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"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." - Abbie Hoffman.

"The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting."-Bukowski

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act - George Orwell

Fans of Weaselworld...Check out Mike at www.mikefelten.com
 
November 2009 A tough year and a long drive.

            There is nothing as therapeutic for me as a long, lonely drive on a dry highway.

I find symmetry, an omega to a fuzzy alpha, a balm that can only be found edging my way to some wayside Gilead 48 mile-markers down the road,

            I am usually pretty resilient. Quite a few amazingly bad things have happened to me and a lot of basic human achievements have for some reason eluded me. On the other hand, I’ve stumbled into many unbelievable situations that have left me feeling really fortunate. There is a yin and a yang to it all, but sometimes the night seems a lot darker and longer. I try to get through the pain and believe in the dawn. Sometimes it is just too hard.

            This past year it has really rolled up on me. First my mom was diagnosed with cancer and was gone in three months. Then two days later, my Aunt Ann passed away.

Then there was the day that the fellow that I shared warehouse space with came in and told me his father had pancreatic cancer (he was gone in an instant), then I found out that a couple that booked a local bar fell on hard times – he was hospitalized and a tracheotomy had been performed (he survived, but they lost their house, car and his job temporarily) and my homeless buddy called me up and told me he had been beaten again.

I went to the bank to take out $20 to help him through the weekend.

            What next?

            My Aunt June passed away. She was the last of my father’s immediate family, five brothers and one sister. There was just one spouse left of all of that. I looked at a picture of them. It was some Christmas in somebody’s basement. They all liked beer. I could hear what they used to call “the Felten laugh”. It would roar and reverberate off of the heating ducts. They knew good times and most of them died way too young.

            And then my friend, Larry passed. We met though Oklahoma football. He was an unreconstructed roughneck, one of those few guys who would do anything for you – including knocking you on your ass if you needed it. He already had had a couple of heart surgeries by the time I met him. He had bouts with skin cancer and finally his lungs started to fail. Lord knows what combination of poison in those refineries and oil fields finally got him.

            A week or so after Larry passed, his older brother Bill was diagnosed. He was a quiet old guy when I met him. He like reading cowboy novels and making beaded jewelry. He’d sneak off to the casino on a regular basis. In his childhood, he had made the migration from Oklahoma to California and had lived the Grapes of Wrath. After that he was one of the guys that landed on Okinawa with a machine gun. He wouldn’t watch war movies.

            On our ‘get-away’ trips to watch a bad Oklahoma team play football this year, Bill was bedridden, in hospice care and seeing morphine induced snakes and cats crawling around his room. He passed a year to the day after my mom’s death.

            Somewhere in between we flew to Seattle to see Gail’s brothers. Her younger brother, Paul is suffering the long-term effects from Agent Orange poisoning in Vietnam. He is a little forgetful. They didn’t have many happy childhood memories to discuss. It just made me remember and mourn ‘the Felten laugh’ a little bit more.

            Most of this, I could anticipate, but it didn’t make it any easier.

 

            So I got in the car to drive. The show Wednesday night was sparse, but I met some friendly folks. Friday was a disaster. The fellow who owns the place is hoping that when the Quik-Trip raises their coffee prices that he’ll do better. I just drive away wondering what I am doing this for.

            I was thinking of my friend, Dave. He had let his dog slip out of grasp and it was hit and killed by a car. It had brought back a lot of memories of my own dogs. The bad day when Chunga bled out in my old Jesus Chrysler on the way home from the vet that still gives me a nightmare now and then. Our last dog, Madonna (son #1 named her) suffered the last night before we put her down. I slept on the floor next to her and tried to make it easier.

            I watched the movie “Marley and Me”. I was looking for a little humor. Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson never aged during the entire flick. The dog did their aging like a canine Dorian Gray. It was O.K. until Wilson got down on the floor and slept next to his ailing pet.

            I am a weeper anyway, but I cried a years worth of tears. The Comcast On Demand digitally froze. I had to rewind and watch some of it again. Then they had to test their early warning system (do they still call it conlrad?) and I had to rewind again. It was the middle of the night, but I couldn’t sleep like that.

            I was thinking of a dog I had when I was a kid. I had to save up to buy one and, of course, promise to take care of it. I bought a beagle. I think it was $35. It came from a puppy mill and it was sick. We took it to the vet and he told my dad to go and get our money back. After saving and waiting all that time and then to have it end with disease and probable death, I was a wreck.

            My dad was Scandinavian and pretty stoic. When he went in for heart surgery, we shook hands. This time, I remember crying into his shirt. I can remember the texture. It was the only time.

            Just because, he had this Nordic trait didn’t mean that he didn’t feel. We went and got another puppy. We got into a car wreck with our ’55 Ford on the way, but he didn’t turn back.

            That dog was a mixed breed. I didn’t care. It was a wild dog though. It chewed all of quarter-round baseboard and it loved chewing bottle caps. Since my parents were born in the depression, buying dog food was a sin to them. They would allow table scraps and that suited the dog just fine.

            Every year my dad worked two jobs for the holidays. He usually got on at Sears. As a kid I never realized or appreciated the sixteen-hour days that he put in. It was a matter of course.

            I ate supper with my mom and we fed the dog our table scraps. I don’t remember if it was some kind of soup or noodles that night or it might have been ice cream. The dog lapped it up and we went to bed.

            The old man stumbled in. I imagine he was a little bleary-eyed after sixteen-hours and I imagine he had stopped for a beer or two as well. The dog raised his head when he heard my dad. I guess that he had a little of the ‘table scraps’ left on his black snout. My dad saw this and thought that the animal was foaming at the mouth. I’m sure that it crossed his mind that if this dog was sick too, I might go off on another weeping jag from which I may never return.

            He got down on the floor and made the dog drink water. She thought that this was a great game. He wound up sleeping on cold linoleum kitchen floor under the sink next to her.

            This was a great story that we told at a lot of holiday gatherings. I can hear the “Felten laugh” as well as my dad’s “goddamnit” when he figured out he had slept on the floor because the dog was a messy eater.

            Now forty years later, tears came again. Man, was that love or what? Doing sixteen hours and then sleeping with a not-so sick dog on the floor. He deserved more than a handshake, but any more would’ve embarrassed him,

            So, I watched the end of “The Country Girl” with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. I thought I had seen it before, but I hadn’t. I saw the child’s hand slip out of Bing’s grasp and into death.

            I remembered the guy in Spike Lee’s Katrina piece that was holding onto his wife’s hand until he couldn’t hold her any longer and she slipped into the rushing water.

            And I went back to Dave and his dog.

            Why am I remembering all of this?

            I drank some milk until I fell asleep in my chair.

            I wondered if I should go and see my doctor. Am I clinically depressed? What good was he going to do for me? A little Paxil maybe? They’d never give me the drugs that I could enjoy and I wouldn’t take them if I had them.

             I took to the highway.

            I drove past the old Pickacup Coffeehouse that I used to play it. It is shuttered now because Carol got sick and didn’t have the energy to make it work anymore. I drove past the third generation of buildings that stand in the neighborhood that I grew up in. Instead of remembering Eimer’s little clothing store or my Uncle Bill’s tavern or Sonny dragging his clubfoot around the old Standard Oil; kids would be remembering the luxury condos and the UPS store when they grew up. The names on the old veteran’s monument had all weathered away. It was just a confusing lump of concrete on the corner.

            There were a couple of wrecks on the expressway in Chicago. A bunch of ambulances and fire trucks had lanes blocked. It took forever to get out of town into the twilight of Indiana and Michigan. The radio was fading, so I let the quiet in.

            I had played Albion a couple of times before and it had been pretty good. It is a church run little coffeehouse. There used to be a lot of these and now there aren’t. This time there was no one there to even let me in. The door was open so I went in. I put the lights on, set the PA and myself up. I was supposed to play from 8-10. A few minutes before eight one guy showed up. I was thinking that I should have stayed home. Then a few more people showed up and I figured that I had better start playing. The little room was full eventually. I played and talked. A lot of what I said here was expressed. Folks stayed and listened and talked back. At the end, I sold a bunch of CD’s and my little ice cream begging bucket was full of cash.

            It was three hours of dark highway home. I was feeling better. The year was over.

USC keeps calling me up and want me to get into their teacher’s certification program. That’s all tempting, but I’m going to be sixty in a couple of months, the course takes two years to complete and then I’m supposed to do five years in an inner city school. It might not be worth anyone’s while, but I’m still looking to the future, though it may be a limited one.

            In December I’ll be finished with my training at the history museum and I’ll be able to talk to kids about the Chicago Fire and their neighborhoods and bridges and buildings and prairie grass. My wife thinks that I’ll get bored, but I like six-year-olds.

            The old year is over. Maybe there is a greater sense of urgency. I can’t stand still because I’ll just wither. I need to finance myself a little better, but I’ve never been too interested in that. There’s a lot of me that I see in that museum. I just hope that I get a little space between all the inevitable bad stuff.

            I like to think that I can just keep driving, but I’ll run out of gas eventually.

                                                            -Mike

 
 
 
December 2008 - It has been a long time weasels. Most of my efforts have been directed to my musical career which I'm sure you've been following at www.mikefelten.com, but this little bit seems to belong here:

I am shocked. Shocked at the wide-eyed innocence that it appears the world operates with outside of the State of Illinois, the County of Cook and the City of Chicago.

Quid pro quo must not really be Latin, but a code developed in Bridgeport back when the effluvium of the stockyards made our rivers bubble with decaying waste.

Do you really think that our governor was going to bequeath a senate seat on the most capable public servant he could find? Our president-elect differentiates between those who view politics as a noble service and those who view it as a business. I truly hope that he knows something that I do not. I hope that he is not just blinded by the dew on his freshly bloomed rose. 

The last time that I checked I couldn’t find much here that was not for sale.

When a politician goes to jail he goes to jail because he drove too hard a bargain and/or over estimated his clout.

The Tribune Company did not blow the whistle on Gov. Rod. They know how the game is played. They were looking for a capital gains rebate on the sale of Wrigley Field. Whose pocket was that going to come out of?  It was a negotiation. Call off the criticism if you want to play ball. A couple of years ago, the mayor had sent in building inspectors to insure the public safety and threatened to hold up reconstruction of the Wrigley Field bleachers and additional night games. In return criticism of the mayor ended.

Children’s Memorial Hospital isn’t complaining either. They are building a new hospital in what is rapidly becoming a hospital campus in the Streeterville neighborhood. How many permits can be held up during new construction? How many wheels need to be greased? We are the city that works and if you know how to play the game, it works for you. If not you applications languish.

So why is Gov. Rod the poster boy? He just can’t get along. His father-in-law is powerful alderman Dick Mell. They are so estranged that the grandkids have to meet grandpa at a skating rink. The good alderman brokered Rod’s ascension. He replaced the jailed Dan Rostenkowski in Congress (after a brief term by Mike Flanagan who ran against Rosty on a barroom bet and lucked out when the incumbent was indicted) and then replaced the jailed George Ryan as governor. It was nothing out of the ordinary when the good alderman wanted a little cream cheese for his bagel. Sunday morning with the grandkids soured when Gov. Rod told the alderman to get in line over a Joliet landfill project. The boy got above his raising.

Gov. Rod even criticized Mayor Daley. He threatened to call the National Guard in to quell our crime rate. The mayor went into one of his nonsensical rants (these have probably prevented him from being indicted so far) and more Americans died by gunfire in Chicago than in Iraq this year.

Democrat power broker Mike Madigan is the stepfather of states attorney Lisa Madigan. He sees his grandkids on Sunday and Lisa wants to be governor.

Jesse Jackson Jr. wants to be senator. He is not above bartering for a good price. Sr. won a beer distributorship when he accused Budweiser of racism and African-American performers regularly duck the old man when they come to town. He always has his hand out.

Gov. Rod stopped talking to lieutenant governor Pat Quinn a while back. A lot of people voted for the gov. because they didn’t expect him to make it through his term and Pat would take over. Pat seemed always to be in wait like a Shakespearian character.

Rahm Emmanuel took over for Gov. Rod in Congress and may have blown the whistle on him to protect his man. He is a pragmatist.

Dick Durbin is so pure of heart he could not stand up for the people of the United States when he was secretly informed that we were invaded Iraq on a sham premise. Lately he has been campaigning to pardon the last governor. There is no pardon available for people that died on our highways at the hands of drivers who purchased licenses from Gov. George the kindly pharmacist from Kankakee.

I could go on, but if you want Illinois to operate on altruistic vision you better send in the UN.  I truly hope that goodness and mercy will impose itself on our government. I hope that Pat Fitzgerald will put the fear into those who blatantly debauch the populace for personal gain. Yet, I am reminded of another former prosecutor who became our governor, Jim Thompson. Jim was smart enough to avoid jail, but he drove George Ryan, his former secretary of state, there in a limousine. He is a good friend who doesn’t abandon a friend who gets caught. Where Pat winds up I don’t know. President Bush already wanted to fire him for messing with Karl Rove. I hope that he is as pure of heart as he expects everyone else to be.

I lived in the congressional district represented by Rostenkowski, Gov. Rod and Rahm. Rahm had been in my store. Lisa Madigan had been in my store Patti Blagojevich had been in there too. Brian Daly, a deputy chief of the gov’s staff was a regular who offered me help in one of my battles with the city. Dick Mell has always been a good guy to know. Jesse Jr. is an e-mail pal and pretty qualified to represent us in Senate. Jesse Sr.’s record of public service speaks for itself. The big man, president-elect used to be an e-mail pal when he was my senator. I haven’t heard from him since the election.

My mom worked at Finkl Steel with Rod’s dad as I did.

Chicago was built on the backs of those who were trying to put a little distance between themselves and abject poverty. It has been that way since Hubbard drove his pigs downtown and land was bought in the morning and sold at a profit in the afternoon. The Everleigh sisters developed the “Mickey Finn” and left horny farm boys in the alley in their longjohns. You could buy back your stolen hubcaps for a price down at Maxwell Street on a Sunday morning. Al Capone laid the foundation for the modern insurance business. It ain’t pretty or fair, but we know how it works.

What you don’t do is get so arrogant that six kids dies on a highway because a trucker bought his license from you. That is why Gov. Ryan is sitting in the pen in Terra Haute and not what they nailed him for. He never even said he was sorry that the six Willis kids died. I am all for mercy, but he should sit there until he expresses remorse.

Likewise, Gov. Rod will suffer because he forgot who his friends were and neglected to take care of them. Please spare us, however, your moral indignation. If anything, we are a bit more ‘honest’ when we examine the true nature of our souls.
- Mike
 

It has been one year since we closed our doors...

Well, it appears that tough times are going to be upon us for a while. It comes as no surprise to us, so we are just hunkering down in survival mode. Those of you who have been reading us through the years know what it is all about. The record industry as we knew it was destroyed by unbridled greed much like that which has put our country on the brink.

We've always had weasels in this business and our collective history is full of robber barons. However, never before have the weasels been so short sighted that they would kill off the golden goose for a quick egg or two.

Like the rest of you, we are struggling to keep a roof over our head. No, we are a long way from looking to reopen another store. The real estate weasels still keep their empty storefronts at premium rental rates. The city still has the highest taxes in the country. No sane person would attempt to operate a business under these conditions.

And, of course, no one is going to buy a $16.98 compact disc that you may or may not like when you can download for free. The majors aren't budging and their ship most likely has already sailed or sunk. It seems that so many are resolved to fleecing the consumer or to die trying.

So, we are still selling off of what is left. I'll pack up my guitar and bring it to your town and offer you a couple hours of my entertainment. I can offer the occasional word of sympathy to those of you who are being battered by circumstance. If I have it or can get it, maybe a buck or two. I've always felt the responsibility to take care of you if I could. Hope that you'll return the favor.

I always tried to craft the Record Emporium into something that was more than a purveyor of goods. The memories that I took away were not those of healthy sales charts. I'm proudest of the haven we provided for 'different' kids up in a small Michigan town, the down-on-their-luck folks we could help out and the new doors we could open to the rest of your life. It doesn't seem that anyone remembers or cares about our day to day participation in the community. I would be lying to say that it doesn't hurt when people look through me because I have nothing to offer them anymore.

But, like you, we have to keep going forward because there is no going back. We'll keep on believing in the myth that once was and striving for that ideal we all believe in.

- Mike

Weaselworld April 6,2008
 
THE SUSQUEHANNA HAT COMPANY
 

I don’t know quite where I began my affiliation with the Susquehanna Hat Company. I seem to remember it evolving from a childhood sickbed when I was alone in front of an early television set. It may have just been a solitary moment and growing up as an only child there were plenty of those. In any case there was some sort of blue mood no matter what the origin. The Susquehanna Hat Company turned that around that day and I never forgot.

The routine had been, supposedly originated by the Three Stooges, although it probably predated them as well. I remember the Abbott and Costello version. Through the magic of You Tube I just viewed it again, as you can here.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSp0sMHVEpQ&feature=related

 

The innocuous question of  “where is Bugle Street” or the mere mention of the words “Susquehanna Hat” would cause a surprising reaction of rage and incoherence. Without fail someone was sure to punch a hole in your hat and leave you dumbfounded. The shock was never long lasting and it quickly was replaced by boundless hilarity.

 

When my kids were young they learned the game. They would shout ‘Susquehanna’ and I would chase them around the room in mock rage until I caught them and tickled them into submission. We’d wind up out of breath with tears on our cheeks and peace would settle upon us until one of them would again shout “Susquehanna Hat Company” and the entire thing would begin again.

 

I don’t know if they ever saw the comedy routine and, viewing it again, I was surprised that I had it down so well. It became a tradition with us.

 

It may very well be that all this was due to my own peculiar lunacy.

 

We developed other odd traditions. I would read “A Little House on the Prairie Christmas” out loud. The kids would heckle me. My parents would heckle me. My wife would join in. I would try and keep a straight face and continue until I could no longer speak the words and again tears of joy would moisten my cheeks. I don’t think that I ever finished reading the story.

 

With a family spread apart and logistics of Christmas being what they are in our family (and I suppose most families) I haven’t even attempted a recitation in several years.

 

One Christmas I gave both boys a brand new tin cup, an orange and a shiny penny just like the ones the Ingalls girls were overjoyed to receive. I told my sons that these simple gifts were symbolic of the true meaning of Christmas. They hooted and hollered and then dug into what was considered the real booty. Those great gifts have been long abandoned, but every couple of years or so I open a package from one of them and find a tin cup, an orange and a penny.

 

Like the Susquehanna Hat Company it has become a part of who we are.

 

At various times I have played the Susquehanna game with the grandkids. A month or two ago I played it with my youngest granddaughter. She is four and can barely say ‘Susquehanna’ but when she saw the result of shouting the word she mastered it.

She has a heart that is a bit damaged from being born prematurely. There may be another operation in her future to complete the work that the first several didn’t.

We had to mute our joy. She knows when her ‘heart hurts’ and she has to ask her mother for her inhaler. So we ran for a little while until we had to content ourselves by putting my jacket over our heads in a mock tent and watched cartoons through the armholes.

 

She doesn’t forget much and she is always ready to shout “Susquehanna”. I imagine that she or our other grandkids will remember and carry it on with their kids.

 

Why is any of this important?

 

My kids are adults. They’ve developed their own lives, had their successes and their failures. We’ve had holidays with near fistfights and bitter arguments. They find occasion to disagree with me and I them. They have probably had more moments than I imagine where they think I am totally insane or just plain stupid. At times my wife has looked at me (and I her) and asked, “What is the matter with you?”

We all have our priorities and our truths that are sometimes at juxtaposition from one another’s cherished beliefs. Sometimes our lives unintentionally (or intentionally) are at odds with one another.

 

One thing that we do all know and all agree on is that no matter the perceived clarity of our thought, the self evidence of our truths our innate sense of our own reason, that many times in our lives we are going to innocently suggest the Susquehanna hat company or ask directions to Bugle Street and someone is going to go berserk and destroy our hat.

We know also that we can only find immense humor in this and proceed to the best of our knowledge and ability.

 

No matter what.

 

Susquehanna.

Weaselworld March 11th,2008

I admit that I look at all the empty storefronts and for a moment I think, maybe.
Reason however, quickly prevails.
The little tobacco store that I patronized has a big "For Rent" sign on the front windows. Mayor Daley doesn't want us to smoke. The Governor makes us interrupt our drinking to go stand outside and puff for a few furtive moments, fifteen feet from the entry way. It is easier to be addicted to heroin. We can pop in a nice warm stall.
My cookie factory is closing. They need a Costco there. We need one every ten feet or so.
The cookie factory is in Norwood Park, a couple of blocks outside of Chicago. It is also a couple blocks cheaper in sales tax, so we are all going to go over there to save on everything we buy.
Sales tax in Chicago is going to be the highest in the country at 10.25%. Woo hoo, we are number one at something.
You may ask why the city of Chicago and the county of Cook needs all this revenue since our wonderful mayor and county board president and governor are so progressive and adept at luring new business to Chicago. Oh, wait those are all empty storefronts. That is an empty lot where they tore down Burt Weinman Ford and where new condos are going to go. What, no one is buying these condos anymore so the land is vacant and we have to go out to the suburbs to buy that new Ford? Maybe we can get another Home Depot to move in there. We don't have one in a two mile radius. I don't think that the parking lot on that site would be big enough, but we can't afford to drive anymore anyway. We do need to fix our deteriorating condo before the adjustable rate kicks in and we are evicted. Maybe we can rent an apartment in the suburbs, It will be closer to where things are cheaper. Rents will go up and property values will get raised. All the folks who sold their family homes to the condo developers will have to move further west. How far is Iowa anyway?
Gee, I need a cigarette. Oh, I forgot. Some of the little grocery stores are selling individual cigarettes because people can't afford to buy a pack. Maybe we should quit smoking and buy a gun to calm our nerves. Guns are illegal in Chicago too. You can have a pickup truck as long as you don't park it on the street, but you have to drive to Niles for your bullets and your spray paint. We make graffiti artists take a long bus ride before they come back and tag our buildings. We make gang bangers go out to Bell Sports and do a little hobby shooting before they spray the neighborhood. It never seems that they hit what they are pointing at. Maybe we should spend those extra tax dollars on marksmanship lessons.
We are going to ban sandwich bags pretty soon because drug dealers use them. If they can't get them in Chicago they will have to quit dealing drugs or go out the new Costco in Norwood Park to buy them.
The Cubs are trying to compensate by selling the naming rights to Wrigley Field. Who would be dumb enough to piss off every Cub fan in the world and pay for it? Some one suggested Macys. They did it with Marshall Fields. Business did seem to slip a little bit though didn't it?
Where does the money go? Well, we have to pay pensions for policeman. Jon Burge served the city for twenty years. With electric shock and cattle prods, near suffocations with typewriter bags and executions with mock pistols he got those confessions. Young Richie got his conviction rate and got to be mayor. Burge is living in Florida on a $200,000 a year city pension with a boat out back and an expired statute of limitations.
The city doesn't skate. When torture victims got the attention of Amnesty International they started escaping death row and getting convictions overturned and suing for millions of dollars.
Richie doesn't know anything and the city pays. Hardly a week goes by when another settlement doesn't get rung up.
John Kass of the Tribune had it at about $275 million. How are we supposed to pay for that with 20% foreclosure rates and people running to the suburbs to buy bullets and baggies?
And I look at the empty storefront. I would have to sell the CDs for $1 less than the Best Buy in Evanston. Amazon has free shipping, so I'd have to discount further. And if by some twist of fate, I prospered selling used CDs or cell-phones or batteries or bottles of water (.10 additional Chicago tax on plastic bottles) the local copper would be suspicious. I may be smoking when they weren't looking and here would come the cattle prod and the electric shock until I confessed to the Leopold-Loeb murders.
I'll just stay in shadows, thank you.
Got a light?

PartII


I thought that it might be nice to play some of my music in little clubs and coffee houses. It has been fun for the most part.
Now comes my first cancellation.
Growing up in the city of Capone where I grew up with the Untouchables, I shouldn't be surprised.
"Mr. Nitti says you gotta buy your beer from us."
"Big Al says you're late with the protection."
And then the tommy guns with the rat-a-tat that Chicago is known for.

Nick the barber had a little shop next to my grandparents apartment. He was a Greek with white wavy hair. He wore a white smock with scissors in the pocket.
The barbers 'association' mandated that you could not get a haircut on Tuesday in Chicago. The meat cutters wouldn't let you buy meat after six or on Sunday. You still can't buy a car on Sunday in Chicago.
Nick didn't come from Greece to sit on his butt. He came to work and work was all he knew. He decided to cut hair on Tuesday.
He didn't buy the reason of the persuaders that the association sent. Pretty soon someone had broke his window and there was a threat of more to come. Nick relented.
Hard to believe that someone could come to this country for the freedom and be told that he could do something as innocuous as cut someone's hair on a Tuesday.
So let's raise that flag and think of Nick.
I pack up my guitars and get in the car and drive wherever they'll give me a stage. The songs are important to me, but more important is the ideas. I want to talk about who I am and how I got that way. I want to tell folks about where I grew up and what I figured out along the way. Sometimes kids sit and text message each other. More often than not they listen. I am a curiosity at best. Sometime their parents look at me as an anachronism. This is what people were like before the mall culture. There used to be somebody like you in town before he went to the city.
People ask questions about things that I assume everyone knows. On good nights, it is like the circus has come to town. Society has moved so far into Wal-Mart and technology that a guy with a six string and a story turns them into rank rubes.
And just when I seem to achieve a balance, if not adequate remuneration for my efforts, idiocy strikes.
I was scheduled to play a little coffeehouse in Marinette, Wisconsin. It was a little tough to book. Al and Liz Chaplin are the owners. On their website they tell us that they are parents of eight grown children and have 22 grandchildren. They opened this place to have a safe place for kids especially teenagers to hang out. I later found out Al is an attorney.
I don't think that they are in this for the money.
All they'd like to have is an occasional performer in the corner. Maybe the kids would like that. Maybe they would learn something. Maybe they would put Guitar Hero II down and learn a chord or two on that old acoustic of grandpa's. Maybe they would even write a little bit about what they were about in a song.
I think Al and Liz would like that. I know that I would.
I think that they were a little worried about me. There is some cursing here and there in my songs, but I convinced them that I could choke them back. I am grandpa myself and I know what's appropriate for the Montrose Saloon isn't right for thirteen year olds sipping hot chocolates. I also promised to not do any covers.
I had to make this promise before. Back in the 1980's ASCAP and BMI unleashed the dogs in the Upper Peninsula. Little bar owners that maybe rang $500 on a good night were being threatened with lawsuits if they didn't pay performance fees. Irv who would stand in the corner and play a polkatello and run a sing-a-long couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't sit behind the pool table and play Shel Silverstein songs for bikers. Without the revenue from those nights, the club couldn't afford the Whoopee John shows or even Norm Edelbeck and his Dairyland Dutchmen.
Not everyone caved and ASCAP/BMI eventually went away.
With the record industry in the toilet, with every move that the record industry made in the last ten years being wrong headed, here it came again.
Mr. Nitti from ASCAP told Al that they were going to have ringers in the audience. If anything that I did resembled say, Hootie and the Blowfish they would swoop in with fines and injunctions previously reserved for twelve-year-old downloaders. Pay up or we break-a you-window, more or less.
And all Al and Liz wanted was a safe place for kids with a broken down folksinger in the corner. They really didn't need thugs from ASCAP in the audience.
So everyone loses. Me and the kids and the place. ASCAP loses the almost 11% take and the songwriter (who probably doesn't see anything from ASCAP anyway). No one in Marinette is going to hear my music and buy it. I did have a nifty little delta blues cover of "Gidget" that I may whip out someday. And the music industry loses again.
The Dairyland Dutchmen's tour bus sits rusting in Wausaukee.
I think that I might burn a live CD for Al to give away. Cds usually don't work for kids though. DVD? Maybe I could do a podcast. We could all talk into our little handhelds and try to communicate before ASCAP caught on.
Maybe I should just recite my lyrics like poetry. So far the poetry police have been benign.
I read the copyright page of a Bible that I own. We better spread the word fast. From what I understand, we may be at risk
Later,
Mike

Weaselworld #65 February 3,2008
The Superbowl is over. I get to breathe a sigh of relief. Everything goes awry for me on Superbowl Sunday. I have been in surgery, emergency rooms, and the victim of a burglary, gloom, despair and agony during this day. The one time that the Bears won it I managed elation for three days until the Challenger blew up.
Thankfully I am in remission this year. I had a cousin die yesterday. He was 54 but he had inhaled something in his sixteen years in the military that screwed up his lungs. He had been struggling for a while. He left a twelve-year-old kid. Sad, but that was somewhere in Indiana.
I did make the mistake of leaving my house and only then remembered the evil at work on this holy day. I quickly scurried back to my warren and did not look out again until my shadow disappeared.
I tried to proceed as if this was a normal day. I managed to miss most of the five-hour pre-game show. I missed Paula Abdul lip-synching her new song and probably the results of several players' colonoscopys.
I had the tube on earlier for CBS Sunday Morning and This Week. I've watched Sunday Morning for years, but they have started running re-runs and then I see the same story on 60 Minutes or Nightline or 20/20. I start getting confused. Is this the Gulf of Tonkin or some Iranians in a speedboat? What war are these amputees from? Is this the Big Storm of 2004 or 2008? It disturbs me when "news" shows run stock footage. Murrow is dead and Cronkite is out on his sailboat.
Stephanopoulous always gives the weekly body counts. Thirteen this week. They didn't count my cousin.
After that I think the pregame show was set to begin. I could've sat there all day. Instead we went to breakfast and the magazine store. I read and dabbled with the recording equipment for a while, enough to justify to myself that I hadn't wasted another day in the life and then I turned the box back on.
It wasn't long before Alicia Keys was there with her leopard pants. They made her ass look fat, like she weighed almost 110 pounds. A real tubby.
I make a note to tell performers that I don't want to show them my hands. And how am I doing? Well, the economy is in the crapper, folks are losing their houses, we're fighting deja vu wars, and we have morons for leaders and candidates running on the platform of "change". Herbert Hoover probably ran on a platform of change and gave it to us too. Am I doing fine? Fuck no. You want to see my hand? How about a finger?
Alicia sings pretty, but she doesn't sing about anything. She is posturing like Gwen Stefani and flipping her head in time with her dancers. I am sullen.
Then inexplicably, Jim Brown starts off a segment reading the Declaration of Independence. Peyton Manning and assorted football players read a couple of lines. The commissioner stands by the Lincoln Memorial. How am I supposed to react to this? Do I need football players to make the Declaration come alive for me? I'm already stewing about Alicia getting me thinking about how shitty things are and now Jim Brown is reminding me that it shouldn't be that way.
I'm ready for some football. Yes, I'm ready to hit. Hey, maybe that is the idea.
They trot out the latest American Idol winner to sing the National Anthem. Yes, the game is on Fox and I know now that Nascar is going to start in a couple of weeks. Jordin Sparks looks nervous but she does a credible job. She keeps the melisma to a minimum until the end.
They come out to flip the coin and it is a tribute to the late 49er's coach, Bill Walsh. Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice and Steve Young. Where's Joe Montana? The guy must have some ax to grind somewhere. It's a nice gesture though, but what about Sean Taylor? A twenty-four year old player is murdered during the season in a home invasion, the league is wearing his number on their helmets and he doesn't get a mention. I never hear his name during the entire telecast. I guess he has left the plantation.
The game begins and we have the commercials to watch,
Doritos has something called "The Biggest Stage" where they put a bunch of artists in competition to get their song played at the Super Bowl. They flash the contestants by us quickly. There is a rap act, I think Josh Kelley and Kina Grannis. I think Kina wins because she appears later singing a song about her heartbeat that has lyrics like "dum, dum, dum de dum." Then she makes a little heart with her hands. Dumb. Doritos doesn't waste any time on this. They squeeze thirty seconds out of the song. They might be able to make Beethoven sound stupid in thirty seconds.
Fed Ex has a commercial where giant carriers pigeons go beserk.
Toyota has one where badgers eat a guys face off.
Tostitos (although it could be Doritos, I get my snack food confused) runs one about a giant rat coming out of a mouse hole and beating the crap out of a guy who has tried to lure him into a trap with one chip.
Is a pattern developing here?
Tom Petty comes out and does four songs. Sounds like Tom Petty. He's the guy that objected to bar codes on records and higher list prices. He doesn't let his music in commercials. He's had a little integrity along the way and doesn't do anything to embarrass himself here. I just find myself reminiscing about when rock and roll was dangerous. I used to listen to the Stones on headphones while watching football games. I thought that it was a great juxtaposition. We've been assimilated.
My wife cooks a pizza and it snows a couple of inches.
And, oh yeah, the Manning kid hits a couple of passes and the 1972 Dolphins can act like petulant assholes for a couple more decades. Football is over for another year.
MSNBC is back on
Mike

November 16,2007 Weaselworld 64

AMERICA'S MOST WANTED

For those of you who aren't privy to white folk's conversations or for those of you that haven't been rendered invisible when massa and missy are having a conversation and haven't overheard, let me relate this.

We are driving in a car and a beater full of (fill in your favorite minority here, use euphemisms liberally) pulls up along side.

"Look at that," some one says, "I bet that they don't have insurance on that piece of shit."

"Yep, they get free health care too."

"Food stamps and welfare."

Bastards.

Yeah and I'm sitting there thinking that these poor buggers driving a beater look like they are really living large. Maybe they should be pulled over and made to show their insurance papers. No insurance? Why then they will have to post a financial responsibility bond in order to keep driving that beater to and from the job or the welfare office.

Yes, I'm going to feel better then. Equality. If we shill for the insurance company, everybody's going to have to pay (except for them of course).

Let's not worry about that when those lazy good for nothings in the beater are getting something we're not.

I bring this up because I frequently hear the white folks lament, "Boy, if that was me, I couldn't get away with that."

I was thinking of that last night when I was watching the Barry Bonds indictment news. I have a hard time understanding the crime. He lied about his behavior to try and keep his job and save his life, kind of like Bill Clinton. It's not right, but it is understandable. Now, they are talking about giving him jail time, maybe thirty years. Thirty years?

I do feel complicit in his behavior. I paid my ticket to get into major league games. I had a great time with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Bonds never seemed to hit when I saw him player, but I saw him have words with Carlos Zambrano when he struck out and Carlos pumped his fist. It was a great show. I didn't ask or question anything. When Sammy Sosa hit that home run in the playoffs that bounced off the centerfield TV shed it made me slack jawed in awe. I had seen Orlando Cepeda hit one up there in the 60's and I never thought that anyone would hit one any farther. I'll remember that home run for a long time. I got my money's worth.

Hits like that pushed Bonds to compete. He did what he thought he had to. I'm not making any right or wrong judgment here, but thirty years for denying it and lying and covering it up?

If you are going to give somebody thirty years how about giving it to the guy that can't lay down a sacrifice, hit a cut-off man or hustle to first base. I look at the price of my ticket and feel cheated at shoddy play.

But, boy if that were me or even Bill Clinton, no one would be getting their knickers in a bunch.

So if we apply my Michael Vick/racism test (see previous Weaselworlds for reference), is this racism at work? Is Bonds being held up because of his 'crimes' or because he is an arrogant Black son-of-a-bitch (and I don't know that he is)?

His attorney says that our justice department doesn't know the difference between prosecute and persecute. Can we argue with that? Aren't the crimes being committed in our name and the daily desecration of everything the United States is supposed to hold sacred proof of that?

We are supposed to ignore all that and look at the poor bastard in the beater next to us. Damn, that ball player cheated for our entertainment. We ought to lock him up

And let's remember that O.J. Simpson has never been convicted of anything. They are talking about giving him life for busting into a hotel room with a gun and trying to get his stuff back. That's it. Life?

How about instead of looking at the poor bastards in the beater, we look over at that limo with the tinted windows. The lies and thuggery from behind those windows result in thousands of deaths, nations are thrown into turmoil and people starve to death. Their only penalty is that they get to loot our tax dollars.

Bonds wanted to hit 80 home runs and make us think he was the greatest player ever. I'll forgive him for that. I can understand that. What I can't understand is the callous disregard by the people in the limo. Is it racism or classism or maybe just plain old good versus evil?

In any case missy, just pass the white bread over here to massa and turn on CNN. We need to look at the real criminals. Of course, you know who did it... it was that big, Black fella. Always is.

Mike

November 13,2007 Weaselworld 63
Macy's, Morons and Why We are In Iraq

Merle Haggard has a song on his new disc that asks, "What happened, where did America go?"
I'm sure the fat guy on the radio would say ol' Merle was "runnin' down our country" and "walkin' on the fightin' side" but Merle was the author of those sentiments too. From what I gather Merle loves his country but just can't understand what the bastards have done with it.
Solzhenitsyn criticized us back in the 70's for not having the 'courage' to see Vietnam to its conclusion. I bet if he would've gave that speech in Oklahoma instead of some eastern effete hotbed he would've had his Russki clock cleaned.
Are we wimpy morons? The fat man on the radio says that we can't 'cut and run' and the faux cowboy president hitches up his "bring 'em on".
Something is wrong on how this stuff is turning out. Iraqi veterans may be getting their parades and welcome home tears but America is not getting its VE or VJ days. We just bite our lips and bury our kids. We wonder what it is for but we have to show our courage to the Solzhenitsyns and wait for next Bin Laden movie.
What happened? Why does all this just seem to suck?
Instead of looking at the ending of our military incursions maybe we should look at the beginnings. How does all this ratchet up until we are eating bullshit on a stick and paying $100 a barrel for it?
I think it is Macy's fault. Not the store but its management. They aren't alone but the way they go about things is indicative of the dumbing down on America.
The story. In Chicago there was a department store named Marshall Fields. Their motto was "give the lady what she wants". It was the first store to accommodate unescorted women. They made the city pave the streets so the ladies wouldn't get mud on their skirts when they came to shop. They made Hubbard stop running pigs through town. They insisted that Chicago get some class. They gave the lady what she wanted and Chicago became more than a wide-open wahoo on the prairie. They civilized the town.
For a century it was a tradition. Even poor folks who couldn't afford to shop there came down to look at the windows and dream. If you wanted something quality, you saved your money until you could afford to walk through Fields' doors and buy it. Their goods were top notch. You could count on it. The clothes wouldn't fall apart. The shoes would wear. The house goods were a standard.
Christmas wasn't Christmas without a trip to Fields. The huge Christmas tree, the animated windows and if you could afford it, lunch at the Walnut Room. The waiters wore tuxedos and the ladies wore gloves. I went there once with my mother. I had a chicken potpie but more importantly, I was as good as anybody.
That lasted five minutes. Inflations and recessions took their toll. When everybody started buying cheap Fields was doomed to lookers. They sold themselves and they sold themselves again. Target wound up owning them. The ladies with the white gloves and the little girls with the anklet socks still came. It was the same shit you could buy in Schaumburg or Naperville, but you got to pass through the Fields doors and under the big clock that Norman Rockwell painted. The green awnings were the trademark and the green paper shopping bags. You could fill those bags up with Korean manure but they were still Fields bags and the ladies treasured them.
They stopped baking Frango mints and shipped production out to some factory in another state. Mayor Richie huffed and puffed for a couple of seconds and then went back to his business of stamping his 'Metropolis' vision upon us. Nothing happened.
God was still in his heaven. State Street wasn't all that different. The Fields clock was still there and so was the Chicago theater marquee. Ronnie's Steak House closed and the rats got on the subway and moved west. Then Macy's got into the act.
I don't presume to know what the geniuses at Macy's think, but aside from the Fields real estate they probably bought the brand. They bought the Walnut Room and the little girls with the anklets and the ladies with the white gloves. They bought the Rockwell clock and the stream where all the Chicago salmon swam up to press their noses on the glass windows.
The store could be Macy's now instead of Target. Macy's stuff would fill those little green bags and everybody would be happy.
Somewhere in a boardroom some fresh-faced graduate of some business college put his/her blue tooth on a mahogany table and decided that the Macy's brand would be better. Basically the Macy's brand was the color of their awnings and their bags. The thinking had to be that we must impose our will, our brand that millions of wannabe New Yorkers want to embrace.
So they changed the bags and put a Macy's star outside, the Macy's star that looked like Mao had designed it. The Cultural Revolution had come to State Street. Instead of pressing our noses to the windows we protested. We stood in front of the tanks and Macy's rolled over us. "You'll like it, you'll see," they said
Frango Mints came back. They still weren't made in the store, but Mayor Richie had a factory somewhere for them. The old Fields' sales were still held but they were Macy's now. The fashion shows were held but they were Macy's fundraisers. The wind had been taken out the sails when the green bags deflated. No one nodded with approval when you had a Macy's bag on the el.
Sales went south. Two years after the red star replaced the Fields logo customers were still picketing. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=27072&pageNo=1) So now Macy's is dumping big bucks into attracting new customers. There is going to be a wine bar in the Walnut Room and wi-fi throughout. Wouldn't it be better to just call the place Marshall Fields and give the lady the green bag?
Why can't they do that? It seems simple enough, but when you are a moron you have to have the Solzhenitsyn resolve. There will be no cutting and running by Macy's. No way can they say this all has been stupid and we were wrong trying to put sauerkraut on a Chicago hot dog. Waist deep in the big muddy and the damn fools have to push on.
That, my friends, is the new American way. We blundered our way into Vietnam believing in dominoes. Solzhenitsyn calls us chicken shits for not pressing on. Vietnam falls and they start supplying the world with baseball caps. We lost 60,000 American lives to prevent this from happening? Robert McNamara, the secretary defense explains his blunder by saying, "What did I know, I sold cars for a living."
Our Chicago football team trades our best running back to prove that a first round unproven draft choice can do it. He can't. We go from the Super Bowl to Porcelain Bowl because we have to be proven right.
George Bush gets us to invade a country without provocation (or using another country's provocation as justification). We blunder into a dead end after we punish the guy who threatened his Daddy. We have to prove that we are right.
And we are cowards for not staying the course. If only somewhere along the line, someone would have the true courage to stand up and say "no" before this madness begins.
When Macy's gets out of Chicago, we might get out of Iraq. When we are no longer afraid of being perceived as cowards by the Solhenitsyn's of the world, we just may right the ship and pursue the right honorable path that we used to tread.
Mike
**This just in. FEMA won't pay $100,000 that the New Orleans Aquarium spent to restock after all their fish were killed by hurricane Katrina. It seems that FEMA was ready to pay out $600,000 but instead of buying their fish commercially the folks at the aquarium and the Audubon Society decided to stock their tanks the old way using divers,nets,boats and the ocean. You'd think FEMA would be happy to save the taxpayers $500,000, but it is our way or the highway and if you don't spend the money the way we want you to, you get nothing. Stay tuned***

October ,2007 Weaselworld 62
Shaddup Gidget!

So Sally Field makes an innocuous comment to the effect that if "mothers ran the world there would be no goddamn wars".
And that is offensive enough to get bleeped? Was it the word "goddamn"? On network television? On Fox, no less? Worse things are said and implied on every sitcom. "Who's Your Baby's Daddy" is not as offensive by it's implication to civilized society? Goddamn? Is this word offensive to believers who regularly hold up the concept of "hell" to anyone who doesn't share their beliefs? God seems to be damning someone every couple of seconds. Atheists complain that they aren't getting equal non-partisan damning time.
Or is this bleeped because it doesn't march lock and goosestep with the party line? This free society can't even abide a mother "goddamning" a war? Are conservative, flag-waving moms happy to offer their children up for slaughter, just like those goddamned heathen terrorist mothers who rejoice in sending their children to an early rendevous in paradise?
That noted liberal General Sherman even stated that "War is hell" as he scorched American earth from Georgia to the sea. Would he have been bleeped on Fox?
You could understand that Eddie Vedder got bleeped when he sang "George Bush, leave this world alone," on the AT&T Lollapalooza webcast allegedly by mistake.
What we can't understand is where is this freedom that we cherish and die for. We whisper "9-1-1" and all our freedoms are relinquished so they won't be destroyed by the terrorists.
Huh?
Cameras follow our movements. We have an island prison where people can be detained without being charged. Torture is an option. Our phone calls and e-mails can be monitored.
And our music? What can we hear on radio that is clear channeled and approved? The only place left is the web and live performance. If we allow the At&T's of the world to "mistakenly" drop messages that don't fit into the lock step policy, we will be left to gather in the coffeehouses that Starbucks hasn't put out of business and our front parlors.
Playing out at some of these little places has really been an uplifting experience. Sometimes I've done it without the PA. The recordings have all been done without the 'auto-tune' that can turn you into a robot or Mariah Carey. There has been no pro-tools. Not even a click track. It is basic and raw. It may not be what you've become accustomed to. Still it is real. No 'goddamn' can be bleeped. No offensive line dropped by mistake.
The audience can (and does) voice its' opinion, ask a question. It's not like church, I sometime remind my listeners.
I try to book myself everywhere. I think my message is compatible with any church group. Conservative listeners may take issue with me, but this is a free society and if what I sing about cannot hold up to criticism and scrutiny, I should reassess. Preaching to the converted is fine and easy, but we can't challenge people to think and not be prepared to be challenged as well. Like it or not, good (and bad) ideas come from all political viewpoints.
I e-mailed a fellow who has a couple of coffeehouses. I know small business. You have a little fiefdom and try to control your little territory and make it the world you want. I do respect that. He can't pay me, but will allow me to play for tips and merchandise sales. That's kind of the standard. He also wants the show to be free from any profanity or off color matter.
I've swallowed a 'bastard' when a bunch of kids were around and amended the "fuck off" too. The word isn't 'hot'songs of sexual longings. So I'm not too worried. I'd play a Southern Baptist convention and not make church ladies blush. I'm a grandfather who wishes we didn't have any "goddamn" war and folks were holding hands in peaceful contentment. I'm not afraid of censoring myself to comply with my audience. I want them to listen and understand, not run off because they are disgusted by the perceived profane nature of this word or that.
Yet, how far do we go with this? I chafe a little. I'll show up and play for free and let you tell me what to say? Maybe you have to pay for that privilege. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe there is a bad experience behind the request. I'm conciliatory.
I had two little girls staring at me in Madison last Friday night. They came closer as the show went on. It was almost to the point where I was going to teach them a song and let them play it with me.
I don't really do kids songs, but I like them. I want them to live happy and productive lives. I don't want anyone shipping them off to a war to fight other children.
That's what I'm out here for. Until we get ourselves back on track, I'll be out here saying the things that Eddie Vedder and Sally Field can't say on major media.

Mike

POST MORTEM
OK. The wake is over. We are ready to find our way to the next thing. We are going to be introducing Record Emporium Premium. It is a list of stuff that we love and would love to sell to you. The major labels have never wanted to deal with us and now a lot of the major 'stars' don't want to deal with the majors. If you want to listen to Garth Brooks you have to go to Wal-Mart, if you want to listen to the Spice Girls latest you're going to have to go to Victoria's Secret and McCartney is on the Starbucks label.
Well in this brave new world you are going to have to survive without the hype. We have suffered through the barrages of well oiled publicity machines pushing their drek on us. On the other hand,the internet has given us a wealth of bad bands who can record a CD in their basement and try and foist the 'alternative' on us.
We are going to listen with open ears, review and suggest the best. Send us your CD's, we'll try and give everyone a blurb. If we like it, we'll tell you and hope that you buy it from us. Maybe we'll start a record club subscription, where we'll send you one a month and guarantee your satisfaction.
Cd's still sound better than mp3 downloads. Records sound better than CD's. It is a scientific fact.
It is time to turn the world back around.
Art is not free. I don't care what Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails say. As long as Les Paul's have a hefty price tag and kids spend hours hunched over them learning to play, it is not free.
To expect to get paid a fair price for your labors is a basic human right. Yes, the record companies skewered us all for lot of worthless $18.98 pieces of aluminum, but on the other hand how much was that $3.95 Dark Side of the Moon album worth to you?
Let's be honest and fair with each other. We'll charge you a fair price and we'll do our best not to unload some crap on you because some record company says that we should.
Let me know what you think.
We devoted our lives to this business of music and we'll do our best to keep the flame alive.
"The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again. All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow...."

mike@recordemporium.com

September 1st,2007 A Brief Word From Our Sponsor

So we have reached the end of our 'brink' and mortar.

I've said all of it before, so there is nothing else now.

I'll keep busy online and re-inventing the future.

Sorry if I've caused you any grief or disappointment. We're leaving without any bitterness or sour grapes. It has been a good run. We tried to do our best and now it's done. That's just life.
Just wanted to say 'thanks' and hope you all with keep in touch via the world wide web.

Mike

"Goldilocks has left the building...here are historical archives of the
timeless last bastion of sanity within the music business and said
purveyors
that upheld all that was "right"." Rob Evanoff - Toucan Cove Records

the big three killed my baby
no money in my hand again
the big three killed my baby
nobody's coming home again

their ideas made me want to spit
a hundred dollars goes down the pit
30,000 wheels are rollin'
and my stick shift hands are swollen
everything involved is shady
the big three killed my baby -Jack White

Just then, Goldilocks woke up and saw the three bears.
She screamed, "Help!" And she jumped up and ran out
of the room. Goldilocks ran down the stairs, opened
the door, and ran away into the forest. And she never
returned to the home of the three bears.

THE END
(CEASE AND DESIST)

One More Down, Not Much More to Go

Well, if you haven't been by the Roscoe-Paulina nexus in a while, you probably haven't been forced to discover that the Record Emporium has shut its doors.

Run by Mike Felten and two music-slinging sidekicks, the place had been open since 1979, but I stumbled upon it on a walkaround of the hood shortly after I moved here four years ago and have been dropping by now and then--pocket empty and pocket full--since. What I liked about it was the scruffiness to the place. Unlike other record stores, there seemed to always be a persistent, intentional element of disorder there that reminded me of old record stores of yore, and an equally persistent intentional element of disorder in the really sweet owner Mike Felten.

The closest thing to Record Emporium, for me, was Mark Trehus' Oarkfolkjokeopus in Minneapolis, a slim little store full of nothing you knew about, nothing you'd die without having, but everything that you should have or risk a plebian death of the spirit. I "discovered" Memphis Minnie (on vinyl) at Oarfolkjokeopus and still have the two records that I bought to this day. When I play them, everything about them, from the music to the feel of vinyl in my hands to the cost ($5.00 for a pair) to the memory of my attire--I think I had a mohawk and was wearing a black vintage dress with Egyptian hieroglyphs--to the look on Mark's face when he saw me pick them up (Oh god, another person who's doesn't know what the hell they have)--everything comes back to me.

The last thing I purchased at the Record Emporium was Joanna Newsom's latest on vinyl--a special order. I could have bought it anywhere, but I wanted to make certain I spent my money there. I don't know why, it just seemed like I had to get it there. And the last time I was there was about a month ago. I stopped on a bike ride having seen a sign up in the window for 50% off the entire store stock. I don't know why I hadn't figured it out then, but of course it was the death bell ringing loud and clear.

I remembered that day just a couple days ago when I rode past Record Emporium and my heart sank seeing the half empty place. On my last visit to the Record Emporium, Mike was at the counter, as always, and nodded as I walked in. I remembered looking around the store and considering two albums, but deciding against it at the last minute, and feeling like such a shit when I was walking out, as if I had personally let him down by not buying anything. But he seemed nonplussed at my sad sack smile and fey wave goodbye. Just another day in the record store biz, I guess.

posted by Poly Styrene at http://polyrevenge.blogspot.com/

"They're losers, their fans are losers, and there's a lot of violence coming from the left wing." - Ann Coulter on Rage Against the Machine.



Last I heard, no rock band has ever led us into the Big Muddy.

Weaselworld # 61 July 26,2007
Michael Vick, Dog Fighting and Racism
Eddie Murphy used to say that he'd been a Black man all of his life and he never met anyone named 'Buckwheat'.
I used to know a guy nicknamed 'Buckwheat'.
So I guess that it can happen.
Like everyone except the small percentage of people who find sport in the abuse of animals, I was repulsed at the incidents described in the indictment of the Atlanta Falcon quarterback.
In the Nancy Grace climate of conviction by accusation, my knee jerk reaction was to drag him up Stone Mountain and treat him like one of his dumb animals that had the misfortune to be born without the required temperament to kill. Shoot, Saddam used to torture those failed Iraqi athletes. A little session with a couple of bare wires just might have convinced Rex Grossman not to throw those interceptions and the Bears would be Super Bowl champs right now.
And don't think that we don't throw our failed athletes on the scrap heap. Mike Ditka and Jerry Kramer have been parading ex-football players in front of us through their Gridiron Greats organization. If you read the book of 'Friday Night Lights' you've encountered the chilling line to describe the future of an injured high school running back as "just another n.. with a broom."
It is a tough business this world.
The guilt or innocence of people in the public eye is a jaundiced one. Britney's meltdown, Lindsey's DUI, TV preachers, politicians are all fodder to keep the tongues of the gossips wagging.
So, to be fair, Michael Vick is innocent until he is convicted.
However, like Eddie Murphy never knew a 'Buckwheat', I never knew anyone casually accused of dog fighting or animal abuse. The dead pit bull in his jacket pocket wasn't his. He borrowed it from a friend. The police planted it. Happens all the time.
When you are a privileged athlete in the public eye, you are subject to closer scrutiny and it doesn't take too long for someone to expand on that with the adjective 'privileged Black athlete'.
All the white folks groan and the race card is out on the table again. Aren't we beyond this? If Peyton Manning was running cockfights wouldn't he be subject to the same scrutiny, the same 'guilty until proven innocent' mentality?
You may have heard some of the defenders of Vick. He's very active in the community. He gave money to West Virginia etc:
You can look past his 'Ron Mexico' persona and brother Marcus' growing rap sheet. No one is perfect.
How should we rationally deal with this?
Take the celebrity factor into account. Let's not forgive on the basis of 'pressures' but let's discard the transgressions that no one would notice if it was being place at the doorstep of Jane or John Doe.
The race card? We still have folks that can't get a cab or get pulled over for 'driving while Black'. The movie 'Crash' dealt with some of those issues just a couple of years ago. That 5 foot 10 fellow with the dark complexion is still the suspect in 90% of American crimes. We may groan when it is tossed out there, but we do have to look at it and deal with it. Would O.J. have been convicted in Indiana? Would Mike Tyson have walked in L.A.?
And yes, he is innocent until proven guilty.
But, I don't want to pay my $90 to watch some one indicted of this stuff play football. I don't want to buy a BMW or a Volkswagen because of the forced labor camps in World War II. I watched a Latin fellow smash the window of a Japanese car and I didn't call a cop because the owner of that car didn't give a thought to a Detroit autoworker. I won't buy Wal-Mart and try not to buy Chinese because I look at abandoned factories and downsized workers. There are countless other decisions we make. Unfair? Unjust? You bet.
If I were a young Black woman I wouldn't be going to any parties with Duke Lacrosse players. If I were a white woman I wouldn't be dating O.J. I had a great time watching Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hit home runs. I don't hold a grudge against Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson. Barry Bonds is going to be the home run champ. I don't care that Sadaharu Oh hit more in Japan or that Hank Aaron did it clean in a eight team league and the mound was higher or that Babe Ruth never hit a homer off of a Black guy.
It is just a matter of perception.
Like I said, I knew a guy named Buckwheat.
And he was a white guy.

Weaselworld 60 "Great Caesar's ghost," Perry White used to thunder. Lois Lane, in pursuit of a scoop crossed that line and wound up tied up to a chair with that young Jimmy Olsen guy. Superman would have to see through a bank vault and crash through a wall to save them again. Didn't they ever learn the difference between being reporters and being the story (even if it was only a half an hour of black and white drama)?

My old friend, Amy Jacobson from NBC 5 here in Chicago apparently never watched Lois Lane.

You remember Amy? She was the girl that was stationed at the Ace Hardware reporting on the impending demise of rock salt and snow shovels as the great storm of '05 took us in it's great jaws. She was the one who stood on the overpass with the wind whipping her blond hair as she informed us that over the road truckers were pulling in for the night to 'wait it out'.

Then a young woman, Lisa Stebic, went missing and Amy got on the case. Lisa was in the process of divorcing her husband but there was no evidence of foul play, so far.

Amy was on the case though. She befriended Craig Stebic and his sister. When she got the call that the sister wanted her to come out and 'talk', this young reporter turned away from a toney family swimming outing at the East Bank Club, never mind that all she was wearing was bikini and a towel and drove her kids to the Stebic house.

Yes, they swam in the pool. Yes, but what can you do with kids? If only those cameras from evil Channel 2 hadn't been lurking in the bushes.

In a couple of days it all blew up. "Amy in a bikini!" "Amy in a halter top!" "She let the towel slip!" To the casual observer, she was having an affair with Craig Stebic.

She crossed that line that a journalist should never cross. According to Carol Marin in the Chicago Sun-Times, Amy lost her 'professional distance', but to be fair she added that 'none of us can claim a corner on journalistic purity."

You remember Carol. She quit her news gig rather than share news time with Jerry Springer. She badgered us with guilty stories about how double murderer Guin Garcia didn't deserve the death penalty because she had a lifetime of abuse behind her. Night after night she beat the drum for clemency. Guin who had wanted to be executed, got life without parole. Carol got an award. Then she was on to the Jewel food store to interview folks on why they were picking up a free colon/rectal screening kit. (I want to make sure that I don't have cancer) Night after night through sweeps week. How many times can you ask that same question and get the same answer?

I honestly didn't know that TV News was journalism. That story on American Idol winners must've been Pulitzer stuff.

But, damn Amy, how could you leave us? How will we ever know how many snow shovels are left or how much rock salt is holding out.

If they had caught Amy in a bikini with the Ace Hardware man, I would've been outraged.

I would've been happy if she had just stayed out of the pool. Maybe Superman could've saved her then.

Great Caesar's ghost!

Weaselworld #59 June 15,2007 - Father's Day - Blasphemy
It is Father's Day. Father's are calling in the talk radio station and saying the best present that they could receive was to be left alone for a day.
I don't call in. The worst part of the day is missing the dead and the living. You go to the Radio Shack with a need for a minor electrical part and they want to sell you something for your Dad and you realize that you don't have anyone to buy an electric shaver for. Worse you realize that there were days when you could have shown a minor kindness and you didn't. And you get the gift of guilt.
So I was thinking about fathers and my sorry state.
I started wondering about Joseph. You know, Jesus' step-dad. It didn't seem that anyone ever gave him a thought.
Here comes the blasphemy. All I can hope is that this will be explained to me someday and there is a logical explanation. Forgive my ignorance for now.
Joseph marries a woman that God has impregnated. He takes the responsibility for her care through the pregnancy and beyond. He was a poor carpenter in those pre-union days. He has to endure her suffering as she gives birth in a stable. The best that he could provide? Do you think he was raising his eyes to God and looking for a little help? Do you think Joseph felt like crap watching a woman he loved giving birth on some straw with a bunch of donkeys.
We watch the Christmas pageant and look at him and wonder how come he didn't wire ahead for a room. Your wife is pregnant and all you can think about is wandering from motel to motel when a convention is in town. Joseph is thinking the same thing. He is almost always portrayed as a sad eyed loser.
Yet, he was the guy who tossed the ball around with Jesus in the back yard. He gave him his support. He never got a check from the old man. Joseph just had to hammer his boards and teach his son the trade and hope that one day his stepson would work alongside him, love and respect him. He never got an electric shaver on Father's Day. The gifts and the praise were reserved for the Father in heaven. Depending on what Biblical scholar you listen to, he may never have had sex with Mary. Jesus' brothers and sisters could have been 'cousins' according to the translations. Maybe, they say, the kids were from a previous marriage.
All Joe got was the crap end of this life. Mary got the shrines and the photo op at the crucifixion. Joseph seemed to disappear and was never mentioned after Jesus reached 12 and a half. Maybe he took to sitting in the tool shed with a six pack feeling sorry for himself. Maybe he took the knife to his throat and fed himself to the goats.
Matthew tells us that Jesus' family wasn't too happy with his line of work. Maybe Joseph just grumbled and told Jesus to get a haircut and a real job. Mary believed in him and brother James didn't come around until after the resurrection.
In 1889 when Pope Leo XIII - the 'workingman's pope' was having his own battle with the powers of darkness he prayed to Mary and didn't get anywhere, so he started invoking Joseph's 'greatness of soul' to survive the 'dark lawlessness of his times'. Leo did award a gold medal to a cocaine laced wine that preceded Coca-Cola. He also is on the cover of the Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti album. I don't know about the answers to those prayers, but Leo lived until he was 93.
I'm not a Catholic, but all Luther and Calvin seem to be concerned with was whether Joseph had a carnal relationship with Mary. So, as I do from time to time, I'll light a candle for Joe. Somebody should. Maybe I'll go buy him that electric shaver at Radio Shack. Or maybe he just wants to be left alone.
Happy Father's Day
Mike

REBUTTAL!

George Will on one of the Sunday talking head shows, took issue with my assertion that the American people are not being protected by their elected officials..

"Never in our history have we ever been safer.."

Unless you live in New Orleans when the hurricane hits or Kansas when the tornado rips through or you have a loved one in the National Guard or...but, maybe I'm just buying into the fear that we have had sold to us since 9/11. Please tell me if I should feel secure and comfortable and want our troops home now or have my steely resolve in place against the mad terrorists who are intent on destroying our way of life?
I don't think that I can have it both ways.

And I like George. He is a Cubs fan, I'm told.

CUBS RECORD SINCE THE MIKE CURSE 31 - 15
(I guess that's all it took to frighten them into shaping up)

Weaselworld #58 June 2nd,2007 -

Forget The Goat - Mike Puts Curse on Cubs

You wonder what is wrong?

I was out there for the Zambrano vs. Barrett fight and by that time of the game and another season of abuse by the Tribune Company, this season ticket holder was ready to punch somebody too.

Could it have been the red-haired stepchild, Murton in right field wandering around like he was looking for a grilled cheese sandwich in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert (or Michael Barrett running the bases)? He didn't seem to have a clue where any ball was hit. He botched a routine fly so badly that I was waiting for his mama to come out of the stands, grab him by the ear and not allow him to go with the team for ice cream.

At least give him a ticket to Iowa and teach him how to play like a major leaguer. Saturday, he said his back hurt.

In left field our major acquisition, Alfonso Soriano, is so afraid of the wall, I expect a knife wielding hand to come out and cut him if he gets too close. He dropped a double out of fear and opened up a inning, The last time I was there he was afraid of the wall on a foul ball and gave up an out that opened up another rally. Somebody get this guy a gut transplant.

Jacque Jones in center can't throw the ball as far as second base, but that's because the fans decided that they didn't like him last year.

Ramirez hits a home run and a fan jumps out on the field and out runs him to second base. He insists that he hustles.

There is no plausible reason why Mark Derosa was signed. It seems that the Cubs are again attempting to corner the market on second basemen.

Ah, but let's not go on. I haven't got into the underachieving relief pitchers. Professional sports are populated by players who are not professional in any way. They care only about the buck. Fans are tolerated and winning and losing is just something to pay lip service to.

You used to go to a Bulls game at the old Chicago Stadium and the crowd would be 75% Black folks from the neighborhood (which has since been gentrified and folks of color removed to where?). Now it is filled with guys named 'Brad' with a half dozen clients on an outing.

The Bears have priced the common fan out of the market. $100 just to park within walking distance? They lost the Super Bowl? They lost this former season ticket holder when they wanted a $100 to get on the season ticket waiting list when I moved back to Chicago. I couldn't afford the tickets anymore anyway. I watch more of Arena League on TV.

As a waning Cub fan, I hate to say it, but the White Sox seem to be showing a lot more deference to their fans. Half price games for church groups? The Cubs used to have Ladies days and let servicemen and women in uniform buy a reduced ticket. No more. The White Sox have parking and edible food. In the last year Wrigley has served us bloody chicken, inedible popcorn saturated with salt, peanuts with a shard of glass in the bag and the infamous dishwater hot chocolate. It is a little brown, mostly gray and a little warm and a lot expensive.

The hot chocolate would've been all we had if that April 11th game hadn't been snowed out.

We have a partial season ticket plan called a double play plan. It used to be all the Wednesday and Friday games, now it is all the day games that no one else wants to go to. I can see the writing on the wall. This plan will be discontinued in a couple of years. 'Brad' is on deck to pay $6 - $7,000 a seat for a full plan. Individual games are ranked from premium to crap (my term). So our April 11th game was rescheduled for July and a night game to boot. Premium, premium. So instead of $18 the game is worth $45. Instead of offering the riff raff the opportunity to pay the extra, we received a refund.

So the $18 per ticket that the Cubs have held since January was refunded to me at the end of May. According to the ticket office, the decision came from corporate.

The Tribune Company has been sold and the new owners are selling the Cubs off at the end of the season. We are all lame ducks and until then they are going to squeeze every dollar they can out of us. There is no stake in the future. Golden parachutes will be fluttering out of Tribune Tower soon, defecating on us on their way to retirement.

I know my time for professional sports is rapidly approaching an end. I'll keep following Oklahoma until they decide that they can get away with more, like Notre Dame charging a couple thousand on top of season ticket fees for stadium improvement.

So what to do and why the curse?

There was a time when the goat could have grazed at Wrigley and no one would've cared. I've been there for games with 6 - 7 hundred people. They used to let you in free after the seventh inning. I've seen Cuno Barragon screw up, Bump Wills, Roy Smalley Jr., Todd Hundley and the worthless Brian McCrae. I've had Lee Elia insult me and crummy pitchers like Danny Jackson flip me the bird. I kept showing up. Kids from the neighborhood used to be able to at least catch a glimpse of Mays or Aaron or Clemente. Retirees used to populate the grandstand (now the reserved terrace boxes) and be happy to impart the history of the game to you, now you see them climbing up, up, and up to the cheap seats.

They could put a sign outside of Wrigley like they could in front of the strip mall that used to be Riverview Park, that would read "Something Wonderful Used to Be Here". No more.

The last to go was the outfield walls. The straw that broke this fans back. No matter what, we could always look out on the field and no matter the bumbling arrogance of the people that called themselves professional ballplayers, we could see those afternoons that you're dad held you by than hand and led you into this world that visually burst upon your young eyes. You could remember afternoons of flannel uniforms and youth. They could add the extra seats and condo's could grow up outside. Scorecards could go up to $2.00 instead of .10 without any change in quality. The PA announcer could neglect to tell you of any defensive changes or batting order switches because he didn't get paid to be Pat Piper did he?

Now we look out and see an underarm ad on the outfield doors. Damn, it's like seeing your sister sold into prostitution. I didn't mind the WAMU banners that hang over the stairways to and from the seats or the furniture ads on the dugout walls. The classy plain blue tarp cover is now advertising something 'Van Kampern'? I thought it was pork and beans, but I was wrong.

The greedy bastards have pushed and distorted everything that we had left to respect about the game.

I told my wife that as long as that crap is on the outfield walls that the Cubs will never win a post-season game. Needless to say I won't buy underarm or pork and beans.

The ticket office, in calm, gentle tones told us that we will feel better when we win again.

The world isn't going to change. The gum is going to be stuck to my cup-holder for the sixth straight season.

If Carlos Zambrano throws a punch out of frustration, God bless him. At least there is someone who wants to put it right.

Sorry about the curse, Carlos. Take that deal with New York or wherever they trade you. Heck we got Cesar Izturis for Greg Maddux. We let Garciapara walk. Dontrelle Willis devolved into Jacque Jones. Cub fans have devolved by attrition into Brad on the cell phone.

The hex is upon you, sesame.

Mike

MFLmemorailpic.gif

Memorial Day 2007 -Weaselworld 57

So let me get this straight. The Democrats are elected to a majority because of their opposition to the war in Iraq. They vote to fund the war. I'm not saying that the electorate is always right (for instance, we voted for the people who got us into this - twice!). I would expect a little backbone to at least appease a mandate.

I don't think the sequel to 'Profiles in Courage' is being written here.

I am less concerned with Iraq than with the little regard our elected representatives hold for the American people. How many times have I written that line?

So we are over in Iraq pursuing something that most of us just don't get. We just have to have the resolve to offer up more and more of our children. The saddest part on the weekly ABC 'memorials' for me is the phrase '19' (as in years old). I have a hard time believing that even politicians are so callous that they are this uncaring. These sharks just live for the next election. They check the direction of the wind and not the correctness of their actions. Why else would Senators Clinton and Obama be among the last to vote on the troop-funding bill? If you want to lead, why would you not be among the first to cast your vote? A leader surely knows his/her mind. Does their responsibility lie to their campaigns or to those who are merely described as '19'.

I don't know much about representative John Boehmer from Ohio, but I saw his sound bite. Choking back the tears, Boehmer said, "I didn't come here to be a congressman, I came here to do something. I think at the top of our list is providing for the safety and security of the American people."

All I can do is take the man at his word. A tornado hits Greensburg, Kansas and the governor can't send in the National Guard because they and all their equipment are in Iraq. Are we providing for the common good? I don't know what happened in Greensburg because the TV cameras moved on. I hoped that someone picked up the slack, but if no one is looking it does not serve any politician's purpose. Maybe there is more to Boehmer than the lip service we get from the 'candidates' and maybe someone is moving to help.

Closer to home, the demise of independent record stores can be traced back to the FTC decision to penalize the record companies for attempting to enforce a minimum advertised price. They did not attempt to set a minimum selling price all they wanted to do was to protect the implied worth of their product. Now that music is the 'loss leader' for Best Buy's of the world and perceived as a worthless Ipod accessory, we are all having a tough time. There was no political reason to protect any of these enterprises.

Still, I am a true believer in the American way. If Iraq was not about finding Ben-laden (Afghanistan), the World Trade terrorists (Saudi Arabia) or weapons of mass destruction (anybodys guess) it had to be about oil. People even held protest signs that said, "No War for Oil!" I saw the TV news reports where they stuck a fork in Iraqi soil and oil bubbled up. If we were going to fight a war in our best interests, fighting a war for cheap oil would be a valid point to at least raise. So here, we are some 60 -70,000 lives in and our gas is going to $4 a gallon. The oil companies are making record profits, but I'm paying more for a fill up than my first car cost. I'm looking for a reason, but I'm crossing another one off of the list. Utah Phillips sang in Larimer Street thirty years ago, that there is just one kind of war the one going on between the rich and the poor. We are investing our 19 year olds and aside from trying to convince the world of our tenacity, we are just getting to pay $4 a gallon for it.

Is Mr. Boehmer working on this one too?

So at least we can buy a cat or a dog to keep us company. It is too expensive to go anywhere except to take Fido to the park or sit in front of window petting Kitty while we watch for terrorists emerging from the Quik Mart across the street. We buy the best food for these animals. Our pets are fed better than most third world citizens. Then our pets start to die. Poison in the food they say. Just another irresponsible, cost-cutting American industry giving us another Pinto with an exploding gas tank.

Bad, but it is worse.

The poison comes from melamine in the wheat gluten. The wheat gluten comes from China.

I sit here everyday and watch the people get off the trains and buses. When I was a kid, the people that got off these trains and buses were wearing overalls and carrying lunchboxes. Now these folks carry briefcases and wear business dress. They labor at intellectual pursuits like trying to find cheaper wheat gluten.

I still drive through Kansas and Missouri and Nebraska and Oklahoma and Iowa and Illinois. Trust me that there are still fields of wheat out there. Amber waves of grain they used to call them. I guess it is cheaper to get it from China now. We can put up some clapboard condos out in the heartland soon.

And of course, the FTC and the FDA are making sure that the wheat gluten is safe for us. Animal food is something different and the Chinese don't care about a few hundred thousand deaths. There is more people where those dead ones came from, heck they killed off 1.2 million Tibetans just because they were selling incense at the airports.

Our government will protect us.

Well, just before I got out of bed on Saturday morning, NPR told me that there might be lead in Vitamin C. It seems that China is close to cornering the market on Ascorbic acid . They supply about 80% of the world's supply. So it might be OK, if I just brush my teeth instead. The anti-freeze flavoring that they put in the toothpaste has only been detected as far as Panama.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10410111

How did this all happen? Well, the best and brightest aren't going to Washington anymore. They punch time clocks and do what they are told. The people who make the decisions on hiring and firing the U.S. attorneys who went to the best law schools hold diplomas from Pat Robertson's Regent University diploma mill. The people who make the decisions on the safety of our foodstuffs know that their bosses have received contributions from China R Us (Wal-Mart). They aren't going to make waves.

Maybe Representative Boehmer will protect us.

Hillary Clinton was on the Wal-Mart board for six years. She won't.

Mrs. Obama just resigned from a company that supplied pickles to Wal-Mart. No word where those pickles came from or what kind of cheap anti-freeze flavoring was used.

Barack and Bill aren't shopping at Wal-Mart. You are.

I can't blame you. It is cheaper.

Our government cares about us. There is a reason for Iraq.

Let's count the bodies.

The newspapers tell me that there is a big mattress sale tomorrow.

Happy Memorial Day

Mike

US Deaths in
                                    Iraq since March 20th, 2003

Weaselworld 56a May 16th 2007

Sometimes the world just comes to you. I don't even have to write this stuff.

"In their early career, the MC5 had a politically provocative stage show: they would appear onstage toting unloaded rifles, and at the climax of the performance, an unseen "sniper" would shoot down Tyner.."from Wikipedia

Of course guitarist, Brother Wayne Kramer and I have clashed over the past several years concerning the commercialism of the MC5. Admittedly this is my problem and not his. He is still kind enough to send my updates on his various gigs and appearances. Today I received this...

"GOOD CAUSE + BROTHER WAYNE = ROCK & ROLL BINGO?

Yes, peoples. You read it right. This Thursday May 17th, Wayne
encourages legal gambling for charity. It's the kick-off night of VH1's Rock
Honors Week in Los Angeles, so VH1 and the LA Weekly present a night of
all ages Rock and Roll Bingo. Following in the generous footsteps of
Morello, Flea and those Weezer dudes, Wayne will call 'em like he sees
'em at Rock 'n' Roll Bingo.

100% of the proceeds benefit The LifeLab. The LifeLab is dedicated to
helping young adult cancer survivors rebuild their lives after treatment
and offer them tools to make it possible. Come on down and play some
bingo. Some lives are depending on it...

Win great prizes! All ages! For a great cause! Surprise performances
after the gambling!

Price: $5 per Bingo card.
Date: Thursday, May 17th
Time: 6:30pm until 10:30pm
Place: Cranes Hollywood Tavern, 1611 N. El Centro Ave (bet. Selma &
Hollywood), Hollywood, CA 90028
Important Links:
http://rocknrollbingo.org/rocknrollwelcome.html
http://www.thelifelab.org/

SAVE THE DATE @ DODGERS STADIUM

Speaking of gambling... The Dodgers are in first place by two games
and Wayne's been asked to perform the National Anthem to open their
July 3rd game against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.

Dodger dogs. Evening cool on the baseball diamond in the middle of
summer between two first-place teams (well, at least right now) is a
beautiful way to spend a night in downtown LA.

Seats: As low as $4 and as high as $200
Date: Tuesday, July 3rd
Time: 7pm (Pacific)
Place: Dodgers Stadium, Sunset Blvd & Elysian Park, Los Angeles, CA
Info on the broadcast:
http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=la

More events as they happen..... "

Yep, good cause bingo and young adult cancer survivors.
And then the National Anthem in the same stadium that Rick Monday ripped the American flag away from a couple of them long haired commies that were intent on burning it. The Blue Angels may fly over the stadium. The Black Panthers may do a tap dance. All I can do is salute you Mr. Wayne. Mission Accomplished.

Next year on the 40th Anniversary of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I'm setting the wheels in motion for a charity celebrity golf tournament. I know a couple of old Chicago cops who are pretty good with the clubs (40 years and still swinging?) Do you think we can get Tim Robbins and Ann Coulter? Tom Foran and Tom Hayden? Jane Fonda and Joey Heatherton? Jon Burge (the Chicago police commander who tortured suspects for twenty years) and Andrew Wilson (the guy who won a million dollar judgement from the city as a torture victim)? Ron Goldman and O.J. Simpson?
Hey, it's for the kids.
Mike Ditka (who could partner up with Bears owner Mike McCaskey) says that the past is for cowards and losers.

The only place we draw the line is "no stinking permits". As Country Joe used to sing, "Yippee, we're all going to die."

colbie.JPG

Weaselworld #56 May 15th, 2007-
Why the Record Industry is in Trouble/Our Next Big Thing

Ok. Those of you who have become depressed by my heavy-handed outrage at my existence, will like this. The following arrived in my mail box this morning, heralding our next big star. I was going to add my smarmy comments, but I must admit, I'm not needed here. This young woman is going to sell millions of records and then disappear into myspace heaven. We are going to hear her at the Super Bowl and the World Series and I might sell two or three of her discs. In a short time, someone will pick up her disc in the budget rack and giggle.
And for all you aspiring musicians out there, let this be a guideline for your press releases. I'm rewriting mine now. I've always been drawn to water and that life changing catharsis I experienced at 11,whew.
Remember this is for real. This is not fiction. I couldn't even make this up. Well, maybe I could but I didn't have to.

"COLBIE CAILLAT

Ever since her mom gave birth to her in their Malibu home overlooking the ocean, Colbie Caillat has been the quintessential California girl. Her idea of a good time is hanging out with her friends at a beach bonfire or hopping in the car, tunes at the ready, and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway .

On "Coco," her Universal Republic debut, the songs mirror Caillat's low-key, refreshing style. Armed with her acoustic guitar and her dusky vocals, she evokes the same gentle, yet spirited style of her musical influences John Mayer, Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill and The Weepies

As befits the organic style of her music, Caillat's fan base has grown by word of mouth, one person at a time. Last year, she began posting her songs on her myspace.com; tunes like "Bubbly," a delightful confection about romance, and "Tailor Made," Caillat's joyful message to her sister over seeing her sibling find the perfect mate.

With no marketing push and only the power of the music behind her, Caillat became a sensation on the social networking site. Last October when she had 6,240 friends, Rolling Stone highlighted her as one of the top female artists on myspace. Ultimately, Caillat became the #l unsigned artist for over four months and her number of friends swelled to more than 100,000. Her profile has been visited over 3 million times, and she has more than l0 million plays.

As her online popularity grows, so does the recognition factor. "I'm not even famous yet and every time I go shopping, the young girls who work in the stores, they know who I am. They'll ask, 'Are you Colbie from myspace?'"; she recounts with delight. Grateful for the recognition, the laid-back, natural beauty lamented, "Great, now I'm going to have to put on make up every time I leave the house!" But she quickly reconsidered. "I'm not going to change myself on purpose for anyone, and I think that the best message I can give to my fans is that it is okay to be yourself." Indeed, even the album's title reflects her desire to remain true to herself: Her parents nicknamed her Coco while she was still an infant and it's a tag that has stuck.

Caillat started singing around home as a small girl, but a pivotal moment came when she was 11. "I heard Lauryn Hill sing 'Killing Me Softly' I think her voice is absolutely beautiful and it made me want to start singing, so I sang one of her songs at a talent show in sixth grade."

Her household was filled with music. Her father, Ken Caillat, co-produced Fleetwood Mac's legendary 'Rumours' and 'Tusk' albums and later ran his own record label. "My dad was always producing and mixing and he has the console in our house. A few years ago, he remastered 'Tusk' so I've always been around music." She recalls Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham hanging around: "All of my dad's friends are in the business, so I've learned from them. Now that I'm in it, I can go to them and they have advice for me, so it's really cool."

Her dad even suggested that the renowned drummer and guitarist play on 'Coco', but Caillat knew she needed to go her own way. But she still relied heavily on dad's words of wisdom. "I just wanted to be a singer and he said if you write songs, you get respect from people; you're having them relate to a part of you that you're sharing with them."

So the singer turned into a singer/songwriter and discovered an innate talent for observing and capturing nuanced, yet significant moments, such as that first blush of love or passage into adulthood. She also found two great collaborators in the process. Mikel Blue, whom she met when she was 15, hired her to sing the tunes he wrote for the St. John Knits' fashion shows. Their professional partnership led to writing together and his producing her album. She also connected with singer/songwriter Jason Reeves. Together, they crafted the songs on 'Coco'.

Writing happens organically for Caillat after a small gestation period. "I just let stuff build up inside of me and I'll write three songs in a weekend. It's a release," she says. "I don't pick something to write about. When I'm playing guitar, a melody comes out and whatever words come out, I go along with that."


And at some point, she instinctively heads toward water, but of a different sort than one might expect.

"I always go write songs in the bathroom because it sounds so good in there," she says. "It's like you're in a cathedral! It makes it sound a lot better, which gives you more confidence. I think melodies come out easier."

Inspiration comes from different places: conversations with family and friends or reflections on her own life. For example, her love of Hawaiian music is reflected on 'Tied Down': "I've been going to Hawaii twice a year since I was 12. At one point, I moved there for two months with friends and got a job and got a Rent-a-Wreck, went longboarding, it was lots of fun. I've always wanted to have a ukulele on a song. I just love that laid-back sound. Hawaii is a huge part of me" Or the frustrations of trying to conquer a fear in 'One Fine Wire': I took an improv class at junior college because I'm really shy in front of people up on stage. I ended up dropping the class because I had a scene I had to do. My parents were so mad at me because I just quit something I was trying to overcome. I went upstairs into my room bawling and wrote 'One Fine Wire.'

Luckily for Caillat, just as she continues to evolve as a writer, she is growing as a live performer. "I'm getting used to it. I have my band now, I just love these guys. I interact with them on stage. It's so much fun."

On a more serious note, the 21-year old realizes young girls will look up to her. "I think it will be cool," she says. Indeed, who better than a young woman admired by her peers for her talent and work ethic, instead of for hanging out at nightclubs. A young woman who constantly wants to improve, she's starting piano lessons as well as continuing guitar because she thinks it can open up another dimension to her songwriting.

"In the past few months I've been preparing myself for this crazy
adventure. I know many challenges and frustrations lie ahead, and I
am going to learn a lot. But if I can come home with some great new songs, amazing experiences, and new friends," says Caillat, "it will all be worth it."

-Somewhere 16 Magazine is still in business-

durbin.gif
From the Big O - Singapore www./bigozine2.com

Weaselworld #55 April 27,2007
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT - BUT DON'T TELL ANYONE

It keeps coming back to New Orleans. I know I must bore you. Some of you have increased your computer speed three or four times since people died on the streets of an American city for lack of food, water or medical care. We are onto the next thing quickly. Even the most moral of us find the next outrage, the next cause.
Sorry, I just can't get past this.
I've written about it before. It was a tipping point for me. It was a grand illustration of the little amount of regard elected officials paid to the citizenry. Senators, presidents, representatives that have supposedly come from the ranks of the people and elected by us to serve and protect, turned their backs upon us with a stunning laissez faire.
The president played air guitar. My senators, Democrats Durbin and Obama held the sheet music. My representative, Rahm Emmanuel, always described as a powerful voice, was silent and still. The American public was standing on tiptoes in an attic, gasping for breath from an air vent, until our legs gave way. Some of our bodies weren't recovered for months. Some may be there still.
We now know, as Americans, that whatever dire tragedy may befall us that no help will be forthcoming. If there is no profit to be had we are as good as dead. If we are lucky the vice-president may put on his sweatpants and show up at a funeral.

It should come as no surprise that another chasm in our faith has been exposed.

The clues have been there.

In March of 2006, my senator, Dick Durbin addressed the secrecy issue concerning the illegal wiretapping of American citizens to Chris Wallace of Fox News:
"Having served on the Intelligence Committee, I can tell you they put you in a box. They tell you the secret information and then say you're sworn to secrecy. You can't repeat it.
So to suggest that you can then hold a president or any member of the administration accountable publicly would mean that you'd have to break the law and leak information to the press, which many of us are loathe to do, as we should be. So we're in a terrible situation here, being given information and you can't do anything with it."

Yesterday, Senator Durbin changed the title of his statement and delivered it on the Senate floor:

"I was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and I would read the headlines in the paper in the morning and I'd watch the television newscast and I'd shake my head. The information we had in the Intelligence Committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn't believe it.

[...]You see, in the Intelligence Committee, we're sworn to secrecy. We can't walk outside the door and say, "The statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that's being given to this Congress."

[...]And so in my frustration, I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth."

I shouldn't be surprised. I am infuriated.
Senator Durbin, you work for the American people. You are in office to protect our interests and our lives. Your allegiance is to us and not the Intelligence Committee. If you knew that the excursion into Iraq was a lie, it was your duty as a senator to expose it before one American life (or Iraqi life) was lost. Beyond your duty to the American people, it would be your moral duty as a human being.
The secrets that you are privy to are kept only to protect the American people not to lead us blindly into harm. We trusted you. I voted for you. My fellow citizens of Illinois voted for you. We can only apologize to the world for our mistake and count our dead.


We offer our children for you to place in harm's way and you turn our sacrifices into a Sgt. Rock comic book recruiting poster. Pat Tillman believed his country needed his assistance and gave up a lucrative professional sports career only to lose his life in a messy screw-up in Afghanistan. It wasn't enough to plaster posters of his chiseled features across the news. It wasn't enough to sell football jerseys with his name on it. The government had to make his death into some glorious made for TV movie that it wasn't. If Pat had returned home without a scratch, he would've still been honored by us. We know the sacrifice of service. It is glory enough for us. Wasn't it enough that the only way that Jessica Lynch could get enough money to enable a lifetime of service to us as a teacher, was by doing a tour in the military? There was honor enough there. The wounds, the rescue and the "girl Rambo" nonsense wasn't necessary.
The world might not be aware of this constant snow job that our government gives us. When all else fails, when we can't invoke the privilege of "secrecy" to hide the misdeeds, we are reminded of the blood and the sacrifice of our fathers and mothers. Sorry to say that some of us are doing all the sacrificing and dying and others are always reminding us of it and profiting by it.
Maybe we should hoist this flag up..
" Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security"
That's part of our Declaration of Independence. That's part of what we are about. And if you want to know how we are doing, look to New Orleans. We hold those truths to be self-evident and that's no secret.
We look to our country and believe and we are misled. Some talk of impeachment as a punishment for the betrayal of the faith. It is too easy. Robert McNamara couldn't be bothered to research the history of Vietnam before concocting his "domino theory" and 60,000 American lives (and up to 4 million Vietnamese lives, but who's counting?) were lost. At least he claimed ignorance. Durbin claims knowledge. I think prison is in line here. It makes me wonder what does constitute treason anymore?

Weaselworld #54 April 12, 2007



KURT VONNEGUT 1922-2007

"So it goes.."



"There's only one rule that I know of, babies - 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'" - Vonnegut



And here we are.

And here we aren't.



We are watching an amputee dance on television and taking bets on if her prosthetic leg is going to fall off.

We know if they need a ratings boost it will at least come loose.

TV trucks are poised for the results of DNA testing to prove parentage of a dead celebrity's (actress? stripper? model? opportunist?) child.

It is no wonder a radio/TV talking head can go for the cheap laugh through misogyny and racism. Imus has done it for a while. I haven't been listening, but recently I heard the Clarence Page pledge that he gave regarding simian comparisons. What?

Surprising that "hymie town" (Jesse Jackson) didn't get it's "yarmulkes pinned back" (Al Sharpton) before this. It might have blown over as quickly as the Budweiser boycott if Imus had a beer distributorship to offer (Jackson, again) or Barack Obama, the "halfroamerican" (Russ Limbaugh), didn't weigh in.

In the middle of all this hatefulness we find a college women's basketball team. I've been watching women's basketball for a couple of years, since Sheri Coale got OU competitive and put an entertaining product on the court. I actually saw Rutgers play before they got all the attention. Vivien Stringer always seemed to be the kind of coach you'd like to see win. It was a tough decision to pull for local, Candace Parker and classy Pat Summitt over Stringer. The championship was one of those games that didn't matter to me who won.

There's more teamwork in women's basketball. A lot of the playoff games are played in half empty arenas. Teammates seem to look to each other rather than to the crowds for inspiration.

Still the sporting arena is brutal.

Courtney Paris, from OU had a guy calling her "hoss" down at Texas A&M. She laughed it off, but it is still must be a lot for a 20 year-old woman to take. They are in that nether land between being adult professionals and kids playing a game.

There's not a lot of knee slapping humor in these insults.

If Imus had wanted to take on something, he should have brought up Pokey Chatman at LSU. She spent 18 years at LSU and resigned on the eve of the playoffs under a cloud of suspicion of having a sexual relationship with one of her players. She vanished off the radar screen quickly, an excused sexual predator? Isn't that what they call it when a person in position of authority uses that position for sexual favors?

Skip (doesn't that nickname recall Tennessee Williams?) Bertman AD at LSU was quoted as saying, "the girl did what she did and LSU had no control over that."

"Girl"?

You could make a Lifetime movie about that situation.

Forgiveness, babies, is divine.

The same goes for a bunch of wealthy, white lacrosse players who lost a season of their lives. Nancy Grace and a lot of us didn't have any sympathy for these sons of privilege. They may have been boors but they weren't guilty and when it comes down to it, they were just kids too.

Quick fodder for the news channels.

Forget Imus. We should be ashamed of ourselves. This is the culture of America 2007?

I guess we won't have Vonnegut to listen to anymore.

I hope Vonnegut won't have this stuff to listen to anymore.

So it goes.



Happy birthday, Dad.

You passed 16 years ago today.

Say, "Hi" to Kurt for me.

So it goes.

Weaselworld #53 – April 7, 2007

Pacing the floor in the middle of the night, looking for revelations, salvation.

I found a humbled Jim Bakker trying to restart his life. He was grayer, balder, thinner. He had on a sport coat over an open shirt and blue jeans. He was preaching and soliciting contributions for real estate development. It was more condos than Jesus, but in his own words he asked, “what do you want me to do?” Pitching was all he knew.

He is down in Branson now. His current church is a ‘real café’. His guest was gospel singer Nancy Harmon who was pitching her CD’s and DVD. She has been with Bakker a long time. She used to look like the organist at your neighborhood church and then she got the big hair and designer clothes. Now she is sitting in front of a programmed Casio with her hair tied up and wearing sweat pants and occasionally speaking in tongues.

She still was in good voice though. They were still what they had always been. Still trying to raise that 1,000 dollars for the stained glass window in the new chapel.

I guess I had more forgiveness and mercy in my heart than Jerry Falwell did. I was sitting there wishing that Jim had an air-conditioned doghouse again. (“It wasn’t air-conditioned,” Bakker has explained, “It just was heated with an old heater that we had so the dogs wouldn’t freeze.”)

In a couple of hours I would have to put on my jeans and pretend that I was doing the same thing that I always did too.

It could be worse. I heard that Tammy Faye was down to 86 pounds, ravaged by cancer and living on oxygen. Stained glass windows weren’t on her wish list any longer.

I got in bed in time for the NPR to come on the clock radio at 5 am.

When I check my e-mail, Rock and Rap has an op-ed piece from the NY Times about the closing of NYCD.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/05/opinion/05sachsnunziato.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

“…the occupation we planned on spending our working lives at is rapidly becoming obsolete..”

So I’m sitting here with my mismatched coffee mug. I’m trying to save the $5 a day that Starbucks used to get from me, and feeling like Jim Bakker.

One of my customer’s calls to make sure that I’ve seen the Times article. I thank him and then wonder why he wanted to make sure I had seen it. Let’s take the high road, even though it is beginning to seem that people are beginning to act like they hate me for actually trying to make a living at selling music.

Every night at 4 am, I am determined to close the doors. By the time I get ready to go to the store, I have pumped myself full of optimism. By closing time, I am whipped with my tail between my legs looking for something good that had happened in the last ten hours.

Is it over?

I think about my Dad and my uncles that all had companies fold on them leaving their pensions gone and wondering what they were going to do for the rest of their lives. It wasn’t going to happen to me. I was going to work for myself, be my own boss and then the industry goes and quits on me.

What now?

In the middle of last night, I was up watching a program on Steinbeck and the Grapes of Wrath. Folks were just looking for work. If they could work everything would be fine. James Talley was on the public radio saying that only freedom most folks wanted was to make the payment on the truck and keep a roof over their head.

Some want a lot more, it seems.

This free music deal is just a matter of perception. I have my average customer swilling a bottle of water that he paid $1.50 for (it’s free from the tap) or a $4 cup of coffee (when you could make your own coffee for a week for that). We need a traffic cop out here to keep the au pairs with their strollers from running over the dogwalkers. He has someone to clean his house. He has someone to wash his clothes. Yet he’ll take the trouble to download music for free, so he can use that $15 he would’ve gave me on a chocolate martini or half a car wash.

Is there some venom that I have unwittingly inspired among the affluent? It is about more than the money.

It is the comeuppance for me. I didn't have the air-conditioned doghouse or the secretary in the boardroom or the two sets of books. I just tried to make the car payment, keep the roof over my head, but like Steinbeck's Okies, one day, I just started choking on the dust and nothing seemed to work anymore...

Mike

Weaselworld #52 (I think) Tuesday, March 25,2007

Looking back on some of these aborted Weaselworlds there are several that are just one word expletives.
As business continues to tumble, I'm sleeping a couple of hours a night and pacing the rest. Trying to figure out what I should do and how to get rid of these dog CDs that no one wants. I have a huge $1 section that is going to be rotated to the dumpster.
Trying to figure out what to do next with the rest of my life.
Trying to figure out what to do with my new CD that doesn't appear to be saleable, but I like it and believe in it.
I'm writing new songs and planning on recording a third disc that no one one will want.
I'm listening to artists that are exciting to me,but that no one seems to want to listen to. Tom House, Tommy Womack, Eric Taylor, Tom Heinl, Johnny Dowd, Bob Frank, Rod Picott...Sorry guys. I know you all have your little followings, but you all probably sell more of your music directly than any retailer does.
Why is this? What can I do to make it happen?

Searching, I keep stumbling onto awful quotes from the record industry..

"The exec who eventually signed Britney Spears, Jive Records' Jeff Fenster, said he based the decision not on a song in particular, but on a picture of the then-teenage Spears. She was sitting on a picnic blanket, wearing cutoffs and cuddling a puppy, Fenster said. "She looked like the sweet, All-American girl that you just wanted to defile and do bad things to, and that appealed to me."

And they did do bad things to her, didn't they? I never liked her Mickey Mouse music, but she went from a cute little kid to a slutty, cocktail waitress in rehab. Don't tell me it is the price of 'fame'...

Greg Kot - Chicago Tribune from SXSW "Interscope Records, home to U2, Jay-Z and Gwen Stefani, already has signed the Pipettes, but the band's album won't be available in the United States till summer. By then, it might've already exhausted its welcome"

The next big thing, might not have the legs to make it to it's release date?

Two from the Rolling Stone that arrived on my doorstep yesterday...

A caption on a picture showing a beer truck driver stacking up cases of Miller Lite saying that all the beer was necessary to make the bands tolerable.

Ouch.

A feature on the new heroes, The Academy Is, has the lead singer quoted as saying that he hopes that when a kid goes to Target to buy his next disc, they hope to provide an alternative to all the crappy bands.

Target?

So even the reviewers and the people who make their living by promoting popular culture seem to be finding it hard to raise their enthusiasm. Where did it all go?

I'm buying less and less new product. It has no shelf life. The Shins will sell well for a couple of weeks and then die. Arcade Fire will be hot and then trickle to nothing. And then Modest Mouse will be hot for a week or two. It all seems like Chinese food. The dwindling disc buying public is satisfied only momentarily and then tires. They are off and onto the next thing. How long is it going be before they all quit trying?

What's good, Mike? Hell, I don't know. It looks like rows and rows of shit to me. I've worried about how jaded I've become, but I worry more when I see Rolling Stone and Greg Kot go down the same road.

Paul (M.O.T.O.) looked at the newest greatest hits from Stevie Nicks and asked me if it was an empty case.

In my bleary, eyed pacing I came up with a solution.

Garrison Keilor used to have a pretty good grocery up at Lake Woebegone. The grocery store's motto was "if we don't have it, you probably don't need it". Maybe that is our answer.

Instead of following the breathless, hollow hype to stock the store with the latest "hollerbach" crap that is never even going to find it's way to the store player once, we should stock what we believe in, what we have a passion about. Records that we want our customers to hear. It isn't a matter of taste. It is a matter of what is good. Our record of the year was O.B. Buchana  "I'm Gonna Sleep". It is great, old school R&B that we stumbled upon. His record "I Can't Stop Drinkin" had a great cover of O.B. holding a couple quart bottles of whiskey. It made us laugh and put the record on. Other people bought the record just because of that cover AND it was a good record. I discovered the Rolling Stones, much the same way. We played the disc to death. People asked us what it was and we sold it to them. That my friends is what a good record store is supposed to do.

We need to sort through the crap and reject it. I don't care if Gwen Stefani looks good or Beyonce strokes herself into orgasmic seizures on stage. Yes, I must admit there might be a voice behind the melismatic exercises, but it still sounds like Whitney Houston with her hand caught in a toaster. Let the Targets be the lemmings that follow the ringtone.

It doesn't matter about downloading. It does matter if we do our job. The music buying public is lost in an American Idol wilderness. They are being told that this download sold 800,000 ringtones and it is what you should be listening too. A few ringtones later and they get up from the table bored.

Mellencamp is even starting his album by writing a song for a commercial. Bands are starting their careers that way. What happened to writing because you had something to say?

As a writer/performer of stuff people don't want to hear, I know that there is a major difference between fitting yourself into a genre and becoming the guy who sounds just like John Prine or Johnny Cash or the guy who sounds like me. I was thumbing through an old CMJ that helps retailers know what artists sound like by giving a few examples. Amy Rigby had a song about Joey Ramone, so of course, her CD was for fans of the Ramones. The niche didn't fit. Amy Rigby should sound like Amy Rigby and say what she wants to say in her songs. Of course, she isn't selling 800,000 ringtones either.
I often fantasize about a young Bob Dylan stepping out into an American Idol audition and watching the substitute bass player for Journey, Laker girl and Mr. Teletubby rip him apart. Springsteen would be singing "She Bang" on You-Tube. Even I can't imagine Hank Williams or Robert Johnson or Woody Guthrie making round one. Elvis was never going to be another Perry Como and the Beatles sure did show tunes and the Drifters badly.
Sonic Bids and a lot of artist help sites tell you to perfect an elevator pitch. If you have minute or two to tell someone of importance how and why you are worthy of their attention. (I already blew it, I guess when I told the president of one of the majors that I was a dentist in response to his "I suppose you are involved in the music industry" query.) How about "I'm a human being with thoughts and ideas that are as valid as anyone's. I put some of them up on paper and against chords". Is that good enough?
I have a guy who washes my windows and he writes poetry. It is just as worthy of a listen and respect as anything you and I or Fall Out Boy might do.
Maybe none of what I do, fits into the starmaker machinery.
Maybe little record stores don't fit into a Home Depot world or into the business plan of 21st century.
We may be just dealing with a world that is devolving, but rock and roll in the 50's was supposed to be the outlaw that turned the conventional on it's ear that drew that line in the dirt. Of course, if you lived through the 60's, we were supposed to create a post revolutionary world that learned the lessons of Vietnam, but instead we became investment bankers and our kids and grandkids wound up in Iraq.
The Sex Pistols became the only rock and rollers with the integrity to reject the sham of the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame".
Maybe Kurt Cobain was the end of it all, at the end of a shotgun. The day that music died?
But I know that I want my last words to be, "You've got to listen to this" and I'm not going to quit singing even if the whole world is deaf.

WEASELWORLD - FEBRUARY 2007

I HAVE SEEN THE DEATH OF ROCK AND ROLL

 

            It has been a while since I got out and saw a band. I’ve finally reached the point where I’m not enthusiastic enough about hoping I might hear something that I like that I will endure the Spartan conditions and abuse of rock clubs to go. I’d like to see B.B. King again or Smokey or Al Green, bit if I’m going to pay $150 a ticket I want a chair to put my ass on. I’m not going to stand like cattle in the old Union Stockyards, elbow to asshole standing on my tiptoes, hoping my surgically repaired knee with hold up for hours and hoping as well, that I might see the stage and that the soundman has operated something more complex than the wheel of I-Pod.

            Maybe it is a young man’s game, but if I’m going to show up, I want to be entertained and not submitted to an endurance test. Bad warm beer in a plastic cup? Woo hoo!

            Cameron had secured an opening slot for James McMurtry at the Old Town School, so I got on the guest list for the late show.

            The theater at the school is small, so it is often sold out, but you get a seat to sit in. Somehow they manage to treat you like a human being. I don’t go there as often as I should, but it is a venue that is worthy of support. I suppose that I would appreciate some of the more eclectic world acts if I gave them a chance.

            I had last attempted to see McMurtry at Schubas when the Bottle Rockets were opening for him and doing their unplugged set. The soundman butchered the ‘unplugged’ set so badly that they were unintelligible in the small room and I left before they finished or McMurtry went on.

            He has been doing an anti-war song that I haven’t heard yet and I have appreciated some of his past songwriting efforts from his first album on.

            But L.A. Rob happened to surface and he had a new band, Philpot, playing later in the evening. Rob is a former employee and sometimes he needs bodies to fill a room. I had to support the home team so I blew off McMurtry again.

            I haven’t been seeing the wife much, since we’ve both have been working our butts off. I leave at ten in the morning and get home about nine at night. She gets up at ten and goes to work the night shift at the hospital. She stops at the post office and takes care of my on-line mail, gets home about the time I am ready to leave. So this was date night.

            We had a dinner that neither one of us enjoyed and we were running a little late to catch Cameron. It turned out that the early show had run a bit late and we were right on time.

            Cam did his thing. I always feel that I’m missing something in his songs. It’s like trying to speed-read a poetry book. You get a line and miss the next.  Like my friend, Tom House, I always hear something I overlooked and always enjoy it. The show went well and the crowd was receptive, but it ran a little over. He finished at 11 and L.A. Rob’s band was supposed to start at 11. Rock and Roll always runs late, so I figured that we could make a portion of the set.

            So we raced across town. Philpot was playing at a place called the Dunn Inn. I had never heard of the place before. It was close to my house and we have a lot of Polish bars around, so I kind of figured it would be full of guys who like Deep Purple.

            We were supposed to hook up with Mick from the label and call him if we had any problem with the guest list.

            Well, there are no fucking guest lists at the Dunn Inn.

            We opened the metal door that had a clasp for a padlock on the outside. A huge frizzy red-haired guy with splotchy skin and a huge wart on his nose, resembling one of the barbarians on those ‘what’s-in- your-wallet” commercials blocked our path. He didn’t say a word. I said, “Hi, how are you doing?” which must have been the right thing because he smiled and stepped aside.

            The bar was 1985. It was as if a lock was placed on the door with everyone inside and they just aged. The guys were all kind of dressed like bikers. Doo-rags and leather, the women were all kind of poofy. The band was not Philpot. They were playing original metal, but they all were Slavic looking guys that seemed to be pushing 60. The lead guitar player had a shaved head and a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off. The singer had the frizzy part-in-the-middle perm and he was wailing like Bon Scott. Guitars were in the air and licking tongues extended.

            I figured that the place had to be pretty new. There were glass-framed photos of Chicago sports stadiums. One had a 1918 White Sox jersey under glass. They gave me a Guinness in a real glass and my wife had a glass bottle of Bud (no glass for her). A drunken guy was wandering around with one of those yardarm long glasses of imported beer. In a rock club it would be only a matter of time before arteries were severed. The pool table in the other room already provided about 20 or so lethal bar fight weapons. When things got tough and all the glass available broken, some barbarian would always rip a urinal from the wall and continue. Usually that required a little effort and if they had learned to ‘tip’ the right policemen, help might arrive before the flood.

            Everyone seemed very nice though. One guy offered my wife earplugs. She refused telling him that I’ve been dragging her to these kinds of shows since back when Ozzy was coherent. The crowd had a just-got-off-of-the-shift-at-the-steel-mill look and they were all basically Chicago people. These were the kind of guys that used to get off the bus with their lunch boxes before there was a Starbucks on every corner and a condo where the two-flat used to be. I had been thinking about Sandberg’s poem and how this place wasn’t ‘the hog butcher of the world anymore’ filled with guys who smoked cheap cigars and drank quart bottleS of beer on the front porch. No, we had become chocolate martini drinkers and guys that hung around while their girlfriends tried on fifty-dollar t-shirts just to assure her that she didn’t look fat.

            I asked the bartender who the band was. She didn’t have a clue.

            We ordered another drink and sat at the bar. A gap-toothed guy who said he was named Costello, but he was an Irishman babbled at me. I nodded politely, agreeing with what he said. He felt the urge to dance, jumped up and did a Stevie Nicks turn and sat down on the barstool next to the one he had been sitting at. He grew alarmed that his crumpled dollar bills and his cigarettes had been moved.

            “When my dad used to drink, he could put his money and cigarettes on the bar and nobody would mess with them. I get up and dance and they are over there all of a sudden.”

            I shook my head and bemoaned what modern society had brought us to.

            His buddy, a little troll like guy appeared and he went through his story again.

            I’m thinking that I’m the only one within six feet of his money and that I’m going to get accused of swiping a buck and we’re going to have to back out of here swinging.

            “Is anything missing?” the troll asked.

            “No, it just moved”

            The troll looked at me and I gave him the flat palms and we agreed that there was no problem.

            They both left the money and cigarettes on the bar and went to try and pick up the ATM machine.

            In through the door came the couple. The guy had a corduroy sport jacket on over an open necked white shirt. It was cold out, but he was cool. His hair was moussed and spiky. His girlfriend, DeeDee was her name as it turned out, was dressed for a big night out at the Dunn Inn. She was either a bridesmaid or the prom had just let out. A lot of cleavage. They were engaged in animated conversation and it wasn’t long before a breast had loosed itself from her dress. My wife informed me of this latter, as I didn’t notice this at all.

She ran down to the other end of the bar, he followed, carrying her drink and coat.

A few minutes later, she was back, plopping herself impatiently down on the barstool. He again followed with her coat.

            I had thought that they were involved in an argument, but the lives in the fast lane were just moving so much quicker for me.

            A butchy looking woman came by and he introduced her to DeeDee. The woman looked to the cleavage.

            The band finished their set and they emerged from the stage toweling themselves.

            “You guys were awesome,” DeeDee told the guitar player. He grinned as if that was all the reward he had needed.

            A biker dude saddled up to the bar with a drumstick that the drummer had given him. His doo-rag was tied to cover the tattoo on his neck with a little flap that read, “Bitch fell off”. He held the drumstick as if it were his prized possession. He held it in his hand, rolling it over, looking at every inch of it.

            Then two guys from the city came in. They had hard hats and reflective vests on.

            “We have a broken water main,” they told the bartender, “We are going to have to shut your water off in an hour.”

            ‘How long will it be out for?”

            “Four hours”

            The biker dude said, “This is Friday night and we got another hour and a half to drink”

            “You can drink, but we have to shut the water down.”

            The gap-toothed guy came back looking for his crumpled bills and said,  “My Dad worked for the city and he didn’t shut off water.”

            And then my wife who hadn’t been out in a while had her drinks kick in.

            “Mayor Daley puts his fucking flower pots in the middle of street but he can’t take care of water mains.”

            “Yeah,” gap-tooth said, “Fucking flower pots.”

The city guys backed out the door.

            “I think it is time to go home,” I told my wife.

            A guy walked out with us.

            “That was a real throw back,” he said.

            “Yeah,” I said, “Rock and Roll.”

            “That was fun,” my wife said, “Like Pat Travers in Polar, Wisconsin or Ruby Starr at the Log Cabin or Lonesome Dave’s Foghat at the Hublite. We got to come back here.”

            I couldn’t imagine Philpot being any better than this. Maybe they started singing some Rufus/Oasis shit about how beautifully depressed they were and somebody shoved their sorry Indiana asses in the dumpster. In any case, they didn’t stick around.

            James McMurtry wouldn’t have been any better either.

            I didn’t pay $150 and I had a chair.

            Rock and Roll.

            Johnny Vomit is playing February 16th.
**Good news. We have heard from Philpot. They weren't allowed to play because one of their members wasn't twenty-one and not because they tried to cover "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" . They will be back in town at another venue on March 9th. Until then look them up on Myspace. They've already provided me with more entertainment than I've had in a while. I'll be looking kindly upon them.***

WEASELWORLD JANUARY 2007

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY: MORE OF THE SAME

            I don’t want to keep reaffirming the depressing facts. There is no point.

            Everyone knows that we are part of a dying industry. The record companies are flailing about without a clue or an original idea on how to survive. Customers expect everything to be free and we are still supposed to pay upwards of $12.20 wholesale for it. Retailers can save about $3 over distributor prices by buying from discount retailers, who we are supposed to believe aren’t getting any breaks from the companies. That is about as believable as our Iraq policy.

            There is no new quality product being put out by the majors. I do get tons of promo posters and promo copies on bands that absolutely no one is going to buy from me or maybe anyone. You can’t sell crap even at $1 a copy. I’m tossing promos that people won’t even take for free. It doesn’t matter how you hype it.

            There were no quality releases over the Christmas season. The rehashed Beatles – Love generated some interest, but we are reaching the end of the line for remastered, remixed versions of material that we have been selling at top dollar for twenty years. I have two copies of every Beatles disc (three if you count the mono & stereo versions on the remastered American boxes). I have at least three copies of most of the Jimi Hendrix catalog and I don’t know how many repackages of the Stones. I’m not buying anymore and I expect the public isn’t either.

            The Marie Antoinette marketing strategy of ‘let them eat cake” by figuring people were going to rush out and buy over priced box sets for the one or two unreleased tracks didn’t work. Tom Waits’ three CD set made my top ten and I’ll let you know the other nine when I can figure out more than two or three others that made any kind of impression this year.

            The shelf lives of new bands are on a par with produce. The hot Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Jet, and countless others couldn’t survive the second album.

            So, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’m not going to belabor this point. We’re dead in the water and trying to re-invent ourselves and salvage something of our business if we can. Needless to say, it is not going to happen by buying box lots of AFI or +44 or any other regurgitated crap that we’ve all heard many times before. Nothing original or industry saving is going to emerge from High School Musical or American Idol.  Bloc Party sold two copies this week. Fall Out Boy –0. My customers, at least are on to you and they aren’t buying it. When the music isn’t worth anything, it should be free

            The best that I felt about the record business was my April fool retirement of a year ago.

            I do apologize for the debts that I have run up trying to find something that I could sell and believe in. Hope always gets me in trouble. We will do our best to make things right with everyone as we proceed with austerity.

            Since we cut our store in half last June, we have cut our expenses but we are still catching up on old debt. We do know that we aren’t a very good record store at this point, but we need to eliminate some dead inventory and create some space. Whether we can accomplish all this before we are run out of business is anyone’s guess. We are giving it a shot, but we just can’t promise any future.

 

            I don’t know how long it is going to be viable for musicians to attempt to support themselves with music. I have recorded my second album and I’m trying to figure out how to put it in the best position to return some of the investment. Of course, we did it out of love, kind of like playing for free exposure in that church basement a couple decades ago.

            I witness, first hand the struggles of the two excellent musicians that still work here. Cameron is without health insurance and struggling with what should be minor ailment, minor if you have the means to deal with it. He has two excellent albums out and I don’t know how much in the can, but again he doesn’t have the means to get it before an audience.

            Paul –M.O.T.O. – like myself, is fortunate to have a wife with a good job that provides us with health insurance and a semblance on normalcy along with a steady income. I guess that the advice we can offer young musicians who want to make this a career is to learn your craft and try and secure a bright, significant other who believes in what you do to the extent of playing your patron at some points.

            Paul is plotting a European tour and as with any band, a good portion of the proceeds of playing live is the selling of merchandise. He is having a problem with transporting t-shirts to Europe due to their tariffs and restrictions on textiles. I assume that these laws are in place to protect the European textile workers.

            We in the United States, somewhere along the line have stopped believing in protective tariffs. We look at the labels on our clothes and almost everything is made by cheap, if not slave labor in Bangladesh or China or Vietnam. Our textiles mills close because they can’t pay a living wage provide health care for it’s employees and sell Wal-mart clothing for pennies.

            Like any American based business, music is getting it from all sides. We are all going to standing on that expressway ramp in New Orleans, begging for our country to give us water and shelter and medicine and a chance. And our president will be playing air guitar while our carcasses are stacked on the street.

            Is there a politician who is going to step up for the American people? Are we just going to get a glad hand to get the vote and get placed in the White House? Once elected, the chosen in one is insulated. They don’t have to face critics. They don’t have to answer questions. They dwell in the Forbidden City and we all are too stupid, too unimportant to even acknowledge.

            The music business may be dying because, quite simply, no one is in the mood to dance.

Bonus!
December 2006
I've been quiet this year. Swearing to be kinder and gentler, but that is over now.
I'm tired of taking hits from jackass music journalists. (Take a look at our Jackass page for our NEW CITY saga last month.)
Now we have VENUS magazine.
An intern, Kelly Mellott, brings in Ladytron to do one of their "going shopping with" features. OK, a nice thing to do.
And then they turn it around and give us a smack in their article.
"Though the Emporium's Web site somewhat misguided us about the store's inspiration for cult favorite High Fidelity..."
What?
High Fidelity was written by Nick Hornby. He is a British writer, writing about a British store. It was Americanized and adapted for the screen by John Cusack -among others. The store in the film was constructed for that purpose. The set dressers spent a lot of time with us trying to get the right feel. We helped them as much as we could and I think they created a good movie. If you don't believe us,talk to Larry Lundy who did the set decoration. John Cusack has shopped here. Paul (M.O.T.O) has opened for Tenacious D and is friends with Liam Lynch (director of the Tenacious D flick) and his family. I have a script that the High Fidelity guys gave me.
How the paragraph on our web site:
"...We provided inspiration and expertise for the record store in High Fidelity. It's not about us, really. Don't be afraid to ask for Stevie Wonder, although I do have fantasies about beating someone with an air conditioner.."
misleads anyone is beyond me.
I'm sure Kelly has a little black dress with our DNA on it somewhere, but it would've been easy not to be an asshole. Instead we get the backhand swipe.
Ah,piss.
I'm going to go smoke a cigar