Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pete's number one country song

My pal Pete Stringfellow recently released his latest single 'Santa Rosa' exclusively* to KFGY in the S.F. Bay area. Dude has a knack for knowing what sounds good, what feels good, and what people want to hear. As a result he's scored the number one most requested country song in Bay radio.

I don't listen to commercial radio much anymore, but dig: at a conference earlier this year, Billboard editor Tamara Coniff said she was amazed because country music appears to be the last genre that (in her words) "lives and dies" by what's heard on the radio.

Pete's doing it right.

* The track is no longer exclusive to KFGY

Friday, December 08, 2006

"What's a vector?" is the new "Where did I come from?"

My kids are harnessing technology in amazing ways. This week I've discovered I have a future email spoofer and future game developer in my house.

First my seventh grader. He is in a heap of trouble at school for figuring out another kid's password and sending an email to the entire class as the other kid. Bad.

On to my fourth grader. For months Harry's been hinting at wanting to learn Flash because most of the games he plays online are built in Flash. I've been telling him it's a really complicated program and maybe he should start with something easier. Harry ended up putting Flash on his Christmas wish list; my wife asked me "what is Flash?" I told Harry he didn't need to ask for the software for Christmas. I have Flash on my laptop and immediately he started working through some online tutorials and quickly built his first simple animations.

A couple of nights later he was rummaging through the craft closet/recording booth and found a Flash 8 tutorial I had borrowed from work. He said "Dad, why didn't you tell me you had this?" as if I'd been holding back a great record collection or had been hiding a motorcycle in the basement. After flipping through the book he asked me "what's the difference between a vector and a bitmap?" Great moments in parenthood.

Last night he showed me his first shape tween. Proud papa I am.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My beloved Food City Foodland is now Apple Market?

The face of West End is changing once again. My beloved Food City Foodland has morphed into an Apple Market? Wha' happened, FC FL? You were one of the only places who would cash my girlfriend's checks during college (yes kids, this was before widespread, nationally linked ATMs).

Food City Foodland was the Grocery Store that Time Forgot. A couple years ago after a dinner at Ted's across the street, I ran in and grabbed something vital that couldn't wait for Kroger in the morning. As I left the parking lot I said to my kids in the low, gravelly Homer voice, "that place is freaky." Did I personally scare you into changing into the modern Apple Market? I didn't mean it like that. Honest.

(Note, thanks to Brittney for setting me straight on the former name.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two Decades Ago...Our First Date

Twenty years ago tonight was my first date with the woman who would become my wife. Funny thing is, I didn't know it was going to be a date.

Marci and I had met a couple months earlier on a double first date, but she was paired with the other guy. As the four of us continued to spend time together, Marci and I developed a nice friendship. Marci's short-lived relationship with John (my friend and "the other guy") fell apart, and it became clear that my relationship with Betsy was nothing more than infatuation that couldn't fuel a real coupleship.

I asked Marci to go to dinner at the World's End and see a play at Vanderbilt University Theatre because Betsy was going to be out of town. As it turned out, our friendship morphed into something more later that night.

Marci and I were married four years later, and we've had our major ups and downs over the years. On this day, twenty years later, I'm really thankful for where I am even though sometimes I don't act like it. Marci, I honor you today.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Great Moments in Parenthood, Vol. 1

For months I've been quietly playing the Illinois record by Sufjan Stevens. I've wanted my sons to really like it but haven't pushed it. I tivo'd Sufjan on Austin City Limits last weekend and played the show a couple of times and since then noticed both Will and Harry humming the tunes, especially "Casimir Pulaski Day." Well last night Will was practicing guitar and he went online to find the chords for the song! I listened to him play while I softly sang in the other room.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What's that disease I can't remember the name of?

Several years ago my wife had a scary skiing accident in New Hampshire where she bonked her head pretty badly. To this day she suffers from memory loss and still doesn't remember much of the rest of that "vacation."

Yesterday she was in an elevator and stuck out her hand to the man next to her and said, "I'm sorry, I recognize you as one of my doctors but don't remember your name."

To that, the man said, "I'm Dr. Soandso, your neurologist who's been treating you for your memory loss since your ski accident."

Friday, November 03, 2006

RØDE Podcaster Mic Kicks Serious Butt

I'm working on a project that requires some high quality voice over and the headset mic that Jon gave me (okay I stole it) just wasn't going to cut it. I couldn't spend a ton of money on new gear, so Pete turned me onto the new RØDE Podcaster USB Microphone. I picked it up on my way home from work (US $200), hooked it up to my laptop via supplied USB cable (thankfully it doesn't require USB 2.0), plugged headphones into the built-in jack on the mic, and in seconds I heard what I had been missing: high quality voice recording directly into my laptop without expensive hardware. I was blown away.

Uber giddy me because:

- No software you have to install from a CD (Windows XP hooked me up)
- Built-in headphone jack means you can "hear" what the mic "hears"
- No other special hardware required such as a mixing board
- Kick ass audio quality
- I can now play the Larry King Home Game in style
- The damn thing looks like a device I'd buy my wife from Good Vibrations on Valentine's Day

So tonight I went into my soundproof chamber (junk closet) and laid down some great VO (samples to come). Keep in mind you're going to need a mic stand and probably a pop stopper (think panty hose stretched over a coat hanger on the "We Are the World" video) if you want to do this thing right.

Only downside was that I couldn't get it to work with Adobe Audition so I ended up downloading the free Audacity which worked like a charm with the Podcaster. The mic is so new that a search on the Internets turned up no posts on compatibility with Audition 1.5. RØDE has a nice, short tutorial on using the mic with Audacity, though. Check it out.

The best part? My kids heard me working on the audio editing and asked "whose voice is that?"

"Why, it's Dad," says Mom.

"That's so cool," says Harry.

Tech notes:
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Macs supported)
Windows XP
Audacity v 1.2.5
Rode Podcaster

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

MusicIP Selected by Disney to Provide Key Technology for New Media Player Devices

Monrovia, CA (PRWEB) November 1, 2006 -- MusicIP, the world's most comprehensive music search engine, announced that Disney Consumer Products has licensed MusicIP's MyDJ™ embedded technology, which allows users to find the music they want to hear and to create instant playlists with a single button, to power the MixIt! feature on its popular Disney Mix line of portable media players for kids. more...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Haunted Side of Nouvelle Vague

Okay, I realize the Nouvelle Vague album Bande à Part has been out since July, but I'm just now getting into it. Although Courtney likes their self-titled debut album better, I tend to like the darker qualities of this record.

This record follows the formula of the first, pretty simply: bossa nova/lounge-esque covers of new wave classics. Where the band stuck closer to true bossa nova sound on Nouvelle Vague, this record explores a more haunting sound (dare I say, serious). The opening track, a cover of the Echo and the Bunnymen song 'Killing Moon,' is extraordinary in its retelling [download here].

Listen to the first record when you are in a peppy mood and put Bande à Part on when you're feeling more solemn.

One side note about the first album: I was overjoyed to find a cover of Propaganda's 'Sorry For Laughing' from their great 1985 techno album A Secret Wish. Check that one out, too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Yet another reason to hate Ticketmaster has this nifty feature that is supposed to alert me when my favorite artists are coming to town. Problem is it doesn't work. In the several years that I've had TicketAlerts set up for these artists below, I've not received one advance notice email:

Dwight Yoakam
The Black Keys
Josh Rouse
Dave Matthews Band
Bright Eyes
David Sedaris
Toby Keith

And I know that at least six of these artists have played in Nashville in the last year and I have never received an alert email about these events. However, I am hounded by the Ticketmaster spam with subject lines like "Don't miss Kelly Clarkson." Do I look like a Kelly Clarkson fan?

There is no better marketing prospect to a company than one who has declared his interest in a very specific product or service. Use this data to your benefit, Ticketmaster.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Raconteurs to play City Hall, Nashville

The Raconteurs have announced a Nashville show date: Sunday, November 19 they'll be playing City Hall (a great venue renovated from a warehouse) and tickets go on sale Friday, October 20 at 10 A.M. Central. Make it a night in the Gulch neighborhood and have dinner at Sambuca, Ru San's, or my favorite, Watermark.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Large Digital Music Collections Need MusicIP Mixer

If you're like me, you have a large collection of digital music sitting on a big hard drive connected to your home computer. Some days I just don't want to listen to a specific album or artist; I want my own personal radio station based on my musical mood.

I've spent more time with my new MP3 mixer/player, the fabulous and free MusicIP Mixer. I've written how it scans your music collection and based on the sonic qualities of each song, creates cross-references to other songs you have. The MusicIP model is not based on musicology, or a bunch of people sitting somewhere making connections between songs (see Pandora and Soundflavor). Instead it uses a patented method of actually dipping into the sound waves--the true characteristics of the songs--to create the correlations.

One of the coolest features of the power version of the program (costs you only $20) is the ability to create waypoint mixes. Click here for a demo:

Let's say you're creating a party mix that you want to start out slow, increase in tempo a bit during dinner, get rocking after dinner, then slow down to a bossa nova beat for late night, pick four songs that represent each milestone. Create the waypoint mix (under the Power Tools menu) and the software picks the songs in between each milestone. It's like 'tweening for animators--creating several key frames then letting the software calculate the shapes of objects between each frame. I've a little experimentation to do with this feature but my quick tests prove promising.

There are people out there in the world (like my wife) who always want to "hard code" their mixes--painstakingly choosing each song to play during a listening session. I'm not like that. I want predictable surprise. For those hard coders, MusicIP is not for you.

In college I was a DJ at 91 Rock, and I still listen to it more than any other music station. In the past couple of years it's been much easier to be a regular listener since they've added an automated MP3 player when DJs don't show up or during the summer when it's harder to fill all of the time slots. 91 uses a simple randomization method to automate the playback. No more dead air.

What if they were to incorporate a MusicIP Mixer that truly created automated "shows" based on waypoint mixes? Could DJs actually be remote and control the playback on the station?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Much Great Live Indie Music in Nashville

Time was there didn't seem to be much live music that I was interested in shelling out good money for in Nashville. Maybe my tastes have expanded, maybe more bands are hitting Nashville, maybe there are more palatable venues, maybe I've rediscovered the joy of seeing artists live. Check out this upcoming lineup (and these are only bands that I'm interested in seeing, not all inclusive):

4-Oct: Frank Black, The Mercy Lounge
13-Oct: Beck, City Hall
16-Oct: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, War Memorial Auditorium
17-Oct: Scissor Sisters, City Hall
22-Oct: Broken Social Scene, City Hall
26-Oct: Drive By Truckers, War Memorial Auditorium
28-Oct: Mojave 3, Belcourt Theatre
11-Nov: The Black Keys, The Mercy Lounge

I'm blown away. For those of you in large metropolitan areas, don't mock.

By the way, to keep up with all that is indie hotness in Nashville, sign up for the Grimey's New & Preloved Music (we used to call it a record store) incredible email newsletter here. And shop there, too!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pee-wee Herman and One Degree of "The Grammar Mechanic"

In the mid eighties I acted in a public television educational program called The Grammar Mechanic. Don't look it up on IMDB, really. Almost twenty years later, I tracked down VHS copies of every episode, and here's a clip of the opening credits and a little bit of the show. I'm the white kid:

Ahh, the show had everything: killer theme lyrics, independent mom, token black kid, token chick, token talking computer. Did the producers foresee the future of this fine republic with laser focus, or what?

There is little more notable about the show (unless you know me and want to mercilessly mock me and my bad acting) except that we had one brush with greatness. Allison Mork was a set decorator and makeup artist on the Mechanic, and soon she would jet off (drive more likely) to work on Pee-wee Herman's new Saturday morning show on CBS.

Here is puppeteer and actress Allison Mork on the Pee-wee's Playhouse episode "The Rainy Day" playing a housewife crank called by Randy and Pee-wee. Mork was also the puppeteer and voices for Magic Screen, Chicky Baby, and Chairry, and I think this may be the only on-screen performance she delivered on the show:

Thanks to Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, we're rediscovering the playhouse and bringing back lots of memories on this 20th anniversary of the show's debut. Grammar-y!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Music Festivals Partner with MusicIP to Help Fans find New Artists

So let's say I'm interested in an upcoming music festival but I don't know a lot of the bands. How can I do my homework ahead of time to find artists I might enjoy based on my current tastes?

This is exactly the question that MusicIP is answering with their new playground sites. For example, the company worked with the Nemo Music Festival in Boston going on this week to set up a playground site. I go to the playground and type in an artist or song I know and love then based on the super secret big ass MusicIP database, it tells me similar artists who are playing the festival. A click or two more and you're at the artist's Sonicbids bio page where you can read more about the artist and download a free track. Cool stuff!

I suggest taking it a couple of steps further. Let me rate the artists I sample and create my own agenda of sorts that I can have emailed to me or printed out to take to the festival so I don't miss any of the artists that are always playing concurrently at these things. Or even better let me stop by the MusicIP booth at the festival where they can print a nice color version of my agenda, laminate it, and throw it on a free lanyard!

The promise of the Internet helping music fans find new artists based on their current tastes has been around a long, long time. I remember around 1995 a simple Web app that let me pick artists in my collection and based on all of the other users' data would recommend other artists I might like. Problem was, it was based on a person's entire music collection. Just because I own R.E.M. and Penguin Cafe Orchestra, doesn't mean another R.E.M. fan will like PCO. And many online retailers didn't do much better. Just because I purchased a Dwight Yoakam CD as a gift doesn't mean I like the Bakersfield sound.

MusicIP's approach appears to have finally broken out of the unworkable molds and the fans are the real winners.

Scissor Sisters Impress with New Release

Scissor Sisters are back after a two year break from recording with their new record Ta-Dah. 2004's self-titled debut featured the infectious "Take Your Mama" and dance club favorite "Comfortably Numb" cover.

The new record is richer and has more depth than the debut, but still contains the playful trashiness I loved in the first. Elton John helped out with co-writing and playing on a couple tracks and his overall influence can be felt throughout. Elton, like Paul Weller, seems to impress me more lately when he collaborates with other artists (see Weller-produced Ocean Colour Scene) rather than his own solo releases. Ta-Dah is a more listenable album than the previous, with the best of dance, disco, Bee Gees falsetto, and groove thrown in. Favorite tracks: "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," "Kiss You Off," "Land of a Thousand Words," "Might Tell You Tonight."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A professional wrassler once owned my home

When I moved into my current home two years ago, I found some battered 35mm negatives in the attic of what appeared to be men in underwear and one man as an Elvis impersonator. I carried the negatives around for a year meaning to get prints made of them. Last summer I finally did that and here were the results:

The nice ladies at Walgreens said they recognized them as "TV wrasslers" from the 70s. I just thought the photos were a hoot. Apparently these guys wrestled under the team name "The Jet Set" (see undies, above). I then did what every Webhead would do and created a t-shirt at Cafe Press.

I emailed the photos to several friends asking if they could help identify the wrestlers. No luck. A few weeks later our friend Pam was scouring the real estate records to find out what all her friends had paid for their homes (like you do) and she discovered that wrestler George Gulas and/or his wrestling promoter father Nick had once owned our home.

Anyway, my kids won't allow me to wear the t-shirt anywhere near them. George, let me know if you want those negatives back.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

MusicIP Mixer Initial Reactions

Last week I downloaded the free version of MusicIP Mixer in order to catalog my MP3s and create mixes based on similarities between tracks in my collection. What this allows you to do is select one song and create a mix based on the sonic qualities of that first song. I've been using the Winamp plug in from the same company for a while now and this was my first experiment with the standalone mixer.

After about four days of indexing 30,000 or so songs, I was quite surprised to find that only 80 or so songs were considered "unanalyzable." To compare, my most recent indexing via the Winamp plug-in (formerly known as Predixis MusicMatch) rendered nearly 2/3 of my collection unanalyzable. This was unacceptable; I'm concerned about the future relationship between Winamp and MusicIP.

FYI, I treat my music collection as my own personal radio station so I want as much "predictable randomization" as possible.

My first impressions of MusicIP Mixer have been incredible. I can select one song and create an instant mix of 20 songs, 20 minutes, or 20 megabytes, for example. Great for party mixes or that special mood, and the mixes render very quickly. I haven't yet played around with the preferences but you can tweak the criteria for mixing such as limiting the genre and number of songs by the same artist.

I'll post more about this great tool so stay tuned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jack White, Won't You Be My Neighbor

Much has been published and blogged about Jack White's (The Raconteurs and The White Stripes) move to Nashville. All I can say is that we're overjoyed to have the rocker here in Music City. Sorry Detroit.

White bought a home in Nashville and realty records show the house and nearly seven acres changed hands in December '05 for $3.1 million. The best thing is that he's had the chimneys and front door painted Jack White signature red and the outbuildings painted with theme colors (grey, red, yellow). The 1910 home has gained a new flair.

I've so been rocked by Mr. White's work from the Stripes to Cold Mountain to Van Lear Rose to The Raconteurs to The Simpsons. I've been listening for my doorbell...

When I drove my brother (from Athens, GA) and younger son Harry by the White house on Sunday, my kid declared that he wanted to trick-or-treat at the Jack White home. If the gate is open on October 31, we're going to pay a visit. I bet his house is gonna rock on Halloween.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Where is Farkministan?

I was looking through some of my podcast stats at Web Pasties a few days ago, and noticed that I had 146 downloads from Farkministan:

That's quite interesting. A country I had never heard of. I asked my coworker Garry "where is Farkministan" and he said "I don't know, try to Wiki it."

Wiki, nothing.

Google maps, nothing. would surely show me the way, but nothing there.

So I emailed the first-class folks at Web Pasties and Bill Bercik emailed me a nice reply saying that Farkministan is a joke (don't let the fine Farkministanians know). Any time IP_TO_COUNTRY comes up null, he throws it into the Farkministan bucket instead of reporting "Unknown Country." The Farkministan flag Bill uses is actually a nautical flag meaning something like "I can't control my bladder, stay out of my way."

I'm loving LogMeIn

My dad turned me on to a remote admin-like tool called LogMeIn. When I see the URL I want to pronounce it "LOG MAIN" as in Chinese food for beavers. LogMeIn is really easy to install and now when I'm not at home I can remotely fiddle with my home machines. Best thing is they have a free version.

Mildred Philpots and the terrible, terrible Web design

When I first started working for NewOrder Media (an interactive shop which morphed into HealthStream) in the mid 90s, we were too small to have an actual receptionist. That wasn't going to stop us though. Mac Hardcastle and I fabricated a receptionist, Mildred Philpots!

Mildred was an elderly woman, and it seemed she was frequently absent in order to take her husband Archie to the doctor. But she was a hoot!

Mac and I referred to her often with very straight faces, such as "If you can't find me, hit zero and ask Mildred to track us down." Or, "I asked Mildred to schedule that meeting. I guess she forgot." We even set her up a desk and lovingly draped a sweater over the back of her chair.

The Mildred jig was up when a client realized she only existed in our imaginations.

Fast forward to 2005 when I had the bright idea to put together a NewOrder Media reunion. I had kept in touch with most of the old gang but there were some people who had left town without a forwarding address and others I purposely didn't invite. I set up an Evite and as I tracked down each person I would add them to the Evite. It was actually a fun exercise to find some of my long lost co-workers.

Well, Mildred had to be invited. And in order to give her an appearance of reality, I set her up with a profile on Evite in case someone clicked through. (Several guests admitted later that they had not remembered working with a Mildred Philpots.)

But then, she had to have her own Web site! Shocker, wasn't taken. I then set out to "design" the worst Web site ever, one that made me long for the days of 1994. Since Mildred's favorite song was "Top of the World" by The Carpenters (in reality it was Mac's mother Fran's favorite), her site had to have a bad MIDI version that you couldn't turn off.

That Mildred!

Domain names as baby gifts

You know it's the twenty first century when you find yourself reserving domain names of your friends' new babies as a gift celebrating their new offspring. For example, last year my gift to my brother and sister-in-law was a site dedicated to my new niece, Nora. Now if I could just get them to update the damn content on the site.

The Stewart house is all agog about Nora's visit to Nashville this weekend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crap, I have a lot of MP3s

I have now surpassed the 30,000 song mark. That's a lot of nuts!

A little bit about me: first of all, I'm a nazi about song organization. Second, I fear a meteor will crash on my house and I'll lose my beloved hard drive. [Shatner as Kirk voice] Must...back...up.

I'm in the process of indexing the files with MusicIP Mixer (formerly Predixis MusicMatch) because the MusicMatch plug in was never that reliable in Winamp. We'll see about the standalone MusicIP Mixer.

What MusicIP basically does is scour your music collection to find similar songs so you can make mix lists based on the original song. So, if you're in a Josh Rouse "1972" mood (which I frequently find myself), select that song and create a mix list of similar songs. MusicIP has some big-ass database behind the scenes that stores the similarity info. It does a darn good job in my experience, and is a must for large collections.

Wolfmother at Exit In

Wolfmother, the much-hyped Aussie band, paid a musical visit to the Exit In here in Nashville last night. I'd been fired up to see them partly because I enjoy their record and partly because I fell victim to the hype and partly because the show was sold out.

After the band The Mess Hall rocked us out in their opening set, the headliner went on at about 10:20 P.M. The show was good, not great. Part of the problem was that it was a little too good, in that the songs seemed to be note-by-note identical to the album.

The best part of the evening was running into my old friend Don who's co-owner of The Gold Rush. I don't think Don ever ages. After fifteen years or so he still looks the same.

Who knows what Wolfmother will come up with for a sophomore release, but for now, I'm enjoying the hype.