Friday, November 26, 2010

Paper E-Paper?

There’s been a lot of focus on electronic paper in recent years – that is, portable electronic displays that mimic the high-resolution, color and flexibility of real high-quality, four-color printed paper, but with virtually infinite capacity and immediacy (reload and refresh anytime capabilities).

Many media-tech experts agree that, in some shape or form, this is the next evolutionary step for “print publishing.” I’ve been following developments in this arena for a few years and I'm fascinated by the prospect of the high-resolution presentation and portability-enhancing flexibility and wi-fi capabilites these devices promise.

Now a report comes out detailing what seems to be a bizarre and maybe even ironic twist on the idea of e-paper: Disposable, paper-based e-paper!

On the surface, everything about it is pretty cool, except the most obvious question: why would you want to make it disposable? Well, because it’s cheap, it keeps the paper companies in business and we can always use outer space for the next landfill.

Read The Guardian’s full report about this latest development here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The New Old Paradise

Blitzen Trapper’s 11/4/10 performance was the first show I’ve seen at the recently renovated Paradise Rock Club. As the perennial best mid-size (800 capacity) club in Boston, The Paradise has, at one time or another, hosted most of the major rock acts of the last three decades on their journey up the stairway to stardom, not to mention most of the best local artists, too. The transformation of the club that took place late this summer is interesting in that it left significant parts of the venue untouched, while radically transforming others.

The entryway and hallway to the performance area are more open and inviting, with the adjacent front Lounge area gussied up, more accessible to the main venue and looking less like an afterthought (apparently, they’re promoting it as a pre-show dining option). Most notable is the gutting of the first floor area underneath the small balcony that wraps around 3/4 of the club. This creates much easier access and maneuverability on the first floor, as well as a somewhat claustrophobic effect if you find yourself camped out for long under the now very low-ceilinged sections beneath the balcony.

Once out from under the balcony, things remain pretty much the same. One of the back bars has been enlarged and moved to the left side of the club, under the deepest part of the balcony. The stage has been moved 10 feet or so to the left, so that the infamous big round central pillar is no longer staring lead singers right in the face from a few feet away, or creating a visual and physical obstacle for the crowd right in front. You’d think that would be a major improvement and, for a small portion of the crowd and the musicians at centerstage, it is. However, it creates a situation where two pillars, located a few feet from each corner of the stage, are now more of an obstruction. So while the obstruction is no longer right in front of the center of the stage, now 2/3 of the audience’s view is somewhat blocked, as opposed to only about 1/3 in the former set up (albeit the all-important center).

But it is what it is, and the new configuration probably just takes some getting used to. Having seen in the neighborhood of 100 shows there over the last 25 years, it might take me a little while. However, it remains my favorite place to see national-level acts in Boston.

A view I’ve approached countless times

over the past 25 years: One of the few

near-constants in my adult life!

Friday, November 5, 2010


As a long-time editor and media professional, I find the recent copyright infringement incident involving Cooks Source magazine stunning not only in its flagrancy, but in the brazen stance taken by the editor, which is utterly beyond belief. (Get the backstory here, courtesy of The Guardian.)

The editor’s comment that the writer should be appreciative of all the work they did fixing up her poor copy after they STOLE and republished her article really takes the cake. Incredible! Then again, what can you expect from a publication that doesn’t even punctuate its own name correctly?

They deserve to be sued. But perhaps they’re getting a bigger punishment meted out in the court of public opinion. There has been much ado about the matter on various blogs and in social media circles in the last few days. Commenters have been sticking it to the magazine on Twitter and on its Facebook wall:Hey, I was told I could find Crooks Source here …” and, my favorite, “Does anyone have a link to Cooks Source’s recipe for Copy Pasta?”

They’ve got some serious damage control ahead of them. I’ll be surprised if one particular self-proclaimed veteran editor, badly in need of a reality check and some professional ethics, retains her job.

Blitzen ... Free and Easy

I just saw Blitzen Trapper at the recently refurbished Paradise Rock Club in Boston (see The New Old Paradise). It was a good show; not quite stunningly great, but very entertaining. The crowd was enthusiastic, but low-key, while the band delivered a well-paced performance interspersed with some truly inspired moments.

Despite having heard a couple of live recordings of the band, I didn’t know quite what to expect performance wise. I've enjoyed Blitzen Trapper’s few records, and heard from reliable sources that they were good live. But I also couldn’t help but wonder if they would fall into the seemingly growing category of bands that I really like on record but which prove to be a snore in concert (e.g., The Brian Jonestown Massacre, proven; Built to Spill, suspected and confirmed by others; and Black Mountain, marginally proven, but I’m willing to give them another chance). Any fears I had with regard to Blitzen Trapper were quickly alleviated.

BT @ The Paradise, Boston 11/4/10 (a Sick Frank Photo)

The Portland, Ore.-based sextet put on a varied and engaging show that while short on visuals and theatrics was long on sincerity and well-developed songwriting. Their total lack of pretentiousness – though headliners, the band members were actively involved in setting up their own equipment after the opening act’s set (not something I’ve seen too often at The Paradise) – infused their performance and was almost as remarkable as the instrumental interplay and the absolutely killer harmony vocals. No one player really dominated, though lead singer and main songwriter Eric Earley is clearly the frontman.

The tandem of Earley and Marty Marquis (both of whom play formidable guitar along with Erik Menteer’s Mick Taylor-esque Les Paul licks and synthesizer dabbling) were really remarkable. In fact, beyond the array of catchy tunes, the most remarkable thing about the performance was the tandem of lead and harmony vocals (mostly provided by various configurations of Earley, Marquis and drummer Brian Koch). Truly powerful and impressive stuff.

But what did it sound like? A little rawer than the band’s records and, surprisingly, casual given the sophisticated, layered arrangements and production of their CDs. There’s no doubt Blitzen Trapper fits into the “Americana” genre, and live they come across as one part Bob Dylan, one part Simon and Garfunkle, one part Exile-era Rolling Stones, one part Drive By Truckers, one part Neil Young (electric), and half-parts Black Crowes, Big Star, The Faces, C.S.N. and The Band. Nevertheless, their music is sufficiently original, and despite the touches of southern gothic (hence the DBT, Crowes, Big Star and Band refs.), they are also characteristically “Northwestern” sounding. Overall, they wear their influences well.

Their set was well-sequenced, flowing from three-guitar rockers to mellower keyboard-driven songs and even solo acoustic guitar and vocal duets featuring Earley and Marquis. Their hits were strategically sprinkled throughout the course of the set. “Furr” was the highlight, followed by “Jericho,” “Wild Mountain Nation,” “Fire & Fast Bullets,” “Silver Moon” and the melodica-powered “Lady on the Water.” Only the mid-set rendition of their biggest hit, “Black River Killer,” didn’t quite live up to expectations, seeming a bit rushed and cursory. Nevertheless, it was a very entertaining 90-minute show. I’ll definitely see them again and I’d recommend checking them out if you get a chance.

Click to see an interesting streaming video of a more hirsute version of the band than I saw tonight. It’s a concert recorded a year ago in Sydney, Australia. Also, check out YouTube, where you can find some good official (but non-embeddable) Blitzen Trapper music videos.