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Posts from the ‘General’ Category

Photo Focus: Anders Osborne:: ‘Peace’ and New Glasses

By Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2014 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

Anders Osborne at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA.

Anders Osborne at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA.

At the start of his solo acoustic set at World Cafe Live, New Orleans blues singer/songwriter Anders Osborne announced he would run through the entire new album Peace, and then go from there.  Also announced was his return to touring after a three week hiatus.  AND, he bought new glasses.  They’re really sharp and go well with Anders’ newly cropped hair.  He didn’t mention the haircut.  I’m sure it was an oversight. Read more

Photo Focus:: Grand Ole Opry’s New Music Genre: ‘Discograss’

Photos by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog.

What do you get when you mix the Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs with the Disco-era Jive Talkin‘ and Stayin’ Alive of songwriting legend Barry Gibb of the BeeGees? Ricky Skaggs coined the phrase Discograss after ending the Tuesday night at the Opry show by performing two songs with Barry Gibb. He mentioned it only briefly when taking their bows but then decided he really liked it and so it stuck. A new country/disco genre was born: Discograss. Read more

Westside Cultural Arts Center Opening Sizzles with Sandra Hall and Taylor Hicks

Opening night review and photographs by Jennifer Jacobs
Full building mural photography courtesy of HENSE

The Westside Cultural Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia held its Grand Opening ceremony Thursday night, September 19th, 2013.  The brainchild of local arts supporter Dr. James Chappuis, the new facility is located in a converted 12,000 sq ft warehouse in Atlanta’s revitalized Westside.  The aim of the facility is to provide an arts and performance space for the Westside community and Atlanta at large.  The completed two year development and renovation finds the interior of the facility remodeled into a first class meeting space with a full service catering kitchen, two bars, and performance stage with state of the art sound system.  The centerpiece is a gallery space, curated by renowned Atlanta art dealer Fay Gold, who featured at the opening “Art in the Streets”, a collection of photographs that celebrates graffiti art around the world.  Co-Founder Anthony Liggins will be the artist in residence. Read more

Photo Focus:: Martin Sexton at Infinity: Friends, Family and Beautiful Angels

By Louise Uznanski for Ontapblog

Martin Sexton at Infinity Hall

Martin Sexton at Infinity Hall

Martin Sexton returns to the stage for an encore and lifts the mic over the front edge of the stage almost in the lap of the patron sitting in the front row. He squats down and lowers himself onto the stage’s edge with his guitar in hand. He is five feet from our seats in the second row center. This is where we can truly see his clear blue eyes and the intenseness of his handsome face. Read more

SPAH 50th Anniversary Convention Celebrates the Harmonica and the Players

by Holley Dey;   Photographs of the 50th anniversary SPAH convention courtesy of and copyright 2013 by Keith Mitchell;   Video courtesy of Hohner USA

The 50th Anniversary SPAH convention (Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica) is now complete.  For five consecutive August days there was music in the airport, on the stage, in the hotel lobby, down the halls and behind every door.  Ben from England claims to have located the only place you couldn’t hear a harmonica – in the pool and under water! Read more

Producers of Acclaimed Club 47 Folk Music Film Turn to Fans for Support


by Holley Dey

Do you remember your freshman year roommate?  Mine had clear blue eyes and a serious expression that easily gave way to a mischievous grin.  We studied the three B’s together: boys, books and booze, not necessarily in that order, and shared the secret understanding that comes from caffeine driven nights and front row seats in Biology 101.  Ours was a friendship that came by chance, yet came to stay. Read more

Photo Focus:: Taylor Hicks, Brian Less and Cody Farris DO AC

By Louise Uznanski for Ontapblog

Taylor and the band walk onto the late night, mid-summer’s stage at the Blue Martini with energy and joy. Describing how he came to enter the American Idol contest and what it was like performing for Caesars in its properties around the country, Taylor seemed happy to be at the Jersey shore for a mini residency that lasted for ten shows over two weekends. Thanks to Bally’s and Caesars for bringing Taylor back to Atlantic city in such great style. Read more

Penn Jillette Works Magic with Celebrity Apprentice Ice Cream Challenge

penn_apprentice15 All-Star Celebrity Apprentice draws to a close next weekend and Las Vegas headliner, magician and entertainer Penn Jillette is one of two finalists who remain in the competition. Jillette has been tasked with creating and marketing a new flavor of Walgreens Good & Delish premium ice cream. If “Vanilla and Chocolate Magic Swirtle” sells more units than his competitor’s product between now and Friday, then Las Vegas charity Opportunity Village* will receive a $100,000 donation from Walgreens.

The ice cream was delivered to local Walgreens stores on Sunday under a veil of secrecy. I’m told that the boxes and cartons were covered in black paper to conceal the names of the ice cream flavors before the products were revealed on national television. On Monday, May 13 stock was in the freezers and balloons were hanging from the ceiling. At our local Walgreens, the store clerk had already set aside her own pint of ice cream. She had chosen Jillette’s Magic Swirtle to take home with her that evening.

Good enough. We decided to ask two research subjects to taste test Vanilla and Chocolate Magic Swirtle, and watched through the viewfinder in order to gauge their reactions.

Here we go.

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Subject A: Quiet and reserved, highly analytical, national level bridge player. Photographed prior to sampling the test product.

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Subject A: Photographed while sampling Vanilla and Chocolate Magic Swirtle ice cream.

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Subject A: Photographed after exceeding the recommended serving size of Magic Swirtle ice cream.

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Subject B: Congenial and compassionate, martial arts enthusiast and current student.

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Subject B: Photographed while sampling Magic Swirtle ice cream.

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Subject B: Photographed after sampling Penn Jillette’s ice cream product.

Both subjects praised the  smooth consistency and sweet flavor of the ice cream; chunks of candy captured in each spoonful earned special mention.  Both subjects agreed that they felt happier after eating Magic Swirtle ice cream.  Subject A demonstrated increased energy and completed assigned tasks at a more rapid rate after product consumption; there was no change in Subject B’s work performance relative to baseline.

Observation Based Conclusions:

1) Mood elevation was clear in both subjects after sampling the Magic Swirtle ice cream product.

2) Exceeding the recommended serving size risks manic bliss.

3) In some cases, consumption of Magic Swirtle ice cream can boost work performance.

4)  Subject B has a better understanding of product placement than subject A.




*Opportunity Village provides programs to help men and women with disabilities reach their full potential.

“Heads in Beds”: Required Summer Reading for Travelers

heads in beds coverby Holley Dey  ©2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

Five months too late, that’s when I found Jacob Tomsky’s Heads in Beds.  Coulda, shoulda read the book earlier.  Here’s why.

Times Square was bustling before the holiday and so was the hotel lobby.  The long check-in line snaked single file to the front.  At the desk the clerk confirmed my internet reservation, offered me two key cards but no bellman.  Carried suitcase, camera bag, computer and handbag to room 824.  Neither room key worked.  Returned to lobby dragging suitcase, camera bag, and computer with handbag falling off my right shoulder.  Asked an available desk clerk to re-program the room keys, but was curtly directed  to rejoin the check-in queue where I fear that the expression on my face may have alarmed other guests.

A few chapters into the book, what I learned: Reservations made via discount internet sites rank low on the luxury hotel’s priority list.  A well placed, upfront tip at the desk can change attitudes and rapidly improve service.  Might even move your discounted room away from that elevator bank.

Finally settled into my room, I opened my computer and was immediately hit with an extra one day charge for accessing the internet.  Paid it with a sense of indignant resignation.  Incurred a second charge when I logged into my email account the next morning, some twelve hours later.  Made yet another visit to the front desk where I began to protest.  After all, even in New York a day is twenty-four hours long, isn’t it?  I had begun to wax eloquent when I was abruptly interrupted by the clerk, “MA’AM, I’VE ALREADY TAKEN BOTH CHARGES OFF YOUR BILL.”

Huh?  Is it really that easy?  Well yes, it is.  The desk clerk doesn’t care.  You didn’t eat the Milky Way from the mini bar?  Never watched that adult movie?  No problem.  All it takes is a simple, “I didn’t watch the movie.  Please remove the charge.”  The desk clerk doesn’t want or need to hear you wax eloquent.  (Although, honestly, had I not been ready to discuss in detail the earth’s daily rotation on its axis, I’m not sure that both charges would have been removed.)

Before Jacob Tomsky was an author, he was a new college graduate with a degree in philosophy and loans to pay.  Seems that it was an off year for philosophy majors; Jacob took a job as a valet parker for a New Orleans luxury hotel.  Young, smart and eager to advance, he rose quickly through the ranks to front desk clerk and then housekeeping manager before burnout necessitated a months’ long travel break.  Savings depleted, Jacob then settled in New York City where the only viable job offers came from the service industry, returning the avid traveler to the front desk, now at the “Bellevue” Hotel.

During his ten years in the hotel business, Tomsky saw it all – sex, drugs, lies, and then there were the guests!  He learned the inner workings of the hotel, how to keep thejacob tomsky lobby running smoothly and customers happy while doing his utmost to minimize on-the-job frustration and maximize the twenty dollar tips in his pocket.  He went from sneakers to dress shoes, Dr. Pepper to whiskey, newbie to hustler in the space of several years and some 250 pages, never losing his humanity or his union card.

Heads in Beds is an often hilarious tale told from behind the desk and behind the scenes of the hotel industry.  There are valets with fists up, housekeepers with nylons down and managers passed out on the ground.  There are stories of celebrities, hookers and athletes.  There are trade secrets released and travel tips offered.  Ever wonder how to avoid that pesky last minute room cancellation fee?  Your answer is here.  Ever marveled at the sparkling mirrors and glassware in the hotel bath?  You may be surprised to know what produces that shine.  Want to empty the mini bar or watch a free movie?  No problem!  Jacob tells you how.  He also explains when and whom to tip and what to expect for that courtesy.  First priority?  Remember that the front desk clerk controls your hotel destiny.  A room upgrade, bottle of wine and/or late check-out are all in play for players.

What I took away from Heads in Beds:

1.  There is hope for our children.  If Jacob could turn an impractical college degree and life at the front desk into a book this well written, this entertaining, and ultimately this human, then maybe your child and mine can also find their way in this world.

2.  I will never again drink from the “sanitized” glass in a hotel bathroom.

3.  I have new empathy for the hotel staff, especially the valets, bellmen and housekeepers whose work often goes unnoticed, well, unless there is a complaint to be made.  Heads in Beds puts a face on people who are nearly invisible when their jobs are well done.  I plan to tip more often, and more generously.

4.  Profanity can be a term of endearment?  It’s New Yawk, people.  If  you don’t believe me, go to a baseball game and listen to the faithful advise the team from the cheap seats.  Cursing = love.  There’s plenty of love in this book.

Summary:  RECOMMENDED.  For an easy summer read, a book that will keep you laughing but leave you thinking, pick up a copy of Heads in Beds.  Oh, go on, do it.

Racing toward Derby Day with a Party in Mind

2013 Kentucky Derby - Previewby Holley Dey    ©2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

One of my favorite childhood memories is a day spent at Churchill Downs with my father and best friend when we took turns picking the horses and Dad plunked down two dollar bets on our favorites.  We watched every horse take the field, made last minute selections based on gait and spunk, then cheered until we were happily hoarse (but not horse).

I am long gone from Kentucky, but still have warm memories of the Bluegrass State.  We lived just outside Louisville, the same city that Rick Pitino now calls home and where basketball reigns supreme every day except Derby day.  More on Rick in a moment, but first, let’s pause a moment to review proper pronunciation.

The most important thing to understand is that the word does not have three syllables.  Oh no, definitely not.  Your goal should be two, at most two and a half syllables.  Louisville is never pronounced “Loo-e-ville”.  Shudder.  Now, relax your lips and tongue, allow the vowels to blend together smoothly and say “Looavull”.  Try it again.  Say it like you mean it.  Well, keep practicing.

We never joined the large crowds at the racetrack, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate the Kentucky Derby – not at all!  There are two weeks of festivities leading up to the event with widespread parties on race day.  If  Saturday, May 4 will mark your first Derby get-together, allow me to share some party essentials:

1.  Gotta see it to believe it

It’s been called the most thrilling two minutes in all of sports.  Your guests must be able to see the race.  Make sure that viewing screens/televisions are positioned so that every guest can enjoy the action.  Reminder:  Post time for this year’s Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET.

2.  Know the players

Be prepared to discuss this year’s Derby with your guests. Descriptions of the horses and their racing history is available at the official site; up-to-date information leading into the race is also available here.

The 2013 Derby won’t field a clear-cut favorite; there are a number of interesting contenders.  The horse shown above is Goldencents, photographed during a morning workout at Churchill Downs this week.  Goldencents recently won the Santa Anita Derby with jockey Kevin Krigger on board.  Krigger is the first black jockey to win at Santa Anita; he would be the first to win in Kentucky since 1902.  Rick Pitino owns a 5% share of the horse.  He could potentially win the the Derby, the NCAA tournament, enter the Basketball Hall of Fame, and get his first tattoo, all in the same year!  He’s only missing the Derby win.  Most analysts have Goldencents in the top five horses racing on Saturday.

3.  You can bet on it

The party is more fun if everyone has a stake in the action. Wagering on the horses can, but needn’t involve money.  Have guests randomly draw a horse’s name and starting position from a hat; if their horse finishes in the money, award a prize.

One of the most fun and successful Derby parties I’ve ever attended was also a wedding shower.  Rather than bring gifts to the party, the guests bet on the race.  A fixed percentage of each bet was set aside, those funds pooled and given to the soon-to-be-married couple as a shower gift.  The remainder was split between guests who had picked the winning horse.  Alternatively, the same method could be used to raise money for charity.

4.  You can leave your hat onmiranda lambert kentucky derby hat

It’s tradition!  Ask your guests to wear a hat to the party.  The ladies might choose a wide brimmed beauty, or one of the fascinators made popular by the Duchess of Cambridge over the past few years.  Country music superstar Miranda Lambert has tried both looks, opting for a small black fascinator in 2012.

Ladies!  If you’d like to virtually try on a selection of Kentucky Derby hats to find the style that best suits you, Lady Diane Hats of Louisville invites you to find your perfect match here.

Note that in recent years gentlemen have also been sporting hats at the Derby.  While the options available for purchase are more limited, home embellished and creative Derby wear is always in style!

5.  Raise a toast to the winner!

The traditional libation on Derby day is the mint julep.  Party expert and Food Network star Martie Duncan recommends preparing a mint infused simple syrup in advance.  The syrup can be used to flavor the Kentucky bourbon cocktail and/or iced tea on race day!  Martie’s mint julep and simple syrup recipes are here.

The official Kentucky Derby store sells glassware for the 139th running of the race.  If you’d like to splurge on a special gift, Martie suggests the elegant pewter or silver mint julep cups offered by the Salisbury company.

6.  Your just dessert

A variety of delicious appetizers and main course dishes are appropriate on Derby Day.  For an overview of traditional fare, several recipes from Southern Living including the open faced Kentucky Hot Browns sandwich and Derby pie are here.

For dessert, Derby pie – that delectable blend of nuts and chocolate in a flaky pie crust – is a must.  Serve it warm so that the chocolate melts, coating the pecans or walnuts, as well as the inside of your mouth!  Add whipped cream with or without bourbon for a flavorful touch.  Alternatively, a dollop of vanilla ice cream will top it off!  If you’re pressed for time, consider ordering your pies from Kern’s kitchen.  Kern’s original  and secret Derby pie recipe was developed more than fifty years ago.  On Derby day more than 25,000 slices of the pie will be served at Churchill Downs!

Most of all, have fun!  Enjoy the race, the day and the company of family and friends.  Cheers!!


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