Monday, November 22, 2004

Don't Trash Blanky!

Tom Cox, a correspondent of The Times Guardian, tells us why he's sold his vinyl collection to make space for an armchair. That's Right wants to know - has he Souled out?

ONE of the odd things about moving house a lot is that you expect it to make you more likely to get a hernia, but the truth is exactly the opposite. The fact is that if, like me, you’ve heaved your whole life into a van eight times in six years, you can’t help but get an instinctive, self-preserving feel for the weight of objects. These days I can glance at a chest of drawers and tell in a second how many balding men with bottom cleavage are needed to lift it. A neat skill to possess, though sometimes a bit of a dampener on impulse purchases, it has made me look at material goods in a new light. It also led me to sell my record collection.

Actually, the living hell that is moving is not the only reason that I’ve decided to discard, with the help of eBay, the three or four thousand vinyl albums that catalogue my musical life; it’s just a very big one. Records are the most belligerent of transient objects: unnaturally heavy, unaccountably multiplying as you move them off shelves and into boxes. So far, none of the friends and professional removers who have assisted me and my wife in our accidental nomadism have complained about the huge trunk that serves as testament to my grandfather-in-law’s wartime travels, although plenty have grouched about my exhaustive collection of Sixties psychedelia. But there is more to it than that.

All this time I have viewed it as an essential part of me, as if I would melt into a heap on the ground, Wicked Witch of the West-style, if I didn’t lug it from house to house. But it has occurred to me that I might just, ever-so-slightly, be kidding myself. Certainly my favourite songs define who I am to some extent, but let’s face it, as someone who has written a book and countless newspaper articles about rock music a good third of my collection is intrinsically of the own-it- because-you’re-supposed-to kind — Sun Ra’s Space is the Place. I mean, get real.

You wouldn’t exactly call my vinyl furniture — although a couple of my cats have an unaccountable fondness for stretching out on top of ABC’s Lexicon of Love, but over the years, I have tended to deploy it in the same way that more sophisticated people might a Picasso or an Eames recliner.

Sure, it is essentially there for my personal use, but I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed the way guests drink in its majesty. The look of all those spines together has good associations for me, leading back to the joss-stick fuelled living rooms of my parents’ hippy friends in my childhood. The sleeves, with their often wonderfully pretentious cover art, are much more aesthetically generous than their CD equivalents and much more responsive to the touch. Leave them lying around in a heap and they still look great.

That’s the way I used to feel about them, anyway. Now I’m not so sure. These days, as I stare at that heap of wax and cardboard in the corner of the room, I can’t help but think that armchairs might look better in the same place. Perhaps it is the mark of a male kind of growing up that hits you as you gradually stop pinning culture so firmly to your chest as a badge of character, but I don’t find it depressing. I am, after all, using the proceeds to fund something as exciting as any number of rare first-pressing Jimmy Webb albums: a fully-integrated system based on the iTunes programme on my Apple Mac. It will let us listen to 40,000 songs, at random or in an order of our choosing, in nearly every room of our house, with a few taps of a keyboard.

In a few weeks, as the walls come down in my new Sixties house and speakers disguised as wall hangings are installed, a whole new space-age retro interior fantasy will become reality. The music will all still be there (though possibly not Space is the Place), the only difference will be that you won’t be able to see it. And if, by some twist of fortune, we have to move again, I find it reassuring that the whole lot can be packed into a box no bigger than a briefcase.

HMK: All I can say is that my albums are the closest thing I've got to a security blanket. I take pride in the fact I can tell folks that I still own most every LP I"ve ever bought or borrowed. I'd like to ask TRom this - Do you really want to spend the rest of your life saying "Man, I used to have that album".... Do you? So Tom, Dude, please don't trash your Blanky!

That's Right,


Friday, November 19, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Hmm. Let's see - ten times ten equals 1000, a picture is worth a thousand words, oh, I get it! Check out this fresh news site offering a cool and ultra visual way to keep up with what's going on in our crazy busy world.

10 X 10!

That's Right,


Thursday, November 18, 2004

There Is No VH In Team

Legendary Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth has
stopped "runnin' with the devil" to do God's work - riding ambulances
in gritty neighborhoods throughout the city to become a paramedic.
The famed rocker has cut his trademark blond mane and dropped his
celebrity persona so he can ride unrecognized with ambulance crews in
The Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn several nights a week.

Several weeks ago, the charismatic crooner saved the life of a Bronx
woman who had a heart attack by shocking her back to life with a

The Post caught up with Roth last week as the 1980s icon grabbed a
slice of pepperoni pizza after sitting for hours in an ambulance
waiting for a call.

Just three days earlier, he had played to an adoring rock-'n'-roll
crowd in Minnesota.

Roth, 49, initially expressed reservations about discussing his
latest endeavor because he felt publicity "would diminish what I am
trying to do here."

But the following day, he told The Post more about his new passion.

"I have been on over 200 individual rides now," Roth told The
Post. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me."

"It has been an eye-opening adventure," said Roth, who asked The Post
not to disclose which "very colorful neighborhoods" he works in
because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself or his

Linda Reissman, Roth's EMS consultant and tutor, said she didn't know
what to expect of her famous pupil at first, but "he has probably
turned out to be one of the best students I have ever had."

"I am amazed," said Reissman, who is training Roth for Brooklyn-based
company Emergency Care Programs Inc.

Reissman described Roth as very studious, punctual and hungry for

"He is very serious," she said. "You would never know you were
dealing with a rock-'n'-roll guy, his commitment really is touching.
He wants to help people."

The singer, who is used to being onstage in a packed arena, sees at
least one similarity in his two careers.

"I am a member of a team again, and that's what a rock band always
was," Roth said.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Art Is Not A Loaf Of Bread

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Giving away an album online isn't the way most artists end up with gold records. But it worked out that way for Wilco.

After being dropped from Reprise Records in 2001 over creative conflicts surrounding Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the Chicago-based band committed what some thought would be suicide -- they streamed it online for free.

The album's subsequent release on Nonesuch debuted higher on the charts than any of their prior releases. That success gave both band and label confidence to try new internet forays: the first-ever MPEG-4 webcast with Apple, as well as more free online offerings of live shows and an EP's worth of fresh tracks. The band's 2004 release, A Ghost Is Born, hit No. 8 on the Billboard charts -- their highest position to date.

By conventional industry logic, file sharing hurts the odds for commercial success. Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy disagrees. Wired News caught up with him during his current tour to find out just what makes Wilco so wired.

Wired News: What sparked the idea of offering your music online for free?

Jeff Tweedy: Being dropped from Reprise in 2001. They weren't going to put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the way we'd created it. They wanted changes; we weren't willing to do that, so they rushed a contract through their legal department to let us go. It was the fastest I'd ever seen a record company work. Once they let us go, we were free to do with the album what we chose.

We'd been noticing how much more important the internet had become -- once information is out there in the world now, anyone can get it. Since that was beginning to happen with the record anyway, we figured, OK, let's just stream it for free ourselves.

WN: Did you minimize the quality of the files you offered online, so that people would be encouraged to pay for a higher-quality "real thing" when you signed to a new record label?

Tweedy: We didn't go out of our way to make it sound low-res. MP3s are poorer quality anyway. That's part of why the record industry's argument against file sharing is so ridiculous -- nothing out there on P2P networks sounds as good as the original CD or vinyl record.

WN: Did the free online release make it hard for you to find a new label home?

Tweedy: That's why we ended up with Nonesuch. They weren't intimidated by the fact that hundreds of thousands had already downloaded it.

WN: What was your reaction when copies of A Ghost Is Born started showing up online this year, before the official release?

Tweedy: Something interesting happened. We were contacted by fans who were excited about the fact that they found it on P2P networks, but wanted to give something back in good faith. They wanted to send money to express solidarity with the fact that we'd embraced the downloading community. We couldn't take the money ourselves, so they asked if we could pick a charity instead -- we pointed them to Doctors Without Borders, and they ended up receiving about $15,000.

WN: What are your thoughts on the RIAA's ongoing lawsuits against individual file sharers?

Tweedy: We live in a connected world now. Some find that frightening. If people are downloading our music, they're listening to it. The internet is like radio for us.

WN: You don't agree with the argument that file sharing hurts musicians' ability to earn a living?

Tweedy: I don't believe every download is a lost sale.

WN: What if the efforts to stop unauthorized music file sharing are successful? How would that change culture?

Tweedy: If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they're trying to save. What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.

Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.

WN: How do you feel about efforts to control how music flows through the online world with digital rights management technologies?

Tweedy: A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.
People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.
I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.

WN: Your critics might say that it's easy for you to say that, given that you're already a commercial success.

Tweedy: I'm grateful that I've sold enough to have a house, take care of my kids and live decently. But that's a gift, not an entitlement.
I don't want potential fans to be blocked because the choice to check out our music becomes a financial decision for them.

WN: How do you feel about some of the new kinds of rights management alternatives some are proposing, instead of our current copyright schemes -- for instance, Creative Commons licenses that would allow your fans to remix your material for personal, noncommercial use?

Tweedy: Commercial use is one thing, but I have no problem with fans tinkering with it on their laptops, then sharing it with their friends -- that's just a new way for them to listen.

WN: Wilco is involved in a lot of non-music projects -- you published a book of poetry called Adult Head this year, the band was the subject of a 2002 documentary film, and the band just released a new book of photos, art, essays and previously unreleased tracks on an accompanying CD -- The Wilco Book. Is there a link between all the multimedia exploration and the relaxed attitude you seem to have about what happens to your music in the digital realm?

Tweedy: We're a collective of people who live to create things. When we released A Ghost Is Born, we decided to do that in an enhanced format for a number of reasons. We get to deliver more art that way. It's also a concession to the fact that we're artists who do work within the industry infrastructure. This offers something more than a downloaded MP3 can.

WN: What's next from Wilco in the way of online experiments?

Tweedy: Every few months or so we put a new live show on our site for download. And between YHF and AGIB, we released some tracks exclusively on our site for free. We've been encouraged by the response.

This has just become part of the way the band interacts with our audience. It's part of what we do now, and I don't think we're going to stop anytime soon.

Thanks To Xeni Jardin

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Hawaii 5-O Film Is Still On!

Hawaii 5-0
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Jack Lord was Steve McGarrett in TV's "Hawaii Five-O." The star of the movie version has yet to be named.

Thirty-six years after "Hawaii Five-O" debuted on CBS, Warner Bros. Pictures confirmed yesterday that it will co-produce the long-awaited feature film based on the hit series.

"After winning a highly competitive challenge for the (movie) rights, the studio will co-produce the film with George Litto (Productions)," said a Warner Bros. official who requested anonymity.

The tentatively titled "Hawaii Five-0 the Movie" "will be a gritty, realistic cop drama set in the lush tropical setting of the Hawaiian Islands," the official said.

Jeff Rubinov, Warner Bros. president of production, was "the powerful force in getting this project to Warner Bros," according to the official.

Litto, an agent for Leonard Freeman, who created the "Five-O" series, owns the rights to the title. The film, which is expected to cost about $100 million, will be executive-produced by Andria Litto, George Litto's daughter.

"Ocean's Twelve" screenwriter George Nolfi will write the story.

"Ocean's Twelve" -- also a Warner Bros. film -- stars George Clooney, who has long been rumored to be one of Litto's choices for lead character Steve McGarrett. Clooney has not spoken publicly about whether he has been offered the role. But Nolfi has "a close" personal and professional relationship with Clooney and "Ocean's Twelve" director Steven Soderbergh, a source said.

The film's star and director will not be selected until the script is completed and then approved by the studio and producers, which Litto hopes will occur this fall. If that happens on schedule, the 80-day Hawaii filming could begin late next spring for a summer 2006 release, Litto said.

"We are in discussions with a major director and have been in negotiations for some time with a major star, which will be ongoing until the script is finished," Litto said.

In earlier interviews, Litto said he could also see the McGarrett role played by Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford.

A Warner Bros. spokesman emphasized that while the project is considered "a hot property in Hollywood ... all there is now is a good idea."

After Nolfi's script has been accepted, a budget will be determined, then casting will take place, the spokesman said.

"Then the studio will determine whether the cost benefit works out in our favor," the spokesman said. "Is there a market for this film worldwide, and, if not, is there enough gross domestically to make it worth doing?

"If it comes out on the balance sheet, then we green-light the film and move forward to begin pre-production."

Roger Towne wrote the original screenplay, but Warner Bros. executives wanted to take "a different approach" that was approved by Litto.

Nolfi wrapped up a two-week Hawaii visit earlier this month after scouting locations. While here, Nolfi met with law enforcement officials on each island and visited several airports. According to sources, a major part of the film could be a statewide chase involving some neighbor islands.

Two islands certain to be locations are Oahu and the Big Island, though other islands might also be used, Litto said.

The producer said he had offers from "every studio" in Hollywood, including Dreamworks SKG and Spyglass Entertainment, to co-produce the film. Litto selected Warner Bros. after nearly five months of discussions with WB's Robinov, who initiated the partnership.

Litto, who hopes to create a franchise with "Hawaii Five-O" akin to the James Bond films, would not disclose the financial terms with Warner Bros., only saying they are "comparable to the other studios' offers."

"But there were other considerations as to how my company and the Freeman estate would have a meaningful voice in the film's creative elements," Litto said.

That's Hollywood jargon for script, director and casting approval, a source said.

Dan Lin, a Warner Bros. senior vice president of production, will oversee the "Five-O" project for the studio.

"Hawaii Five-O," the longest-running police show in the history of television -- 1968 to 1980 -- was the subject of a rights dispute between CBS and Freeman's estate. But producer Litto and Freeman's widow, Rose, prevailed in January 2000.

That's Right,


Thanks to Tim Ryan

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Remember: If you don't vote - don't bitch.

That's Right,


Monday, November 01, 2004

20 Ways to Monkey with Telemarketers

Some people have made an art of playing with the telemarketers and getting a few chuckles along the way. Here are a few of my favorites.

Have I got a deal for you
Interrupt the telemarketer's sales pitch and ask them if they would like to buy something from you (could be anything that you're selling). That will usually get them to end the call.

I do
Ask the telemarketer to marry you. Seriously, this will probably shock them and they won't know what to say.

You have reached my voicemail
Say: "Hello." (Wait on them to start talking.) "I'm sorry we can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message. Beep."

Funny you called
"You know, I was just thinking about (doing, buying) just that very same thing. So, I said to myself, 'Self, why don't you just (do, buy) it and get over it.' To my amazement, self replied with a loud, 'GO FOR IT!'" (Keep talking to take control of the conversation, never letting the telemarketer speak so he or she can't actually try to sell you anything.) "Well, me and myself will discuss it more and we'll get back to you."

From a country song
"I'd love to, but my wife just left me, she cut the tires on my truck, I had to bury my dog, and I only have half a Bud Light bottle left. I'm not worried about the rest, but if you start selling beer, give me a call."

Have you planned for the future?
When I see "out of area" on the caller ID, I answer the phone with the name of a made-up insurance company. Then I try to sell the person life insurance. I'll ask questions like, "What if something happened to you?" or "Are you sure your final needs can be met?" Usually, they end up hanging up on me.

Reply in gibberish
Answer the phone in a pretend foreign language.

She's not … here
I have told people that the person they were asking for was hideously mangled in a train wreck. If they ask for my wife, I sometimes say that she recently left me, then tell the caller she sounds cute and ask her out.

And you are?
I'd love to hear more about why you are calling me, but I'm in the middle of dinner right now. Why don't you give me your home number so I can call and irritate you in the middle of your meal?

Keep talking
Rather than find creative ways in which to hang up on telemarketers, I decided many years ago that I could provide a public service by keeping them on the phone for as long as possible. The longer they spend with me, the less time they have to call other people. Often, they'll hang up on me before I can hang up on them!

What did I win?
Sometimes I'll act as if the sales call is one to inform me that I've won a prize. I'll exclaim, "I've never won anything in my life!" Then I'll ask for details on when and how my prize will be sent to me. And no matter how many times it's explained to me, I will never quite understand that I've won nothing and instead am being asked to buy something.

I'm already connected
If I'm being offered a loan or mortgage refinance, I'll ask if it can "fly under the radar," because I have a large loan at a very high interest rate from "family" who would become very upset if I obtained loans elsewhere. I'll suggest that we meet somewhere discreet to discuss details.

Phone flirting
I am big on the phone flirting. Use your best Joey voice from "Friends": "How you doin?" or, "You sound really attractive. Do you call here often?"

How long do you have?
Say: "Sorry to interrupt you. I really want to talk to you, but can you hold on for a few minutes? I just need to finish up the call from the last telemarketer. He called me about an hour ago."

What's it worth?
"Now before I listen to your pitch, there are a few things we need to cover. My minimum rate for listening is $35 an hour. Of course, I can offer you upgrades that give you additional benefits, as well as a greater chance that I may buy what you are selling. The deluxe package is $55 per hour and offers a 2 percent chance of purchase, and the super-deluxe package is $75 per hour, and offers a 3 percent chance of purchase. Now before we get to that, I will need you to send in an application as well as a minimal application fee of $55. You will also need to include with your payment a $35 payment for a credit report. Once your credit has been approved, I will be able to accept your non-refundable good-faith security deposit, which I require, of $100. After closing, and you have paid my standard closing costs of $250, we will then be able to proceed with your sales pitch. Can I sign you up?"

It's good enough for Cuba
I always get them to scream, "Show me the money!" like in "Jerry Maguire."

That's Right!

Thanks to Amy C. Fleitas •