Sunday, November 30, 2008

Backstage Pass

OK - so it's not politics, football, or rock and roll. But the article was in the New York Times, and I try to cover a broad range of subjects on the Freeway, including fashion, with your mind in mind.

Like politics, football, and rock and roll, high fashion is performance art, and as such requires considerable behind-the-scenes preparation, as indicated in this photograph.

The handlers/trainers/roadies have multiple responsibilities prior to the performance to get their candidate/player/rockstar ready to thrill and impress the fans. It’s the same thing at a fashion show (I’m trying really hard here), with the same outsized egos unchecked at the door.

For instance, is the model in this photograph training her contemptuous gaze on the photographer because she’s trying to protect her teammate's privacy, or because she's realized that she may not be the primary focus?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

How did things get so fracked up, you ask?

Michael Lewis (author of "Liar's Poker") offers one small example in Portfolio:

"In Bakersfield, Calif., a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000."

The sub-prime mortgage debacle was no accident. The perpetrators made gazillions of dollars from it, the strawberry picker is out on the street, and you and I are about to pay off their gambling debts.

What a country!

Britney Spears

I only have one Britney Spears song in my iTunes library -- "Satisfaction" -- but I listen to it a lot because it's the only cover of that Rolling Stones classic I've ever heard that's really good.

So although I'm not a fan, I hope, as Rolling Stone hopes, that she's back to stay because she is capable of making really good music, and I'm all about really good music.

Unfortunately, the mixture of celebrity and drugs with the burden of being a gravy train for a dysfunctional family is too much for almost anyone to handle.

I wish her well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bebel Gilberto - "So Nice"

Nova Bossa Nova

Let's see: your dad is Joao Gilberto and your stepmom is Astrud Gilberto.
You'd better be good...

C'mon People Now, Smile On Your Brother...

Welcome to Black Friday:

"Nikki Nicely, 19, wanted a television — a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen, to be exact, on sale for $798, marked down from $1,000, and available for a limited time in the wee hours of Friday morning at the Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio.

So, at 4:40 a.m., when a fellow shopper tried to pry away the box she had been guarding for an hour, Ms. Nicely did not play nice. She jumped onto the man’s back and began to pound his shoulders, screaming, “That’s my TV! That’s my TV!”

A police officer and security guard intervened but not before Ms. Nicely took an elbow in the face. Still, when the dust settled, she had her hand on the box. “That’s right,” she cried as the man walked away. “This here is my TV!”

And from a Wal-Mart on Long Island:

"A man working for Wal-Mart was killed on Friday when a throng of shoppers surged into a Long Island, New York, store and physically broke down the doors, a police spokesman said.

The 34-year-old man was at the entrance of the Valley Stream Walmart store just after it opened at 5 a.m. local time and was knocked to the ground, the police report said.

The exact cause of death was still to be determined by a medical examiner.

Four shoppers, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, were also taken to local hospitals for injuries sustained in the incident, police said."

To quote the late Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

Buyer's Market

"Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars...warehoused on crowded port property."

A colleague at work is shopping for a 50" flat screen plasma television this weekend, and I look forward to hearing on Monday what kind of a deal she got.

My 42" cost $1,200 last year, which was a good price at that time.

My advice to my colleague was to wait a week or two, watch the prices continue to fall and negotiate a cash deal on a 50" with a hungry retailer for $750.

Anything seems possible for the qualified buyer in this economy.

I'm almost ready to buy a new car, and I know the model, specs, options and color I want.

I already know that I'm qualified for 0% financing for the full term of the loan, so my conversation with my local dealer will go something like this:

"Here's what I want, and here's what I'll pay for it. How soon can you deliver?"

Somehow, I don't recall previous conversations with new car dealers going like that before.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tom And Gisele's Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving Day helping of Tom-and-Gisele for their fans on the Freeway, from today's Boston Globe:

"Tom Brady and his supermodel sweetheart Gisele Bundchen surprised everyone at yesterday's annual Thanks-for-giving meal organized by Goodwill Industries at its Roxbury headquarters.

Walking without a limp, the Pats QB upstaged a slew of pols who were present,

Bundchen arrived first, and quickly put on an apron and got down to work dishing out stuffing, mashed potatoes, and squash. (We spied the slender siren sneak one bean.)

Brady showed up as the tables were being cleared, and was greeted by Bundchen with a kiss on the cheek. Later, Brady signed a few autographs while Gi, who seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself, chatted with folks and moved to the music

Speaking of Brady, Maria Menounos called to clarify something. She says she didn't mean to suggest that the Pats should permanently replace the two-time Super Bowl MVP with Matt Cassel.

In an item this week hyping her "Access Hollywood" interview with Ashley Dupre, Menounos told us she's been impressed with Cassel's passing progress. But that's as far as the infatuation goes.

"Matt will be a wanted man after the season, no question," the Medford native says of Cassel, who will be a free agent. "But there's no replacing Tom Brady. Period."

By the way, the guy in the background of the picture at the top looks like he can't wait to get his hands on some of that pie!

Happy Thanksgiving, Scooter Libby!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Keeping It Zipped

[Time to revisit this post in light of a developing story]
It’s unfortunate on so many levels that Eliot Spitzer couldn’t keep it zipped.

Blowing up his marriage was the worst part; the damage he inflicted upon his wife and daughters can never be repaired, no matter how well-insulated they may appear to be in their Fifth Avenue home.

But to have wasted all the determination, talent and leadership he displayed as New York’s Attorney General and then as its Governor in going after the bad guys on Wall Street really hurts all of us, especially now.

Certainly it would have taken much more than one person to have pointed out all the financial chicanery that has produced the current mess. And maybe there was no whistle loud enough.

But Elliot Spitzer had begun to sniff it out over a year ago, and had inspired a team of young attorneys to follow the money and pursue prosecutions in cases involving Wall Street excess.

His stupidity and selfishness brought it all to a hard stop at absolutely the wrong time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harvard Square

The imminent closing of Out of Town News, while sad, really doesn't surprise me.

For five years in the early 1970s, I managed one of the many bookstores in Harvard Square -- back in the analog day before just about everything in print was available online, most of it for free.

My store, Reading International, was one of four full-service bookstores within a few minutes of one another. Sprinkled throughout the same area were several specialty bookstores as well – poetry, foreign languages, architecture and design, etc. – each serving a specific clientele.

Back then, before, Barnes and Noble, WaldenBooks and Borders, customers paid the price that publishers printed on the books. There were no discount bookstores because publishers and booksellers worked together to fix prices and preserve their profit margins. And consumers were content to pay full price.

In the 1980s, it all changed.

By then, I was buying books for chain stores, and negotiating quantity discounts from publishers, who eventually capitulated by rewarding their largest customers with the best pricing and promotional deals.

Then the internet kicked in; then the Kindle.

And speaking for myself as a fairly large consumer of the printed word, we're all (with the exception of independent bookstores) better off for it.

Harvard Square has changed in many ways, but so have we all. And it will always be fun to pass through or hang out there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

OMG! - NFL 3-D!!

"With sports fans still getting used to their high-definition television sets, the National Football League is already thinking ahead to the next potential upgrade: 3-D.

Next week, a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders will be broadcast live in 3-D to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston [invitation only]."

The Wall Street Journal reports that while watching an NFL game live in 3-D, "it's as if the ball is coming into your arms."

Football fans can let their imaginations run almost as wild as these Halloween-costumed New England Patriots cheerleaders did during the Pats-Rams game at Gillette Stadium on October 26.

The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jennifer Aniston

A celebrity interview with absolutely no nutritional value, for a cold Sunday morning in Boston

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22

Ted Kennedy raised the ball in triumph after hauling in a touchdown pass in The Game of 1955, a 21-7 Harvard loss. (FILE/JOHN B. LOENGARD)

At least the Boston Globe acknowledges the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy today, albeit in a story in the Sports section about today's Harvard/Yale game:

"All four Kennedy brothers played football at Harvard, all of them at end and three on the varsity. Bobby and Ted both earned letters and appeared against archrival Yale, with Ted scoring in the 1955 loss. Today, when Harvard and Yale meet at the Stadium for the 125th time, is the 45th anniversary of Jack's assassination, when the game was postponed for the only time."

Not only was the game postponed, but the whole world stopped for those of us who were around on that day.

The "torch had been passed to a new generation" only three years before, but November 22, 1963 marked the end of innocence for many young Americans.

Every year, that event becomes a little smaller in my rear view mirror, but I'm convinced that dark forces in this country became committed to overturning the election of 1960 in the most violent way.

Those forces exist today, in very different configurations. Yet they still exist.

I hope that we have become wiser and more vigilant over the past 45 years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Ruling Class

From David Brooks:

"Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed."

More On The Obama School Search

Some cogent observations about school choice from Sandra Tsing Loh in today's New York Times:

"Now that we’ve made history by electing our first African-American president, what has changed? On first blush, not much, especially when it comes to our schools. Indeed, as the spiraling United States economy takes precedence, education is moving to the back burner, though sadly it was never really on the front burner during the campaign. Meanwhile Washington high society is swooning as chatty lifestyle stories document the courtship of Barack Obama’s daughters by a bevy of exclusive private schools. Am I the only one who is outraged here?"

"Sarah Palin was taken tirelessly to the mat for every detail of her personal life — her mothering skills, hunting proclivities, reading habits (such as they were), the wacky names of her children, her pricey outfits and even the height of her heels.

By contrast, the Obama family’s move from toney Chicago private school (chosen before presidential security was an issue) to toney Washington private school draws little national commentary.

Why? Because for the ruling American political and professional class, not to mention the news media, sending one’s child to public school is unthinkable; and has nothing to do with public education policy. (Love that Teach for America, though! And universal preschool — it’s great! Computers! Innovation! Stimulation! Richard Branson! Aspen Technology Conference! Blah, blah blah.)"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Still More Paglia On Palin

Camille's back:

"How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World."

(Illustration by Terry Shoffner)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom And Gisele Update

From the Boston Herald's "Inside Track:"

"New England Patriots prince Tom Brady returned to rehabbing at Gillette Stadium yesterday. We know this because his locker is once again filled to the max with clothes, caps and a variety of metrosexual must-haves.

First off, we must point out that No. 12 is the only Patriot with a mirror in his cubby. Like he needs one.

We also bring to your attention the bottle of Propel Fit Water in the SmartWater spokesjock’s locker, ahem.

There’s also an array of personal-care products: Listerine, deodorant, skin lotions, etc.

And it’s all so very neat, isn’t it? Like, Jerry Seinfeld neat. Unlike Tom’s neighbor, Randy Moss, whose shoes and laundry-filled locker is a shocker!

BTW, nice to see that Tom isn’t stowing his beloved Yankees cap in Foxboro. His non-Pats lid of choice is one from “Entourage,” the HBO biopic of Boston bad boy Mark Wahlberg’s early days in the Holly ’hood. As you’ve probably read, Marky claims he’s scored Tom for a cameo in the upcoming sixth season of the show.

Well, Tom appreciates a good Entourage. He’s got Gisele, his Guy Friday Will McDonough and, you know, little Vida, the dog . . .

[Regarding Gisele,] Tom Brady’s glamazon GF, who hasn’t been seen in these parts since No. 12 returned from La-La earlier this month, finally surfaced in the Big Apple - leading us to wonder whether Gi has been sex-iled for the duration of Tommy’s recovery!

Gisele was photographed - solo - at a weekend cocktail party in NYC hosted by Harper Collins and DVF, designer Diane von Furstenberg’s label, to celebrate the publication of “A Year in High Heels: The Girl’s Guide to Everything from Jane Austen to the A-list.”

Meanwhile, word from Gillette Stadium is that Brady has been there nearly every day working to rehab his injured, infected knee. And if you believe Tom’s trainer, Oscar Smith, when Brady’s rehabbin’ it’s No Girls Allowed!

Smith, who runs the O-Diesel Studios in NYC’s Tribeca, said Brady - who underwent surgery for a season-ending torn ACL in La-La last month and has been battling post-operative infections - wants no distractions when he’s training.

'There are crazy women out there who will hit on him, take his picture and pull other stunts in public, so he trains alone,' Oscar told the New York Post. 'No distractions and no Gisele.'"

I know this appears to be a shameless and tacky post, but Antelope Freeway has certain reader commitments to honor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sia - "Day Too Soon"

I think Sia channels Joe Cocker (give it a couple of seconds to start):

Cash-Strapped NPR Launches 'A Couple Things Considered'

WASHINGTON—Facing major cutbacks, National Public Radio has been forced to retool and relaunch its popular program All Things Considered as a truncated newscast that now only considers a couple, maybe three things per show.

"We'd love to consider all things, but the reality is we no longer have the resources necessary to do so," host Michele Norris said following the new show's first broadcast, in which falling gas prices and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis were considered.

"We'll still be able to mention six or seven things, gloss over four, and reference five, but we cannot afford to give every single thing our full consideration. Perhaps we were biting off more than we could chew in the first place."

A Couple Things Considered is just one of many new shows brought about by budget constraints, along with NPR's recently launched Bicycle Talk and Public Radio International's This Tri-State Area Life.

(The Onion)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

eTrade Baby

Can't get enough of this little on the title to see why

Will The Obama Kids Go To Public School?

Magic 8 Ball says..."My sources say no."

Wasted In Wisconsin

"EDGERTON, Wis. — When a 15-year-old comes into Wile-e’s bar looking for a cold beer, the bartender, Mike Whaley, is happy to serve it up — as long as a parent is there to give permission.

“If they’re 15, 16, 17, it’s fine if they want to sit down and have a few beers,” said Mr. Whaley, who owns the tavern in this small town in southern Wisconsin.

While it might raise some eyebrows in most of America, it is perfectly legal in Wisconsin. Minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant in Wisconsin if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.

When it comes to drinking, it seems, no state keeps pace with Wisconsin. This state, long famous for its breweries, has led the nation in binge drinking in every year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its surveys on the problem more than a decade ago. Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a sitting for a man, four for a woman.

People in Wisconsin are more likely than anywhere else to drive drunk, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The state has among the highest incidence of drunken driving deaths in the United States."

Wow! Who knew? I always thought Wisconsin was best known for its cheese.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let It Bleed

From David Brooks in today's New York Times:

"If Detroit gets money, then everyone would have a case. After all, are the employees of Circuit City or the newspaper industry inferior to the employees of Chrysler?

It is all a reminder that the biggest threat to a healthy economy is not the socialists of campaign lore. It’s C.E.O.’s. It’s politically powerful crony capitalists who use their influence to create a stagnant corporate welfare state.

If ever the market has rendered a just verdict, it is the one rendered on G.M. and Chrysler. These companies are not innocent victims of this crisis. To read the expert literature on these companies is to read a long litany of miscalculation. Some experts mention the management blunders, some the union contracts and the legacy costs, some the years of poor car design and some the entrenched corporate cultures.

There seems to be no one who believes the companies are viable without radical change. A federal cash infusion will not infuse wisdom into management. It will not reduce labor costs. It will not attract talented new employees. As Megan McArdle of The Atlantic wittily put it, “'Working for the Big Three magically combines vast corporate bureaucracy and job insecurity in one completely unattractive package.'”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gibson Guitar Factory

Toward the end of my excellent tour of the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis TN, I spotted a red double-neck electric guitar like the one Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page plays -- a six-string neck and a twelve-string neck attached to a huge solid body. It was beautiful -- sanded, freshly lacquered, and waiting for its electronics to be installed before (perhaps) being shipped off to Mr. Page in London (Seth, our tour guide, wouldn’t confirm or deny).

I asked Seth if there was a double-neck in the Gibson factory store that I could look at, and he said there was. In fact, he said, every Gibson guitar model -- acoustic and electric -- is represented and for sale in the store, and at “factory store discounts.”

I play a vintage Martin D-18 accoustic and know a little something about guitars, which is why I had been looking forward to taking the tour, but I’m not in the market for another guitar, even though I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a real electric guitar to feel what it must be like to play one. Because while “Guitar Hero” might be fun -- like karaoke -- it’s not playing guitar.

In the store after the tour, Travis (really), the sales associate, must have noticed me drooling over the double-neck and decided that this old geezer looks like he’s ripe for a sale.

“Want to try it out?” he asked. “I can plug you in right over here,” he said, pointing to some live amps.

I thought “Are you kidding? Of course I do!”

“Sure,” I said. He got a cable and plugged me in.

The first thing you notice is how heavy it is, which probably explains why Jimmy Page always looked a little hunched-over when playing it. But it is fun to play – being able to switch between six and twelve strings is really neat. I didn’t get close to understanding any of the controls or deploying any special effects, but that was okay. It was enough just to play it.

I unplugged it, and returned it to its stand.

Now that I realized I could play any guitar in the store, I was drunk with power. Travis must have seen this scenario play out in the store many times before, and knew enough to wait out the storm before making any attempt to close a sale.

So I plugged in and played a Gibson Les Paul Model guitar that Les Paul not only invented, but actually played and autographed during a recent visit to the factory. I thus had a direct connection to the creator of the electric guitar and multi-track recording. I felt like Adam in Micheangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel.

Then on to a gorgeous red SG model, then to a J50 accoustic, then to the Sheryl Crow Signature Model, and on and on.

Soon it was closing time, and I wished Travis a good evening, and said I’d see him tomorrow.

I did have another chance to visit the store before we had to return home, and I got to play a couple more guitars.

And I did really did buy something – strings for my Martin, and a bunch of picks for my guitar-playing friends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reporting From Desolation Row...

Watching “Mad Men” reminds me that divorce carried such a powerful stigma until the late 1960s that it could disqualify someone from being elected President (see Nelson Rockefeller). And the negative social consequences of divorce on women were almost impossible to overcome.

Adultery was not far behind, although (as Mad Men demonstrates so well) it was probably no less common (at least among men) than it is now, because back then it was privately tolerated (or suffered if you were a woman).

I mention this because I recently heard some national bloviator go on about how hypocritical it was of what he called “The Right” to rail against abortion, and not against divorce and adultery.

But values really got scrambled in the 1970s – so much so that now we read about young women across all social strata thinking they need to incorporate aspects of the porn world into the way they present themselves. This is because guys, they think, spend all their free time (when not watching sports, or gaming online) watching porn, and they perceive this as the competition.

While marriage may still be their objective, there is a tacit assumption that divorce and adultery are always options for them in the “futures” market.

“The Rules” have certainly changed.

So it wasn’t surprising to read this morning that, which appears to be an eHarmony for adulterers, has begun advertising its services on mainsteam media outlets, with little or no objection.

"'The agency was drawn to advertise here [Boston]," Biderman said, because many Bay Staters were seeking out his Web site, and because Boston is “a heck of a sports town” and "male fans are a target demographic.'"

"Biderman said his agency has more than 2.7 million members - 70 percent men and 30 percent women. The average male member is in his mid- to late-30s or early 40s and has been married five to 10 years."

While the membership numbers may be suspect, and how different this may be from an "Escort Service" is certainly debatable, and the advertising rollout may still catch a lot of flack, it would appear that a mainstream market may in fact exist for this kind of service.

You don't need to lean your head out too far from Desolation Row to know which way the wind blows (sorry, Bob).

Tom Brady

Because I've heard there are some Tom Brady fans who check out Antelope Freeway from time to time...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Section 60: Arlington

From the Antelope Freeway archive, in honor of Veterans Day
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Jessica Gray, with her infant daughter, Ava, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to visit the grave of her husband, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray.

My father died in WW2 when I was about the age of the child in this photo.

While I can only begin to imagine the things this woman (whose husband died in Iraq) is feeling at this moment, I'm sure that my mother, were she still alive, and this young war widow would have bonded across the decades that separated them by age.

The HBO documentary "Section 60" (which refers to the section of Arlington National Cemetary where the Iraq and Afghanistan war dead are eligible to be buried) provides us with a rare look at the many dimensions of the human toll this current war has taken, and it reinforces how detached most of us are from the reality of that war.

I'm not a subscriber to the theory that we have to have the horrors of war thrust in our faces all the time. But I think every American should see this astonishing film, made with respect and concern for the people it depicts, and for the people who watch it.

The film is not political. While it overpowers you with sadness at times, it ultimately affirms the persistence of love, and the magnificence of the human spirit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Has "Heroes" Jumped The Shark?

The nature of "watching television" has changed dramatically over the past few years, with the growing use of recording technologies like TiVo and digital video recorders from cable companies, and the availability of television programming on line.

And now "Heroes" has a unique problem, midway through its third season:

"That a series with the ratings of “Heroes” could be perceived as being in trouble demonstrates the upheaval in the television business. Among the group that advertisers most covet, adults 18 to 49, “Heroes” ranks eighth over all, according to Nielsen Media Research.

But that is down from sixth last year, an alarming sign because the series is among the most expensive to produce, costing more than $4 million an episode. NBC, like most television studios, has recently asked its producers to rein in costs.

One bright spot, NBC executives say, is that while only about 8.3 million viewers have watched the show during its regular time slot, nearly 2 million more record and watch it within a week, according to Nielsen. That is one of the highest rates of DVR viewership gain among all shows on television. The show also is among the most-viewed online on and, the site owned by NBC Universal and the News Corporation, parent company of the Fox network.

The show might, in a sense, attract too many young viewers, those least likely to watch the series when it is broadcast and therefore more likely to skip the commercials that pay for the production."

Ya think? I'm not even on the advertisers' radar screens, and I record it and fast-forward through the commercials too.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Noel Coward's "Hay Fever"

If you read Antelope Freeway, you know that my primary choice for a night out is live music. The only real exposure I've had to regional theatre has been "Waiting For Guffman."

So when we saw the Concord Players' production of Noel Coward's 1925 play "Hay Fever" last night in Concord, we were pleasantly surprised by the highly-professional production of this witty and charming play.

Considering the lack of resources available to regional theatre -- especially in the current economy -- it's a wonder that a local group can mount a production at such a high level.

The direction by Mickey Coburn, the ensemble acting, and Tracy Wall's gorgeous costumes enabled us to time-travel back to Noel Coward's wonderful vision of a unique family weekend in the English countryside in the 1920s.

It's astonishing how great dialogue, delivered by fine actors, is timeless.

It only runs through November 22 -- don't miss it if you're in the Boston area!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Visions of Johanna

Well I'll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full
And you happened to call

(From "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez)

We recently saw Joan Baez in concert at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston.

The concert was on the Sunday night before Election Day -- which made Election Day the day after tomorrow, which is the title of her new album and of the title track, a fine Tom Waits song that Joan performed midway through her concert.

Stephen Holden captures the essence of Joan's voice and style at this point on her journey in his review of her concert last month at Town Hall in New York:

"With many of her high notes gone, Ms. Baez’s bread and butter is now her middle range. This is the section of her voice that embodies motherhood more completely than any other folk singer does. You want to rest your head on her lap and be soothed by the sound of the cosmic lullaby emanating from within. Her comforting embrace promises shelter from the storm in a corner of the world where peace and common sense prevail."

Elsewhere on The Freeway, I've written about how much I had looked forward to this concert, and we were thrilled to see her again, especially in her Barack Obama tee shirt, from our seats in the front row. It was wonderful to re-establish the connection with her.

This cover of an overlooked Bob Dylan song (from Martin Scorcese's "No Direction Home") has become one of her signature songs, and is pretty representative of Joan today (and yes, she did goof on Dylan at the concert, too):

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job

WASHINGTON—African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America.

In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation's broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis.

As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind.

Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, "It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can't catch a break."

(From The Onion)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Joni!

As Jim Fusilli writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Joni Mitchell turns 65 years old on Friday. As a milestone, reaching that age doesn't mean what it once did, but any opportunity to celebrate Ms. Mitchell and her work is worth seizing."

"Gifted and fearless, she remains among the finest singer-songwriters of the rock era, a title that doesn't quite accommodate the breadth of music and the audacity of her career."

"As David Crosby told me when I called him last week, 'In a hundred years, when they ask who was the greatest songwriter of the era, it's got to be her or Dylan. I think it's her. And she's a better musician than Bob.'"

While I might disagree with David Crosby's choice of who was number one, Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest artists of her (and my) generation.

One of my most precious musical memories is having seen her Boston concert debut (with James Taylor).

I still get chills thinking about the music that night.

Now What?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Au Revoir, Sarah

"NEW PARIS, Pa. — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was swiftly working the rope line Friday at an apple orchard in southwestern Pennsylvania when she met a supporter who brought her to an abrupt stop.

Amber Brown, 23, held a poster that read: “I have Down syndrome and I’m voting for you. I’m a fighter too!”

Seeing Ms. Brown, Ms. Palin wrapped her in a tight hug.

“I love that poster,” she said. “You’re a fighter and you’re beautiful.”

Then Ms. Palin hugged her again. Before climbing back on her campaign bus, she circled back to Ms. Brown and hugged her a third time."

No matter how you feel about her politics and her values, she is not going to go away anytime soon -- unless she chooses to do so.

Anyone with her ability to connect viscerally with so many people on a national stage would find it difficult -- if not impossible -- to walk away from all the opportunities that will come her way.

It will be most interesting to see what choices she makes about her future as a public person outside of Alaska. This excerpt from today's New York Times account of her return to Alaska contains a glimpse into what might be her future:

"Last week, after Senator Ted Stevens was convicted on federal charges that he failed to disclose gifts and free home renovations he received, Ms. Palin joined Mr. McCain and other top Republicans in calling for him to resign. Yet while Ms. Palin lost her bid for the vice presidency, Mr. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, holds a narrow lead in his bid for a seventh full term.

Asked Wednesday whether she still believed that Mr. Stevens should resign, Ms. Palin was circumspect, saying only that the people of Alaska "just spoke" on the issue at the ballot box and that "they want him as their senator." She said Mr. Stevens should decide "what happens next." (Mr. Stevens could still be forced to step down, and Ms. Palin is widely viewed as a potential candidate for his seat if he does.)"

Lessons Learned

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sour Grapes

"While Americans eagerly vote[ed] for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute."

As this New York Times editorial points out so well, now is no time for the press and the media to take their eyes off the ball.

Take a deep breath for a day or two, and get right back to covering the final days of the Cheney/Bush Administration.

(And what is that reflected in the Vice President's sunglasses?)


There is much to celebrate today!

But the number above is the number of Americans who voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin yesterday.

It's important that we not lose sight of this number as, together, we navigate our way through the weeks and months ahead.

We truly need to celebrate Americs's diversity -- in all of its dimensions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dream Ticket

Can we vote a split-ticket tomorrow?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Men Being Sheep

On this last weekend before Election Day 2008, it's worth noting that men have been showing up in large numbers at McCain rallies featuring Sarah Palin.

I don't think McCain, Obama or Biden (or Hilary Clinton, for that matter) ever had so many guys in the front row at one of their rallies. It has looked (and sounded, according to reports) at times like Saturday night at the Bada Bing.

So if "White Men" really were a major target for the Republican strategists, the Palin choice seems to have been an inspired one. Whether the sheep vote -- and in what numbers -- is another thing altogether.

(Reuters photo from a rally in Pennsylvania in October)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Second Star To The Right

Those of you who know me are probably aware that we are quite fond of Walt Disney World, and of the Disney character that best represents its spirit and magic: Tinker Bell.

My interest goes well beyond the vacations we’ve taken there over the years, and the cruises we’ll be taking – next month on the Disney Wonder and, later, on the Disney Magic.

As a frequent Disney Guest, I’m always amazed at how each Cast Member lives out and exceeds the company’s core values and mission statement. It’s no wonder there is usually a waiting list for courses on customer service and leadership offered by the Disney Institute, and why some of the most successful companies and organizations in the world send their employees there to learn "The Disney Way."

I’ve also become interested in the history of Walt Disney World, especially after taking the “Backstage Magic” tour last year. We were even more impressed by the operational excellence that Guests never see unless they get behind (and, yes, under) the scenes during one of these tours.

Mad Men Again

The Second season of "Mad Men" is over, and I can’t believe how fast the thirteen weeks went by. I’m grateful that AMC has been making the episodes available for free OnDemand (even in HD) because there are some of them I need to watch again – particularly the ones that deal with Don’s three-week California odyssey.

For those of us who came of age during the late 1950s and early 1960s, there is a way to connect with some aspect of almost every one of the major characters in “Mad Men” - especially the women --as they began to encounter a lot of turbulence on a flight that up until about 1962 had been pretty smooth.

Season Two’s final episode accurately captures the impact the Cuban Missile Crisis had on everyone in 1962, especially those who had been scared to death as school kids in the 1950s, practicing “Duck and Cover” in their classrooms.

In case you weren’t around then and wonder why everyone at Sterling Cooper seemed so spooked by those sixteen days in October 1962, think back to the way you felt on 9/11/01 and how things never felt as secure from that point on. Then you’ll have a sense of what it was like.

I don’t think series creator Matthew Weiner will skip ahead two years again (as he did after Season One) for Season Three, because 1963 truly represents the end of the 1950s, and contains the event that rattled us even more – the assassination of John Kennedy.