Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

November 8, 2007

Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

I vaguely remember hearing about the collaboration of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss a few months ago. At the time I thought it could either be an incredible project or a dud.

Surfing the net today, I discovered that their collaboration has been released. It’s called Raising Sand. I went to the web site for the project at www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com hoping to learn more about the project and maybe hear some samples of the resulting music.

The project was produced by T Bone Burnett. I have one of his CD’s called The Talking Animals. I bought that mainly for a song called “The Killer Moon” which initially reminded me of John Lennon. The rest of the CD is ok, but I never was interested enough in his stuff to buy anything else by him.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that you could listen to the entire Raising Sand album on line at the web site. I didn’t really know what to expect. Alison Krauss is probably the best female singer I’ve ever heard. And of course, Robert Plant is a legend in rock music. Maybe I halfway expected them to sound something like Hayseed Dixie. Boy, was I wrong.

If you’re looking for upbeat music, this isn’t the album for you. It’s definitely not a cross between rock and bluegrass. I don’t really know how to describe it. I guess it reminds me more of Cowboy Junkies than anything, and I don’t like the Cowboy Junkies.

I think the main problem with this album is the song selection. Apparently Burnett picked the songs.  I guess he was trying to avoid anything that might be similar to what Plant and Krauss would normally do, and I think he succeeded very well at that.

I was familiar with one song on Raising Sand. “Please Read The Letter” was a cut on the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant CD called Walking Into Clarksdale. Without Page’s guitar work, the song lacks spark and punch. But actually, most of Raising Sand could be said to lack spark and punch.

The drums (or whatever; it’s hard to tell) are some of the muddiest sounding drums I’ve ever heard. The vocals, from two of the best vocalists in the business, sound so subdued that you have to wonder if they were really into the project. According to the video on their website, they were into it.

I think Rounder made a big mistake when they put the whole album on line to listen to. I would have probably bought the album unheard had I seen it in a record store. I’m definitely not going to do that now.

I really hope these two get together again, but with a different producer. They have incredible potential as a duet.

November 2, 2007

Avoid Member’s Edge – Block Third Party Billing

We noticed we were being charged $20 for voice mail on our AT&T bill this month. The only problem is, we turned off voice mail at least a year ago. Turns out it was from a “third party billing company” called ILD Teleservices, AKA Members Edge.

I called the number AT&T gave me to get this “service” canceled (877-448-3232). A recording thanking me for calling Member’s Edge told me my call was important to them and that all of their agents were talking to other Member’s Edge customers. I waited on hold for about 10 minutes, then a beep and silence. I called Member’s Edge back about 30 minutes later, was told again that Member’s Edge considered my call important, and after about another 10 minutes on hold, “Sonya” answered. I explained to her that I’d never heard of Member’s Edge or IDS Teleservices. She explained to me that someone signed up for Member’s Edge. That person turns out to be a guest in my house.

I told her that our guest didn’t have the authority to sign up for anything that would add charges to my bill, but she insisted that didn’t matter; if they put in a birth date that shows they’re over 18 and a mother’s maiden name, that’s enough for them.

After a little back and forth, she offered to issue me two month’s credits. I told her that I had charges for three months and that wasn’t acceptable. She basically told me that was all she could do. So I told her that I’d just not pay the charge on the current bill and they could sue me.

The bottom line here is, if I know your address and phone number, I can go to the Member’s Edge web site and sign you up for stuff you don’t want or need. If I’m unscrupulous, and I work for one of these companies on commission, I could sign up a whole bunch of people and make a ton of money. There’s literally no confirmation done by your phone company that these charges are legitimate. Their system just takes the info from the third party, and if the info matches, they add it to your phone bill.

AT & T does have a free service that will block third party billing, but you first have to even know about it, and second you have to call them and opt in to it. This is backwards. If I want to allow third parties to put charges on my phone bill, then I should have to call the phone company to tell them to allow it. At the very least, I should have to speak to someone at the phone company to verify that I’m signing up for something to be billed to my phone bill.

I’d suggest that everyone call their phone company right now and sign up to block third party billing to prevent companies like IDS Teleservices/Member’s Edge from submitting charges to your phone company. Otherwise you’re leaving yourself open to having to pay for charges for a service you didn’t sign up for. And by all means, read the fine print on these web sites that try to entice you by giving you free things…free until you find out you have to “complete” the sponsors’ offers.

October 30, 2007

NASCAR: Atlanta, Memphis, Yawn

If you’re one of those racing fans who only watch races for the wrecks, then you must have thought the Memphis Busch race Saturday was an exciting race. What did they have, 25 cautions for almost half the laps?

My theory is that  this is a result of all the “Busch whackers” (guess they’ll have to figure out another punny name for those guys next year) who run week in and week out. This race had fewer Cup drivers and more Busch drivers. Those Busch drivers have not had the track time or the experience racing with other Busch drivers, so they’re more likely to make mistakes.

I hear that NASCAR is thinking of not awarding points to anyone in the Grand National Series who’s also in the top 35 in the Cup series. I think that’s a step in the right direction. What they really need to do is just have drivers declare for a championship. If Carl Edwards wants to defend his Grand National championship, then he’d be ineligible to run for the Cup championship. That way it’s in the drivers’ hands.

As far as the Atlanta Cup race goes, I’m still sleepy from the little bit I watched. It look like it might have a decent finish, but NASCAR’s choice to throw the yellow and white flags knocked that out. What’s wrong with not throwing the white flag out if there’s a caution? They should only end up under if they’ve tried a green-white-checker finish a time or two.

Sunday’s Cup race also marked the first time I can remember where a track champion from the Nashville Fairgrounds track did not compete. Jeff Green, Sterling Marlin, and I believe, Chad Chaffin are the only remaining Nashville track champions competing who compete or want to compete regularly. With Marlin and Green getting pushed out of their rides, that just leaves Chaffin in the Truck Series.

It’s definitely the end of an era. Nashville has had a track champion in the Cup Series competing on a regular basis for most of NASCAR’s history. NASCAR continues to leave its past behind.

October 29, 2007

Your Money’s No Good Here

Apple has announced that they will no longer accept cash from people wanting to buy an iPhone. They’re also limiting the number of iPhones a person can buy to two.

While I agree that they have the right to limit the number of phones a customer can buy, I have to wonder if it’s legal for them to not accept cash for the phone?

On all the bills I have it says “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” This policy would seem to discriminate against people who don’t have or won’t get a credit card.

I used to like Apple, but they kind of got weird after the Lisa came out. My second computer was an Apple ][+ (which is still in the garage somewhere; I wonder if it still boots up?).

But over the years they’ve copped an attitude that seems so indicate that they look down on people who don’t have the decency to buy their products. And to some extent, a lot of Apple buyers have this same attitude.

Personally, I like being able to work on my own computer. If the power supply goes out, it’s nice to hop over to the local computer store and get a replacement. You can’t do that with Apple products because of their proprietary nature.

Microsoft gets a lot of heat for being a “monopoly”. Seems to me that Apple’s a monopoly too, but they haven’t been under government investigation for over 10 years.

October 24, 2007

Hey, Jude!

Sitting here listing to the Beatles 1, and Hey Jude is playing.

Does anyone else think that Ringo’s drums sound like cardboard boxes? The snare doesn’t have any top end and the bass drum sounds like he’s kicking a Kleenex box.

I’m just sayin…

October 19, 2007

Music City Motorplex: What’s Wrong?

Since I gave up being the webmaster for the racetrack at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds (now called Music City Motorplex), I pretty much stopped going to the races there. Apparently, I’m not alone. Their “experiment” last year of having the races on Friday was a big failure, and it’s obvious that they didn’t recover from it this year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to the “Southern 300” this past Sunday. First off, if you’re gonna put a number in the name of the race, it needs to have some relationship with the number of laps or miles or even kilometers. The Southern 300 used to be a 300-lap race for the premier division at the track. Today, it’s a 200-lap late model race, a 100-lap truck race, and a 75 lap street modified (now called grand national) race. Where you get “300” out of that I have no idea. And they’re doing the same with the All American 400 next month. It’s not really a 400-lap race.

Anyway, this season I went to a few races. Car counts are about what they were last season, which is just barely above a dozen. I don’t know if it’s the officiating, the purse or what, but back when Bob Harmon was running the show, 30 late models was a low number.

Also, the few races I went to, there were a couple of cars that dominated the race. Boring. Boring racing will cause fans to not come back in droves. I don’t know if they’re using crate engines or if they’ve gone back to letting teams build their own, but they need to equalize the cars better.

I’m not sure what the track needs. All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be the “spark” that used to be there. They had (yet again) live music before the race. I hope those folks played for free; I’d hate to think that they’re paying performers to come out and perform in front of the 50 people who arrived two hours early. The crowd ended up being pretty good by the time the races started, but for the 90 minutes before, there was no need to have a live band because there were so few people.

Actually, I can think of one thing the track needs: publicity. I just happened to remember that the Southern 300 was running that weekend from my prior visits to the track’s web site. They might have run ads in the newspaper, but I don’t get that rag so I don’t’ know. I listen regularly to the radio station that Norm Partin used to be on, but didn’t hear one single ad. Nothing on TV either.

As the person who created the first web site for the track, back in 1996, I think I’m qualified to comment on the state of the current web site. First off, if you’re using Firefox, you might as well just start Internet Explorer when you want to go to the site. I don’t know what the webmaster is doing, but the site looks awful in Firefox. Secondly, the site is too “noisy”. Yeah, I know they’ve got to have sponsors and stuff, but the layout is just messy. Thirdly, there’s not much historical info on the site, and what little there is is woefully out of date. I did a LOT of historical research for the web page; it’s sad to see that not much is on there now. And finally, I was at the track every Saturday night, posting updates on the web site as the races happened. Fans of the track who were out of town or no longer in Nashville always liked those in-race updates.

Now that I’m on a roll, another thing the track needs, and I hate to say it because I know the PA announcer, is a new announce team. I know they’re both doing the best they can, but they have two strikes against them: 1) they’re not really up to the level of Joe Williams and Malcolm West, and 2) you can’t hear what they’re saying anyway. Joe and Malcolm set the gold standard for announcers; they work incredibly well together (I believe they still announce the races at Nashville Superspeedway and Memphis Motorsports Park). They’re entertaining and they know what they’re talking about. And that PA has needed an overhaul for several years. But with the future of the lease in limbo, there’s no incentive for the current leaseholder to do any improvements to the PA or any of the facility.

But the biggest problem with the track is the Fair Board. Right now the big question is, will it continue to be a track after next year? The Fair Board seems to have their heads up their butts and actually asked folks if there still needed to be a track there or something else. And they’ve supposedly hired some type of consultant to give them recommendations on what to do with the property. Can you imagine the Nashville Sports Authority doing something like this to the arena or the stadium?

I don’t know what ideas our new mayor has regarding the track. All I know is it’s a part of racing history, NASCAR history, and Nashville history. It’d be a shame for it to be plowed under for a minor league ball park.

I guess the main conclusion here is that, while there are problems at the track, none of those can really be addressed fully until the Fair Board decides to give someone a long term lease.

October 17, 2007

NASCAR: Sterling, Sterling, Sterling

I went to see the “Southern 300” Sunday at Music City Motorplex. The main reason I went was to see former Nextel driver Sterling Marlin race. I hadn’t seen him race at the Fairgrounds in probably 10 years, so I was looking forward to it.

Before the race, I logged onto the Motorplex’s web site to get the starting lineups. I was pleased to see there were 25 cars in the field (which is about 10 more than average these days) and that Sterling and his son Steadman were starting in the top 10.

I was surprised then when the race started that they were both in the back. I figured that they’d changed engines or something and had to go to the rear. I was surprised today to learn that they’d been put to the rear for having soaked tires. Was Sterling that unsure of his car or talent? He won two track championships there, not to mention two Daytona 500’s, so I think he’s capable of winning there.

There was really no need to try to cheat to run well. Once the race started, he zoomed towards the front and was running 7th when he had throttle “problems”. One now has to wonder if he really had any problem at all; did he exit early because he knew his car wouldn’t pass the post-race inspection?

I’m really disappointed in Sterling.

Otherwise, the race was pretty good. It was nice to see that many cars on the track. It’d be great to see the track get back to the level it was when Bob Harmon ran it. If they had 25 cars then, that was considered a low car count. Thirty or so cars were the norm. Same is true for the SuperTruck division. They used to average in the mid twenties for starters; now they’re lucky to get a dozen.

In a later post, I’ll put forth a few thoughts about what’s wrong with the track and what it needs to get back on its feet.

Anyway, it was good to see Skip McCord win the race.  I’d seen him race several years ago on a weekly basis (in the SuperTruck division I think). Recently he’s been working at Bobby Hamilton Sr’s shop as a fabricator, and the trophy for the race was named in honor of Bobby, so that was pretty fitting.

October 8, 2007

NASCAR: Nationwide Is Not On My Side

Next year the NASCAR Busch Series will be known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The insurance company signed a seven year deal with NASCAR to become the title sponsor of the second-tier series, and to become their official insurance company, replacing Allstate.

In a lesson perhaps learned with the AT&T fiasco this year, instead of grandfathering in Geico, a competitor of Nationwide, they’ll be sunsetting that sponsorship after two years. In other words, the team with the Geico sponsorship has two years to find another sponsor.  I guess that beats getting sued, but I still don’t think it’s correct that NASCAR has prior restraint on someone’s contract.

There’s been talk that NASCAR is looking to change the cars in this series in the next couple of years. With that in combination with the Car of Tomorrow being used exclusively in the Cup Series next year you would think that it would lessen the number of Cup guys in the series (guess they’ll have to come up with a name to replace Busch wackers; maybe claims adjusters?).

The Truck Series doesn’t have this problem; those drivers don’t have to worry about a dozen “outsiders” coming in every week, taking their points and prize money. And as a result, the battle for the championship is very close. It’s so close that NASCAR doesn’t need to “fake” up a chase to make it exciting.

Speaking of exciting, the Talladega Cup race was pretty good I thought… except for that one spot right before halfway where they all decided to stop racing and play follow the leader. I think the finish would have been more exciting if Earnhardt and Waltrip hadn’t had troubles. Of course, Stewart did his best to make it exciting, swerving from one lane to the other. No wonder he’s never won there.

October 4, 2007

Question for Comcast

I’ve had internet service through cable for quite a few years now. When it started out, it was actually called @HOME. Then Comcast bought them out.

I created an email account with the Comcast service, primarily so I could send myself stuff. But my main email address is at the harness.us domain. My wife’s main email address is at Comcast.net.

Twice, in the last year, I’ve sent her email from my harness.us account, only to have it bounced back saying that my email matched the profile of a spammer and that  they were blocking all email from harness.us. I’ve had to go to their silly form on their web site and beg to be reinstated.

Their purpose, supposedly, is to lessen or eliminate spam to their customers. OK, that’s more or less a noble cause.

But here’s my question: Why, Comcast, do I get about a dozen spam emails a week on my own Comcast.net email account? The one that I’ve never published, never given to anyone, and should be unknown to anyone? Seems like their spam filters return too many false positives and not enough true positives.

October 2, 2007

Rock and Roll Hall of Sham

It’s now official: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is bogus.

According to this article, the Hall is controlled by the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine. This year’s nominees to the hall are Chic, Afrika Bambaataa, John Mellencamp, the Beastie Boys, Donna Summer, Madonna, Dave Clark Five, the Ventures and Leonard Cohen.

Chic? Afrika Bamalamadingdong? Beastie Boys? Donna Summer? MADONNA? You have got to be kidding me. And the Dave Clark Five should have been in in the last vote, because they got more votes than, get this, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. What’s rap “music” got to do with Rock and Roll?

The Hall of Fame should have been located in Memphis, Tennessee to begin with. The fact that Cleveland got it is due more to the money they put up than anything the city had to do with the history of Rock and Roll. That should have been a clear indication of the criteria they’d use for induction to the Hall of Fame.

So, who’ll Madonna beat into the Hall of Fame? Roger Friedman’s article I linked to above lists lots of artists and bands. Bands like The Moody Blues, Yes, Genesis and performers like Tina Turner, Neil Sedaka, and Billy Preston. The fact that none of these historically significant performers is already in the Hall pretty much diminishes the Hall’s importance.