Monday, August 16, 2010

Down home music

Years ago, while sitting in my living room, I played the music of my favorite artists so often I nearly wore down the grooves of their black vinyl records. One of these artists -- Iain Matthews -- will be performing this weekend at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

You would think I'd be packing my bags, tickets in hand, ready to relive my youth.

The trouble is: I'm spoiled. I'm not willing to bear the heat, the crowds, the camping facilities anymore. I've found something better: house concerts.

Last night, I saw Iain Matthews perform in Jen & Dave's living room, accompanied by Jim Fogarty on guitar. They were amazing. And I was, maybe, eight feet away from the action in this audience of 50 fans.

I was introduced to house concerts via Andi & Neil Hunt, who have hosted a variety of artists in their own home, just four miles down the road from where I live. In their cozy living room, I've been within arm's length of Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart, Garrison Star, and a few others. This kind of intimate venue brings a whole new meaning to the term "live performance."

When you think about it, living-room concerts have been around as long as music itself. What's new to me is the ability to see established names and up-and-comers in small, informal settings.

And, as you might expect, there's a Web site where you can find out more -- whether you want to host, play, or find a concert close to you.

If you love listening to live music, nothing beats the personal experience of a house concert. Give it a try.

Friday, August 13, 2010

This is not about politics

As much as this posting might seem to be about politics, it's not. It's just my way of lauding the work of a local journalist who, like me, is worn out by all the negativity and name-calling in political circles.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, Annette John-Hall writes, "...what makes me most tired these days is having to listen to the constant bickering and anger -- from Congress, pundits, and everyday people who'd rather rage than resolve."

She calls it "An endless cycle of negativity on the hamster wheel."


And now there's Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly making himself the butt of a negative news story by taking on Hollywood, trying to stir the pot and turn everything into a political statement. This time he's incensed that Jennifer Aniston, in promoting "The Switch," made comments about single women -- like her character -- not having to wait for a man to have a baby, using a sperm donor instead. He says she's "diminishing the role of the dad," and is "destructive to our society."

What's really destructive is the constant posturing and negativity by those angling for their own 15 minutes of fame.

What we need now more than ever is clear thinking, rational reporting, and a lot less outrage. We need more journalists like John-Hall to point out the folly in political gridlock and social spin. We can solve the nation's problems, Republicans and Democrats together, if we agree to disagree, consider the greater good -- and then move on.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A breath of fresh…Old Spice

What product in the world could be more tired than Old Spice after shave? It’s been around since 1938, and the biggest impression it has ever made on me is its iconic milky white bottle. Until recently.

Now, I have the Old Spice whistle as a ring tone, alerting me to incoming calls from my husband. It’s all thanks to the New Old Spice guy, who has become an instant phenomenon. Instead of skipping past his commercials, millions of people are watching them again and again on YouTube. He’s even making custom YouTube videos for his fans. Variety calls it “…the viral ad campaign you wished your viral ad campaign would look like.”

What could have been just another paying gig has taken former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa from soap operas to the big screen. He was recently cast in "Horrible Bosses," alongside some big names in Hollywood: Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Spacey.

What accounts for the immediate embrace of “this man your man could smell like”? My vote is serendipity. No focus group or demographic study or advertising strategy could be that clever. I much prefer the story going around that the night before the shoot, Isaiah called one of his pals and left a message on his answering machine – and, in doing so, he decided to play up the Old Spice guy to the Nth degree.

And a star was born.

As much as I love the commercials-- and the guy -- I love the spontaneous combustion of dusty old product stereotypes when ignited by pure inspiration.

The new Old Spice guy. Everyone gets him – immediately.

You never know when a fickle public will move on to the next media star. What happens to a has-been GEICO gecko, Aflac duck, or the Snapple lady?

For now, at least, the public is gaga over a cool dude wearing little else than tight abs and a little Old Spice. That's enough to make me whistle.