News from the trenches 2/9/03


Some clarification: It's obvious from some of the communication I received
that I didn't quite make my thoughts clear last week. In the first place, I
wasn't advocating a blank check/free ride for NASA. If anything, especially
given the tragedy, they need to be regulated even more closely than a
government agency whose responsibilities aren't life-or-death. In the second
place, I agree that certain earth-bound concerns should take precedence:
education, health and especially health-care reform, etc. My point was that
dollars should be spent in more-or-less this order: education, senior-citizen
care, health care, infrastructure, scientific research (including space
exploration), and way down the line, our own weapons of mass destruction and
the mindless dissemination thereof.

Several people asked if I could answer just why we need to be in space, and
if we do need to be there, why can't robots and unmanned craft do the job
just as easily. I have no easy answer other than to say that the spirit of
exploration is one of the few things that we, as a species, can be proud of.
I submit that the act of creation (not procreation) is part of that spirit,
and so if you're a musician, writer, artist, sculptor, poet, etc., then
you're an explorer. Apart from the hard and dry reasons (which I won't go
into), where is the exaltation of seeing new worlds merely through digitally
transmitted images? We need humans in space to tell us back here what it
feels like, what it really looks like, to give us the basis for creating
songs and poems and paintings about the next frontier. Using the previous
analogy, it's like never hearing a LIVE musical performance for the rest of
your life, and only experiencing music through CDs, radio and TV. Which of
course is part of our cultural problem, and is part of why YOU'RE not working
as much as you should be! We live in a society that HATES anything new, which
is why most of Hollywood's movies are rehashes of movies or tv shows from the
50's and 60's, and why every American Idol hopeful (I admit, some of them can
sing) sound like Celine Dion/Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston/etc., and why if
you're creating original music, art, poetry, writing, you're probably
subsidizing your creative work by playing jobbing dates, writing ad copy and
speeches, doing advertising work or wedding photography.

And just to present an argument (which, by the way, I wholeheartedly agree
with) from the opposition, herewith the lyrics to a song by Gil Scott-Heron,
a pioneer of rap:

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey's on the moon
I can't pay no doctor bills but Whitey's on the moon
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still while Whitey's on the moon
You know the Man just upped my rent last night 'cause Whitey's on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights, but Whitey's on the moon
I wonder why he's uppin' me, 'cause Whitey's on the moon?
Why I was already giving him fifty a week, and now Whitey's on the moon
Taxes takin' my whole damn check, the junkies make me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up, and as if all that crap wasn't enough
A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey's on the moon
With all that money I made last year, with Whitey on the moon
How come I ain't got no money her, mmm, Whitey's on the moon
You know I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon
I think I'll send these doctor bills
Air mail special
To Whitey on the moon.

If you don't know Gil Scott-Heron's work, you should. He also wrote "The
Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and "Johannesburg", two pieces that every
thinking American between the ages of 20 and 60 should know.

Confused? The world, no matter how much you might like it to be, ain't black
and white. Can't wait to open the mail this week...

This week is a when it rains it pours kinda week. Not that I'm complaining,
mind you...

SUN. 2/9: a fund-raising benefit for Alderman Gene Shulter, 2-4pm, at ANGEL
SALES INC., 1800 W. Larchmont, with guitarist Neal Alger; then the mad dash
over to HEARTLAND CAFE, 7000 N. Glenwood, 4:45-7pm, for The Chicago
Rebuilding Homes Committee Benefit (just so you know, its to raise money to
rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by Israeli forces), with the Steven
Hashimoto Quartet (Mike Levin, sax and rabble-rousing; Bryan Nichols, piano;
Heath Chappell, drums).

TUES. 2/11: C.J. ARTHUR'S, 1168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 7:30-is to whenever,
with guitarist Pat Fleming. It's a new venue for us, and we're playing for
tips (and because, of course, we enjoy playing), so if you're in the
neighborhood please drop by and have a sandwich.

WEDS. 2/12: a morning gig with Mike Levin at Illinois Masonic, in the
cafeteria, in case you work there; then later on at THE GATEWAY BAR AND GRILL,
 7545 N. Clark, 7:30-10:30pm, with Pat Fleming.

THURS. 2/13: ANDY'S, 11 E. Hubbard, noon-2:30pm, with Pat Fleming. Sorry
about last week; we got bumped by David Crosby's sound crew. They had to
reinforce the stage...

FRI. 2/14: a gig with Steve Magnone, leader!, in the evening, followed by, as
always, THE GREEN MILL, 4802 N. Broadway, 1:30-3:45am, with The Green Mill
Quartet (Barely Winograd, bari sax; Bob Long, piano; Rick Shandling, drums)
for The After-Hours Jam Session.

SAT. 2/15: CY'S CRAB HOUSE, 933 N. Milwaukee, Wheeling, 7-10pm, with
guitarist Zvonimir Tot. I may have to harm the owner of this joint...more,
I'm sure, next week.

SUN. 2/16: MORTON GROVE PUBLIC LIBRARY, 6140 N. Lincoln. Morton Grove, 2-3pm,
with Sueños Latin-Jazz Quartet (Mike Levin, Bob Long and Heath Chappell);
then later on at THE RIVER FOREST PUBLIC LIBRARY, 735 Lathrop Ave.,
7:30-8:30pm, again with Sueños. Better call for info -- 708-366-5205. This
may be a closed event.

I could use to fill Sat. Feb. 22. Call me at 708-222-652