Monday, April 20, 2009

iMix, you Mix, we all Mix for iMix

Okay, I hope I'm doing this right....

One of my favorite bands on earth, if not my absolute favorite band, is Broadside Electric. If you're not familiar with them, well, I could tell you that they once described themselves by the phrase "eclectic electric Celtic acoustic," but actually the band has evolved quite a bit since then, so that phrase doesn't really begin to cover it. Put it this way: if you go to one of their concerts, you should not be surprised to hear to hear, in quick succession, gory Child ballads, Klezmer tunes, Bob Dylan, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a few rollicking reels, played by five musicians on at least a dozen instruments. And that would be just the first set. Oh, and they're all really nifty people offstage, as well.

So, I love these folks, and in a recent mailing they sent out, they suggested that one way for their fans to promote their music would be to make an iMix on the iTunes store containing some of their songs and maybe 10 others by "popular artists." So I looked up the directions and it didn't seem too difficult--in fact, I already had several playlists on iTunes containing one or more Broadside songs, and I figured I could just publish one of those. Upon consideration, I decided that to get a good sampling of music I should combine two playlists, which I had entitled "Light" and "Darkness," into a single playlist called "Chiaroscuro," and publish that. So I spent a happy hour or so selecting songs from these two playlists and arranging them in a pleasing order, interspersing the lighter and darker material. Then I tried to publish it to iTunes and hit a snag: many of the songs in my collection were not available on the iTunes store. So a little more pondering ensued as I looked for alternate versions of these songs on iTunes. (Example: the entire Beatles catalogue is unavailable on iTunes, so I ended up with a live George Harrison version of "Here Comes the Sun" and the King's Singers' version of "Blackbird," which is actually quite nice. The Califone version of "The Orchids," by contrast, isn't nearly as cool as the Genesis P-Orridge version, but what can you do?) A few songs had to be cut completely because iTunes didn't have any version available at all, or at least not any that I found acceptable. So after considerable tweaking, I arrived at a finished iMix that I was reasonably happy with.

Now, here's the part I hope I'm doing right. ITunes provided a link labeled "Publish to the Web" that is supposed to make my iMix available via my blog. (I assume that you can't actually listen to the songs unless you own them, but you can listen to a short clip from each song to see how you like it, and if you're interested, you can buy it.) So I'm going to give this a try. Here's the link (I think):

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Driving the bandwagon

According to an article in yesterday's New York Times, frugality is actually a hot new trend. Here are a few of the radical steps the article mentions that people are taking to save money:

• borrowing movies from the library
• planting gardens
• canceling cable service
• composting (to avoid trash disposal fees)
• having clothing swaps with friends
• trash picking
• darning socks
• drying clothes on a line

In short, people across the country have started doing all the stuff I've been doing for years. How about that--I'm trendy. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Saturday's New York Times featured a column on puns by op-ed contributor Joseph Tartakovsky. His basic premise seemed to be that all puns are bad and that writers with any talent invariably eschew them. (Of course, he couldn't help admitting that Shakespeare was a notable exception, and he cited several other examples of extremely clever puns made by extremely clever people, but for some reason he didn't seem to feel that these counterexamples in any way undermined his central argument.)

Well, I suppose that I, though a dedicated lover of puns, shouldn't have bothered to take umbrage at this. After all, this guy isn't exactly a noted literary critic (in fact, he's a law student at Fordham, so I'm not sure what makes him fancy himself an expert). He's obviously just a grouch who starts off every morning by sucking half a lemon and then taking a brisk sneer around the block. In fact, the very fact that a person like him hates puns seems like a better argument than any other for making them. But I couldn't help being a bit nettled by his supercilious sneering at puns as "low" humor, especially since he didn't bother to get his facts straight. He cited the fact that "The 20th century’s finest humorist, P. G. Wodehouse, doesn’t use" puns as evidence that puns are inherently unfunny. Well, as it happens, we're still on our Wodehouse kick at home, and the very same day I read this article, I happened on this passage in Thank You, Jeeves:
"Mr. Stoker, sir. He is inquiring about Miss Stoker's whereabouts."

Well, of course, there's always that old one about them being at the wash, but this seemed to me neither the time nor the place.

Now if that isn't an example of how a well-aimed pun can strike directly on the funny bone, what is?