More about Web Services 1.0

Dave asks for more details about the Web Services release I discussed earlier. I can’t really give too many more details other than what’s in the MSDN announcement linked above, but the key is in the name, Web Services (which I’ve corrected in my post

This is a web service layer on, which is intended, as the release says, to “enable you to integrate information and services from MSDN, Technet, other sites, and Microsoft Support.” Version 1.0, which is a proof of concept and shakedown for the infrastructure, provides an API via SOAP that allows accessing a designated set of content, the Top Downloads on the site. Future releases, the release indicates, will allow you to access other content, including presumably info from Support, MSDN, and Technet.

“Sounds like RSS—so why isn’t it RSS?” you cry. Good question. I’ll see if I can find out. But the key point is that this is kind of analogous to the Amazon SOAP API or the Google API: a way to programmatically access certain content on Potentially this could be of interest to Microsoft’s partners and content providers in the Microsoft community, who might want to selectively expose some of’s content without having to send their users blindly to us.

Obligatory disclaimer courtesy our legal folks: This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights. Web Services v. 1.0

Mark Pilgrim points to the 1.0 release of Web Services. This is kind of a big deal at (where I work), because it is a publicly-visible hook into a new publishing model for us. Of course, it inevitably raises some snags too; Mark does a good job of highlighting the problems with our registration process and the fact that the documentation is only available if you already have one of the recent versions of Visual Studio.

Maybe I’ll play with trying an AppleScript wrapper for the service, which will almost certainly grow in usefulness beyond listing Top Downloads. Of course, I’ll have to be very careful about doing so in accordance with the license terms, which among other things prohibit redistributing the documentation off my premises or distributing modified sample code that does not run on the Windows platform.

Update: It’s Web Services, not just Microsoft Web Services as I incorrectly indicated earlier; my apologies for the confusion.

One year ago today

September 2, 2002: Sonic Youth at Bumbershoot 2002. Still one of my favorite pieces of concert writing to date, in a sort of Hemingway-esque way: “The band went offstage, then came back on and played ‘Disconnection Notice.’ After the rest of the set, it felt somber and almost valedictory. This was the last set of their tour. Wind came up into Lee’s hair. They left the stage. I left the stadium and drove home.”

Bumbershoot 2003 (4): R.E.M., at their most beautiful

After Jeff and Wilco had left the stage, we waited anxiously for the set to change over. While I was waiting, I heard the teenage girl behind me saying, “I’m going to call my mom as soon as a song comes on that she’ll recognize. I remember hearing her play all those albums when I was growing up. I hope it’s a greatest hits type show.” I turned around and said, “Actually, I heard they’ll be playing all the songs off their new album.” “Oh,” she said; “well, that’d be cool too.”

Soon the stage was full. Michael Stipe, wearing a jean jacket over a pink polo shirt and wraparound sunglasses, bounded out followed by the rest of R.E.M. in 2003: Peter Buck, Mike Mills (with a white cloud of hair), and guests Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus Five, Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, and Barrett Martin on drums. The band wasted no time, jumping right into “Begin the Begin” (from Life’s Rich Pageant) as though the song were written yesterday. Michael was all over the place, tilting the mic stand to the floor like Joe Strummer, doing the spastic dance that earned him derision and a thousand spastic teenage imitators in the late 80s (including, of course, myself and my one-time roommate), shedding the jacket and then the polo to reveal a t-shirt that read, “I am vibrating at the speed of light.” The band moved immediately into “Finest Worksong,” and then, improbably, “Maps and Legends.”

While Peter Buck and Mike Mills were workmanlike (though Mike grinned from ear to ear during most of the numbers), Michael was chatty (he introduced the band by saying, “Except for me and Mike Mills, the whole band tonight is from Seattle, either native or transplanted”), grinning like crazy, joking around (he told a long story about performing “I Got You, Babe” as a joke at a charity gig headlined by U2’s Bono (“because you never pronounce his name Boh-noh”) and having “fucking Cher!” walk on half way through to do a duet), and of course dancing. In between the jokes and posing, the band worked through a tight set of old and new songs, including “Animal” and “Bad Day,” from the forthcoming greatest hits album (oh yeah—that’s what I meant when I told the teenager about the set list. Hope she forgives me someday), “Fall On Me,” “Drive,” “Exhuming McCarthy” (!), “Electrolite,” “New Test Leper,” “Imitation of Life,” “I’ve Been High,” “Losing My Religion,” “The One I Love,” “At My Most Beautiful,” “Daysleeper,” “Nightswimming,” “She Just Wants to Be,” “Walk Unafraid,” and “Man on the Moon.”

Through it all, Michael joked, danced, did dramatic interpretation, saluted, marched, and generally had a blast, but it was increasingly clear that the real musical leaders of the band were Mike and especially Peter, who without saying a word to the crowd managed the many changes of instruments, songs, and keys, and rocked hard doing it. Many of the later songs benefitted enormously from live performance, particularly “Imitation of Life” and “Walk Unafraid,” which transformed into a rocking affirmation.

With the crowd screaming itself raw, the band returned and played “Everybody Hurts,” “World Leader Pretend” (with Michael starting by saying, “This will be the second time we’ve played this since 1989; the last time, I blew a few lyrics, so I’m going to have to read it” before glancing once at the music stand and doing the rest from memory), “Get Up,” and closing with “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” I slipped out of the crowd during “Get Up,” not wanting to wait for hours in the parking lot, and as “End of the World” floated over the stadium walls I watched young and old kids dancing on the sidewalk.

R.E.M. may have fans that grew up listening to their songs as well as those of us who first heard them in middle school, but their live performances are as vital and inspiring as ever, and all the better for Michael’s loose, joking spontaneity. I hope another studio album follows In Time, because the band still rocks too hard to fade away.

Bumbershoot 2003 (3): Wilco, trying to break my heart

After the New Pornographers show, I made my way around to the stadium where I had seen Sonic Youth at the 2002 Bumbershoot festival. This time the line was loose and moving at a brisk trot, so it wasn’t more than five minutes before I was inside and finding my way to the front. The security was pretty hard core at this show, much more than for any festival I’ve been to so far. Several times in the hour before the show they came around and made everyone in the front sit down, and removed everyone who had pressed to the front without a seat so that the stage front would stay clear.

A few minutes after I got in, about 6:10, Jeff Tweedy was on stage tuning some of his guitars. After that brief glimpse, we had to wait until 7 (and an intro from the roundly booed corp-rock station sponsoring the act) for Jeff and his bandmates to return to the stage. Wearing a green checked jacket and jeans, Jeff was pretty uncommunicative—at least, between songs—only stopping every now and then to say things like “This is an old one.” He started with a number from A.M. (confession: I’m still not all that familiar with that album, so I can’t give track title), then moved directly into “A Shot in the Arm” from Summer Teeth. The song was driving, the repeated chords building in a crescendo into the chorus, which was if possible even more spine tingling than on the album. That was the only song in the set from Summer Teeth, but if the show had ended there I wouldn’t have felt cheated.

After blowing everyone’s mind, Jeff moved into further uncharted territory with a set from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, starting with “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” moving on into an epic version of “Poor Places,” which Jeff performed as the poem it is (albeit set to acoustic guitar, lots of feedback and industrial noise, and the familiar “yankee, hotel, foxtrot” spoken loop), continuing directly into an achingly delicate reading of “Reservations,” and wrapping the mini-set with the junkyard singsong of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” All the while, Jeff was articulating clearly into the mike, staring wide eyed at the audience, and grinning this wild shit-eating grin—clearly having the time of his life, and just as clearly delighting in confounding all the R.E.M. fans who were there. I don’t think he saw the two young girls ahead of me, just about five feet back from the crowd barrier, who were pogoing and singing along enthusiastically to the whole set.

After that he moved into some stuff largely drawn from Being There: “Say You Miss Me,” “Far, Far Away,” “Misunderstood” (which he introduced by saying, “This next one sounds much better if you sing it. So go ahead. You have my permission; you don’t need it”), a brief YHF interjection with “War on War,” “Kingpin,” “California Stars” (from the Billy Bragg collaboration of unrecorded Woody Guthrie Lyrics, Mermaid Avenue), and wrapping up with “Outta Site (Outta Mind).” The guy behind me who had been sarcastic about Wilco before the show started was yelling for more and we were all yelling “encore,” but the show had to go on and Jeff left, blown and satisfied minds in his wake.

Bumbershoot 2003 (2): The New Pornographers, from blown speakers

I got back at 3:45, enough time to get in another enormous line for the New Pornographers. It was a difficult choice between this Vancouver indie supergroup, Daniel Lanois (who was playing the venue next door), or the Long Winters (who started a half hour later). But one thing made my decision easier: none of the other acts had Neko Case (in addition to her stellar voice, Neko was voted indie rock star Playboy readers would most like to see naked) sharing lead vocal duties.

I got into the hall and experienced my first misgiving: a big underground exhibition hall with no windows, cinderblock walls, and pillars obstructing the view throughout. I made my way to the front and found a spot near a pillar, cursing myself for forgetting my earplugs. Twenty minutes later the band came on, and the sound problems started.

Possibly because of my proximity to the left speaker stack, or maybe the cinderblocks, the sound was muddy and the vocals were buried. It didn’t seem like the vocalists could hear each other either—individually they sounded fine (especially Neko, who even when she’s a “robot” in someone else’s band does amazing vocals), but together it added up to cacophony (and not a pleasant one, either). The only songs that really came together for me were the ones with Neko on lead—“The Laws Have Changed,” “All For Swinging You Around”—and “Testament to Youth in Verse,” whose “the bells ring ‘no no no’” chorus is one of the most audacious pop moments of the ’00s so far. But all in all I’m not 100% sure that I was better off missing Daniel Lanois.

Bumbershoot 2003 (1): the socialist experience in America

I arrived at Bumbershoot yesterday about twenty minutes before the gates opened. The line for the gate stretched over a city block. I picked up my ticket (quietly ruing the purchase of a four day pass, since I was only able to attend the last day of the festival) and joined the back of the line. It was brisk and I was feeling underdressed (and too old) in my shorts and t-shirt, watching the “Impeach Bush” booth across the street. I was also feeling rushed. I had to pick up my wristband for the evening’s headliner act, turn around, and head back home to run some errands with Lisa before I returned in the afternoon. (She flew this morning to New Jersey for a few days work.) Once I got inside, I waited in two longer, slower lines (shades of Soviet food shortages? reflections of the tragedy of the commons? or just poor organization?) before I got my wristband. At one point I changed lines only to find myself worse off than when I started. People were queuing up without knowing what was at the other end: potatoes? Toilet paper? Maybe a wristband for the evening’s show? All things considered it wasn’t too bad: 45 minutes start to finish. But I hated turning around and leaving, even if I was coming back in four hours.