Archive for September, 2011

The Lulus’ Best

The Riverfront Times awarded the blogged Lulus, in which H fiddles, with Best Folk Band in Arts and Entertainment of the Best of St. Louis 2011. They knock off blogged friend Ryan Spearman who was Best Folk Artist 2010. Below is the video from their channel on YouTube of their performance of “Single Girl” at the Sheldon Ballroom opening for Ryan. It was a great night for them, Ryan and us in the audience. Check out their list of upcoming shows and see them where they are their best, live.

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Michael M. on September 27th 2011 in General, Live, Music

2011 Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra opener

I have not blogged about the previously often blogged Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra since 2009. I think I made it to only one concert in the 2010-2011 season. H got us tickets for opening night of Opening Weekend: Rite of Spring. This video on YouTube is a well produced introduction to the weekend’s program. Look at the index of program notes for this week’s.

The physical production was good and bad. A large projection screen hung behind the orchestra. Photographs, some of the original dance companies, were projected along with words and short action summaries of the ballets. At times, understanding what the music accompanied was helpful. It was distracting at times, though. Seeing the slide change in the middle of a musical swell took away from the music.

We sat close to the stage in front of the basses. I prefer sitting further back on the floor or sitting in the balcony. The mix of sound was mostly good. There were times, though, when the low strings were hard to hear because they pointed away from us despite being near. I could not see the horns, but were aimed toward us. Their sound came through clearly. It worked best for the first piece.

The night was dedicated to Stravinsky ballets. The first was Petrushka. The performance was excellent. Public Radio in Mississippi, the forerunner of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, much have played it often because I knew the piece. I loved the runs with the piano. Next came Les Noces. The arrangement was strange with four singers, four pianos, assorted percussion and the chorus. It was odd to me and not moving. To my surprise, the crowd loved it and gave it a standing ovation. The Rite of Spring closed the show. It was a great ending to a great opening.

I should make it to more than one performance this season. It is sad to have gone from a regular attendee to a rare one when it is so good, so close and so easy to attend. Work has its demands. The program also alerted me to the many community events. I resubscribed to the STL Symphony Blog to keep up with the many events. Smaller ensembles from the symphony will play in a variety of community settings throughout the season. It has been years since I saw the symphony outside Powell Hall, and I need to correct that problem, too.

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Michael M. on September 19th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Folk School on Missouri Get Your Business Online

Missouri Get Your Business Online is a Google project that offers free websites for businesses. It recently featured the favorite Folk School of St. Louis as one of its success stories. The video on YouTube turned out great. Catch a glimpse of me in a photograph on the web page at 51 seconds into the video!

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Michael M. on September 7th 2011 in General, Music

Cardinals, Zoo, Body Worlds and Gillian Welch

H and I had several good outings this weekend. They weekend started with excellent tickets to the Cardinals game courtesy of one of her River Bound bandmates. The Cardinals got behind early and never recovered. Then a homerun in the top of the 9th closed the door on the possibility of victory. The pitching was poor on both sides, leading to an exciting festival of hitting. It was fun despite the loss, and the seats were the best I have ever had. The night ended with an extended fireworks display.

The next day, we met up with an old friend of mine and his family. The Zoo was good as always, but overwhelmingly hot. The heat ultimately led us to shorten our visit. My Chicago friends compared the zoo favorably to their local free zoo. A nice lunch at the Boat House let us visit a little longer. They departed to see family.

We headed to Body Worlds at the Saint Louis Science Center. We got free tickets at blogged LouFest. It is funny because we won those LouFest tickets. I blogged twice about Body Worlds before its last visit to Saint Louis although I never followed up after seeing the exhibit. Body Worlds and the Brain is the current version. It consists of carefully preserved cadavers and a few animals with artful dissections. The problem is that there is no major difference from the prior one I saw. I essentially saw the same thing twice. While very much worth seeing once, I needed something different for this second exhibition to be especially valuable, and it offered too little.

The brain component should have been that difference. It consists of displays along the walls that are not integrated well with the specimens. As someone very interested in the functions and dysfunctions of the nervous system, I felt disappointed by how little depth the wall displays offered. They could have presented explanations of sensory systems, the motor system and diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s along with anatomic specimens. The displays do not do justice to the important and fascinating realms of neuroscience and neurology.

Blogged Gillian Welch played the Pageant Saturday night. The KDHX blog has this review, and the Riverfront Times blog RFTmusic has this one. The short summary is that the performance was stellar despite partial power outages due to the storm. I saw her at the defunct Mississippi Nights several years ago. She was great then and now. I realized this time how many of her songs are re-workings of old folk songs with new lyrics or a new bridge added to old verse melodies.

The Pageant itself was disappointing. Our tickets were balcony general admission, meaning that we had to go to the balcony and claim seats. Consequently, we arrived early. The slow folks at the doors did not help. I hated being patted down aggressively by a security guard as part of the three step admission routine of identification, patting down and ticket taking. As mentioned above, there was a partial power failure during the show. The heat was stiffling. While in the balcony, I took a snapshot with my cell phone. A security staff member leaned over from behind. He informed me that I had to delete it immediately, that he had to watch me delete it and that I would be removed if I took another photograph. According to the event page, the show was “Camera Policy: NO Cameras / NO Audio / NO Video.” I had no idea of the policy at the time. I reluctantly complied. The tone and treatment left me with a bad feeling. At least they managed to keep the power on.

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Michael M. on September 6th 2011 in General, Live, Music

The Lulus make television.

Fox 2 KTVI broadcast Taste Of Autumn Boosts Labor Day Festival Attendance on its evening news program. The linked video featured the blogged Lulus playing “Union Maid” at 40 seconds into the segment. H is prominent for a few seconds as the fiddler, and then the group’s harmonies can be heard behind the report for a while longer. The Lulus were among the many acts at the Veterans Festival in Forest Park. The news segment also covers the Greek Festival and the blogged Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The mild weather improved attendance for all of them. I had my weekend fun early in the weekend when the heat was setting records. Unfortunately, I have started night shifts and slept through the fun of the last two days.

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Michael M. on September 5th 2011 in General, Live, Music

HP Touchpad

Hewlett-Packard abandoned the TouchPad. It announced sale pricing of $99 for the 16 GB model and $149 for the 32 GB model. I was excited by the possibility of buying a tablet at that price. I checked the local Radio Shack and Office Depot stores. Both stores had sold out. I was able to try a floor unit at Office Depot, and it convinced me that it would be worth the money. I trolled this thread at SlickDeals. Over the weekend of the TouchPad sale, different sellers dropped their prices at different times. Thanks to SlickDeals, I found that OnSale had them in stock. The OnSale web site was crashing under the traffic, though. I ordered a couple through the OnSale storefront on Amazon, and they came within a few days.

The device is nicer than I expected. I bought it thinking that I eventually would load the CyanogenMod version of Android onto it to turn it into a useful device. Instead, it is already very useable out of the box. webOS is the Linux-based operating system for devices descended from the original Palm Pilot. It has multitasking, an easy to use touch graphical interface and a good number of applications.

It also has an active open source and homebrew community. This post on the XDA Developers Forums helped me get started with the homebrew community and Preware. With a series of hacks including overclocking, the TouchPad becomes snappy. That thread led to this post with more tips for new TouchPad users. I got Hulu working, mostly, using the guide in this post.

After having the device for a few days, QuickOffice updated its application. It now allows creation of new documents and editing of existing ones. It integrates well with Google Docs, too. My blogged Freedom Pro Keyboard by Freedom Input pairs with the TouchPad in HID mode via Bluetooth, making typing easier with it than the on screen keyboard.

If all goes well, Android will come to the device before too long. This video on YouTube shows a TouchPad booting Android 2.3.5. The touch interface is not working yet, and the port is currently immature and not yet functional. The TouchDroid team continues working. If it becomes stable enough, I certainly will give it a try. A working port of Android might be the best hope for Netflix to run on it.

Even without the porting of Android or the appearance of new applications, the TouchPad is a functional device for browsing the web, checking email, chatting and document editing. Buying one took quite a bit of research because their availability was so limited. I am glad I got one. More should become available in the coming weeks. I recommend buying one unless HP decides to raise the price.

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Michael M. on September 5th 2011 in General

Vi Hart tackles sound and hearing.

What is up with Noises? (The Science and Mathematics of Sound, Frequency, and Pitch) on YouTube is a new video by twice blogged Vi Hart, evangelist of mathematics. The big mistake is “vasilar membrane” instead of the correct “basilar membrane.” She covers a variety of topics including frequency versus pitch, timbre and harmonics, formants, musical intonation and temperament, the missing fundamental and auditory physiology, all at a very quick pace.

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Michael M. on September 5th 2011 in General, Music

Epilepsy in Sierra Leone and elsewhere

Stigma Is Toughest Foe in an Epilepsy Fight” in The New York Times profiles epilepsy and its treatment in Sierra Leone. The country of 6.4 million people has one neurologist. For comparison, Missouri has a population of about 6 million, and I know dozens of neurologists in Saint Louis alone. As someone who frequently sees and treats the disease, I tend to neglect how spooky and supernatural epilepsy can appear. According to the article, the culture there keeps many from seeing it as a treatable disease. Unfortunately, the rest of the article reveals how limited treatment is with only one widely available anti-epileptic drug, phenobarbital, and one electroencephalography (EEG) machine. We use phenobarbital sparingly because it has significant cognitive side effects, and I order EEGs routinely.

H and I also saw Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race at the Becker Medical Library of the Washington University School of Medicine. It presents the Nazi medical attrocities. While I knew something about the horrors, the display is striking and informative. Among the many striking aspects, epilepsy was among the diseases leading to persecution, sterilization and murder. The general public should see it, especially with healthcare and social welfare always matters of public discourse. Healthcare providers and biomedical researchers especially should see it.

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Michael M. on September 4th 2011 in General

LouFest 2 and the Festival of Nations

As mentioned a while back, H and I won tickets to  LouFest, which I also attended last year. We went to parts of both days. The valet bicycle parking, complements of Trailnet, was a great touch. We biked there both days. The KDHX blog covered Saturday and Sunday. We heard Dom and Surfer Blood, both solid, the first day. I wanted to see the blogged Roots, but Hurricane Irene kept them away. ?uestlove had a DJ set that was not enough to have me stay. We had some 17th Street barbecue instead. The second day, we made it for !!!, Cat Power and TV on the Radio. The days were hot, but the performers still put on big shows. I hope LouFest continues and grows.

We also visited the Festival of Nations Saturday afternoon before LouFest. This city is a fusion of cultures, and the festival is a great reminder. It is filled with people and food along with dancing, music and other cultural demonstrations. I have been before, but I seem to have neglected to blog about it. It was another summer highlight, and I look forward to going again.

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Michael M. on September 4th 2011 in General, Live, Music

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