Archive for the 'Chicago' Category


Great Moments In Complete Bullshit: Potatogate

47534758 On June 26, Chicago Police who were on duty during the 1968 Democratic Convention riots will hold a convention of their own. “It’s just a get-together for guys who worked together 40 years ago,” says Mark Donahue, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, the convention’s organizer.  “Nothing more.”

All I want to know is if the convention will include breakout sessions with discussion topics focusing on specific aspects of the CPD’s handling of the protesters and of the media surrounding the riots.  Will one such session focus on total fabrication of details and demonization of the activists?  Is there anything to be learned from past mistakes in that regard, one such mistake shown in this picture (Chicago Tribune archive photo)?

Here, a CPD sergeant gingerly holds a potato which has been adorned with razor blades, an alleged weapon presented as proof of the lethal force demonstrators were willing to use against the cops.

Of course, as Sergeant Spud here clearly demonstrates, if a protester were actually to throw this potato, the act of gripping it might cause his severed fingers to fall to the ground around his sandals.  This “weapon” is about a fraudulent as the Gulf of Tonkin incident itself, which was used to begin the US-Vietnam war that put the protesters on the streets in the first place.

It’s an old fight, I know, but Great Moments In Complete Bullshit don’t fade with time.  That’s what makes them Great.


A Year In David Mamet’s Marketplace

David Mamet at the premiere of Red Belt at the...

The playwright, wrong

(Presented here is my first contribution to Huffington Post!)

One year ago today, playwright David Mamet wrote of his personal transformation from a “brain-dead liberal” to one more person who sees the country mainly as a “marketplace”. The author of Glengarry Glen Ross — the ultimate drama of visionless American capitalism — announced one year ago “a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.”

While I remain a great fan of Mamet and hold his many works in the highest esteem, on the anniversary of his screed I can’t help but ask: how’s that free market working out?

In the time since, the economic meltdown has served to tear away a great deal of conservatism’s camouflage, revealing the “marketplace” conception of this country as sorely wanting. In reality, the country resembles far more closely a fiefdom, not something so pleasant as an egalitarian arrangement of buyers and sellers, but rather a brutal exercise in naked class antagonism.

Hyperbole? Hardly. In one year of Mamet’s marketplace, the fraud of laissez-faire economics has simply and expensively died. Trillions of public dollars have been appropriated by the dominant class of business interests via no such quaint mechanism as competition. Competition — never the preference of the wealthy to begin with — has been cancelled. The fittest along with the unfit banks and corporate giants live on in the commons, our togetherness no less real for having been denied so forcefully by the conservative party line. Shameless panhandling imposes profoundly on all of us. No invisible hand picks our pockets — rather it is plainly attached to a piggish body, arm stretching from Wall Street through Washington, wrist adorned as ever in Patek Philippe.

To the surprise of nobody who saw through the “free market” canard from the beginning, the overarching theme of conservatism today is to heap blame for the sinking vessel anywhere but upon where it belongs — itself. To do this, the very language and the meaning carried by its words is constantly sacrificed on the altar of cheap PR flackery. It is in this aspect that Mamet’s abandonment of progressivism hurts most, because his gifts as an artist are plainest in his dialogues, and these depend utterly upon the integrity of the words they employ. If there are two camps, Mamet has regrettably chosen the one least ethical with language. No modern conservative ever met a word he couldn’t happily debase and weaponize, as any summary of their vocabulary shows:

Repeating “No Child Left Behind” is how conservatives have destroyed public education. Repeating “Big Government” is how conservatives have destroyed law and regulation in the financial markets and created an unprecedented privatization golem in everything from prisons to airport security theater. Repeating “Liberal Media” is how cultural conservatives pretend that college professors, and not corporate boardrooms, determine what is presented as news on television. Repeating “Tax and Spend” is how conservatives have pitted the people against the government, and therefore themselves. Repeating “Socialism” is how conservatives deny the barest notion of a public interest. And now, repeating “Obama Recession” is how conservatives will pretend that thirty years of laissez-faire deregulatory free-market worship never even happened, let alone are responsible for the coming months and years of crisis.

When it comes to foreign policy, Mamet has long indulged the conservative’s peculiar penchant for semantic warp. His call for government to “get out of the way” pulls up regrettably short at Washington’s billions in military aid to Israel. The latest result of this support has been nothing to pat one’s self on the back about, for in the past year the US-armed IDF have indiscriminately killed and wounded thousands of Gazan civilians while strangling that urban hellhole of basic staples. In this, who was Mamet’s chosen villain one year ago? Unbelievably, NPR. In last year’s essay, Mamet mentions National Public Radio’s liberal reporting bias (“National Palestinian Radio”) in his decision to repudiate liberalism. If he was offended by hearing the human cost of lopsided, gratuitous force before his transformation, what will be the fruit of his outright embrace of the neocon worldview? I’m having fevered visions of a one-man Broadway show entitled Wolfowitz! that I can only hope are absurd.

We may not see David Mamet return to the progressive cause, nor even expect him to cease conflating it with utopianism. Though we will no doubt see and admire his works. They will as always make us think, and uncover ways of being. If he finds something of value in conservatism, I will continue to presume there is something in it I have missed. But to his new ideological pals, I warn: he is one Hollywood (former) Liberal who is far too thoughtful to make much use of on the national stage. For that, stick with the Limbaughs, the Palins and the Jindals. Keep them loud and up front — and thereby hasten the day that Mamet finds your brand of brain-death less appealing than our own.

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Touch And Go Records Ceases Distro


"It's just a rising tide of / Mediocrity"

Venerable Chicago record label Touch & Go has announced it is ceasing distribution operations to focus on its label operations.  This is horrible news for the many small labels distributed by T&G as well being a huge blow to the future of the independent artist’s work appearing in chain stores alongside the tons of calculated careerist drek on their shelves.  Every such story removes another avenue for the Best Buy shopper to take when their tastes rise out of the slop.

I realize this economic news isn’t as sad as hearing that Mitt Romney had to sell off two of his four mansions, but I’m an American, and we each suffer in our own way.


Led Zeus Shit Jar, ATP ’09: Too Big To Fail

Take the name of Chicago perv-rock legends The Jesus Lizard.  Scramble up the letters.  Scramble ’em good.  What do you get?  Zest Jihad RulesJeez, Radish SlutHertz Used Jails.  And, of course, Led Zeus Shit Jar, which is a name TJL played under for one secret show at Czar Bar in ’91 or so.

Why the logophilic reminiscence, you ask?  Well gee, William Fuckin’ Buckley, it’s because the almighty Lizard — broken up lo these many years — is signed on with original members to play an alleged 30 shows this year, including All Tomorrow’s Parties in the UK.  This calls for commentary.

Where do I even begin?  First of all, there’s this: TJL’s Bass Officer David Wm. Sims, Chicago’s raised-bet answer to The Stranglers’ JJ Burnel and The Birthday Patry’s Tracy Pew, provider of monstrous, gulping low frequencies in the late lamented outfits Rapeman and Scratch Acid — has been blogging. Too Big To Fail, he calls his effort, and  for all we know, this fine bit of WordPressery may indeed be the result of the Federal Reserve bloating Mr. Sims’ institution with freshly minted greenbacks by the trailerload — it’s not as if they’re keeping any records over there.   But more likely, TBTF is simply another enjoyable expression of the aggro-musician-with-great-taste phenomenon Chicagoans are appreciated for – even when they come from Texas and live today in NYC.  Several thumbs up.

Then there’s these upcoming Jesus Lizard shows.   The first time I saw this essential band was at Edge Of The Looking Glass in…I dunno, 1990?  (Singer David) Yow was wearing a suit and had a huge sponge soaked with what appeared to be ink and kept sqooshing it over his head – when he wasn’t delivering interperative-dance moves akin to a woozy Bob Fosse.  I knew the Davids from Scratch Acid, but had never before seen and been blown away by the full combo.  The diamond-sharp blare of Duane Denison and the sideways artillery of Mac McNeilly just made me want to quit music, because they had solved it. I saw ’em with Slint.  I saw ’em out of state. I saw ’em a lot of times, and every time was a joy.  Yes, I’m going to some of these shows.

And then there’s this, a world-colliding (well, at least to me) double bill with Devo and The Jesus Lizard at All Tomorrow’s Parties.  I guess now is the time to tell this one:

Around nine years ago, I worked at a record label/recording studio.  I had a little latitude and was able to chase down a dream project – as a producer of sorts. So I went for it.

I had heard through mutual friends that one of my biggest musical mentors, Devo’s bassist Gerald V. Casale, was beginning to work on a solo record and had need of a drummer.  I heard some tapes and they were cool.  At the time, TJL’s Mac McNeilly was no longer with the band, so I figured I’d see if he was interested in maybe working with Gerry on his record at this studio.  Amazingly, Mac was into the idea.  I sent Gerry copies of Goat and Head. Then, even more amazingly, Gerry was into the idea.  Or at least that’s what it seemed like, because he was super-appreciative of the Macness.   The tapes I heard were grinding, raw and great, but…it turned out that Gerry saw all that as a problem to be overcome.  He kept talking about scrubbing away all the dirt and making the record to a click track and laying the drums in last…which, I’m sorry to say, is a great way to make a shiny, quantized and very “L.A.”  record.  — and no way to waste the wind tunnel of Hurricane Mac.  So it didn’t happen. Boo hoo.

But now – TJL and Devo on the same bill? Yes, please.  In the words of Tina Fey: “I want to go to there.”


Poll: Obama Presidency Ensures South Side Street Sign Switch, But Where?


RW370 is a South Side institution celebrating the South Sider in the Oval Office.  44th President of the United States Barack Obama went and got himself inaugurated today, meaning the bell can’t be unrung.  The South Side of Chicago has some changes coming.  Not social or economic changes (although you never know), but rather something lasting and incredibly important — a street name change.

And that’s as it should be.  If Mayor Anton Cermak (22nd St.), General John “Black Jack” Pershing (39th St.)  President James Garfield (55th St.) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Grand Boulevard) each rated highly enough to justify the juicy overtime budget for City Streets and Sanitation Department workers  (and resulting Postal Service mail delivery chaos) then absolutely so does BHO.  The only question is: what South Side street should be renamed for Barack Obama?  Vote in the poll and test your prediction skills:

35th St.: BHO’s love for the Chicago White Sox who play at 35th and Shields is well known.  This change would guarantee a permanent association between the 2005 World Champion Sox and the President  — as well as irritate the living hell out of many Republican-voting racists in my Bridgeport neighborhood.  That makes this the clear sentimental pick.

47th St.: The “Blues Corridor”, famous as the Chicago destination for so many Delta blues musicians, 47th runs through Bronzeville, the African-American neighborhood marked by its famous pre-WWII middle-class finery. Probably the best choice for most appropriate placement of the intersection of King and Obama.

51st St.: The busiest thoroughfare nearest the Obama residence in his Hyde Park neighborhood.  New home to the storied Checkerboard Lounge, world-renowned as the club the Rolling Stones stop in for embalming fluid when in town.  The best choice based  on creepy, cultish adoration of BHO’s every move.

Lake Park Ave.: The north-south Hyde Park artery possibly best-known for the reliable spectacle of University of Chicago Ph.D. candidates wandering off sidewalks and into traffic due to intellectual distraction while walking.  The best choice on the basis of upside for University endowment.

Drexel Blvd.: This South Side drag is beloved by music fans everywhere for being the earthly 1950s home of legendary bandleader and composer Sun Ra.  His El Saturn record label launched in an apartment at 4115 S. Drexel, which doesn’t suffer any loss of charm for being changed to 4115 S. Obama.  NASA’s preferred pick, because “space is the place”.

Cottage Grove Ave.: As Western Ave. is to the western half of the city, Cottage Grove serves the Southeast Side, reaching from 22nd to 129th in an unbroken stretch through neighborhoods like Kenwood and formerly independent company towns-turned-Chicago-neighborhoods such as Pullman. Due to street length, this pick is the best choice for maximum sign replacement crew overtime.

Midway Airport: This stubby-runwayed sky depot is in serious need of a rechristening, if for no other reason than to beat the Mayor to the punch slapping his name on it.  Hearing the name “Barack Hussein Obama Airport” would cause wingnut AM hate-radio fans no end of consternation, so this is the best pick based on administration of poetic justice in the take-your-shoes-off “security theater” airport lines.


Youth Technology Corps: Combining Philanthropy, Jobs And E-Waste Recycling

Saturday night, I attended a party thrown by Benton House, a century-old community organization I’ve done some work with over the past few years. I’m a big fan of their Sound Alternative program, a paid internship offered to teens 14-20 providing education in both live and recorded sound engineering.

One encounter really stood out: I met the principals of an innovative community group, Youth Technology Corps. The elevator pitch on YTC is awesome: take old PCs, teach disadvantaged kids how to refurbish them, and send those kids into classrooms to spread the knowledge, leaving LANs in their wake.

As worthy social causes go, I have seen very few that have as many fully-realized facets as YTC. There’s the free-market commercial appeal to excite the Microsofts (M$ donates Windows 2000 licenses for the project, but they also use open-source applications) there’s the social work / jobs creation aspect to excite government granting bodies, and there’s the green aspect addressing the growing problem of e-waste, a recycling issue that 60 Minutes recently featured, exposing a “greenwash” scandal in the process.

YTC is blessed to have lots to talk about to at least three distinct and huge constituent groups. I had a great time hearing about their efforts, and I’ll go on record as predicting big things from this group.  Nice work, Dave and Andy!


Hard To Merge, Hard To Breathe, Hard To Believe


(Above: Just sore, not badly hurt)

It’s been 24 hours since I was rear-ended by a semi-truck while merging onto the Dan Ryan expressway. Let’s tally up that episode’s suck:

Both Maureen and I went to the emergency room. My neck felt screwed up so I took an ambulance. We’re both sore.

You’d think the notable part of the day would be over at that point, and you’d be wrong.

After discharge from the emergency room, we limped homewards, stopping at CVS for medication. Starving, we pull in to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Normally we don’t eat at this place, as it’s nothing special food-wise, but that morning’s situation forced an exception.

I walked into the front door vestibule and saw the following through the glass:

A small group was standing in the restaurant. In the middle of the group, a brown-haired woman stood, bug-eyed, mouth agape, hands reaching for her throat. She coughs a little. Her face is full of desperation.

The place is nearly empty. The people standing around her were all elderly and a couple were panicking. I enter the place and ask “Is she choking?” I got no answers in any spoken language, just a variety of visages of terror and despair. I noticed that the group is near a table and the food is half-eaten. Probably choking, I figured. “Call 911” I tell one of the dumbstruck waitresses.

Heimlich time.

I got behind her and remembered the old Red Cross bit about the balled up fist-grip and the solar plexus. I give her four or five heaves. It’s been a long time since I’ve had my arms around a woman who wasn’t Maureen I crazily think to myself as I apply the maneuver.

“Okay” I heard her say. I relented and looked around for the projectile that’s supposed to fly out, and don’t find it. She swallowed it, it’s okay. She’s coughing and wheezing but she’s okay. She was no longer choking.

We took a seat a table and cracked open our pills from CVS. The pills we were prescribed for the pain of being smashed into by a semi-trailer four hours before? Yeah, those pills.

After the Fire Department showed up and left, normality began to resume. The brown-haired woman moved to behind the cash register and I realized that she is the owner of the place.

We were visited at the table by one of the older women who was panicking when I got there. A family resemblance suggested she was brown-hair’s mother, although I can’t be sure. She graciously thanked me for helping out. I braced for more embarrassment, but I needn’t have worried.

The choking woman sat at her cash register while we ate, made phone calls on her earpiece, ran out to her Lexus SUV parked in the front, and was overheard to mention to someone that “the Botox injections make it hard to swallow”.

The breakfast was, as expected, no big deal – and the order was screwed up. Served us right for going there. When I paid my bill to brown-hair I did get a thanks for what I did.

Which beats getting a lawsuit.



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

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