Tag Archives: business

Video Fridays: Rock&Roll Is In A Coma, And Rhett Miller Should Be HUGE!

Rhett_Miller_2013Two weeks ago tonight, while I was in Los Angeles for my mini-vacation, I had the great pleasure to see a music performance that both totally satisfied and baffled at the same time.

Rhett Miller is the frontman and primary songwriter for a band I love a lot, Old 97’s, and he appeared at Largo, a very intimate space, for a show he called Wheels Off: The Rhett Miller Show, described thusly:

Modeled after an old-school variety show, Wheels Off will feature music, comedy, a little bit of discussion, and maybe even a skit here and there.

It.Was.A.Blast!

Rhett started off playing a handful of solo-acoustic songs, a fiddler joined him for a few songs, a comedian did a brief set, Rhett and the fiddler did a few more songs, Rhett and some gal did a humorous skit based off Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, with Rhett as Charlie Brown and the gal as Lucy, Rhett returned by himself for a few songs, the bass player from Old 97’s, Murry Hammond, joined him for a handful of songs, and finally they were both joined by the fiddler and Largo fixture, songwriter and film score composer Jon Brion.

So, like I said, the show was totally satisfying, but the baffling part can be summed up by what my friend said to me when the lights came up for intermission:

How the HELL is this guy not HUGE?!!

It’s a valid question.

On paper, Rhett Miller seems to have it all. He’s a natural frontman, a highly charismatic, likeable entertainer; he’s got killer, youthful good looks; he’s a rock-solid rhythm guitarist; his voice is strong, with good range; he can summon quintessential Rock&Roll snarls, shouts, and screams; his lyrics are loaded with witty wordplay and vivid visuals, with themes running the Rock&Roll gamut, from sweet and romantic to rowdy and raunchy.

Oh, and he’s constantly writing new music and touring! Old 97’s have released 10 full-length LPs since their debut in 1994, and Rhett has four solo albums under his belt.

The only explanation I can come up with for why Rhett and Old 97’s are not HUGELY successful is a sad one that impacts me personally.

Straightforward, guitar-centric, American roots-based Rock&Roll, I’m afraid, is in a coma. I’m not prepared to declare it dead, because there’s no telling whether or not there will be any significant renaissance in the future, but right now Pop and Hip-Hop rule, and right here in Bellingham, Washington the most popular genres in the bars and other music venues are Funk, Classic Rock, and acoustic Americana.

The band in which I play rhythm guitar and sing lead vocals has a hard time getting gigs, because we play straightforward, guitar-centric, American roots-based Rock&Roll covers, and we intentionally do NOT play radio hits. It’s a matter of principles. Many of the bands we cover can be heard on the radio, but I, personally, can’t bear to listen to Classic Rock radio, where the same hits are played over and over and over again. You’d never know that these bands put out albums with 10-12 songs on them!

I hear over and over again that bar patrons like bands to play songs that they know well and can sing along with, but I don’t want to be a human jukebox! Why pay me and my band to play when you could just turn on the radio or play a Pandora station? What happened to going out to see music performed that you may have never heard before?!

Anyway, fortunately, Rhett and Old 97’s have a devoted cult following, I proudly count myself among their numbers, and I’ll wrap things up here singing their praises and presenting two clips for this week’s Video Fridays installment. The first has Rhett performing a solo-acoustic version of a song, Out of Love, from his 2012 album The Dreamer, and the second features Old 97’s playing a song that my band covers, Barrier Reef, from their 1997 album, Too Far To Care.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Cognitive Dissonance: Trader Joe’s Edition

cheese-foodYesterday, while browsing the sizable cheese selection at Trader Joe’s, scanning for any organic choices available to me, the product you see in the photo here caught my eye. (click on the photo to enlarge)

Now, I’m a HUGE proponent of buying organic products, but the questions this one inspires are many, important, and even funny. Here are just a few:

Sushi Tuna’s Disgusting Secret: UPDATE

TunaJust a quick update to my post from this morning about how most tuna sold in the U.S. is not actually tuna, and that 84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, again!

In that post I joked that, rather than giving up on tuna altogether, one could choose to carry around a DNA analyzer, knowing full well that no such consumer device actually exists, much less one that’s portable enough.

And yet, a mere hour later, I read that a device, aimed at grouper fish fraud, which is apparently a thing, will soon be available for the low, low introductory price of $2,000, and that devices for identifying other fish are on the way.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

Scientists develop sensor to sniff out fish fraud

…scientists at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science have come up with a handy little portable gadget that can identify exactly what kind of fish you’re eating — even if it’s cooked and smothered in sauce.

Go figure!

Sushi Tuna’s Disgusting Secret

TunaBoy, tuna really can’t get a break!

First we learned, years ago, that because dolphins and tuna often swim together, and tuna are harvested with humongous nets, dolphin are often caught in these nets. The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that over 6 million dolphin have been killed since the late 1950s, in the eastern tropical Pacific, from the use of purse-seine nets.

Then, we were told that there are dangerous levels of mercury in tuna.

Well, last week, in a post about our locally-owned natural and organic grocers here in Bellingham, I mentioned Terra and how much they contribute to the community.

One way they do this is by posting links on Facebook to informative articles related to food and health, today they shared an alarming article from The Atlantic on yet another blemish on tuna’s already tainted reputation, the article is nearly two years old, and it’s hard to believe I’d not heard about this.

59% of the ‘Tuna’ Americans Eat Is Not Tuna

Nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana took 1,215 samples of fish from across the United States and genetically tested them in order to bring us the following astonishing facts:

  • 59% of the fish labeled “tuna” sold at restaurants and grocery stores in the US is not tuna.
  • Sushi restaurants were far more likely to mislabel their fish than grocery stores or other restaurants.
  • In Chicago, Austin, New York, and Washington DC, every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna.

AND…believe it or not, that’s not even the most alarming bit!

  • 84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

Listen folks, at some point you gotta draw the line. This definitely feels like a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out situation to me.

Unless you happen to own a portable DNA analyzer, just say no to tuna!

Tweet of the Day: @pattonoswalt

Even though some reply tweeters rush to point out that Time Warner likely does not make money from the sale of ALL Guy Fawkes masks, I think a valid point is made about the need to thoroughly think through the symbols we use.

Bellingham, Just Say No to Whole Foods

whole-foodsI was very saddened to see news in the Bellingham Herald this morning that a Whole Foods Market will be opening here in the summer of 2016.

I’ve written numerous times, most recently this past December, that one of the things that is so special about Bellingham is that local businesses are thriving here. It’s an integral part of our identity as a small city. And, local businesses are thriving mostly because we take pride in that identity and commit to support our local businesses, even at times when prices are cheaper elsewhere, because we know that the owners of these businesses are our neighbors and friends.

Another component of Bellingham’s identity is our commitment to sustainability, in terms of environmental protection and restoration, sustainable agriculture, sustainable building practices, etc.

So, you see this conflict between those two aspects of our identity when we consider the arrival of Whole Foods. While not a locally-owned business, it is a market that features natural and organic foods, including non-GMO products.

Problem is, we already have two outstanding local natural foods markets, the Bellingham Community Food Co-Op, with two locations, and Terra Organic & Natural Foods, both conduct themselves more like communities than businesses, and both contribute to a wide variety of community events and non-profit organizations.

I find the practices of these large chain stores disturbing, how they move into communities that have existing, local businesses offering similar goods and services, without any apparent concern for how they will take business away from those who were here first, wielding their corporate power against mom and pop shops, or, in the case of the Community Food Co-Op, member owners, businesses that don’t have the resources to compete fairly.

In the Herald article, a Whole Foods executive is quoted:

Bellingham is a terrific market. It’s been a long time coming…The right site was there, the right partner and developer was there, the right mix in terms of competition and suppliers. We just think the time is perfect…Our primary interest is in Whatcom County. It’s a very strong market in itself.

Now, I have no doubt that Whole Foods is confident that the market is strong enough for them to open here and succeed, but I’m just as confident that they do not consider the fact that their success could imperil the pre-existing locally-owned natural food markets.

Consider the Core Values section of their website, where you’ll find a menu of pages on a variety of topics, including one titled We Serve And Suport Our Local And Global Communities.

Sounds nice, but of course there’s no mention of their impact on similar local businesses. Why, that wouldn’t be flattering at all!

I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this topic. There are sources I’ve consulted on the impact of chain stores, which deserves elaboration, and there is the sticky fact that some local natural food producers might do better if they can sell their products at Whole Foods, and perhaps I’ll get to these topics in future posts.

For now, mine is a more personal expression of distaste for this news, rather than a thorough analysis.

I doubt we can stop Whole Foods from coming, they are already leasing the property they’ll be moving into.

But, we can make the choice to not shop there, and to continue to support the Co-Op and Terra.

Stuff We Need: Affordable Electric Vehicles, Revisited

EVBack in July 2010, I wrote about electric vehicles (EV), making the claim that EVs will have to be much more affordable and charging stations more numerous and convenient in order for the desperately needed transition away from oil-burning cars to happen at any significant level.

A year later, I added that the other key factor for widespread adoption of EVs is range — how far an EV can be driven before the battery needs to be recharged — pointing out that the range offered by the vast majority of cars at that time was grossly insufficient in order to lure folks away from their gas guzzlers. (The range of the example I linked to offered a pathetic 62 miles, not even enough to get me to Seattle, 90-miles away, a place I drive to fairly regularly.)

This post today might have qualified for my Celebrating Eco-Progress series if I wasn’t such a cheapskate.

I’ll explain.

Introducing, via TreeHugger.com, the Chevy Bolt concept car, offering a decent range of 200 miles, and a projected sticker price of, gulp, $30,000:

chevrolet-bolt

Now, in 2014, the average price of a car sold in the U.S. was $31,252, so many would argue that $30,000 IS affordable, especially since it comes with a big federal tax credit. But I’m 50-years old, I’ve never purchased a new car in my life, and I will NEVER cough up $30,000, or more accurately go $30,000 in debt, for a new car…

Oh, alright!

I admit, a $30k EV with a range of 200 miles WILL get more people out of their fossil fuel mobiles, and that alone is cause to celebrate.

Hooray!!!

I just need to wait an buy a used one.