Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Music Business, From the Inside

Anything for a Hit: An A & R Women’s Story of Surviving the Music Industry – Dorothy Carvello – (Chicago Review Press)

What I call the music phase of my radio career came at a time that paralleled the author of Anything for a Hit: An A & R Women’s Story of Surviving the Music Industry, Dorothy Carvello was wending her way through the incestuous world of the record company/music industry.

As I worked my way through the often salacious and at times scandalous, (even by today’s standards) pages of Carvello’s story, I was amazed at the number of folks of common lineage that we both crossed paths with. On the radio side, as an air personality and host of a music magazine format interview program, I often interacted with national promotions reps, A & R types and record company execs trying to break baby bands and established stars alike.

Carvello’s sometimes caustic descriptions of these guys ranged from not far off the mark to direct hits on what often amounted to a group of man/child types. I found myself laughing out loud as she tried to find a kinder, gentler way to call out what I can only describe as self-centered assholes. One of Carvello’s apt targets came from her days with RCA Records and then label president Joe Galante. I remember this half-pint big shot touring around the country with a guy that I can only describe as blonde haired rock God type, Mitch Malloy, promoting his debut RCA album and wondering why the heck this Napoleonic little clown was along for the ride? Carvello perfectly described not only his stature and room sized ‘tude.

Almost as long as there as been a music industry, fans have wondered how even massive stars who have sold tons of records and sold out barn sized arenas could end up in the poor house. Carvello courageously gives us a look under the tent flap and outlines some of the under-handed tactics record labels and executives use(d) to hose artists out of royalties and profits to enrich themselves or add to the bottom line. She claims that only savvy managers and agents who demanded audits that they had to foot the bill for, ever got a truly accurate financial picture.

Anything for a Hit, is an intimate look at the music industry that offers an insider’s view of an industry that has undergone monumental changes in the past couple of decades, not all for the better. 

Live Fast, Play Hard

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities - Wayne Kramer (DaCapo)

The Detroit, Michigan based MC5 is quite possibly the most influential rock ‘n’ roll band that never managed to score a hit record. The band is known for their shear, raw intensity and their influence can be heard in a riff ready legion of bands/genre ranging from punk to hard rock and heavy metal.

Guitarist and founder Wayne Kramer recounts his and the band’s story in the new bio, The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities. Almost surprisingly coherent, given the details Kramer divulges, and well written, The Hard Stuff, steeps you in the sites and sounds from the band’s earliest inklings and the street level chaos of the time.

You can really get a great sense of the band’s live fast and play hard ethos; they truly exemplify what garage rock is all about. They literally banged out three major label albums in the span of a couple years and were gone. Aside from influencing a generation of musicians to come, Kramer and the MC5 – vitriolic left wingers – provided the perfect soundtrack for their times in the late 60s and early 70s.

While illicit drugs were a staple for Kramer and the band, that alone was not a reason why they often and consistently found themselves on the radar of not only local,Detroit police, but also an investigative subject of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. In the The Hard Stuff, Kramer describes an often harrowing tale of self-destruction coupled with pure joy and agression of the music and later redemption and recognition. Much like the music it is delivered with a raw intensity.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Immigration Reality Check: Earn It

Dear America – Notes of an Undocumented Citizen – Jose Antonio Vargas (Dey Street)

“Yes I am lying, but I am going to earn this box.” The box in question is the one next to the line that reads “A citizen or national of the United States” on an employment application. With the flick of a pen Jose Antonio Vargas claims he committed his first lie about his citizen status at the age of 19. What he brushes over is the fact that in the process, he knowingly committed a crime.

In his new book Dear America – Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, Vargas, a native of the Philippines, details how he came to be in the United States and the struggles and quite frankly his triumphs during his time here. A respected and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Vargas claims that we are living in “the most anti-immigrant period in modern American history” which is complete and utter bullshit.

This is nothing more than the usual journalist’s hyperbole about immigration. While certainly there are pockets of virulent anti-immigrant folks, the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are not against immigration. However that vast majority is against illegal immigration; follow the rules and you won’t have a problem, it’s really that simple.

Vargas has already admitted to being a liar, so I guess I wasn’t surprised to read him spread the outright LIE that “everyday at least 34,000 immigrants are locked up, at enormous cost to American taxpayers.” First off, “immigrants” are not “locked up” any that are, are here illegally, yes they have broken the law. Second, liberals love to claim that there is a Congressional mandate that at least 34,000 illegal aliens be locked up in a daily quota. This is a flat out LIE. The mandate is for the number of beds that must be available to house the illegal immigrants on a daily basis. Just imagine the outcry from Mr. Vargas and his ilk if there was a shortage of beds for this purpose and an excess of people. 

Another bullshit stat that gets floated is that “immigrants” commit crime at about half the rate of the native-born population, 1.6% to 3.3%. This is a not so clever mixing of metaphors when you consider that fully 100% of illegal aliens commit a crime just by being here. Most compound that crime by committing fraud by lying on applications and claiming to be legal and/or identity theft when it comes to false social security records or fake identification.

Vargas details his 2014 visit to the Texas, Mexico border at McAllen, Texas to document the so-called “immigration crisis” and his detention by authorities. He claims this is the first time he was ever the recipient of legal documents from the U.S. Government. I find it amusing that for all of his teeth gnashing about President Trump and his illegal immigration policies, his arrest occurred during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

I must admit that I may have missed the part of the book where Vargas details how he has a gun held to his head forcing him to remain in the United States. If things are so hard for him here, why not accept the largess of the U.S. government in the form of a one way ticket home? He claims his life would be in danger from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte due to his crack down on journalists. Maybe life in the U.S. isn’t so bad. I would think that Mr. Vargas has the wherewithal to quickly pass through his native country and on to anywhere in the world he would like to plan his next steps.

Problems and Solutions   

Like so many problems/issues we face, liberals tend to think that the solution has to be BIG – as in big government. We really don’t need a massive immigration overhaul, to match say the EPIC FAIL of Obamacare. It’s time to look at the real issues and break them down piece by piece instead of throwing a massive blanket over it, why not try using a laser to pick away at the problem areas.

In healthcare it was pre-existing conditions; why not address that relatively small issue in the grand scheme of a multi-trillion dollar healthcare system and take care of that need instead of blowing up the whole system? The so-called Dreamers who were brought here illegally when they were kids; why not develop a system to identify these folks and get them legal, without the baggage of creating anchor families or the radical leftist thoughts of no borders. There clearly is a solution that can be developed without using a nuclear weapon.

The issue of Middle East refugees is different and separate from immigration and should be treated as such. One look at the utter mess in European countries that threw open the gates and who knows who is walking in and creating a national security nightmare. By controlling and limiting the number of folks is the only way possible to avoid a massive problem that we could live to regret down the road. See Germany and France. We need to work to develop a system to provide a closer screening process that keeps us safe. Is this a perfect or fool-proof system? NO! No system ever is, but it’s better than what currently exists and what Europe has in place. Will that delay or slow the process? YES, but isn’t a little inconvenience worth the risk involved if we don’t do it?

To Mr. Vargas, I like most United States Citizens would be more than happy to have you “earn the box.” Sorry if we are not willing to scrap our system just to help you or anyone else in your situation out. You have to EARN it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A I Artist

Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings – Dane Hallett and Matt Hatton (Titan Books)

To be honest up front, I was not a huge fan of the movie Alien: Covenant. However I did find the android David to be one of the more interesting and genuinely evil characters in the ongoing Alien movie arc.

So I was intrigued by this companion collection of movie art, Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings, from Dane Hallett and Matt Hatton the film’s onset artists. This incredible package contains two distinct volumes housed in a sturdy, foil wrapped, slipcase. The first is a hardcover sketchbook with over 200 illustrations that are supposed to track David’s transition from research studies of the film’s Engineer’s Planet’s, plant life and indigenous species and his descent into the evil side of experimentation on the creatures he encounters.

The second volume is a soft bound edition which features a detailed interview with the creators/artists. It also offers insights into the pair’s creative process; walking you through things in steps.

The drawings are oddly beautiful and striking in their often gruesome detail and content. The thought that David’s evolution is made all the more creepy when you consider the fact that he is an android. Despite being a machine based lifeform, through the depths of his human based feeling of isolation his artificial intelligence pushed him to this desperate and evil direction.

This gruesome artifact of the creators clearly twisted and creative mindset would find a comfortable home on the shelf or coffee table of any Alien movies fanatic or even the collectors of scary movie facta.