Fish Nation Information Station

News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.

NEWS ARCHIVE 2008 JANUARY TO JUNE

Ikea Karaoke Tie-In With Mamma Mia Movie

Did you know that Ikea, the giant furniture chain, is Swedish? To reinforce the point for those who might have forgotten, Ikea is hosting karaoke to tie in with the new movie of Mamma Mia.

Mamma Mia might be a Hollywood movie with a title in Italian, but the music is Swedish. It’s a story written around a set of songs that come from the legendary Swedish band Abba. Ikea customers who participate in the karaoke will be singing Abba songs from the movie. And they’ll win tickets to a private screening of the movie.

The Ikea Mamma Mia karaoke promotion ends July 12, a week before the July 18 movie opening. Check your local Ikea store calendar to find out when you can take the karaoke microphone and sing Abba songs.

Ikea USA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/.

(2008-06-27)

Verizon Dumps Usenet

Verizon this morning cut its ties to one of the oldest parts of the Internet. It’s part of a move by three of the largest U.S. internet service providers (ISPs) to cut their bandwidth costs by dropping Usenet from their Internet offerings.

The move, though a long time in coming, was precipitated by the New York State Attorney General’s office, which did a six-month data mining operation and concluded that child pornography was pervasive on the Internet, claiming to find indications of it in nearly 1 in every 300 newsgroups on Usenet.

The attorney general’s conclusions seem unlikely, as no individual Internet user has come forward to verify the presence of child pornography in any newsgroup. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of complaints is to be expected, as an individual user who files a child pornography complaint risks being prosecuted merely for discovering such material.

Not wanting to be bothered with the details of the problem, Verizon removed most newsgroups from its Usenet servers, keeping one eighth of them that encompass a small fraction of Usenet activity. The groups that remain are generally those that date back to the 1980s.

Sprint is cutting back a little less than Verizon, but is still removing more than half of newsgroups.

Time Warner Cable is shutting off Usenet entirely.

Traditionally, each Usenet host decides individually what newsgroups to carry.

The claim of child pornography, even when none is present, became a favorite tactic of censors during the Reagan administration, and so many are seeing the recent moves as an attempt to shut down legitimate communications on the Internet. Yet even if that is the attorney general’s intentions, others say, the ISPs’ moves are intended merely to cut costs.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week encouraged ISPs in that state to take similar actions, suggesting in a letter to ISPs that the First Amendment does not protect Usenet, and hinting at legal action against ISPs that continue to host newsgroups.

(2008-06-24)

Mozilla Seeks Download Record With Firefox 3.0

Mozilla released version 3.0 of its industry-leading Firefox browser yesterday with the hope of setting a world record for the most downloads in 24 hours.

In 24 hours, 8.3 million users downloaded Firefox 3.0 from the Mozilla servers. Mozilla submitted the results to Guinness and is hoping to have a world record certified.

Firefox has been downloaded around 600 million times since its initial launch, so the Firefox 3.0 launch was a month’s worth of downloads in one day. Mozilla’s servers were not entirely prepared for the initial rush.

The U.S. launch was delayed by over an hour and there were numerous glitches in the first three hours of downloads as over 200 users per second attempted to download the program. But soon enough, the demand fell below 150 downloads per second and everything went smoothly from there on out. Users with high-speed connections reported completing the download in about 30 seconds.

Mozilla: http://www.mozilla.com.

(2008-06-18)

This Old New Chicago Album

cover

Despite the serial number, the new Chicago album is not really new.

Chicago XXXII, also known as “Stone Of Sisyphus,” was recorded 15 years ago. The album’s biting, experimental, horn-oriented sound cost the band their major-label record deal, as Warner Bros. had been hoping for an album of pop electric piano ballads.

The album is out today on Rhino Records.

Chicago: http://www.chicagotheband.com.

(2008-06-17)

Sparks Play Entire Catalog, Debut New Record

Sparks played their 20 albums to date as 20 concerts at Islington Carling Academy, a popular nightclub in London, from Sparks/Halfnelson three weeks ago to Hello Young Lovers last night.

The “Sparks 21X21” series culminates across town at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire with a show debuting the songs of the new album Exotic Creatures of the Deep.

Sparks: http://www.allsparks.com.

(2008-06-12)

Fans, Musicians Buy Planet Rock

The United Kingdom’s favorite classic rock radio station will not have to shut down.

Planet Rock was endangered by financial troubles at its parent company and had been set to shut down March 31 if a buyer could not be found. That deadline was extended several times in order to put together the deal that has Malcolm Bluemel and a consortium of radio fans, which includes some noted rock musicians, buying the station.

The deal took place June 4, with “no break in transmission or changes in programming,” according to a statement on the radio stations’s web site.

Planet Rock: http://www.planetrock.co.uk.

(2008-06-11)

Tori Amos Splits With Epic

Tori Amos is relaunching her career as an independent artist after splitting with Epic Records.

In a statement on her new web site, she says, “Artists need not fear structure, we just have to design and partner with expansive ideas. It is time for us as artists to stop being dependent, dependent on any system that has become undependable. Only then can we help to create a new system that propagates and secures independence for each creator.”

Tori’s last album for Epic was American Doll Posse, released last year. Before signing with Epic, Tori recorded for Atlantic Records from 1992 to 2001.

Tori Amos: http://www.toriamos.com.

(2008-06-05)

Notes

In his new album Circus Money, out this month, Walter Becker puts the emphasis on the precision recording and sarcasm that made him famous as a founder of Steely Dan.

The folks at Wal-Mart must have decided they like three-disk sets. The new exclusive Journey set, out June 3, includes a regular studio album on one CD, 11 rerecorded hits on a second CD, and a concert movie on a DVD. A week later, the Wal-Mart exclusive on the Genesis tour video When in Rome 2007 has the complete June 14 concert with extras on 2 DVDs and a tour documentary, “Come Rain or Shine,” on a third DVD.

If you just want to hear Genesis’ greatest hits, pick up a copy of The Mail today. The paper contains a CD with 12 Genesis hits, along with a full-page exclusive interview with the band. But you have to be in the U.K. or Ireland to get the CD — we hear it wasn’t included in the copies of the paper that are sent overseas.

The Wal-Mart exclusive on the new Eagles album has expired, and now Amazon is touting its own exclusive download edition of Long Road Out of Eden, with the bonus track “Hole in the World.”

AC-DC is overdue for a new album, and one is coming soon, according to their web site: “The band is currently recording in Vancouver with producer Brendan O’Brien and long time audio engineer Mike Fraser.”

It’s tough to launch a new high-end video format during a recession, so Blu-Ray movies are getting steep discounts. When we checked around, we found most of them selling for around half of list price. Most Blu-Ray movies are packaged with a characteristic blue stripe so you won’t mistakenly try to play them in your DVD player. Blu-Ray hardware prices are holding steady, so widespread adoption of Blu-Ray will have to wait at least another year.

Aerosmith members are using their time between tours to get put back together physically. Guitarist Joe Perry had knee-replacement surgery, and singer Steven Tyler is going through a painful series of surgeries and physical therapy to correct long-term injuries to his feet, injuries that he says were caused by repetitive stress from his high-energy stage performance.

With so many live performances, one wonders how Howard Jones can find time to record a studio album. The latest word is that the new album may be out before the end of the year.

Walter Becker: http://www.walterbecker.com; Journey: http://www.journeymusic.com; Genesis: http://www.genesis-music.com; AC-DC: http://www.acdcrocks.com; Aerosmith: http://www.aerosmith.com; Howard Jones: http://www.howardjones.com.

(2008-06-01)

Borders Goes Online

The Borders bookstore chain is selling books online again.

Borders was clearly in over its head in its previous attempt at an online store, which closed 7 years ago. The new online store at Borders.com is a much simpler operation designed to mimic the relaxing feeling of a neighborhood book store.

(2008-05-27)

CBS Buys CNet

CBS has announced the purchase of CNet, one of the oldest web groups with popular technology news and music download web sites.

The $1.8 billion deal, expected to close in less than 6 months, will more than double the size of CBS’s web presence.

CNet’s family of web sites includes News.com, Download.com, mp3.com, ZDNet, and MySimon. In addition to its content, CNet is considered a technology leader in content-oriented web delivery.

(2008-05-15)

The New Price of NIN: Free

Nine Inch Nails has become the first top-tier recording artist to give away an entire album. The Slip is available free at the Nine Inch Nails web site.

Unlike other album giveaways, such as the name-your-price deal on last year’s Radiohead album, The Slip is being given away in lossless formats — at full sound quality — and will not immediately be available for sale.

And this is not a case of an artist giving away second-rate work. Critics agree that The Slip is one of Nine Inch Nails’ best albums.

Nine Inch Nails: http://www.nin.com.

(2008-05-09)

Notes

Journey lost their lead singer of the past decade to an undisclosed medical problem midway through their last tour, but is ready to go again with a new singer, Arnel Pineda, who until recently was performing with Zoo in the Philippines. The band has begun work on a new studio album and is preparing for a summer tour with Heart and Cheap Trick. They are also promoting a new Wal-Mart-only compilation, Revelation.

Make an iMac thin enough, and it won’t overheat when you turn the clock up to 3 GHz. Or that seems to be the idea of the latest versions of the iMac, anyway. Power has its price: the high-end iMac with a 1 TB drive and other extras now costs close to $3,000.

There are now multiple reports of customers receiving and using Mac-compatible Open Computers from Psystar. The consensus so far: it basically works.

Firefox 3, the new version of the popular web browser, has significant improvements in the interface, including the ability to scale images. However, it is not quite ready for the general public. We’ve been testing the fifth beta version of Firefox 3, and it has major bugs in things as basic as clipboard support (for cut and paste) and navigation (for clicking links). So Firefox will probably need at least one more beta before it will be ready for ordinary computer users to try. Apparently the next beta will be available shortly and will be identified as release candidate 1.

The new Asia album is convincing enough to debut in the top 100. Phoenix opens with a guitar-and-drums figure that sounds strikingly like the opening of the band’s debut single 26 years ago.

In recent months, Google Docs has added support for PowerPoint documents, PDF output, video, stock quotes, and 10 national languages. It’s still free — and still considered “beta.”

The first single from Def Leppard’s brand-new album, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, is a duet with country legend Tim McGraw, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. The song won’t be topping the country chart anytime soon. Instead, McGraw, who co-wrote the song, is proud to say he’s the first country singer to hit #1 in the Classic Rock chart. The album takes a back-to-basics approach to rock guitar that fans are sure to be happy with. The band is already a month into an extended world tour.

Madonna’s new album Hard Candy is also a back-to-basics affair, but in the sassy upbeat dance pop style that made her famous. It’s also her last album for Warner Brothers, who must be thrilled to be getting such a strong, image-consistent, non-experimental set as a contractual obligation album. Madonna has also streamlined her previously clunky web site to coincide with the album release.

Vanity Fair is running a not-so-flattering photo set of Miley Cyrus. The photos show the teenage singer’s bare shoulders and back and have caused quite an uproar in the news media. Miley wrote in her blog that she is “so embarrassed” by the photos and that they did not turn out the way she had expected, and has declined further comment. But the media has seized on the story as an excuse to discuss issues related to teenagers with bare shoulders. Vanity Fair, for its part, is doing its best to use the controversy to line up new subscribers.

Journey: http://www.journeymusic.com; Heart: http://www.heart-music.com; Cheap Trick: http://www.cheaptrick.com; Apple: http://www.apple.com; Psystar: http://www.psystar.com; Asia: http://www.originalasia.com; Google Docs: http://docs.google.com; Def Leppard: http://www.defleppard.com; Tim McGraw: http://www.timmcgraw.com; Madonna: http://www.madonna.com.

(2008-05-01)

Just Who Is Psystar, Anyway?

A mysterious company called Psystar claims to be selling Mac clones, but details so far seem to be hard to come by.

The Open Computer, based on its product description, appears to be a build-to-order version of last year’s open-source Hackintosh project to create a souped-up mini-tower version of the Mac Mini. That product, though, was made from off-the-shelf components costing nearly $1,000, while the Open Computer sells for $399.99.

Psystar’s other offering, the OpenPro Computer, seems to be a more expandable version of the Open Computer for $999.99.

Neither computer is really a substitute for a Mac. Psystar says its computers will run an off-the-shelf copy of Mac OS Leopard, but it makes no promises, and its product FAQ suggests that there are significant limitations, some of which have yet to be discovered.

Psystar is selling its computers only though its online store, but took orders for only two days before its merchant gateway pulled the plug, ostensibly because Psystar was taking too many orders. This was perhaps just as well, as the orders Psystar had already taken were more than it could build in its garage, and it had to move to a new location in a commercial neighborhood west of the Miami airport just to build those computers.

After being mostly closed for three days, the online store reopened this morning and is taking orders again, but with an estimated 12-day delay because of the backlog of orders.

There are no reports of anyone actually receiving or using an Open Computer, and the company’s lack of a track record or even a published phone number means only the adventurous would be ordering from them at this point.

A lively online debate has sprung up over whether Psystar is an outright scam or just slow at getting up and running, but as several people have pointed out in those discussions, while it’s sensible to be cautious in dealing with a business startup, it isn’t fair to label it a scam unless it shows a pattern of failing to deliver.

Another debate is reemerging, about whether Apple should officially permit the use of its Mac operating system on other companies’ hardware. Millions of authorized Mac-compatible systems were sold in the mid 1990s, but building a PC that can run Mac is a much simpler proposition now, a project that any serious hobbyist can do with a small pile of parts and a day of tinkering. Apple says it doesn’t want to be in a position of providing technical support for inferior hardware, but parhaps it could accomplish that without actually prohibiting the use of its operating system on computers other than its own.

Psystar: http://www.psystar.com.

(2008-04-19)

Record Stores Don’t Rate

A recent report on U.S. music retail shows that iTunes Store recently passed Wal-Mart to become number one . . . and that record stores no longer rate a slice of the pie.

According to a widely leaked NPD MusicWatch Survey market summary, Apple, owner of iTunes Store, was the top music retailer with a 19 percent share.

The top four sellers combined — Apple, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Amazon — controlled 53 percent of the market.

By contrast, there was just one record store name, FYE, among the top 10, with a three percent share — but it achieved that ranking only by combining with movie chain Coconuts. For that matter, FYE stores now stock twice as many movies as records, so they don’t really qualify as a record store chain under the old idea of what that implied.

The top 10 retailers control 72 percent of the market, so whatever record stores are left have an unknown share of the “Other” slice. It couldn’t be a very large share of that 28 percent, though, because they have to share that slice with the likes of Buy.com and KMart, along with band sites and supermarkets.

Probably less than 10 percent of U.S. record sales are going through record stores these days.

And so the record stores, which just ten years ago dominated the music industry in the United States, no longer rate a slice of the pie.

The decline of the record stores has paralleled the decline of the major record labels, whose business model continues to be based on getting “product” into the record stores. Yet despite the recent loss of superstars like Madonna and U2, the major record labels so far have been holding up better than the record stores.

(2008-04-05)

Notes

A lot can happen between Boston albums. The band’s original singer died and two others departed, leaving guitarist Tom Scholz with just bassist Kimberley Dahme and multi-intrumentalist Gary Pihl to form the core of the band. Yet fans and critics agree that the band’s two new lead singers are the real deal. Joining Boston for a summer tour are Stryper frontman Michael Sweet and the ultimate Boston fan, Tommy DeCarlo, whose extraordinary Boston covers on MySpace led the band to call him in for the Brad Delp tribute concert last year. The tour begins June 6 at a festival in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Perennial progressive rockers Yes return this summer with a 40th Anniversary Tour. You can tell how long they’ve been away from the fact that their last tour was the 35th Anniversary tour. The “Close to the Edge and Back” tour starts in Quebec on July 12 and continues with at least 25 dates across North America. The band has hired Oliver Wakeman, the son of Rick Wakeman who has collaborated recently with Yes guitarist Steve Howe, to play keyboards for the tour. The lineup gives Yes the chance to play a few songs from their latest studio album Magnification.

Planet Rock, the top digital music radio station in the U.K., was set to shut down yesterday, but is staying on through April as takeover talks are underway.

Adobe Stock Photos closes today. The stock-photo service built into Adobe’s applications was rendered irrelevant by simpler and less expensive ways to acquire photos.

U.S. postal rates are set to increase May 12. Post offices are already running out of the old 41 cent stamps. The cost of mailing a letter goes up by 1 cent to 42 cents, but the cost of square letters, which require extra work to sort, is going up to 62 cents.

Clear Channel may go bankrupt after all. The perpetually unprofitable U.S. radio operator was supposed to be taken private in a leveraged buyout, but the deal has bogged down in financial and legal difficulties. Some observers say some kind of deal will still go through, but perhaps at a lower price and involving fewer of Clear Channel’s assets. If there is no deal, it would seem that bankruptcy would be the only way out for the company. No one knows what would happen if the owner of so many radio stations went bankrupt, as no radio bankruptcy on a similar scale has ever occurred.

U.S. newspaper circulation has been falling year after year since peaking after the price hikes in 1984, and now newspaper advertising is also declining. Advertising revenue at newspapers had been keeping up with inflation until 2006, but fell 7.9 percent in 2007, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

(2008-04-01)

Ziff Davis in Bankruptcy

The publisher of PC Magazine has filed for bankruptcy protection. Ziff Davis Media says it has reached an agreement with creditors for $20 million in operating capital and for the exchange of around $150 million in debt for common stock.

The deal faces a rocky road ahead, however. The company owes an undisclosed amount, apparently around $50 million, to other creditors who would effectively be left out in the cold in the proposed restructuring. Ziff Davis acknowledges the other creditors are likely to challenge the restructuring in bankruptcy court, but said in a press release, “the Company believes the restructuring plan can be approved by the Court without their agreement.”

Ziff Davis was taken private in a highly leveraged buyout eight years and never managed to emerge from the debt load it took on during that deal.

In addition to PC Magazine, Ziff Davis operates magazines, web sites, and events related to video games.

(2008-03-06)

Notes

A new Aerosmith version of the Guitar Hero video game is set for release in June.

AOL today is dropping support for its Netscape browser after the recent 9.0.0.6 release. They are recommending that users switch to Firefox 3 when it is released shortly. Firefox was originally based on Netscape but was streamlined and simplified.

Firefox has passed the half-billion mark in downloads and the pace of new users is picking up. As of today the number of downloads is 505,267,908. Firefox is showing the most rapid gains in Europe where in some countries its share is over 30 percent. The U.S. Firefox share is close to 20 percent, with the worldwide share recently reported around 17 percent.

Apple is releasing a software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone and iPod Touch next week.

(2008-03-01)

Toshiba Drops HD DVD

A contender dropped out of the race today. No, not a candidate for U.S. president — it was HD DVD that fell by the wayside as Toshiba announced that it would no longer make HD DVD players.

The handwriting was on the wall by December when, in spite of drastic price cuts on HD DVD hardware, players for the competing Blu-ray format were selling better. Despite the names, Blu-ray appeared to have a higher compatibility with existing DVD technology. It was also thought to be a more robust format than HD DVD, although tests of that were inconclusive. Then in January, Warner Brothers dropped HD DVD from its HD movie offerings to concentrate on Blu-ray. After losing the support of that movie studio, HD DVD hardware sales plummeted. Now, without the support of Toshiba, no one expects HD DVD products to remain in stores.

Blu-ray, also known as BD, is now the likely successor to DVD, allowing a high-definition picture and longer movies.

The HD DVD players already in stores or on their way there are likely to sell as high-quality DVD players with the price cuts announced today by retailers. The smaller HD DVD laser beam should in principle provide better playback for DVDs and (in those models that support it) CDs.

Toshiba says it will continue to sell HD DVD drives for computers, though probably in much lower volumes than last year. Unlike the deep discounts on players, prices on HD DVD drives are likely to go up.

Though it is now unopposed in the HD movie market, Blu-ray is still years away from widespread acceptance. Only a few hundred movies are available for Blu-ray and prices are much higher than the DVD prices that consumers have gotten used to. It will take time for that to change. In the meantime, for upscale movie fans who are eager to see sharper movie pictures at home, Blu-ray is now the format of choice.

(2008-02-19)

Strike Over, TV Shows Resume Production

Hollywood writers will get a small cut of Internet sales of the shows they write under a new contract ratified by Writers Guild of America (WGA) members February 12. The new contract improves residual payments in general, though not to the levels the union had asked for when they called the strike November 5.

The union writers returned to work February 13 and written television shows are returning to the air. One of the first to return was The Colbert Report, which had been broadcasting unscripted shows since January. Host Stephen Colbert brought his writers on-camera to emphasize how glad he was to have them back.

The weekly dramatic series will take longer to return. For some shows, crews are working 6-day weeks to try to finish the few remaining episodes due for the current season.

(2008-02-16)

Two 3D Concert Films

There is a surprising trend in recent box office returns: 3D films of rock concerts.

U2 3D, a three-dimensional view of a U2 concert filmed in South America on the band’s recent Vertigo tour, debuted a week ago and came in at #20 on the U.S. box office chart, pulling in $1 million on just 61 screens.

And during Super Bowl weekend, traditionally a slow time at cinemas, the top movie was an unusual one-night-only showing of a Hannah Montana concert. Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour brought in an impressive $29 million, also in limited distribution on just 683 screens. That box office total from just one night would be nearly enough to top the box office chart in an ordinary week, but on the slow Super Bowl weekend it was as big as the next three movies combined. The film was meant to be shown only on February 1, but was so successful that most cinemas are extending the movie’s run for at least the rest of the week.

Miley Cyrus performs as the television character Hannah Montana in one segment of the concert and sings as herself for the rest of the show.

The U2 movie U2 3D was produced by National Geographic and is already a box office smash by their standards. Billed as “the first digital 3D multi-camera real-time production,” the movie was made for IMAX 3D cinemas, but is also showing on standard-sized movie screens. Its distribution is limited, however, to cinemas that have digital 3D projection systems.

Based on the success of these two movies, 3D concert films are likely to become commonplace by next year. The Toronto Star said in its review of the U2 concert film in 3D, “This is the future of concert films.”

U2 3D: http://www.u23dmovie.com; U2: http://www.u2.com; Hannah Montana: http://tv.disney.go.com/disneychannel/hannahmontana/; Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/hannahmontana3d/.

(2008-02-04)

Notes

Apple last month introduced thinner servers and a thinner portable computer, the MacBook Air. The latter, which features an LED backlit screen and extended batter life, seems destined to be the computer of choice for traveling executives.

New features now being tested for Linux should make it more energy-efficient.

Guitarists Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton are reunited for three shows at Madison Square Garden, the venue where their band Blind Faith launched its only tour on July 12, 1969. The two guitarists play there again February 25–28.

Asia are putting finishing touches on their forthcoming album Phoenix. One song on the album recounts the way singer John Wetton’s perspective on life was changed by emergency heart surgery in August. The album is planned to be finished in February for an April release. Asia begins an extended world tour in March.

Major record label EMI is reducing its staff by 2,000 workers this spring by combining its marketing, manufacturing, and distribution functions into a single operating company. EMI has to shrink. Radiohead and Paul McCartney have departed recently and according to published reports, Coldplay and the Rolling Stones may also be leaving.

Van Halen’s brief vacation is over — the band resumes its world tour with a show tonight in Denver. The band’s two guitarists took the time to pose for Guitar World’s April cover.

The halftime show for the Super Bowl features Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

During the Super Bowl, Pepsi and Amazon are expected to announce a large-scale song giveaway.

The Grammy Awards broadcast will go on in spite of the ongoing writers’ strike. Talk shows are beginning to return to the air, either without writers or with special deals between independent producers and the union.

Sales of HD DVD players and movies are faltering in spite of deep discounting of the players. Warner Brothers dropped the HD DVD format in January in order to concentrate on the more successful Blu-Ray format for high-definition movies.

Steve Winwood: http://www.stevewinwood.com; Eric Clapton: http://www.ericclapton.com; Asia: http://www.originalasia.com; Van Halen: http://www.van-halen.com.

(2008-02-01)

IVideosongs Teaches Musical Skills

ivideosongs.com

Imagine getting a music lesson from John Oates or Graham Nash.

That’s the idea behind iVideosongs, a new web site created by guitarist Tim Huffman and launching today. For much less than the price of a live music lesson, students of the guitar and other rock instruments can download videos of famous musicians, each one showing how to play one well-known songs.

For example, for $9.99 you can get a 33-minute lesson from John Oates showing you all the tricks you need to play the guitar part for “She’s Gone.”

Or for $4.99 you can see an iVideosongs instructor demonstrating the chords for the Avril LaVigne song “Complicated.”

The videos can be played on a computer, iPod, or other device.

iVideosongs: http://www.ivideosongs.com.

(2008-01-29)

Daryl Hall Launches Monthly Live Music Program

Live From Daryl’s House is a monthly webcast of music recorded live at Daryl Hall’s actual house. The third installment can be heard January 15 at 8 p.m. ET.

Daryl explains that he and his friends were still working out the kinks of webcasting in the third episode. “I feel like a new kind of media pioneer, as if we were at the dawn of television,” he says. “The rules are completely different.”

Live From Daryl’s House: http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com; Daryl Hall and John Oates: http://www.hallandoates.com.

(2008-01-13)

NEARfest Founders Step Down

The two founders of NEARfest, Chad Hutchinson and Rob LaDuca, plan to step down after this year’s festival on June 20–22. Both cited the demands of job and family.

NEARFEST

New directors have not been announced, but discussions are underway to involve “the capable hands of others already well-established in the progressive rock community.”

NEARfest has become a legendary event within the progressive rock world but has garnered only muted attention from the press because of the small scale of the event, which makes it relatively inaccessible to the general public. Housed in a 1,000-seat theater on the Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the event has sold out quickly every year. This year’s performers include Liquid Tension Experiment, Discipline, and Synergy. Tickets go on sale Saturday, March 29th at 10:00 a.m. ET and are expected to sell in 20 to 25 minutes.

NEARfest: http://www.nearfest.com.

(2008-01-12)

Wikia Launches Open-Source Search

Wikia today started public testing of its open-source search engine. The wiki community site hopes to improve web search by making every detail of its operation open to public scrutiny. Wikia also hopes introducing “the human element” into web search will ultimately lead to better search results.

Results may be uneven at first — especially during peak hours, the servers may be overwhelmed by the public’s demand for web search — but when we got through, we got credible results for a range of test searches.

Wikia Search: http://alpha.search.wikia.com.

(2008-01-07)

Notes

Asia is mostly done recording a new studio album. The new album, due out in April, will be only the third to feature the band’s original lineup, after Asia in 1982 and Alpha in 1983. The band plans more touring on both sides of the Atlantic in the coming year.

Paul Nordquist was a mall-shopping extra in The Lovely Bones, a Peter Jackson movie due out in 2009. Not to be outdone, Amy Guskin appeared in a street scene in the filming for a Lifetime TV pilot.

In an article in Wired, David Byrne suggests six business models for recording artists. He notes, “The totally DIY model is certainly not for everyone — but that’s the point. Now there’s choice.”

Death: Dan Fogelberg, a folk rock musician remembered for “Part of the Plan” and other hits from the 1970s and 1980s.

Asia: http://www.originalasia.com; David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars: http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_byrne?currentPage=all; Dan Fogelberg: http://www.danfogelberg.com.

(2008-01-01)

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2002–2015

Rick Aster’s World

What’s coming . . . and what does it take to be ready for the future?