Local Rhythms – Comcast News

anyplay-p-dvr-docked-small.jpgThere’s nothing like healthy competition to motivate a company to do better. For proof, look no further than Comcast.

These days, the one-time cable monopoly faces relentless encroachment by satellite providers. Verizon’s sale of their New England properties to FairPoint Communications will likely be approved, which promises to add Internet-based television to the mix.

So, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Comcast unveiled a flurry of moves designed to attract new customers – and keep old ones.

How about a cable-powered video iPod? With a 60 GB hard drive, the Comcast AnyPlay Portable DVR is a nifty hybrid of a digital video recorder (DVR) and a portable DVD player. The device allows for on-the-go viewing of shows recorded off the Comcast cable system. Made by Panasonic, it should be available next year.

Expected in stores a bit sooner are Panasonic high definition televisions equipped with “tru2way” technology. The sets allow plug and play access to the full range of Comcast services – no box required.

Comcast also announced plans for tru2way set top boxes. This equipment, manufactured by Samsung and Panasonic, leverages DOCSIS (data over cable) technology that will ultimately pave the way for direct viewing of content from web sites like YouTube, as well as downloading of movies and other programming.

The long-awaited Comcast/TiVo marriage was finally consummated recently in Boston. Area customers with Scientific Atlanta boxes, however, will have to wait until later this year for the bugs to be worked out of the software update before the ubiquitous DVR technology becomes available here.

That’s one of the problems of living in a so-called “outer market” like northern New England. You have to wait forever for the good stuff.

Sometimes, it’s lonely in the sticks.

If we’re not complaining about dropped cell phone calls, we’re wondering when we can get our hands of all the cool technology that’s shown on the G4 Channel.

I’m beginning to think that my children’s children will see high definition local channels on the Dish Network before I ever do.

Heck, I can’t even buy an iPhone unless I lie about my address. How fair is that?

Forget about clean air and water. Who cares about low traffic density? Give me gadgets!

Oh, well, we have a great live music scene to enjoy. To wit:

Thursday: Draa Hobbs & Peter Concilio, Elixir – Hobbs gigged with a long list of jazz luminaries, did a stint in Al Alessi’s band, held forth at Oona’s before the fire, and most recently helped singer-songwriter Lisa McCormick with her newest album. His soft touch reminds me of Wes Montgomery or George Benson. Bassist Concilio is a fixture in several area combos, including the Emily Lanier Jazz Ensemble (the singer’s post-New Kind of Blue band).

Friday: Iron Box, Imperial Lounge – A Claremont band in the mold of Television or Smashing Pumpkins, Iron Box did well at last summer’s Whaleback show (some of that performance is up on their MySpace page). I’m impressed by their commitment to playing original material. Songs like “Leave the Day” and “Stop the World” possess an edgy mid-90’s melodic quality that you can both dance to and drown in.

Saturday: Saxton’s River Smackdown, Boccelli’s – One year ago, Bellows Falls’ renaissance began as Josh Maiocco and Jesse Peters shared the stage in this auction hall reconfigured for music. Since that time, the restaurant by the canal has upped the ante with many great performers like Nashville chanteuse Diana Jones, who plays next week. Tonight’s show is an anniversary celebration by two of the area’s best original voices.

Sunday: Super Bowl, Arizona – Let’s face it, if anyone’s going to be paying attention to music today it will be during Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers halftime show. It’s all about football – for the majority, Tom Brady is the man, and the Patriots are the team. To those few who grew up watching Phil Simms and the Giants on Vermont’s Channel 3, I offer early condolences. The song of the day is, naturally, Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” Go Pats!

Tuesday: Irish Traditional Sessions, Salt Hill Pub – This is the perfect after work destination, with a 6:30 start and the always interesting improvisations of Chris Stevens, Roger Burridge, and Dave Loney. An occasional top notch guest can up the talent quotient, turning the weekly session into a cross between open mike night and a Celtic hard court basketball game (with fiddles and bodhráns).

Wednesday: Chris O’Brien, Langdon Street Café – This singer-songwriter is worth the long drive to Montpelier, with talent to match his pedigree (Dar Williams, a family friend, taught him his first guitar chords). O’Brien’s gift for wordplay brings a smile, his easygoing, Steve Forbert-like voice is smooth as a cold pint in August – and he can charm a crowd. Chris is definitely one to watch.

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