Arts, Entertainment, Living

Social media potholes for local celebs

Tuesday, 02 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by

JulieBThere's no question social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be fantastic tools for folks in the public eye. It's a way to connect with fans and expand one's personal brand (no, you're not alone, the notion of a "personal brand" makes me gag, too). But social media also come with downsides.

We've written before about tweets that can be troublesome and about the fake celebs accounts that sometimes turn up online. (Interestingly, I discovered last week that KDKA news anchor Stephanie Watson has blocked me from following her on Twitter, something I'd never previously encountered. Makes me wonder what in the world she could be tweeting!)

And fake accounts are not just limited to national figures, as a few Pittsburgh notables have learned.

Read more after the jump. ...

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Fine new Buddy Guy CD - "Living Proof"

Tuesday, 02 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by

516Wz0bOU8L._SL500_AA300_I still have a small pile of CDs and DVDs that are overdue, and that I need to get to soon, but I want to start off with the latest from the talented soul of one of the greatest living bluesmen, Buddy Guy.

"Living Proof" (Jive Records) was released last Tuesday and it's immediately one of those career-defining albums that come along every once in a while (the 2001 "Sweet Tea" was another). It's also one of those musical statements that great artists make that can sum up a career well-spent (see B.B. King's "One Kind Favor").

The CD kicks off with "74 Years Young," Guy's age, and it's one of those lusty, male-bragging blues that tells you he's still got it -- all of it: "When it comes to lovin', I ain't never done, cause I'm 74 years young." You know he's got the guitar licks, starting slow and tough, building to Guy-like blasts of notes that build a wall of blues sound.

Next he takes an autobiographical turn on "Thank Me Someday," a look at how he took up rudimentary guitar as a child in Louisiana, and taught himself the music, much to the consternation of his family. Once again, Guy is not shy with his strings, spinning blues into rock and back, firing a barrage of trademark notes that blister the mind.

Then there's another tough and lusty blues-entendre, "Key Don't Fit," one of those "my key won't fit your lock when I try to put it in your door" lyrics. Then comes the title track, another look back at a tough life made good, and that's "Living Proof."

He teams with Carlos Santana on "Where the Blues Begins," another reflection, this time about the hard life that generates the blues. Then "Too Soon," another man-woman thing with anger and blues flashing in the same key, a fine little shuffle.

Then it's back to the thoughtful, "Everybody's Got to Go," and advice from his mother about how everyone's time will come. It's another gentle, rolling soulful blues. But then right after that is "Let the Door Knob Hit Ya," a stinging goodbye to another lady friend.

Those are followed by "Guess What," which rides a nice B3 intro and undercurrent, and another blazing guitar solo that leaves you breathless, through a tune that doesn't really lament a lost love. Finally, a breezy instrumental, "Skanky." 

As good as all these songs are, though, the high point has to be a duet with B.B. King -- "Stay Around A Little Longer" --  full of fat King-like liquid notes and soft spiritual thoughts of thanks for the life they've lived, and just a little hope that they can stick around a little longer. It closes with a poignant line from King: "When I'm pushin' up daisies, don't forget,you're still my Buddy."

In case you didn't notice, there's a lot of both the sacred and the secular here, the secular having mostly to do with the tough manhood of the blues. But it all fits. It's a great album, full of hot licks and sizzling blues and blues-rock, laced with Guy's still-very-tough vocals

The songs are all written or co-written by Tom Hambridge, drummer and producer, and to his credit the music and the CD carry with them the air of classic material, not just musicians playing at the blues.

Put this CD next to King's "One Kind Favor" and you have a pair of blues albums for the ages from two of the music's living legends.

Here's a video of "Stay Around a Little Longer":


Just to catch up a little bit, here are last week's winners of the online mag Blues Blast Music Awards, announced at ceremonies at Buddy Guy's Legends club in Chicago:

Best Contemporary Blues Recording - Nick Moss - Privileged
Best Traditional Blues Recording - Mississippi Heat - Let's Live It Up
Best Blues Song - The Kilborn Alley Blues Band - "Better Off Now"
Best Blues Band - Tommy Castro Band
Best Male Blues Artist - Magic Slim
Best Female Blues Artist - Shemekia Copeland
Best New Artist Debut Recording - Jackie Scott & The Housewreckers - How Much Woman Can You Stand?
Sean Costello Rising Star Award - The Cash Box Kings
2010 Lifetime Achievement Award - Otis Rush

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Passing Through Gallup Again

Monday, 01 November 2010 10:33 PM Written by


GALLUP, N.M. -- Historic 66

I can remember when the interstate disappeared and you and everyone else going east or west were forced to go through the center of this wind-whipped desert town of countless motels and food joints.

That was in 1976-77, when I moved out to L.A. and when a lot more of old Route 66 was still in use. I don't think Gallup had two McDonald's then, but it does now. I know it didn't have four interstate exits.

John Steinbeck and Charley came through on their way to Amarillo, probably three or four days before Thanksgiving of 1960. They wouldn't have seen a McDonald's or half of the businesses lining Historic 66 today, including Sonic and Subway and Papa John's.

Gallup had 14,000 people then. Today it has about 23,000. The city has sprawled west and east along four-lane Historic 66 -- not that that matters much in a part of the country where spare land is a cheap as dry air.

Most of the traffic -- most important, most of the truck traffic -- takes the bypass. Yet Gallup's streets and parking lots were surprisingly busy -- almost franticly so. Lots of local traffic. But a lot of travelers were obviously buzzing through town -- a 10 minute ordeal -- to check out the fetish Indian jewelry stores or grab meals at places like Garcia's or the El Rancho, places that will never be confused with the usual interstate chains.

I'm sure Gallup has lots of nice homes and neighborhoods. But it's got some shifty trailer homes a block behind Historic 66. Sprawling empty lots behind Historic 66 have been reclaimed by desert grasses and shrubs -- which have covered over years of trash and junk.

20101102Gallup2Lodging-wise, you've got several miles of choices in Gallup. Days Inn, Best Western and LaQuinta are familiar names. Then there's the Ranchito, The Desert Skies and the Thunderbird, whose alphabetically challenged sign on Historic 66 advertises just what level of attention they devote to making your stay a pleasant one. At $19.95 it still looks a little overpriced.

Gallup has plenty of other eyesores right on its busy main drag. Boarded up gas stations and restaurants. A burned out hulk of a large motel sitting naked in its parking lot.

But if you look beyond the crap and the new, you can see that Gallup is a living museum, a time capsule of another travel era. It's got plenty of 1950s/'60s business architecture you'll never see again; it's kind of like Cuba and its 1950s cars, only here it is cutthroat capitalism that has preserved things, not oppressive socialism.

Route 66 is long gone. But Gallup has adapted pretty well to 50 years of change and it's still clearly making its living by pleasing travelers, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

It's a gritty and windy desert town where you don't feel like staying for too long. It feels like it could use a good two-day rain, but that's probably always been true.

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The New Xbox 360 Update has Arrived

Monday, 01 November 2010 09:01 PM Written by

If you started up your Xbox 360 to a message of a new update, do not be alarmed.  It’s simply a new look for the console with some new features to boot.  Here's what the new dashboard brings to the table.

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Meatless Monday

Monday, 01 November 2010 04:21 PM Written by

Everyone have a late night last night? We did! The kids are out of school today and tomorrow so we had fun eating lots of candy late last night and not so much fun watching the Steelers - Yell

If you are dragging your feet like me today there is hope for dinner. How about a quick and easy recipe that takes about 15 minutes to make? No - I am not talking about unwrapping several Snicker bars and calling it a balanced meal. Check out my recipe for Toasted Ravioli and Sauteed Spinach. I have been making this since my husband and I met in law school. Those were the days of early cooking when I really didn't know what I was doing. However, this recipe was a winner! Even his Grandma loves it!

If you children like to perform their best impression of  popeyeand gobble up lots of spinach, feel free to double that part of the recipe. Sauteed Spinach doesn't go very far.

Enjoy dinner and then have the Snicker's bar for dessert!

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Nowhere Arizona

Monday, 01 November 2010 03:21 PM Written by

I-40 East -- Joseph City, Ariz.

No wonder John Steinbeck had nothing to say about this part of central Arizona after he zoomed this way 50 years ago.

 Eighty-seven miles east of Flagstaff, 98 miles from Gallup, 1,864 miles from home, 5,000 feet above the sea, apparently I am driving at 80 mph across the world's largest tabletop.DSC_0602

 This barren brown endless plateau is so huge it has no mountains on its horizons.

It's Indiana to the tenth. Kansas is level, too, but at least  Kansas tilts. North Dakota is big and barren and bad, too, but at least it's got gullies, cows and a few token farms.

This place has a whole lot of nothing.

No water. No soil. No trees. No view. No agricultural products. No natural resources to exploit. Except petrified wood and rocks, which I think are just variations of the same thing.

No billboards. Not even a decent stretch of Route 66 to sell signs on. Just I-40 and a city of trucks and cars flowing by ASAP.

 At 80 mph you never come upon anything new to look at -- unless you count cell phone towers or the gigantic twin-stacked power generation plant that inexplicably sits in the middle of nowhere in this big middle of nowhere.

 No wonder this is Navajo Country.

 Nobody else wanted to buy it or steal it, so the poor Navajo nation got stuck with it.

I didn't see any sign of Indians -- OK, persons who happen to be Native Americans.  

But I hope they have 10 centuries worth of natural gas deposits locked into the shale two miles under their land -- and they have the mineral rights.


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Fleeing California

Monday, 01 November 2010 01:01 PM Written by

METEOR CRATER, ARIZ. -- I-40/Historic US 66

 Driving 830 miles is easier than writing.  I've got to catch up with myself.

This is quick rundown of the last 44 hours. Later I'll provide the griping details of my lone assault on Fremont Peak, one of the most rewarding mountain tops you'll ever climb, and my amazing encounter with 55 Frenchmen (and women) in the California desert on a lonely stretch of old US Route 66.

I left I Steinbeck Country weeks ago -- actually Saturday afternoon -- after genuflecting at Steinbeck's grave in Salinas and climbing Fremont Peak for an aerial view of Steinbeck Country.DSC_0274

After driving 295 miles, I made it past Fresno and Tulare to a $62 motel in Bakersfield Saturday night.

Yesterday -- Sunday, Oct. 31, right? -- I drove across flat, dry, irrigated California, past a huge wind farm, through the Mojave Desert, to Barstow.

I flew down the same roads John Steinbeck took 50 years on his way east to a Thanksgiving feast at a ranch near Amarrillo, Texas -- California 156 and 99.

But they were smoother, wider, faster, safer.DSC_0455_copy_copy

At Barstow I picked up I-40, which has replaced, bypassed or paved over most of US 66 that doesn't go through the rosary of towns from the Bobby Troup song "Route 66" -- Barstow, Kingman, Winslow, don't forget Winona, etc. The historic/globally beloved "Mother Road" used to be the main highway from St. Louis to LA until Ike brought us the interstate highway system.

West of Needles, Ca., on Sunday afternoon, I saw the first major wreck of my 8,000-plus-mile road trip -- a big trailer truck that had rolled over minutes earlier. The driver was OK but his cab was badly crushed.DSC_0469

Shortly after that excitement, I took an exit off I-40 that pointed to a lonely two-lane stretch of old US 66 that closely paralleled the interstate as it arrowed through the desert valley.

There are no Route 66 road signs because they've all been swiped by souvenir hunters years ago, but every four or five miles or so there are fading "Route 66" logos painted on the crumbling pavement.

I rode the preserved but unmaintained old highway that Steinbeck and Charley also traveled for about 25 miles. Sometimes at 75 mph, sometimes at 40, because the asphalt was so bumpy, eroded and worn.DSC_0544

It was so bad it made Western Pa. roads look good.) The 15-mph 90-degree turns were an occasional treat. After 30 minutes, the hunk of road ended at a Dairy Queen/76 gas station/truck stop next to I-40 where gas was $3.69 a gallon. On my private joy ride back in time I had encountered no other car.

By 10 p.m., I was so sleepy I gave up trying to reach my goal -- a Walmart Sunspot Inn in Flagstaff.

I pulled off I-40 at Crookton Road, aka Historic Route 66, about 17 miles east of Seligman, Ariz., which was such a boring or un-rhymable town it wasn't included in the Route 66 song. DSC_0573

I slept in my trusty/comfy RAV4 at the side of old US 66 in dusty truck turnaround.

It was the anti-Walmart parking lot -- pitch black except for the flickering lights of trucks hurtling down I-40 and the gentle glow of a few billion stars.DSC_0570

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Sonic the Hedgehog: A Requiem

Monday, 01 November 2010 12:12 PM Written by

Sonic, what happened to you?  You used to be so cool: Running through loopty-loops, jumping on cyborg-like enemies, punishing an unlikely, portly villain named Dr. Robotnic. And it was always so fun doing it.  But this was back in 16 bit-land, a land where sidescrollers ruled, a land where characters like Mario and Sonic fought for dominion, with the winner depending on who you asked. 

Sonic titles were some of the best games for the Sega Genesis, and they got progressively better as they came.  Sonic arguably saved the system from slipping into obscurity.    

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