May 26, 2017 – the setlist wiki

By hazard, I found the most interesting web site for fans of live music. brags that they feature over 2 1/2 million set lists, almost 136,000 artists and over 200,000 venues.
While the emphasis is more on compiling concert set lists of contemporary pop musicians, a quick perusal of the site finds artists of many different genres: country, classical, folk, heavy metal, surf punk, rock and many more.
Want to know what Billy Joel played at Wrigley Field in August 2016? A brief search gives you his play list as well as his encores. What did the classical pianist Lang Lang play at the United Nations in October 2014? Two songs by Sting. Long dead artists are also represented.  As an example, there are several pages of Frank Sinatra concert playlists from 1939 to his last concert in Palm Springs on February 1995.
Not only is this site fantastic for music aficionados but it is a wonderful resource for musicians who do tribute shows.
Check out your favorite entertainers on and you can almost imagine attending their shows.
It appears that concert information can be submitted by audience members, much like the wikipedia model. Why not jot down the set list at your next live concert. You too can be a participant in  Is this not a cool site?

Google Arts and Culture site

google-arts-and-culture-logoWhen traveling, I love visiting museums, gardens and venues of visual beauty. Unfortunately, my wish list of places to visit continues to grow, while my time to travel remains relatively small.

Google Arts and Culture comes to the rescue with a comprehensive web site that allows the viewer to virtually visit a host of cultural and natural sites all across the world. biodivwand_c_carola-radke-mfnBio Diversity Wall at the Natural History Museum in Berlin

Some of the web site headings include Your Daily Digest, Stories of the Day, Zoom in and Explore by time and color. A seemingly endless number of virtual tours are available including Ford’s Theater in Washington,  10 Downing Street in London and the Taj Mahal in India. One can do searches by art movements, artists, historical events or places along with a host of other topics. Every visit to Google Culture and Art home page could be a different, enlightening experience.

I see from the internet address that Google Arts and Culture is still in beta-testing mode, but the site looks quite polished and professional in its current state.
On my next Google Arts and Culture experience, I plan to make virtual visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to the Great Barrier Reef. Excuse me while I pack my virtual suitcase.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20

MHZ, the foreign tv broadcast company will launch their new streaming service MHZ Choice on October 20. For a flat fee of $7.99, you will have access to the “best international mysteries, dramas and comedies.” The programs are presented unedited with easy to read English subtitles.

Viewers will be able to stream material via their web browser on their desktops, laptops, tablets and phones or use ROKU Streaming Player, Amazon Fire TV or SmartTVs. Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android will appear at a later date.

Some of the MHZ Choice catalogue will include Don Matteo, Fog and Crimes, The Churchmen, Detective Montalbano, Donna Detective, Homicide Unit Istanbul, Irene Huss, Maria Wern, Wallander, Maigret and many others.

If you sign up now, you can get a month free.

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

If you want to see how your favorite new or old show is doing with the critics, you may want to check out Metacritic, a media site that compiles critical reviews of television shows, movies, music and computer games.

Metacritic rates the various media on a scale of 100 with 61 to 100 being good to great, 40 to 60 being so-so and 39 or under in the stinkeroo category. This weeks Metacritic tv list has Grace of Monaco as a bomb at 39, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! at a “just okay” 53 and Tig: Season 1 topping the list with a favorable 89. If numbers are too much for you, green is good, yellow is “meh” and red is “avoid at all costs.”

Movies use the same number/color format and are listed by whats in the theaters now and what’s available on DVD/Blu-ray. Games are listed by what device you use such as Xbox One, PC or iphone/ipad.

The critical quotes become even handier for the music category. As an example, Wilco’s recent album “Star Wars” gets a 100 score from The Independent in the UK with this to say: “Even by Wilco’s adventurous standards, Star Wars is possibly the most unusual, exploratory work of the band’s existence.”

There is also a features category that has current topics like the 2014-15 TV Season Scorecard which lists which shows have been renewed or dropped, what to watch now on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, what movies you should see this weekend and a list of the Emmy nominations.

My take is this: one critic may be wrong, but ten or more just may be able to steer you to the unmissable hit. Or keep you from spending time or money on a real turkey.

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

My friend Francesca tipped me off about a fantastic world-wide web radio site called AccuRadio.
The listener can choose from dozens of themed-channels, select something called “Surprise Me,” or come up with their own customized station. “Channel a Day In May” is nearing its end, but “Music For the Start of Summer” is just commencing.

Some of the channel selections include Classic Rocktoopia with 1,000 of the greatest songs in rock history, Classical Relaxation with soothing classical melodies, Today’s New Country, Bluegrass Belles featuring all female voices, three opera channels, a gigantic collection of Broadway shows and themes and hundreds of other options. It seems almost every imaginable music genre is represented at this site.

Founded in 2000 as a home-grown Chicago company, AccuRadio bills itself as appealing to adult listeners with sophisticated taste. They have links to music sellers’ sites so you can purchase your favorite songs. AccuRadio is also fully licensed with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange and the RIAA and they state that they pay royalties on every song they play.

AccuRadio does run ads on the radio channels, but I did not find them intrusive like regular commercial AM/FM terrestrial radio stations. You can either access the site from your desktop or download an AccuRadio app to your phone or tablet.

Let me know if you run across anything fabulous!

Hoopla: Libraries deepen their electronic presence

I still love the feel of a non-virtual book, but I find myself using the Chicago Public Library’s digital audiobooks on a regular basis. The real discovery has been Hoopla, a web service with music albums, movies, television programs and audiobooks to rent for free if your local library is a member. My Chicago library card entitles me to six media downloads per month from the digital service’s vast collection.

You won’t necessarily find all the latest movie, tv, book or music blockbusters in the selections, but there are old and newer works worthy of attention. I am currently watching a Swedish detective series called “Beck” from the television collection.

“The Iron Lady” with Meryl Streep or Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” might be one of the free movies you would rent for 72 hours. Likewise the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” or the BBC’s “Inspector Morse” series could be your cup of tea. The audio music selections include artists like Alabama Shakes, Josh Groban, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z or Mumford and Sons, among many others. Your audiobook taste may be satiated with a biography of Tiger Woods, a self-help book entitled “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” or perhaps a Robert Ludlum thriller.

The site brags that they have hundreds of thousands of movies, books, albums and tv programs. If you have a current library card, a web browser and a desktop, smart phone or tablet, why not see if your local library is a member? You just might find exactly what you were looking for. For free.

Hundreds of libraries all across the nation are members. Here is a current map of participating libraries:

Pinterest, yet another social media/image-oriented site

My new web addiction is Pinterest, a photo web-sharing site that lets you browse for recipes, fashion, travel, quotes, tattoos, or basically anything that can be shown as a list through photos and brief descriptions. Each little “pin” can be linked to a site with more information. If you get ambitious, you can start your own topic board and add other people’s pins to your lists.

As an example, I have been looking for vegan recipes and have compiled a series of recipes I want to try after browsing other Pinterest “pins.” I searched the site using the words “coconut,” “pudding” and “vegan” and was shown a variety of delicious sounding recipes.  I likewise typed in “foreign crime drama” and was rewarded with several suggestions. Some of my favorite shows were absent, so I may get ambitious and create my own “pins” but I’m not quite ready for that level of involvement….yet.

You can have great fun just typing in topics like “Sherlock Holmes quotes” and come up with pins that say “I need to go to my mind palace” or “There are always some lunatics about.”  If you are a fan of the “Outlander” TV series or books, type in “Scottish Highlands” and you will be rewarded with stunning photos and travel ideas for your trip to dear auld Scotland.

The founders of Pinterest, Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra  and Evan Sharp are all men, but the majority of users (70%) are women. In the 2012 presidential election, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama both had Pinterest accounts to court the female vote.

Upon typing “2015 NFL Draft Picks,” a dizzying array of pins appeared so I know some men are also using this popular electronic scrapbook.

When I started typing “Great Pyrenees dogs,”  “collapsible bicycles” and “Teddy Roosevelt,” I realized that this pin-searching was getting out of hand. After all, I have to get cracking on that Vegan Basil Cucumber Gazpacho recipe I just found on Pinterest.

Ventra Card info

Ventra cards are here to stay so I have been boning up on how best to use them.

You can get your initial card at Ventra vending machines in CTA rail stations, online at, by phone 1 (877) NOW-VENTRA, at Ventra Retailers (mentioned below) or at the Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson Street near CTA headquarters. You can add value at any of those locations as well with cash or credit/debit cards.

I always mean to add transit value at home on the Ventra web site, but I frequently find myself out and about with an empty Ventra card. Of course, you can add value at a CTA station, but I find it easiest to load the car at commercial ventures, such as CVS and Walgreen’s, at certain liquor stores and groceries and at currency exchanges. The Ventra web site has a location finder.

Did know that you can pay for up to seven people on your card if you have enough transit value on it? The CTA offers discount Ventra cards for elementary and high school students. Children under 7 are free if accompanied by a fare-paying customer.

Ventra users can also use their iPhone 6 Plus or the upcoming iWatch if your bankcard is loaded onto your device. You just walk through the turnstile and your phone deducts the fare from your Ventra account. Rather like the iPass. That may take me a while to figure out!

Battleground on Hulu and Alpha House Season 2 on Amazon

In the afterglow of the recent elections, if you need a bit of the hair of the dog that bit ya’, you may want to laugh your way through two political series currently on streaming services.

“Battleground” on Hulu is a mockumentary comedy-drama about the staffers who work to elect a female U. S. Senate candidate from Madison, Wisconsin. It was Hulu’s first attempt at scripted original programming, premiering online on February 2012. These 13 episodes really capture the personal conflicts and pressures of a political campaign while making you laugh at how close this satire is to real life. The show is available on Hulu and does not require membership in Hulu Plus.

Amazon Prime continues the political zaniness with Season 2 of “Alpha House,” a show featuring four Republican Senators who share a home in our nation’s capital. The new episodes tickle the funny bone with topics such as gay marriage, “conceal and carry” gun ownership, homosexuality in the military and Swift-boating opponents in ads made with money from conservative PACs (the fictitious Watt brothers appear via camera-laden drones to Senator Gil John Biggs played by John Goodman.) Mark Consuelos (married in real life to Kelly Ripa) plays Senator Andy Guzman, a sex-addicted Hispanic congressman who does not speak Spanish. Clark Johnson as African-American Senator Robert Bettencourt and Matt Malloy as Mormon Senator Louis Laffer Jr. complete the hilarious quartet of D. C. room-mates.

Is it any wonder that this series is hysterically funny with Gary Trudeau of “Doonesbury” fame as the creator and writer? Supporting roles and cameos made by the likes of Amy Sedaris, Wanda Sykes, Bill Murray and Penn Jillette don’t hurt either. Withdrawal from the political season has never been this painless.