McFranchising McCloud

30 05 2007

Mt Shasta

Jill followed her Water piece from two days ago with this link, but I thought it important to link to in full…

Rural Communities Exploited by Nestlé for Your Bottled Water
By Tara Lohan, AlterNet. Posted May 30, 2007

Bottled water costs way more than the few bucks you pay at the store. Across the U.S., rural communities are footing the bill for the booming bottled water industry. Nestlé’s advance on a small town in California is the latest example.

Across the country, multinational corporations are targeting hundreds of rural communities to gain control of their most precious resource. By strong-arming small towns with limited economic means, these corporations are part of a growing trend to privatize public water supplies for economic gain in the ballooning bottled water industry.

With sales of over $35 billion worldwide in the bottled water market, corporations are doing whatever it takes to buy up pristine springs in some of our country’s most beautiful places. While the companies reap the profits, the local communities and the environment are paying the price.

One of the biggest and most voracious of the water gobblers is Nestlé, which controls one-third of the U.S. market and sells 70 different brand names — such as Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Perrier, Poland Spring and Ice Mountain — which it draws from 75 springs located all over the country.

Nestlé’s latest target is McCloud, located in the shadow of Northern California’s snow-capped Mt. Shasta. The town of McCloud has worked hard to try to reinvent itself in recent years. McCloud is a former timber town that is learning how to stand on its own feet again after the lumber companies bottomed out and took off.

Read the full article here.


The Forest Electric

29 05 2007

Heavyweight Dub Champtions

By Jill Ettinger

A few weeks ago I attended a small music festival in a state park near Santa Barbara, California, called Lightning in a Bottle. It’s an ambitious project put on by the Do Lab with an emphasis on low-impact green energy and emerging artists, in the backdrop of a sunny, breezy reclusive thicket. Though this summer will mark my first visit to Black Rock City, I can spot its town folk pretty easily, and this entheogenic village certainly served as a vacation spot for many members of the desert tribe including its resident groove enhancers Bassnectar and The Mutaytor.

What struck me as most exciting about this event was the type of music brought to this natural environment. For as long as we’ve stood upright, we’ve been making music in nature – with nature. However, one thing profoundly separates then from now: electronics. Our sonic relationship with nature has always been acoustic, naked, simple rhythms as we whispered lullabies above a symphony of crickets and birds. Nature provided us with relatively simple instruments that enhanced the human voice, hand-clapping and foot stomping: Aborigines blew the first musical notes through dijeridoos made of termite-hollowed logs, Africans stretched goat-skins over shells and wood into drums like the djembe, Japanese carved shakuhachi flutes out of bamboo. Though we’ve expanded our collection of sound makers, our elder instruments continue to make some of the most beautiful and powerful music. Enter Ben Franklin’s kite experiment and the electrical engineering movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries revolutionized, well everything – most definitely sound.

So what seems logical, as logic would dictate, is no longer. Things are never what they seem and always what they should be. Drum circles and a cappella expressions, certainly appropriate in the dark and quiet of a forest night, have been joined by electronic music. These festival highlights are no more out of place than any other instruments carved by or built into us. We are electric beings and our music resembles the broader spectrum of our complexity.

Two stand out performances from LIB this year were heavily electronic, though vastly different in style: Rena Jones and Heavyweight Dub Champion. What Miss Jones brings is a subtle, gentle side of electronica. Her use of violin and cello are simply gorgeous. Her innovative 2006 release Driftwood is a stunning montage of mid-tempo and chill out, much like nature itself. Jones is a perfect definition of the future of music. She taps into our aural history in no specific way and retools it into something delicate and ambient. Tracks like “Open Me Slowly,” “The Passing Storm” and “Photosynthesis” are precisely why NPR rated this record the 6th most essential of 2006. It’s exciting to see an artist of this caliber emerge, like a new species of orchid discovered on a remote island, reminding us that life is full of beautiful surprises.

Heavyweight Dub Champion tips the other side of the scale. Bass-heavy trance-inducing beats tie together the modern and primitive, connecting to the hunter/warrior of our ancestry. Moving through the jungles of our circumstances, where we are and where we’re going indistinguishable. Suddenly, everything becomes clear in a way that words will never explain, but rhythms always do. Check ‘em out here, a great performance at last summer’s Reggae on the River with Brooklyn’s favorite dub-duo, Dr. Israel and Lady K.

Water We Going To Do?

28 05 2007


By Jill Ettinger

As some of us sip champagne with breakfast, others have barely anything to eat, let alone sip. Of the 6.6 billion humans on Earth, 1.2 billion do not have access to safe drinking water.  That’s close to 20% of the population – or 1 out of every 5 of us, a number that’s unfortunately growing.

Between 1900 and 1995 the demand for safe drinking water increased sixfold – more than twice the rate of the concurrent population growth. According to research conducted by the UN based on water consumption trends, in less than 25 years, five billion people will be facing conditions where it is extremely difficult to access fresh drinking water. (One wonders if science has begun looking into ways of adding camel genes to human DNA.) By 2028, the world population is expected to surpass eight billion; inevitably more than half the people on the planet will be holding a paddle without a creek. Something this inescapably traumatic has not happened with this amount of foresight in human history. We’re talking about the most critical ingredient for survival besides air (also in questionable standing thanks to pollution and global warming) becoming virtually unavailable to more than half the world.

When the influenza pandemic of 1918 spread rapidly around the globe in the midst of a world war, killing between 20-40 million people, it probably seemed as if nothing more devastating could happen. To date it is commonly referred to as the single most ruinous episode resulting in massive deaths outside of genocide. Reading this startling info compiled by Stanford University, the thought comes to mind that this is a only snippet of what we face as our increasing population coupled with our environmental disregard concretizes a waterless future:

The pandemic affected everyone. With one-quarter of the US and one-fifth of the world infected with the influenza, it was impossible to escape from the illness. Even President Woodrow Wilson suffered from the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the crucial treaty of Versailles to end the World War (Tice). Those who were lucky enough to avoid infection had to deal with the public health ordinances to restrain the spread of the disease. The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public. Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Some towns required a signed certificate to enter and railroads would not accept passengers without them. Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers (Deseret News). Bodies pilled up as the massive deaths of the epidemic ensued. Besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins, morticians and gravediggers (Knox). The conditions in 1918 were not so far removed from the Black Death in the era of the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.

As leading environmentalists and scientists continue portending the dry and drier world just around the corner, it’s startling to stumble upon a seven-page article discussing our recycling inadequacies, and more embarrassingly, our security-blanket-like dependency on bottled water. Perhaps it is the subconscious nod to the crises we’re quickly approaching, clinging to these PET encased drops of precious liquid before they vanish, for good.

Are we capable of taking steps towards solutions? Is recycling really even an issue at this point? Where is our water education program? Are schools teaching conservation tips? Do people know what grey water is and how to use it? Do people realize eating high water content fruits and vegetables like watermelon, citrus and cucumbers can help keep us hydrated, reducing our intake of drinking water? Discussing the redemption rates of 5-10¢ for recycling vessels destined to remain empty seems a dialogue of distractions. But perhaps that’s precisely the point though. Let’s drown ourselves in non-issues before the unavoidable flood washes us bone-dry.

Old Discoveries in New Disguises

25 05 2007

OTB Logo

By Derek Beres

A few years ago a local NYC publicist started a new service, which entailed assigning band’s CDs to professional writers for “honest” reviews of their work. The service cost $20, half of which was kept the publicist, half to the writer. In a sense, the band makes out as they get a bit of criticism, and the publicist makes out as serving as a conduit between two parties. As usual, the only one to not really make out is the writer, who has to listen to a full CD a few times, then write a review, all for $10. After about two months it was exposed in a Brooklyn-based weekly for being a fledgling form of payola, and was promptly shut down. That’s one thing about the music industry – it’s quick to speak up when it sees forms of corruption, no matter how small or large a level it operates.

I could only think of the continual screwing of the writer reading about Kirkus Discoveries. The new companion site to the industry-standard Kirkus Reviews, it’s a new wing to help POD and self-published authors receive some sort of feedback from professional writers, “written in the same format and style as a traditional Kirkus Review.” Here’s my favorite part:

A review is commissioned ($350 per title ) from the Discoveries team, who assigns the book to one person within the Kirkus pool of professional reviewers, who in turn provides an honest, caveat-emptor evaluation, under the same impartial rubric as Kirkus Reviews .

Well thank heavens we have an impartial rubric to deal with! What’s happening in publishing, however, is the same process as what’s going on in music. “Industry standards” are being usurped by more local and independent media outlets. The entire premise of Print On Demand has changed how you can navigate about the industry. Given the way publishing behemoth Simon & Schuster recently tried to pull out their own scheme using this technology, they are trying to do what they only wish they could do if they had a governing entity like the RIAA: force their way into every available nook in the consumer market.

What matters in every industry is distribution, something POD currently lacks in the brick-and-mortar retail sense. Bookstores are not going to buy your book because there is a “no return” policy attached, and stores rarely hold onto titles for longer than that because of a tax law a few years ago which does not allow them to write off unsold books. But industry giants do not want to only control the reliable market; they want all of them, present and future. (Why else would Borders own B. Dalton, if not to have the top and bottom of the food chain?) Kirkus’ move is just another example of this.

Considering, according to their site, they receive 200-400 titles a day (!) and publish 5,000 reviews annually, they are certainly an important resource for the publishing industry. But here’s the catch: who of the younger generations is rifling through the graphically unattractive, library-formed guide they produce to find out about what to read? What publishing has lacked for some time is an image. Sure, the argument goes: it’s about the words, and the story. And in many ways, it is. But that’s like an independent musician selling burned CDRs on the street with his name and album title written in Sharpie, while the guy next to him has a fully finished product. “Come on man, it’s about the music!” Perhaps, but if you have not taken the time to make the surrounding product look and feel like what’s supposedly inside, then you’re wasting my time as well as yours.

Hence, Kirkus Discoveries, and their inane tagline: Has Your Book Been Overlooked? Do You Need Exposure? Do You Want To Be Discovered? Trifling, depressing and archaic. And, certainly, many authors will fall for it. They’re playing off an old authoring mentality that they hold the mirror to see your illusion within, when the bottom line is that they want your money. Any artist should never have to pay for a review of their work, whatever their medium. The supporting media structure has to find a way to support themselves, and their reviewers, through other means: advertising, promotions, parties, benefits – there’s a host of ways. To make the author pay is irresponsible, and but one more nail in the coffin they themselves are hammering.

True Green

24 05 2007

Rupert Murdoch

By Jill Ettinger

Green is golden these days. The number of converts grows daily, with highly visible people making the public leap. Earlier this month, Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch announced his plans to address environmental issues by reducing FOX’s carbon footprint. (Looks like little Lisa Simpson is starting to rub off on him, ay?) It’s quotes like this that prove somewhat startling, for a number of reasons: “The challenge is to revolutionize the [climate change] message, make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun.”

First of all, the climate change message IS, by itself, dramatic, vivid and revolutionary, without any help from FOX, or any other network. It’s a real issue with huge consequences. It is not a superbowl half-time show. Making it “fun” is an interesting thing to say. Yes it would be nice if all capable earthlings pitched in and helped do a little bit to address this issue, and working together to co-create a positive change can be a fun exercise. But I don’t think that’s what Murdoch meant. In fact, I’m quite sure he meant something more along the lines of, “Let’s make it hip, sexy and cool so that I can exploit the green out of it and make another gazillion dollars!”

Where we’re at with this enviro-era is very much like the year 1967 ( a common theme on this blog of late). When the flower-power movement picked up momentum because its message was true and timely, the media did the only thing it new how to do: make it mainstream. Hippy went from San Francisco street corners and underground night clubs to its antithesis almost overnight. Becoming fashionable played out the motions, but not the meaning of the message. Birkenstocks and bellbottoms make not a revolutionary, and the over-exposed mainstream molestation was responded to in San Francisco in late ’67 with a mock funeral march mourning the “death of the hippy.”

There are distinct similarities to what we see happening now, with everything green, and the counterculture forty years ago. To future generations, Vietnam and Iraq will often be confused as the same tragedy, relying on history books to make the distinction. We are living with this prolonged war rerun series that weighs heavily on those who realize it doesn’t end with the remote control’s off button. Factor in that the U.S. military is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, and I’ll admit, I’m actually quite curious to see how our administration and its media darlings will spin the green-chic. But that is just the point. When something becomes mainstream too quickly, people stop questioning its authentic value. If environmentally sustainable food, clothing, architecture and fuels move into mass consumption, that is obviously beneficial for the planet. But without the intellectual and spiritual reckoning it warrants, this critical movement is in jeopardy of being tossed out with last season’s wardrobe. People will miss the point entirely of why “paying more” for these options is in the long run, actually less costly. One can only hope that what distances 2007 from 1967 is the shrinking of the concept of revolution to simply that of evolution.

Organic makes up less than 5% of food consumed in this country. It’s practically invisible from low-income neighborhoods (as is any real whole food – organic or not) and cost-prohibitive for most folks with even moderate incomes. Naturally the savvy folks at Wal-Mart saw an opportunity to dumb down organics, spin it so their bargain-dependent customers feel like they’re not only getting a deal, but a healthy one at that, and then things like this happen. What the Wal-Martians are calling a simple “merchandising error” is, in reality, the average consumer getting duped. How can we honestly expect people to understand and appreciate these options if they are not really even getting them? This is exactly the type of example that will happen countless times if green loses its roots. I think it was a frog who once sang, “It’s not easy being green.”

So if we need a reminder of what the bastardization of a movement looks like, this is the classic example. What it truly meant to “be a hippy,” as in love your neighbor, stand up against war, expand consciousness, favor local community and explore the depths of human expression, is not a (genetically-modified, fossil-fuel buring, emphatically-bad-for-you!) Coca Cola commercial.


23 05 2007

Jeff Buckley

By Derek Beres

There’s always an unknowing, nearly laughable head toss that accompanies the question, “So what’s your favorite album of all time?” It’s an odd way to put out, seeing how music hits us the way it does: in situations of love, loss, joy, grief, ecstasy. There’s music to comfort us during a broken heart, and songs to bump driving down summer highways. And while my answer to that question would be equally uncertain, there’s always one that comes to mind: Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

Having been involved with music journalism for over thirteen years now, I’ve garnered enough experience to realize that there is no total objectivity in this craft. You like what you like. This is not to downplay the role, or importance, of criticism. Most music writers simply rehash press releases, or read other reviews and base their work from that. It’s unfortunate, but true. Critical thought in music journalism is rare, as most media outlets are worried more about the advertising revenue coming in from labels and artists, and formulate their content around this, making it a secondary, not primary, occurrence. Like social and political criticism, however, music writing can be just as powerful, just as poignant. Or so we hope.

I can do nothing but express dismay and frustration, then, at the release of So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley. A few years ago I had the opportunity to befriend former members of Jeff’s band, and his management, and others close to him. They all proved to be amazing people and artists, and held a profound sense of respect for Jeff’s work (and person, something I never had the chance to experience). This is generally the case for most fans of Jeff. He spoke to something personal and primordial in each of us, and his music helped us define a part of ourselves. His small catalog has held up considerably over the decade since his death, and will continue to for some time.

For someone who only released one full album and one four-song EP while alive, there is certainly a large body of work now. Many singles featured killer live B-sides; the release of the two-CD work in progress, which he was working on when he drowned, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk; a live concert and DVD from Chicago, Mystery White Boy; guitarist Gary Lucas’ release of some demos he cut with Jeff pre-Grace, of questionable quality, Songs to No One, 1991-1992; a great bootleg of alternate tracks and live performances, Diamonds From the Pavement; the epic Live A L’Olympia.

Then came the official Sony re-releases in 2003: a re-mastered Grace with one new song and another version of “Dream Brother,” and the expansion of the four-song Live at Sin-e to a two CD masterful set of 34 tracks. Seeing Grace again was fine, it didn’t need another version but it was understandable, given the monumental version of Sin-e now in our hands. It was worth the price just for the cover of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of his heroes. And hearing his cherubic scatting all over Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do” is unforgettable.

And now comes So Real.

It is well known, given the state of the music industry, that major labels have to rely on their catalog and publishing rights to continue to exist at a level of the corporate domineering that they’re used to. So they will kick, scratch and sue everyone to get their money. But this collection is simply in bad taste. It serves as a “Best Of” collection, which means it comes from one actual album. I remember seeing The Best of the Pharcyde a few years ago and thinking, “for one song???” I know the argument from the Sony camp, all too well: it will “introduce” a whole new audience to the legacy of Jeff Buckley. Translation: we’re going to milk this catalog for all it’s worth.

Jeff was a legacy, brief as it was. His music will continue to exist in the hearts of many of us for the rest of our lives, and as we pass that down to our children, so will the process continue. Great art is like that – it lasts. Shame on Sony for once again doing the only thing they really know how to do, in exploiting something they were lucky enough to have the rights to in the first place. The man and his music will be remembered; the only thing you’re commemorating at this point is your own greed, mutating the work of a beautiful soul into your own device. If you listened to even one of his lyrics – perhaps “Eternal Life” will do – you would know the ministers he was addressing his sermons to:

Eternal Life is now on my trail / Got my red glitter coffin, man, just need one last nail / While all these ugly gentlemen play out their foolish games / There’s a flaming red horizon that screams our names / And as your fantasies are broken in two / Did you really think this bloody road would pave the way for you? / You better turn around and blow your kiss hello to life eternal, angel

RIP Jeff.

Say Hello To Hamptonwood

22 05 2007


By Derek Beres

Once upon a time, as all historic stories go, to survive as a musician meant being hired into an orchestra, or by a king, to play for the select royalty. Note: this did not mean you had to be paid in such regard to actually play music, but if you wanted to make an honest and successful career in this industry, these governmental entities were crucial. This applies to the Western classical pantheon as much as the state-sponsored bands and clubs of Africa in the 1960s and ’70s.

Technology helped eradicate this trend, and over the past century+ there have been numerous ways for independent musicians to go it alone. This does not imply that being bought (or created) by a major label isn’t unrelated to those court musicians of old, but the playing field has, and is, leveled out.  Artists have to rely on their marketing savvy and word of mouth to keep their ambitions moving forward.

Coming across this disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal reminds us of how far we have not come in the last few hundred years. Debuting this summer in East Hampton will be a concert series entitled “Social,” specifically targeted for the rich – the very rich, indeed. Forget that each show costs $3,000 a ticket, because you can’t buy just one ticket. Instead, you must purchase tickets for all five shows, totaling $15,000.

It didn’t surprise me that the company behind this series, Bulldog Entertainment, sought the help of a former exectuive of Warner Brothers and  Dreamworks, nor is the line-up at all shocking: Prince, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and James Taylor. The concept is in no sense new, so why would the music be in any way groundbreaking?

My favorite line comes from the end: he concert site, East Hampton’s Ross School, will put its set fee from Bulldog into its scholarship fund. But, says Mr. Meli, “We’re not obfuscating what we’re doing by calling ourselves a charity.”

Of course we wouldn’t want anyone to obfuscate, but perhaps maybe some of us remain nonplussed. I only wish I held onto an old article on the Roots where they talked about having to enter and exit through the servant’s quarters of a Hamptons gig – three or so years ago. The dividing line between “us” and “them” is not thin, but it certainly is shallow. We have to respect the social mantras artists like Prince and Joel gave us over the decades. They’re important slivers of our cultural history that remind us of who we were, and are, to keep us warm and reminiscent about times in our lives when the only thing that mattered was the hook in that unforgettable melody. Indeed, all we can do is remember, because the men behind those words are long gone, even though they continue to walk this earth.