David Bowie: Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie

“From his collection of 2,500 vinyl LPs, the rock star has selected his greatest discoveries, and some record-buying memories as well…. In December of that year, my band Buzz broke up, but not without my demanding we play “I’m Waiting for the Man” as one of the encore songs at our last gig. Amusingly, not only was I to cover Velvet’s song before anyone else in the world, I actually did it before the album came out.” [From 2003]

Have sonar, will travel

“In August 1868, a double-masted Canadian schooner named the Royal Albert was en route to Toledo, Ohio, loaded down with 285 tons of railroad iron when the heavy cargo suddenly shifted. The iron rails busted the hull open and sent the ship to the bottom of the lake. While the crew survived, the ship was lost for nearly 150 years-until earlier this month, when a group of underwater explorers finally discovered it.”

During the late 19th century, it was common for heavy goods to be shipped to the midwest via ships traversing the Great Lakes. While many other goods were often delivered by smaller canal boats, heavier materials – like the iron used to build the country’s railroads – had to be sent on large ships like the Royal Albert, as Jim Kennard, one of the ship’s discoverers, tells Chris Carola for the Associated Press. During that time, thousands of ships sunk while crossing the Great Lakes, providing plenty of fodder for history buffs and underwater explorers.

The team that discovered the Royal Albert uses side-scan sonar to find wrecks.

They have located many others in Lake Ontario, including a USAF C-45 that crashed into the lake in 1952 after flying, pilotless, for 65 miles (the crew parachuted to safety after an engine failed – the plane kept on going for a while), the Atlas, a commercial schooner that sank in 1839, and the Three Brothers, a dagger-board schooner that sank in 1833.

NextGen Climate, For Florida’s Future lead nationwide anti-Trump day of action

Today, as Donald Trump prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, Floridians from Tampa to Miami joined NextGen Climate and For Florida’s Future to send a simple message: “Dump Trump.”

The events held today in downtown Tampa, at Miami’s Freedom Tower, at Trump’s Doral Golf Course and at Trump’s Sunny Isle Palace and International properties, were part of a nationwide day of action joining thousands of Americans and dozens of simultaneous events across the country to stand against the looming nominee’s dangerous and hate-filled agenda.

“Going backwards is unacceptable. Donald Trump wants to drag us back to a past when racial injustice and bigotry were commonplace and acceptable,” said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “But we believe our democracy is best powered by inclusion, not division. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we work together to promote a grassroots democracy and stop Trump.”

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Hillsborough film company looking for tax incentives on new production

Hillsborough County commissioners are poised this week to consider $25,000 in incentives for a local film company to shoot a film in the Tampa Bay area.

Noah Pransky of WTSP reports the subsidies will be the latest attempt by lawmakers to support the county’s struggling film industry.

But in contrast to “The Infiltrator,” a big-name motion picture filmed in 2015 with the help incentives, the latest potential recipient is working with both a smaller cast and budget

If approved, the proposal will cover 10 percent of the budget for “No Postage Necessary,” which would be recommended to secure “local filming of the motion picture.” The film, which is slated to start production next week, will be made by Two Roads Picture Co., a Plant City-based company.

However, Pransky notes the poor history of financial returns on film subsidies, with state economists estimating only 41 cents is brought in for each taxpayer dollar spent.

Jennifer Closshey, the majority owner of Two Roads, has been a frequent campaign contributor to Hillsborough County commissioners.

County records show Closshey, over the past decade, gave $2,500 to Al Higginbotham and $250 each to Ken Hagan and Stacey White.

One conservative group is blasting the film incentives as a poor waste of taxpayer money.

“They are being awful cavalier with money that doesn’t belong to them,” said Americans for Prosperity Florida communications director Andres Malave in an email to WTSP. “Taxpayers won’t see a good ROI, the state had proven that. Citizens should note who supports it and hold them accountable when it counts.”

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When I decided [to die], I felt extremely happy and sad at the same time

“But for her power wheelchair, Jerika Bolen is every bit an active 14-year-old girl – a hopeless romantic with shiny purple hair, a love of alternative music and an addiction to Facebook.

She has a maturity and wisdom that belies her age, and on a recent spring day, as other 14-year-olds were finishing their final year of middle school and making summer plans, Jerika told her mother she was ready to die.

Pre-empting the Minimum Wage Debate

Why We’re Giving Our Employees a Raise Jamie Dimon, CEO of Chase Bank, wrote an op-ed for the NY Times proclaiming he would raise salaries, over time, for his lowest paid workers from $10.15 an hour to $12 to $16.50 an hour. Dimon’s compensation is $27M per year.

Starbucks also announced big raises for workers:

In a memo sent to all 157,000 U.S. employees, CEO Howard Schultz announced a wage hike for all store employees and managers as of Oct. 3. Starbucks will also double the company stock awards for employees who’ve been there two or more years. Altogether, these changes will boost total compensation between 5% to 15% for all workers.

Starbucks employees earn an average of $9.43 an hour, according to Glassdoor.com.

Howard Schultz earns $20M per year.

The IMF recently recommended that the United States “combat widening income inequality and help the poor [with a] higher minimum wage and expanded tax breaks for low-income Americans.”

Chart of minimum wages and legislation by state. New York, DC and California have led the way on a $15 per hour target.

Everyone – including the Times’ critic – is raving about SPO’s production of South Pacific

People are falling in love with St. Petersburg Opera’s production of South Pacific – currently running at the Palladium through July 10. Friends who attended shows over the July 4th weekend were gushing about the production, the singing, and, of course, the songs.  Few shows in the history of musical theater can boast as many great songs as South Pacific. For me, it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best work.


I also heard enthusiastic reviews from some female patrons for the chorus line of buff, shirtless sailors!


One big fan of this SPO production is TBTimes critic Andrew Meacham, who had nothing but good things to say about the cast, the orchestra, and the production. You can read his review in the Times by following this link.


I’m publishing an excerpt of the review today in the blog. A link for tickets and information appears at the end of this item. Tickets are going fast for the remaining four shows, so don’t wait to book your trip to SPO’s  South Pacific.


By Andrew Meacham

Tampa Bay Times


From left, Todd W. Donovan, Molly Mustonen, Olympia Ni and Arwen Donovan.

From left, Todd W. Donovan, Molly Mustonen, Olympia Ni and Arwen Donovan.

The St. Petersburg Opera Company again closes its season with a musical, this time running two weeks. The extra week for South Pacific anticipates healthy crowds at the Palladium, but also does justice to a serious production.


The show allowed me to indulge long-standing curiosities about the acting potential of opera singers and the singing versatility of musical performers. South Pacific shows there are plenty of performers who can do both, including local St. Petersburg talent Todd W. Donovan, who plays Emile de Becque. All of the principals have experience in musical theater and opera. The difference between this show and a South Pacific you might expect to see at a traditional venue for musicals seems pretty clear cut.


In this one, as in most operas, the bias favors the music. That is what the audience has a right to expect going in, and it is why this production satisfies.


The production directed by Zetta Alderman has made every effort to keep the pace lively, the choreography sharp and the moving parts synchronizing with ease. Conductor Mark Sforzini directs a large orchestra at the top of the stage, establishing during the overture that music will take a top priority. By the time the lights dim, the seduction has set in.


Forbush and de Becque hint of their strengths early with the duet, Twin Soliloquies. The South Pacific you knew and loved officially gets into gear in the next number, de Becque’s Some Enchanted Evening. Donovan’s rich bass-baritone voice thrills with a control and a discipline that goes well beyond most Broadway shows passing through the Tampa Bay area.


Carla Lopez-Speziale soon follows as Bloody Mary, delivering the strongest character portrayal of the show, from Bali Ha’i onward. The bow-legged hobbling around the stage seems a bit much at first. But then you forget about all of that and just watch her and listen to her. Lopez-Speziale doesn’t give you a choice.


John Kaneklides also earns high marks for his performance as Marine Lt. Joseph Cable, who is torn between his love for Bloody Mary’s daughter and his fear of interracial marriage. His stage presence and haunting tenor delivery are a cornerstone of this production.


St. Petersburg Opera did its best to fill the most important spots in a multifaceted musical with professionals, including Ward Smith as the high-strung (and nonsinging) Capt. Brackett. Shout-outs must also go to Jessica Fiala Hall, who played Ensign Connie Walewska and led the dancers, and Tyler Putnam, who adds a comical dimension and a strong voice as Luther Billis. Both men’s and women’s choruses provide a rock solid floor, evident in such songs as There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame, and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.


Some talky sequences bog the show down a bit, including some spy-mission, wartime stuff in the second act. Every time the show gets stuck in the sand, Donovan is there to pull it back out. He did so magnificently in his last solo, This Nearly Was Mine, drawing sustained applause.


For tickets and information follow this link to the Palladium box office.

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