Interrupted by cell phone? Make it part of the show!

This video is so good, some people think it’s a sly commercial for Nokia, but it’s not – this actually happened.

Slovakian classical violinist Lukas Kmit was giving a fancy recital when, right after finishing a piece, a Nokia cell phone went off with its distinctive Nokia ringtone. After a brief angry glare, Kmit decided to do a little musical improvisation around the Nokia theme.

Result? Applause.

But here’s something you may not know: The Nokia ringtone is actually taken from a piece of classical music itself – Gran Vals, originally written by Spanish classical guitarist Francisco Tarrega in 1902. Use that little bit of knowledge to impress the hell out of your date.

(I’m guess Kmit knew that, though. Showoff.)

Dear Facebook: STOP

Note to the Facebook powers that be: I do NOT want every single article I read, TV show I watch, song I listen to, online purchase I make, web site I view to be immediately posted to your never ending stream. Nor do I want to see these from my friends and Facebook acquaintances. Please, for the love of any and all gods, STOP. Stop now. Stop before you create a massive cancer on the Internet.

Is this poster offensive?

AMC has released a teaser poster promoting the 5th season premiere of Mad Men – one of the best shows on TV – on March 25. But some people say this poster is offensive or insensitive, and it’s generating a bit of controversy.

Take a look at it and see if you can tell what some people find insensitive about it.


In the Present: Live from Lyon

yes itp lil coverYes fans, “In the Present: Live From Lyon” is something you might want if you’re a completist or if you want a document of this short-lived lineup right before they went into the studio to record with vocalist Benoit David. Oliver Wakeman, Rick’s kid, handles keyboards here. (Geoff Downes came back into the fold later when Trevor Horn came on board as producer.) The old guard, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White are firmly at the helm.

Overall, it’s okay – though a bit flat in some areas, especially some rather weak background vocals. Benoit David adequately replaces Jon Anderson at the mike for what turns out to be basically a live greatest hits collection. The weakness here comes from the fact that it doesn’t appear anything was later “fixed” in the studio, bad notes overdubbed, flat vocals re-recorded, as with most “live” records. So in that sense, purists might appreciate this more as a true document of what the show really sounded like.

Highlight: a dandy live version of the rarely played (up to this point) of Tempus Fugit. Jon had always resisted playing anything from the Drama album (understandable, since he was out of the group at the time they recorded it), but I’m one of the few fans who think that, musically at least, Drama was one of Yes’ strongest outings.

Another highlight: Astral Traveler gets a good workout, another song rarely included on live Yes albums. It’s my favorite pre-The Yes Album song.

I’m sticking with CDs

No, I’m not a Luddite. No, I’m not an old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. But you damn kids with your lousy mp3’s! I’m sticking with CDs!

recordWhen I was younger, I had a pretty good collection of LPs. They were works of art. They were substantive. You could hold them in your hands and truly enjoy the artwork, especially those beautiful Roger Dean Yes covers. And the record itself was more than just a sound medium – it was a physical sculpture. The way the grooves caught the light, you could almost pretend to know that the music was good by the way the grooves looked.

And I watched as the new medium of CDs began to replace them. I didn’t complain. Yes, I was going to miss the larger size of the packaging – it took some of the enjoyment out of the cover artistry – but there was a definite improvement in sound quality.

Yes, I know there are audiophiles who, even today, insist, “Records sound better than CDs. They’re warmer!” With all due respect, bullshit. Maybe if you’ve got the highest of the high end of turntable equipment, you can sense this esoteric warmth you speak of, but for me, no. I LOVED music, and I never, ever got over the annoyance of, “And she’s buying a [click] stairway [click] to heavennnn [click] nnnn…” Not to mention the ever-present rumble of the turntable when you listened in headphones.

Yeah, maybe those early CDs did sound a little bit TOO perfect and a little too cold, but they were crisp and clear. And later, as recording techniques improved and the sampling rates got higher, even CDs began to sound better.

And now I’m watching another revolution, as people are buying less CDs and more mp3’s and digital downloads. Now, the medium isn’t just shrinking, it’s disappearing. The physicality is completely going away. But that’s not why I’m sticking with CDs.

compactI’m sticking with CDs for the same reason I replaced my album collection with them: the sound quality is better.

Look, mp3’s, aac’s, m4a’s and all are great, but for the most part, commercially-available downloads are NOT lossless files, and there IS too much compression. Even with my battered ears I can tell the difference inside a noisy car between a digital file and an actual CD.

Can the technology improve so that even compressed digital files sound as good as CDs? Yes, of course it can. But will it? It doesn’t look that way, because people today are downloading more of them than buying CDs. Record stores are disappearing. iTunes is the biggest music retailer in the world. And the consumers don’t seem to care that the quality of the reproduction is worse than it was before. There is no great demand to make it better. So it won’t be made better.

At least not until some Thomas Edison comes along and says, “Maybe you’re satisfied that a candle is bright enough, but wait until you see THIS!”

So I’m sticking with CDs for now. That’s not to say I don’t download a lot of music from iTunes, I do. But if it’s something I’m really into, some band I love, I buy the actual CD. Not just because I like holding it in my hands, but because it just sounds better.

And you kids stay the hell off my lawn.