Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just Whistling Dixie?

Was politics or music behind the Dixie Chicks winning five Grammy Awards? Even if their country fanbase has abandoned them, or vice versa, you'd expect the Best Album winner to have garnered some critical praise in popular music circles before sweeping the industry's top awards show. Evidently not.

A look at Metacritic's Best Reviewed Albums of the Year reveals less than critical acclaim for the Chicks's Taking the Long Way. The album was listed by only two of the major publications surveyed. The Billboard staff consensus placed Long Way 8th, tied with the Chili Peppers' Stadium Archadium. One Entertainment Weekly critic placed it 1st, but overall Long Way placed 6th on the ET staff top 10. A single Shaking Through critic placed it 7th. And that was it.

Neither did Long Way crack Rolling Stones' Top 50 Albums of 2006. Not NPR's Listener Picks. Not even Amzaon's Editor's Picks Country.

This sampling, while not exhaustive or definitive, would seem to indicate that political slant rather than musical appreciation won the day for the Dixie Chicks among their industry peers at the Grammy Awards.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Warning Signs Over Boston

It's easy -- perhaps too easy -- to criticize the reaction of the Boston authorities to the Mooninite "Lite-Brite" scare, especially after the promotional signs for the guerrilla marketing campaign had been blinking off and on while attached to various pieces of strategic infrastructure around town for about three weeks before they were detected and removed.

But have Boston area politicians averted their eyes from another, more prominent warning sign, one that portends a real security threat that they should have been alert to and confronted an even longer time ago?

I'm talking about the famous CITGO sign in Kenmore Square, a Boston landmark located just behind Fenway Park and visible over it's Green Monster.

CITGO is a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the state oil company of Venuzuala. As reported by USA Today:

The question of Chávez's influence over Citgo was highlighted by the company's recent provision of 25 million gallons of subsidized home-heating oil to poor people in the northeast USA. More than 100,000 households in four states should eventually benefit from the low-cost heating aid.

But some worry that Venezuela's ownership of more than 6% of U.S. refinery capacity gives Chávez, a former paratrooper given to wearing red berets and military fatigues, the power to cripple as well as comfort... What if Chávez, who periodically threatens to curtail oil shipments to the USA, closed Citgo's refineries? "He'd only have to do that for 90 days, and he'd destroy our economy," worries Matthew Simmons, a prominent energy investment banker. "He actually has our livelihood in his hands."
Here's a video advertisement by Joe Kennedy, former Congressman and head of Citizen's Energy, thanking "our friends" in Venezuela for discounted heating oil. Massachusetts congressman Bill Delahunt brokered the deal.

Come to think of it, the Mooninite looks like Chavez.