Archive for February, 2012

Colon cancer symptoms

Women can stay safe and healthy by knowing a few signs of early disease detection. Check out the symptoms of colon cancer, such as changes in bowel habits, bleeding and abdominal pain. One or more of these signs might mean a trip to the doctor for a quick fecal occult test for hidden blood in the stool. This test can even be done at home.

There are much less obvious symptoms for colon cancer, like weakness and fatigue, sudden weight loss (without trying!), or even nausea and vomiting. There are also many symptoms colon cancer women ignore, thinking they are regular biological or hormonal changes, like bloating, abdominal pain with depression, or between-period bleeding. Other symptoms of colon cancer women experience are difficulty swallowing, indigestion, fever that does not come with a cold or flu, or a persistent cough that lasts four weeks or more. Any of these could signal disease in the esophagus or digestive tract, which lead to the colon and can be early warning signs or symptoms of colon cancer. Although these symptoms may not seem serious, a doctor should take a quick look, especially for any that last several weeks. The typical length of time between seeing first symptoms for colon cancer and a doctor’s diagnosis is 14 weeks. symptoms of colon cancer

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer may cause one or more of the symptoms below. If you have any of the following you should see your doctor:

” A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days

” A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so

” Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)

” Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain

” Weakness and fatigue

” Unintended weight loss, colon cancer symptoms in women

Most of these symptoms are more often caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/colon_cancer/page3_em.htm#Colon%20Cancer%20Symptoms

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Cancer of the colon and rectum can exhibit itself in several ways. If you have any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical help.

You may notice bleeding from your rectum or blood mixed with your stool.

” People commonly attribute all rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, thus preventing early diagnosis owing to lack of concern over “bleeding hemorrhoids.”

” Rectal bleeding may be hidden and chronic and may show up as an iron deficiency anemia.

” It may be associated with fatigue and pale skin.

” It usually, but not always, can be detected through a fecal occult (hidden) blood test, in which samples of stool are submitted to a lab for detection of blood.

If the tumor gets large enough, it may completely or partially block your colon. You may notice the following symptoms of bowel obstruction:

” Abdominal distension: Your belly sticks out more than it did before without weight gain.

” Abdominal pain: This is rare in colon cancer. One cause is tearing (perforation) of the bowel. Leaking of bowel contents into the pelvis can cause inflammation (peritonitis) and infection.

” Unexplained, persistent nausea or vomiting

” Unexplained weight loss, symptoms of colon cancer in women

” Change in frequency or character of stool (bowel movements)

” Small-caliber (narrow) or ribbon-like stools

” Sensation of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement

” Rectal pain: Pain rarely occurs with colon cancer and usually indicates a bulky tumor in the rectum that may invade surrounding tissue.

Studies suggest that the average duration of symptoms (from onset to diagnosis) is 14 weeks. There is no association between overall duration of symptoms and the stage of your tumor.

grammy post-mortem 2012

adele with one of the six grammy awards she won last night in los angeles. photo from getty images.

Let’s see. There was nothing as stunning as when Esperanza Spalding ran away with the Best New Artist trophy or as satisfying as when Arcade Fire took Album of the Year. But that was last year’s Grammy Awards. Last night’s follow-up was a comparative snoozefest. Adele, perhaps deservedly, was the big winner (claiming Album of the Year, Record of the Year and four additional Grammys) against very tepid competition, Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) rightly won this year’s Best New Artist and gave a refreshingly unprepared acceptance speech (it began with “Hi”) and Foo Fighters chalked up multiple wins.

Outside of that, the most prominent Grammy celebrity of the night was the one who wasn’t there – Whitney Houston, who died Saturday afternoon. Host LL Cool J (for once, a star who didn’t feel compelled to continually crack wise) offered a prayer and Jennifer Hudson sang a stoic I Will Always Love You (accompanied only by piano) while presenters and awardees all night set out condolences.

Oh, yeah. And all the really cool minor categories (the ones representing folk, jazz and blues)? Gone, every blessed one of them. They didn’t even rate a scroll across the screen before commercial breaks this year.

Otherwise, this year’s Grammys (like last year’s ceremony) was essentially a music variety hour (well, 3 ½ hours) with a few trophies thrown in.

Here is what this year’s autopsy revealed:

+ Bruce Springsteen: Clarence Clemons was gone. But the Boss rocked out with a string-fortified E Street Band for We Take Care of Our Own.

+ Bruno Mars: The pompadoured soul-pop baron poured on the James Brown moves as well as the Smokey Robinson vocals and urged the crowd to “get up off their rich asses.”

+ Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt: An unlikely pairing offered a fine unaccompanied duet of Sunday Kind of Love in honor of the late Etta James.

+ Foo Fighters: Here was a wise move. Let the kids run amok outside the Staples Center while Grohl and crew cranked out Walk.

+ The Beach Boys: Not a pretty side. A so-called reunion (guys, seriously, nearly half the band is dead) with pitch-deficient assistance by Foster the People and Maroon 5. Ug-ly.

+ Glen Campbell: A fairly limp tribute that boasted the novel idea of inviting the guest of honor (who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease) to his own party.

+ Adele: She summoned a no frills pop typhoon during Rolling in the Deep with real live singing and real live musicianship. There’s hope for the new pop world yet.

+ The Civil Wars: The Americana pop duo offered a 60-second “warm-up” snippet of Barton Hollow prior to Taylor Swift’s country corn reading of Mean.

+ Lady Gaga: Nothing. No performance. No awards. No egg. Just last year’s news sitting on the front row with a net over her face.

+ Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood: Not as bad as it sounds. Bennett is still ageless class personified. Underwood tried too hard to act jazzy. Didn’t work.

+ Nicki Minaj: Great for a laugh. Obviously designed to offend, the exorcism/levitation production number for Roman Holiday was simply sophomoric extravagance.

+ Paul McCartney: An elegant orchestral My Valentine for the occasion and an all-star jam with the second side suite from Abbey Road for a broadcast finale.

whitney houston, 1963-2012

whitney houston.

Like so many last evening, I found myself saddened and a bit stunned by news of Whitney Houston’s death at age 48.

There are deaths and there are tragedies. When an artist that so convincingly exuded a purity and freshness in her singing and overall performance charm spends much of the last half of her career in a downward spiral that leads to death at a shamefully young age, the result is, without question, a tragedy.

For the sake of disclosure, I will admit to never having been the biggest Houston fan in the world over the years. But that was strictly a measure of preference and taste, not artistic criticism. In was hard not to appreciate the affirmative effect Houston’s hits of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s had upon an entire pop generation. Particularly impressive was 1992’s I’m Every Woman, a strong, empowering blast of vocal might that also managed to pay overdue reverence to pop-soul predecessor Chaka Khan (the singer who first popularized the Ashford & Simpson song in 1978).

I reviewed a Houston concert in 1987, during a wildly active Rupp Arena concert fall that also included performances by U2, David Bowie, Rod Stewart and AC/DC (boy, are those days gone forever). Audience reaction was wildly mixed, as Houston performed in-the-round on a bare stage with her band situated below and around her. The main audience gripe was that the concert wasn’t more of a “show.” Apparently, possessing one of the more impressive sets of vocal pipes of the day wasn’t enough.  Thousands in the crowd seemed to expect something akin to the presentational dance pop that her music videos of the day approximated. Houston was classier – and simpler – than that. Their loss.

Who knows what sparked the personal and professional collapse of the past two decades? Was it the A Star is Born syndrome reborn? Was it simple celebrity excess? Was it the tabloid marriage? That’s a tale for others to unravel. For now, let’s remember Houston simply as a radiant, uplifting pop presence rightly boasting to the world that she was, indeed, every woman.

in performance: blue highway

blue highway: shawn lane, wayne taylor, jason burleson, rob ickes and tim stafford. photo by kimberly miller.

There was perhaps a certain irony in hearing Blue Highway peel back the years to its first album last night at Cosmic Charlie’s to resurrect an early ‘90s tune called Before the Cold Wind Blows late into an immensely enjoyable 85 minute performance. Written and sung by bassist Wayne Taylor – whose jovial tenor vocals revealed numerous country and Appalachian accents – the tune befit the summery settings of bluegrass festival season with its subtle Western sway and crisp instrumentation that moved mandolin ace Shawn Lane over to fiddle. But last night, with this year’s timid winter weather baring its fangs outside and an enthusiastic and sizeable club audience inside, the song was a cordial companion. The cold winds may have wailed in the lyrics and the snow may have been falling in real life, but the music and the setting proved a sure cure for the midwinter blues.

We’re so accustomed to witnessing Blue Highway in festival situations by way of bite-sized, 45 minute sets that hearing the quintet stretch out in the great indoors was a major treat. Opening with the Mark Knopfler-penned title tune to its 2005 album Marbletown, Blue Highway quickly threw its musical cards on the table, from the winning three-part harmonies led by guitarist Tim Stafford to the wild string exchanges between dobro great Rob Ickes and banjoist Jason Burleson.

From there, the band covered the bases that have distinguished its 18 year career. There were early songs like the country-esque The One I Left Behind as well as Lane’s reflective title tune to the band’s 2011 album Sounds of Home (one of the very few times Blue Highway shifted to ballad mode). And while the bulk of the program was devoted to original works by Stafford, Taylor and Lane, there were hefty nods to bluegrass tradition, including Ickes’ wiry joyride through the Bill Monroe staple Wheel Hoss and a warp-speed encore of the Stanley Brothers’ Little Maggie.

As commanding as the musicianship was, and as spirited as the performance turned out to be, the show’s most arresting moment came with the eulogy Some Day, an a cappella gospel quartet tune that showcased Blue Highway’s powerfully unforced vocal harmonies in a setting surrounded by glorious audience quiet.

kings of the highway

blue highway: jason burleson, shawn lane, wayne taylor, tim stafford and rob ickes. photo by scott simontacchi.

You check the itinerary first and then do a double take. Is Blue Highway really playing Cosmic Charlie’s?

“Yeah, we’re going rock ‘n’ roll,” said dobro ace Rob Ickes of the band’s visit tonight to the club known more for its diet of local pop showcases, jam band shows and rock outings. “Just kidding.”

Granted, bluegrass makes an occasional bow at Cosmic Charlie’s. But the most common local outlet for Blue Highway’s mainstream string music appeal has been the annual Festival of the Bluegrass in June. But indoors? At what is predominantly a rock club?

“We’re looking forward to it,” Ickes added. “We just want to spread the word.”

The “word” on Blue Highway has been continually favorable. Formed in 1994, it brought together a trio of champion songwriters, alert harmony singing and stylistic appeal that, while very much bluegrass, doesn’t shy away from side trips into folk and country. And in Ickes, the band possesses unyielding instrumental firepower. He has won Dobro of the Year honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association 13 times over the last 16 years.

But the journey along Blue Highway didn’t begin in Ickes’ current home base of Nashville. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, a region known to mining progressive ideas for bluegrass tradition. He sensed, however, a sense of job security when he teamed with Blue Highway mates Tim Stafford (on guitar), Wayne Taylor (bass), Shawn Lane (mandolin, guitar and fiddle) and Jason Burleson (banjo). It was still a curious move, as Blue Highway was then an untested bluegrass commodity.

“It’s funny. I just had a feeling when we started that this band was going to be a long term thing. I don’t know if any of the other guys did. But it’s become like family. I really sense that once we’re in the studio. There is always a level of trust you can count on. You know things are going to happen on a certain level. We keep challenging each other.”

Ickes offers the band’s most recent album, 2011’s Sounds of Home, as evidence. It meshes songs and styles that shift from steadfast traditionalism (Lane’s I Ain’t Gonna Lay My Hammer Down) to folkish narrative (Storm, also by Lane) to rootsy efficiency (an Appalachian flavored treatment of the blues standard Nobody’s Fault But Mine). And for instrumental fire, there is Burleson’s Roaring Creek, which lets loose Ickes’ wiry ingenuity on the dobro.

“We have less of a game plan every time we go in to make a record,” Ickes said. “We’ve got three great writers (Stafford, Lane and Taylor; four if you include Burleson and his instrumental compositions) who write a lot. Typically we have about 30 songs to choose from when we go into the studio. One of the hardest parts of making a record can be finding good material. We’ve been lucky in that respect.

“Then all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a country tune and a folk tune here.’ But it’s not like we plan all that out. We used to. Now we just go in and do it. That seems to work. The songs are always what keep us excited.”

But part of what has made Ickes’ move from the West Coast so rewarding is what he accomplishes outside of the band. An avid jazz enthusiast, he maintains an active solo career which most recently yielded an album of dobro/piano duets called Road Song. He also works on occasion with the string music trio Three Ring Circle with fiddler Andy Leftwich (from Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder band) and bassist Dave Pomeroy. Its 2011 album Brothership, ventured far outside bluegrass parameters to cover such jazz delicacies as Ralph Towner’s Anthem and John Scofield’s A Go-Go.

Anthem is just one of those songs that always freaked me out. It has this very simple melody. But there is something really deep about it.”

If that didn’t fill up every spot on Ickes’ musical plate, he also serves as an auxiliary member of The Tony Rice Unit, the jazz/bluegrass hybrid band whose records greatly inspired his playing. Ickes played here with Rice at the Kentucky Theatre as recently as September.

“Tony’s music has always meant so much to me, and to so many players of my generation. His records are kind of the reason we play music.

“I guess I never really wanted to be dependent completely on one band for my musical stimulation, or whatever you want to call it. I’m into a lot of different things. That’s the main reason I moved to Nashville from California. There is so much music going on there. I get to work with other artists and on solo projects. So when I go to work with Blue Highway, I know I can help us make better records. I can bring more to the table.”

Blue Highway performs at 8 p.m. Feb.10 at Cosmic Charlie’s. 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $12, $15. Call (859) 309-9499.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Shows Correcting RNA Splicing May Help Treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy; PLoS Biology Publishes ‘Enhancement of SMN2 Exon 7 Inclusion by Antisense Oligonucleotides Targeting the Exon’. website spinal muscular atrophy

Ascribe Higher Education News Service March 12, 2007 Byline: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y., March 12 (AScribe Newswire) — RNA splicing antisense technology studied at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) effectively corrected an mRNA splicing defect found in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) patients, and is now ready to be tested in mouse models. “SMA patients who suffer from motor-neuron degeneration may benefit from our ability to correct the mRNA splicing defect that makes their SMN2 genes only partially functional,” suggested CSHL Professor Adrian Krainer, Ph.D.

RNA splicing antisense technology allows researchers to influence the ultimate structure and function of proteins. Proteins are synthesized from instructions coded in the DNA through a multi-step process that includes RNA splicing. Information stored in the DNA of genes is transcribed into immature “pre-messenger RNAs” (pre-mRNAs), pre-mRNAs are then spliced into mature “messenger RNAs” (mRNAs), and finally, mRNAs are translated into proteins. In humans and most other organisms, the splicing process thus ensures proper protein production.

“Targeting the splicing process is a promising strategy for finding new medicines to treat SMA, and possibly other diseases,” said Marcus Rhoades, Ph.D. of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partially supported Krainer’s research. “This work brings us one step closer to that goal.” The defect in SMN2 gene expression in SMA patients is at the level of pre-mRNA splicing, such that exon 7 tends to be left out of the mRNA that ultimately makes SMN protein. Several strategies have been pursued to increase the extent of exon 7 inclusion in the splicing of SMN2, for eventual use as therapeutics for SMA. The Krainer team, in collaboration with a team at Isis Pharmaceuticals, surveyed a large number of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) and found that some of these ASOs are able to correct the mRNA splicing defect in cultured cells from SMA patients. These powerful ASOs are identified by the Krainer team as viable for testing in mouse models – the next step in the process of developing new human therapies.

“Families and advocates are very pleased to see the advancement of this antisense technology for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy. We have high hopes for the success of the next phase of the work”, said Cynthia Joyce, Executive Director of the SMA Foundation, an advocacy group that provides financial support for this project at CSHL.

The results of the research led by Krainer are published on March 13, 2007 by PLoS Biology:

The paper’s full citation is as follows:

Hua Y, Vickers TA, Baker BF, Bennett CF, Krainer AR (2007) Enhancement of SMN2 exon 7 inclusion by antisense oligonucleotides targeting the exon. PLoS Biol 5(4): e73. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050073 CSHL is a private, non-profit research and education institution dedicated to exploring molecular biology and genetics in order to advance the understanding and ability to diagnose and treat cancers, neurological diseases, and other causes of human suffering. For more information visit www.cshl.edu About Spinal Muscular Atrophy Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic disease that causes the degeneration of spinal cord motor neurons and leads to progressive muscle weakness, atrophy and inability to walk or sit, and breathing difficulties. Children afflicted with this disease suffer a premature death due to respiratory failure, generally before reaching two years of agee. . The SMA Foundation estimates that currently over 50,000 people suffer from SMA in the U.S., Europe and Japan and that a conservative annual market potential for an SMA treatment could exceed $500 million. go to web site spinal muscular atrophy

About the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation The Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating progress towards a treatment and cure for spinal muscular atrophy through targeted funding of clinical research and novel drug development efforts. Since 2003, the Foundation has awarded over $30 million in sponsored research agreements. In addition, the Foundation is committed to raising awareness and generating support for increased research efforts in SMA among the leaders of industry and government. For more information visit www.smafoundation.org or call (000)-000-0000.

– – – – CONTACTS: Adrian Krainer is available for comment at krainer@cshl.edu. For media assistance, contact Dagnia Zeidlickis (000)-000-0000, zeidlick@cshl.edu.

critic's pick 214

As the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have a considerable pop legacy to uphold. Make that an impossible legacy. The solo careers of both have been spotty at best and have increasingly relied on nostalgic charm to remain visible. Sure, McCartney still sells outs stadiums on the power of his Fab Four legacy (along with a few nods to the Wings years) while Ringo, ever the hapless envoy, seems content with late night TV appearances alongside Craig Ferguson and occasional summer tours with ensembles (“All Starr Bands”) made up of artists whose pop worth is measured strictly by their pasts.

McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom is a light, jazz-pop-leaning throwback to tunes from the singer’s youth. As such it is the sort of songbook project that gave new leases to the careers of acts like Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt. It purposely avoids rock ‘n’ roll in favor of works by Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and the like with a few guest turns by Diana Krall and Stevie Wonder.

The very purposeful sentimentality of Kisses on the Bottom boils down to three songs: a impressively moody original called My Valentine, a slow-mo blues reading of Get Yourself Another Fool where the hushed creases of McCartney’s singing take on an appealing twilight glow, and an elegantly orchestral version of Bye Bye Blackbird that can’t help but serve as an aged sequel to The Beatles’ revered Blackbird.

Kisses on the Bottom sports two McCartney originals within its cover song repertoire. The ratio is inverted on Starr’s Ringo 2012, a self-produced record of efficient and very clinical originals peppered by inviting covers of Buddy Holly’s Think It Over and the pop/skiffle staple Rock Island Line. There is not a ballad in the bunch. Instead, Starr pushes exuberance with high profile pals like Joe Walsh, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Van Dyke Parks, Edgar Winter and Dave Stewart. And it all works surprisingly well, even though Ringo 2012 clocks in under the 30 minute mark.

Even more than McCartney, Starr relies on good cheer to carry the day. And in most cases that’s enough, providing production and material choices don’t push his luck. Here, everything is streamlined, from the lean quartet appeal of Step Lightly, to the Parks-heavy Samba (which, oddly enough, brings to mind the late ‘70s music of George Harrison) to the surf-style glee of Think It Over, which boasts a vocal showing where one can almost picture ol’ Ringo grinning from ear to ear.

Neither album is a masterwork. But they sufficiently uphold the good nature that got Beatlemania rolling in the first place. At 69 and 71 respectively, McCartney and Starr still pour on the charm. What nice boys.

STENNIS SAILOR OFFERS LIFE THROUGH BONE MARROW DONATION

US Fed News Service, Including US State News June 14, 2008 The U.S. Navy issued the following press release:

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Elliott J. FabrizioUSS John C. Stennis Public Affairs A John C. Stennis (CVN 70) Sailor saved a life after donating bone marrow to a leukemia patient in Washington, June 3.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Equipment 1st Class (AW) Daniel Brandau doesn’t know the patient he donated to due to legal reasons. He said he doesn’t mind though; he just wanted to help another person.

“I just figured if I could help somebody out, I’d want to do it. I felt honored that I could potentially save somebody’s life,” he said.

A bone marrow transplant is often the patient’s only hope of a cure, but due the rarity of finding a matching donor, it takes more than just one person like Brandau. It requires thousands.

“It’s about a one in 100,000-chance of finding an actual match,” said Brandau. “It’s very rare. Basically, if you don’t have a family member with stem cells that are a match, you’re probably going to die, unless you can find somebody who’s a matching donor like I was.” Brandau volunteered to give a blood sample to the ship’s medical department last year and register as a potential donor to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). go to site bone marrow donation

“The NMDP will take your sample, and from that, they get a genetic code,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Micheal Brown, advanced lab technician and the coordinator for the Stennis’ donor programs. “They hold all that information in a big database. Then when people are diagnosed with different diseases like cancer, they can use that database from all those samples they collected to try and find a donor.” When Brandau was identified as a potential match, the NMDP flew him to Washington, D.C. for further testing Brandau.

Meanwhile, his shipmates in the bow catapult shop were proud to pick up his workload.

“They let me go, knowing they would have trouble manning,” said Brandau. “I am one of the highest qualified people here, so it put a strain on other people when I left, but they we’re a 100 percent for me going.” After several tests, the NMDP determined Brandau to be the donor they were looking for. see here bone marrow donation

“I got flown back, and they gave me Epigen injections in my arms,” said Brandau. “That increases the production of stem cells in your bones, and your body starts producing such a mass amount that it seeps into your blood. For days, you are feeling growing pains in your bones.” After the procedure, doctors had enough stem cells to administer four treatments.

“Plain and simple, what he did saved this person,” said Brown.

Brandau may never meet the person whose life he saved, but he’s satisfied knowing he helped someone.

“The only information they gave me was he was a 25-year-old male,” said Brandau. “For me, the most important thing would be if he had kids. Now, he’d be able to spend at least another 25 to 50 years with them. He’s the same age I am, and I would want somebody to do the same for me.” The Navy seeks to strengthen ties with organizations like the NMDP, as they provide needed healthcare to citizens and service members, as part of America’s Maritime Strategy.

For more news from USS John C. Stennis, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn74/.

madonna bowls ’em over

madonna lightens up at a super bowl press conference last week. ap photo by matt slocum.

 If ever a star was born to play the Super Bowl, it was Madonna. And for the 15 speed-of-light minutes that she commanded last night’s halftime show, she proved why.

Eschewing all hints of controversy, the 53 year old pop matriarch offered a performance that wildly emphasized the visual and left nothing – especially her vocals – to chance.

From a technical standpoint, the show was undeniably dazzling, an overload of pageantry (she entered like a glammed up Roman empress to the electro beats of Vogue and vanished through a trap door enveloped by fog following Like a Prayer), dance and manufactured groove.

There was a marching band, but no discernible backup band. There was singing galore, but very little of it seemed live. But it was a stadium sized celebration all the same.

Vogue and the leaner dance crackle of Music (jacked up with a LMFAO cameo) were ideal picks for the set; the oddly G-rated cheerleading strut of the new Give Me All Your Luvin’ (aided by disciples Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.), less so. It all moved with warp speed precision, with Madonna appearing tirelessly athletic. It is a pretty safe guess, though, that all three songs were lip-synched.

The snippet of Respect Yourself that led into Like a Prayer, which threw Cee-lo Green into the mix in an impressive bit of network product placement (the season premiere of his popular talent show The Voice followed the Super Bowl), brought an earthier mood and groove to the set, and maybe even some actual singing. Hard to say for sure.

But then anything approximating a conventional concert profile has never been what Madonna is about. Sure, in some ways, it made you appreciate the 2010 warts-and-all smackdown of The Who. That set was ragged but real. But last night, Madonna opted for spectacle over spontaneity, pageantry over traditional live performance and supreme stage confidence over pop culture controversy.  

current listening 02/04/12

+ The Doors: L.A. Woman (1971/2012): While this 40th anniversary edition of L.A. Woman may be a bit late on the draw (it’s really 41 years old), the wait was worthwhile. The reissue pairs The Doors’ finest hour with a bonus disc boasting live rehearsal takes of the entire album. Throughout, Jim Morrison is full of playful bravado. Initially, L.A. Woman returned to The Doors to the top of the charts. Three months after its release, Morrison was dead.

+ Todd Rundgren: With a Twist (1997): Even Rundgren’s most ardent fans were repulsed by With a Twist’s premise of retooling his most popular singles into bossa nova ballads. But the album was no joke with Rundgren providing discreetly sunny yet slightly melancholic shades of summer to classics like I Saw the Light and comparative obscurities like Fidelity. In true Todd fashion, he toured behind With a Twist during the dead of winter.

+ Mingus Big Band: Live at Jazz Standard (2010): Next to Sun Ra’s still-active Arkestra, no large jazz ensemble masters the genius and eccentricities of its namesake leader with more adoration than the Mingus Big Band. Live at Jazz Standard presents the group (bolstered by all-stars like Randy Brecker and Jeff “Tain” Watts) on its New York home turf. What results is a profoundly soulful variation on the sometimes academic exactness of big band tradition.

+ Havana Jam 2 (1979): Unlike it’s more pop-inclined predecessor, Havana Jam 2 brings together jazz traditionalists (Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz), fusion upstarts (Weather Report, John McLaughlin’s Trio of Doom) and some of Cuba’s more devout nationalists (Irakere, before soon-to-be stars Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval defected). Out-of-print for literally decades, this worldly jazz summit recently received limited CD release as an import.

* Pierre Moerlen’s Gong: Time is the Key (1978): An admittedly dated chronicle of the famed psychedelic unit during its revamped prog days with percussionist Pierre Moerlen, Time is the Key possesses a decidedly jazzy touch with vibraphone and keyboards leading the charge. The record starts to unravel at the midway point, succumbing to routine funk and fusion. But the first half of Time is the Key is all Mike Oldfield-ish, prog rock heaven.

family fugue

california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards, bert lams.

Spent a most enjoyable half-hour on the phone this afternoon with Paul Richards of the California Guitar Trio. Our chat will surface in the form of a column piece later this month that will tie into the CGT’s performances here at Natasha’s (on Feb. 26) and in Frankfort at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café (on Feb. 27).

The CGT is one of these artists that I feel it’s almost my duty to tell people about. Their repertoire is so wildly vast (classical to original to prog to surf and beyond), their technical command so dazzling and their performance persona so refreshingly unassuming that I feel I can recommend their shows to most anyone. I find the trio to be one of those rare acts (Lyle Lovett is one of the few others that spring to mind) that are next to impossible not to be charmed by.

The gist of my talk with Richards this afternoon was classical music. That’s mostly because the CGT’s newest album, Masterworks, revisits much of their classical repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Barber, Vivaldi, Rossini, Schubert and even the modernist Arvo Part) of the last two decades. But such a discussion also helped trigger my first memory of seeing the trio.

It was during the summer of 1995 at a very un-air conditioned Taft Theatre in Cincinnati where the trio was opening for King Crimson. Hearing three acoustic guitarists play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was astounding in and of itself. The piece has been a favorite since childhood, mostly because every cut-rate, Gothic-infused horror movie from the ‘60s I soaked up in my youth co-opted it as soundtrack music. Trust me, you know it whether you know it or not.

Back then, however, the music was always played on a pipe organ the size of a city block. The CGT, however, opted for a simpler acoustic drama. But hearing it amped up through King Crimson’s mighty PA? Now that’s what you call an introduction. It screamed “hello” in a huge way.

Richards has some fun recollections of that Cincy performance, as well. But we will save those for when our piece runs closer to the CGT’s Central Kentucky dates, when Bach will likely sit next to music by Pink Floyd, The Ventures, Ennio Morricone and the trio’s remarkable original works. Fine times are in store.

No brown skins. (Hispanic Americans and the 1986 Immigration Reform Act)

The Economist (US) February 3, 1990 No brown skins SAN FRANCISCO HISPANIC Americans were against the 1986 Immigration Reform Act; they feared it would give employers an excuse not to hire people who looked or sounded Hispanic. They were right, it seems. The California Fair Employment and Housing Commission reports that the law, which is supposed to deter illegal immigration, has created “a widespread pattern and practice of discrimination” against legal immigrants.

The law fines or imprisons those employers who are caught hiring illegal immigrants. Nervous employers are playing safe by brushing aside official work permits and declining to hire people with brown skins and Latin names and accents. The law, which was supposed to protect people against this happening, created a special counsel to hear complaints and to act on them. But there is just one special-counsel office, and that is in Washington, DC. Few immigrants even learn of its existence, let alone approach it with complaints.

In addition, reports the Californian commission (an independent agency established 30 years ago to protect civil rights in jobs and housing), the Immigration and Nationalisation Service (INS) issues such a variety of different immigrant classifications that employers cannot be familiar with what is official and what is not. The confusion is compounded by the amnesty that the law gave to illegal immigrants who could prove that they had lived in the United States since 1981, plus the special rules for agricultural workers. The sorting-out of all this leaves the immigration service snowed under with forms and letters of work-approval. go to site illegal immigration statistics

Although the INS claims to have spent $2m on educational material explaining the law, the explanation, the commission says sternly, is “inadequate…incomplete and confusing”. As remedy, the commission proposes a temporary moratorium on employer sanctions until the backlog of appeals for work authorisation is cleared, the educational material is rewritten and special counsel offices are opened around the country.

The California report is important since about half the immigrants who come to the United States seeking work authorisation come to California. But it is only one in a series of reports on the effect of the 1986 law. A New York task force is due to report to Governor Mario Cuomo soon. And in a month or two, the General Accounting Office (GAO), which was officially charged to monitor the consequences of the immigration controls, will be issuing its findings. Last year the GAO reported that about 16% of some 3.3m employers who were aware of the new rules did discriminate against foreign-looking applicants. The report called for a more co-ordinated effort to educate the public but, unlike the California commission, it did not declare that a “pattern” of discrimination had resulted from the act. web site illegal immigration statistics

If the GAO now finds such a pattern, it would trigger changes in the law. Congress would have 30 days to consider lifting sanctions against employers. But if the GAO reports that it has found no serious discrimination, the provisions in the law that are supposed to protect workers against bias would be removed. In any event, the GAO report will set off a fiery debate in Congress.

Part of the debate is whether the law’s strictness has in fact cut down illegal immigration. Statistics from the INS suggest that it has. In 1986 1.6m people were caught trying to enter from Mexico; in 1989, with more border guards, the total had shrunk to 850,000 people. Either they are getting cleverer at evading the guards, or the law, despite its unfair side-effects, is working.

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