Sunday, December 27, 2009

From 1999 on, big changes were made on the music industry...

Like most music journals and magazines, I thought I'd share my memories about the ever-changing music industry. I've been in love with buying, collecting and listening to music all my life. There's been lots of memories of me trying to build my CD collection while dodging portable music players and at the same time, building my vast mp3 collection on my computer.

My mind is drifting back to 1999. I was a senior in high school, working at the same place I work today. Fears of y2k bug were on the rise, as well as anti-teen pop was in the air. Portable CD players were still cool to have around, and not many people had a cellular phone. (If they did, it would be banned from school...haha) DVDs were becoming the new crack, and bringing up stupid, random pop-culture obscure stuff was considered 'uncool'. The Bill Gates kind of 'nerd' was still in the minority. I hope this kind-of creates a picture of my vision from back then.

I had a cool 3-disc changer in my room at that time, but I would later sell it in a yard sale because it would stop working. My CD collection was enormous, as I would buy the latest hits and past stuff at my local Slackers store. I wasn't into video games or into buying movies at that time.

In mid-2000, my bro-in-law Kyle introduced me to this new Internet phenomenon, Napster. He couldn't wait to download it to my family's computer. I, along with many others, were immediately hooked into downloading songs for free. It was threatened to be shut down a few times before it permanently shut down two years later. Then we turned to iMesh and WinMX. I later bit the bullet and tried iTunes, which I liked. Today, I use eMusic as well as a website called Sometimes I use Audacity software to copy music off of Youtube for obscure songs I can't find anywhere.

It was tough to follow standards as music industry analysts saw as a slow poison to record labels and the musicians. NSync's 'No Strings Attached' is still the top-selling disc of this decade, with the Beatles' '1' closely following. Analysts definitely saw something wrong in 2002 when The Beatles compilation was the top-selling CD of 2001. On top of that, blank CDs outsold physical music CDs. Record labels wanted answers immediately to respond to this crisis. Internet outlets (not just iTunes) but Myspace, Facebook and even Youtube gave fans something to offer. Not all labels conformed, as pointed out in a previous blog, when Warner Music Group refused to have their work on Youtube and Hulu videos.

As for the portable CD player, it quickly went into hiding as the iPod took over. Younger people as in 12-18 year olds fell in love with their parents pasttime, vinyl records. The good news for vinyl lovers like me were that more artists were reissuing their CD-only material on vinyl. Rejoice! Guitar Hero and Rock Band were great for reviving classic rock hits, introducing them to a new generation. Radio, a different field, also began suffering in the 2000s, but is still alive and well. Satellite radio tried to break through, but still has yet to gain positive recognition.

I remember reading a Rolling Stone article about how the music industry has suffered, and one critic pointed out that the biggest mistake was that the so-called major record labels should have joined forces with Morpheus and Napster, instead of suing them. Remember, think Hulu. TV networks didn't like people posting clips and episodes of their shows online, so they decided to partner up with Youtube and other sites so they could get their slice of the pie. But who knows.

I'm glad to see that music is still alive today and on a positive note, several big-name bands have gotten back together throughout this decade. On a positive and negative note, touring has becoming bigger than ever. The negative thing about it is that's pretty much the only way a musician can make 'real money'. Some big name artists like Elton John have turned away at releasing albums, but luckily they still tour. Radiohead challenged the industry two years ago when they released their In Rainbows album for any price. To some people it was arrogant, but it gave people hope that it would bring music executives attention to what's happening.

So, here's to a new calendar decade. Live long, prosper, and rock and roll!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

great movies of 2009

It's no secret that I've gotten back into watching movies again, since I left college 2 years ago. With Redbox and some Internet sites I have been able to catch up on films that I've definitely missed out on in the past. This year, I tried to keep up with the all the current movies. There's a lot I haven't seen, especially at the theater. I've been trying to save money from going there, since they will be out on dvd three months later. (Anyone else besides me remember those times where we would see a movie at the show and we would have to wait at least five months until it comes out on tape? lol)

What were my favorites of this year? 'Avatar' was AWESOME (in one word! Review below...), and Star Trek was great, too. I didn't actually see it until a month ago, and I fell in love with it. I'm not a Trekkie, and never have been either. But somehow JJ Abrams made the new ST franchise into a watchable movie for all-movie lovers. I wasn't even that enthused about it until everybody I know said it was good. The way I've always pictured Star Trek was all the main characters in the cockpit, staring into space and pointing to Klingons. You won't find any of that in the new movie, as there is non-stop action from start to finish.

Of some of the comedies of 2009 that I rented this year, 'I Love You Man' is my favorite. The main character reminds me of me sometimes. I do have close 'guy friends'. But as soon after I propose to my fiancee I would not know the first person to break the news to, besides my parents(!). There were several good things about the movie, and did I mention that Rush was in it too? Rock on! The only complaint about this movie is that it gave birth to stupid terminoligies like 'bro-mance'......

Last night, I watched 'Avatar' in 3-D. I walked away from the theater blown away. Once again, James Cameron has proved everyone wrong. Here's how I explain myself: remember before Titanic came out, it was over-hyped and it had publicity about its budget and all? Remember when it got delayed from Summer '07 to Winter of that year? And when everyone (so-called professional movie critics) predicted the movie would be a flop? Well, as of this writing, Titanic is still the #1 box office movie of all-time, and several people were blown away from its historical content and story, as well as its amazing (but expensive) sfx.

Fast forward ten years later. James Cameron announces his newest project (since Dark Angel and Titanic), called 'Avatar'. There were blue smurf-like figures in the pictures. The public was scratching their heads at this one, and then it was announced that more than 250 million was spent for this movie. And remember, times are different today because of our rotting economy. There was even a joke list email going around stating 'things that could have been spent with James Cameron's $250 million instead of Avatar'. But last week, Avatar got plenty of amazing reviews and it seems that things were looking great for the veteran director.

To me, it was a very powerful movie. I won't give away any spoilers, but I will say that some of the ways it was 'powerful' came from the main character, Jake Sully. It's all about for 'standing up for what you believe in while being considered a traitor' and you can definitely tell while watching the film about Cameron's 'pro-green, anti-war statements'. The fighting scenes in the movie reminded me of a lot of war movies in the past, and a lot of the creatures on planet Pandora reminded me of those from Jurassic Park. The only complaint about this movie is that it shines a stereotype among the Marine Corps with their so-called cocky and 'go get'em' image. Sigourney Weaver does an excellent performance as veteran scientist Grace, as well as Zoe Saldana as the Na'vi member's heroine. If you get the chance, watch this in 3-D. Trust me, it will be worth your extra 3 dollars.

Tell me what your favorite movies are of this year. I hope by New Years I will put what I think are the greatest movies from 2000-09.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

my top 10 songs of 2009

Alright, this is something I do every year on my Myspace blog, but I figure I'll go ahead and list it on here as well. As most of you may know, I do try to keep on the current music trends and songs. After all, as a self-proclaimed musicologist and dj, I gotta keep up! After hearing the Black Eye Peas say over and over tonight's gonna be a good night or hearing Lady Gaga's same-old 2 songs over and over (and they both sounded the same), it wasn't easy listening. Luckily I was able to find 10 songs that I never managed to get sick of. Check it out:

1. 'Empire State of Mind'-Jay Z and Alicia Keys. Great jam from the current master of hiphop.
2. 'Notion'-Kings of Leon. Okay, so I'm cheating (it came out last year), but still a good jam from my favorite current band
3. 'Know Your Enemy'-Green Day. Most of Green Day's songs sound the same, but this one actually rocks.
4. 'Check My Brain'-Alice in Chains. Great comeback song. Their Layne Staley days are definitely behind them, for now....
5. 'Dont Trust Me'-3oh3
6. 'Good Girls Go Bad'-Cobra Starship. I've never been a fan of emo or pop-punk, but something weird happened. It seemed that the above 2 bands actually mixed a little 'glam rock' in their music. Not only these songs were catchy, it actually shows that as long as you gotta catchy riff or line, you can make it happen. And on top of that, these 2 bands actually showed a little personality compared to FOB and all the others
7. 'Day and Night'-Kid Cudi. Great club song; never gets old
8. 'Rehab'-Rihanna. For some reason, I now get all the divas confused.
9. 'Hotel Room Service'-Pitbull. This one's another great jam, turn this baby UP!!!
and lastly...
10. 'No You Girls'-Franz Ferdinand. Like Green Day, these guys from Europe have their own recycled sound, but actually sounding good! Keep up the good work gang!

And there you have it. Next up: my top 50 songs of this decade

Thursday, December 17, 2009

just family stuff

It's not often I write about my family on here, but only because there's really not much to talk about. Sometimes there's things that go on between my mom's side of the family, such as my mom and her mother not getting along most of the time. I usually don't like to talk about my problems on here since I know you have problems of your own. And if you don't you're lying! Okay, what I am saying is everyone has their share at most times. I thought I'd write an update on how my grandmothers are doing. They are not doing so good health-wise, but the good news is its nothing deathbed-like. Just a lot of major changes underway.

My Grandma Young (maternal) just had skin cancer surgery and she is fully recovering right now. She had the work done two days ago (my mom's 63rd birthday) but as of now, she's pretty much on her feet. Needless to say, it wasn't really much of a great day for my mom since she had to be at her assistance most of the time. At 84, my grandma still gets around, but sadly she doesn't get active in activities. She's not even in the mood to get out for Christmas. We would go over to her house, but she's embarrassed about how messy her house has been getting. But I know I'll catch up with her soon.

Meanwhile, my Grandma Voigt fell recently at her apartment. Unfortunately it wasn't the first time it has happened this year but she is trying to get back on her feet. This is the part where it may get depressing. She'll walk again, but my dad fears that she'll continue to trip herself again judging by how she was walking around her hospital room. I visited her at Highland Hospital (or now called St. Josephs) last week and she was glad to see me. She will turn 92 on December 31. My dad and uncle obviously decided not to renew her drivers license. Dad even made the comment that she may end up in a nursing home soon if she doesn't take care of herself. Its a common thing to know that as you age, you get less hungry and sometimes people refuse to eat. That has been the way it was with my grandma, even though she walks to McDonalds in Highland (its just down the street). On top of that, her memory is becoming more short-term. Nothing like Alzheimers, if you know what I mean. She does keep up well on news since she reads the Post Dispatch all the time, as well as tabloids. She does repeat things over and over. I'm just happy she knows who I am still. It is also common to know that as someone loses their memory, they can still tell great stories from 'back in the day' going back to 50 or even 75 years ago. On a brighter note, my Grandma Voigt had a burn removed on her leg. My dad said that 60+ years ago, she burned her leg from a sun lamp.

So, that's an update. I will definitely bear with my parents as well as my uncle as they go through this tough transitional phase. They will definitely be taking turns doing the taxi service, as well as running errands. I even volunteered to help out. So, wish us all luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 was a year for concerts/shows

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I would go to several concerts so I can enjoy myself and experience the greatness of the music and the performer. After all, I'm a lifelong fan of the greatest of all entertainment! I claim to have a very diverse taste, with some exceptions here and there (I can tell you in a future blog that I don't care too much for a lot of current stuff people my age call 'cool'), but I wanted to witness what I can before anything happens to me, or the artist or band. So as long as I can afford it, and take off work at the right time, then it was my time to fulfill. Life is too short. Party hard, if not even that!

If you've read a lot of my blogs throughout this year, you probably already know that I've attended a handful of shows. I got the chance to see rock legends Elton John and Billy Joel (together), Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Elvis Costello, among many others. I've even taken the chance to see current and future legends as well. In an earlier blog, I wrote about artists performing 'full-length albums' in concert. This year, I got to see four classic albums performed live. In this order, I saw Aerosmith perform their 1975 album Toys In The Attic. In August, I watched Motley Crue perform 1989's Dr. Feelgood as part of their 20th anniversary for the album. It was cool hearing Vince Neil saying 'Okay, that was the end of Side One. And now, on to Side Two....'. In October I witnessed They Might Be Giants performing one of my favorite albums, Flood. All the songs were not in order, but it was still cool. Later that month, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band performed the album that put them on the map, Born To Run.

But some weird things have happened throughout the year, associating with those acts. Aerosmith, for one. Today it is in question if the group will be together. As a lifelong fan of Aerosmith (since fifth-grade), I know they have had a long history together, going through one breakup which turned out for the best as they entered a second successful chapter in their career during the late 80s. My friend Liz (who is also a huge fan) once had a conversation that groups like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones will never break up, unless death occurs or if something bad happens to a main member, like Mick Jagger or Joe Perry. When I saw Aerosmith back in mid-June, it was their first stop on the tour as they proudly started in St. Louis. I remember the rain delay as well as Perry and Steven Tyler singing the hits together on stage, often leaning against one another. Then a month later, Steve Tyler fell off a stage in South Dakota and that was it for the tour. Last month, it was reported in the media that Tyler hadn't 'spoke with any of the band members as well as his longtime songwriting/musical partner Joe Perry, in months'. There were several drama reports as Aerosmith band members went back and forth at each other, often denying 'a breakup'. According to Wikipedia, since that time Perry and Tyler have performed together a couple times on occasion. So who knows. I really don't want to see a breakup to one of the greatest American bands of all time, or someone taking Steven Tyler's place for that matter. Also, with Bruce Springsteen, I was quite shocked to hear that the next day (after I attended their St. Louis show) that they had to cancel their Kansas City show at the last minute because of a sudden death of one of Springsteen's family members. While I did felt bad for Springsteen, I considered myself very lucky to catch the show at good timing.

Last night, I went to Harrah's St. Louis to see Straight No Chaser. They are an acapella group (ten guys) who found success two years ago with their comical version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', which combined some humorous elements as well as a rendition of Toto's 'Africa'. The group found fame thanks to Youtube when a video of them performing the song in 1998 gained over 8 million views. Atlantic Records president got hold of what was going on and signed the group to a five-album deal. It was their first ever stop in the St. Louis area, and I was proud to be at the sold-out show. They said they will be performing a sold-out event at Madison Square Garden in NY tonight, and on Christmas Day they will be on the Today show. It was an amazing opportunity to meet the group after the show as all 10 members autographed my CD. I simply stated to all members that what they did was awesome and very creative, as well as impressive. It was my first concert that did not rely on instruments of any sort, although a harmonica was sometimes used to start a song. All it took was the power of voice, and all ten of the members were on the same page the whole time. Not one person was singled out as it was always a group effort. I think these guys will be around for a long time. The only challenge I believe would be distancing themselves as 'a holiday act'.

So, for 2010 and on, I will keep the promise on attending shows at the right time. I do hope to make it to a festival show down the road, meaning Coachella or Bonnaroo, or maybe the Memphis Blues festival. I'm already thinking about Rock Fest in Kansas City.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A decade in fallen sports heroes

Gosh, it's been forever since I blogged on here but this is usually the time of year when everybody's busy. I try to juggle it all with work, keeping tabs with people, shopping and keeping up on things. Like me, you're probably sick of hearing and reading about Tiger Woods. So he's had several affairs (10 at last count?) and he may have been drinking before the car crash. By the time the 2000-09 decade is over, we have another sports hero who has taken a dramatic turn.

I admit this has been a bad calendar decade for sports all in itself. Yeah I know, we've had our own St. Louis Cardinals win the Series ('06!), plus 2 baseball teams who hadnt won a world series for 3/4s of a century win their first World Series in a long time. But whats mostly been dominating the news this decade is the steroids scandals, basketball players gone bad and demanding too much, and of course, greed when it comes to the sports players. As Jack Buck once put it, 'This is their way of getting even with the owners'. Probably the biggest blow came to O.J. Simpson as he was found guilty for that hotel room incident last year. I remember reading an op-ed column about it (don't remember author) called 'A True Fallen Hero'. He talked about in the 1970s where O.J. Simpson dominated pre-teen boys walls and people from all races looked up to him. O.J. Simpson was a person who could do it all: be a football hero, an actor, and a celebrity pitchman. Of course, all that changed in 1994 when he accused of murdering his ex-wife and her lover. But despite of the acquittal, there was still a lot of speculation. The final nail in the coffin came last year as we saw the 'real side' of O.J. Simpson.

Its hard to find a sports hero. And by the way, this has gone on for a long time as far as controversy. In the 1930s, Babe Ruth was one of a kind out on the field but outside the game he was a 'boozing womanizer' that fans quickly forgave. I don't think it was such a big deal back then what they did in their outside life. But society is different today as public figures, no matter who they are (politicians, actors, sports figures), have to deal with gossip all the time. After all, that's what we get for being in 'The Information Age'.

It's looking like my pick for 'Athlete of the Decade' is Lance Armstrong. I'll get to more on that in a future blog. Before the year and month is over, I want to post a few lists of the best of 2009 as well as the best of 2000-09. Be on the lookout!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

you know Obama's doing something wrong when.....

...a 95-year old WWII veteran complains about the less-than-a-year old Obama administration. I got this off Snopes and I just had to share this. It's not everyday you hear about someone with a 95 y.o. brain and bones who can straight up tell it like it is and courageously write a letter to his Congressmen and the President. And yes, Harold Estes (author of this piece) is a real person and it was indeed written by him.


November 20, 2009

Dear President Obama,
My name is Harold Estes, approaching 95 on December 13 of this year. People meeting me for the first time don't believe my age because I remain wrinkle free and pretty much mentally alert.
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1934 and served proudly before, during and after WW II retiring as a Master Chief Bos'n Mate. Now I live in a "rest home" located on the western end of Pearl Harbor allowing me to keep alive the memories of 23 years of service to my country.
One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man.
So here goes.
I am amazed, angry and determined not to see my country die before I do but you seem hell bent not to grant me that wish.
I can't figure out what country you are the president of. You fly around the world telling our friends and enemies despicable lies like:
" We're no longer a Christian nation"
" America is arrogant" - (Your wife even announced to the world,"America is mean-spirited. " Please tell her to try preaching that nonsense to 23 generations of our war dead buried all over the globe who died for no other reason than to free a whole lot of strangers from tyranny and hopelessness.)
I'd say shame on the both of you but I don't think you like America nor do I see an ounce of gratefulness in anything you do for the obvious gifts this country has given you. To be without shame or gratefulness is a dangerous thing for a man sitting in the White House.
After 9/11 you said," America hasn't lived up to her ideals."
Which ones did you mean? Was it the notion of personal liberty that 11,000 farmers and shopkeepers died for to win independence from the British ? Or maybe the ideal that no man should be a slave to another man that 500,000 men died for in the Civil War ? I hope you didn't mean the ideal 470,000 fathers, brothers,husbands,and a lot of fellas I knew personally died for in WWII, because we felt real strongly about not letting any nation push us around because we stand for freedom.
I don't think you mean the ideal that says equality is better than discrimination. You know the one that a whole lot of white people understood when they helped to get you elected.
Take a little advice from a very old geezer, young man. Shape up and start acting like an American.If you don't, I'll do what I can to see you get shipped out of that fancy rental on Pennsylvania Avenue .You were elected to lead not to bow, apologize and kiss the hands of murderers and corrupt leaders who still treat their people like slaves.
And just who do you think you are telling the American people not to jump to conclusions and condemn that Muslim major who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded dozens more. You mean you don't want us to do what you did when that white cop used force to subdue that black college professor in Massachusetts who was putting up a fight ? You don't mind offending the police calling them stupid but you don't want us to offend Muslim fanatics by calling them what they are, terrorists.
One more thing. I realize you never served in the military and never had to defend your country with your life but you're the Commander-in-Chief now, son. Do your job. When your battle-hardened field General asks you for 40,000 more troops to complete the mission, give them to him. But if you're not in this fight to win, then get out. The life of one American soldier is not worth the best political strategy you're thinking of.
You could be our greatest president because you face the greatest challenge ever presented to any president. You're not going to restore American greatness by bringing back our bloated economy. That's not our greatest threat. Losing the heart and soul of who we are as Americans is our big fight now. And I sure as hell don't want to think my president is the enemy in this final battle.
Harold B. Estes

McAlpin , FL