Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bootblogging #18: Four by Russell Hoke (with Guitar Circle intro)

So my old buddy Michael Friedman was in St. Louis recently and we revived The Guitar Circle. Most of the old core came out to The Foxhole at Atomic Cowboy, and somebody suggested we try to keep a Circle unbroken again.

The revived Circle with Michael happened to fall on a 3rd Wednesday, which had a good feel, the third day of the week in the third week of the month.* So Jim at Atomic Cowboy set us up with some more 3rd Wednesdays.

I told Michael we have the 3rd Wednesday of three months set in stone, of April, May and June; he should come back to town for one. If he stayed through the weekend, I suggested, I could host an artist mixer at The Skuntry Museum and feature Michael.

Then I remembered I had started another tradition we could kick into revival. I had hosted Russell Hoke as the inaugural Artist In Residence at The Skuntry Museum. Russell is a songster and poet and bagpipes player from San Antonio, Texas.**

As it happens, since Rusty inaugurated the Artist In Residence position at The Skuntry Museum, he landed a real life distribution deal for his records through Locust Music in Chicago. Since The Skuntry Museum in effect was the artist's connection to the distributor, the suggestion here is that our Artist In Residence gig is a starmaker.

All of this made me want to Bootblog me some Russell Hoke. Here is one song each from what I think are his four most recent records. I have skipped his debut, Magic of My Youth, which I'll insist needs to be heard as a complete experience, no excerpting accepted.


Russell Hoke
From Cosmic Outlaw

Russell Hoke
From Gettin' Sirius

Russell Hoke
From Sandblasted, but Unbowed

"A Good Cup of Tea on Eldon's Patch"
Russell Hoke
From Haunted Brain

All songs (c) Russell Hoke.
All rights reserved.


* The St Louis police board also meets the 3rd Wednesday of every month. They give you this little green sticker when they let you into police headquarters for the meeting. I plan to suggest to Jim that the green sticker can be redeemed for some small alcoholic benefit at The Foxhole. Rewarding civic engagement!

** It was the poet Stefene Russell who brought Russell Hoke into our orbit.


More in this series
Bootblogging #1: Three by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #2: Three elegies for local musicians
Bootblogging #3: Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #4: Three more by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #5: Chuck Reinhart's guitar circle hits
Bootblogging #6: The silly side of The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #7: Songs for "Divorcing God"
Bootblogging #8: More songs for "Divorcing God
Bootblogging #9: Adam Long presents The Imps!
Bootblogging #10: More Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #11: The Adversary Workers
Bootblogging #12: The May Day Orchestra
Bootblogging #13: Solo Career live in Santa Monica
Bootblogging #14: Four from The Funhouse (Seattle punk)
Bootblogging #15: Four more from The Funhouse (Seattle punk rock)
Bootblogging #16: I will be your volunteer! (for Bob Slate)
Bootblogging #17: Yet more The Lettuce Heads

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grassroots rise up against Rex's tax code havoc

Finally, some grass-roots mobilization against Rex Sinquefield's "wonk in space" effort to wreak havoc on our tax codes and the basis for our vital public services.

Press release from a new coalition calling itself "United for Missouri’s Priorities".


St. Louis Fire Fighters, City and Community Leaders To Hold Press Conference Friday To Call On Voters To DECLINE TO SIGN Petitions To Repeal Earnings Tax

Billionaire’s initiative will force massive cuts to public safety and needed services in St. Louis

St. Louis – Citing the massive cuts to public safety and city services that will result from the repeal of St. Louis City’s earnings tax, local fire fighters, elected officials, and community leaders will join together tomorrow, Friday, February 26, to call on voters to Decline To Sign petitions that will put on the November ballot an initiative eliminating the City’s earnings tax.

“This dangerous and misguided initiative to eliminate over one-third of the funding St. Louis needs for basic services like fire fighters and police officers will devastate our city. It will devastate public safety,” said Tony Kelley, Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters.

“So we have come together to call on voters to Decline To Sign any petition for a ballot measure that will eliminate the earnings tax and gut funding for public safety in our great city.”

The ballot initiative, being pushed by a billionaire who recently moved to Missouri, would eliminate the existing earnings tax with no replacement funding. According to a fiscal note sent by the City of St. Louis in response to the ballot initiative petitions being filed, eliminating the earnings tax without a replacement “would result in cuts to public safety services so deep as to end the City’s viability as a place to live, work and visit.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 01/10/10)

Information for Friday’s press conference follows:

Who: St. Louis Fire Fighters, elected officials including key members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, and community leaders

What: Press Conference to ask voters to refuse to sign petitions for the ballot initiative eliminating the earnings tax

When: Friday, February 26 at 9:00 a.m.

Where: St. Louis City Hall Rotunda – 1200 Market Street


The image is of Rex with his pet politician, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Congresspeople speak up for classical music in STL

My car CD deck is on the fritz, so I have been listening to the radio lately. I have been surprised by the quality of the programming on Classic 99. Suddenly I have been mourning the reported decision by the Lutheran Synod to sell the station.

So this announcement today from the office of Congressman John Shimkus is heartening.


Congressman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19) spoke out against the sale of KFUO-FM on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this evening. Congressman William “Lacy” Clay, Jr. (D, Missouri-1) also spoke on the floor against the proposed sale.

“As a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, this is not a position that I take lightly, but I truly believe that the sale of our area’s lone classical music station does the church and the community wrong,” Shimkus said.

“My wife is a classical musician, and as residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area, we take advantage of the fine arts that KFUO-FM supports. That cooperative link will hurt many regional institutions.”

Shimkus joined many prominent Missouri Synod Lutherans in signing a petition in mid-2009 to the Synod’s Board of Directors opposing the sale.

“After being contacted by many constituents and fellow Lutherans, I thought a public statement was appropriate at this time,” he noted.

Shimkus’ comments may be heard online at

Monday, February 22, 2010

Police Commish Bommarito's signed Oath of Office

Last week the Post-Dispatch reported that a phone call from a police commissioner kept his nephew from being booked for drunken driving, and instead brought the allegedly drunken nephew to the police commissioner's restaurant.

Since that story hit, anybody on the cop or political beat has been trying to squeeze more juice - or blood - out of it. I am no different.

I have a few things I am working on, but here is one document that is good to have in the public domain: the Oath of Office sworn and signed by Police Commissioner Vincent J. Bommarito.

Mostly, it refers to the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions, where the relevant language pertaining to misuse of authority to interfere with law enforcement will need to be found.

It also refers to Missouri Revised Statutes 84.04, which explicitly forbids police commissioners from using "political opinions" as a basis in making appointments to the police force or meting out punishments.

The statute says police commissioners "will in no case and under no pretext appoint or remove any policeman or officer of police, or other person under them, on account of the political opinions of such police officer or other person, or for any other cause or reason than the fitness or unfitness of such a person, in the best judgment of such commissioners, for the place for which he shall be appointed, or from the place from which he shall be removed."

That is good stuff.

While searching for the link to the Post story, I just saw that Uncle Bommarito resigned from the board. That leaves a board of five down to two. Local control by attrition?


Oath of Office sworn and signed by Police Commissioner Vincent J. Bommarito

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Budget cuts to St. Louis police force loom

Board, department are $6.4M apart on 2011 budget

By Chris King
Of The St. Louis American

At the public meeting of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners this morning, board chair Todd Epsten fired what might be described as a preemptive strike in a potential battle over budget cuts to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

In introducing Police Chief Dan Isom’s presentation on the budget, Epsten said the department could "yell, scream and whine," but that would not change the fact that "tough decisions will have to be made."

Chief Isom did not yell, scream or whine when he took the podium. He calmly explained how his department has steadily been making adjustments to budget cuts. However, his budget for the next fiscal year remains $6.4 million higher than what the City of St. Louis has proposed.

The City has allotted the department nearly $142 million, while Isom is asking for $148.4 million.

Isom said he would need to trim the department by 220 police officers to make up for the budget shortfall, though he would almost certainly recommend a mix of staff cuts and cuts to benefits rather than cut the force that drastically.

Isom said he would be conducting an "open and transparent discussion" of the budget with police management, officers and civilian employees between now and when the budget is due in July.

Epsten remained hawkish on the police budget at every opportunity, mixing metaphors with slightly insulting insinuations of how the department will respond to its budget being cut.

"We can get angry, we can get mad," Epsten said. But no matter how angry police officials and officers become, he said, "It’s sausage-making time."

Epsten and the board’s focus on "making sausage" came into conflict with Isom’s stated preference for a transparent public process in one of the only items on the agenda that provoked much disagreement on the board.

Isom requested that the board commit $24,000 to pilot a digital information system that would allow official meetings, like this board meeting, to be streamed live throughout the police department.

Isom said, "It’s a challenge to disseminate information throughout the police departments to dispel the rumors and disinformation."

Since Julius K. Hunter has not yet been replaced on the board, there are only four commissioners. With a split vote, the $24,000 was not approved for Isom, though he mentioned the digital system is "in the IT budget anyway."


Photos from this morning's board meeting of Epsten and Isom are by Wiley Price of The St. Louis American. Knuckling his head behind Epsten is police commissioner Vincent Bommarito.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will Facebook cough up requested records in court?

Press release from local attorney Albert "Never a Dull Moment" Watkins.


Edwardsville, Illinois. - Officer Bryan Pour, a former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer facing a Class X Felony charge of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm and up to thirty years of incarceration, has served a subpoena on Facebook seeking disclosure of profiles and correspondence exchanged through the popular on-line social networking site by and between individuals involved in or witnesses to an assault of Pour leading up to the shooting and a number of law enforcement officers intimately involved in the investigation of the shooting, commonly referred as the “Pontoon Beach Shooting.”

Facebook has refused to produce or release the requested evidence, citing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a federal law passed in 2000.

Officer Pour has filed with the Madison County, Illinois Circuit Court a Motion to Compel Facebook to produce the evidence.

“A person charged with a crime is categorically entitled under the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Illinois to access and use exculpatory evidence,” said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for Officer Pour.

“To the best of our knowledge, this issue has never before been addressed by the Courts. It is respectfully suggested that Constitutional rights trump a hastily created federal statute,” concluded Watkins.
The State of Illinois has taken no public position in connection with the Motion to Compel.
The Motion is scheduled to be heard before the Honorable James Hackett in Room 0214 of the Madison County, Illinois Criminal Justice Center at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Legal counsel for Facebook is scheduled to appear at the Motion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three Fried Chamber Players research competition

So, we have put together a new folk rock combo, and Monday night was our first band outing. I had suggested a night out for free chamber music in University City with players from the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Washington University Department of Music.

There was something of a joke at play here. We are styling this version of a band previously known as Three Fried Men as "Three Fried Chamber Players," so the conceit was that we were "researching the competition". Everyone agreed, most of us showed up, Adam Long even brought a date, but none of us really knew what to expect.

Andrea Kaplan took the stage, first, alone with her flute. After a brief but helpful introduction, in which she revealed that the composer of the piece was "most famous for being Yoko Ono's first husband," she performed "In a Living Memory" by Toshi Ichiyanagi. This adventurous workout struck my ears as Ornette Coleman for Japanese flute, more than chamber music as commonly practiced in sedate settings like the 560 Music Center, and that was just fine.

Then, an amusing game of musical chairs, in which what looked like Wash U music students tried to appear hip and serious-minded while moving furniture - to the wrong places, repeatedly. When two pianos, one with a chair for a page-turner, plus three more chairs, two for cellists and one for a horn player, had been assembled, a man took the microphone and talked to us.

He was Seth Carlin, who heads the piano program at Wash U, says his bio in the concert handout. He emerged as something of the bandleader and apparent curator of the night's music as he dedicated the concert to his father, the late Herbert J. Carlin (1917-2009). Carlin Sr., we were told, had been a scientist, musical enthusiast and amateur musician, with a predeliction for flute (which we had just heard, solo) and piano, of which we were about to hear two.

I am taking the other pianist, Maryse Carlin, for Seth's wife. She opened the piece, and then throughout traded licks and melodic runs with Seth on the other piano. Their interplay and counterpoint was both matched and further offset by the interplay and counterpoint of the two cellists, Sebastien Gingras (dude) and Melissa Brooks - not a dude, and in a gown that was not a fuddy duddy gown, far from it. Roger Kaza sat between the two cellists, playing horn on a very different rhythmic and melodic schedule from the two sets of interplay and counterpoint see-sawing all around him, as the pianos and cellos rolled back and forth in the imagination of Robert Schumann.

The piece was "Andante and Variations for two pianos, two cellos, and horn," and it is safe to say that all of us in attendance from our little folk combo - Adam, his date Little G, Dave Melson, and Josh Weinstein - aim one day to possess a performance of that piece, and perhaps a cup of coffee and late oranges in a sunny chair with that cellist in her not fuddy duddy gown.

The intermission was interesting for the urology jokes I heard en route to the water closet. The classical music crowd certainly does tend to attract your veteran and witty medical practitioners.
The evening concluded with Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in A. Major, Op. 114. This was a lot to take in - in a good way.

There was, first, a striking visual element. The beautful woman cellist was back, now triangulated with two differently beautful string players, violinist Joo Kim and Shannon Farrell Williams on viola. We came for the music, to be sure, and would never reduce these exquisitely talented musicians to their physical forms, but we are all superficial creatures, in addition to whatever depths we may plumb.

We were ravished by the surface.

We were taken through five movements, each with their own internal dramas. There were pauses within the movements, which left us counting silently and looking around at every pause, trying to figure out if it was over yet. The only thing worse than not applauding when you wanted to applaud was bursting into thunderclaps of applause when there is still another movement to be played.

When we were absolutely, positively convinced we could start clapping, we kept clapping - the whole room, of maybe seventy dedicated music lovers taking in free chamber music on snowstormy Monday night - and clapping for a long time.

I turned to Josh and said what I often thought. "I hate this ritual of slapping our hands together, over and over, but it's the accepted way to show them how much we loved the music."

"Maybe we could start a new ritual," Josh said. "Like French kissing."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

All possible comfort and care provided

It makes you feel like you are going to make it as a parent when you wake up in the morning and find this tableaux.

Crime shows and other reports tell us that mutilated dolls betoken evil things, and so a very comfortably prepared night's rest for Pinky the Webkin puppy must be a portent of goodness.

I am particularly digging the care taken to fold and position a snug pillow with plenty of cranial support. The caretaker has taken all care possible to make sure her puppy was comfortable and warm for the night.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ward by Ward breakdown, Missouri 57th District

The St Louis Board of Election Commissioners just sent around the ward by ward breakdown for yesterday's special election in the 57th Missouri House District.

Virvus Jones started carrying on to me about this today, but I had to beg off so we could get out tomorrow's edition of The St. Louis American.

I now have forwarded this data to him and look forward very much to taking a breather next week on Political EYE as Virvus does the inside baseball on this.

I mean, the inside smash mouth football.

At a glance, it looks like Jeffrey Boyd and Quincy Troupe helped Karla May in the 22nd and 1st Wards, but not anywhere near enough.

This thing was won by Hope Whitehead in the 26th Ward.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Black aldermen question Conway's leadership on budget

The African American Aldermanic Caucus on The St. Louis Board of Aldermen sent a letter on Friday to Alderman Stephen Conway, who chairs the important Ways & Means Committee.

The 12 undersigned black aldermen express dissatisfaction with how Conway is handling the process of coming up wth $45 million in cuts from the City budget.

The caucus wants to have three more meetings on the propopsed cuts, including one in the evening when more citizens can attend - and a process of questioning individually each department head.

The letter is an encouraging show of collective action and concern for constituents.