Author Archive for Rob Warmowski


Mouthbreather Bar Misremembers War

History Is Bunk (To Brahs)

Call me a stickler, but when Murphy’s Bleachers in Wrigleyville decided to infamously promote its drink specials on Pearl Harbor Day, it wasn’t the cheap marketing I found galling. If not for cheap marketing, the backward-hatted morons who frequent places like Murphy’s would have no idea what to do with themselves, and everybody needs guidance in a confusing world, especially our dumbest bros.

What irritated me about the sign wasn’t the pimping of the 72nd birthday of our country’s sadly eternal military-industrial complex.  It was the predictably boneheaded bungling of the underlying history itself.

See, brah, you can’t commemorate Pearl Harbor by buying a Kamikaze cocktail.  It’s impossible, for the same reason that you can’t commemorate the 1990 Iraq War by buying a 9/11 t-shirt with a crying eagle on it.

Because there were no Kamikazes — aka suicide pilots — at Pearl Harbor, nor fighting anywhere else in Japan’s military for years following.  Suicide attack is a tactic born of desperation.  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese were anything but desperate.

The Imperial Navy and its aviators, having sunk most of the US Pacific fleet on Dec. 7th were left on Dec 8th as the dominant force in the war in the Pacific.  For six months, the US was unquestionably losing World War 2.  It wasn’t until June, 1942 that the US Navy’s aircraft carriers engaged in the Battle of Midway the same Japanese carriers that so successfully attacked Pearl Harbor.

Midway was the beginning of the end for Japanese ambitions in the Pacific, as three of its aircraft carriers were sunk and most of the pilots and aircraft that won the day at Pearl Harbor were killed.

When your A team is wiped out, you’re left with the B and C teams.  Soon after, Japan lost even those, as US manufacturing power poured ships and planes into the Pacific in the following years, mounting an inexorable island-hopping march toward the Japanese mainland.

It was desperation, years after Pearl Harbor that brought forward the Kamikazes in late 1944.

See, brah, things have dates.  Events occur in order of time. Dumbing history down to high-five-engendering drink specials is no way to go through life.

Here’s a hint, broseph.  Just down the street from Murphy’s, there’s a tavern where you can bet your sandals and fannypack they won’t get these details wrong.  It’s called Nisei Lounge. 

Nisei, you may be surprised to learn, is not the name of a cocktail.  It is the name given to the Japanese-American citizens who, despite having their families rounded up and shipped to concentration camps in remote locations across 18 US states, signed up to fight for the US in WWII.  If you head over there to learn something, good for you.

Just remember: you can’t listen while you’re flapping your Miller Lite-hole. Smarten up and quiet down.


On SIRS and San Andreas Fault


There are two bands that I’ve started and can’t seem to stop.  And things are getting loud.


First, there’s SIRS: a Chicago-style noise-rock trio with traces of aggro pop that launched in 2008 with the release of the 7″ single Billy The Kidney on Unicut Records. In 2010, we released the 12″ Boo Hoo EP and performed around Chicago wherever and whenever possible.

In SIRS, I provide words and guitar, both noisy and absurd reflections on the late capitalist era. The team is rounded out by gentlemen/scholars Tony Jones (bass) and Shut Up Andy Kosinski (drums).  There is a Chicago underground tradition of extra-large punk rattle plus high and low verse, a presentation established in the early Reagan era by giants such as The Effigies and Big Black, a shaft that SIRS still burrows.  Which isn’t too surprising since the first Chicago band I started in high school – the Defoliants – was right behind those outfits.

SIRS is next week releasing our third record, High Minors, a 12″ longplayer that features guest appearances by John Haggerty (Naked Raygun, Pegboy) and Thymme Jones (Cheer-Accident, Dead Rider).

Because we exist, we find it useful to prove it every now and then.  And so, SIRS is opening for the great Hugh Cornwell (Stranglers) in Chicago on December 18th 2013 at Reggies.

San Andreas Fault



I started the Fault in 1999 by building  a small digital studio called Trailing Edge in a steel plant on Grand Avenue. The idea then was to work out my obsessions with surf, cowboy chords, classical composition and instrumental musics of the 1960s into a modern band.  The result was a couple of CD singles, TV show and game soundtracks, and the 2003 LP Encantada, plus appearances onstage with guitar instrumental heroes Dick Dale and the late Link Wray.  The Fault wound down in 2005, but was revived in 2012 when I came back together to work with Fault guitarist Pete Machine, going through an eight year backlog of my composition.

Word of this reached the legendary Redmoon Theater and the San Andreas Fault was asked to write the score for the 2013 Winter Pageant, running Dec. 13-22 2013 (10 shows only, two weekends only).  I wrote about 12 pieces for this complete freakout of a show, set in Redmoon’s new 50,000 sq. ft. performance space — and we’re performing it live. Who’s we? Rob Warmowski (guitar) Pete Muschong (guitar) John Cwiok (bass) and Thymme Jones (drums).

The Fault is back online for scoring projects, and is now working with New York director Rebecca Rojer on a 2014 film that will draw on Chicago images that focus on the pernicious role that billionaire philanthropists and their foundations play in the “education reform” debate.


A Thought On Labor Day

It being Labor Day, let’s hear a quote about Labor so manifestly true and so radical that it sounds like it came from Occupy.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. “

Sounds like this quote came from Marx or some other bearded madman. Which leftist leader is it? Which egghead socialist, which collectivist, which anti-American rabble rouser?  Scroll down for the answer.











It’s the guy on the five dollar bill.

Abraham Lincoln preferred labor to capital

Abraham Lincoln

Happy Labor Day.


Six Reasons You Blew It On The Chick-Fil-A Argument

Mitt Romney saying corporations are people

(Above: Mitt Romney assures us that corporations are people. Not pictured: Millions of liberals agreeing.)

The 1st Ward community that stopped Chick-Fil-A from opening its 1,600th restaurant was 100% right to do so, had the legitimate power to do so, and in no way cost anybody their freedom of speech nor of religion.

Because a business is not a person.

Chicken CEO / bigot Dan Cathy is not Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A is a legal construct distinct from any person.

I expect libertarians and mainstream national politicians to get this wrong, funded as they are by corporate boardrooms who directly benefit from this now-classic ruse.

But watching so many liberals knee-jerk against the Alderman this week on the basis of “free speech” and “government overstep” has taught me a few things, none of them good news for the average liberal’s state of civic literacy.

I have learned:

  • That a whole lot of people have never seen up close what it looks like when a business asks for permission to open.
  • That it’s news to a whole lot of people that it is no longer 1830 and commercial entities have to ask permission to open in a densely populated area, and that it’s a very good thing that they do.
  • That lots of people apparently believe any community should allow any legal business to open in their backyard because being legal is the only standard that exists, everywhere.  Even though a perfectly legal business can legally kill and sicken its neighbors for decades.
  • That Chick-Fil-A is already in business in Chicago, yet somehow I keep reading over and over about how Chicago banned it.
  • That the right of the 50,000 residents in the 1st Ward to petition their duly elected representative to shape their area’s economic life is called oppression, while opening a 1,600th restaurant over the wishes of the locals is called liberty.
  • Most disturbingly, I’ve learned that lots of people can mistake the sacred and monumental protections a CEO has for the things that he says and believes with some kind of weird magic protection for the things the CEO’s business does, such as occupy land, use access, obtain tax breaks, use city services…and of course, discriminate, exclude, and fund hate groups.

People who I respect have actually fallen hard for this nonsense, countering me by pointing out I wouldn’t support a community blocking of a permit if a business pronounced pro-gay tendencies. To which I reply something I once thought was obvious: If a proposed business had announced it preferred to hire gay people, and had been in court repeatedly because it puts its employees and franchisees through tests to make sure they were gay enough, and had funded psychos who deprogram sexual preference — which is the only set of conditions that matches what Chick-Fil-A does — you’d better believe I would tell my Alderman that such a place and its practices was not welcome in my neighborhood. and that the Alderman would lose my support next election if he didn’t reflect my view.  The central issue is corporate practice, not a CEO’s idiotic, discriminatory views nor LGBT equality per se.

Truly, this is a post-Citizens United world when we can get it this wrong. We laugh at Mitt Romney when he stands on a 18″ hay bale and sneers “corporations are people”, but when we mistake chicken bigots (protected) for their corporations (not protected, and subject to our standards), we have no right to laugh at Romney — we’re loudly agreeing with him.


Deep Soul Sendoff For Don Cornelius

Chicago institution and legendary creator of Soul Train Don Cornelius passed away yesterday at the age of 75.  If that’s not an occasion for a self-respecting Chicago boy to spin a set of deep soul and funk, what is?  After hearing of an opening there by way of pal Ryan Rezvani, that’s exactly what I did last night at Charleston’s from behind the bar with the lovely and talented Ana Marie and her Aviator jello shots.

The challenge:  bringing nothing but the laptop*, did I have a full four hours of the good, greasy stuff mainly from the Johnson, Nixon and Ford eras?  The answer: almost.  Once an hour I had to cheat and go back to an already-played artist.

While that’s a serious enough offense to get your DJ license suspended on the South side, nobody minded.  Many moves were busted, much funk was given up.

Special thanks goes out to Jon Solomon of WPRB and Comedy Minus One fame who reached out and hit me with an MP3 of Don Cornelius’s and Soul Train Gang’s long-lost side “Spectrum”.

The Playlist:

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
The J.B.s – Breakin’ Bread
Meters – Cissy Strut
Ohio Players – Skintight
Isaac Hayes – Walk On By
Back To Black – Amy Winehouse (request)
Maceo And the Macks – Cross The Tracks
Bar-kays – Shake Your Rump To The Funk
Bootsy Collins – What’s A Telephone Bill
Sly Stone – Take You Higher
Commodores – Machine Gun
Big Boys – Hollywood Swingin’
Archie Bell and the Drells – Tighten Up
Barry White – Enough Of Your Love
Graham Central Station – Can You Handle It
Curtis Mayfield – Pusher Man
Rufus – Tell Me Something Good
Kool And The Gang – Open Sesame
Smokey Robinson – Tears Of A Clown
Fred Wesley / JB’s – I’m Paying Taxes, What Am I Buying
War – Slippin’ Into Darkness
Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground
Gil Scott-Heron – Lady Day And John Coltrane
Parliament – We Want The Funk
Meters – Live Wire
Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23
Don Cornelius – Spectrum
Clarence Carter – Patches
Maceo And The Macks – Soul Power ’74
Temprees – Your Love Is All Ineed
William Bell – Tryin To Love Two
Cornelius Brothers – Too Late To Turn Back Now
Tyrone Davis – Turn Back The Hands Of Time
Lipps, Inc – Funkytown
Rick James – You And I
JBs – Pass The Peas
Black Sugar – Walkin’
Curtis Mayfield – Dont Worry (live)
Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up
Stevie Wonder – Living For The City
Al Green – Lets Stick Together
Junior Parker – Love Aint Nothing But A Business
Isaac Hayes – By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Isley Brothersr – Put Yourself In My Place
Blossoms – Shockwave
Con Funk Shun – Ffun
Shuggie Otis – Aht Uh Mi Hed
Pointer Sisters – How Long
Ronnie McNeir – Summertime
War – The World Is A Ghetto
Average White Band – School Boy Crush
Meters – Sophisticated Cissy

* Full gear complement included the Macbook Pro, the ProFire 610 I/O and Ableton Live.  Used Ableton for cuing and crossfades only, not beatmatching. Worked fine, although I could do without the scary beachballs while scanning the library.


The Elite Have Feelings Too: Corey Robin Interview At Naked Capitalism

Loser t-shirtRecommending a terrific conversation between Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind and Philip Pilkington at the always-great Naked Capitalism.  What ties together the conservatism of Burke, Palin, Thatcher and Goebbels?  What endures in the various and shifting political theories that endorse inequality and suffering? What is shared by the monarchist, the apologist for slavery, the libertarian?

For one thing, it’s loss.  In short, the elite have so much more to lose than you or I, that the tragedy of their loss repeatedly serves as the cautionary narrative broadcast to the very people whose freedom they most restrict. Victimhood is the chip the elite place on the shoulders of their loudest supporters.

Robin: [T]he sensibility you describe – experiencing or identifying oneself as a victim — is a consistent feature of conservative thought. Regardless of whether the ideologue or camp follower of conservatism sees him or herself as a victim, the idea of victimhood plays a critical part in conservatism. Going back to Burke. Marie Antoinette is the first great victim of the conservative canon. The sovereign who Joseph de Maistre recommends be restored to power once the counterrevolution prevails – someone Maistre describes as being schooled in the ways of adversity, who’s been brought low by fortune and thus learned a thing or two – he’s a victim (and Maistre recommends him to power on the basis of that victimhood). William Graham Sumner’s “forgotten man” is another victim. Nietzsche’s master class, in fact, is a victim. So is Nixon’s silent majority. And so on.

Initially, I thought this was all instrumental and cynical: understanding that the lingua franca of democratic thought is the democratic appeal to the masses, the conservative turns the possessor into the dispossessed. But over time I’ve come to think that the victim is a far more fundamental, and sincere, figure in the conservative canon. Because not only does he appeal to us as a figure of compassion or pity, but he’s also someone who has a very particular claim on us: he demands to be made whole. In other words, he’s a rallying figure, someone whose losses – a country house, a plantation, a factory, a white skin – ought to be recompensed.

What’s more, when you turn your privileged class into a group of victims – not just rhetorically but in reality (the French Revolution really did produces losses among the aristocracy; Emancipation really did divest the master class of privilege and property) – they come to possess an attribute that is universally shared: loss. Their loss is quite different from that of the ordinary run of humanity, but loss is loss. I’ve sometimes wondered whether that might not be the right’s singular bid for universalism: it speaks for the loser everywhere.

But as you say, it speaks for the loser not by democratizing society – making things more equal – but by making it more elite, more privilege, more unequal.

Entire post here.


Jack Abramoff: Shut Down The Free Market For Political Results

I bought Lawrence Lessig’s most recent title Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress And How To Stop It more for the “how to stop it” part and less for the extra illustrations of business interests corrupting the lawmaking process.  To be already familiar with that area of corporate management known as “government affairs” and its mission to trade cash for influence on Capitol Hill by way of K Street lobbying firms is to be desperately thirsty for thoughts about relief, for plausible solutions rather than more problem review.

(I haven’t gotten to Lessig’s prescription yet.  I’m still plowing through David Graeber’s hugely important anthropological takedown of mythological economics Debt: The First 5,000 Years as well as Robert Elias’ The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold U.S. Foreign Policy and Promoted The American Way Abroad.)

What I didn’t expect to encounter in the interim was this 90 captivating video minutes of Lessig sitting with infamous former DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ‘Casino Jack”, a reformed professional destroyer of democracy once so oily and egregious as to have served 3 1/2 years in prison for political corruption, issues a mea culpa I wasn’t expecting, loudly and clearly blowing the whistle on the lobbying industry, its methods, ethos and apologists.

While one might reasonably expect the appearance to be a plug for Abramoff’s new book, the discussion with Lessig is nothing short of amazing and enlightening.  As a first-hand account of how the hidden, excruciatingly free market for political results specifically destroys representative democracy, this is rare, must-see, must-share stuff – particularly for anybody laboring under the delusion that we’re in trouble because markets aren’t free enough.

Monied lobbying is a market that withers democracy and fecalizes every area of the political spectrum.  The cash-shoveling traditions of Abramoff’s old K Street stomping grounds are why record-low congressional approval rates today reign on the center, right and what passes for a left.  As with all markets, this one’s beneficiaries and owners are few, while the rest of us, left uninvited on the outside, tend to pay lots of its costs.  As profoundly inequitable as this is, it nonetheless comes complete with intellectual blessing; corporate influencers and their hired libertarian think tanks from Cato to Hoover to Mises expressly oppose campaign and lobbying reform.  They forbid limiting the “freedom” of boardroom checkbooks to make a mockery of checks-and-balances government.  Voters get the government that corrupters pay for, and Abramoff, speaking as a former buyer of legislation, reminds everybody that not only does this market exist, it is profoundly free by any definition.

Like Wendell Potter did to the private health insurance industry, or John Perkins did to the neoliberal go-go bankers spreading third world poverty, with his new book, Abramoff just might take his place in the pantheon of Great Whistleblowers Of Late Capitalism.

(Now, to find the time to read the damn thing.)


An Interview With Scratch Acid’s David Yow By Yours Truly

So check it out: The Chicago Reader asked me to interview legendary frontman David Yow (The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid) in one of their “Artist on Artist” segments.  See, Scratch Acid is on tour.  And I’m in this band.

Of course pants were removed.  Do you even have to ask?  Shame on you for doubting.

In related news, I’m told that I am a contributing author to the forthcoming in 2012 Akashic Books title Book aka The Jesus Lizard “coffee table” book.

Sure…coffee.  Right.


Lyrics To The Title Theme Of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire's Michael K. Williams shares home improvement tips

I watch HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  This show’s major strengths are its art direction and set design, which really are a joy.  Its music direction, faithful to its Jazz Age period runs a close second, and might even have placed first, if not for one inexplicable decision.

In a stark and ugly contrast to the rest of the show’s attention to production standards, Boardwalk Empire‘s title theme music is a disaster.  For some reason, a chunk of sheer hackwork in the form of throwaway bar-band blues-rock culled from the catalog of the resolutely inessential Brian Jonestown Massacre was chosen to usher viewers into each week’s episode.

This isn’t about anachronism.  I’m not saying that a rock song could never work in this role. I’m saying the chosen rock song relates to the show only in one sense:  Each time I hear it, I lament that Atlantic City, endowed today with van-loads of creatively vacant, Stones-tribute bar bands who suck far less than San Francisco’s Brian Jonestown Massacre, couldn’t contribute to its namesake “death and titty” cable drama when the time came to slap a shitty rock song in the theme hole.

One habit I inherited from my father is to give lyrics to annoying tunes.  In that tradition, I offer to all Boardwalk fans a means to put a happier spin on this most bullshit of title themes.  Take these lyrics to Boardwalk Empire in the shared hope that a saddened nation can, as one, polish away this small spot of musical tarnish from our Sunday nights.

Lyrics To The Boardwalk Empire Theme

Boy, this theme sucks
Lemme tell ya 
God, this theme sucks
Like a hoover
Stupid blues riff
What the fuck, man?
Sounds like Oasis
Fuck you 
(repeat 1x)

And it’s cloudy
In the 1920s
And Buscemi
Looks especially worn
Hey, it’s water
What are those, bottles?
Fly away, seagull
Shitty solo ahoy!

Baaaaaw woooo-awooooo oooo-ooo-ooooo

(Singers give tempo ruboto impression of awful guitar solo)


Please just start the show
And end this theme
Just start the show
Already please

(repeat after rest)


Lynda J. Barry On Letterman ’88

It’s time to revive the NBC Letterman RW370 category with a nice clip of the great cartoonist Lynda J. Barry (Ernie Pook’s Comeek). Marvel as she lets slip the early inspiration for her visual style (spoiler alert: Peter Max socks), announces her surprising heritage, and explores the ramifications of smoking backwards.  Nice decision at the end to not go along with the TV-smarm talk show patter rhythm as Dave moves to wrap it up.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

July 2020