Thursday, August 4, 2011
Acoustic Americana Music Guide NEWS FEATURES, August 4 edition
In this edition, we lovingly remember some very special artists who have made a HUGE difference.
STEPHEN COLBERT, we need you!
The latest News is right here. All will be clear.
PLUS, remember to check out the Guide's nineteen SHOW-OF-THE-WEEK picks, AND the full abundance of the acoustic music spectrum – including a special inclusion of RECURRING EVENTS – in our companion presentation, the Guide’s August 4 edition of SPOTLIGHT EVENTS! That is available separately at
NOW, let's get started!
Welcome to the
Tied to the Tracks
August 4, 2011 edition
IN THIS EDITION:
We're calling STEPHEN COLBERT and his shiny new PAC to ride to the rescue like the cavalry in answer to our bugle call. It's our comically-seriously piece in this edition.
We've got a preview of the big “ROOTS ROADHOUSE 2” extravaganza coming August 14.
And we fondly remember departed artists who shone like first magnitude stars in our acoustic universe. Among them, KEN GRAYDON, one of the best songwriters we've ever known. The piece by ROSS ALTMAN speaks to the abiding influence of a most singular artist, one who was an artist in the full sense of the word.
THANK YOU all for sending us a RECORD NUMBER of comments since our feature was published July 19 on the implications for the arts, artists, and things we care about in common, as we asked, “IS THE FUTURE OF ARTS FUNDING GONE IN AMERICA?” Our feature on the Debt Limit, the budget battle, and politicians playing with dynamite was re-published in FolkWorks magazine as the longest single feature in the magazine's history! You can read the many comments (and still add yours!) As originally written and complete with comments, it's at http://acousticamericana.blogspot.com/2011/07/is-future-of-arts-funding-gone-in.html
THIS WEEK’S NEWS FEATURES
1) “Spotlight Events” Special: Rapid-Access “Show-of-The-Week” Picks, plus
a Rare “Recurring Events” Compilation
2) A Song from Across the Void – Honoring the Great KEN GRAYDON
3) Calling STEPHEN COLBERT: Help! We've Been Compromised!
4) “In Loving Memory of JOEL OKIDA,” this Sunday
5) Celebrate KENNY EDWARDS August 19, “By the Ocean he Loved so Much”
6) Sunday's “Grand Ole Echo” is Notable, with “ROOTS ROADHOUSE 2” Just a Week Away
Here are this week's news feature stories, listed above...
Our # 1 Story
“SPOTLIGHT EVENTS” SPECIAL: RAPID ACCESS SHOW-OF-THE-WEEK PICKS,
PLUS A RARE “RECURRING EVENTS” COMPILATION
Something special that will SAVE ME TIME? you ask. YES!
a) NEED SOMETHING FAST? The Guide's SHOW-OF-THE-WEEK picks – NINETEEN events, from August 4 through 14, are now front-loaded in the opening part of SPOTLIGHT EVENTS. That will be their new home in EACH new edition of the Guide's Spotlight Events.
b) RECURRING EVENTS are making a special appearance in Spotlight Events. Once in awhile, we include all the recurring events (jams, open mics, residencies, weekly / monthly showcases, etc.) there, just for a week or so. It's so you can see – in one place – the full extent of what's available (and why we endeavor to offer a “Recurring Events” section to keep Spotlight Events from getting out of hand). Prepare to be astonished by the cornucopia of possibilities in an average week of acoustic music hereabouts.
Spotlight Events, with all that, is a click away, at
Our # 2 Story
A SONG FROM ACROSS THE VOID - HONORING THE GREAT KEN GRAYDON
It's not enough that his songs were recorded by internationally-known artists like Tommy Makem and Glenn Yarborough or that he was a founder of Songmakers. Who else could make us laugh through our tears with a song precipitated by his own impending demise?
Any artist who aspires to make a difference, to leave behind some vestige of their creative work to influence and inspire others, should read what follows. We are humbly privileged to share it. We thank writer Ross Altman and FolkWorks ezine for permission to share it with you.
Ken Graydon, longtime friend, by far one of the best songwriters and performing singer-songwriter-poets we have ever known, a gentle giant whose 12-string mastery and resonant baritone voice were delights second only to his company, has left this earth. The latest of too many top and influential creative talents taken from us by brain cancer.
Tributes and remembrances of Ken are pouring in and we will surely share more of them. This one is inspiring and powerful. It gives us a rich cargo, parting gifts that are staying with us from the treasure trove of Ken's song lyrics, with vital context from one who knew him well.
Its writer, ROSS ALTMAN, is one of a handful of winners of the “Legend Award,” a singular annual honor conveyed by the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest organization (which conducted its 51st annual contest and festival in May). Like us, Ross can tell you with little provocation how privileged he was to know Ken Graydon. We cannot know if Ken comprehended what Ross wrote. Ken's musician wife, Phee Sherline, read it to Ken as soon as it arrived. But Ken had drifted into a coma two hours earlier. He slipped the bonds of earth the next night, July 30.
AS KEN GRAYDON LAY DYING
By Ross Altman
(Republished from FolkWorks, where it first appeared July 29, 2011)
Forgive me, Ol’ Pard, but I want to get this one in for you before your great heart stops beating. Something in me rebels against the thought of writing in the past tense of a man who is larger than life, “a genial bear of a man” who has inspired as many songs as he has written, who represents the last of the dying west, and perhaps the last of the just, and proves every day that as long as the sun sets in the west, there will be a cowboy to watch it go down.
You have been that cowboy for me. Oh, I know you tried to fool us modern sodbusters and “Death Valley 49ers” by writing songs of the sea too, like your classic Whaler’s Tale, and even train songs like your Coyote Special, but we both know where your heart came from—the days when your father was a working cowboy in Seligman, Arizona in the 1920s, from whom you inherited your love of horses, boots and saddles. So humor me, Ken, and let me hold off on the sails and rails for a few minutes. You were a man who wore many hats, but your cowboy hat fit best. I hope Phee doesn’t mind, either.
Ken and Phee (Ken Graydon and Phee Sherline) are rarely seen apart; they appear almost like one musician with two instruments—she plays the hammer dulcimer and he plays a big twelve string guitar—matching his booming bass voice with its powerful bass runs. Ken doesn’t play anything “fancy on a stick,” as Woody Guthrie once described his own playing, just the right chord and the right strum at the right time, always keeping the song and its story front and center.
Ken is the spiritual godfather of Songmakers, the quintessential folk singer-storyteller who could always turn a good yarn into a good poem or song. Nothing was off limits; even his own brain cancer inspired this rattling good cowboy poem about every debilitating side effect of the medications that would hopefully save his life:
By Ken Graydon, January, 2011
While reading through the warnings
Of these pills I take each morning,
The feeling comes aborning
That something is awry.
For that which happens to you
As each slowly courses through you
Can cause a sort of voo-doo
When they join and multiply.
For each new medication
Seems to add more information
That further ingestation
Could bring consequences dire.
And as though this weren’t enough
When the going’s really tough
They’ll make it rather rough
‘Cause then they’ll get together and conspire.
Levetiracetam can run antic
It can sometimes leave you manic.
It can cause attacks of panic,
Make you hear things that aren’t there.
It’s designed to ward off seizures
Which can sneak up in your leisure
But it’s dangerous for geezers
For their complications flare.
It can cause hallucinations
And other aggravations
Such as hyperventilation.
Insomnia comes in rollers tidal.
Fevers, chills and rashes may come visit
And you start to wonder “Is it
Time to bite the biscuit?”
It can make you suicidal.
Famotidine’s for fighting reflux
Which is similar to upchucks
And I can tell you, it sucks
When a belch disturbs your sleep.
Use caution if you’re older
For it tells you in the folder
That consequences then grow bolder.
They’re enough to make you weep.
And then there’s Dexamethasone.
This one goes right for the bone.
If you’re osteoporosis prone
It helps you on your way
Along with fever, seizures, chills
A myriad of mental ills
Like weakness, sadness, losing wills,
All for a moderate co-pay.
It says there that your bones might break.
Perhaps your back and head could ache.
It might at night keep you awake
Or give you indigestion.
Do not despair. It’s no upsetter
For the statement’s made in big bold letters.
It’s all designed to make you better.
Now, have you any questions?
– Posted by DeathValley49ers
Ken was born October 30, 1933 in Long Beach, California, and raised in Bakersfield and Delano, where he raised and trained horses with his father, though, as he put it, he had enough sense not to ride a bronc or a bull in rodeos. His mother designed the family home, an adobe ranch house she filled with Indian and Mexican pots and artifacts, in the San Joaquin Valley north of Bakersfield. In addition to horses, the family raised cotton and olives.
I first met Ken and Phee at the Claremont Spring Folk Festival in the 1980s, where year after year we would share the closing ceremonial sing along on their outdoor stage. Ken did workshops on cowboy songs, of course, but also railroad songs and sea shanties. Not surprisingly for this cowboy poet, he was particularly devoted to shanties of the west, observing that most songs of “the sea” came from the Atlantic. He tried to balance the books by adding songs from the Pacific.
But unlike many cowboy poets and singers, Ken gave his Southern California roots away by not turning his nose up at the counterculture that set him apart from your typical lasso spinning, guitar slinging western bard. On the contrary; he celebrated it in one of his best songs—
It’s Time To Start Singing Again
He wrote songs in the sixties that prodded the conscience of the nation
And the words that he chose to use mirrored our own indignation
And some called him Bobby and some called him Phil
Or Richard or Johnny or Len
Now the voices have changed but the message sounds clear
It’s time to start singing again.
So give me your words. Tell me what’s on your mind
Show me what needs to be shown
Come raise up your voices and pour out your song
Let me know I’m not singing alone.
From Selma to Birmingham, Chicago, New York and Seattle
He sang us the news and the hopes and the fears of the battle
‘Till it blew in the wind and it hammered and rang
And the whole land was singing and then
It shimmered and echoed and faded away
Now it’s time to start singing again
Now the years have gone ‘round and the circle’s come full in its turning
And it’s time to be heard while liberty’s torch is still burning
For there’s power in music that can’t be denied
And it comes ‘round again and again
But no one can listen if nobody sings
So come and start singing again.
(transcribed from Ken’s website.)
Ken Graydon once said the cowboy and sailor have a lot in common. They both live outdoors and use the stars as landmarks. He’s been collecting and writing songs of the sea for years noticing that most of the sea songs are based in the Atlantic. He’s put some exciting Pacific sagas to music and collected songs from this ocean that are often quite different from their Atlantic counterparts. (source: www.kengraydon.com) Here is one that has traveled around a good deal, based on a true story recounted by San Francisco whaling captain Charles Melville Scammon from the California Gold Rush:
A WHALER'S TALE
Words & Music by Ken Graydon
(Recorded by Tom Lewis.)
I signed aboard this whaling ship, I made my mark it's true,
And I'll serve out the span of time I swore that I would do.
But I'll not man your boats again, though you cast me in the sea,
For I tell you sir, them fish can think as well as you or me!
Just yesterday the lookout's call had bent us to our work,
I took me place like all the rest, I'd not be one to shirk;
Now thirteen men's been drownded, and no more of them we'll see,
I'd take an oath, them fish can think as well as you and or me!
We pulled our boats abreast the pod, the steersman took his stand;
He had no time to make his throw, when the oar flew from my hand,
Just then a great fluke smashed our boat, that whale I didn't see,
But I believe them fish can think as well as you or me!
For then them whales destroyed our boats, they rammed them one by one;
They stove them all with head and fluke and after they was done,
We few poor souls left half-alive, was clinging to debris,
I'd stake my life them fish can think as well as you or me!
The way them whale fish went for us, it seemed as though 'twas planned,
For each one had his target boat, they played us man for man;
Just knowing' now they think so clear, my heart says let them be,
I swear to God them fish can think as well as you or me!
Now John is blind, Jim's lost an eye and Caleb's lost below;
My leg will heal but other men no more aloft can go,
So I'll not man your boats again though you drown me in the sea,
For I tell you sir, them fish can think as well as you or me!
According to Ken’s wife Phee Sherline, who detailed the song’s origins for the Mudcat website, "Scammon's book (1875), 'The American Whale Fishery' is a notable work. I believe he also wrote a book with a title similar to 'Marine Mammals of the Pacific', which was considered a definitive text. Ken’s song is fiction but tells what possibly could have happened when Scammon entered the lagoon."
Ken rides one other hobby horse that must be mentioned to let those outside of his wide circle of friends have some measure of the man: Before he was diagnosed with brain cancer last year Ken continued to write and perform but spent much of his time “wrangling a different kind of horsepower–cars. His specialty is wiring hot rods.”
As a matter of fact, his skill as a mechanic served him well as a folk singer too, for when Ken and Phee took their show on the road in their sturdy one-room motor home, Ken was always able to keep their performance dates by keeping their “horse” in optimal running condition. While Phee would work up their bookings on the computer, Ken would work on the engine, brakes and whatever else needed fixing to get them there.
A master storyteller and craftsman with words and music, as well as horses, ships and steam engines, Ken took his deadly illness and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy as one more challenge to write about. With the telltale meter and internal rhyme scheme of the cowboy poet, he addressed his own mortality with the same clear-eyed sense of humor and down-to-earth honesty that speaks to his innate strength of character.
To sum up, Ken Graydon is a mensch, dying with the same quiet nobility with which he has always lived. In this wonderful poem, one may easily imagine Tevya talking to God, if Tevya had worn a cowboy hat:
by Ken Graydon, December, 2010
Now we’ve all heard the word that the almighty Lord
Doesn’t send you a thing you can’t take.
Just reach down inside and you’ll find he’ll provide
What you need to succeed some bad break.
If you sit there and whine you’ll be sure to resign
And that will be no use at all
And I’ve often heard said that what don’t make you dead
Makes you stronger when your back’s ‘gainst the wall
For each tribulation there’s a grand explanation.
That it’s left up to you to discern
And sooner or later in the depths of each crater
There’s some wonderful secret to learn.
No use in cryin’. You’ve got to keep tryin’.
The answer just lies deeper down.
When He hands you a big’un if you keep on diggin’
There’s some treasure deep down to be found.
I know men of faith say whatever he sayeth
Comes true when you’ve shelled to the cob
And he’s give me this task for which I did not ask
‘Cause he figures I’m up to the job.
Considerin’ this matter I guess I should be flattered.
I s’pose most men more pious would be.
But, sisters and brothers, if I had my druthers
I wish he’d quit braggin’ on me!
Ken, from now on every time I sing a cowboy song, a sea shanty or a railroad song, I’ll hear your voice too, and to quote a great songwriter, I’ll know I’m not singing alone. Adios, Ol’ Pard, and thank you for a lifetime of trails, sails, whales, rails and tales. .
Ross Altman has a Ph.D. in English. Before becoming a full-time folk singer he taught college English and Speech. He now sings around California for libraries, unions, schools, political groups and folk festivals. You can reach Ross at Greygoosemusic@aol.com
The Acoustic Americana Music Guide sends our thanks to Ross and to FolkWorks, where you can find this piece with photos of Ken Graydon, plus Ross Altman's follow-up obituary necessitated by word that Ken was gone. Both are available at www.FolkWorks.org.
Our # 3 Story
CALLING STEPHEN COLBERT: HELP! WE'VE BEEN COMPROMISED!
by Larry Wines
A good compromise is a bit like an average. A man with his foot in boiling water and his hand in a block of ice should be comfortable, on average. A bad compromise is even worse: you're scalded on one end and frozen on the other with nothing in between. Time to do something before it happens again.
After “the deal,” Americans have registered an-all time record low opinion of our Congress. A whopping 84% of us disapprove of the job they're doing. Only 14% approve. That's the latest CNN poll. Three days after the deal, the stock market predictably fell over 400 points in one day as the meaning sunk in, before recovering slightly – but not enough to erase all its gains of 2011 to date. But you can't get those people in Congress to be embarrassed, no matter how much they need to be. And it'll still be tough to get them to do anything that most of us want.
Proof? They just went on vacation until September and left over 74,000 FAA workers dangling with no paychecks. That includes inspectors who protect the safety of the flying public. It's coupled to Congress' failure to reauthorize the tax on the airlines that pays for inspectors and more. So we, the people, are deprived of $25+ million A DAY in lost revenues - $200 million lost EACH WEEK until something is done – because Congress just went on vacation and didn't do its job. We need to end this lunacy and get back to responsive and responsible government. We humbly offer a way.
STEPHEN COLBERT, one of TV's top political comics, recently won a license from the Federal Elections Commission to establish and operate a PAC – Political Action Committee – and collect an unlimited amount of money for whatever nominally political purpose he wishes.
We have a suggestion for you, Stephen. Start a movement. Not a fake populist thing like the KOCH BROTHERS-funded fakery of the Tea Party. That was just thinly-veiled zealotry to stop health care reform at all costs, even if that means, as we've just seen, bankrupting the entire government. No, we're talking about a real, genuine, grassroots movement that would catch fire and be popularly supported. And we have one that everybody, across the diminishing spectrum of non-nutjob American politics, can support. Call it “Everybody Out of the Pool.”
Everybody, all of 'em who were part of the endless dithering and all-consuming, all-diverting brinksmanship in Washington – all those creators of the child-with-an-uncapped-bottle-of-Drano crisis – all of 'em, out. While attention to massive joblessness is ignored; while Syria is about to implode and take the entire Arab Spring with it; while people are still dying, perhaps in vain, in Afghanistan; while tens of millions of US taxpayer-supplied dollars are leaving that country and Iraq in suitcases to finance God-knows-what activities that will ultimately come back to bite us; while millions of working-age Americans are wondering if they will ever go back to work in career positions that will allow them to retire before they die; while millions of young people wonder if it's worth going into personal debt earning some degree that may never get them a job; while all of us wonder how much decline and decay await us, your kid with the Drano threatened to pour it on us, and Mr. & Ms. Elected Representative, you made sure his bottle was full and the cap was off.
Stephen, use your PAC money. Expose throwers of rhetorical bombs who fund political insurgency and want only to exacerbate America's economic problems, like the Koch Brothers and the rest of the new breed of Robber Barons who would bring back the opulent decadence of the Gilded Age. The rest of the “Everybody Out of the Pool” movement would fund itself after you get the ball rolling. It's ready to roll, and it won't take much of a shove.
Stephen, imagine a summertime snowball, cooling and delighting as it increases its size exponentially, building speed like a juggernaut across all 50 states.
Best thing is, you wouldn't need to take time from your TV career to lead anything. Getting in front of it is not a place any sane person would want to be, since we're talking about an enormous rolling snowball. Being the one behind it, the one who gives it that first big shove, is the place for you. JON STEWART and BILL MAHER could run along beside it. LENO and LETTERMAN would be there to comment on the whoosh as it goes by. SNL would be jealous and bring back TINA FEY to repeat some insipid remark that SARAH PALIN makes about it, or something that MARCUS or MICHELLE BACHMAN, the indoor Palins (as Maher calls them), blurt out about it. Plenty of new material there for you. Everybody wins, Stephen.
And there's plenty in it for the entire “reality news” media. They'd love it for all they would get: an unlimited supply of angry-man-in-the-street-turned-activist interviews and on-camera actualities. Imagine all the goofy hats and superhero capes and Statue of Liberty torches made from toilet plungers. (A natural reaction to Supercongress.) Imagine a gathering of all of us who are angry: there's no hope now of a WPA-like jobs program, or of arts funding and arts and music education in the public schools. We'll be chanting “Everybody Out of the Pool!” alongside those who are angry there's no hope for a real space program anymore, those angry because their deadbeat six-year kids (who won't work) won't have food stamps, those angry because we can't even expand Amtrak, much less get high-speed rail, or replace our collapsing bridges, or fix our roads, or have enough TSA agents to feel us up at the airport without waiting even longer for our turn at the magic fingers.
On behalf of all of us, Congress has voted a Washington-inflicted wound on America in the form of what Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called a “Satan Sandwich.” Dana Carvey's Church Lady aside, that's “the deal” that averted a default. But at what cost?
History tells us of The Square Deal and The New Deal. This one, being called “the deal” in the media, deserves its own distinct label: “The Bad Deal.”
No nation, anywhere in the world, at any time in history, has ever climbed out of a recession by cutting government spending. NO examples are extant. Simple economic multipliers have always proven the key role of public sector spending in rebuilding a shattered economy, particularly for enduring infrastructure improvements and public works projects. (And their accompanying arts components, including statues in parks of prominent Americans – hint, hint, Stephen! – Your portrait in the Smithsonian is old news now.)
Lots of asses need kicking up around the shoulder blades. Seems the president forgot he was once interested in “learning whose ass to kick,” as he said then. After Congress finally passed it's version of “something” – The Bad Deal that continues the free ride for the rich and multinational corporations, on the backs of the hopelessly unemployed, while cutting programs Americans need – the President was still talking about the need for “more compromise.” What?
Obama wants MORE compromise? Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) observed, “The Republicans invited the President to a game of strip poker and he showed up half naked.”
Maybe the Congressman can answer the age-old question, boxers or briefs? Or maybe the Great Compromiser wears boxer-briefs, one leg blue, the other red, with a big white star on each cheek. Stick to that kind of compromise, Mr. Obama. Instead, the “compromise” was hostage-taking and we were all hostages. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said, “I think the politicians won and America lost in this deal.” Yeah, and I want my shirt and shoes back.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) said, “The Tea Party put us in a strait jacket but the Democrats tied the knot.” Maybe that was to keep Obama from peeling it off us before the first strip-poker hand was dealt.
Uhh, aren't ALL of you there to be stewards of the public trust and the public good, not belatedly earning your Merit Badges for Knot Tying? And isn't the President supposed to lead?
Everybody Out of the Pool, including the Compromiser in Chief.
One of our readers called Obama the first President to negotiate with terrorists. That's not as far afield as it sounds: Bin Laden's goal in destroying the World Trade Center's Twin Towers was to bring down the American economy. Those who demand an end to a functional government would do the same thing. (All while MIKE HUCKABEE profiteers off 9/11, selling his stacked-deck cartoon version of 9/11 on DVD for $9.95 each, for personal profit.)
Does that mean we think GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney is the man? Hardly. Politico called his lack of involvement, “The Mitness Protection Program.” If Boehner thinks dealing with the current White House is “like dealing with jello,” Romney presents an empty jello mold.
Prominent Republican economist David Stockman, who served as President Reagan's Budget Director, said, “I agree with the progressives, we need tax increases, and the wealthy should be the first place we turn to.” Stockman compared things to the situation in 1982, when Reagan, in the midst of a recession, raised both the debt ceiling and taxes so the government could spend money to expand the economy. When asked if it had worked, Stockman replied, “We created three million jobs that year and another 11 million jobs in the next three years.”
Along with the CNN poll we already cited, there was one the previous day: 77% of the American people say that Congress has been behaving like spoiled children. The other choice in the poll? Only 17% believe Congress behaved like responsible adults.
In the House vote, the Democrats split 95-95 while 174 Republicans voted for The Bad Deal. That night, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the CBS cameras that he “got 98%” of what he wanted. Compromise? Nobody's ever had a batting average like that, not Babe Ruth, not Hank Aaron, not the steroid crowd. The Senate passed The Bad Deal 74-26.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle will brag they overcame the demand by the Tea Party's flock of neophyte congressmen – aka, anti-government insurgents – that a Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced budget be passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and sent to the states before they would allow the nation to pay its overdue bills and prevent our first-ever default. Try that at your bank when your loan payment is due.
Just like the Senate filibuster that's now become a requirement for a 60-out-of-100-vote supermajority even to discuss anything, the goofy debt ceiling/debt limit is a uniquely American invention, anyway. (Denmark has one, but it's kept so high that it's never been a factor there.) Unlike our nation's budget, our debt limit is NOT a series of line-item allocations for how much we are committing to spend on each thing we have decided to do. The debt limit is simply paying the bill when it arrives, after we added the crème brule dessert to the steak and lobster we watched the fat cats eat, while we had budgeted for the hamburgers and fries we ate.
At least the current administration ended the Bush people's irresponsible game of keeping two wars and the Medicare prescription drug plan off the books. That, and a far-too-small Economic Stimulus (for bankers and fat cats only) inherited from the outgoing Republican administration made Obama's spending look like a drunken sailor. Those debts were a continuation of ones already there, but hidden. Curiously hidden, since Bush's Vice President, Dick Cheney, had said, “Deficits don't matter.” Nobody seemed to want to mention that.
The Democrats, in general, need to hire somebody to teach them how to argue their case – or maybe to remember what they say they believe in. They sure didn't do much of a job of it, particularly when it came to a focus on finding a job for everyone else who needs one and protecting grandma's Social Security and Medicare. Maybe everybody thought grandma had already been killed last year by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassle's Death Panel fantasy.
The Debt Limit had always been raised routinely with one-page legislation, as needed, in good or bad economic times. Until now. Suddenly, it was the excuse for creating a man-made apocalypse and the permanently higher interest rates it would have brought to all of us.
We've had ten years of temporary Bush tax cuts for the rich and actual payouts of subsidies from taxpayers to multinational corporations – including Big Oil and chemically altered Big Ag. Loads of taxpayer-paid breaks for ALL the supposed job creators! So, where are the jobs? Instead, we continue to see the modus operandi of the rich: cutting American jobs and creating jobs only in China. Even cans and jars at the supermarket increasingly come from China.
It's cost us plenty. A full 75% of corporate profits in the last ten years have come solely from cutting jobs, downsizing, shipping jobs offshore, reducing the future viability of manufacturing in America, and eliminating career-level employment in this country. Manufacturing jobs here vanish, particularly in unionized industries. They are replaced by non-career, low-paying “service sector” jobs. That happens as we're told the post-manufacturing economy transitions from a services economy to an information economy, in which we exchange information at unprecedented high speeds. Information about all the things we don't make here anymore?
When American corporations do hire, they increasingly seek only temps, to avoid paying benefits that go with full-time career employment. And they lay-off their top-of-the-pay-scale longtime employees, replacing them with bonuses for themselves and cheap, enthusiastic and exploitable young temps who lack experience-based knowledge, and ultimately, lack loyalty to the enterprise. (One wonders what such an acculturation into a disposable work world does to the psychology of idealistic young workers.)
It's insidious. Short-term profit-taking has replaced long-term viability. Make all you can for yourself and get out before the crash. It's all come down to, “I've got mine, f___ you.” The American components of multinational corporations (and they are all multinationals now) fail to build a sustainable presence here for the long haul, choosing not to invest in a future in this country, either for their business ventures or for American workers. They take the money – often taxpayer money – and pocket it, or run overseas with it. Job creators? Hardly. Congress passed laws to help them do it.
As for the high unemployment that directly results from this? For starters, it brings higher, ongoing, direct costs. Unemployment compensation insurance funds are expended and require Federal subsidies to replenish them in each state. The unemployed bring even bigger costs in losses to tax bases – if you aren't earning, there's nothing for government (local, state or Federal) to tax. Hence, revenues go down at a time when the need for spending is driven up. (That, alone, belies the argument for a Balanced Budget Amendment.)
And we haven't even gotten to the ongoing role government must play in finally catching-up on long deferred, now crucially needed, repair of decaying infrastructure, like crumbling bridges, highways, air traffic control systems, passenger rail lines, levees, water mains, sewers, and more. Or providing for the future with new engineering, right-of-way acquisition, and construction where needed to enable economic expansion. Congress forgot an economic truism: Business needs publicly-supplied infrastructure before it will do anything.
The new promo for MSNBC's “Rachel Maddow Show” has her posed with Hoover Dam behind her. She says, “I feel like we have kind of an amazing inheritance in the form of the infrastructure that our parents and our grandparents knew they would pass down to us. They knew it would be here and would make a difference. They knew it. What are WE doing?”
Sadly, we're watching a dithering Congress take a five-week vacation to raise funds for their reelection campaigns – after being, by far, the least productive Congress in U.S. history.
And they went on vacation without fixing at least two critical problems. The supposed compromise still didn't address those 74,000+ furloughed FAA employees and workers on FAA construction projects. Those FAA jobs are essential, and in limbo. Regulations require inspection and certification. But now there's no way to pay the FAA's 4,000 certified inspectors. Nonetheless, some of the furloughed inspectors, who may or may not ever be FAA employees again, are buying their own tickets and continuing to work for no pay, inspecting airports so runways can stay open with assurances of safety. It's a clear case of the workers being more dedicated and caring more than their (former) employer's bosses. Their families lost health care along with paychecks when their employment was gone, and yet some of them are still going to work for no pay – while Congress goes on vacation. Congress, your internal battle to destroy union rights is endangering everybody. You're done: Everybody Out of the Pool.
And what about that $25 million a day that's being lost? Congress failed to renew airline taxes and fees that pay for the safety inspections. What if, God forbid, two loaded 747s collide on a runway because a ground warning system isn't functioning properly and no one was there to discover it in time? That's not some wild alarmist speculation. Inspections happen so accidents won't. And the consumer is getting screwed by airlines who raised their ticket prices by the same amount the industry is saving since the taxes expired.
Another proof that cutting taxes raises corporate profits but does not create jobs. It does exactly the opposite.
Of course, unemployment is orders of magnitude bigger than the 74,000 lost FAA jobs.
Florida just furloughed 9,400 construction workers from unfinished public works projects, including high-speed rail. But, incredibly, the same Florida legislature took $2.5 million dollars in federal money that they will spend on proven-useless “abstinence-only” sex education.
In this abyss of deep recession / borderline depression, the official unemployment numbers don't even include the millions of jobless Americans who have exhausted their unemployment insurance claims. They are no longer “unemployed” because they are beyond collecting unemployment. They are now “discouraged workers” and their numbers are not tallied. It's how unemployment statistics have been reported – and not been reported – for decades.
It's dishonest and fails to help the economy create jobs for anyone. And for two crucial months and counting, it's received no attention from our elected officials while they immersed themselves arguing about what brand of strings to use so they could fiddle while Rome burned. Amazing and disgraceful.
So that's it, Congress. We're tired of paying for your towel valets and poolside booze while you goose each other underwater and let the air out of each others' floaties. Some of you have no business wearing swimsuits anyway. Ugh. Everybody Out of the Pool! And put on a robe. That's one cover-up we want.
Of course, that's not enough. This isn't just a train wreck like another Charlie Sheen we can't stop watching. More than ever, all of us must watch the current crowd once they come back from their undeserved five-week vacation. That's when Supercongress convenes, all twelve of them – three per party, per house of Congress – who will effectively determine everything that is and isn't in the new, upcoming Federal budget. The Bad Deal guarantees more massive cuts and a renewed fight over whether there is any offsetting new revenue, whether there will be an end to the temporary tax cuts for the rich or elimination of tax dollar subsidies for Big Oil and Big Corn, or, instead, flattening the tax rate so we will pay more and the fat cats pay even less.
Supercongress will be Fort Apache for preserving anything that has to do with the future. It may become the Alamo for funding accessible arts – or a real space program, or infrastructure renewal, or any kind of jobs program, or Head Start, or educational benefits for military veterans, or money for broke cities to keep their cops and firemen, or anything and everything else we expect and take for granted but that soon may be gone. This time, SAM HOUSTON isn't building an army to win after the Alamo falls. RICK PERRY's political prayer tent is blocking the road.
Or, maybe we'll finally see the end of massive subsidies for Iowa corn agribusiness in a state that produces more grain than all of Canada. That's why your soda and processed food all contain massive quantities of health-endangering high fructose corn syrup instead of real sugar. They're paid handsomely, with subsidies, to apply corn syrup to all processed foods.
That's your tax dollars at work, manipulating the marketplace. Which raises the question, why we don't we subsidize green vegetables – make that all fruits and vegetables grown to be eaten as fresh food? If we subsidize those, they'll be so cheap that even school lunches can have them instead of ketchup as a vegetable. Oh, socialism! But our subsidizing partially-hydrogenated, high-fat, high-fructose-corn-syrup-immersed unhealthy processed food is not?
Years of what Will Rogers called “the finest Congress money can buy” have brought us here. We now have not just a Congress whose members are owned by big corporate contributions, bought with buckets of money that's now unlimited since the Supreme Court decision in the ironically named Citizens United case. It's not simply a divided government, but a dysfunctional one. And it's curiously consumed with posturing – while, in fact, it's thoroughly paralyzed. We're represented by department store manikins whose poses are contrived for the Emperor's New Clothes they are told to wear.
A better metaphor may be the pseudo space program that never leaves orbit and simply goes around and around and around – though our stuck-in-the-mud-bog government proved unable even to sustain going that high anymore, since the return of the last Space Shuttle. We need vision. We need to go meet the future. We need development of high speed rail and green energy and going to Mars and getting a myriad of economic multipliers like Apollo gave us from going to the moon. We need a place at the table for the arts and for artists. This crowd's not giving us hope of any of that. We need one that will. Everybody Out of the Pool!
Well, okay, Everybody Out of the Pool except Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She's the only one who wasn't part of making things worse. And she's the only one who did anything courageous, just by going there to vote after taking a bullet through her brain in January in a massacre that killed a Federal judge and innocent citizens, including a little girl who came to learn about her government. It doesn't even matter which way Gabby voted on The Bad Deal. No one else exhibited anything approaching her commitment to public service in any of this. Her vote imparted the sole example of across-the-aisle joy and humanity and gravitas in what was otherwise a Roman circus. She, alone, deserves everyone's respect.
So, other than Gabby Giffords, Everybody Out. A gang of rank amateurs couldn't do worse. And if they do, we can fire them.
There you are, Stephen. A legitimate, populist cause for your shiny new PAC. The ultimate bipartisan point of unity. The Butterball timer has popped-up on DC's turkeys. Everybody Out of the Pool!
Our # 4 Story
“IN LOVING MEMORY OF JOEL OKIDA,” THIS SUNDAY
Last week, we shared our memories of consummate music journalist and artist JOEL OKIDA. This is a reminder to all who knew him that this Sunday, August 7, 3-8 pm, is the musical memorial gathering in memory of our friend.
The hosts are conveying an open invitation to everyone who knew Joel. It's at Warren & Wendy's, 1001 N Cedar St, Glendale 91207.
They are asking for those who have an art piece made my Joel to bring it for a group installation and appreciation of his work. They add, “We think he'd have liked that.”
Sunday's event includes an opportunity for those who would like to share their thoughts and for those who would like to play music in tribute to Joel, so bring your instruments.
It's is a potluck, so all food / drink contributions are greatly appreciated.
If you need info, email email@example.com; Warren's phones, 818-548-4566 or 818-219-3346; Wendy's phone, 818-246-2124. Note that Warren is performing in Ojai Saturday evening with THE WICKED TINKERS (it's in our Spotlight Events) so on Saturday, you're better trying to reach Wendy at home.
Our # 5 Story
CELEBRATE KENNY EDWARDS AUGUST 19, “BY THE OCEAN HE LOVED SO MUCH”
A bonfire and musical celebration in honor of the late musician and record producer KENNY EDWARDS will be held Friday, August 19, in Ventura. Organizer RENEE BODIE tells us, “To help us celebrate his life and music at the one-year anniversary of his passing, we thought it would be a wonderful idea to have a song circle and bonfire at the beach, since he loved the ocean so much. Please join us at the end of Seaward in Ventura at 6 pm. We'll watch the sunset, then light the fire. Please bring some firewood, beach chairs, food (smores are good!) , and drinks to share... and instruments and voices! It could get chilly, so bring blankets to wrap yourselves in. Can't wait to see you all! Pass this to anyone you all feel needs to know.”
If you need info, check www.BodieHouseMusic.com or contact Renee Bodie of Bodie House Music, Inc., at Renee@bodiehousemusic.com or by phone at 818-621-8309.
Our # 5 Story
SUNDAY'S “GRAND OLE ECHO” IS NOTABLE, WITH “ROOTS ROADHOUSE 2” JUST A WEEK AWAY
Yep, we're only a weekend away from a major SHOW-OF-THE-WEEK pick, the second annual “ROOTS ROADHOUSE.” Meanwhile, there's good reason to get to the same venue THIS Sunday, August 7, for the weekly “GRAND OLE ECHO” roots-Americana show at 5:30 pm. This one brings Kerrville New Folk Award-winning songwriter extraordinaire, L.A.'s own Piedmont Blues expert, ERNEST TROOST, accompanied by bass player to the stars MARK “POCKET” GOLDBERG, They're performing together outdoors, plus, indoors, there's DRUNK ON CRUTCHES, GAL HOLIDAY & THE HONKY TONK REVUE, and MIGUEL GARCIA & THE VAQUETONES. It's all at The Echo, 1822 Sunset Bl, Echo Park. It's free and offers a full bar, a BBQ out back, and it's an all-ages show.
On to NEXT week. Way back on May 20, we told you about the hottest Americana music event of the summer (http://acousticamericana.blogspot.com/2011/05/acoustic-americana-music-guide-news.html). But that's been a looong ways back. Now, the big show is nearly upon us!
“ROOTS ROADHOUSE 2” - called that because it returns August 14 for a second year – is an all day-into-night festival celebrating country, Americana, bluegrass, blues and old-time music, with headliners EILEN JEWELL, THE SADIES, JESSIE SYKES, MIKE STINSON, BIG SANDY & HIS FLY RITE BOYS, WHITEY MORGAN, and more promised. We'll bring you a full feature next week, but don't wait to get your tickets.
Last year's event was umm-doggies first rate, erupting into an afternoon of foot-stomping, hand-clapping, impromptu square dancing, and plenty of joyous but not obnoxious hootin' and hollerin'. As noted by the writer of the L.A. Observer’s “Chicken Corner” column, “I took (my daughter) to an all-ages, country rock, urban-country-rockabilly-cowpunk extravaganza called Roots Roadhouse…what a treat that was! Not to mention the graceful confectionery fusion of cultural… stuff, both intentional and not.”
This year, in addition to the artists above, catch country-rockers JACKSH*T (the McCabe's favorite group, staffed by musicians VAL McCALLUM, DAVEY FARRAGHER & PETE THOMAS); the punk bluegrass sound of OLD MAN MARKLEY; the lo-fi crazy stompin’ blues of RESTAVRANT; and former cowpunker (X) turned guitar-hero TONY GILKYSON.
Rounding-out the folk side of country will be THE BROKEN NUMBERS BAND, OLENTANGY JOHN, EASTSIDE HAYRIDE, THE DRIFTWOOD SINGERS and the folk music rooted in tradition from DAVID SERBY & THE DIRT POOR FOLKLORE.
Tickets for the event are available now on the Echo’s website and through Ticketweb; go to http://www.attheecho.com/?m=20110814&cat=2.
Tix are $15 in advance, $18 on the day of the show.
You'll enter “Roots Roadhouse 2” through the Echoplex parking lot at 1154 Glendale Bl, Echo Park (Los Angeles) 90026. It'll consume all the stages in the Echoplex complex. Doors will open at 3 pm and it's all-ages hootenanny. Read all about the bands and purchase tickets on the link above. We'll have lots more about it just before the big event next week, but don't dawdle getting' yer tickets, folks.
MORE STUFF >>>>>>> Resources, etc
Our recently updated VENUE DIRECTORY
...with OVER 500 acoustic-music-friendly venues in Southern California, is available at
RECENT EDITIONS of The Guide's NEWS FEATURES are still available!
Just check our archive! Read the contents bar on the left side of the page at www.acousticamericana.blogspot.com and click the appropriate month.
The MOST RECENT past editions (last 30 days) are easy to find HERE:
July 28 edition is available at
and the stories are:
1) Record Number of Reader Comments for Guide Story:
The Debt Limit & Budget Battle: Politicians Playing with Dynamite –
Is the Future of Arts Funding Gone in America?
2) Annual “LONG BEACH CRAWFISH FESTIVAL” Brings Lou'siana Music, Food, Dance,
3) Annual “BIG BEAR MUSIC FESTIVAL” returns this Saturday Afternoon / Evening
4) Annual “TOPANGA FILM FESTIVAL” Brings Free Music, Friday through Sunday
5) JOHN FOGERTY's New Keyboard Player is Guide Fave BOB MALONE
6) Supergods: How Comicon Meets Heroes from History
7) We Spoke too Soon: Bye Bye Open Borders, too –
Venue's Last Show Is Sunday
8) In Memorium: JOEL OKIDA, Music Journalist Extraordinaire
9) BERKLEY HART Play their L.A. CD Release Show Saturday Night, July 30
July 19 edition is available at
and the stories are:
1) Is the Future of Arts Funding Gone in America?
(a major, in-depth feature, with analysis beyond Washington's maddening politics that
debunks the Debt Limit, spending cuts and budget battles)
2) KCSN Cancels “TWANG;” Nic Harcourt Gets Time Slot for New Non-Folk-Friendly
3) RIDERS IN THE SKY to Play “DAY OF THE COWBOY & COWGIRL” FESTIVAL
at the Autry this Saturday
4) July 23 & 24 Weekend: More Festivals, Concerts, Tough Choices
5) Bye Bye Borders – Except One
6) Full Evenings of Quality Music Programs, New on Fridays on L.A. TV
7) THE SYNCOPATHS Play a Pair of Events at Caltech this Weekend
8) MOLLY’S REVENGE to Play Culver City's free SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL, July 28
9) Annual “LONG BEACH CRAWFISH FESTIVAL” Arrives July 30 & 31
10) Inaugural VENTURA FOLK FESTIVAL Brings Stars in August
July 11 edition is available at
and the stories are:
1) Silent Movie Classics with Live Music, Just Five Bucks, Monday, July 11
2) Dulcimers, Anyone?
3) Texas Music Star CAROLYN MARTIN in Town for Thursday Show
4) FUR DIXON & STEVE WERNER's CD Release Show is Friday at McCabe's
5) Boulevard Music Summer Festival, Free, Sunday, July 17
6) Pershing Square Summer Lunchtime Concert Series Starts Wednesday
7) Camarillo Café Concert Series Brings Fine Music to Ventura County
8) July 23 & 24 Weekend: Festivals, Concerts, Tough Choices
9) Skirball's Sunset Concert Series for 2011 – What Happened?
10) Good Music Films in Skirball's Summer Offerings
11) Artist's Suicide Brings Thoughts that May Prevent Another Tragedy
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