Super Blue

Lest all y’all think life these days is all going to see bands and fun trips to beaches and mountains, I’ve actually been busy with the software thing this whole time too.  A couple of big project milestones in my day job.  Firstly one of my projects, the Data Rights Protocol, has reached version 0.9 and we’re entering the initial deployment phase, which involves passing live data end-to-end among consortium members to implement actionable consumer data rights requests. Meanwhile, we also put up a new web site where you can learn all about it at:

Second, another project of mine, Permission Slip, is going live with version 2.0 of our this week, including an all-new android version of the app. And there’s a new web site for this one too:

Finally, we’re getting very close to releasing version 3.0 of the Global Jukebox.  This is a major rev I’ve been working on for months with Martin.  One big new features is an all-new map visualization that starts with a spinning globe, and is much more powerful, flexible and performant than the old one.  The other big thing is the app now has routes to express the app state as a unique url.  Each of these was a big lift, and we’re now in the final phases of QA and tweaking the styles and messaging on the landing page.  So watch this space for an announcement sometime soon.  But for now you can get a sneak peak on our staging site at:

In the world outside of work, it’s been one of the rainiest Septembers I’ve ever experienced. Three out of the last four weeks it’s rained some or most or even all of the weekend, were’ talking epic, heavy, ark-building rains here, to the point where I’ve only gotten out on my bike one Sunday the whole month for a big ride, and not at all for a weekday evening in the last two weeks.  The days are getting shorter faster, so soon the opportunity for a ride after work will be gone.  

As luck would have it, we did go out to see another concert last weekend.  It was Superblue, a funk-fueled collaboration between Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter, at Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village.  Poisson Rouge turned out to be a pretty nice club, although the waiters were kinda disorganized and incredibly slow.  The band itself was great.  The opening act was the horn section from the main group, backed by a different rhythm section.  They were really fun, funky and entertaining.  At one point the trumpet player switched to tuba and the trombone player to beatboxing, leaving just the sax player.  They did a Stevie Wonder medley which was just mind blowing.

The main act was most excellent too.  Charlie Hunter plays a guitar with extra strings and an octave effect so it functions as both the bass and the guitar for the group.  Needless to say his technique is innovative and incredible, but he spent most of his time in the pocket, just groovin’ and grinnin’.  Kurt himself was great, picking diverse source material such as “Naughty Number Nine” from Schoolhouse Rock, delivering them with powerful, soulful phrasing, and interjecting philosophical soliloquies a la Elwood Blues. 

Just yesterday we were supposed to see yet another shoe, Tuck and Patti at the Irridium, but it got cancelled due to the weather.  There were such heavy rains and flooding in New York City that the seals in the Central Park Zoo escaped their enclosure and were were freely swimming/sliding around the whole zoo.  I guess they went back on their own without having to be rounded up.

Three for the Show

Sometimes things come in waves, and it seems everyone is on tour at once right now.  I’ve been the three concerts in the last week, with more coming up, and even more I’d like to see but don’t have the time for.

First off was Sting, a week ago at Jones Beach Theater in Long Island.  Jones Beach is a great place to see a show, a semicircular amphitheater right on the edge of the bay.  We had seats in the lower deck, just a few rows up from the floor, so a great view.  We went with Jeannie’s sister Mary, and before we went in, we had a little tailgate party with sandwiches and a bottle of wine.  It said there was no opening act, and when we got inside there was a guy who looked and sounded alot like Sting singing and strumming and acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a drummer.  I thought, wow, Sting looks great for a guy in his seventies, and he’s been working out, his neck is alot thicker.  But it turns out it was his son.  Sting Jr. had some great songs and a great voice, and looks alot like his dad. 

After that the real Sting came on with his band.  He actually does looks great for a guy in his seventies, and sang and played with lots of energy.  He played a fender P-bass with very little treble in the tone.  The band of course was great.  There were enough musicians to cover all the different sounds from his solo hits and a good smattering of Police songs.  The featured jamming instrument was a harmonica, and the dude was great.   Also some backup singers, keys, guitar; everyone in the band had a feature section, which was fun.  I saw Sting once in the 1990’s and the vibe of that show was musically excellent but down, with predominately dark, slow, introspective songs.  This time he still did his share of moody ballads about losing his faith in a used up world, but kept it balanced with upbeat and uptempo numbers.  As a special bonus Branford Marsalis on the saxophone came out and sat in with the group, and lifted things to a whole nuzzer level.  He was one of my saxophone heroes back in the day, and the way his playing complements Sting’s songs is just perfect.  We also discovered the right parking lot get out of there quickly without getting stuck in traffic.

Then over the weekend we went to the Outlaw Music Festival, again with Mary.  This was in the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, a really cool venue that I had no idea existed.  When I heard about the show I thought it was going to be in the tennis stadium at the north end of Flushing Meadow Park, but it was actually at the old stadium at the south end, part of the original tennis club.  It hasn’t been used the for the U.S. Open since the 1970’s but they still put on concerts there.  

Mary and Lou used to live in Forest Hills, and Jeannie and I not to far away in Woodside, Queens, so we before the show we got together for brunch with some old Queens friends, John and Mary and Larry.  That was lots of fun.  The show was a festival so by the time we got in it was already underway.  There were five bands. The main one I wanted to see was Bob Weir.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen the Grateful Dead I’d almost forgotten they existed, although at one time they were my second-most-seen band after Rush.  Bobby of course did mainly Dead songs, maybe not as stretched out as they used to back in the day and with a little more focus on the songs, but still with a few extended jams.  The band included a combination horn and string section.  One thing I liked was when he segued into What’s Going On? in the middle of Eyes of the World.

The headliner of the night was Willie Nelson.  For whatever reason Mary, who grew up in Brooklyn, is a big Willie Nelson fan (as is my cousin Peter from Ontario).  To me Willie is one of those guys who was always on the radio when I was a kid, and since then transcended his own long career to achieve living legend status, so I though it was pretty cool.  The surprise special guest in his band was Norah Jones on piano and vocals, a legend in her own right, who I guess wanted to tour with one of her idols.  There was also an excellent harmonica player.  Now in his 90’s, Willie can still play and sing.  Alot of his style is rooted in the great American songbook, and he threw in a good handful of standards as well as his own hits.  His set was pretty short because in contrast to the deadheads, Willie’s songs were all basically three minutes and out.  He might’ve skipped an encore cuz it was starting to rain.  

Then finally last night we saw Peter Gabriel at Madison Square Garden.  He and Sting are kind of next door neighbors in terms of their career arcs, with huge solo popularity and critical acclaim in the 80’s after leaving successful band to explore new sonic ideas, and then a long trajectory of more personal, artistic songwriting. Unlike Sting, Peter Gabriel now looks like an old man, bald and overweight compared to the smirking face on MTV back in the day.  He did two sets, the first being mainly new material, with a predominately dark, slow, introspective feel.  The second set was mainly his hits from throughout his career.  The band was great, and featured the inimitable Tony Levin on bass, as well as a combination horn and string section and backing vocalists, and other members joining in from time to time on flutes and pipes.  It occurred to me that he’s been perfecting the same ideas since Genesis in a sense, and the band was perfectly suited to replicate those mellotron sounds using natural instruments.  The show was great, and visual presentation too, with lighting and projected artwork and animation as well as the music.  And like Sting, Peter Gabriel has alot of great songs and really made the most of them.  I was a bit disappointed but not too surprised he didn’t play anything by Genesis.  I mean maybe not Supper’s Ready but at least a bit of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway would be nice.

Reach the Beach

We spent Labor Day weekend out on the beach in Maryland.  It was a chill and fun time.  I was feeling kind of tired and ill the day before we left, but Jeannie did most of the driving, so I got some extra rest on the ride, and was basically alright by the next morning. We did spend a good amount of time just hanging out in the hotel room sipping our coffee, or later on  in the day a beer, watching and listening to the ocean, which was nice and relaxing.

Saturday we went out to Assateague Island, where we did the classic Swamp Walk.  There were a few wildlife encounters we’d never seen before, including a pair of giant horseshoe crabs swimming along the shore of the bay, and a good-sized ray, as well as some gar and the usual crabs and fish and birds and wild ponies.  

One new thing we did this year was to bring our bikes, so after the hike we took a ride all around the whole national seashore.  It was a good day for it, not too hot, and we were able to get around to all the different places alot more conveniently than walking or by car, and explore a little more.  We checked out the various campgrounds cuz that’s something we’ve always been interested in doing, and concluded that the bay side would be alot easier than the ocean side.  We’ve been doing enough biking this summer that an eight or ten mile ride on (very) flat terrain felt easy and breezy. We ended the afternoon with a trip to the beach, then back to the hotel.  That evening we went out to dinner on the boardwalk and met up with our friend Terry, who just happened to be in OC the same time as us.

They allow bicycles on the boardwalk before noon, so the next morning we rode from our hotel up around 30th street down the whole length of the boardwalk.  The boardwalk is abut three miles long, and it’s always fund to see how its character develops as you get further downtown.  We took it at a leisurely pace, and when we got the end, we we explored a little bit around the inlet and harbor.  Another eight or ten mile ride.  By the end it was getting pretty hot.  We spent the afternoon on the beach in front of our hotel.  We went out into the water a few times, but didn’t get out past the breakers to do much actual swimming.  The waves were pretty rough and there were warnings up about severe rip tides and undertow.  We saw the lifeguards jump into action a few times.  Indeed it was a challenge to just to keep your balance in waist-deep water.

I usually don’t miss my kids when they’re not around, but as the weekend went on, a strange nostalgia for the time of my kids growing up times emerged.  We used to go Ocean City almost every summer from the time Michelle was four to Lizzy was in high school, and we’ve gone back only a few times in the years since.  So in my mind it’s sort of an end-of-the-summer happy place, just before back-to-school time.  It’s funny how some things never really leave your mind.  Those years coincided with the years I worked at MTV, and memories of old programming and business problems that was thinking heavily about back then began washing up into my consciousness like dead jellyfish on the beach.

The last day we went out for breakfast rather then lounging in our room, then went down to the boardwalk one more time and ended up in an arcade playing skee-ball and old pinball and video games. The ride home took a long time because of the traffic, but was pleasant enough because we there was fun an interesting stuff on the radio, mainly a countdown of (somebody’s idea of) the top forty albums in 1983, skewed heavily to AOR and hair bands.  In fact there was alot of classic rock in the air the whole weekend, and the band we kept hearing over and over, surprisingly, was Styx.