Category Archives: update

Great Expectations, etc…

In an ideal world I would move forward with music projects and finding ways time to spend quality time with my family and friends. That’s about the scope of what i fit under “ideal”. Nothing fancy. No private submarines, Tibetan mountain retreats, million dollar hyper-cars…

But I also read my share of news, and keep up on some politics and current events. It gets tedious because I am dedicated to improving systems and building better mousetraps. When I see the statistics on the US healthcare system, I cringe. Really, anyone with a soul should cringe, even if they have excellent insurance and a high level of confidence that their personal situation delivers positive outcomes. We have the highest costs and in return we get outcomes that are the laughingstock of the developed world. Industrial nations can and should do better, and most do.

We have two major throttles to healthcare access in the US: The insurance industry, and the Pharmaceutical/Devices industry. the actual doctors/hospitals situation is merely a functional layer. We have good doctors and good hospitals. in fact. we have some of the best in the world. So that is not the problem. Do they profiteer? Sure. But it is chump change compared to the profiteering by the insurance and pharma industries. My opinion is that the foundational resistance to making healthcare more afforadable in the US comes from the insurance and pharma lobbies. They like the system just like it is. Insurance companies like small pools of insured individuals, just like a casino likes good odds (legalized odds-rigging). Pharmaceutical and med device companies like to make sure that they hold patents as long as possible and reap huge paybacks for as long as possible. The only possible obstacle would be government mandates to cover large pools of people and provide them with affordable care. That would put a dent in their very comfortable bottom lines.

As a result we see a small group of members of the US House of Representatives convincing the Speaker of the House to refuse to bring a vote to the floor on a seemingly unrelated issue: Spending and Spending cap. The bulk of the spending has absolutely nothing to do with health care. But what it does is shut down a big chunk of the government, creating a lever to gain traction they otherwise failed to muster when the Affordable Care Act was voted on in both houses of Congress, passed by both houses of Congress, and then found constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. The members of the house who are driving this bus had the opportunity to vote, did so, and failed. This current ploy of causing a government shutdown was certainly choreographed at that time. Otherwise we would have seen the usual riders, alternative language, markup… you know… the process as we know it. But just like the non-existant republican jobs plan, manufacturing plan, foreign policy plan, international trade plan (this list really does go on for ever), there was never a republican health care plan. Well, except for the part where the ACA is based on the health care system introduced in Massachusetts by Mittens Romney (back when he was Governor of Taxachusetts, before he was nominated by the RNC to run for President in 2012). But Mittens is a horrible republican! Really! Horrible! Just ask the people who held up Romney signs at the 2012 RNC Convention.

The skinny is that there are a lot of moving pieces here: political posturing; table setting for the 2014 and 2016 election cycles; a rallying cry to enhance the flagging reputations of the hard-right of the republican party… but the real driver might just be the republican version of “American Idol” where the winner gets a big chunk of campaign finance from the insurance and pharma industries. The kind of backing that differentiates winners from losers in the next two elections. That is the kind of thing that we see tons of in American politics. Don’t buy the headline, and certainly don’t buy the lead stories from partisan news sources. Go long on corporate influence. You will never regret it.

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Do the Aftermath

Romney should get specific.  Now that he has lost the election and doesn’t plan to run for President again, I think it would only be sporting of the chap to come clean about some of the questions he refused to answer during his campaign.  There are a few whoppers that I would love to see cleared up:

What tax deductions was he planning to eliminate?  [obviously I mean deductions eliminated for the middle class, since there was nothing but great news if you rake in seven-plus figures] The smart money was on scramming the mortgage interest deduction and make some kind of half-measure buy-off gesture to make it appear palatable.  It may have actually passed with enough palms greased along the way.  The reality is that millionaires could give a flying F@$& about mortgage interest, so it is a direct hit on the middle class.  What was his idea of balance?  We were never let in on the secret.  Now would be a great time.

What was his alternative to FEMA?  While he and his campaign bitched that Obama got a tailwind from Superstorm Sandy, what really happened is that it put a searchlight on His Romness and his advocacy of eliminating FEMA.  To a lesser degree it raised questions about Paul Ryan’s House Budget and its effect on disaster aid funding. With Romney suddenly and curiously silent when asked directly about his previous public statement to that effect… I wondered… What better time to put some detail on your plan than when millions of US Citizens are gripping the rails waiting for some disaster relief?  Oh?  Was it Halliburton, maybe?  Uh, sorry, wrong answer.  Thanks for playing.  Dick Cheney will hand deliver the home edition of our game to one of your trophy homes.  C.O.D. [extra credit: when he asks you to go duck hunting, say you have a family matter to attend to]

While he was remarkably specific about cutting the corporate tax rate, including actual numbers (rolling it back to 25%), and that tax rates on “job creators” should be cut, and so on… what programs of any real consequence was he planning on cutting?  Talking shit about cutting funding for PBS was just the worst kind of “red-meat to the lions” bullshit.  Kinda like telling a cancer patient “free haircut”.  As well, who the fuck heard that bluster and switched their vote to the Romney column?  Some kind of PBS-hating swing voter?  Nice job, campaign nerds.  Body-punching big bird is pure political comedy GOLD!

Since the Military and Other Stuff We Are Too Weak Minded to Know Too Much About budget is the lion’s share of the federal ledger, how in the name of Charles Montgomery Burns was he going to cut the Federal budget to 20% of GDP while increasing military spending?  The list of financial experts, politicians, wonks, non-partisan think tanks, and livestock who have figured out that Romney’s plan wouldn’t work is impressive.  It would be nice to hear from the candidate himself about what cards he was holding close to the Armani vest.

That is just a first cut, off the top of my head kinda list.  Truth is that we will never know.  The American people are left to speculate.  Radical restructuring of things like the tax code, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid [and those other things that the defenders of the rich over at Faux News call “entitlements” as long as millionaires don’t benefit from them] are a sure way to ruin one’s chances in any election (just ask a Libertarian), but once in office…. well, who knows?  George W Bush created the largest new branch of Government since the IRS, and put two or three full blown wars on his imaginary credit card (while cutting taxes), privatized huge portions of the US military, and ran the US economy into a ditch*, took more damn vacations than Brad Pitt, and the GOP still pretends that none of it happened and we were on a rocket-ride to prosperity until Obama’s inauguration.  Since then W has spent the past five years in an undisclosed location, out of sight out of mind, as they say…. The Republican Party seems to think everyone just plain fergot.  Well, not inviting your sitting two term president to the 2008 Republican national Convention was surely a kick in the nads for the most famous fake Texan since Clayton Moore.  Making it two in a row was positively catty.  Dear W, they REALLY aren’t that into you.  Note to GOP: Most People Remember Who Left That Pile Of Steaming Dogshit on the White House Foyer.

One last thought: while parsing the Republican post-mortems that clog each day’s news feed, keep in mind one very real possibility: Republicans have now spent a full decade acting as if their shit didn’t stink one bit.  Just like W’s multiple wars of corporate aggression, a decade of running on tax cuts for the rich, balanced with cuts in services for everyone else, is bound to get people’s attention eventually.  It stinks.  Loudly.  It is possible that in 2012 just enough American’s identified the source of the smell, and it could be a really tough 2014 for the GOP if they don’t take a deep whiff themselves.

*I still can’t figure out how you pump that kind of money into the hardware and personnel required to wage multiple wars and can’t find a way to benefit the national economy… unless the money was getting misspent or off-shored in a huge way. Nahhhh

And what else is new?

The duo-project with Peter Riccio, known by various names but most recently Journey to the Twin Planet, played a spooky little gig on April 1.  That is, coincidentally, the same day I had the first back problem in about 4 years.  And what a pain in the back it was.  Aside from the minor victory of not puking on stage from pain, and the minor defeat of having to call 1-800-MOTRIN to gut my way through it, it was a fun time.  I hope to take some lessons from these gigs and come back with a tighter and better act the next time around.

One big upside was that I was able to road test Animoog on he iPad as a performance instrument and the verdict is: we have a winner.  This app is everything I ever wanted in a synth, and is so much deeper than I expected.  The good news is that you can call up a preset and get right down to playing music on it.  Pick a keyboard layout you like and let it rip.  Beyond that you have a level of control over synthesis that is unbelievable.  Everythig from initial parameters, evolution, multitouch and extended-touch gestures, delay settings, built-in looper…. daummmmmmmmmm.

That also means that Moog, Inc. is doing something that was by no means a fait accompli: They managed to take a company that could have fallen over a cliff after Robert Moog’s passing, or worse been sold to some crap-factory like Korg*, and is now making a fantastic line of real tools for real musicians.  The analog synths they are making now are among the best they have ever created, and are probably just flat-out The Best.  They have a range from entry the level Phatty to the Voyager XL.  All the while making MoogerFooger modules and Moog Theremins.  Oh, and they make a couple of killer iOS apps, and have very nice merch. Pay them a visit.  Warms my heart, it does.

I’ll revisit this soon, and be posting links to some JttTP audio real soon now.  There are a few clips up at my Soundcloud.

* I own Korg gear, and it is not crap, but it is not Moog either…

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.