Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rhapsodic

  Last year around this time I recounted my problems with my Rhapsody music app on my amazing iPod shutting down their service on New Year’s Eve and leaving me without music for my hour long commute home. That story had a happy ending when I managed to wrangle a free month of service from the company for my discomfort. I was and am well aware of the ‘first world’ nature of my discomfort but as I’m very fond of saying “it’s not my world – I’m just living in it’. I will say that I pay the company $14.99 a month for the use of their music service and that carries the expectation of having their service available for the month.

  I haven’t written about Rhapsody since last January and you may be thinking they must have messed up again to make the august pages of this Broken Pawn blog. If you are thinking that you are thinking wrong. Rhapsody’s service has been stellar since New Years Eve 2014 with no noticeable interruptions. They have upgraded their iTunes app numerous times with improvements such as notifying me when new albums are available or to let me know that I haven’t listened to the Doors lately with a playlist at the ready for my listening pleasure.

  I don’t subscribe to Rhapsody for notifications – I subscribe because the service has a large selection of music that I can download and listen to without being connected to the internet. If the world of podcasts had existed years ago I may never have signed up for a paid music service and I will readily admit it to being a luxury that I could do without.

  One of Rhapsody’s glaring weaknesses is that if they don’t have access to an access to an artist’s music I can’t listen to it. In 2013 they lost the rights to the music of John Lennon and Billy Joel. Both were regulars on my playlists and sorely missed. Luckily both artists were restored within weeks.

  Three of my favorite artists that were never on Rhapsody were Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, and the Beatles. I have plenty of their CD’s which I put onto my iPod using my iTunes app. The desktop Rhapsody application allows me to mix my music into my Rhapsody playlists but iPod app allows no such mixing. It wasn’t a big deal but an annoyance nonetheless. Then in the February I got a notification from Rhapsody to let me know the Led Zeppelin catalog was now available.

  I quickly downloaded all of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs and put them into my playlists. Judging from radio playlists I assume most people would pick ‘Stairway To Heaven’ or ‘Whole Lotta Love’ as their favorite Led Zeppelin songs. My tastes run a little different. When I want to hear some of the slower Zeppelin songs I turn to ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ from the Presence album or “Kashmir’ from the “Physical Graffiti’ double album (which I consider the best Zeppelin album) and if I’m in the mood for something faster I’ll go for Physical Graffiti’s ‘Brandy & Coke’ or ‘Custard Pie’, ‘Hots on For Nowhere’ or my personal favorite Zeppelin song ‘D’yer Mak’er’ from the Houses of the Holy album.

  It was a treat to be able to play Led Zeppelin in my Rhapsody playlists on my iPod and in October it got better when Rhapsody added George Harrison‘s music. There isn’t any sound like Harrison’s guitar and his solo music always struck me as square in the middle of John Lennon’s in your face style and Paul McCartney’s ‘all happy all they time music’. It was realistic and at the same time hopeful. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by a tall task in front of me whether it’s a programming project or a tough position at the chessboard at hand all I have to listen to ‘Dark Horse’:

You thought you had got me in your grip
Baby looks like you was not so smart
And I became too slippery for you
But let me say that was nothing new.


  And I remember the underdog always has a shot as long as they keep punching. Harrison’s ‘Live In Japan’ is one of the best live albums I’ve ever listened to. I loaded up my iPod with most of Harrison’s hits but also two of his albums from the mid 70’s that weren’t critically acclaimed or best sellers but were certainly among my favorites 1979’s ‘George Harrison’ and the 1976 ‘Thirty Three & 1/3’ which contains my favorite Harrison song ‘It’s What You Value’:

It's all up to what you value
Down to where you are
It all swings on the pain you've gone through
Getting where you are


  A song ostensibly about motor racing but it applies to almost any situation I find myself in. As you can imagine I was well pleased with Rhapsody in the second half of 2015 but they were saving the best for last. In the last week of 2015 the entire Beatles discography became available on all the major streaming services, including Rhapsody. This change of events came with much fanfare and for good reason since the Beatles were music and society game-changers on the level of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson. If you don’t think of the names I just mentioned as game changers I would remind you that Sinatra had the women of the 30’s throwing their underwear on stage during his performances and Elvis Presley’s gyrations were deemed so subversive that he was only shown from the waist up during his national appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It may not seem like it now but the Beatles were even more radical then Presley and Sinatra. During the early 60’s the Beatles longish hair was made fun of but while Elvis joined the Army in 1957 and emerged as a film star singing Blue Hawaii and Sinatra became a Las Vegas act, the Beatles broke that mold and went psychedelic. While the Beatles weren’t on the same level of provocation as Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix (except for John Lennon’s famous statement that the Beatles were more ‘popular than Jesus’), the Beatles fame and popularity took any movement they embraced to a new level in popular culture whether it was meditation, drug use, or being anti-Vietnam.

  I didn’t download the Beatles catalog right away but I listened to all the albums from start to end except for the song Revolution 9 from the White Album that you had to play backwards to hear someone say ‘Turn me on, dead man’.

  It took a couple of days to listen to all the Beatle songs and I found myself downloading a number of them and adding them to my playlists. What struck me was how crisp the songs still sound over 45 years later. The albums I found myself listening too the most this past week were ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Rubber Soul’. Although the albums were released only two years apart the styles seem completely different. The Magical Mystery Tour album has some of the bands greatest ‘trippy’ songs like ‘Flying’, ’I Am The Walrus’, and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ while Rubber Soul is like a greatest hits record with only one of the 14 songs over 3 minutes long (‘You Won’t See Me’ at 3:19).The other day I listened to Rubber Soul’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’ at least a dozen times on my 37 mile commute. I’m sure you’ve met at least one person that made you feel this way:

I'm looking through you,
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don't look different, but you have changed
I'm looking through you, you're not the same
Your lips are moving,
I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing,
But the words aren't clear
You don't sound different,
I've learned the game


  I’m sure there are many artists that Rhapsody doesn’t provide the songs for but none that I miss. Since I hammered Rhapsody pretty good last year I thought it was only right to get it in public how very pleased I am with their service now that they have added some of my favorite artists to their catalogs.

  Speaking of getting hammered, ny NFL playoff predictions stated great with the Chief's shutout but quickly went downhill as the torrential downpour left the Steelers-Bengals under, the Seahawks failed to cover against the Vikings, and the Redskins only played one half of a game against the Packers. The three losses leave me down $230 mythical dollars heading into this weekend's games. All four road teams won a playoff round for the first time ever and I think this weekend will lead to the revenge of the home teams. As usual I will take the betting lines from the Betonline.ag lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page for entertainment purposes only with no real money being wagered.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
The Patriots were the team that most needed a week off to get their offensive line and receivers healthy. The Chiefs looked great against the Texans and hammered the Patriots last year in Kansas City. I expect the Patriots to show why they are the defending champions and easily win this game so I will bet $220 to win $200 that the Patriots will cover the 5 points.


Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals throttled the Packers 38-8 on December 27th in Arizona. The Packers are on a short week having played on Sunday. I am not buying the resurgent Packer offense that appeared against the Redskins and will take the Cardinals for $110 to win $100 and give the 7 points.


Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks could barely move the ball against the Vikings and the Panthers defense is even better although the temperature will much higher in Charlotte. West coast teams traditionally have a difficult time heading east and I like the Panthers on a $110 bet to dethrone to two-time defending champions by more than the 2.5 line.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
It doesn't look like Steeler's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be close to 100% for this game. I don't think Broncos QB Peyton Manning is anything close to 100% either but I expect the Broncos to score enough to put this game away and will bet $110 that they will cover the 7 point spread,