randy and oscar

randy newman acceptig the oscar for best original song at the 83rd academy awards. ap photo by mark j. terrill.

randy newman accepting the oscar for best original song at the 83rd academy awards on sunday. ap photo by mark j. terrill.

When his sublime Opera House concert last Wednesday turned to the Oscar-nominated Toy Story 3 tune We Belong Together, Randy Newman seemed almost apologetic. The song’s vigorous, animated tempo didn’t seem to suit his performance mood. He outlined a few concessions in the song that were made to suit the film’s producers, sang a few jumbled lines and gave up. He dismissed, albeit playfully, the arrangement and launched instead into the lovely and bittersweet original Dixie Flyer.

On Sunday, Newman was onstage with an Oscar in his hand for We Belong Together. It was Newman’s second Academy Award and he seemed justifiably thrilled. But the honor did little to offset his self-deprecating attitude toward the song and his track record at Oscar time.

“My percentages aren’t great,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I’ve been nominated 20 times and this is the second time I’ve won… I’ve been on this show any number of times and I’ve slowed it down almost every time. No wonder they only nominate four songs.”

Newman’s best quip, however, came in a post-ceremony Q and A. With tongue firmly in cheek, the veteran songwriter and composer offered this advice when asked about the difficulties of “breaking into” the music business today.

“Who would want to break into it? It’s like a bank that’s already been robbed.”

BROWSING FOR MEALS AND DEALS ; Online consumer tools give savvy shoppers a more discerning touch

The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY) January 26, 2009 | Samantha Maziarz Christmann A tour of Meenakshi Kalera’s University Heights apartment is not complete without a full rundown of where, how and for how much everything was bought.

“See this TV?” Kalera says, waving toward a 42-inch Panasonic LED Plasma flat screen TV. “I got it for $450. And the home theater system came with it for free.” There’s the LG VU touch-screen cell phone she got for a penny. The $90 computer printer she snagged for $29. A basket overflows with computer memory cards and flash drives she’s gotten free, like a candy dish holding penny peppermints.

When online shopping appeared in the 1990s, culture watchers speculated how the Internet would change our lives as consumers. Kalera and her shopping buddy, Sibu Nair, are the answer personified — the first generation of shoppers to be born and bred on eCommerce.

They represent a new generation of power consumers, equipped with powerful online tools that give them the upper hand with retailers everywhere. From product research to price comparison, the Internet allows them to secure the best value, quality, price and service on anything money can buy.

The photographs lining Kalera’s walls were developed for free during special promotions by Web sites like Snapfish.com and Shutterfly.com. They were taken with cameras she researched on blogs and message boards, and grabbed in online sales for pennies on the dollar.

Even the groceries filling her cupboards were bought online using virtual coupons and shipped free. see here snap fish coupon code

“The UPS guy knows our names. He comes every day,” said Nair. “I don’t set foot in a store unless I have something sent there to avoid paying for shipping.” Nair and Kalera are a tag team watching the Net for price alerts, deep discounts and special offers on goods they use.

They scour online reviews written by other consumers to make sure they choose items of the best quality. They compare prices across the Net, bundle offers and coupon codes to get the best price, then share their research with retailers who often offer to meet or beat the price.

“It’s empowering for consumers, because now they can get that information very quickly,” said Mary Jo Hardy, a consumer strategist at Eric Mower Associates, a marketing communications agency with offices in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

And if a product or service doesn’t live up to the hype, watch out. With the world literally at their fingertips, consumers can spread the news like wildfire.

That’s changing the way brick and mortar companies are doing business.

“Everything we do is transparent,” said David Hart, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo-based Hart Hotels. “At the click of a mouse, consumers have our prices, they see photographs of our rooms, they read reviews about our service. They know quite a bit about our property without even being there.” Though Hart would prefer fewer “consumer eyeballs” taking away wiggle room on pricing, he said the back and forth the Internet provides keeps companies like his on their toes, making the industry more competitive and improving the standard of living for everyone. this web site snap fish coupon code

“It’s all about using it to your advantage,” he said.

But even as the Web ushers in a golden era of consumerism, the sheer abundance of information it provides can be overwhelming and confusing.

“Customers end up struggling with too much information,” said Hardy. “So there are more tools out there to aggregate and customize it.” A slew of sites have set about gathering and organizing what’s available to streamline the process of shopping smart online.

Here are some of the most helpful tools transforming the consumer experience:

* Restaurant discounts and reviews: Nothing is worse than paying for a bad meal, and everybody needs a place to vent about bad service. Buffalo.com, Restaurant.com and TripAdvisor.com host reviews by patrons to help warn you away from subpar restaurants and steer you toward the good ones.

Foupons.com also lets you buy discounted gift certificates and print up great coupons, such as the one for a free glass of wine at Allen Street Hardware Cafe.

* Deal trackers: These sites scour the Web for the latest deals and compile them in one place. Favorites are DealSea.com, SlickDeals.net, DealsOfAmerica.com and Deals2Buy.com.

* Price comparison: Finding the best price available is easy with PriceGrabber.com, BeatMyPrice.com and Froogle.com. These sites compile prices at a glance for items you search, letting you rank and sort them according to different criteria.

* Customer reviews: Sure that vacuum looks nice, but does it have enough suction? You may find a great price on a laptop, but will it break minutes after you get it out of the box? Want to know how a company handles customer service issues?

You can find out in customer reviews listed on Web sites such as Amazon.com and Buffalo.com.

If you’re big on “buyer beware” and looking for the worst of the worst, try RipOffReport.com.

* File and track rebates: Kalera and Nair still rely on the Sunday newspaper to clip coupons and as a tool for price matching.

But once they’ve found their deals and clipped their coupons, rather than apply for store rebates through snail mail, they file and track them online.

Special favorites are drugstore deals at places such as RiteAid.com, Walgreens.com and CVS.com.

“I’ve never paid money for toothpaste, mouthwash, hand soap,” said Nair. “I don’t even pay for envelopes or the 42 cents for a stamp.” * Shopping portals: Shoppers earn cash back and other rewards on purchases when they enter retailer Web sites through shopper portals such as eBates.com, FatWallet.com, ShopDiscover.com and Jellyfish.com.

Here’s how it works: register with one (or all) of these sites, then log in there before you do your shopping. Instead of typing the retailer’s Web site into your browser, you select the retailer from a list hosted on the portal. The site earns commission on your purchase, then shares it with you.

* FatWallet.com: This consumer Web site is ground zero for Kalera and Nair. It’s where they learned all the tricks of the trade, get minute-by-minute deal updates, track rebates and stay in the loop communicating with millions of other shoppers. They buy nothing without first finding out what the folks at FatWallet have to say about a product.

Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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