Category Archives: update

Why are we scapegoating “China Sword”?

The following is a largely stream-of-thought article on the recycling side of waste management systems in North America. I could have used “United States” instead, but this issue is broader in scope than that. Many people are using the term “crisis” regarding a change in Chinese policy. I think we can learn more if we approach the issue as “from crisis, opportunity“. This is my own work and does not reflect the policies or opinions of my employer, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

When it comes to the recycling side of the solid waste industry in 2019 there is one King Kong-sized boogeyman. High Prices? Bad Markets? Excessive Transport Costs? All those problems and more are thrown at the feet of “China Sword“, one of the names given to a Chinese pivot away from importing post-consumer recyclables from North America. This policy is tied to surging costs and shrinking profits in the waste management industry.

The Chinese Recycling Market Genesis Story goes like this: For over 20 years China’s expanding manufacturing industries were sending container ships full of consumer goods to the North America. These ships would unload at a major port such as Long Beach, CA, but there were insufficient corresponding North American exports to fill the containers for the return trip. The economics of transporting a load of empty containers back to China were terrible, so bringing back *anything* was preferable. Thus a “black hole” for post-consumer materials was born. Those containers were filled with post-consumer recyclable material from North American households and businesses. From the North American perspective it was a miracle. No domestic processing requiring labor and machinery and electricity was required, only cheap rail shipments to the west coast, and the material was GONE. On the Chinese side the main end product for these materials was packaging for Chinese electronics and other consumer products, which would be exported to North America, and then theoretically returned to China to be born again as new packaging.

If that sounds too good to be true, it was. The quality of the material being delivered to North American docks was terrible. Much of it had high rates of contamination, or worse, involved good looking material on the outside and garbage on the inside. It is likely that none of this material would have been accepted for processing at a North American facility. As we will see, the costs involved in removing that contamination strip the materials of their intrinsic value. It was not long before the Chinese decided they would not be a dumping ground for this poor quality material. None of this was (or should have been) a surprise to North American brokers. Any serious student of recycling processes, markets, materials, and policies is not buying onto a “magical end market”. The charade continued until the proverbial well ran dry. At that point a crisis was born. China hit the brakes. Where importing poor-quality recycled materials may have been economically sound at one time, that time came to an end. China’s economic path from a producer of trinkets to a producer of iPhones led to a mature modern economy, with global economic ties and massive earnings.

It appeared to be a sudden reversal from the perspective of the US. But how could it have been. Waste management is a multi-billion dollar industry, employing economists, international business analysts, experts in everything from curbside collection to trade policy, and it revolves around the banking industry. That banking industry is doing their own due diligence. How could the entire industry, the transportation industry, and their financiers have overlooked this iceberg? My cynicism tells me they didn’t.

Much like the Chinese consumer goods of the 2000’s, North American recyclables were overwhelmingly destined for export markets. There had been very little investment in processing infrastructure on this side of the Pacific. Likewise, there had been no reason for collection programs to stress high quality over sheer volume. The export markets had not demanded it, and domestic markets were glad to limit themselves to materials such as white office paper and high-quality plastics, both known for low contamination rates and high value. Pre-Sword, if a municipal collection program was getting paid $20/ton for mixed recyclables, why would there be a reason to worry? As seen from the generation/collection side of the process it seemed like a status quo had been established, and there was very little indication it would change. Processors were offering 5- and 10-year contracts with guaranteed rebates. Generators and trash haulers were writing those rebates into their cash-flow calculations. Ah… Good Times! Not many were aware that this model relied on a distant market with a rapidly growing consumer sector and a government with the ability to alter course on a dime. The ones who were aware seem to have been satisfied to ride the wave until it crashed.

And crash it did. The closure of the Chinese market caused a virtual evaporation of system capacity. Post-consumer material had nowhere to go. The end markets (purchasers of separated recyclables) who would take the material demanded very low contamination rates (Between 1 and 5%, and lower). China had set their acceptable rate at 1.5% and then lowered it to 0.5%. As far as North American MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities or MRFs, pronounced “murfs”) were concerned this rate was impossible to achieve. Without a huge low-cost destination for post-consumer materials, the focus began to shift from quantity to quality.  Many MRFs were running their material through their processing line a second time to reduce contamination. This effectively halves their capacity and doubles their labor and energy costs per ton. The result is spiking costs.

As 2019 progresses, the old contracts fade away, and the shock over post-Sword economics sinks in. Processing a ton of recycling might cost as much as disposing of a ton of trash (or more), a previously unthinkable scenario. Where there were once $20/ton rebates, the cost to deliver recyclables to a MRF (called a tip-fee) was suddenly $25-$75/ton. States, municipalities, corporations, MRFs and brokers are all wondering who will pay for these new costs. In cases where long-term contracts with rebate pricing were in force, they were either torn up or the contractee was hit with higher “claw-back” costs in their next contract (making up for losses under the old rebate contract. Some scenarios involved both tearing up a contract as well as claw-back pricing. Could it be that the closure of the Chinese “Magic Market” exposed North American markets to the actual costs of their waste management policies? Can I make that any more of a leading question?

To turn specifically to the United States, our current solid waste management practices matured under those pre-Sword conditions. The expectations of cheap markets for poorly-sorted recyclables have been baked in to our system over the course of decades. That system relies heavily on export markets. It has failed to develop domestic processing and remanufacturing capacity in the shadow of those export markets. It also relies heavily on long-haul transportation instead of local and integrated, collection, processing and remanufacture. The challenge we now face is one of self-examination, education, commitment, and investment. Can we face up to the facts regarding our laissez-faire approach to waste? The idea that we can mass-produce products and packaging, with no regard to the implications, continues to be discredited every day. Whether it is a global adjustment like China Sword, or a local town-hall budget meeting erupting into a shouting match because the money is simply not there, the current system benefits very few and places a massive economic and environmental burden on the public at large.

To return to the opening question, why would we blame China for this scenario? Do they have some kind of mandate to take poor-quality material from halfway around the world, only to spend money to separate it into useful parts, dispose of the contaminants, and hope to end up in the black? None that I know of. More to the point, considering the importance of the Chinese market to the North American waste management industry, why was there no trade agreement in force regarding recycled materials. It was basically one giant handshake deal. This is the quicksand upon which was built the economic basis of the materials management economy for over 20 years.

There is a feeling that the market will settle, costs will relax, and a “new normal” will take shape. For most people in the waste management industry from the consumer/generator to the recycled content manufacturer it can’t happen soon enough.

I intend to come back and dig deeper into these issue in future posts, but I would like to close with a few observations about where the opportunities and solutions might lie:

Strong National and State Policies: To date the waste management industry has largely been left to run itself. It is important to give credit where credit is due. The industry has developed the technology and the economic strength to process much of our nation’s waste material. However, in the end it still operates on a volume basis. The incentive to reduce waste is simply anathema to the waste management industry. This is similar to the relationship between the electric generation industry and energy efficiency. EE measures take dollars out of the system. In the waste management industry, waste reduction plays the role of energy efficiency. The industry has been able to manage waste materials through a network of landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, and recycling facilities. No industry would voluntarily takes profits off the table, and as a bloc the waste management industry lacks the scope to put a value on efficiency and develop the policies and partners to make it work. What is needed now is a strong framework to guide the conversion of that industry to one that works for the next 100 years. It simply must evolve to yoke a reduction in waste generation to improvements in separation, processing and disposal.

The Supply/Demand Void: With the market value of post-consumer recyclables at a deep low there should be a buyer to embrace this buyer’s market. Right now that seems to be limited by processing capacity and the ability to reduce contamination to the new, lower, standards. As well, separated, high quality, low contamination materials are still holding their value in the marketplace. The real boat anchor is mixed recyclables (many of us know this as Single Stream, or Blue Bin). As I was once taught, the technology required to fix a problem is exponentially greater than the technology required to create it. Creating mixed recyclables is easy. Separating them into the component parts and maintaining the integrity of those parts is exponentially more difficult and more costly. The mixed recycling days should by all rights be coming to an end. Hence…

Source-Separation. This term can be used to describe separating recyclable materials from trash, but it also means separating recyclable materials by type before they are commingled. Separating materials such a cardboard, certain plastics, textiles, food waste, electronics, metal, and packaging at the source (the consumer in most cases) yields cleaner and more valuable material without the need for expensive post-processing. This approach also reduces the total quantity of mixed recyclables, lessening the strain on MRFs trying to meet the low contamination rates the market demands.

Cooperative and Expanded MRF Infrastructure: A MRF is a fairly innocuous industrial process. Most of these facilities can be sited in a light industrial zone with access to highway and rail/ship/manufacturing infrastructure. Cities, regions, or states might find the best solution to cost is to contract with a facility to process their recyclables. By keeping the size of each facility down the transportation costs are kept down, and the amount of post-process materials (baled separated recyclables) is likewise kept to an acceptable level as considered by the host community. It is important to note that even clean separated materials sill require baling, storage and marketing. A move away from mixed recycling is not a threat to the MRF industry, but a lifeline.

Integrated Processing and Manufacturing: The conversion of post-consumer recyclables into consumer products the final link in the chain. The transportation costs involved in this process can be mitigated by locating manufacturing facilities within a short-haul of one or more MRFs. Similarly the opportunity for long-term supply contracts sets the stage for enhanced source-separation, decreased contamination, and decreased processing costs. Any MBA will tell you that this is a recipe for long-term control of both costs and materials supplies.

These approaches can all be part of the answer to “what’s next” in the aftermath of China Sword. This crisis presents and opportunity to build the next house on firmer ground, with known costs, and reliable cash flows. This is what drives investment, and ultimately creates a sustainable model with room to grow and change as future opportunities present themselves.

 

 

The Disclaimer

I’m not a music journalist. Thank me later. I detest the trend of comparing every band to some other band. It’s lazy. It is shorthand. It lets the writer off the hook, bypassing the need for deep thought ot deep listening.

What I write is largely reviews of music I have purchased directly from the artist. I know some of these folks personally, but I pay for the music whether it is downloads, CDs, concert tickets, whatever. If I think a recording is off, I’ll say so, but if I don’t like it I probably won’t waste my time writing about it.

Same for photography, food, travel, and anything else. Life is too short.

Let the Music Play

This blog has been dormant for quite a while, but my plan is to start putting up music reviews, and some longer-form pieces on learning, performing, and experiencing music.

Coming up very soon: A Tale of Two Mothers

Corby 2015 – The Rundown Cometh

Just a quick warning that I will have a few observations from my recent trip to the Festival Moo Ah in Corby, England. Yep. Another Zappa-themed festival in a European location with its fair share of beer and elsewhere. Uncle Ian is a Corby resident so I will be kind: I like Corby, but at one point I was sure that it was not reciprocal. I wish I could have seen more than the view from the taxi or on my escape from The George… My feeling about England, and this was my first trip, was that it is lovely when you have lovely company. Conversely, when things go sour they do so in a big way.

First the summary version! I expect to have a few more on music, food, and a solar eclipse. My trip was based out of the Manchester area, so I will start there:

A great party was had in the Manchester area, and it was great fun to see my Zappateer/Mancateer friends in their natural surroundings. 🙂

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A great road trip was taken to Corby! 🙂

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I had to choose a room at the Inn, and I did not choose wisely 😦

evelien_george-1photo by evelein langereis

The first night full of good friends and good music. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmike fox and helen tate

I returned to a hotel room that was a miasma of chip-fat (fryer grease) 😦

Booked a new room at 5:00am over a prehistoric GPRS connection 😦

New hotel was 2 miles away and gave us a 7:00am check-in  🙂

I still had not really slept in three days and my diet had been poor, at best 😦

Was able to attend a commitment ceremony for friends Steve and Susan 🙂

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Was starving and ate a double burger at the UK equivalent of Applebees 😦

Reception for Susan and Steve

Second night of music was great, but I was in rough shape 🙂 😦

Actually slept some on Saturday night, took it easy with breakfast, but… damage done 🙂 😦

Ignored GERD-symptoms and had an epic drink-up with curry on Sunday night 🙂

curry cheers!

Crazy Train grinds to a serene halt on Monday morning and much lounging around ensues 🙂

Fantastic family dinner with my hosts! Hard to beat that 🙂

Out the door at 6am on Tuesday to return home 🙂 Guiness and an egg sandwich at 6:30am in Manchester airport 🙂

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All told, a really fun time at a really fun festival. I need to thank everyone including Ob, Mrs. Ob, the Oblings, Danny, Steffen, Bengt, the residents of Mancunia, Uncle Ian, Andy, Canadian John from London, YoungPumpkin, Ged, Eric, the Dutchies, the Vikings, Rupert and Kevin, some mad bloke named Rick, and a seemingly endless string of amazing people who I now count among my friends.

And in other news…

The latest musical effort here at Rancho Frio Studios is an improvisational duo with drummer Peter Riccio.  There really isn’t an official name for this project.  There have been a few performances so far and they have all used different names.  We play at the Outer Space in Hamden, CT on April 1, and that performance will be under yet another name: Journey to the Twin Planet. That is the name of a track from the Jack Dejohnette record Special Edition (1980, ECM). There was a time when ECM was putting out some of the best and most unique recordings, and those recordings largely hold up very well.  So while I can guarantee that nobody will mistake JttTP for a Jack Dejohnette project, it is a tip of the hat to a man I consider to be one of the best ever to pick up the sticks.

Peter and I go back a long way, and it is great to be playing some music together again.  A few years as bassist in his band the Sawtelles was a major turning point in my musical life.  Playing in an ensemble while being able to retain my own voice on the instrument is something I had never truly enjoyed, and playing in the Sawtelles opened a door to that process that I continue to develop today.

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NHIC @ firehouse12 – recap

Everything is running a bit late this year, so my recap of the NHIC gig is also late.  Short of it: it was a very cool night of music.

nhic:atlas (Bob Gorry pronounces “NHIC” as “NICK”… go figure) was a blast to play with, and was in the odd position of having a CD release show with 50% new lineup and 80% new material.  But hey, this isn’t a commercial thing, so no worries.  We had Mike Paolucci (Sandy knows him as “octopus boy” due to his fluid style behind the kit) on drums and he was a swingin’ rock of funky rhythm.  Gabriel Kastelle is always a joy to play with as well.  I love an in-tune violin or viola, and he has great pitch.  The Gorry-Asetta-Matlock front end from the original Atlas lineup was intact, and sounded great.  The swingin’ new rhythm section, and new blood in the violin-family chair brough a totally different feel to the group.  Where the original nhic:atlas was leaning toward a formal chamber-jass feel, the new lineup was more funky and leaning more toward a propulsive feel.  On my end, I was playing my Tacoma acoustic bass guitar in place of the original upright bass, and it filled that role like a champ.  No feedback issues, and the deep, resonant sound fit the arrangements like a glove.

NHIC Electric was the new kid in town, bringing a familiar two-guitar NHIC setup to the stage, but we had Peter Riccio on drums.  One thig is for sure, among his many talents, he has a very deep knowledge of jazz, and especially free jazz and hard bop.  I know, because most of the stuff I heard as a kid, I heard out of the record collection at his house.  That one factor gave the group a feel that I haven’t heard in the past.  Not that Peter doesn’t know world music, or prog, or polyrhythmic complexity, but he brought some strong jazz drumming to the party.  My rig was fretless Zon Sonus 5, Line6 M5, and Radial Tonebone handling the switching and fx loop for the M5.  I also ran loops off my iPhone to handle some synthy noises.  It has been a while since I have run effects at a show… and it was a weird feeling, but it was a reminder that I *can* do it if I want to deal with it.  The simplicity of playing bass-cable-amp (and often not running an amp) can be seductive.  I did enjoy blasting some delay and some phaser action in small doses.  I can’t wait to hear some rough mixes of this band.  Should be a hoot.

Thanks to NHIC, firehouse12, and the folks who came out to support the gig.  It was very cool.  I hope to be sharing soem audio and video in the coming months.

nhic:atlas is bob gorry, guitar; steve asetta, saxes; adam matlock, clarinet, accordion; gabriel kastelle, viola, erhu; michael paolucci, drum kit; pete brunelli, acoustic bass guitar

NHIC Electric is: bob gorry, guitar; jeff cedrone, guitar; paul mcguire, soprano sax; peter riccio, drum kit; pete brunelli, fretless electric bass

Occupy Blog Street

Just a few tidbits about how “Washington” and “Wall Steet” are fucking this country, and but good.

Job Creators: this is as cynical and retrograde as “Clear Skies Initiative”.  The actual problem with the economy is hidden directly behind this crystalline piece of “douche-speak”.  Actually, these captains of industry are laying people off, and avoiding hiring here in America, because they first and foremost need to keep the profit-wheel turning.  Not just normal profits.  Profits that increase every quarter.  The irrational ever-expanding economy concept at the granular level.  So when (as mentioned here in a previous post) a company that relies heavily on American military spending, like Sikorsky, needs to keep the profit margin rolling, so they can continue to “perform” and their executives can continue to reap performance-based bonuses… they lay off thousands and move them onto the American Unemployment System!  Uncle Sucker provides a backdoor “entitlement” to Sikorsky, as opposed to the “front door” they were using* back in the “aughts”.  Meanwhile, those unemployed people can no longer participate in the economy at large to the same degree, causing other businesses to slow down, layoff, and you have the makings of a true economic Domino Theory clusterfuck.  This is happening on a national basis, and thousands of businesses are complicit, but I am just using Sikorksky because they are so transparent in their efforts.  In Conclusion: Thanks, “Job Creating” Doublespeak Assholes!

When Occupy Whatnot has the time to figure out what is really going on… maybe they will connect a few dots and make some concrete points.  So far I see a lot of vague generalities about the economy, but nothing that you can really hang your hat on.  My feelings are: keep it simple, keep it direct, don’t pull punches, and don’t let yourself get co-opted by a group that is part of the problem (Move On, I’m looking at you)

* What Changed? Back in the heady days of say… George W. Bush… it was easier to just divert the money from multiple war efforts directly to the bottom line, knowing that the GAO would never have the time or resources to figure out if you actually delivered on a contract.  You had a neutered Accountability arm of the Executive Branch, and a lot of open graft, wink, nod, repeat.  We now find out, horrors, that BILLIONS of US Dollars have gone missing in our multiple “wars” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan… who knows since the USA never actually declares war any longer.  We just deploy a bunch of taxpayer funded military resources, and an equal or greater military contractor force, and then stop answering the phones over at the Penatgon.  Seems to have worked so far.  But with the US Government actually paying attention, at least in a small way, it is safer to play this shell game.  Even if it tanks the US economy… I mean, once you offshore enough of your business it really doesn’t matter what happens here, right?

Pseudo-Random

First, RIP Steve Jobs.  I go way back with Apple, maybe a little too far back.  My dad brought home an Apple II to check out, because he was going to be using it as part of his classroom work.  He taught Electronics and wanted this new “personal computing” stuff to be part of the curriculum.  The school got some Apple hardware, and My dad brought one home to work on classroom stuff… So I got my hands on a very early Apple product.  What I remember was it had a 40 column greenscreen display and no lower case.  It was still the nicest computer I had seen.  Before that it was a teletype console and acoustic coupler (to the Yale mainframe), or this trashed Hex Programming Trainer (probably Heathkit) that I forced to do four-function math (in hex).  Anyhow, Apple has been through a real rollercoaster existence, but the company that we now know is very much about Jobs.  I kept away from the Apple line until they ditched the System-7 thing, and when they switched to OS X, I jumped back in.  Great OS, better hardware, and they had the sense to ditch all that old spaghetti-code under the hood of the old Apple OS.  As well, they survived, and thrived, a CPU family switch, which looked like it could be a deal breaker.  Nope.  It was a deal maker.  It proved that you could have a killer desktop OS on an Intel CPU.  Something that M$ has yet to find a fucking way to make happen.  Thanks, Steve.  You Rocked It.

Switching gears, Zappa is the gift that keeps on giving.  I think I was about 13 when I first heard a Mothers album, and have been pretty consistent in absorbing Zappa music since.  About 34 years later I am still having regular epiphanies regarding Conceptual Continuity.  The man left a shockingly deep catalog of great music.  Even the songs I don’t like, I see where they fit in as I keep listening.  I recently checked out an unreleased album called Chalk Pie.  It kinda runs like a low-budget YCDTOSA release, but it has some killer music on it.  First off, it might be Exhibit A in “How Great Was Scott Thunes, Really?”  The answer: really freakin’ amazing.  Especially in the early 80’s before the bullshit of the ’88 Tour went down.  Scott plays some brutally hard passages with great fluidity, and you can hear that he is doing what Zappa wanted him to do.  Each player in the history of Zappa bands had a whole different set of challenges from the player preceding them.  In this case it is Scott, Chad Wackerman, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann and Steve Vai…  And they are all playing hard-ass parts and kicking ass while doing it.  I really dig that band before it got all tarted up with extra instrumentation…. But about Thunes: Even a piece like Jazz Discharge Party Hats was an eye-opener for me.  It is nothing more than a Sprechgesang vocal, doubled on bass.  Really stripped down, kinda funny, kinda runs on for a while… Not my favorite FZ piece, but damn, not only does FZ sing the part, but Scott nails the doubling part.  Sounds easy?  It Ain’t.  It is like a crystalline example of the FZ vocal-based-melody principle.  Neat.

Another gear change: One of the realizations that I am having Post-Rochefort is that I was lucky to get through that festival in once piece, and I will have to be more organized if I go back.  I may also have to be more demanding and let some of my organizational freak-flag fly.  I think I extended myself too much, too far in advance of the gig, in musical genre that I am not in practice on.  I also let a lot of decision-making slide (I was the FNG, and not there to make decisions) and it made it impossible for me to handle all the demands I was agreeing to.  So I either need to put in a lot more time branching out of my comfort zone, or be more particular about what I say “yes” to, or both.  Also, it was still a wild ride and I am still buzzing from it.

A tip of the hat to Olivier Longuet

I have been taking photographs about as long as I have been playing music, which is a long time… about back to age 8 or 9.  My father and grandfather were amateur photographers with a darkroom in the basement for black and white processing and printing.  For my grandfather it goes back to the early days of photography, and the economic realities of the day.  The day was, more specifically, the Great Depression. Photography was not inexpensive, but if you developed your own film and printed your own photos, you could do it on a budget.  Later on, in the days after WWII, my father had more of a tolerance for the cost of commercial processing, but was still a rabid economizer.  I learned film processing, use of a changing bag for loading tanks without a darkroom, and basic processing.  That is not unrelated to my interest in both chemistry and cooking!  It is all a matter of recipes and knowing what is actually going on in the process.

Music was a little different, but my dad had a few el-cheapo stringed instruments like a ukelele and a tenor guitar (Zim-Gar!!!).  The tenor was my favorite.  I was not tuning it in fifths (it was meant to be tuned like a tenor-banjo), but EADG, like a bass.  When I got my first guitar, a nylon string folk guitar, I played that the same way… picking out bass lines on the low strings, chunking through some basic open chords, and baffled by the asymmetrical B string!  One day a friend of my dad’s saw me playing and basically told him: “Paul, I hate to tell you this, but your son is a bass player.”  That was that.  By the time I was 13 I had a really awful Fender P copy (a Memphis… ugh), with a bad neck and worse electronics.   I ripped the frets out of within a year and that was all she wrote.  I have been playing bass since… over 34 years now, which is mind boggling.

Which is a long way of saying that music and photography are two constants in the way I approach the world.

As a result I always bring a camera to gigs, and if I am lucky I find a balance in time to perform music and time to capture images.  At an event like the NHIC Verge-Fest back in April of 2011 I was in charge of running sound, and had plenty of time to concentrate on photography.  At an event like Rochefort en Accords I had no balance.  It was 95% music music music… and then the time for an occasional snapshot opportunity.  The goal was purely that of capturing a few snaps as “souvenir”, in the true French meaning of “memory” or “memento”.  I am glad I did, because I would not have the great image of Charly Doll stoking the charcoal grill with a hairdryer!  …or the murky images from Charly’s bonfire, or the beer-tent party after the Friday rain-out at Rochefort, or the iPhone panorama of the school kids, or Nini Dogskin practicing the Saxhorn… and so many more.  See the Flickr set HERE.

A Rochefort I was surrounded by a bevy of fantastic musicians, and it was all I could do to keep up.  World class singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, and solo performers, all opening themselves up to what other musicians had to share.  I also met a few people who were putting all their energies into making images.  Christian Duchesnay and Olivier Longuet were the two I saw the most often.  Chris was the official photographer of the festival, and Olivier was working for himself.  Photography is different from music in many ways, but one difference that is central to this observation is that you have no idea what the photographer’s images will look like until you see them.  I can tell a few things about musicians by their gear, their mode of dress, and maybe their “entourage”, before hearing them play.  With a photographer you only see the person with a camera and think “nice camera” or “nice lenses” or something like that.

After I returned from Rochefort I saw some of the work of these photographers.  I believe that I have yet to see ChrisD’s complete work from the festival, but I have seen a good selection of what Olivier was up to.  Wow… the guy is very very good.  He has a few images featuring yours-truly, but to be honest they are not the best of his images.  I am flattered and also honored to be in the frame.  The extra added bonus from Rochefort, as if I needed one, is that in addition to the influence of the great musicians I worked with, I have this influence on the photographic side.  I will keep adding links as I find more stuff on the interwebs.  Right now there are a lot of small collections on Facebook, but I am not linking to those here.

LINKS:

Solong’s Photographies

Chris-D Website

Chris-D outtakes at Poudriere Blog

The Poudriere is a facility across the road from the Clos in Rochefort, and is the site of a really great selection of music events.

Labor Day Reflection 2011

This past year has been a rollercoaster for organized labor across the globe, and my little corner of it in Connecticut has not been spared.  I saw some disturbing, if not shocking, events unfold as the rollecoaster ride went along.  Make no mistake, this most recent ride is just a uptick, since these things happen all year, every year, but usually with less frequency.  Here is a small selection of rants regarding the most bizarre of the bizarre:

Anti-Union Union Leadership: We have seen a variety of people run for elected union office, and win, despite being openly anti-union and anti-organized labor.  They continually fail to recognize the most basic structures and ground rules, but have sown seeds of dissatisfaction among enough people to carry the day in a voting process.  The recent backlash against SEBAC is a great example because SEBAC did nothing more than what it was mandated to do by the Connecticut General Assembly, but somehow there is traction to the idea that SEBAC is supposed to be a membership organization, which it is not.  These same pathetic dopes are now trying to sell their fellow union members on a plot to be represented by a new union, with no experience in collective bargaining, no political presence in CT, and bylaws that look like Pol Pot wrote them, and all because SEBAC did what it has done for 17 years, and followed their charter…

“Race To The Bottom” – you know that you have social power when you can make people vote against their own self interests.  The Republican(t) party has done a great job convincing non-union workers, and even union-workers, that union jobs should pay less because private sector jobs (supposedly) pay less.  They are not asking for better pay and working conditions at their own jobs.  They are asking that others get less so they feel better about not keeping up with inflation.  While they are being led in this race to the bottom, the same characters are raising the standard of living of the mega rich by making sure that corporations have the freedom to send work offshore, pay less here in the US, provide less benefits here in the US, raid pensions here in the US… and so on.  The game is so brazenly transparent that it is shocking that it works, but it does work.  Nobody calls in to convicted felon John Rowland’s radio show to ask what they can do to raise their own standard of living… ever.  If they did they would be hung up on.  No.  They call to complain about how they heard that someone in a State job retired with a living pension… Not once mentioning that the radio host has two such pensions, concurrently.

And last, just for balance, Blind Pro-Union Sentiment: I have been consistent that I do not believe that organized labor is right for every sector of the workforce.  In public service it serves to protect the employed from the rapidly shifting political whims of the political arm of the State.  That is a fact.  Having a defensible contract provides stability to public services during times like the ones we are in now.  Times when political expediency would carry the day, and services and jobs would be slashed.  Instead of seeing every job as a potential organizing target, I think we would be better off focusing on the investment made by the public in the services provided with their tax dollars, and the costs involved in throwing that investment away.

So that, is just a stream of consciousness ramble through a few points of personal interest.  I wish that the people in State service that complain about  the cost of government services while drawing a government paycheck would admit that their position is not defensible.  Maybe they could help their cause and find a job in the private sector.  That would be fair.  Frustrated by the parliamentary system and the statutes of the government that employs you?  Take a real stand and find a job that doesn’t rely on those structures.  And if you are not in a union and are not making enough money, seeing regular raises, accessing affordable health care, or watching your pension drained by a heartless corporation… stop bitching about unions and do something about YOUR situation.