Tuesday, December 30, 2003

More reasons to be thankful it's late December

Dave Barry's year-ender is out. Monday, Dave participated in an online chat via The Washington Post. The transcript is here. Money question/answer:

Washington, D.C.: PC or Mac?

Dave Barry: I have both. That is the kind of cyberstud I am. I like them both for different reasons: The Mac beacause of the terrific design and ease of use, and the PC because I enjoy talking to the fun guys 'n' gals at Technical Support.

Rewriting the rules?

USA Today's fairly evenhanded cover story on blogs (primarily political ones) overlooks some of the bigger players but doesn't overstate the importance of the phenomenon, either.

It's blo-o-g, It's blo-o-o-g, it's big, it's heavy, it's wood ...

Much belated here, but this fine publication gets a "thumbs up" from Las Vegas Weekly columnist Richard Abowitz in a Nov. 26 review of blogs by local journalists. Abowitz didn't have much good to say about many of them, save those from Las Vegas City Life writer Mike Zigler and me. For some odd reason, the column is not available on the Weekly's Web site, so through the magic of typing, here's a bit of shameless self-promotion:

My favorite blog comes from Rick Henderson. Like Zigler, Henderson offers in his blog an opinionated, behind-the-scenes account of political events in Nevada. But Henderson's blog abandons the personal entirely [well, kinda ... ed.] in favor of a far more comprehensive take on every issue that has made the local papers. Where Zigler dedicates a few sentences to his impression of Dean [during his fall campaign stop in Las Vegas], Henderson analyzes everything about the candidate, the campaign, and the speech. Best of all, Henderson is never dull to read. ...

Sounds like a blurb to me.

So now I'll stop abandoning the personal entirely

Yes, we had a somewhat significant snow storm here overnight. Our part of town got the most -- there may be a couple of inches accumulated on the grass, trees, and shrubs, and some slush on the pavement. Since we're personally such Luddites, we don't have a digital camera, but I was out there around dawn, taking photos the old-fashioned way before the stuff melts. (The temperature is already above freezing and is expected to reach the low 50s today.) If we happen to receive e-mail with photos from friends and neighbors, I'll post something. Or I'll steal it from the RJ's Web site. Once the photo disc gets back from Costco, I'll post more.

It also snowed on our first visit to Las Vegas, Christmas 1997. I recall walking up the Strip from the Desert Inn toward the Sahara, where we were staying, and a few flakes fallling. Nothing accumulated, which is typical, but it was pretty neat. This is by far the most snow I've seen since we moved here nearly four years ago. I'll monitor the local reports to see if this ranks among the top storms in recent history.

Bad segue, worse metaphor

The snow may help to wash away 2003, which was not a good year in the Henderson/Brown household. The death of my father; the loss of our beloved 13-year-old kitty Snuffles; the auto accident which cost us a car, kept Lola from working for maybe six months, necessitated knee surgery for me (and forced me to use all my accumulated leave time from work) -- all this temporarily soured me on living in Vegas. Aside from the accident, none of these was a uniquely Vegas phenomenon. But 2003 blew. And we were here. Bring on '04. Fast.

Speaking of 2003 ...

I didn't post about the PBS "Year of the Blues" series Martin Scorsese put together when it aired. In part, that's because I taped it and watched most of it later. But also, I was silent because the whole damn thing was disappointing. The series' main fault was encapsulated in this Washington Times review (titled "PBS embalms a living tradition"). Money quote:

Underlying the myriad faults of the series is a fundamental misdiagnosis of the overall health of the genre: The blues of "The Blues," while enormously influential in its day, is today a beleaguered thing; it's in retreat, neglected, wearily resilient.
You would never know — because "The Blues" doesn't tell you — that there's a critically venerated and surprisingly successful band called the White Stripes that has made the blues avant-garde again. Or that a filthy-rich and mass-popular band like Aerosmith doesn't think it's a bad career move to make an all-blues album, which it plans to release next year. Or that there are young blues-guitar classicists like Joe Bonamassa, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd doing pretty well for themselves on the touring circuit.

The entire series treated the blues like some museum piece, a precious, 'til now undiscovered Mozart symphony which must be treated with reverence and kid gloves, rather than raucous and dynamic, traditionally based, to be sure, but relevant and evolving ... and far from spent.

I was also stunned that so few active, contemporary blues artists (other than the venerated ones -- B.B. King, Ray Charles, Dr. John, Jay McShann, Pinetop Perkins; and the neo-traditionalists like Taj Mahal, Keb Mo, Corey Harris) even merited a mention in the show. (Don't get me wrong; I love these guys.) But as the Times review noted, there's a vibrant club-and-concert circuit of national touring acts and local artists alike. A lot of the musicians are Baby Boomers or younger. And they sure know how to entertain. But these folks were ignored by the series.

I wondered how working musicians viewed the series, when lo and behold, we received our quarterly e-mail from Honey Piazza, the Chicago-born pianist from the great, SoCal-based blues band Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers (their Web site's in the middle of a renovation, but it has offered great content in the past; stay tuned). Here's what this 30-year veteran of the blues circuit had to say:

I, personally, am glad to see "The Year of the Blues" come to an end!! Other than an incomplete documentary coming out on mainstream TV (where were all of the "meat-and-potato" performers who have been fighting out on the front line for years, us included?), all of the touring acts suffered with festivals canceling due to eliminated city/state funds, and club owners closing their doors due to poor turn-outs. We are all hoping for a turnaround in 2004.

OK, so 2003 wasn't a great year for niche performers, either.

From earlier dispatches, Honey noted that the post-9/11 world has been unkind to musicians who rely on air travel to hop from one gig to another ... particularly when they have lots of equipment in tow. That said, there are hundreds of talented, exciting, rockin' blues bands playing all over. Give 'em a little love.