Category Archives: update

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 😦

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

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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.

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Back, and badder than ever…

Badder in relative, but that’s all we got. The word for the past 6 months is “incremental”. It has incrementally warmed here in the northeast of the U.S. We had a historic stretch of bitter cold, dry cold, occasional winter precip, and it just. would. not. end. I know that last Memorial Day (informal harbinger of summer) it was 52F and spitting rain. This year it was marginally warmer, but still cold and a little wet. That’s it for my weather recap. Weather. Better than having no weather at all.

My exploits with my band fuchsprellen have been likewise, incremental. We had a pair of shows in early May. The first was at Best Video in Hamden, CT, a reprise of the quartet from the previous gigs: Me on Animoog synth; Peter Riccio on drums; Richard Brown on sax and guitar; Steve Chillemi on soprano sax and percussion. That is a really fun lineup. Everyone gets the basic concept and can play with power while listening to the ensemble and still controlling their volume. I’ll have a link to the audio soon, but suffice it to say it was a good time. My memory is of looking up after 15 minutes and we had not lost any of our audience. Great feeling.

The second gig was the result of a comic string of communication problems. The Outer Space in Hamden, CT was the venue, and the Sunday early slot is the Sunday Jazz slot, booked by Nick DeMaria (trumpeter and all around jazzy impresario). Nick asked me if fuchsprellen could play the Sunday set. I said yes and then had the bright idea to ask Jeff Cedrone to play keys with us. His response: I can’t, I’m playing at the Outer Space with Light Upon Blight! Which is both coincidental and not coincidental since Nick Never said it was all fuchsprellen. The upside is that Peter Riccio plays drums in both bands. In the meanwhile both Steve and Richard begged off the gig. What we ended up with was back to back trio sets with the same lineup, but different concepts and execution. I love this kind of thing and we made the most of it. As with the BV gig, audio links will be forthcoming.

The core of these shows was a very/totally improvised concept and a totally open sonic palette. All three sets had a tendency to get heavy, but they also had a lot of dynamic range and harmonic variety. Tonal, composed, and form-heavy music is everywhere. I love much of it. But I could not be happier than when making something else. Fuchsprellen is decidedly “something else”.

Long Time, No Blog…

I have been very busy doing things, hence I have not been blogulating or otherwise documenting things. Since this is site is relatively solipsistic, I don”t think it has caused a problem with the public at large…

First, a follow-up on the ACA bruhaha that has been percolating since my last post in October: Anti-ACA folks in government, industry, major media, etc… have one thing in common. They all have or seem to have no worries about the availability or cost of their own healthcare. I’m sure it isn’t 100% but I am also sure that Rush Limbaugh is not paying $1300/mo for shit coverage, or getting denied coverage for his many pre-existing conditions. On the far far far far right (I hope) are the people who think that ACA is “government-run healthcare”, is “worse than hitler, stalin and pol pot”, or is somehow making things “worse”. No. Just like Medicare and Medicad solved actual problems for the poor and old, this solves problems for everyone else. I feel like any further attempt at rationality is futile here, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Item 2: The simplest explanation for the rapid climate change the planet is currently experiencing is proving to be more likely each day. Take all that carbon that the geologic cycle had the good sense to “sequester” under the ground, pump it back into the atmosphere at a supernatural rate, and bingo: climate change. Unfortunately for us humans, the climate may very well be changing back to pre-human conditions. Bad news, meatbags.

Item the Third: Dear Hartford, Connecticut. City Hall will never make your city better. You have to do that yourself. Once you start doing that, City Hall can give you a push. Look around at cities that are fighting their way back an winning. They have active communities, taking pride in them, and working to solve problems. While that happens in Hartford, I think the residents have to give up on any tangible help from their city government. It is a snake pit, and is in no danger of getting any less snakier any time soon.

More hot blog action to come. Maybe something not filled with so much snark, but filled with a little more subtlety.

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.

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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