Big Meadow in the crepuscular hour

It’s the time of change. Autumn. Dusk. 6:40 p.m. The crepuscular hour. Everything’s on the cusp of being something else.

I don’t know what has compelled me to drive to Big Meadow tonight. Shenandoah National Park is an hour away from where I’m staying in Chancellorsville this weekend, and Big Meadow is a half an hour beyond that, south along Skyline Drive.

I’m sure it has something to do with my former girlfriend, whose ghost has been sitting in my chest for the past five weeks as if on a throne. Big Meadow is a sacred space to her. Continue reading

Tournament of Rock IV: the Boston pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!How it works.

In our previous match #2 seed Aerosmith sweeps to a comprehensive victory, claiming more than half the vote. We’ll see them in the Sweet 16.

Now, we move to pod #4, where no arena is safe. Five bands enter, one band leaves:

  • #12 Seed: Boston
  • Bob Seger
  • Foghat
  • Loverboy
  • The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald incarnation – 1976-forward)

Boston

The arena rock group behind one of the fastest-selling debut albums in history, Boston was essentially the vehicle of studio wizard Tom Scholz… A rock fan throughout his teen years, he began writing songs while earning a master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation, he began work for Polaroid, and set about constructing his own 12-track recording studio in the basement of his home, where demos were recorded that earned Scholz and vocalist Brad Delp a contract with Epic in 1975.

fikshun: Corporate rock fail. Corporations would rather churn out mediocre products every year than go over budget in pursuit of masterpieces. While Boston knew its demographic well, they had no problem taking several years to perfect their recordings.

Me: Boston was to Arena Rock what John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were to the Blues. Discuss.

Jim: Ah, Boston. The ultimate one hit wonders. True story: here’s a conversation (in essence if not exact detail) I had with students, including Sam, in fall 1978 as we waited for the long delayed second Boston album…the conversation went approximately as follows:

Me: Boston has no new musical ideas. They are technicians. You are dazzled by Tom Scholz’s technology mastery. The second album will repeat the musical formula of the first.  Go listen to Elvis Costello. There you’ll hear new ideas.

Students (including Sam): You’re full of it! The new Boston album will be awesomer than the first. It’ll be more perfect….

Me: To begin with, perfection cannot be intensified. If something is is perfect, it has reached an ultimate state of being. It cannot be more so…besides, the first Boston album may have been technically impressive, but artistically it was pretty empty….

Students: Uh uh! It’ll be great 

The 2nd Boston album came out and it was…the same album again just as I had predicted. Then the following conversation:

Students (including Doc Sammy): Man, the new Boston album is just a repeat of the first one…(begrudgingly to me) Okay, you were right…how did you know…?

Me: (smiling knowingly)…Technicians never make art, students. NEVER…..

[Editor’s Note: This recollection is “inspired by a true story,” I suppose. While Jim is correct in the “I told you so” portions of this story, the retelling has been severely Hollywoodized.]

Bob Seger

Originally a hard-driving rocker in the vein of fellow Michigan garage rockers the Rationals and Mitch Ryder, Bob Seger developed into one of the most popular heartland rockers over the course of the ’70s… While he never attained the critical respect of his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, Seger did develop a dedicated following through constant touring with his Silver Bullet Band. Following several years of missed chances and lost opportunities, Seger finally achieved a national audience in 1976 with the back-to-back release of Live Bullet and Night Moves. After the platinum success of those albums, Seger retained his popularity for the next two decades, releasing seven Top Ten, platinum-selling albums in a row.

Me: Back when I lived in NC, the local Classic Rock station apparently had research showing that people wanted to hear more Seger than they did Beatles, Stones, Who, Zeppelin and Floyd combined. Someday, before I die, I want a Louisville Slugger and five minutes in a locked room with those motherfucking market researchers.

fikshun: He’s so corporate that when I try to think of what Bob Seger actually looks like, all I see are Tom Cruise’s tighty-whities and a Silver Bullet beer can.

Foghat

Foghat specialized in a simple, hard-rocking blues-rock, releasing a series of best-selling albums in the mid-’70s. While the group never deviated from their basic boogie, they retained a large audience until 1978, selling out concerts across America and earning several gold or platinum albums.

Me: “Slow Ride”? “Fool for the City”? They may have been two-hit wonders, but damn, us kids at Ledford Sr. High loved us some Foghat. Still, I always thought they’d have been even cooler if they’d been called Froghat.

Loverboy

One of the most popular North American rock bands of the 1980s, Loverboy scored a string of multi-platinum albums and hit singles with their canny blend of pop hooks and polished but energetic arena rock.

Bonesparkle: I’m still not sure how Mike Reno never wound up in Van Halen.

fikshun: These guys aren’t corporate. They’re just low-rent Canadian Buttrock.

The Doobie Brothers

Although it peaked at number four, Stampede wasn’t as commercially successful as its three predecessors, and the group decided to let [Michael] McDonald and [Skunk] Baxter, who were now official Doobies, revamp the band’s light country-rock and boogie. The new sound was showcased on 1976’s Takin’ It to the Streets, a collection of light funk and jazzy pop that resulted in a platinum album.

fikshun: Change out your frontman, go pop, and alienate your fan base in the process. Yep, that’s as corporate as New Coke was in 1984.

Bonesparkle: “Takin’ it to the Streets.” “Minute by Minute.” “What a Fool Believes.” Sweet hell, just thinking about it makes me miss Disco.

Click to vote.

Image Credit: BostInno.com

A rich man's insider trading deserves prison

The American government wants Rajat K. Gupta to go to prison for up to a decade. He wants to go to Rwanda to do community service and call that sufficient punishment for his crimes.

A jury convicted Gupta in June of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking Goldman Sachs boardroom secrets to billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

This was an insider trading case: Rajaratnam got the tips; Gupta provided them. Result: Because of Gupta’s tips, Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, the Galleon Group, illegally earned or avoided loss totaling $17 million, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Gupta awaits sentencing. But he wants to go to Rwanda to become the equivalent of a Peace Corps volunteer, albeit a very rich one. His lawyer says the Rwandan government agrees and would welcome Gupta’s charitable work “with rural districts to ensure that the needs to end H.I.V., malaria, extreme poverty and food security are implemented.”

Nuts — he should go to prison.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Gupta is the former head of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and the most influential of the 69 individuals convicted in the government’s sweeping insider-trading crackdown.”

Gupta has influential friends supporting his effort to avoid the spectre of prison bars. The judge who controls Gupta’s future has received “more than 400 letters of support submitted on his behalf, including one from Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist, and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general.” Gupta has a sterling reputation as a philanthropist. He has done good works.

But Gupta should go to prison. He sat at the pinnacle of a conspiracy. He betrayed trust. His wealth and past good deeds do not excuse him.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff should reject Gupta’s pleas for leniency and send him to prison. If Gupta still wants to aid Rwanda, then he should give some of his considerable personal fortune to do so, perhaps by donating to initiatives run by former President Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.

If you or I offered or induced insider trading information, you and I would end up in prison. So should Gupta.