Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NO FUN: Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton RIP

I met and knew Ron from his days in Destroy All Monsters along with MC5 Bass player Michael Davis. The 'Monsters' used to rehearse at a house I rented with friends in Ann Arbor. Our band The State would open up for them at the Nectarine Ballroom, the VFW Hall and a few other places in the metro-Detroit area.

Ron taught this aspiring young guitar player a few riffs which now, many years later did I come to realize how special it was to hang out with those guys. He talked alot with us about the first 2 albums: The Stooges & Funhouse, was cranky (at Bowie) about Raw Power and the behind the scenes shenanigans but over all, Ron was a great guy who spent time teaching some of us guitar style points.

It was gratifying to see him finally get recognition when the Stooges reformed and that they sold-out concerts across the states and Europe.
After watching others make money off of Stooges bootlegs for decades, Ron finally, got the applause of the audience ( & hopefully some $$$) for all of those great songs and memorable guitar riffs. Best of all; another generation finally got to see The Stooges.

So long Buddy, and thanks for welcoming us to The Funhouse.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Great News for the Printing Industry!

Finally! After years of watching my old industry downsized to obscure buildings in anonymous looking research centers, big printing is making a comeback. Printing's revival strangely enough, coincides with the decline of the economy and the desire of the many states of America to continue to spend at the pace of a 2-income family even though one of the once-earning spouses has experienced a layoff.

States and their legislative calsses can't not spend. Spending is the life-blood of government. What fun is there to be had by just going to the office & trying to craft sensible legislation when there's no fun or largess to tie a representative's name to.

Michigan, as you may know has had a recession going for 7 years now. Not to be out-done, California is looking at a $14 billion dollar shortfall. Yup, that's billion. Big time states come with big-time budgets.

Michigan's problems are simple: too many regulations chasing too few producers. Add to that many taxes upon business, the humble hourly earners, and a feckless representative class in Washington that sits idly by and watches their environmentalist colleagues in congress regulate Michigan's auto industry to the ash heap. Pile on a lousy national energy policy, correction: NO national energy policy. And whaddya get? Common folks that don't want to buy autos fearing that gas prices will skyrocket again or, that automakers will be legislated out of existance.

So what's a weak-sistered congress to do in the midst of a recession largely of its own making along with a reckless attitude towards American industry? Print money!

Heck! The devaluation won't hit the monetary markets 'till day after tomorrow, so spend it now at the higher rate. Tomorrow's problems are someone else's problem.

Just don't mess with my retirement or my medical!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From Trucks to Vans

For over a hundred years, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News delivered a comprehensive daily newspaper across the state of Michigan. Every morning, the huge trucks rumbled across Michigan's crumbling roadways delivering bundles of wrapped newspapers to area stores, news stands, restaurants, news boxes and people's doorsteps. A dozen standard sized panel vans now deliver regionally to a few lonely news boxes what a fleet of semi-trucks used to ship statewide.

It's not a sign of lean times as much as a sign of the break-neck speed at which information technology has advanced into every home. It's not just "The News" and "The Freep" either. In WI-FI cafes across the nation, news still accompanies breakfast and coffee. But, the news, like Starbucks, comes in many flavors from many hemispheres.

Today's newspapers are delivered through cable lines or a wireless cloud, easily condensed into a PC, a laptop, or one's pocket-sized hand held device. Today's bulky print newspapers are so...yesterday. Trees are being spared but jobs are being pared down because the "news" is ever-changing. Getting the news online is just too easy. Getting a real newspaper involves effort and resources above & beyond the monthly expense of an Internet connection.

The storm clouds have been forming on the printing and publishing industry's horizon for years as desktop computers deliver digitally correctable color proofs that used to take a legion of employees hours upon hours to put together by hand. As the Internet took hold in American life, the Detroit News and 'Freep' ran television ads locally featuring the CEO of Detroit Media Partnership and Free Press Publisher David Hunke, telling television viewers and newspaper readers alike to: "go to the website".

Hunke's suggestion; while great advice for the readers, was fatal for his own newspaper.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Michigan Mess! A Washington Debacle!

Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm questions the "patriotism" of Republican U.S. Senators opposed to a bridge loan designed to help Detroit automakers stave off a devastating bankruptcy process. Michigan's governor, having no real accomplishments except the state's economic collapse, blames all things Republican for her own party's regulatory practices that have punished Detroit for decades.

IRONY: The UAW and Democrats now look to the much hated and much maligned Republican President George W. Bush to authorize through executive action funds that GM and Chrysler say they need to survive restructuring.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow said that "we worked hard all night" to craft ostensibly meaniful legislation. All the while she brought up AIG's partying ways. Can Michigan's junior Senator (Heck! Can any of 'em) account for every dollar that they have doled out to Wall Street in the last 90 days?

It's simply a war of political payback: Republicans are flipping the bird to the UAW and organized labor in general for not just a lack of support, but for a decades long war against them that has defied any sense of politcal pragamatism. By aligning themselves soley with Democrats and forsaking Republicans, the Unions have painted themselves into a precarious corner. The Republican goal to humiliate the UAW may be short term but the UAW still has a long-term challenge.

Let's remember that Democrats have fought major manufacturing nationally as long as the environmental movement has had a home in the Democrat party. One has to ask, where are the "good paying American jobs" going to come from if not in part from a manufacturing process? It's a process that produces through the use of natural resources, major-purchase products. The Democrats have an interesting challenge: Either allow companies to prosper with abandon in order to provide "good paying jobs", or regulate America back to an agrarian society, which creates its own environmental wreckage upon the land.

The dichotomy here is that the the UAW has been harbored in the wrong port. Conventional wisdom has told us that businesses have traditionally supported Republicans. Prosperity and wealth building being part of the party's platform. Money may be printed by Washington, but wealth only comes from private enterprise. "Workers" of all stripes enjoy employee protection from federal, state, and local regulations that have been put in place these many years, which undermines a leg of the UAW's "helping the little guy" table. The only thing not under anyone's control: the laws of economics.

Government at all levels created this mess. It should be obvious by now that they are neither qualified or capable of producing a solution that will right anything. The free citizen is the solution. You only have to tell your government to "get out of the way".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hey Taxpayer: YOU STINK!

One of the simplest solutions to reduce the size and scope of legislation being proposed or passed in Washington D.C. would be to cut the air conditioning in all federal office buildings between the months of April and October. Why should the elected class be paid to practice Enron style business practices that produce Fannie-Freddie meltdowns in relative comfort?

Senate Majority Harry Reid (D): "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol."

Going to Washington as an elected representative should be hard work. Perhaps nearly undesirable. Cutting representatives wages or benefits wouldn't make much of a dent in the federal budget. But making the working conditions and perks commensurate with daily American reality would perhaps, create more circumspection rather than the contempt that's typically on display from those clowns. It would be refreshing to see congress think in terms of millions again rather than "billions" and "trillions" be the common budgetary terminology. Less spending in volume and regularity would simplify the scope and vision of all of those involved. And...the republic would survive.

Yeah, it's easy to belittle what representatives do. They have their corporate planes, high-dollar lunches, and high-stakes engagements with VIPs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a Boeing 737 at her beck & call because she's: the speaker!

There are certain committees that have necessary emergency meetings from time to time. But overall, the elected class is held in contempt by us because they rarely if ever, have demonstrated any respect for the people's liberty, their oath of office, or their treatment of the taxpayer's money.

The private sector punishes harshly many of those that scam us. We dislike being had whether it's by big business or the corner fruit stand. Private companies by and large maintain a respect for their customers that few in Washington rarely if ever demonstrate. Big and small businesses alike day in and day out have to demonstrate value and provide in many cases, air conditioning on their own dime. The elected classes of Washington want us to forget the devastation they just heaped upon America's housing market, our investments, and businesses large & small. All the while assuring us that they can solve the problem they created.

Why let them be comfortable doing it when the unpleasant stink of high temperature could remind them of how badly they have blown it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Michigan's "Tax of the Month"

Welcome to Michigan's Tax of the Month. One could not come up with a better way to post on a web-log in perpetuity than to catologue the taxes levied by their home state. The many states nation-wide have all developed pernicious methods of monetary extraction from the citizenry. In the spirit of public information, let's highlight taxes as they infect our liberties here in Michigan.


Year adopted: 1967

Basis of tax: A direct tax on income

The measure of tax base: Federal adjusted gross income of individuals, estates and trusts, with certain adjustments.

4.35% from October 1, 2007, until September 30, 2011.4.25%

from October 1, 2011, until September 30, 2012.4.15%

from October 1, 2012, until September 30, 2013. 4.05%

from October 1, 2013, until September 30, 2014.3.95%

from October 1, 2014, until September 30, 2015.3.9% October 1, 2015 and thereafter.

2006-07 Collections:

$8,129,400,000 gross; $1,687,300,000 refunds and credits; $6,442,100,000 net.


Detroit's Finest Rock Band...EVER!

In November of 1978 I had just turned 18. In Michigan at the time, an 18 year old could vote, get drafted, drive a car, and for a short time, purchase alcoholic beverages...legally! Yeah it was a short lived privilege. On November 12th, a friend and I ran into high school friends named Lee & Brad who invited us to see his band: The Cult Heroes at The Second Chance Bar in downtown Ann Arbor.

Since I had never owned a car, I had no I.D. to get in! I rode my bike on a cold November afternoon to the Secretary of State's office and got a "State I.D". The same thing that many irresponsible voters are too damn lazy to go get for themselves. The MI-Sec-State hooked me up within 20 minutes! And that was in the days of crusty-cantankerous old Richard Austin's management.

That night walkin' to the show, I saw the Poster tacked to a telephone pole:

The comic book collector in me snagged it and I have kept it, along with dozens of other 'promos' to this day. It started my obsession with music, bands and playing as a semi-pro musician.

The 'Chance as it was called, suffered from typically poor lighting, a scarred interior and that ever present smell of cigarettes and puke that occurs when gobs of booze is consumed by college kids. We got a decent seat and before long the Cult Heroes began. Punk Rock was the medium and it was unintelligible, fast and LOUD! Best of all, it had ATTITUDE! Some of the Heroes' songs were muddled, some were (still are) very good.

Ivan Kral's Movie: Blank Generation was an assembled jumble of interviews with Punk Rock's originators, several now classic music performances and a few moments of hilarity. Especially Dee Dee Ramone's struggle for words to describe the Ramones' amps & gear.

The top bill: Sonic's Rendezvous Band, was comprised of Fred 'Sonic' Smith (formerly of the MC5). Scott Morgan (the Rationals), Gary Rasmussen; (The Up) and Scott 'Rock' Ashton (Stooges). From the first song they were the LOUDEST, most intense and satisfying rock 'n' roll experience I have ever witnessed. The sound was unmistakable: it was Detroit. On a Monday night, the place was packed with fans and local celebrities from our own local and national punk underground. Taking in dozens of these shows through the years, I crossed paths with several musicians who became near idols not necessarily for their fame, but for their style, and what they gave to the craft and the art of rock 'n' roll. A few of them took the time to show this young guitarist how to play an MC5 or Stooges classic correctly.

Scott Ashton and Scott Morgan (pic by Sue Rynski)

Fred 'Sonic' Smith

Fred, Gary, Scott Morgan, Scott Ashton

Sonic's Rendezvous Band was truly a "had to be there" rock band. But I dug 'em...and I still do. To this guitar player; their attack was ferocious and true. It was a pure masculine blast of unapologetic Motor City Muscle. They were a great band that rocked every show and could make any top billing band sound marginal if Sonic's was the opening act. SRB wasn't just "from Detroit". They sounded like the Motor City. Sonic's Rendezvous Band's old-school rock style defied punk's new-rock rebellion and at the same time, brought the local punker movement into their fold to also enjoy national acclaim. The links below provide more info and yes, there is a recorded legacy. Check Amazon.com.

The fidelity ain't the greatest, but if you turn it up, it's all there.

Wikipedia Sonic's.net SRB: The One That Got Away