gave in. Danny Goldberg had been right. The friendly competition within the band could not abide a Led Zeppelin cover story that featured only Robert. Our interviews were scheduled for New York, two days later. I stayed on the tour. More frantic calls home. "You must get to Page," said Ben Fong-Torres, back at the magazine's main office, in San Francisco. "Ask the tough questions. Write about what you see." I had now been on the tour two weeks, and still no Jimmy Page interview.
Back home, my parents were positive I was on drugs. I approached Page one night on the plane ride back from a show in Pittsburgh. He was sorry, he said, he could not cooperate. He could not understand how a writer would even want to work for ROLLING STONE. "They had no use for me when I needed them," said Page bitterly. "Now they want my face to sell magazines. Tell me why I should give them an interview. Give me a reason. I'll bet you can't." I stood there and began talking, saying anything, just to keep him from turning me down again. I told him that the record-review section was not one person who decided what artists the magazine liked or didn't like; it was mostly freelancers like me (didn't work). I told him his fans deserved to read about the band in the magazine (didn't work). Then I told him that I used to work at a record store, and our behind-the-counter joke was that if you bought only the records ROLLING STONE gave good reviews to, you'd have the worst collection of anyone you knew.

This worked.

"All right," he said finally, "I'll do the interview. But I won't pose for the cover." We completed the interview two nights later at the Plaza Hotel, in New York City, where he alternately discussed his life with Led Zeppelin and listened with rapture to a rare Joni Mitchell radio interview I'd borrowed from a friend ("Her voice . . . her voice . . . just listen to her voice"). Sitting on the floor of his presidential-sized suite, suitcases half-unpacked all around him, Page ended the interview on an oddly enigmatic note. He was still searching, he said, for an "angel with a broken wing." He asked to keep the Joni Mitchell tape, I said all right, and somewhere about three hours into sunrise he agreed to pose for the cover, too. Time was now of the essence. Ben held the cover open for a shot to be taken by Neal Preston. We had to do the photo the next day to make the cover. Neal specially reserved a room at the Plaza and set up his backdrop. It was the band's day off. The members were informed of the shoot, they agreed, we were almost there. That morning, Page disappeared. Plant was the first to arrive - at 4:00 p.m. - his shirt "accidentally" fallen open, his jeans and hair "accidentally" perfect. ("I've been preparing for this for years.") Then John Paul Jones arrived with Bonham. Joe Walsh and his then manager, Irving Azoff, arrived to help their friend Page through this most tender ordeal, but Jimmy was nowhere to be found.

Finally, Page arrived. In his arms were two bouquets of dead roses - his defiant statement for the cover of ROLLING STONE. He explained his delay: "I was looking for black roses. They exist, you know." He looked around the room. "Let's do this quickly." The session began. Three of the four members of Led Zeppelin struck a conciliatory pose, but the fourth, Page, held the roses and stared right through the camera. It was his chilling look that made the photo. The film was rushed to the lab, and I flew home to San Diego to write up the story. I had decided that it would be a question-and-answer feature; that's how good the interviews were. The call came in early the next day. There had been an equipment malfunction. The film was unusable; barely exposed was a dark silhouette of what might have been - a ROLLING STONE cover to rival the magazine's best. The cover was hastily hand-colored from Neal's live photos, and it turned out nicely. The article ran as scheduled. It was an immediate seller for the magazine.

Soon after, Ben Fong-Torres called. Jann Wenner, the editor in chief, wanted to meet me. I flew to San Francisco two days later. Ben picked me up at the airport. It was not a great day, he informed me; Jann would probably not be seeing me. Wenner's mentor and an early sponsor of ROLLING STONE, the esteemed Ralph J. Gleason, had passed away the night before. We drove to the RS offices, next to the MJB Coffee Building, where the strong scent of coffee filled the air. (For years, the smell of freshly ground coffee reminded me of Ben Fong-Torres.) "Jann wants to see you in his office," announced Ben's assistant Faybeth Diamond. Jann Wenner, the charismatic leader of ROLLING STONE, the great nemesis of Jimmy Page, sat on his couch. He was disappearing inside of it, in fact, hunched over and sad. I shook Wenner's hand and saw that his eyes were red from crying. He told me a little bit about Ralph Gleason, a little bit about losing a mentor.

I offered to come back another time, but Jann kept me there. He lifted the Led Zeppelin cover. It was a big seller, he said, but had I really satisfied myself? The feature was good, but I'd been on the road for weeks. What had I seen? What was my overview? Had I written all I wanted to write? Where was my point of view in this story? "Do you want to be a fan," he asked, "or do you want to be a writer? Because there's a difference." I was seventeen years old, and I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write and write and write and write.

By CAMERON CROWE - Rolling Stone, 10/15/92 Issue 641, p68


i have some other news that i'd like to be able to pass along right now, but i want to wait until some things solidify before i start running my mouth. in the meantime, i should probably shower for work and get ready to wake miss jayda up shortly.