Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smith: Let Not Technology Kill Books

Patti Smith was among the major winners of the U.S. National Book Awards on Wednesday, choking up with tears before urging book publishers not to let technology kill traditional books.

Smith, a 63-year-old American singer-songwriter and poet, turned emotional as she accepted the nonfiction award for "Just Kids," which chronicles her struggles in her youth and relationship with American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

"There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth," said Smith, whose book was published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please never abandon the book."

Tom Wolfe, whose list of best-sellers includes "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "The Right Stuff" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The night featured a sprinkling of jokes about the state of the book publishing industry, which is going through a tumultuous period as it deals with the nascent market for electronic books. [more...]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stern's Satellite Gift: The Piano Man

Howard Stern is right about the dismal state of talk shows today.  Talk TV is the worst, with its endless interruptions, commercial breaks, its shuffle-the-guests-in-and-out syndrome, all the phony one-liners, too many hosts shouting over each other... it's hardly worth all the effort.  Like Carol Burnett used to sing at the end of her show, "Seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say 'so long.'"  But even talk radio has its limitations.  Radio interviews are much more intimate and stream-of-consciousness, true, but terrestrial radio is almost as bad as talk TV these days with all the commercialism.

I had my doubts about "pay radio" (satellite) in the beginning; but now I think it was the smartest move Howard ever made and his recent discussions about it seem to be gelling into a brand new way of life in the talk radio interview genre that is so popular today.  With (supposedly) only 13 more shows to go on his contract and his career hanging in limbo (or so he'd like us to believe), Howard has been dropping coy hints about a choice he has to make and has let us in on quite a few possible new paths he may or may not take.

I, for one, believe Howard is one of the best interviewers in the history of talk radio AND TV.  He has a gift of bringing out the heart and soul of an artist - illustrated grandly once again by his groundbreaking interview with Billy Joel yesterday.  Like so many Americans, I'd always loved Joel's music, but had forgotten what an American treasure he truly is... until Howard let us in on an uninterrupted visit with one of the greatest musical talents America has ever known.

I was so moved (as Howard reiterated over and over, got "goosebumps" and was even swooning right along with him) as Joel's immense talent, filtered by a genuine humility about his legacy (the unpretentiousness that charmed us all in the first place - his everyman "Levittown" guy quality) oozed out of my speakers as improvisation after improvisation flowed effortlessly from the great "Piano Man."  In this intimate setting, he felt comfortable tuning his voice and retuning, changing key, allowing us to hear the cracks and swells as he aligned himself with his audience, eventually settling into his comfort zone. 

It was thrilling to listen to Joel showcasing great classics - everything from his own prolific catalogue, to music still inside his head waiting to be borne, to his renditions of his self-proclaimed hero, Steve Winwood's sterling voice singing "Dear Mr. Fantasy," to his pounding of those golden Steinway keys imitating his idol, Paul McCartney, singing the great Abbey Road medley including "You Never Give Me Your Money."  And then there was the revelation that, contrary to popular belief, "Uptown Girl" was about Elle MacPherson, not Christie Brinkley.  It was a terrific piece of Americana light that shone bright from the otherwise bland bevy of 2-5 minute interviews seen and heard on late night TV and anywhere else in the talk radio and/or TV interview genre.

But there's a better reason Howard should end his current talk radio format and take the plunge by pioneering a whole new interview format - one he does best.  For aging rockers like Joel, who might've gotten fat, gray, or worse... talk radio on satellite is the perfect forum to reflect upon and showcase who they once were, what made them great, leading up to who they are today.  Howard's magnanimous spirit was the perfect host apt to let us in on Joel's "secrets" - what inspired his music, how he writes a song, where he finds his muse, how he spends his days (though resting on his laurels) and so much more.  And it seemed to bring out the best in his own personality.  This talk format on satellite allows us to listen to these still youthful sounding, endlessly talented, great musicians without the visuals as constant reminders that a lot of time has gone by and we've all gotten older.  It's entertaining, stimulating and inspiring.  I believe, as a pioneer of talk radio, Howard Stern as host has come full circle and must move on to greener pastures... and he knows full well where the greenest pastures lie. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystic-Art in the U.K.

(12x16) watercolors, marker, pencils

Mystic Artist Sandy Frazier's artwork to grace the album cover of Leigh Stothard's "Live Your Life" - excellent musician in the U.K. - - out on iTunes.