June 30, 2006


I've Been All Around This World

Well, not really. But I have set foot in two hemispheres, five countries and 31 states plus D.C. The two maps seem to conflict on whether I've been in Alaska. Pretty sure nyet (Aleutian for not yet). And poor little Arkansas, I must go to her! Also, what's the deal with all the states being RED ? ! !

I definitely would like to see all 50 U.S. (esp. the Pac NW and the northern Rockies). As the world turns, the first few at the top o' my list would be: U.K., Germany, Sweden (kin), New Zealand and Belize (or Costa Rica).

(Stolen from a bunch of folks via Kahz-lahs-key)

create your own visited states map

create your own visited countries map

June 25, 2006


Downtown with Junior Brown

I've lived in the south since 1987, and among the things that I have barely acclimated to is the summer humidity. Although it has totally wimpified me to my native Chicago winters, there is one thing I appreciate about it - the live music and beer available on weekends ! !

Chattanooga has a great free summer concert series downtown at Miller Plaza, a nice brick-terraced area with a stage that, along with closing off a block of MLK Boulevard, can accomodate a thousand folks or so. I've caught acts as diverse as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Charlie Hunter, Adrian Belew, the Sun Ra Arkestra, R.L. Burnside and last night, Junior Brown.

Junior is a real crowd-pleaser with his mix of honky tonk, surf riffs and blues jamming, working his "git-steel" for all it's worth. It was a joy to watch and listen.

June 22, 2006


Guest Blogger: Immigration

There has been a trend in my bloggerhood to bring in guest bloggers. I even have posting privileges on a regional political blog. So I suppose I'll test the wheels on this here bandwagon, and without further ado, introduce my first guest blogger:

An Open Letter to the American People
By Randy Carnivore
President and CEO of Jackem Industries

My Fellow Americans,

Recently, there has been an abundance of discussion on the topic of illegal immigration, with voices lifted in outrage demanding the instant criminalization of illegal immigrants and their prompt deportation. There have been few voices of reason and moderation to be heard on either side of this issue. So in the interest of a much-needed reality check, it is my intention with this letter to offer just that.

To begin with I would first like to ask a question: What the hell is wrong with you people? In America, we have an economic system known as capitalism. Unlike our political system, which is a representative democracy where everyone is treated with absolute equality, capitalism is a system in which it is perfectly acceptable to crush those weaker than yourself with extreme prejudice and to eat your own young. And as long as we sell our product to you at cut throat- I’m sorry- cut rate prices, the system works, even if we poison the environment or even you in the process.

But here’s the thing: We have to produce our product cheaply in order to sell it, and every time we come up with a way to do just that, you people put a stop to it. First, we had a centuries-old, delightfully quaint system called slavery. The slave trade was a booming industry unto itself, providing wonderful opportunities for thousands of opportunistic individuals, and if there’s one attribute that guarantees success in capitalism, it’s being opportunistic. But the fumes of democracy went to some people’s heads and next thing you know, slavery was abolished, plunging the South into an economic depression, and recession for the nation as a whole.

So seeing that something needed to be done, we turned to the next best thing to slaves, and that was America’s children. Granted, they weren’t as durable, but they were much easier to cower, and the little buggers could fit into a tiny mine shaft like nobody’s business. But then people like Upton Sinclair and other communist union agitators started to rock the boat, and despite our most patriotic efforts people listened to them. Hello?! Communists?! They demanded greater equality between workers and their employers, which is simply ridiculous. I mean, equality may work in abstract political systems like democracy, but in the reality-based world of economics, it simply doesn’t work. Fact: Russia collapsed. Fact: America didn’t.

So once the unions took over prices started going up, and next thing we know, you people began to buy products made only in China. Now this really doesn’t make any sense, because the child labor, long hours and murderous work conditions that you griped about here are the same ones that exist there. But do you protest for Chinese labor rights or boycott Chinese products? No, you buy, buy, buy. Finally, in a legitimate struggle to stay competitive, we resorted to hiring illegal aliens. They don’t insist on a minimum wage, they don’t insist on insurance, and they want to work. No one is forcing them to come here and take these jobs, they volunteer. It’s a perfect system. But then you come along again complaining that they’re taking your jobs. What world are you living in? Your job pays at least $5.15 per hour and may even provide frilly benefits in the bargain. These jobs don’t. Some other high-minded corporations that are squeamish about hiring illegal aliens have taken the high road and simply relocated their businesses overseas. They are thinking quite reasonably that if Americans don’t have a problem with foreigners working under nightmarish conditions overseas, then they should simply move their companies to those countries where they can put those same foreigners to work.

But even that is not good enough. You people start bitching about it, calling it “out-sourcing” like it’s a bad thing. Jesus Christ, what are we supposed to do?! Some of you morons say that it doesn’t even matter that they’re illegal immigrants. You hate immigrants altogether, legal or not and blame them for being here. It’s not their fault that they are here. It’s your fault, you provincial idiots. As long as you insist on shopping at Wal-Mart and buying the cheapest products, we’re going to keep hiring them. Perhaps it’s a racial thing. Come on people, this is America, land of the free. Wake up and join the 21st century! Don’t forget, it’s you guys who keep insisting that this is a democracy where all men are created equal. In the corporate world, we have finally started to notice other cultures and we have learned that we have much more in common with them than we first thought, particularly our business ethics (hence the outsourcing).

You know, I imagine that you people are so deluded that you’ll actually be surprised when every last company in America relocates overseas if you pass laws against illegal immigrants. You people need to figure out what it is you want before you start screaming. If you want to keep buying merchandise cheap, that’s cool, I understand. It’s perfectly natural. But if that’s the case then you have to understand something. This is a competitive world where the law of the jungle prevails (in a word, capitalism), so you have to let us do what we must to crank that crappy stuff out at the lowest possible price. Figure it out people. Do the damn math. It’s really not that hard. It’s either that, or we go communist and force everyone to be equal in the workplace and drive prices way up. Now please understand that we in the corporate world are perfectly fine with that, but only so long as you promise to allow Wal-Mart to become the place where you go to buy only the best and most expensive products that money can buy. But doesn’t all that sound terribly antithetical to God and nature?

So wake up America, and figure out what it is you want. And I think we all know what that is – cheap, immigrant-made American crap. Keeping that in mind, the next time you see someone who you think is an illegal alien, look at that person and recognize the slave, the child laborer, or the guy who lost his hand in a meat processor and was turned out on the street, and recognize everything that made this country the great, all-powerful nation that it is.

God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America,

Randy Carnivore

© 2006 Satire by Michael Hillman

June 15, 2006


Raise your glass to the hard working people

I had a conversation last weekend about our current state of political affairs, and the Rolling Stones song Salt of the Earth was mentioned with regard to its line “Let’s think of the wavering millions / Who need leaders but get gamblers instead.”

That ambiguous line was brought home while reading an article on Dick Cheney by former New York Times reporter Todd Purdum, now national editor at Vanity Fair. It’s a compelling piece, showing much of what I could have assumed about Cheney but then other stuff that proved I just don’t know Dick. For example, he was quite a prankster during his tenure as Ford’s chief of staff, and when he was Wyoming’s sole Congressman for 10 years he would make time back in the home office for a crazy coot they called Dynamite Lopez (in the pre-9/11 world he threatened that he carried a stick of dynamite with him – no worries, come on in, the Congressman will be right with you...).

But the crux of the story is about how Cheney’s character, not necessarily his ideology, has changed for the worse. Purdum speculates (and strongly so, as he interviewed a buttload of Cheney friends and aquaintances in addition to three conversations with the Veep himself) that the cause of the change falls about equally between his post-9/11 responsibilities, the massive amount of wealth he accrued with Haliburton, and his shaky health.

Interesting factoid – Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, a longtime Wyoming resident, worked on Cheney’s first congressional campaign in 1978. But the songwriter has changed his tune for sure (only slightly relieving my puzzlement over his initial support - hell, I don't guess Dems raise their head very high in the land of hate crimes). Barlow told Purdum via e-mail that Cheney’s, “dark intellect has become one of the most dangerous forces in the world; he has become a global sociopath, a creature of enormous power and intellect combined with all the empathy of a HAL 9000.”

I can just see the one-sided exchange in the West Wing, “I’m sorry Colin, I cannot allow you to do that."

So, back to the Stones. Regarding our need for leaders but instead getting gamblers, what could be a more accurate description of this administration? They have gambled away much of America’s and their own faithful's good will in a series of crap shoots, both foreign and domestic, that are based on about as reliable a strategy as “I just KNOW I can beat the house on this roll. Just one more.” Indeed, baby needs a new armored Humvee. In fairness, the song really offers an indictment of ineffective politicians of all stripes, pronouncing them a choice between two dreaded diseases.

So in honor of all the stay-at-home voters out there, here are the full lyrics of the last tune on 1968’s Beggar’s Banquet, first in the series of the four greatest Stones albums which includes Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St.

Salt of the Earth (Jagger / Richards)

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and black and white
They don’t look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
Let’s think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray-suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look into the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and black and white
They don’t look real to me
Or don’t they look so strange

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag-taggy people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
Let’s drink to the two thousand million
Let’s think of the humble of birth

June 14, 2006


Mark Twain is spinning in his grave

The recent Lou Dobbs interview with Ann Coulter has sprung Joe the Troll from under his bridge. Check it out (caution R-Rated):

Never The Twain Shall Meet

June 12, 2006


Scorching part deux

So on Saturday I lay about relaxing. Since I did not drink the night before, I was gladly hangover-free. I'm planning to meet up with E & D at the Groove sometime later in the afternoon, but in the meantime I muster up the motivation to cut the grass. And a great motivation it takes, for it's at least a half acre of grass on an average 15-20% slope - NOT fun to mow. So I foolishly blow it off in the cooler morning to wait for what turns out to be the hottest afternoon so far this year (98 deg.), and needless to say I am wasted after just doing the front. After panting and evaporating on the couch I hit the bed for a nice nap.

Set an alarm? Nah, I'm just gonna lay down for an hour or so and then head to Cherokee Farms. Always set an alarm (and I know this). I wake to the sound of my cell phone beeping a voicemail message. How I miss the actual ring is a mystery. It's pushing 5:00, and E's voice says, "Hey...yadda...wonderin'...yadda...see ya soon?" So I get my shit together, feed and love the poor neglected orphans and hit the road.

When I get to Smokey's I find out the turnout was a bit light, with only a couple hundred folks tops. They've also been having trouble with the power all afternoon, so some of the bands had to go acoustic. But by the time Deep Blue Sun is ready to go on they've got the juice flowing, and juices were flowing in me too so let's wiggle. They play a hot set during which we return to the mothership to drop off casualties and gain reinforcements. D is feeling weird and becomes a casualty herself, not to be resurrected for the night, though two attempts were made through its course.

Me and the E-ster return for Atlanta blues hero Tinsley Ellis, who makes full use of the restored power. My God, what electricity did for the blues. It was a joy to be up close and watch him work, a completely different animal from Mr. DiMeola on Friday. We go try to roust D, come back, hang about and have some good laughs with Smokey. He gives us his hula hoop demo - around the neck! In my book, he is one of Earth's finest citizens. Donna Hopkins Band comes on for the late set, and the land has finally cooled down and summernight has settled in marvelously. They play a cool version of Whipping Post and with a friend from the audience a very sweet duet on Angel From Montgomery.

We tucker out before the end of their show and head for the tents. E is out by the time his head hits the pillow, whilst I mill around in the backstage kitchen (did I mention we were "passed") for some nibbly things and finish my last beer. When I return to our site D calls out and then comes out, near furious for her snoring hubby. We sit in our chairs and converse for a while, accompanied by the rhythm of the beast within. It's 3 a.m. and life is good.

E chose the site when he came out on Thursday for its afternoon shade. Trouble being in the morning the sun hits it hard about 8:30 and tents quickly become saunas. This foretells our disposition for the day, as around lunch time we bolt about ten miles to the E & D castle for air-conditioned naps and a swim. We're ruined, knowing that the field will be too freakin' hot to enjoy the music, so after a while we head back to retrieve our gear. I see Smokey and bid him thanks and farewell, we'll see him at next month's Hootenanny (July 22) if not before.



What a scorching weekend, as a matter of weather and of events. After a relatively mild southern spring, we hit the wall with a high of 98 Saturday, of course accompanied by that loverly Georgia humidity.

As for events, I hit the Riverbend Festival on Friday night starting with my interview with the guys from Infradig. They're a great bunch of guys who deserve good things in their career, and with this week’s appearance at Bonnaroo they may be on their way. I hung for part of their set and then scooted down the street to catch mandolin virtuoso Sam Bush playing at another stage which happened to be across from the main event stage. The night’s headliner was Hank Williams, Jr., and the crowd was out in force waiting to see their Bocephus.

Trevor Higgins, music writer for the Times Free Press, must’ve been inside my head:

Stuck on Riverfront Parkway and going nowhere fast, I wanted to move toward the front of Covista [stage] for Sam Bush, and maybe to find some friends... The crowd on Riverfront Parkway wasn’t moving fast enough, so I decided to cut across through the collection of lawn chairs.

This was the equivalent of a lab rat volunteering to run the maze. The lawn chairs formed a labyrinth on the Chattanooga Green. Like a kayaker choosing his line through the river, I tried my best to zigzag through narrow openings in the lawn chair phalanx.

Portable seating at Riverbend is complex. There are two- and four-seater chairs that can form a foldable roadblock. Some sitters are willing to open a door by briefly leaning on two legs, but usually there is no place to lean.

Free spaces often are covered with blankets, which poses an ethical question: Can I step on the blanket as I pass through? If the owner is standing on the blanket, does that make it more or less acceptable if I, too, step on the blanket? Who is to blame if, in an attempt to step over the blanket, I lose my balance and fall in someone’s lap or funnel cake? Me, or the unyielding blanket owner? If a child is sitting on the blanket, should I kick him aside or step on him? There is but a split second to ponder these questions while navigating the maze. My only thoughts were to get out and get out quick. All the "excuse me’s" in the world don’t take away the pity of the seated crowd looking up at this confused, lost rat trying to find some cheese … and nachos.

The worst choke point was where this year’s committee decided to place porta-toilets across from concessions. One thing the two have in common is people waiting in line, so add to them a line of passersby and it quickly becomes something other than a thoroughfare.

Something funny was when I was navigating the rat maze and happened to skirt right through where my friends Tim and Cherie were sitting, and they had some empty chairs next to them so I plopped right down and said, “howdy!” I sat there and watched the end of Sam Bush’s set and then took my leave to go back where I came from to see Al DiMeola. This time I headed up the street for an alternate route back.

DiMeola’s crew was still setting up and having some problems that caused him to eschew his acoustic guitar, at least while I was there. His performance on the electric was of course par excellence. It was great to see him up close and watch that lightning-fast finger work. Our photographer was there to get Infradig and he stayed and got some nice shots of Al.

© 2006 Matt Ledger

At the Al show I bumped into a media colleague who I seem to bump into at shows a lot, and she said she was going down to catch The Waybacks at another stage. I have wanted to see them for some time so after a while I grab a schedule to double-check where they’re performing and my eyes catch that the Zen Tricksters, a top-notch Grateful Dead cover band that’s been around for more than twenty years, are playing at the same time. These conflicts between great talent are a common quandary with Riverbend, but I decide to skip The Waybacks for the Tricksters.

As it turns out they are performing in an alternate capacity as Kettle Joe’s Psychedelic Swamp Revue, a lineup that includes keyboardist Mookie Siegel from Phil Lesh and Friends AND... Donna Jean Godchaux. I didn’t realize this until I got there and stood about twenty feet from the former Grateful Dead chanteuse, now looking quite matronly in her long grey hair. They played a superb show:

Set 1
No Better Way, I Want to Tell You > Jam > From the Heart of Me, No One Said It'd Be Easy > River Deep Mountain High, Goin' to Florence, Last Ten Years > Jam > Eyes of the World
Set 2
American Beauty, Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, All Night Long Blues, Me and Kettle Joe, I'll Be with Thee, Terrapin Station Encore: Ripple

I was in heaven for Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, a sweeeet rendering of I'll Be with Thee and a thunderous Terrapin Station. What I guess is their signature tune, Me and Kettle Joe, is a spirited, bluesy rocker with a very cool and spacey jam inserted. I headed home after midnight with tired feet and a very satisfied soul.

More to come on my Saturday > Sunday visit to Georgia On The Groove...

June 10, 2006



Al DiMeola to the left of me.
Donna Jean Godchaux to the right of me.
And twixt be the Valley of the 50,000 Hank Williams Jr. fans.
It was quite a night, folks.

Hitting the sack now - more to come.

June 08, 2006



Jen's off to Europe for two weeks, and I've been sick with some stomach/intestinal bug for two days. I hope I get rid of this shit soon, though in the literal sense of volume that's not been a problem.

Another music festival is at our beloved Cherokee Farms (of last month's Hootenanny fame) this weekend. It's called Georgia On The Groove and it will benefit local school music programs. It's being put on by the Curbow Lutherie Education Foundation, created in honor of master luthier Greg Curbow who died last August from brain cancer. You guitar players may have heard of him - he made some high-dollar stuff and had one of his bass designs licensed by Cort.

Good people, a good cause, and a bunch of partying hippies giving back to the community. What more could we ask? Cabbage maybe?

The Groove starts Friday evening but I won't be there till Saturday as I have scheduled an interview with the fellows that are Infradig, a local band that's playing the opening night of Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. Bonus - they are followed by Al DiMeola! Infradig is all instrumental, an eclectic mix of jazz and funk with some trippy synth stuff mixed around in it. They've been compared to one of my faves Medeski, Martin and Wood, and next week they really hit the big time with an appearance at the famous Bonnaroo Festival in a late-night (1:30-2:30) set following Radiohead. I'm looking forward to talking with them. Our photographer got us passes that I hope are good for the whole week, because Sam Bush, Tea Leaf Green, Derek Trucks, Los Lonely Boys, and the Allman Bros. are also on the bill.

Between the Groove and Riverbend, it looks like a week of some great live music.

June 01, 2006


Happy Birthday to Hims


Brisbane turns 15 today !

That makes him, according to several sources on the Internet, anywhere from 73 to 105 years old in comparison to a human. One source stated, "It is a common belief that 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years. That is not very accurate, since dogs reach adulthood within the first couple of years."

This source states that the formula is: 10.5 dog years per human year for the first 2 years, then 4 dog years per human year for each year after, and "The formula used above is from a canine expert and is a bit more accurate. (as accurate as one can judge these things)."

A younger pair (c. 1992)

Another source offered this rather unscientific graph:

This particular "formula" makes Brisbane 90 years old.

Whatever. The only sure thing is that he has been our best pal for about 14.5 of the past 15 Gregorian calendar years on this earth, which will be a lesser place and be all too soon when he is gone from it.

Another younger pair (c. 1991)

So Happy Birthday:
Bean/Beanus/Beanie Boy
A-No.1 Original Boy
Mr. Wowoshakins
Mr. Indawayness
Rangey Cowdog
Captain Kittycatcher
Boof Dog
Whiney Whinerson
Housebrowniest Townmousengus
Frisbee Dog Champion of Greater Floyd County, Georgia
Fuzzy Browness
Crabby Oldness
Pirate Boy
(and about 40 others)

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