September 12, 2010

Abbey Road on the River - All You Need is Time

(And money doesn't hurt either.) The Gaylord Hotel at the National Harbor (south of DC and across the Potomac River from Alexandria, VA) hosted the World's Largest Beatles-Inspired Music Festival from September 2nd to 5th, 2010. The event, called Abbey Road on the River, drew about one thousand Beatles fans of all ages, shapes and sizes -- and nearly as many vendors. Haven't seen any official attendance stats, but I actually expected more people even though it was Labor Day weekend here in the US. I went only for Saturday day and night (that's noon to 2am) but two friends took advantage of a package deal to stay one night at the Gaylord so they could get up in the morning and hear even more Beatles cover bands.

Check out the band lineup - talent from all over the world: Scotland (2!), Puerto Rico, Germany, Canada, Nova Scotia, Italy, Norway, and course, England, not to mention more than a dozen states and several local bands. There were usually 3 or more bands playing at once in the 5 different areas: lawn, pier, hotel, terrace, and flagpole. (Don't ask.) Did they all sound just like the Beatles? Hardly - I still think 1964 The Tribute is the closest to the real thing, but they weren't at AROTR. But being carbon copies (can we still use that term in the digital age?) wasn't exactly the point. It was to bask in the glory of the music from the greatest band in the world. And fortunately the weather cooperated completely.

Candlestick Park and Itchycoo Park, both from Scotland, were lots of fun, covering Wings and Beatles solo in addition to the main Beatles catalog. Itchycoo did great versions of Live and Let Die and Lola (the Kinks).

The Jukebox, the Puerto Rican band, was one of the youngest and for some odd reason seemed to attract a lot of pretty, young, dancing girls. Must be their moptop haircuts, I guess. What was really special for the rest of us, however, was when a cute, 2-year-old boy holding a 10" wooden replica of a Beatles guitar ($30, made in China) got into the act. Egged on (oops - I mean "encouraged") by his parents, this kid who wasn't completely steady on his feet (too much wine) stood in front of the band and started strumming the fake guitar. And here I thought my blowup guitars were cool! This kid had everyone cracking up! The band even posed for a picture with the little boy afterward. Hoping to get a copy to post here later.

Another interesting band from Richmond, VA played a really great selection of 60's songs -- The English Channel - "all English, all the time". Their You Never Give Me the Money Abbey Road medley was absolutely wonderful - truly very exciting, especially at the climax with battling guitars and drum solo. Their keyboard player is quite good; he imitated the piccolo trumpet solo on Penny Lane and did some cool Moody Blues textures.

Vendor food was a rip off. $12 for a sub-standard, medium-sized Philly cheese steak and a half-ice, half-liquid lemonade. Better to walk a few blocks to the many restaurants with incredibly long waits (sit at the bar). Every imaginable Beatles t-shirt was available, as were buttons, pins, photos, books, aforementioned replica guitars (I bought George's Rickenbacker), lunchboxes, purses, and navel lint. Okay, maybe not the lunchboxes.

I was especially delighted to meet Bruce Spizer, the author of  7 detailed books about Beatles records on various labels that I own. Got his autograph and bought 3 little Meet the Beatles booklets for friends. Spizer is working an 8th book covering the UK records.

Another highlight of my day was a special appearance by Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer. He was interviewed live for a podcast by the Fab Fourum. [Haven't found the link to that particular podcast but here is a 5-minute excerpt on YouTube.] Pete, sometimes called the most handsome Beatle (in his day; remember the leather jacket photos?), shared some previously undisclosed details of his 1960-62 stint with the boys. He talked about his abrupt dismissal from the band - still no clear reason. Pete played during the ill-fated Decca audition on New Years Day 1962. He told us that the main reason the Beatles were rejected by Decca's Mike Smith (infamous by his prediction that "guitar groups are on the way out"), was because Smith was personal friends with Brian Poole whose band the Tremeloes beat the Beatles for the single available recording contract. [McCartney has supposedly said that it wasn't until later in 1962 when they signed with EMI that they were really ready for such a record deal.] When asked by the audience who his favorite Beatle was, he answered John. Autographed Pete Best photo: $20. Experience: Priceless.

Jimmy Pou, who plays George, did a solo set. Formerly of 1964 The Tribute and Beatlemania fame, Jimmy played recordings of himself as backup to his live guitar playing. Great set but would you believe he skipped Here Comes the Sun? He also played instrumental Beatles from finger-pickin' Steven King in between songs.

But the absolute highpoint of the day/night was the late night marathon performance by Hal Bruce and the Hard Dazed Knights which began at 10:10pm. As promised Canadian Hal Bruce (AROTR musical director) and his merry men played all 214 of the Beatles songs in one continuous medley without a break (except to change guitars)! The keyboardist was absent due to a family emergency so Hal occasionally switched to electric piano. The medley was also in chronological order by UK release which made it even more fascinating. Before they completed the first album (14 songs in about 10 minutes), the dancing began. My friends started dancing early on in and I eventually joined in, dancing well over an hour straight. The medley continued until 12:35, so it was 214 songs in 2 hours and 25 minutes. OMG, was it tremendous! There was some video recording made; it would be so cool if it was released eventually.

Conclusion: One day of just 14 hours was not enough to hear even a fraction of these bands. Next year I'm going to spring for the hotel so I can at least attend 2 days. Who wants to join me?

See the Abbey Road on the River Wikipedia page.

P.S., I Love You -- 50+ clips from the event by gaylordnational on YouTube. yeah, Yeah, YEAH!

July 31, 2010

The Case of the Disappearing Disk Space

For the past 2 months or so, my old 2004 desktop running Windows XP has mysteriously been losing disk space nearly every day -- between 100 MB to 500 MB a day. (I currently have less than 10 GB free.) I get Windows Updates automatically, have Norton Internet Security 2010, Webroot Antivirus with Spy Sweeper, and Prevx. While I've invested in a new Windows 7 laptop and transferred all my important files and apps over, I still would like to use my desktop, but the dwindling free space has me concerned that someone is hijacking my computer for filesharing or some other nefarious purpose. I never visit filesharing sites myself and am super-careful about email and surfing. There seems to be disk activity even when I'm not doing much myself. And just to make life interesting, Windows Updates tells me there are 16 Security Updates for Microsoft Office 2003 that I cannot install.

Anyone have suggestions about how to discover where the new files are going or what is causing the disappearing space? I've tried a Windows file search for files created in the last month, but haven't found what I wanted. Anyone have experience with System Mechanic or WinCleaner?

I'm leery about using any of the free/shareware disk space cleaners. I've googled for disappearing disk space and many of the hits are flagged by NIS as suspicious or are just plain old. A year ago I purchased a so-called registry fixer called Registry Easy which resulted in more problems. Recent NIS flagged this as SecurityRisk.ADH and removed it, but who knows what damage it did.

Oh -- one more thing. The past few days, with the latest Firefox, I'm getting "The URL is not valid and cannot be loaded" popup error message at seemingly random page loads (although often on Amazon).

Is it time to ship my desktop to the nearest landfill? Man, I hate this kind of stuff! I'll buy a drink for anyone local who provides a solution or for you remote folks, I'll buy you something from Amazon or iTunes.

July 28, 2010

Obama and McCartney - At the White House

There is so much that was special about seeing Sir Paul McCartney perform at the White House. First, there is the award: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The honor was bestowed upon him directly by a president he so admires. Then there were the All Star list of celebs performing McCartney's songs: Stevie Wonder (We Can Work it Out and later Ebony and Ivory with Paul), Elvis Costello (Penny Lane), Jonas Brothers (Drive My Car), Herbie Hancock with Corinne Bailey Rae (Blackbird), Dave Grohl (a blistering version of Band on the Run), Faith Hill (The Long and Winding Road), Emmylou Harris (an emotional For No One), Lang Lang (classical piano) and Jack White (medley of Mother Nature's Son and That Would Be Something). Jerry Seinfeld was hilarious in his mock mini-roast of Paul about his lyrics and song titles and lyrics. ("Well, she was just seventeen/You know what I mean....Do we really know what you mean, Paul? We have a pretty good idea but....")

Sir Paul opened with Got to Get You Into My Life and later played Let it Be and Eleanor Rigby. He apologized to the President before playing Michelle with more than a nod to The First Lady -- what's her name? Afterwords he said, "I could be the first guy to be punched out by a president". The show closed with Hey Jude, ending in audience participation with all performers and the Obama family on stage doing the "na, na, na, na-na-na-nas". But what was really special was seeing senators and congresspeople singing along to every song. Rocking the suits, man! Yeah -- and a major from the Marine Bugle Corp playing a note-perfect piccolo trumpet (?) during Penny Lane. And Mary McCartney whistling a cat call at her 68-year old dad. Gotta love it! And the earlier black and white recital of Paul playing Yesterday on acoustic guitar accompanied by 3 violins and a cello.

Did I mention that President Obama called Sir Paul McCartney the "most successful songwriter in history"? As for American culture, "we stole you, Paul". Music is one of the things that helps us through hard times. He said The Beatles "blew the walls down" and changed everything about music in a few short years.

When Paul accepted the award, he said not only was the award a big honor, but it was even more so being presented to him by "this president". Regarding the Gulf oil spill and other problems, Paul said there were a "billion" people rooting for The Prez. And there are probably that many of us rooting for you, too, Paul!

Great show! Watch it now on

July 22, 2010

Bring Back the Plastic!

Yes, I know it's not PC, but I'm so tired of buying CDs with all-cardboard sleeves. It's too easy to crush, bend, tear, and otherwise destroy. Sorry, I don't care if brown is the new green. Yes, I know you wonderful recording artists are trying so hard to save our environment. (How's your mansion doing, anyway, and your road crew entourage? Use electricity much?) But look at the opportunity you have now! Just sponsor scarfing up all that petroleum from the Gulf and recycle it as plastic jewel cases! If the plastic is cracked or otherwise ruined, I can just replace the jewel case. No more stinking cardboard, please. It's rough on the CDs too, and I prefer my music unscratched.

May 21, 2010

Balisage 2010 - XML Conference - Schedule Posted!

"Balisage: The Markup Conference" ( is an annual peer-reviewed XML conference: how to create markup; what it means; hierarchies and overlap; modeling; taxonomies; transformation; query, searching, and retrieval; presentation and accessibility; making systems that make markup dance (or dance faster to a different tune in a smaller space).

Come to lovely Montreal, Canada from August 3rd to 6th for four action-packed days of angle brackets! Here’s a baker dozen (or so) sampling from the much larger list of Balisage 2010 presentations:

  • gXML, a new approach to cultivating XML trees in Java
  • Java integration of XQuery — an information unit oriented approach
  • Reverse modeling for domain-driven engineering of publishing technology
  • Managing semantics in XML vocabularies
  • XML pipeline processing in the browser
  • Where XForms meets the glass: Bridging between data and interaction design
  • Schema component paths for schema analysis
  • A streaming XSLT processor
  • Multi-structured documents and the emergence of annotations vocabularies
  • Processing arbitrarily large XML using a persistent DOM
  • Automatic upconversion using XProc
  • Scripting documents with XQuery
  • XQuery design patterns
  • Parallel processing and your XML data

Want to travel on the weekend so you can talk about angle brackets for an extra day? Then register for the pre-conference symposium on August 2nd, “XML for the Long Haul: Issues in the Long-term Preservation of XML”.

Schedule At-a-Glance:

Detailed schedule with descriptions:

XML for the Long Haul:

Tower of Modern Babel Contest - Chance to win an Apple 15" (i5) MacBook Pro, Apple MacBook Air or USD $2000:

Sponsors include: Mark Logic, oXygen XML Editor, and the FLWOR Foundation. Co-sponsors include: W3C, OASIS, Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, XML Guild, TEI Encoding Initiative, Washington Area SGML/XML Users Group, Philadelphia XML Users Group, and many more. Balisage 2010 is a production of Mulberry Technologies, Inc., a Washington area XML and SGML consultancy.