Why I de-faced or “This corporate Facebook obsession will be dangerous”

Sometime ago, I deleted my Facebook account. Then a few months ago, I had to start another one, because a professor of mine wanted to do some of the class online discussion on Facebook. That class ends soon, and I will de-face again. Here is why:

I don’t want to be forced into a system that is controlled by a single entity. I think it becomes dangerous. The world wide web was built on the premise of open standards and open access. Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently wrote a great article for Scientific American on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the world wide web. The whole thing is a worthy read, but I will quote only a few paragraphs here:

The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

The idea that I can link to any site on the web, and any site can link here, and any user can follow those links is foundational.

From Hypebot:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used last week’s Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco to share his most sweeping vision yet of how Facebook will fundamentally change the music, film, TV and media industries within the next five years. Zuckerberg believes strongly that insurgent entrepreneurs will “reform” the music, film, TV, news, e-commerce and perhaps many other industries using Facebook as a platform. Facebook will then profit from the value that it has added to the new landscape through advertising and, perhaps, other partnerships.

I saw a billboard today (along I10 in Baton Rouge) for a well known brand of vodka. The website listed on the billboard was the company’s Facebook page. I don’t get it. It’s not like this company doesn’t have its own web presence. I have been told that companies like Facebook, because it has “all those users”, but “all those users” are also available on the open web, plus many more.

Have we forgotten about the last days of AOL, when they were trying to control our internet experience? We should heed the warnings of Sir Berners-Lee and be vigilant for the open web. We will be in trouble if it slips away while we aren’t paying attention, and the curmudgeon in me wants to say that that is exactly what Facebook would like to happen.

AAJ review of Hamid Drake and Bindu: Reggaeology at the London Jazz Festival

Hamid Drake and Bindu: Reggaeology at the London Jazz Festival:

“Having worked together since 2006 when they hooked up to form Lucky 7s, it was no surprise that the two trombones spent much of the evening hanging on each others coat tails, phrasing as one, veering between seat of the pants counterpoint and raucous support for each other’s solos. New Orleans resident Albert boasted the fuller tone, and brought with him some of his natal cities’ second line sensibilities, while Bishop tended more to the abstract and dissonant. Both took fine features: Bishop’s muted ‘bone on his own ‘Fred’s Gift’ was particularly noteworthy, while Albert tore it up with the plunger mute on ‘Mother Kali’s Children No Cry.’”

Why I will never fly Vueling airline again (and if you travel with an instrument should consider the same)

Yesterday, I travelled from Seville, Spain to Brussels, Belgium with Hamid Drake & Bindu Reggaeology. Our tickets were sold to us by Iberia Air, but the flight was operated by Vueling. When we boarded the plane in Seville, Jeb and I had no problems getting on with our trombones, but Hervé and Hamid were each carrying a guitar, and they were hassled greatly. Eventually they were allowed to bring the guitars on, but only after all of the other passengers were on, and the flight attendant determined that there was room for the guitars. Even that required some persistent negotiation. At the time, it entered my mind that the two dark skinned band members carrying instruments were hassled and the two light skinned ones were not, but there was no other evidence that it was anything other than guitar prejudice.

When we made our connection in Barcelona, it was a different story. As soon as I entered the plane, I saw the two guitars in the flight attendants area, and thought that we might be in for the same scene, but the flight attendant then told me that I must check my trombone, and said the same to Jeb, actually following him down the isle because he didn’t notice the trombone right away.

I explained that I have flown many times, and the trombone always fit, and that that very morning we had flown on the same airline in the same model aircraft, and it fit just fine, but he adamantly said that there was no other way but to check them with the luggage. We asked if they would gate check them, so that we got them back right at the plane door in Belgium, but he aid that was impossible because they must go through security in Belgium (which was a stupid excuse because the flight would be over at that point, and they had already gone through security). We soon realized that his sole intent seemed to be to exercise his power to see that we were not satisfied customers. Several flight attendants were involved in these conversations, but none of them seemed to have any interest in solving the problem in a reasonable fashion. They kept saying that they were not allowed to make exceptions. He then said that if we want to bring the horns on, we must purchase a seat for them. i said “great, how much are the seats,” and he said, “well, it is too late now to do that,” even tough that had been offered (by a different FA) as a option early in the guitar negotiations in Seville. I left my horn and sat down. Jeb continued to argue that he didn’t trust the latches on his case and asked for tape, which they didn’t have, but eventually the guy told Jeb that he would put his horn in a closet in the cockpit. Jeb asked about mine and he said, “No, it goes under.” So even though they weren’t allowed to make exceptions they did.

I tried to be nice and not become enraged or be a jerk, but that didn’t pay off. I got screwed because I was trying not to be rude to the people. Eventually Hervé left the plane (and caught a later flight on a different airline) because he would not allow them to check his guitars. That seems to have been the right call. My horn was checked, and when I got to it in baggage claim in Brussels, the bell was severely damaged. The case has a big roughed up scuff where it was dropped and that spot aligns perfectly with the damage that was done.

The claims office in the Brussels airport says there is no recourse because the case wasn’t damaged (the big scuff is normal wear and tear). I have insurance and we’ll see how that shakes out. A wonderful repairman, named Jos Briers, in Genk fixed my horn so that I can finish the tour, but that bell will never be the same.

I have never before encountered personnel in an allegedly customer service oriented position that showed so little interest in helping the customer find a viable solution to a difficulty. I have never dealt with another airline that had what seemed like an active vendetta against musical instruments.

The things I have learned from this:

1- If they make me check my horn, I will leave the flight. (Gate check is different) Getting to the gig with an unplayable instrument is the same as missing the gig.

2- The people in Belgium, specifically Taxi Peters Genk and Jos Briers, and great helpful wonderful people.

3- I will never again board a flight operated by Vueling.

Vueling code shares with Iberia and they are part of the OneWorld system along American Airlines. I would like to publicly ask AA to disassociate with these people. I know when I deal with AA that I am dealing with a real airline, when I deal with their partners, I would like to be able to know the same, and in the case of Vueling that is simply untrue.

Tour Diary – Bolzano, Vienna, Seville, Genk

We have been traveling almost every day since my last post, so blogging time has been hard to come by.

On Monday night we played in Bolzano, Italy at a great small theater called Carambolage. It was a nice intimate space, and we were treated to a wonderful meal by our gracious host Vic. The music was really great, there was a lot of energy from the crowd, and the band went to some fun spots that we hadn’t found before. Jeb and I ended up doing an unaccompanied trombone duo in “Kali Dub” that was a lot of fun, and seemed a bit telepathic at moments.

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The stage during soundcheck in Bolzano.

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Our green room in Bolzano.

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Our manager, Ludmilla, and driver/man-who-gets-things-done, Matteo.

Tuesday morning, we left very early to drive through the mountains to Innsbruck to catch a flight to Vienna. Our flight to Vienna was on an airline called Niki. The plane was comfortable, and the people were very friendly and helpful (this will contrast greatly with a Vueling Air experience I will get to in a minute). We also flew Niki from Vienna to Seville, and my experiences with them were great.

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The view from the tarmac as we boarded our early morning flight in Innsbruck.

In Vienna, we played at Porgy & Bess, and again we were treated very well. Porgy is a pretty big club, and the Austrians are not so obviously enthusiastic as the Italians, but the music was good, and the friendly experiencers seemed to dig the show.

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Hamid at soundcheck in Vienna.

Wednesday we travelled to Seville, Spain. What a beautiful city. We didn’t perform Wednesday night, but the guys in the band went out for tapas at a cool sidewalk café that was on a little park, and it was great. There was a strolling accordionist, who was not great, but he did almost accidentally play “Space is the Place” at one point.

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The sidewalk view (with Jeb partially in view).

The concert in Seville was good. It was in a big hall, and the crowd was enthusiastic. A big thank you to our host Ivan for his hospitality, and excellent transportation planning.

Yesterday, we travelled to Genk, Belgium. It was a long travel day, made even more difficult by the actively anti-helpful policies and attitudes of the people of Vueling Airline. I’ll dedicate an entire post to that ordeal, but for this entry I will simply say that i was forced to either check my trombone or not take the flight. Of course the trombone was significantly damaged. The bright side is that by the time we had reached Genk from the Brussels airport, our wonderful driver (from Taxi Peters Genk) had phoned ahead and found an instrument repairman in Genk. After he dropped the band at the hotel, he took me to the repair shop, where a lovely man named Jos Briers took the time at 5 PM on a Friday to repair my mangled trombone bell. He even offered to deliver my instrument to the venue when he was done, so that I would have time to have dinner with the band before we played. I now call him “The Angel of Belgium.”

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Jos, and me, and my no longer mangled bell.

And now the obligatory food pic:

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Stoofvlees and Westmalle

Tampere, travel, and the road hang

I am writing this from Milan, Italy. I am near the beginning of a tour with Hamid Drake and Bindu Reggaeology, that will take us to Austria, Spain, Belgium, and England.

Our first concert was last night in Tampere, Finland, as part of the Tampere Jazz Happening. They put on a great festival there. They treat the musicians really well, and program great music. I had the chance to hear sets or parts of sets by Donkey Monkey, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Jazz Mob, Marc Ribot’s Sun Ship, the Dave Holland Quintet, and a couple of others whose names I am spacing at the moment. I love when our travel schedule around a festival allows us to hear some other musicians.

We played a long set as the club closer after the stage shows. It was a fun night, with people dancing and having fun. Jeff Parker is not with us for the beginning of this tour, and we miss him, but Hamid brought in Hervé Samb to play guitar, and Hervé is great. A very different player from Parker. There is already a move afoot amongst band members, that we’d like to hear them together. I don’t know that that will happen, but it sure would be fun to hear.

Today was a long travel day starting with an 8:30 am van ride for two hours to the Helsinki airport, followed by a short flight to Stockholm, and two hour layover, a longish flight to Milan, and finally to our hotel. It is probably good that tonight was a night off, because it was a long day of travel after a short night of sleep.

Once we got settled into our hotel, Napoleon Maddox, Joshua Abrams, and I had a nice long Italian dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. One of he joys of traveling with a great band is the time spent talking about music and life, and broadening one’s own perspective through the wisdom of one’s friends.

Tomorrow, we are off to Bolzano, Italy, then Vienna, Seville, Genk (Belgium) and London. Full details about the gigs are here: http://jeffalbert.com/?page_id=253 If you are in the area, please come say hello.