music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Feed Me!

Yesterday, I fired up my favorite RSS feed reader to catch up on some web reading…and nothing happened. Gush, my standalone Flash-based feed reader and Jabber chat client wouldn’t log in. That was pretty unusual and had never happened before. So I went to their website and saw a notice that said, “Goodbye”. Dudley and Wes Carr, the creators of Gush, have dismantled their entire 2Entwine website and Jabber server. Gush no longer exists, and that’s pretty sad seeing that it was one heck of a piece of software. Gush looked great, had a slick interface that you could adapt any way you wanted with full typographic controls, was easy to use…it just felt right and I used it almost daily to read the latest posts from my favorite websites.

For those who don’t know what a feed reader does, let me try to explain it in a nutshell. We all like to collect bookmarks of our favorite sites, we become addicted to certain news sites, writers and bloggers, so we visit their pages as often as we can to see if there’s anything new. Well, if you have a huge collection of faves that you want to keep up with, you can spend an enormous amount of time visiting each site manually. A feed reader helps consolidate the process by allowing you to subscribe to each site’s particular syndicated “feed”. (Most readers will self-discover the feed’s address if you enter the site’s URL. All you do is hit the subscribe button and your done.) Every time you log on to your reader, it automatically searches for new items from your subscription list and displays them. You can page through each one and read all the items from one convenient window. If you want, you can click on a headline to take you directly to the originating site. Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

With Gush gone, I started Googling for feed readers and found that Google actually offers one. Although, it doesn’t offer as slick an interface as Gush did, it looked OK and was a lot better looking than some of the alternatives I had found. It let me import my old OPML file of feed addresses, which saved me from rebuilding and manually entering my list of 50-60 sites I watch regularly. I’ve only used it for 24 hours, but I like it a lot.

June 15, 2006 | Link to this entry

Short Takes II

Jon Herrington plays some of the best guitar I’ve heard in a long time on Donald Fagen’s latest CD, Morph The Cat. His website is full of great info for guitarists and gear heads, plus his own CDs are available along with preview tracks. Morph The Cat has been in constant rotation in my car along with Mark Knopfler’s latest, Shangri-La.

Does anyone else think that GM’s $1.99-a-gallon-gas-for-one-year offer in order to move their biggest gas-guzzlers, like the Chevy Suburban and the Hummer, is totally irresponsible?

I’m beginning the last week of the LA Opera’s Grendel performances and I have to say that it’s been an interesting engagement. Reviews have been very favorable but none of the critics have focused on the music as much as I would have thought. Costumes, dancing, puppetry, lighting and direction get a lot of mention but Elliot Goldenthal’s music seems to get lost in the shuffle in these reviews. Opera is about many things, but first and foremost it’s the music. In 100 years, will we remember anyone but the composer?

I got a chance to meet Elliot early on, before orchestra rehearsals began. He wanted to meet with the two guitarists (Mitch Holder was my partner in crime for this month-long pit party) and discuss style and sounds. He’s a pretty inventive guy who wants to check out all options available to him. He had some great ideas and solicited suggestions from us as well. There were some pretty rocking parts, totally raw, which caused some heads to turn in an orchestra pit filled with 100 players.

Anyway, it was hard to put a finger on the musical style of the opera because it was such a moving target. It ranged from tonal to atonal, rock to punk to funk, with even some jazzy interludes that sounded straight out of 1970s TV detective shows. But I thought the music was at its best when he tweaked the more traditional classical style on its ear in such beautiful pieces as “The Queen’s Eyes” and “Flight of Fancy”. Elliot’s talent is far-reaching and very broad. It covers every base and that’s why I’m looking forward to hearing his next project. Besides, how can you not love a guy who writes for not one, but two screaming electric guitars in an opera?

Once again, via the LA Times, we have the latest news from the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. The Broadway show, Avenue Q, which was a main attraction at the hotel, closed after a short nine-month run. I wonder what this could mean for the Wynn’s upcoming production of Monty Python’s Spamalot? Down the street at the Luxor, Hairspray closed after just a four-month run with disappointing ticket sales. It may turn out that Vegas fans just aren’t into mixing Broadway shows with their gambling and other debauchery.

And finally, if you’re in the neighborhood of Raymond and California Avenues here in Pasadena, check out Jones Coffee Roasters. They roast their own over there, and when they do, the incredible aroma settles over a five-block radius. You almost don’t even need to order an espresso to get the full effect but you’ll be glad you did, especially now that a few of the other local standbys seem to be off their game lately.

June 12, 2006 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

Return to the front page