The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has settled a lawsuit and will make it clearer that the price of admission is a suggestion and not an actual requirement. As far as I know, this has always been true, but a lot of people don’t seem to realize it.
In sad news this week, beloved baseball player Yogi Berra died at the age of 90. He’s been one of the most popular retired Yankees players for decades and now is known almost more for his absurd sayings than for his actual playing. Of course, he also remains one of the best catchers of all time and was probably the most famous remaining Yankees player from his era.
PBS channel WLIW aired a nice documentary on Columbia University earlier this week. It’s about an hour long and can be found here.
Major league baseball is rapidly coming to a close, so I’ve decided to have at least one post on baseball this fall.
One of the big stories of the year is Derek Jeter’s impending retirement at the end of the season. While he was never my favorite player on the Yankees, he has been a major fixture on the team for 20 years. It seems like he is quite well liked by both fans and players, so his presence will be missed even if the Yankees find a better shortstop for next season.
One thing I don’t really like is the farewell tour. Mariano Rivera did that last year, but I think it was more warranted because he was such a dominant player for so long but still remained popular with everyone. Rivera was by many measures the greatest closer of all time and remained nearly unhittable even at the end of his career, while Jeter was an iconic player who avoided scandal in a scandal-plagued era but was by no means the best player of his generation. While for Rivera it seemed as if the rest of the league really wanted to honor his contributions, Jeter doing the same a year later seems as if it’s maybe more of an ego trip. This isn’t necessarily true, but that at least is how it appears to me. I hope this kind of farewell tour doesn’t become a regular fixture in baseball. Things like the Jeter retirement patch are frankly bizarre when such things are usually used to commemorate people who have died or are very sick and not someone who is still actually playing.
The New York Times reports that since 2012 the NYPD’s much-hated stop and frisk policy seems to have finally ended. Stops have declined by more than 90%. The stop and frisk policy, where the NYPD would (obviously) stop and search random people to look for contraband or evidence of criminal activity, was widely seen as a convenient way to harass marginalized communities. Only a small fraction of stops resulted in arrests while the poor communities where stops were most concentrated felt as if they were under siege from the police. Not only was stop and frisk not very effective, but it may have even been counterproductive by reducing trust in the authorities. Interestingly, while stop and frisk became famous under the Bloomberg administration, which strongly supported the tactic, the precipitous decline in stop and frisk occurred well before the election of de Blasio and also well before the policy was declared illegal by a judge in August 2013.
Along with quite a few other media outlets, the New York Times has published an article highlighting much of what’s wrong with the music industry. The stories are all on the opening act for the Eagles’ concerts at Madison Square Garden. The opening act for a classic rock band that’s been resting on it’s laurels for decades is not normally noteworthy. In this case, it’s not the opening act’s music that is important but rather who the leader of the opening act is. The band is led by none other than James Dolan, of the Dolan family that controls MSG as well as the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
The Dolans are infamous for running the sports teams into the ground and jealously protecting the various deals that allow MSG to have a near-monopoly on major sporting and music events in Manhattan. They even run a terrible cable company – not that there’s any other kind.
While most stories about the corruption and failures of the music industry focus on the labels, this is a story that shows the problems with the venues that control larger concerts and festivals. The Eagles are a very famous band that can sell out huge arenas. Opening for them gives a band exposure to tens of thousands of listeners, so promoters should want to book a regionally popular or up and coming act so that the audience can be guaranteed a performance with a reasonable expectation of quality. This is not what happened in this case. Instead, MSG booked a band led by its own Executive Chairman. This is problematic for many reasons.
It appears that as a middle-aged, extremely wealthy corporate executive, James Dolan decided that he wanted to pretend to be a rock star. He, of course, fronts the band, which is likely made up of hired session players. The whole thing seems like it’s purely a vanity project meant to fuel Dolan’s undoubtedly colossal ego. Dolan even claims to have hired Mick Jagger’s vocal coach — not that it shows in his music. By owning a venue, Dolan gets to perform in front of a huge audience without ever earning the privilege of doing so. He uses the Eagles’ fame to force the rest of us to hear about his band.
Another problem with this is that bands make money off of concerts. By placing his own band as the opening act, Dolan deprives a more deserving band of a chance to get more exposure and make some money. Nearly all bands struggle with money issues, so Dolan’s vanity project ends up hurting the many bands that are just trying to stay alive long enough to get noticed. Dolan also gets to make even more money off the audience than he normally would. The MSG company will get much of the ticket revenue, and Dolan (and maybe the rest of his band depending on their contracts) will get merchandise revenue and maybe some more ticket money.
Finally, none of this would be that much of a problem if the band were good. It’s not. The backing musicians sound reasonably competent, but play some of the most soulless, unoriginal music possible. The lyrics are embarrassingly lazy and Dolan does not have the kind of vocal skill needed even for the pseudo-bluesy soft rock played by the band. It honestly sounds almost like Dolan is singing over MIDI backing music from a karaoke song. If Dolan just wanted to have some fun playing music that would be fine. Inflicting his music on everyone else is where it becomes objectionable.
It’s fitting that James Dolan’s band is opening for the Eagles: a bored multimillionaire’s insipid ego-driven vanity project opening for the paragon of bland, inoffensive corporate money-making rock juggernauts.
Looks like the Roseland Ballroom is finally being demolished to make way for a new building. It was a pretty good venue for concerts but was in a location that was too good to stay around forever. It’s still sad to see another old venue go. I don’t think there are many venues left in Manhattan that can accommodate as many people as Roseland. Soon Disney will probably control almost all the performance venues in the theater district.