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grammy post mortem 2020

Gary Clark Jr. performing at the 62nd Grammy Awards on Sunday. Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/ AP.

What’s the real worth of this year’s Grammy Awards when Central Kentucky’s lone hope for a win loses out before the evening ceremony even begins? That was the question facing local audiences Sunday when word arrived that Lawrence County native Tyler Childers lost out to country colossus Willie Nelson for Best Country Solo Performance.

Beyond that, the Grammys had to contend with the sudden, sobering reality that it was unfolding in “the house that Koby built” – specifically, the Staples Center, where Kobe Bryant established an NBA dynasty with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash earlier in the day, a tragedy that rocked the Grammys far harder than most of the performances.

There was a glimmer of love for Kentucky rock ‘n’ roll, however. The Bowling Green-bred Cage the Elephant’s “Social Cues” took honors for Best Rock Album, a win also announced prior to the telecast.

Here’s our annual Grammy Post Mortem of all the televised grandstanding, self-promotion and occasional performance sparks that ruled CBS on Sunday night.

+ Lizzo: “Cuz I Love You,” “Truth Hurts.” “Tonight is for Koby,” the breakout artist of 2019 shouted before belting her songs out over a sea of strings. The medley boasted a ballet interlude that allowed for, what else, a costume change.

+ Alicia Keys: “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “We never in a million years thought we would have to start the show like this,” said the ceremony’s host, a multi-Grammy winning artist, again referencing Bryant’s death. Her response was an understated a capella tune aided by the group that made the song a hit, Boyz II Men. Simple and emotively effective.

+ Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani: “Nobody But You.” Back to business as usual. Standard Grammy fare with the usual manufactured pathos.

+ The Jonas Brothers: “What a Man’s Gotta Do.” A featherweight tune dressed up and weighed down with dancers, horns and unremarkable harmonies.

+ Tyler the Creator with Charlie Wilson and Boyz II Men: “Earfquake” and “New Magic Wand.” Visually impressive meshing of ultra-modern beats and old school soul, complete a stage full of wigged-out Tyler clones.

+ Usher, Sheila E and FKA Twigs: “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss.” How very telling that one of the highlights in a ceremony honoring today’s pop music comes from a glance back at a previous generation. That aside, Usher nailed the vocal and physical stamina necessary to ignite a medley of Prince hits from the ‘80s.

+ Camila Cabello: “First Man.” Sentimental overdose as the Cuban-American singer serenaded her tearful father. Shameless but effective.

+ Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile: “Bring My Flowers Now.” A no-frills performance of a song penned by the two cross-generational artists with Tucker’s weathered, world weary vocals front and center.

+ Arianna Grande: “Imagine,” “My Favorite Things,” “7 Rings,” “Thank U, Next.” A song of hope and a classic tale of innocence led to Grande singing in fluffy lingerie with a pack a similarly attired dancers on two stages – the second being a bedroom. A mash-up of tired dance-pop theatrics and the evening’s silliest choreography.

+ Billie Eilish: “When the Party’s Over.” Backed by brother Finneas, the 18-year old pop celeb offered a moody, surprisingly tender ballad before her clean sweep of the Grammys’ top trophies for Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist.

+ Aerosmith and RUN-DMC: “Living on the Edge,” “Walk This Way.”  An energetic rekindling of the genre busting alliance both groups assembled three decades ago. Watching Flavor Flav dancing in the audience, though, was the highlight.

+ Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road.” A country/hip-hop hybrid performed with an extensive guest list that included Kentucky’s own Billy Ray Cyrus. Impressive as a cultural mash-up. Pretty pedestrian, however, as a pop document.

+ Demi Lovato: “Anyone.” A stark, if somewhat overblown confessional, penned just before the former teen star’s hospitalization for what was widely reported as a drug overdose.

+ John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, Roddy Rich, Meek Mill and YG: “Higher.” A massive tribute to West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle who was fatally shot last year. Leave it to Legend, together with a recorded clip of Russell, on the Khaled song “Higher,” to make the medley his own.

+ Rosalia: “Juro Que,” “Malamente.” In a refreshing diversion from Latin music’s usual dissent into faceless dance-pop, Rosalia modernized tradition by setting her singing to flamenco rhythms.

+ Alicia Keys and Brittany Howard: “Underdog.” Staged initially as a simple acoustic affirmation, the performance faded into a generic, glossy pop-soul ritual.

+ H.E.R.: “Sometimes.” A good intentioned but ultimately unremarkable pop meditation that broke through its shopworn gloss only when H.E.R. briefly erupted on guitar.

+ Bonnie Raitt: “Angel from Montgomery.” A criminally abbreviated slice of solo acoustic grace and soul honoring Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Prine. At least the sagely Prine, seated in the crowd, was given a standing ovation.

+ Gary Clark Jr. and The Roots: “This Land.” Perhaps the most honestly urgent performance of the night. A slab of raucous psychedelia that slugged the specter of racism right in the kisser.

+ Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band: In a long overdue change of mood, the In Memoriam segment was sent off not with a musical dirge but with a blast of brassy carnival soul indicative of the New Orleans spirit.

+ Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Bell, Ben Platt, The War and Treaty, Lee Curreri, Gary Clark Jr, Misty Copeland, Debbie Allen Dance Company, Common, Lang Lang: “I Sing the Body Electric.” A rare all-star collaboration that worked, blending music, dance and hip hop. The performance, dedicated to music education, honored retiring Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich

record store day 2015

cd central's most honored employee, zena the wonder dog, prepares for record store day.

cd central’s most honored employee, zena the wonder dog, prepares for record store day. herald-leader staff photo by mark cornelison.

Eight years ago, the initiation of Record Store Day seemed like a last gasp promotion to save a dying industry. With the music industry in a tailspan resulting from digital downloading of music, retail outlets selling compact discs or any other form of recorded music began to disappear. Suddenly, the neighborhood record store – once an epicenter of sorts for rabid audiophiles to mull over new releases, rediscover forgotten classics and exchange views with like minded enthusiasts – seemed headed for extinction.

The premise of Record Store Day was simple and effective – to promote independent record stores by having artists big and small issue products, primarily vinyl recordings, exclusive for sale that day. Sometimes those treats would be as simple as a two-sided, two song 7” record of previously issued music. In other instances, it might be an album or CD-length concert recording never heard before that would disappear again after Record Store Day passed. In recent years, Iron & Wine, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Devo and Govt. Mule have indulged in the latter practice.

Then the artists got directly involved with performances and in-store appearances. My Morning Jacket, the Kentucky HeadHunters and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are among the acts that have stopped by vanguard Lexington record store CD Central over the years. On a national scale, artists as diverse as Metallica, Paul McCartney, Neko Case, Tom Waits and Steve Earle have been vocal supporters of Record Store Day.

Today, Record Store Day hits again. Over 20 stores throughout Kentucky and close to 1,000 nationally will be participating. Again, the list of artists issuing exclusive vinyl recordings is extensive and stylistically far-reaching. They include Ryan Adams, Asleep at the Wheel, Courtney Barnett, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Junior Brown, Buena Vista Social Club, George Clinton, The Decemberists, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, The Flaming Lips, Foo Fighters, Jethro Tull, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Robert Earl Keen, The Mavericks, Father John Misty, Mumford & Sons, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Phish, Robert Plant, John Prine, Sun Ra, Steve Reich, The Replacements, Simple Minds, Todd Snider, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Stapleton, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, U2, Vampire Weekend, The Waterboys, Brian Wilson, Cassandra Wilson, Wu-Tang Clan and The Zombies – and many others. Not all stores will carry all the available product.

Three Lexington locales – CD Central, Sami’s Music/The Album and Pop’s Resale – will be celebrating Record Store Day. CD Central will again be turning the day into a mini-festival with an afternoon of free live local music. The store, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in addition to Record Store Day, will present performances by Ancient Warfare, Doc Feldman and the Infernal Method and The Footsteps. DJs from WRFL-FM will be spinning records, as well.

For more info on the national initiative on Record Store Day, go to

grammy post-mortem 2015

beck performing last night at the grammy awards in los angeles. photo by kevork djansezian/getty images.

beck performing last night at the grammy awards in los angeles. photo by kevork djansezian/getty images.

It was the year of duets and all-star mash-ups at the Grammy Awards. But as we dig into our annual Grammy post mortem, we discover too much star power just gets to be a drag.

Between the mismatches and self-promotion (CBS set a new record for product placements of its TV programming) there were a few awards given out and even a surprise or two. Here, however, is what The Musical Box saw.

AC/DC: Undettered by trends, Aussie rockers AC/DC opened the evening with the new Rock or Bust followed by the classic Highway to Hell, complete with front row fans Paul McCartney and Katy Perry wearing makeshift devil horns. Good cranky fun.

Best New Artist: Sam Smith, in what would be the first of four Grammy wins.

Ariana Grande: Pop princess shelves the dance moves to sing Just a Little Bit of Your Heart stationary and straight.

Jessie J and Tom Jones: A salute Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with an oddly truncated You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. Zero chemistry.

Best Pop Solo Performance: Happy by Pharrell Williams. Fine choice, but let’s hope his pants don’t trend the way his hat did last year.

Miranda Lambert: Suitably energetic and immediate performance of Little Red Wagon that was about as country as Isaac Hayes.

Pop Vocal Album: Sam Smith won for In the Lonely Hour in a Grammy presented by Barry Gibb.

Kanye West: Sings the new Only One while dancing on a lone floor spotlight. An awkward and uninvolving performance

Madonna: Introduced by Miley Cyrus as “my bitch,” the singer offered a new and somewhat droll dance tune called Living For Love. She also cavorted with a pack of shirtless male dancers with masks and horns. Just another day at the office.

Best Rock Album: Beck’s Morning Phase. A great choice in, for once, a very strong field. Strange, though, that Morning Phase is one of the least rockish records of Beck’s career.

Best R&B Performance: Beyonce and Jay Z, Drunk in Love. Guess it was too much to hope for a Ledisi win.

Ed Sheeran with John Mayer, Questlove, Herbie Hancock: A serviceable enough summit version of Thinking Out Loud that left little for the guest list to do.

Jeff Lynne: A heady ELO flashback with Evil Woman, then the heavily Beatle-esque Mr. Blue Sky with Sheeran. Lynne acted liked Sheeran wasn’t there. An odd pairing and odder performance.

Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani: Ryan Sechrist called them “two of our finest” as they launced into the syrupy Maroon 5 hit My Heart is Open. Given how heavily CBS was pushing actors from its network series, having two stars from NBC’s The Voice was probably the biggest surprise of the night.

Hozier and Annie Lennox: I used to think Lennox could make any song sound righteous. That was until she took to Hozier’s dreadful Take Me to Church last night. Her adjoining version of the Screaming Jay Hawkins hit I Put a Spell on You was an impressive save, though.

Best Country Album: In a category that sometimes shells out a surprise, none came. Miranda Lambert’s Platinum took top honors.

Pharrell Williams with Lang Lang and Hans Zimmer: What a mess. Happy is the perfect radio single, so why fuss it up with minor key variations, choirs and ill matched performance partners? Leave well enough alone.

Katy Perry: An atypically stoic performance of By the Grace of God? that followed two striking anti-domestic violence pleas by Brooke Axtell and, in pre-recorded message, President Obama.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: She may have been dolled up like a drag queen, but Gaga managed the impossible. She sang Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett and held her own.

Usher: In a straightforward salute to Stevie Wonder, Usher sang If It’s Magic accompanied only by a harpist until Wonder himself came out of the shadows to briefly play harmonica. In an evening of relentless bombast, this serving of understatement was an oasis.

Eric Church: Nice job on Give Me Back My Hometown, an unsettling rocker from The Outsiders than possessed a refreshingly non-pandering country spirit.

Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark: Two guitars and two voices representing two country generations singing Hold My Hand. Simple and potent.

Paul McCartney, Rhianna and Kanye West: I expected a train wreck. Instead, we got a stripped down gospel-flavored pop tune, FourFiveSeconds. Not a revelation, but not a collision of mismatched egos, either.

Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige: This is undeniably Smith’s star moment, but he and his delicate vocals seemed like also-rans in an arrangement that stressed everything except the singer.

Juanes: A performance of Juntos that properly recognized the Latin music categories. On its own, though, this was pretty unremarkable stuff.

Album of the Year. Prince offered words of comfort (“Albums still matter”) but appeared out to lunch as a presenter. But Beck’s Morning Phase beating out Beyonce? Who saw that coming?

Sia: A reenactment of the Chandelier video that was acted out instead out of sung. Please.

Song of the Year: Smith again for Stay With Me. Funny – didn’t see or hear Tom Petty’s name anywhere.

Beck and Chris Martin: To his credit, Martin purposely tried to serve Beck’s light and luminous Heart is a Drum instead acting like a bored co-star like most of last night’s collaborators did.

Record of the Year: Sam Smith, again a worthy winner because the rest of the field was so tepid.

Beyonce: “I am tired,” Beyonce sang with sterling conviction as the gospel favorite Take My Hand, Precious Lord took the Grammy Ceremony to the 3 ½ hour mark. I could relate.

John Legend and Common: A suitably dramatic reading of Glory with choir and strings. Then again, Legend would have been just as commanding if he were performing alone with his piano.

kennedy center honors: the music translates

kennedy ctr honors

the 2014 kennedy center honors recepients. back row: tom hanks, sting, al green. front row: patricia mcbride, lily tomlin.

As always is the case at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, music translates best. Of course, beginning last night’s telecast by paying tribute to Soul Man No. 1 Al Green meant triggering a celebration was all but inevitable.

As with all Honors ceremonies, the performances are tributes with the honorees separated from the action and forced to bask in the glow of admiration from box seats next to President Obama.

Initial performances to Green by Earth, Wind & Fire (Love and Happiness), Jennifer Hudson (Simply Beautiful) and Usher (Let’s Stay Together) were, respectively, groove-centric, dramatically stoic and purely serviceable. But having elders Mavis Staples and Sam (Sam & Dave) Moore turn Take Me to the River into a full gospel-esque tent revival complete with choir was a joy.

The surprise, though, was the evening’s only other exclusively musical segment, a show-closing tribute to Sting. A proven pop songsmith, Sting has taken on an air of celebrity in recent years that has made him increasingly unappealing. Even in an otherwise gushing introductory speech by Meryl Streep, the singer was noted, despite all his commercial success for his “scowling.”

Yet the music, once you got past Lady Gaga’s overblown, self-involved take on If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, was wonderful. Bassist/singer Esperanza Spaulding, accompanied by Herbie Hancock on piano, quickly found the lovely but brittle of delicacy of Fragile while Bruno Mars, the only performer in the segment to dig into the honoree’s early music with The Police, sounded eerily like the young, rock/reggae-fied Sting of the late ‘70s.

But the killer was the Boss. In the evening’s runaway highlight, Bruce Springsteen pulled out a Sting obscurity, a ballad of murder and remorse called I Hung My Head. The chiseled drama Springsteen delivered made the song sound as though the Boss had penned it during his Nebraska days.

In between were segments devoted to three mostly non-musical honorees – a wildly convoluted tribute to Tom Hanks, a celebration of Lily Tomlin that was far simpler (ending with Jane Lynch, Reba McEntire, Jane Fonda and Kate McKinnon all blowing raspberries to the artist) and a lovely dance tribute to ballerina Patricia McBride.

Host Stephen Colbert had little to do except oversee brief opening and closing segments. He also snuck onstage beside David Letterman (the man he will replace as host of The Late Show in 2015) as the latter was set to pay tribute to Hanks. Colbert was dismissed playfully with two words by Letterman. “Not yet.”

grammy post-mortem 2013

zac brown and mavis staples at the grammy awards’ tribute to levon helm. photo by larry busacca/getty images.

Host LL Cool J dubbed last night 3 ½ hour Grammy Awards ceremony as The Greatest Music Show on Earth. That’s a bit of a stretch, to be sure. While it was more of a streamlined Grammy-cast compared to years past with no dominate winner, the same highs, lows and infuriations prevailed. Let’s dig up a few in this years Grammy post mortem.+ LL Cool J – An articulate and involving host, but also a choice that underscored the dominance of CBS stars as presenters. Self promotion lives on at the Grammys.

+ Taylor Swift – The night’s first and by far most bloated performance set Swift’s latest hissy fit pop hit in an Alice in Wonderland setting. This was what was known back in the day as a bad trip.

+ Elton John/ Ed Sheeran – The first of many duet/collaborative performances and one of the few that worked. Sir Elton sounded a bit ragged, but the unadorned guitar/piano duet was refreshing unforced.

+ Adele – Best acceptance line of the night: “We work so hard to make it look so easy.”

+ Mumford and Sons – I try and I try and I try to get into these guys, but it doesn’t work. Good performance drive, nice instrumentation, but, ultimately, weak songs.

+ Justin Timberlake – A splashy art deco-decorated performance that reminded us that Timberlake is a genuinely gifted singer. Too bad his performance had nothing to with the Grammys at hand. His record won’t be eligible until next year.

+ Rhianna – Nice to see her in a torchier moment without the glitz and dance marathons. But what was up with Mikky Ekko singing alongside her looking like a longshoreman?  

+ The Black Keys, Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band – A technical mess with Dr. John lost in the mix. But the music still conjured some seriously cool ju-ju.

+ Bruno Mars, Sting, Rhianna, Ziggy and Damien Marley – A surprisingly spirited Bob Marley tribute that grew out of equally flattering Mars/Sting exchange. How nice when generations collide that can actually sing.

+ The Lumineers – No sale. Somehow this group discovered the lost, frightening plateau that links Arcade Fire and The New Christy Minstrels. Very scary.

+ Jack White – A two-song segment that shifted from Gothic hootenanny into over-the-top Led Zeppelin crunch. Jolly, discordant mischief.

+ Katy Perry – Best intro line of the night, when announcing Best New Artist: “I was never even nominated in this category and I have my own eyelash line.”

+ Fun – Rudimentary pop full of manufactured cheer wins Best New Artist over Frank Ocean and Alabama Shakes. Then they state in their acceptance speech, “I gotta go pee.” Nothing like a classy winner.

+ Carrie Underwood – Her performance was advertised as a “Grammy moment.” The big deal? Light images that projected off her dress. Well, she’s a shoe-in then for Best Performance by a Light Bulb.

+ Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Kenny Garrett – A wonderful, drummer-less version of Take Five that roped in Blue Rondo a la Turk as a coda for a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. Then came the buzzkill – the immediate introduction of Ryan Seacrest.

+ All Star Tribute to Levon Helm – Elton John, Mavis Staples, T Bone Burnett, Mumford and Sons, Zac Brown and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard teamed up for The Band’s The Weight. Sister Mavis stole the show.

+ Babel – Mumford and Sons win Album of the Year over The Black Keys’ El Camino? Someone’s gonna pay for that.  

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 and 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., and host reviews by patrons to help warn you away from subpar restaurants and steer you toward the good ones. 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,, and

* Price comparison: Finding the best price available is easy with, and 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 and

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

* 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, and

“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,, and

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.

* 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

grammy postmortem 2011

esperannza spalding arriving at last night's grammy awards in los angeles.

esperanza spalding arriving at the grammy awards ceremony last night in los angeles. ap photo by chris pizzello.

The moment brought back the memory of when Herbie Hancock skunked Kanye West for Album of the Year at the 2008 Grammy Awards. It was sweet and, quite frankly shocking.

Last night, the Grammys just about trumped that when another jazz artist – this one a young lion unknown to much of the pop mainstream – won Best New Artist. In a field that boasted teen pop star Justin Bieber, charttopping rapper Drake, folk renegades Mumford & Sons and alternative pop newcomers Florence and the Machine, the winner turned out to be jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.

Admittedly, the Best New Artist category carries a pretty horrid legacy. Let’s not forget that past winners include the Starland Vocal Band. And though Spalding may be a new artist, she has actually cut five albums – three of her own (including the wonderful 2010 soul-jazz gem Chamber Music Society) and two as a member of saxophonist Joe Lovano’s Us Five quintet (including the outstanding 2011 Charlie Parker themed Bird Songs).

But for once, let’s not get distracted by the Grammys’ bewildering and inconsistent nomination process and look the seriously bright side. Honestly, now. A jazz stylist winning Best New Artist? That’s cool. But a bassist taking the award? Even wilder. Add in Spalding’s acceptance speech, which was concise, literate and gracious (qualities generally lacking at the Grammys) and you had the makings of a genuine class act.

Almost as surprising was watching Arcade Fire beat out Lady Gaga, Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum for Album of the Year (for The Suburbs).

Singer/frontman Win Butler also cut to the chase, or else simply expressed honest surprise, with the opening of his acceptance speech: “What the hell?”

The band tore through a blinding version of Month of May, complete with cyclists wearing helmet cams whipping around the stage, just prior to winning the award. Then, in a Grammy first, the band was afforded a victory lap by closing the broadcast with, ironically, Ready to Start.

The rest of the night? Surprisingly entertaining in terms of performances, actually. Cee Lo Green sang that ultra-fun pop-soul kiss-off song with the title you can’t say on TV backed by a band of puppets. That was a major blast. But what was the deal with having Gwyneth Paltrow as a duet partner? Or was she a puppet, too.

But Lady Gaga in an egg? The five diva salute to Aretha Franklin (with Christina Aguilera actually remembering the lyrics)? The Justin Bieber/Usher tag team match? No thank you very much.

The geezers had a good night, though. Bob Dylan upheld his unofficial title as folk angel of death by croaking his way though a magnificently ragged Maggie’s Farm in hootenanny fashion with Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers.

And there was Mick Jagger, still a tireless performance fireball, who turned the ceremony’s most maudlin moment – the memorial salute to artists who died over the past year – into a king size celebration honoring soul music giant Solomon Burke by leading a massively brassy Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. The only person in the audience caught on camera not smiling was Eminem. But then it’s his job not to.

rock of ages: the who at the super bowl

roger daltrey and pete townshend of the who performing last night at the super bowl in miami. photo by mark j. terrill/associated press.

roger daltrey and pete townshend of the who performing last night at the super bowl. photo by mark j. terrill/associated press.

And so, for 12 minutes at last night’s Super Bowl halftime show, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were The Who again. Looking and sounding grizzled, worn, but still up for a decent performance fight, the two re-assembled the better known fragments of a storied rock ‘n’ roll career built on anarchy but now fueled by nostalgia.

It wasn’t a bad performance, just not an especially thrilling one. Daltrey was in surprisingly sharp vocal form and Townshend sounded suitably scrappy on guitar. A harmony band, of course, The Who wasn’t, as it showed in the duo’s wildly disconnected singing on the set-opening Pinball Wizard. But Baba O’Riley still sounded full of tireless fire, sparked by the drumming of Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son, believe it or not) and the audience’s hail-hearty vocal backup on the song’s “teenage wasteland” refrain.

Of course, one couldn’t help but notice the corporate, co-opted slant of Baba O’Riley, Who Are You and the set closing Won’t Get Fooled Again, all of which were performed in severely abbreviated versions. The songs today serve as the theme songs for the three CSI shows that are programming staples of CBS, which just happened to be the network broadcasting the Super Bowl.

The verse or two Daltrey slipped in of See Me, Feel Me possessed the set’s least frilly and most honestly impassioned drive. Overall, though, this was a cursory outing by The Who – a bite-sized sampler of hits played with appealing but obviously aged gusto. But then, compare the performance to Carrie Underwood’s flat tire delivery of the national anthem at the onset of the game and the sound of some long-in-the-tooth British rockers merrily bashing away didn’t seem so deflating.

For those who remember the band’s glory years, there was an undeniable sweetness last night that came from just knowing Daltrey and Townshend were still around. Anyone under 30, however, likely viewed the pair as living fossils. To them, I say, introduce yourselves to Live at Leeds, The Who’s immortal 1970 live album. It remains one of rock music’s most truly terrifying concert documents.

Nearly 40 years on, it’s unfair to still expect that kind of vitality from The Who. What they presented last night was credible but a little cryptic – a worn snapshot of a band that once proclaimed “Hope I die before I get old” – and then did the latter.

hope for haiti now

bruce springsteen. photo by dennis clinch.

bruce springsteen. photo by dennis clinch.

The most surreal aspect surrounding international telethons like last night’s Hope for Haiti Now is how quickly time is suspended. It’s all live, but there are no commercials. There are dynamic performances and testimonials, but there are no studio audiences.

That was especially true of the music the telethon stacked up. As a result, the performances that really drove a sense of urgency and hope home were the ones that dropped the frills. For some, the approach was business as usual, as when Bruce Springsteen sang We Shall Overcome back by trumpet, accordion and four singers (including wife Patti Scialfa). Others were major surprises, as when Justin Timberlake ably took on the mighty Leonard Cohen profession of faith Hallelujah.

In other instances, the music became wonderfully elemental, revealing a level of grace and intimate grit that some of the performers might otherwise keep hidden. Leading that category was, wonder of wonders, Beyonce, who delivered a thoroughly de-glammed Halo backed only by Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano.

Best of all, though, was the way pop classics with timeless themes of strength and renewal found a new voice in a time of adversity. You heard that in the way Jennifer Hudson embraced The Beatles’ Let It Be and in how a trio of Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Keith Urban rekindled Bill Withers’ Lean on Me. The killer, though, was a beautifully haggard and warbly reading of the stark Hank Williams meditation Alone and Forsaken by Neil Young and Dave Matthews. It was the most technically imperfect but immediately impassioned performance of the night.

Madonna’s full choir delivery of Like a Prayer, Wyclef Jean’s soca-style Rivers of Babylon and especially the Jay Z/Bono/Rhianna/The Edge summit Stranded were lacking. But leave it to Sting to pull a fast one with a worldbeat flavored Driven to Tears backed by trumpeter Chris Botti and members of The Roots.

Not surprisingly, the performance that best illuminated a sense of hope in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquakes came from one of the country’s own. Haitian singer Emeline Michel offered a lovely reading of Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross. The song remains an anthem of survival and a prayer of peace. Last night, it spoke to Haiti’s past, present and, hopefully, future.

To donate to Hope for Haiti Now, click here.

All of the telethon’s performance are available through iTunes with proceeds going to the Hope for Haiti Now charities (Unicef, American Red Cross, WFP, Oxfam America and more).

making a spectacle

elvis costello hosts "spectacle." the music program's first season is now available on DVD. its second season began airing on the sundance channel in december.

elvis costello hosts "spectacle." the music interview and performance program's first season is now out on DVD. its second season began airing in december on the sundance channel.

I’m a little late to the party on this one. It wasn’t until the holiday break that I fully and formally discovered the wonderful Elvis Costello music program Spectacle.

Oh, I had heard of it and was familiar with the show’s general design. The program focused on interviews that shed celebrity status along with performances by Costello and his guests where they often covered each other’s material.  But alas, it airs on the Sundance Channel, which as yet hasn’t make its way into my home. Definitely my loss.

Among my favorite holiday gifts was a DVD collection of the show’s first season. I devoured the set’s 13 episodes in about 3 days.

The guest list for Spectacle was certainly far reaching. It ranged from pop veterans from various generations (Elton John, Tony Bennett, The Police, James Taylor) to soul legends (Smokey Robinson) to jazz greats (Herbie Hancock) to usually camera shy rockers (Lou Reed) to new generation songsmiths (Rufus Wainwright, Jenny Lewis) to veteran scribes (Kris Kristofferson) to a very un-diva-ish opera soprano (Renee Fleming). And in the season’s most unexpected turn, Costello spends a full hour talking nothing but music with former President Bill Clinton.

Then came the sort of world class players that Spectacle sneaked in to play backup behind the featured guests – artists like Bill Frisell, Christian McBride, James Burton, Charlie Haden and Allen Toussaint.

With riches like that, it would be near impossible to pass Spectacle up. But what ultimately makes this such an informative, entertaining and immensely watchable program is the great Costello. Anyone who has stuck with his music over the past 32 years – not just his post punk pop records with the Attractions, but his country, folk, chamber and acoustic roots material along with his wildly matured sense of pop songcraft – can attest to just how vast his knowledge of music history can be. On Spectacle, he puts those smarts to work with questions that illuminate without the smug faux-intellectualism many music journalists descend into with their writing.

He talked Tosca with Fleming, Miles Davis with Hancock, George Jones with Taylor and the history of the Apollo Theater (where many of the Spectacle shows were taped) with Robinson. And the artists responded. Maybe it was depth of the questions that sparked them. But as a viewer, the real thrill came in watching just how much host fun Costello had with the format, the program and his guests. Such zeal carried over into the performances Costello injects into the program outside of what its guests contribute.

Among the tunes Costello tackles with thorough, soulful conviction: a forgotten 1971 Western yarn by Elton John (Spectacle‘s executive producer) called Ballad of a Well Known Gun; Steely Dan’s Show Biz Kids, an exquisite solo version of his own 1995 gem All This Useless Beauty; another John gm (the  gospel-esque Border Song) and the Motown classic No More Tear Stained Make-Up.

Spectacle’s second season got underway on Sundance in December. Future guests include Bruce Springsteen, Bono and The Edge, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, Levon Helm, Sheryl Crow and Lyle Lovett.

This is easily the most enriching and engrossing series about contemporary music and the creative impulses and designs behind it to hit television in ages – maybe ever. In short, Spectacle is spectacular.

Cypress Semiconductor Appears Poised for New Texas Plant.(Originated from Austin American-Statesman, Texas) see here city of round rock

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News February 8, 1996 | Mahoney, Jerry ROUND ROCK, Texas–Feb. 8–Cypress Semiconductor Corp. is expected to announce this month plans to build a $600 million chip manufacturing plant in Round Rock that would create more than 650 jobs.

The announcement might have been made already, sources said, had Round Rock officials been able to coordinate the schedules of Gov. George W. Bush and Cypress chief executive T.J. Rodgers. That has been complicated by last week’s ice storm and Bush’s attendance this week at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

Rodgers reportedly wants Bush to participate in the announcement, as he did last month when Samsung Electronics announced plans for its chip plant in northeast Travis County.

Rodgers shared the stage with then-Gov. Mark White when Cypress announced its first plant in Round Rock in November 1985.

A popular governor praising a good corporate citizen makes the announcement a stronger news event, and the governor gets to crow about adding jobs to the Texas economy.

Round Rock officials would not confirm that an announcement is imminent, and a Cypress spokesman said a decision on where the plant will be built is expected within the month.

But sources in Round Rock say Cypress officials have decided to build in Round Rock, where the company employs about 500 workers at its chip plant near Chandler Road and Interstate 35.

The sources, who requested anonymity, said an announcement might come next week.

The San Jose, Calif., computer chip maker reportedly has chosen Round Rock over sites in Oregon, Canada, Ireland and France.

Cypress Chairman Pierre Lamond declined Tuesday to comment on plans for the plant, but he said the company is pleased with its current operation in Round Rock.

“We obviously have a big investment in Round Rock. We think the performance of the plant there has been excellent,” said Lamond, general partner of the Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital.

“The cooperation of the local authorities has been exemplary and intelligent in the way they have dealt with the requirements of industry.” Last summer Cypress bought 100 acres southwest of and contiguou s to its Round Rock site, which would be more than enough land to accommodate a new plant. Last year the company completed a $110 million expansion of the Round Rock plant and added about 200 workers.

The City of Round Rock has offered Cypress a 55 percent abatement of property taxes for seven years, and has been in negotiations with Cypress over who will pay for a pipeline from the city’s water treatment facility to the new plant site. go to web site city of round rock

Cypress makes a variety of memory and logic chips for computers, networking and telecommunications equipment and military systems. The company said it started 1996 with a backlog in chip orders of nearly $250 million.

The company had a record year in 1995 when it reported a 47 percent increase, to $596 million, and earnings of $102.5 million, more than double the year earlier. Cypress has recovered from a stumble in the early 1990s that forced it to close a San Jose manufacturing plant, lay off hundreds of workers and sell Ross Technologies, an Austin chipmaker. The company, which is benefiting from increasing demand worldwide for chips, will make 8-inch wafers at the new Round Rock facility. Those wafers contain more chips than the 5-inch wafers Cypress makes in Round Rock now.

In recent months, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Intel, Samsung Electronics, Hyundai and other major chipmakers have announced plans for chip fabricati on facilities in the United States costing more than $1 billion each.

Samsung will break ground soon on a chip manufacturing plant in northeast Travis County that is expected to employ more than 1,000 workers and cost $350 million to build and $650 million to equip. Combined with the Samsung fab and new plants by Motorola and Advanced Micro Devices, a new Cypress chip plant would add breadth to Central Texas’ growing integrated circuit industry.

It also would further tax the supply of qualified workers for those plants. Providing more of those workers is a top priority for public and private officials, who have supported a manufacturing technician program at Austin Community College, among other responses. CY,MOT,AMD,INTC,TXN Mahoney, Jerry

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