Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Folk Interrogation

I was at a show the other night, and was talking to an old friend, Bailey Cleveland. She has some great stories…

“I’ll bet you never heard of The Folk Interrogation.”

No, I don’t think that I have.

“That’s because you were a Seventies child. I was a Sixties child.”

Yes, you do tend to remind me of that whenever we have a conversation about music.

“You think that music started with Emerson Lake and Palmer or The Ramones.”

You know that’s not true – tell me about this Folk Interrogation.

“It was in the late Sixties, I think I went in 1968 or so. My boyfriend’s older sister took us with her and her friends.”

What and where was it?

“It was a music festival, at a small college somewhere downstate. I don’t remember exactly where. I just remember a bunch of hippies with guitars.”

And the name ‘Folk Interrogation?’

“The idea was that these hippie folksingers would show up at this festival with songs they had written about the issues that were important back then. And they would interrogate The Establishment with their songs.”

Lots of Vietnam songs, I would guess.

“And Womens Lib. And Civil Rights.”

I don’t suppose you remember the names of any of these singers, or any of their songs.

“All I remember is some guy with a really bad voice, singing about the environment – I think we called it ‘ecology’ back then – he had a song with a chorus that went something like ‘in nineteen fifty-nine they told us DDT’s ok.’”

I don’t suppose there are any recordings from that festival, maybe from the college radio station?

“I’ve never seen or heard one.”

And you didn’t save any kind of posters, or anything?

“I was a teenager at my first music festival, learning about sex and drugs, so no, I didn’t spend my time looking for recordings or posters. If you’re looking for information, try the internet.”

I’m just curious. As you point out, I was too young for the sixties, so this is like the stuff of legend to me.

“I’m glad I could help pass the ancient stories down, to another generation.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hit the Road, Chief

King Kaufman writes about Chief Illiniwek at Salon. I agree with what he says:

“Then there's often some name-calling, branding those who want to get rid of the chief as ‘politically correct,’ sort of the last argument of a scoundrel. Politically correct is what some people call you if they don't like it when you ask them to have some respect for other people.”

Friday, February 16, 2007

Can We Live Through February?

I talked to my friend TS Elmwood again the other day.

“I see that winter finally showed up in the Chicago area.”

I think we might have gotten about a foot of snow last week, and it’s been below freezing for almost all of the past two weeks. My thermometer read fourteen below one morning.

“How is your back holding up with all that shovelling?”

OK so far – luckily, the kids next door have been doing our driveway and sidewalks for us.

“Have you had any conversations with non-believers regarding global warming lately?”

What do you mean?

“There’s a guy I know, he’s not a bad guy, but at least once a week during the winter he’ll say something to me like ‘nice weather, so much for global warming.’“

Perhaps he’s joking.

“No, he’s the same guy who still believes that they’ll find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

You’re saying he’s generally confused?

“I’m saying his political and religious beliefs – which are hard to tell apart, sometimes – require that he not believe in global warming, or evolution, or any of that stuff he considers to be liberal propaganda.”

Ah. He could be a US Senator from Oklahoma some day.

“This guy was telling me about some debate he saw, probably on Fox News, about global warming. I told him it wasn’t a debate, it was sophistry.”

Good word. Did you see that Onion story on the debate over gravity?

“Yes, ‘intelligent falling,’ very funny. Getting back to the weather – I was reading something about Ojmjakon recently.”

What’s that?

“Not what, where. It’s supposedly the coldest inhabited place on Earth, it’s in Siberia. I checked, and the forecast high temperature for tomorrow is minus forty-five.”


“Yes, but it’s about the same as Celsius at that temperature, you know. Then I was reading about Alert, Nunavut.”

Which would be?

“The northernmost inhabited place on Earth. 82.5 North.”

It’s probably still dark there.

“They’re getting several hours of twilight by now, but no, the sun has not risen yet this year.”

I was thinking about hot Jupiters the other day.

“That’s an astronomical term, right?”

It is. Hot Jupiters are large planets, in other solar systems, that orbit very close to their stars.

“So they would have really short years.”

And their Februaries would be really short.

“You know that Dar Williams song, ‘February?’”

I do. I think I saw her play it when covivant and I saw the Cry Cry Cry show.

“Do me a favor and quote some of the lyrics in your blog.”

Will do. Stay warm, TS.

“First we forgot where we’d planted those bulbs last year,
Then we forgot that we’d planted at all,
Then we forgot what plants are altogether,
and I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through February?”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Norah Jones -- Where Have All the Tickets Gone?

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood again, and he had another concert story.

“You know, we're getting older, but we’re still young enough to go to concerts.”

You went to another concert?

“Not yet -- I got tickets to the Norah Jones show.”

Is this going to be another rant about Ticketmaster?

“No. It’s going to be a rant about ticket scalpers and ebay.”

You got your tickets from a scalper on ebay?

“No, no, let me explain. Norah Jones is rather popular, as you know.”

I saw that her album debuted at number one on Billboard, and of course, it’s number one at Amazon.

“And she’s going on tour. And she’s coming to the Chicago Theatre in May.”

You have some sort of ‘in’ with the Chicago Theatre, if I recall.

“I donate money to the theatre, so I’m a Chicago Theatre Insider. So I get access to presales, and I usually get great seats.”

I recall you saying you saw Bonnie Raitt from the first few rows.

“And John Fogerty, and Dolly Parton, and James Taylor, and my wife and her daughter saw Carly Simon, all in the first five or six rows. So I had high hopes for some great Norah Jones tickets.”


“Well, I did get good seats. I think I’m about twenty rows back. I e-mailed the theatre to ask why the tickets were a lot farther back than usual, and the response was that it was a very popular concert.”

Perhaps more people are becoming Chicago Theatre Insiders.

“Which would be good for the theatre, I guess. But then tickets also went through Target and WXRT.”

I don’t follow.

“WXRT had a presale for the show. And I think if you bought the new cd at Target, you got access to their presale. And I think Norah’s e-mail list was also offering a presale. So I’m sure they took a bunch of the tickets. Anyway, I thought I would check ticketmaster-dot-com for tickets when they went on sale this morning, to see if maybe I could find some better seats. Tickets went on sale at 10am, and at 10:01am I was getting the ‘no tickets available’ message.”

That was quick. How could all those tickets sell out in one minute?

“I told you this was going to be a rant about scalpers and ebay, didn’t I?”

You think a lot of the tickets went to scalpers?

“I checked ebay a little while ago, and there were already sixty-one lisings for
norah jones chicago. That’s only three hours after tickets went on sale – I’m sure there will be a lot more listings over the next few months.”

Ebay does let ticket scalpers access tickets and buyers all over the country.

“You know, I’m generally in favor of fewer rules for ebay, rather than more restrictions.”

I think we’ve both bought a few bootleg cd’s on ebay.

“But I don’t think ebay was driving up the price of cd’s. With a limited supply of tickets, and more scalpers all over the country getting them and selling them on ebay, that leaves fewer tickets for the local fans to buy.”

So you don’t think ebay should allow ticket scalping? Aren’t there rules limiting the resale price?

“Yeah, there are rules. There are also millions of auctions on ebay every day – you think they have time to enforce all the rules?”

So, what’s the solution?

“I think the best solution is to require that the buyer present an ID at the show, with the ticket – that would prevent resale.”

I wonder why more performers don’t do that.

“Too much work, maybe. It’s just easier to just sell them and collect their money.”

At least you did get tickets. Who’s going with you?

“Don’t know yet. The wife isn’t a fan.”

I heard The Arcade Fire is coming to the Chicago Theatre in a few months – they’ll be doing three shows, so tickets should be a bit easier to come by.

“Stay tuned.”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

For What Shall It Profit a Man?

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood the other day. Will has a good job, with a small company, and he has told me that the owners are good, generous people. But…

“I don’t like corporate charity.”

You mean, like, government taxbreaks and subsidies for big corporations?

“No, I mean, like, charity that is sponsored by my employer.”

Ahh. That can be a tricky path.

“No kidding. Our company has gotten involved with Nothing But Nets.”

I’m not sure I know that one.

“They purchase anti-malaria bed nets for people in Africa.”

Sounds like a good program.

“I have no reason to believe it’s not a good cause.”


“So you have your list of charities.”

I do.

“And I donate to the charities of my choice. I feel like, if I donate to Nothing But Nets, then I should be able to knock on the bosses’ doors, and ask them for money for one of my charities.”

Doesn’t your company have a matching gift program?

“No, probably because it’s too small a company.”

So go knock on the bosses’ doors.

“I don’t think so. As I’ve said, they’re good people, but I just don’t like the idea of charity in the workplace.”

You’ve mentioned your co-worker with that foundation…

Lunch for Life. They raise funds for the Children’s Neuroblastoma Foundation. I haven’t donated to them, either.”

May I ask why not?

“I don’t know enough about them, for one. I don’t donate to charities that might fund animal experiments.”

Understandable. It can be a tough decision – one wants to be careful about where one donates, but not be too cynical. I had someone tell me that he wasn’t sure about donating to Doctors Without Borders, but then he heard that they won the Nobel Peace Prize, but then he remembered that Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger had also won Nobels…

“Yeah – getting back to Nothing But Nets, on the one hand, they work with The UN Foundation.”

Ted Turner’s money.

“Yeah. On the other hand, they get matching donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

That’s a problem?

“Maybe. Did you see the series in the Los Angeles Times?”

I did see that. They reported on how the Gates Foundation invests in companies that contribute to the problems that they’re trying to solve. They are the biggest charitable foundation in the world, so you might have a hard time avoiding charities that get money from them. What are you going to do?

“I’m going to keep donating to my charities. If and when I feel like I have enough information on a charity, I may add it to my list.”

You know, you could probably get some points with the bosses by supporting their charity of choice. And your co-worker would appreciate your donation.

“You know I’m not much on religion, and this might not be entirely relevant, but check Mark 8:36.”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fifty-Two Percent Surcharge

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood again. He was telling me about buying some concert tickets.

“I really like Jon Dee Graham.”

I saw him open for Alejandro Escovedo a year or two ago, and he was pretty great.

“And I really like Peter Case.”

Always puts on a good live show.

“And, as we’ve discussed many times, I love FitzGerald’s.”

The best music club in the Chicago area.

“So I bought tickets for the wife and me, to the Jon Dee Graham / Peter Case show at FitzGerald’s later this month.”

I sense a flipside to all this love and like.

I hate Ticketmaster. It cost me $45.80 to buy two fifteen-dollar tickets online.”

That would be about a 52% surcharge. I thought you bought your tickets at FitzGerald’s, and avoided the Ticketmaster fees.

“I used to. Since we moved to County DuPage, it’s just too much hassle to drive to Berwyn in the evening, just to save fifteen bucks.”

It’s not as if a mature rock fan such as yourself can’t afford fifteen bucks, to save the hour or two you would spend driving to and from Berwyn.

“Perhaps. But it’s the principle.”

Umm, when people say it’s not the money, it’s the principle…

“Yeah, I know, they’re usually saying that it is the money. I just wish it was still my fifteen bucks, or Jon Dee’s, or Peter’s, or Bill Fitzgerald’s money. Not some evil corporate Ticketbastard.”