Archive for the ‘Shovels’ Category

 

I have a personal adage,  I use when I am working with my clients.  When I feel they are pursuing something that they shouldn’t, I make my best arguments against three times, in forceful but respectful fashion.  If, after all of that (and I have documented history of telling them it was a bad idea), and then go ahead with their bad idea.

I have been re-watching the West Wing; it gives me comfort for a time when we al thought competence and a functional, non-corrupt government was something of value.  And in the episode I am watching, they are talking to people who were part of various administrations.

And the brings me to a Facebook exchange I had with a Chicago architect who is now a pundit and critic.  I asked Ed “if your asked to be the Architect of the Capitol, would you do it?” and he responded by saying, flatly, “NO”

After watching this episode (which included Karl Rove, a man I loathe) I think my friend Ed is wrong.  I (who am in absolutely no danger of being asked to do so), if I was asked to be Architect of The Capitol, would do it immediately.

Because I am passionate about buildings at every level. I love old factory buildings. I love historic government buildings. I love cape cods built by people just trying to live one more season.

If i hd the opportunity, I would oppose him at every level, until he decided to give us money for restoration and preservation .

Yeah, I would be fired the first time I told him he can’t install gold plated toilets in the White House.

But I will tell you this:  I do not suck up to anybody, and while I am willing to compromise, fuck that selling out shit.

And I would be fired.  Probably the first tine I refused to allow a gold plated toilet to be installed in the White House.

Have I ever talked about my educational background?  I have what may be called a checkered past, maybe…..(scenes from a zombie’s school background):

  • I never passed an art or industrial arts class with anything less than an A
  • I took 4 1/2 years of math in high school.
  • I only passed college chemistry because I rode the coattails of a guy in the dorm room next to mine.
  • I took way more English than I ever needed in both high school and college, including a literature course in science fiction.
  • I had to request an academic probation in college rather than just abrupt dismissal.
  • In high school, my counselor looked at my transcript and was completely confuzzled, throwing his hands up.  I told him I was already working as a professional draftsman in a local engineering firm, so he said “sounds good to me!” and threw me out.
  • My father insisted I go to college (mainly due to the fact that he declined an opportunity to go himself because of a local antipathy to college boys) and I have thanked him for it ever since, believe me…
  • Because I didn’t plan on going to college, I hadn’t done the preparatory research, taken the good tests, or made applications.  So it was a matter of which colleges had majors that seemed like a good fit, had entry requirements I could meet, and available space (and also, which ones were out of town, so I could move the hell out).  And at that point, Wisconsin still believed in the value of affordable State colleges, so there was one or two that fit that definition (this becomes important almost immediately).
  • After all that, I graduated from SARUP undergrad and grad school, with two separate special studios at the high level of Master’s.
  • I have been invited back to the school as a participant in design efforts, student reviews, and special presentations.

Land Grant Colleges are an important and amazing idea in the history of our country.  They provided high level educational opportunities to people from moderate means across the country, and most of them, especially the University of Wisconsin (which was further supported by the incorporation of the Wisconsin Idea, which pledged the use of the resources of the college campuses to further and develop ideas in support of the public good. In recent years, the Dean of the Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning has been exemplary in using the talent in his school to foster free exchange of fresh ideas and progressive ideas.  It is no random happenstance that since he took Deanership, we have seen Milwaukee out perform the economic development of every other area in Wisconsin, and we have seen things like expansion of public transit, improvement of sustainability, development of spectacular puck amenities like the Children’s Museum, the Calatrava museum addition, expansion of Summerfest, continued development of the Riverwalk, making Milwaukee one of the best bicycle cities in the Midwest, and on and on.

So I find this a bit personal.

Turdwaffle , following on his ALEC-ordered attack on unions with Act 10, followed up by trying to avoid the huge public outcry and do this on the down low:  removing mentions of the Wisconsin Idea from his budget;  obviously the first step to removing it from all public documentation altogether.  This was in 2015.  It was of course, done, because he has a compliant Republican Lege, who fall in line like a bunch of big, stupid dominoes.

So now, Our Governor Fucknuckle has decided that the best thing for one of the highest regarded research and publicly oriented college system in the country now needs to be more oriented toward making it a fancy-pants technical school providing drink workers for the rich and wealthy.

Oh, am I being hyperbolic?  Here:

Walker wants UW campuses to compete for $42.5 million in new funding based on graduation rates, average time to degree, percentage of graduates who get jobs, and how many of them work in high-demand fields in Wisconsin, among other measures.

So these colleges, acclaimed worldwide and also offering amazing opportunities to people who might not otherwise have them, now have to go cutthroat about how many of their students get placed with work farms that are acceptable to the Wisconsin Government Corporate Masters.

So yeah, I feel this is a bit personal.  The existence of the UW system allowed me to go to college in a way that was not high-stress and was still access to an amazing education that opened up my fucking world.  And Turdwaffle says “let’s try to fuck this over!” because he is a dim, small-minded, Republican knee-walking shit-sniffing obsequious complete fucknuckle.

It’s not a Friday, but here you go:

 

Go Fuck Yourself Also Too

It’s a Holiday Tradition at the Empire!  The Piano Story.  And, since the country started holiday drinking early, we have a new Un-President who is eager to get that nuculer war under way, so here’s a jolly little ditty:

In a more generous and Christmas-ey note, Milwaukee musician and Empire fave Trapper Schoepp got his piano this year.

Merry XMess

THE FIRST LAUGH
Recently, someone pointed me towards an online humor carnival. I didn’t throw anything into it, but it made me think about funny moments.

And one of the funniest moments I’ve ever seen personally was such a minor slapsticky moment, it didn’t seem worth it. It was a time when my girlfriend at the time walked full into a glass door. Did you ever see a Star Trek Blooper where Shatner charges into one of those Enterprise doors, expecting the stage hands to pull them aside in time for him to lunge through, and they don’t? Shatner makes a thwock sound and bounces back five or six feet. This was exactly like that except funnier, and I fell over laughing helplessly.

Well, for some reason that girlfriend didn’t immediately drop me as an inconsiderate buffoon; several years later after getting married, graduating, getting a job and finding a real apartment, it was a good time to show how much she meant to me; it was time to find The Perfect Christmas Gift.

THE SET-UP
My wife constantly lamented her family’s inability to afford a piano as a child. As a good husband, one only has to mention something 3 or 4 hundred times before I clue into it, so I struck upon the inspired idea of giving her a piano for Christmas. A Piano!

….uuhhh, how does one go about procuring a piano?

Let’s start with the Yellow Pages! (pre-internet, kidsos, keep up here.) Ahh. A place right downtown called the Piano Gallery. Good place to start. Could I BE a bigger idiot? It was a friggin’ GALLERY. With Pianos, beautiful, gorgeous pianos of spectacular finish and epic, gorgeous tone; pianos that could make you weep. Both kinds: Grand and Baby Grand. Reconditioned, starting at eight thousand dollars. Whoops! Maybe this idea won’t be going anywhere after all. Let’s look at calendars.

Well, after puttering around a couple of mall-style stores that seemed to specialize in automated piano-like organs with automatic beats aimed at little old ladies to jazz up rhumba night at the retirement home, I resorted to the For Sale ads. (These are like an analog version of Craig’s List for you kidsos. newspapers used to have them. Ask your grandfather what a newspaper was.) Finally I found an upright for sale right in the sweet spot of my price range. Oddly enough, when I came to look at it, the address was…a waterbed store? Weirder and weirder. I went in and asked for Mark, who was apparently the manager.

He took me back to the loading dock, and I asked… “Why are you selling it ? And… why in a waterbed store?” Mark replied that he had moved to town recently, their condo did not have room, and so it had to go.

The piano was an upright made in Chicago by Camp & Company around 1914; the wood had warm golden finish that was soft and deep. There were some carved and applied wood details, that were more of a crude craftsman style; they imparted an unassuming , almost home built character. The ivory on the keys was yellowed, but smooth, evidence of its age and the thousands of fingers that had played it. As an architect, I am always sensitive to the way built items age and acquire historic patina; the instrument appealed to me on an aesthetic level.

He asked me if I wanted to play it, and I replied that it would be a gift for my wife, that I didn’t really know how to play and knew little of pianos. So he sat on the railing of the loading dock and pounded out some boogie-woogie, and a little christmas music. Although the instrument was maybe a bit out of tune, it had a lively, ebullient sound. (Later I found that through dumb luck, we had acquired an instrument that was well built with a nearly-intact soundboard and a serviceable action). It was obvious that he loved the instrument, it sounded passable to my tin ears, and I said it was a deal.

THE ROUND-UP
Now here’s where things get intricate, and I maybe tried to be too tricksy. I wanted to deliver it on Christmas eve, which was a Saturday this year. Mark said he would be able to work with that on two conditions: First, it would have to be in the morning, because he would have to open the store to get it; and second, that I pay him in cash, because he and his family were leaving for a Holiday trip that day. This seemed workable to me; how vainly optimistic one can be!

I arranged for a couple of friends, Mike, Rory and Jack to help me out, and spent several days congratulating myself on achieving the Perfect Gift. I was just counting chickens, friends and guinea pigs, when the eggs were alligator.

THE HOOK
Saturday Morning, Christmas Eve. My wife got up and needed to do some last minute shopping; how perfect! I could barely keep from laughing and telling all in glee as I kissed her goodbye. My helpers were due to be here by 10 AM, so I had to get to U-Haul to get a truck. I have no compunction about mentioning the company here; you will soon see why.

The U-Haul store was a bit busy, but they had assured me they had a truck when I called. They certainly did: a nineteen foot delivery truck. NINETEEN feet. For a single piano. Of course, the advertised $19.95 rate was not available for this truck. The small truck with the $19.95 banner parked right next to this one? Not serviced; not available. Oh well, small concern, considering the cost of the gift. Gimme the keys. Took the truck home, to wait for my helpers.

9:30.

10:00

10:30

10:45. By now, i started calling them. Rory? no answer. Jack? No Answer. Mike? Finally an answer! Hoarsely, “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it….” Rory? Still no answer. Jack calls back. Jack! He wasn’t going to be able to make it either, unless we could be sure he’d be done by 2 PM. Oh, no problem! Come on over! Okay, fine, after you’ve had some coffee. I didn’t tell you to go drinking last night.

So, Jack and I -just half of the movers I had anticipated as necessary – finally got back into the truck by about quarter after eleven, and got on the road.

THE TALE
Hah. Fooled you. It wasn’t that easy, of course. The truck wouldn’t start. Not a dead battery; it was a gap in the flywheel. For you non-gearheads, this meant that the starter would just spin away without turning the engine at all. I looked at Jack; he looked at me. Ummm. After fooling around for ten minutes, Jack had a brainstorm – he disengaged the gear shift, which moved the flywheel – just enough – that the starter caught and the engine started.    Wooo! Here we go. Down the highway, back behind the waterbed store and back up to the loading dock, killing the truck and running in to meet Mark, who was very impatient by now.

Now go back and read that last sentence again, and see if you can catch our mistake. Let the adventure begin.

I went in and paid Mark, and while Jack and I were securing the piano, Mark closed the door and hit the road. Jack and I laughed to see the piano – just an upright – sitting in that cavernous truck, roped to the side.  We could have fit a whole CAR in there and never touched the piano.

Back to the cab, ready to go. As you may have guessed, the starter was whiffing again. We tried the gearshift trick, but this time were not so lucky, it didn’t help. The truck was in a loading dock depression, so we couldn’t push it . Now Jack and I looked at each other and had little in the way of ideas. You know, keep in mind that at this time cell phones were bigger than bricks and cost thousands of dollars.

Settle in now, this is getting interesting.

Hey, there’s a phone by the gas station across the street. (station closed, of course). But who to call? I can’t call my wife, besides the awful giveaway, she’s not home. Try calling U-Haul? They’re no longer open. Isn’t there an emergency number? If I ran U-Haul, it would be plastered all over the inside of the cab. After half an hour of searching, we finally find it, in the small print of the Operations Manual. So I give it a call.

And get an operator. In Arizona. Who wonders whether it’s cold in Wisconsin. Ha-ha, yes, and we’ve got snow. And I’m standing outside in an open phone booth, trying to get help for the broken-ass truck that I rented from a Local U-hauler. Ha-ha, yes it’s not a good day for it, is it? Enough with the levity, let’s start discussing how you’re going to help me. You what? You need to call the local 24 hour service, who will get back to me? Fuck me sideways with a christmas tree, did I mention I am standing outside an open phone booth? By a highway? Oh, yes, please do try and get him to call as quickly as possible.

I run back to the truck to tell Jack that I got somebody, but now I need to wait for a return call.

And run back across the road to wait. It starts to snow.

UNDER-SERVED
While I’m waiting, Jack comes over to give his sister a call. It is now after 1 PM, and he’s got to get on the road somehow. After he calls, we notice a bar across the highway that appears to be open. Hey, just the thing! A nice hot drink, some brandy certainly, maybe a snack… we can call Arizona Lady back and give her the bar’s number. This works! We dodge the traffic to get across and tumble through the door, savoring the warmth and the welcoming smells of a tavern … aaaaahhhh.

“Hey, gents! Can we do something quick for ya? We’re closing down.”

Gaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh…… A quick explanation, and no, we can’t hang around even if they’re closed, whattaya, nuts? Gotta get home to the family!! So – it’s back to the phone booth. And the snow.

BYPASS ON THE BYPASS
Now, this is the place where the Universe looks down and… decides to fuck with me. I mean more. As I stand and wait for someone, somewhere to dial this phone on an icy intersection in the deepening wintery gloom, there’s little to do but watch the cars go by. Lights change, cars go one way; the lights change again and they go the other. A fair amount of last minute shopping traffic, actually. The phone is close enough to the street to be able to see drivers clearly. Once in a while, one looks over at me; maybe one out of four looks at me in puzzlement, obviously wondering what in hell is possessing me to stand there. But most of them are just driving past, much more intent on finishing their shopping and getting the hell home. And as I am watching the cars, I see one at the next light that looks an awful lot like ours. At the time, we had a last-year-model Fiero, you see, and there were not that many of them on the streets. Kind of unusual. This one matched ours. I couldn’t make out the license plate, though, and as it swept around the corner, of course I saw quite clearly: my wife. In our Fiero. Driving blithely right past me. Stranded at an abandoned gas station, with her gift stranded in a truck across the street.

The impulse to try and wave her down came, but the car was gone before any frozen limbs could be cracked into action. She was one of the drivers who paid no attention, of course. If someone had driven by with an open window at that moment, they might have been able to hear a few cracked, desperate laughs through the wind and snow.

OVER THE WIRE
After some indefinable amount of time passed, the phone rang. It was Arizona Lady.

Well, things were going great down in Arizona. She had located the service company up in Milwaukee, and left a message for their driver….

“Hold on. Left a message?”

“Yes sir.”

“Your truck has left me stranded by a highway in the Wisconsin winter, and you left a message?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I know it may not seem terribly urgent down there in Arizona, but did it ever occur to you that I am sitting here with a defunct piece of shit truck, freezing while I’m waiting for help, and that maybe it could use a bit more effort than leaving a message?”

“Sir, I have done what I can. Why don’t you run the truck heater?”

“IF I COULD START THE TRUCK TO RUN THE HEATER, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.”

“I AM sorry sir.”

“…yea, me too. Just….do what you can, OK? It’s not Arizona up here.”

The tow truck driver would be calling me at the pay phone number after he checked his messages; he would let me know when he was ready to come and get me. Thankfully and against all expectation, the driver called me within a few minutes, and after getting the location, let me know that it would likely be about 45 minutes, because he had another job to take care of first. Busy season, ya know. I agreed; next time I would plan my breakdown emergency better and schedule ahead.

Jack’s sister showed up soon with their car packed for their own holiday trip, full of clothes, gifts, and their two large dogs. Although cramped, we all piled into the front seat grateful for the warmth; the truck cab had gotten down to air temperature by now and we were chilled. Jack, his sister and I shared passed around…. well a little bit of holiday cheer, I guess you could call it; by the time they left for their own holiday gathering, most of my despair had been blunted, for a short time at least. It was three PM, and the sky was leaden gray, although the snow had mostly stopped.

I walked across the road once again to use that cursed open phone to call home and leave a message.

“Hi, it’s me. I….well, I’m having quite a day. I will probably be home in an hour or two. Nothing’s wrong, really; I’m OK. It’s just….well, I’ll explain when I get home. Don’t worry.”

Then, I settled into the cab alone to try and stay warm and wait for the tow driver, hoping this wouldn’t be too long.

THE HOOK-UP
I was a little surprised when I saw the tow truck pull into the parking lot. I had forgotten that U-Haul had given me the 19 footer. The tow truck was a 6 wheel monstrosity with dual booms, as large as a semi truck cab. It was about 4:30, and it had gotten fully dark by now. I stepped out and Chris introduced himself. He asked me what was wrong with the truck, and then spent some time looking it over. After a few minutes, I asked if I could sit in the cab of the tow, because I had been out here in the cold for hours.

“Oh, sure! Go ahead! Why didn’t you run the heater?”

Grrmmph.

THE SHOVE-OFF
Chris came back and said that the truck was in pretty bad shape. No news to me, of course, but I was just thankful to be warming up. Now, he started to explain to me that he was on a 24 hour call cycle from the Milwaukee Police department, and that all weekend he would be on call to clear accident sites for them. I was concentrating on getting warm, and didn’t really register what he was saying, until something like this came out:

“…so I would have to leave you and your truck and take care of it…”

“…wait, what?”

“Well, if the police call with a tow request, I’ll have to dump you and your truck and take care of their needs first. I just want to be clear about that before I start towing you.”

“Um. What’s the alternative?”

“I could try calling one of the other towing services for you, but I don’t know anybody else on call this weekend. It’s a holiday, you know.”

“I’ve been made aware. I’m gonna take the chance. Just one thing; if you get another call, can I ride with you, rather than sitting in that broken-ass truck?”

“Well…I’m not supposed to. But maybe…. OK, but just stay in the truck when we do, OK?”

“Fine. Great. Let’s go.”

So Chris turned up the heater for me, and went back to disconnect the drive shaft and get the truck hoisted. He came back into the tow cab to fill out some paperwork, and then he got back out to check the connections.  And then he put the hoist back down, because guess what? Yes, he got a call from the MPD. And off we went to an accident site.

HOOKED
It was a pretty minor fender bender, all things considered, right outside of a gas station. I sat in the cab and watch Chris and the cops work, and looked into the convenience store to see a clerk waiting on people for gas, beer, and cigarettes. When Chris got back in, he mentioned that the car was probably drivable, but the driver was DUI, so he had to tow it to the impound lot. Now warm, I could even muster a bit of humor; “Someone who’s having a worse Christmas Eve than I am.” I said. I asked Chris if he’d mind if I stepped out to use the pay phone and call home. This time my wife was home. Now, will it be possible to not let the secret out?

“Hi. I’m still having a bit of , umm, delay . Adventure. But there’s progress and I should be home in a little while.”

“…ohhh-kaaaaay…”

“Ummm, is Tom home upstairs?”

“…yea, I think so.”

“Could you ask him if he might be around a little later? I might need some help.”

“…ohhhh-kaaaaay….what kind of help?”

“just – umm,  help moving something. OK?”

“….ohhh-kaaaaay…”

Chris had gotten the car hooked up and we were off to the impound lot. Which is not the holiday destination you’d expect it to be.

It was after 7 by the time we got back to ‘my’ truck. Chris just had to hoist it at this point, though, and were on the road relatively quickly. I almost cried….no, I did cry. A little bit. After all this time, to actually be making some progress, some distance, in the direction I wanted to go….it was too much.

After about ten minutes of travel, the radio squawked. I looked up, startled, Chris looked at me and answered – another MPD call. Chris was apologetic, but duty called first and we dropped the crippled truck in a closed mall’s parking lot. It looked abandoned, sitting alone in the middle of the paving under a single light, no other vehicle around it. I worried, briefly, about someone burglarizing it. But what would they do with a piano? As we turned the corner, I wasn’t sure I cared.

THE BIG ROLL
This accident was a good deal less significant than the previous, and Chris just had to clear the street. Another tow truck was coming for the vehicle. So amazingly enough, we were back on the road toward my abandoned truck within half an hour or so. It was 8:30.

Again, Chris hoisted the U-Haul truck, and we turned out onto the highway. Chris was conciliatory at this point, and he vowed that if he received another call, he would make sure he dropped me off before answering it. I wasn’t terribly concerned at this point; I was warm.

He didn’t get another call, though, and just after 9 PM on Christmas Eve, we pulled up in front of our duplex. Turns out I didn’t need Tom from upstairs to help us move the piano. Chris was a large guy, and being sympathetic to the effort it took for me to get this far, helped me unload the piano and get it in our apartment.

My wife, of course, loved the piano and still does; it took several drinks to tell the story and still is a holiday favorite.  But I always find myself thinking to what it must have looked like to my wife, keeping a watch for me to come home through our front windows.  Eventually, the tow truck turned the corner, with it’s full array of running and flashing lights, and the lights of the U-Haul truck also lit up.  I have no idea what this 40-plus feet of contraption looked like, coming to a stop in front of our apartment.  Normally, it would be the results of some large, appalling accident.  But for this one year, at least, it looked like Christmas.
Epilogue:  THE STING
Chris helped me move the instrument into our apartment, and I insisted on tipping him all the cash I had left. He had performed above and beyond the call of duty. He asked whether I wanted him to drop the truck.“I never want to lay eyes on that vehicle again. If I see it out there tomorrow morning, I’ll probably set it on fire; so you could leave it at the U-Haul store, their repair lot, or push it into the lake, makes no difference to me.” He said he’d drop it at their repair lot.On the first business day after the holiday, I received a phone call from my favorite truck rental company.“Sir, we have you on record as renting a truck from us two days ago.””Uh-huh.”“Sir, we need to know where the truck is.”

Oh, let’s close the curtain on that scene; and you can just fill in the blanks for the rest of THAT conversation.

To all my imaginary digital friends, acquaintances, visitors and general pains in the asses, enjoy your own holidays, love your friends and family, and I hope someone brought you YOUR piano.

I brung this over from Facebook, because it became apparent that I would go long on this.

http://web.musicaficionado.com/main.html#!/article/The_Classic_Rock_Band_Current_Lineup_Scorecard_by_craigrosen?campaign=fbbandscpc

This is an interesting digression. Because, as we all get older, the people in the bands we love tend to die. Now, loss of Kurt Cobain obviously meant Nirvana was no more, as he was singer and principal songwriter. But for a band like the Mekons, every song is credited to Mekons and they are legendary for mixing and matching band members not only over time, but over a year. (They leave themselves an out, in that all people who have performed with the band are Mekons or Deputy Mekons, forever and anon and, as Jon Langford once said “The only way out of the Mekons is in a box”. Maybe not so funny now that people are actually taking that exit…)

But here’s where it gets to the nub for me. Because, you know, before you knew the band they changed members. Pretty regularly. It is, in fact, very rare that bands maintain any kind of band roster, even after they get a recording contract. For instance, many people will not know that Steve Perry was not an original member of Journey.

Also, as far as I am concerned, kicking Dennis DeYoung out of Styx was simply a reasonable use of a fortuitous occurrence to being able to play on stage without wearing robot costumes EVER AGAIN….

The examples are Numerous.  The Who went on without Keith Moon, but some would say they were never the same.  I have personally seen Springsteen with and without the Big Man, and the show without was better (although not because of the change, admittedly).  REM soldiered on without Bill Berry, but the spark seemed missing.  Pink Floyd are a completely singular case, as they seem to need to discard primary members on a regular basis…

Elvis Costello and ELO had a singular driving personality, but they benefitted from band consistency, but it did not turn out to be crucial  Red Hot Chili Peppers had to deal with rotating drug use/ guitarist flaking, but they seemed to go on just fine; the time I saw them was post-Hillel and they were pretty fucking awesome.  The Pretenders stopped pretending and just have a band backing up Chrissie at this point.

The English Beat are one of the worst, with Dave Wakeling leading a band of much younger people through the songs he wrote and sang when he was much younger.  But you know what?  The songs are the same….

And that, to me is where the dividing line happens. When the band has new members, do they move on and try to move into new music, or is it a simple desire to recapture past glory and serve the nostalgic impulses that people will pay money for?  Because, like I said, bands change members all the time while they are building audience and writing material.  So, after they get famous, what is wrong with them continuing to do so?  Except, of course, for the fact than no one comes out to their shows to hear new music.  Mick Jagger once said in an interview that “No one wants to hear your new songs”.  To which, David Bowie SHOULD have replied “Well, maybe they don’t want to hear YOUR new songs”…

A long-lived band has that tough row to hoe.  I can see how it is much easier to just go into the nostalgia circuit (hell, I just went to see X play from their first four albums.  I saw Matthew Sweet do Girlfriend.  I am Guilty).

So I am going to talk about two bands I am most familiar with and you know who I am going to say. Blue Oyster Cult and Mekons.  Come on, you knew where this was going.

Blue Oyster Cult was existing in a couple of different incarnation in the late 60s and early 70s, mainly revolving around Buck Dharma and the Bouchard brothers. Their early stuff was more psychedelia filtered through garage rock; but adding Menacing presence (although oddly short) Eric Bloom and sharing songwriting with Sandy Pearlman took them in a darker tone.  Yes, they spent the 70s with a single lineup.  But when band members started dying, Bloom and Buck kept on, tapping some great musicians and continuing to record albums resulting in great songs that you never heard like “Dance On Stilts” and “Harvest Moon” which should have been hits.

Look, here is a timeline of band members:

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That is what every band’s life looks like.

At this point I will not even get into the Mekons band life, which is twisted even by that standard.  So here’s what I have to say.

I really respect bands who continue to work past their supposed “high point” by working hard and writing new music (Hello, Cheap Trick!”)  and I am the guy out there cheering for your new songs, because new music is the fuel I use to keep moving….

But there are bands that helped make us the people we are today, and sometimes the best you can do is to see them in some weird modern incarnation.  I mean, for me, seeing the Beach Boys without Brian Wilson would be meaningless, but many people like it.  Of course, none of them want to hear any new songs, but want to hear a greatest hits compilation .  This is where I should badmouth them, but I saw the Police reunion tour (and Elvis Costello, opening, with vital new music, was SO MUCH BETTER but that is me).

I have seen Styx several times, and I think they are better without Dennis DeYoung.  I saw Blue Oyster Cult in various levels of original members, and with one notable exception, they were always great. I have never seen Cheap Trick in a any way not be fantastic. But there are tribute bands, that are working the circuit to compensate for bands that no longer perform.  I have been a great fan of Chicago’s Think Floyd, who I have seen prefer an entire Wall show.  Toronto’s Musical Box performs full theatrical performances of Genesis, true to their performances in the 70s including costumes. I have seen them do Lamb Lies Down on Broadway three times.

Sometimes bands pull it together for a cash-in.  The Violent Femmes are way guilty of this (although once they did it in a Tsunami benefit; for which we have a signed band-aid poster).

Because here: it’s about the music.  Its about what it means to you.  The music happened, once upon a time.  Sometimes, people perform it for you.  Some of them may have been part of the original band, some may have not.  If you love classical music, no one involved is still alive… But enjoy it or not, based on the skill of the musicians involved….and then, at the end, say wasn’t that the best?

With that offhand comment by Jon Langford, the Mekons had a mission statement, and proceeded to act it out.  Because of course they did.

At this point, they not only are perfectly willing to completely throw any conceptions about music, songwriting, and performance away, they have earned the right to do so.  If you have hung out here for any amount of time, you may have absorbed some of their background; art-school punks who not only COULDN’T play their instruments (actually, Gang of Four’s instruments, but that’s neither here nor there) but they REFUSED to.  And they’ve been unceremoniously dropped by more record labels than you have parents.  But they still keep on; and as was said in Joe Angio’s stellar doc “Revenge Of The Mekons” it may be argued, with little disagreement, that here and now, nearly 40 years on, they are making the most vital and important music of their career….

It has been a really good time to be a Mekons fan.  Langford has been as prolific as ever, solo and with the Wacos.  The Mekons released a wonderful collaboration with the amazing Robbie Fulks (Jura), recorded in a remote Scottish island.  There was a tour that came to Mineral Point Wisconsin, which brought me back from the dead. The afore-mentioned documentary, which had great reviews and had TWO showings (with band members for Q&A!) at the MKE Film Festival (yes, I went to both!)

I have said several times, and I expect I will again; that I deeply regret not being able to attend this event, held at a small art place in Brooklyn; Jalopy (BBBB was SINGULARLY unhelpful in getting me a ticket NOT THAT I AM ANGRY).  75 Mekon fans and the band with a single mic input recording all-new music and the audience was the on-hand Feral Choir.  I mean, I am as feral as anyone!

And, being the Mekons, they also did a book and full-length video.  Because, again, why not and they have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want.

The video is by Barry Mills, who has worked with them on several projects.  I saw his work when Langford and Timms brought The Executioner’s Last Songs to Alverno Theater.  This is, essentially a full album rock video; last done by REM for their second album.

The book is filled with prose and poetry, lyrics and art and free-association diatribes.  It will be best read while drunk.  Or maybe sober.  Or maybe while stoned.  Out loud?  On the beach at midnight, maybe. In any case, like the music that is not easy-listening, this is hardly easy-reading. As a friend, Boocock, says, this will take much reading and listening to digest.

The music is some of the best I’ve heard from them.  it is simple and straightforward, and the Feral Choir is a great addition (although maybe lacking for zombies).  I hear some echoes from the electro album, Me, in some of the drum-n-bass lines and some of the guitar work.

It is deceptively simple, but the references are thick and fast, not only to their own prior work, but the whole recorded history of music. There are even parts that sound like their first two albums.

In the book, one writer used the phrase “shambolic precision” and that is a perfect distillation of the Mekons.  You watch them play, listen to them, and you don’t know whether they know what they are doing or whether they are just getting lucky. It always seems to be just this side of going off the rails, and that is what makes it so engaging when it turns into anthemic rage or a lovely dirge.

I know that this will do little for most of you, but here is a part of the video, for a song called “Fear and Beer (hymn for Brexit)”  featuring normal violin playing Suzie Honeyperson on piano:

 

To me, this album has really built on and taken the best from their last four or five albums (which were mostly really good, with one stellar).  It is deceptively simple, but keeps surprising you.  It has a wide variety, but the enforced order of the recording process keeps a common thread.  It may be noted that the contributions of Steve Goulding and Lu Edmonds may help to keep it on the rails more often than not. But  It also sounds like they were having a helluva time, playing in front of a bunch of friends and fans.  And let me tell you, watching the Mekons play when they are having a good time is a special thing indeed.

It’s worth mentioning that the first time I saw the Mekons, they were on their first major label tour, and they were having a blast.  The next time, I brought Wife Sublime, and they had just been dropped by the label, in the middle of America.  They were decidedly NOT having a great time.  We left.

It is very odd, when I think about it; why this band has come to mean so much to me.  You may also be perplexed and you are allowed to be.   They are, yes inconsistent. Although they came out of the first flush of British punk, they moved on from that long ago.  Although they pioneered the ‘alt-country’ genre, they do not play the American version of it like Wilco or Old 97s (both of whom I love).  They WILL play a song you hate just to get a reaction.

However, they are perfectly happy to drink with you before and after a show, and they have absolutely no pretensions of being ‘rockstars’.  They are musicians and artists who respect that you have paid money for their work, and they kind of love you for that.

But I think the basic reason I love their work so much is that they are unwilling to repeat themselves; they have no interest in doing similar things, over and over but rather want to explore, to find the things that interest them and where that takes them. This extends to all of their creative artistic endeavors, art writing whatever.  They are not content to sit still.  If you look at the difference between “Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Curse Of The Mekons” ; although the band thought they were delivering what the record label wanted, it was different enough that the second record was never released and the band was dropped mid-tour (see above).

They have said that they only get together when they feel like there’s a reason; memorably, they had an introspective, acoustic album called Natural that happened when a mutual friend died, and they were all in one location for the funeral proceedings.

Everything they have ever published has been credited to “Mekons”, even though there have been like 300 Mekons and Jon Langford has said “the only way out of the band is in a box” and since a couple have died, that is not so funny…

I ramble, on I ramble, like Brian Jones I ramble, and I don’t know where I am going or where I should be going.  I have tried to grapple with my affection for these art-school dropout weirdos, and am not sure I have gotten any closer.  But I will say that after three listens and the video, that I think this album is one of my favorites.

The Mekons started in the late 70s.  I saw them first in the mid-80s.  The album “Rock ‘n’ Roll” catapulted to my favorite list and yes, i put it on top of London Calling.  And since then, as weird and off-kilter they have been (or maybe because of it?) they have remained there. To me, they never disappoint, and I think that is mainly because they never bother do work that disappoints themselves…

Saw X last night, with original Guitarist Billy Zoom.  I think this was a kind gesture from the rest of the band, since he is recovering from cancer.  Yes, he spent most of it on a stool, but he spent the time playing Punkabilly riffs with never looking at the fretboard, like Buck Dharma.

X  is like the punk Black Sabbath.  The first four albums are FLAWLESS.  I didn’t get into them until Under The Big Black Sun, but holy hell did that burn holes into my psyche, and the songs that dealt with the death of Exene’s sister managed a way of being sad and screaming into the void that I have always loved about my all my favorite music.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about .  Here to talk about the draft.  Wait a minute.  Let me back up.  Get a new drink.

I’m here to talk about Republicans.  Conservatives.  Bigots.  Tea Party.

Mikey and I had much of this discussion on a prior post.  But I want to kind of go on to enumerate things that I see on the Uncle Liberty and Wingnut Facebook network.

  • Hillary is a liar.
  • Hillary is a criminal
  • Hillary is a murderer.
  • The Democrats will ALWAYS steal an election
  • Al Gore is fat
  • Hillary has brain damage.
  • Hillary has bad personal style.

At this point, I will not bother with the Benghazi benghazi BENGHAZI! bullshit or the email fucking beating of a fucking dead horse.

Seriously, I have to laugh at the conservatives I see.  The only thing they have is to be able to use photo memes that solely reinforce the above list with no actual links or references.  In fact, on FB I recently saw one of them hijack a quote from Andy fucking Borowitz, swapping out “Trump” for “Hillary” like that somehow proved something….

Which is the funny thing I find about the Republicans respond when you respond with actual facts and links; without fail they do one or both of these: tell you that mainstream media links are not worth considering, and then going into a Gish Gallop.

Here is the reality:

Hilary Clinton has spent her entire life trying to help other people.

She spent much of her early life going into poor and minority neighborhoods, finding out what the worst things were, and directly attacking those problems. With much success.  Doing it in a very direct, face-to-face way that made many black people lover her and her work

And she did that as the wife of a Governor.  Continuing to go out and doing the fucking hard work of hitting the bricks and finding out what the problems are, and meeting the people who had those problems. And making helping those people one of the most important things ever.

As a daughter of privilege, she bought into the hippie idea that we have to help the lowest FIRST, and she did that with everything she did ever after.  She started her life by declining a law career in favor of helping the poor and children who needed health care and education.  A white girl going into poor African American communities.  And the Republicans say she doesn’t care about black people….

She tried to help America with doing something better with health care (HOW EVILE)  and when that crashed, she pivoted and started working directly to create SCHIP, which put millions of kids under health care.  Of course, the Republicans have opposed that….

hmpf.  I once thought I would go through all the stupid bullshit.  But you know, it is all more than obvious, so fuck that.

Here’s the summary:

  • Hillary is not the antichrist
  • Hillary is not the devil
  • Hillary is not a lesbian
  • Hillary never murdered, or ordered the murder, of anyone.
  • Hillary, at 68, has no more health concerns than 70 year old man. Maybe fewer; most women are better at managing their health than men….
  • If you think Hillary having problems in heels, going up stairs, then let’s see Trump doing the same thing….
  • Election Fraud is non-existent.
  • Election Fraud is a fake reason to allow for voter restriction.
  • Hair and personal style is only allowed as a criticism against women, never men.
  • I kinda love the idea that they have resurrected the Clinton Kill list.
  • The Clinton Foundation is as scrutinized and high profile a charitable foundation as ever created.  They return 88 cents on the dollar to actually helping people around the world, Bill and Hillary take no salaries, and both of them are revered around the planet for the good they have done.

I remember back eight years, when SO MANY people told us how voting for a Democrat, was going to be horrible terrible and so horrible and this was horrible. It ws going to result in wars, death and devastation, the destruction of the economy and the takeover of America with sharia law or some damn thing like that.  No, it never made any sense but then paranoid racist fantasies never do.

None of that happened.  Not a single thing.

Obama managed the most significant progressive legislation in many years.  He salvaged the economy. Record advancements in LGBT rights.  the Iran Deal.  making Republicans shit-eating crazy….

As OBS says, this election is going to set some very bad precedents; it already has.  Releasing tax returns is now a thing of the past.  Treating opponents with respect is now abandoned in favor of infantile insults and grade school nicknames (which do, I admit, seem to be effective at least on one side of the spectrum). Dick sizes have been measured in a televised Presidential debate.  I am sure we will see many more accepted norms be blown up in a spray of orange cheeto dust and flash of flammable hairspray.

But you know what?  After watching Clinton in the 2008 primary, and her ability to put it behind her to become SoS, and watching her deftly handle a serious challenge from Sanders…not to mention the decades of scurrilous, sexist, rightwing whack job hit pieces on her and her family – and she is still perfectly poised and never actually losing her shit at any point of the way.  The wing nuts are mocking her for her delight in the Democratic balloon drop, but I have to say, after the past few decades, a few minutes of delight at a momentous occasion?  She fucking deserves it.

She is a long-lived politician who, despite constant attacks from opponents, is still standing.  And that drives them absolutely fucking crazy.  And she mocks them for that. I think, after all these years, she is kind of looking forward to giving them the back of her fucking hand.

And yes, THAT is kind of exactly the person I want to be leading our country.

 

 

 

Sunday, nightfall.  It’s been a strange week, and the festival the week before took all the weirdos and freaks out of circulation for a fair amount of time, which made my life easier.  because, of course, I was one of those weirdos and freaks.

It’s not as if I can expect that sultry woman with available cash and a questionable task.  I am, after all, an Architect.

But I do have a large bottle of brown goods to keep me company, and a bit of work to keep me occupied.

And I have a large outstanding bill, enough to buy me a new Lexus, from a formerly good client.  So, I will be debating the need to send large, unreasonable people to his place for resolution.  Or opting for more civilized solutions.  Because, the large uncivilized person will be me, when I decide to no longer be polite (to be honest, the client is like 14 inches shorter than me).

Complicating this, as it always will, is that Client is also my Landlord.  We have done bartering of my fees for rent for quite some time, and I am still WAY ahead.  But as I have reported, he is upset with my performance on a prior project; and rather than going the proper route to tap my E&O insurance, he seems to be withholding my fees on other projects.  Notably, the fees are for an unrelated project.

SINCE GODDAM FEBRUARY.

That, of course, is not how this works.

So, I either need to find a smoky hot Noir Babe to deliver my demands to him, a direct phone call, or filing liens on his office, home, Range Rover and perhaps one of his children.

This has required me to terminate my associate, so I am back to solo.  Which is fine;  I am better at this fucking crap that most people I know.   What I am NOT good at is doing it in a larger more corporate environment.

So, it’s time to hit the Office Rum, re-watch a little Breaking Bad, and try to understand how to salvage a damaged professional relationship, or failing that, turn it into a giant flaming devastating holocaust.