Baseball and Band Practice, A Match Made on MLB.com

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By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, May 21, 2006

From the Further Merging of Sports and Entertainment Dept.: Tomorrow, Major League Baseball's Web site, http://www.mlb.com , will begin directing viewers to http://www.rehearsals.com , a site that features video of musicians rehearsing for upcoming tours and sitting down for interviews.

New MLB partner CenterStaging Corp., based in Burbank, Calif., has 150,000 square feet of rehearsal space in Burbank that musicians and groups such as Earth, Wind & Fire use to prep for touring. Why let all this content go to waste, they thought? So they armed their studios with high-definition cameras and plenty of microphones to catch the seminal funk band working through its steps and talking about the rehearsal process, documentary-style. The site includes such video from several other artists.

It also features a very good seven-minute exchange between expert axmen Glen Campbell and Steve Lukather (guitarist for the band Toto) as they sit and pick and talk picking. It's worth watching just to see Campbell's receding-hairline mullet. It's good to see Campbell even upright after what he put his body through in the '70s (he was arrested for drunk driving as late as 2003), as he was one of L.A.'s champion partyers. (Insert your own Rhinestoned Cowboy joke here.)

I know the site is new, but the videos could use a little more information, such as text at the bottom of the screen identifying who is talking. I mean, I'm an EWF fan, and I only recognized frontman Philip Bailey, for instance.

MLB.com, which sells live streaming video of its baseball games, claims 7 million daily viewers and says the crossover into music is a natural fit for both sides. "Both rock stars and professional athletes train for years to make 'the show,' " said Dinn Mann, executive vice president of content for MLB.com.

Things We Like

· Star Trek Director's Cut: Comcast Corp.-owned television channel G4, which bills itself as the "video gamers network," is airing episodes of the original "Star Trek," which they're calling "Star Trek 2.0," on YouTube. The channel is running on-screen graphics that include a viewer chat forum and a "Spock Exchange," a game for viewers as they watch the show. The sprawling Web Watch staff found the hilarious promos the network is running for the show, featuring stop-motion animation of "Star Trek" dolls. The twist: They are voiced by actors who give the characters completely different personalities than they had on the show. For instance, Spock is a hip-hopper, Scotty is a DJ and Uhura is a fly-girl. ("Do it Vulcan-style, baby!") Search for "Star Trek Director's Cut" at http://www.youtube.com .

· Beating the storm: Fascinating radar-screen footage of FedEx jets trying to beat a thunderstorm into the Memphis airport. I think they look like ants but someone else observed they look like fruit flies, especially when diverted around the angry-looking, red thunderhead and forced to circle. One more way the Internet gives civilians ways to look at our planet that previously have been the domain of specialists, such as air traffic controllers. Go to http://video.google.com , search for "fedex thunderstorm" and click on the map.

Things We Wanted to Like but Just Couldn't Quite

· http://promotion.msn.co.jp/davinci/voice.htm : From the Japanese scientist who brought you the "Bowlingual," a device you strap to your dog that claims to translate his barks into English, comes this site, which ties in to the "Da Vinci Code" craze (A craze in Japan? You're kidding!). Using "forensic" techniques, this guy analyzed the facial structures of Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa and extrapolated what they would have sounded like. When I first heard of this, I said, to myself, "Please don't let it look like the Conan O'Brien shtick where he has moving lips in still photos of people like President Bush and has them saying outlandish things. Please don't let it look like that."

Of course, it looks like that.

You've got the Mona Lisa, holding a microphone (MC M-Leez, all up in da hizzy!) and the well-known sketch of da Vinci doing the same. The Microsoft site is in Japanese, which is kind of interesting, but it's clear which buttons you're supposed to push to hear them speak. The scientists used advanced techniques in assigning voices, such as giving M. Lisa a slightly nasal tone because of "her relatively large nose." I'm no forensics expert, but I don't recall even David Caruso applying such advanced techniques on "CSI: Miami."

As for their sounds (after you sit through a 15-second commercial), Mona has a pleasant voice but I have to say, Leo sounds like one of Tony Soprano's relatives back in the Old Country ordering a hit on a rival don. Of course, there is no way to know what these two sounded like, or even if Mona was real. (Some posit she is a feminized self-portrait of Leo. )


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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