Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AT&T and public access TV

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 08:01 PM

If you think AT&T's U-verse cable TV system is unfair to local public access TV, Wednesday, April 1, is the last day to get your name on a petition asking the FCC to step in.

What's this about? Here's a piece by the Tribune's David Greising that explains that U-verse consigns public programming to a "digital ghetto." Greising goes on, "Viewers must go to the dreaded Channel 99, and from there navigate toward the towns they want. While U-verse subscribers can digitally record up to four programs at once, they cannot digitally record from Channel 99. They can't even plan their viewing, because the digital guide available for all the other U-verse channels is not available for public, educational and government programming."

And here's a response to Greising from a somewhat shadowy group calling itself the Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide that claims "consumers and social service groups actually prefer the way that AT&T has set up its community programming and see this as the wave of the future."


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Tuesday afternoon warm-up playlist

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 05:24 PM

Slim Thug featuring UGK: "Leanin"

Rye Rye featuring M.I.A.: "Bang"

Various artists: DJ Drama & Cookin Soul present the Notorious B.I.G. Tribute

It Hugs Back: Inside Your Guitar

Bat for Lashes: Two Suns

The Skiii Team: MySpace player

Extra Golden: Thank You Very Quickly

Lichtenstein: Everything's for Sale

Box Elders: "Hole in My Head"

Lily Allen: "The Fear (Son of Vader Nitemair remix)"

The Horrors: Primary Colours

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Creative Loafing hangs on to the Reader

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 04:30 PM

Creative Loafing Inc. of Tampa retains control of its six papers, including the Reader, a bankruptcy judge ruled Tuesday in Tampa. Atalaya, a capital management firm owed about $32 million by Creative Loafing, had asked to be awarded the papers, arguing in court that Ben Eason, who is Creative Loafing's CEO, was running the company into the ground.

Here's a report from Creative Loafing Tampa blogger Wayne Garcia. He writes that Judge Caryl Delano explained from the bench she'd heard no evidence "that Creative Loafing’s woes are anything beyond those being experienced by all newspaper and news media companies in this recession." But as for Creative Loafing's counterargument that the company's value had doubled since it filed for bankruptcy last September, the judge said that "just defies belief.” 

Delano said Creative Loafing has "an uphill battle" ahead of it, Garcia reports, because Atalaya can vote against any reorganization plan the company submits. "Delano suggested mediation for the two sides," writes Garcia, "but after a 30-minute recess in which the two sides' lawyers talked by telephone, the idea of having a mediator appointed was tabled . . . at least until April 20, when Creative Loafing reveals more details of its reorganization plan, including possible new investors."

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Continuing Adventures in Artist Relations

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 04:18 PM

A couple of months ago I noted that Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer had been having some issues with her label, Roadrunner Records, the main one being that Roadrunner wanted to recut her "Leeds United" video because, in her words, "they basically told me that i looked too fat."

Apparently things haven't gotten smoothed over so much, because this just happened:

If you're not in the mood to click on the video, it's Palmer singing "Moon River" with a new set of lyrics. She's now actually begging for her label to drop her so she can get on with her career. I would say that the situation has gotten a little out of hand, no?

My favorite line: "I'm not making you any money / Plus you'll still have Slipknot." Though I'm not so sure that she's not actually making them any money. Why else would Roadrunner stick with an artist who's willing to repeatedly badmouth them in public? If all they're looking for out of Palmer is to be a token chick on their roster, I'm sure they can find another one who'd be more polite.

(via the Daily Swarm)

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A whole lotta Haaker Flaten going on

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 03:13 PM

Powerful Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten spent a little more than two years living in Chicago, from January 2006 to spring 2008, and when he wasn't on the road--which was most of the time--he fit in well. That is, he played steadily in all kinds of groups, some of them working bands and others one-off ad hoc lineups. Haaker Flaten went back to Oslo after the romantic relationship that brought him to town ended, but his musical relationship with Chicago had started long before he moved here and continues to this day. Tomorrow he returns for the first of a slew of gigs that run through Sunday.

Since his departure Haaker Flaten has released music pretty steadily, beginning with The Year of the Boar (Jazzland), from the quintet he formed with Chicagoans Jeff Parker, Frank Rosaly, and Dave Rempis--the fifth member, violinist Ola Kvernberg, was a holdover from the Oslo version of the group. Cut live during a European tour in 2007, it makes clear that Haaker Flaten shares a key quality with his Chicago counterparts--driving, insatiable energy. His compositions are typically packed with two or three discrete episodes, and most of the time he opts for muscular passages that stomp rather than swing--though his occasional explorations of space and calm, like a bit in "90/94" where Parker toys with texture and color, are satisfying too.

On Play Complete Communion (Bolage) Haaker Flaten joins saxophonist Atle Nymo and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen (both of whom are members of the excellent quintet Motif) to perform the two suites that make up the classic Don Cherry album (you guessed it) Complete Communion. Nymo does a fine job tracing the trumpeter's indelible themes, which are meticulously crafted vehicles for improvisation. The trio don't veer too far from the originals--you can hear their reverence for the material--but it still makes for an enjoyable listen.

Trinity is, oddly enough, a quartet with Haaker Flaten on bass, but this band traverses much different territory. Breaking the Mold (Clean Feed), recorded live at the Molde Jazz Festival in 2006, is an all-improvised set that mixes spacey contemplation with emotionally charged outbursts. Saxophonist Kjetil Møster (the Core) can blow free with the best of them, but he exercises a lot of restraint here, creating ambience at least as often as he knocks down walls. Drummer Thomas Strønen (Humcrush) has great timing, but he's generally more interested in color, and he frequently turns to hydroplaning cymbal bowing or gentle pattering instead of steady timekeeping. Keyboardist Morten Qvenild (In the Country) might be the driving force by default--it's his electronic keyboard that tends to determine whether the music switches into celestial mode or stays rooted in hard-charging fusion.

Finally, Haaker Flaten has released a couple of fine duo recordings. The Brewery Tap (Smalltown Superjazz) pairs him with legendary free-jazz saxophonist Evan Parker, who plays tenor for the session; though there are highly charged, frenetic passages, with the reedist blowing choked, gnarled lines and the bassist uncorking tightly bunched pointillistic patterns, the duo frequently engage in more spacious, temperate exchanges. It's always hard to resist Parker's trademark circular-breathing displays, but it's really nice to hear him shape his probing lines in a more gentle, patient fashion.

The Haaker Flaten recording I've enjoyed the most over the past year--discounting the latest set from the quintet Atomic--is Elise (Hemlandssånger Compunctio), a duo recording with saxophonist Håkon Kornstad. The Elise of the title was the bassist's grandmother, whose interpretations of folk hymns from the early-19th-century Haugian Revival were recorded by Norwegian National Radio in the 70s. The lyrics came from church hymnals as well books like Vægteren, a volume published in Minneapolis by a Norwegian Haugian community, but the melodies are rooted from oral folk traditions. The album opens with a brief a cappella recording by Elise Haaker, the only song with any vocals at all; six of the eight remaining tracks are instrumental adaptations of these hymns, in which the duo tease out the gorgeous melodies and reshape them gently to fit jazz language. There's also one free improvisation and a lovely reading of Keith Jarrett's "Death and the Flower." The depth of feeling and degree of sensitivity here reminds me of Ornette Coleman's beautiful duo recordings with bassist Charlie Haden, even though the music sounds totally different.

On Wednesday at the Hideout Haaker Flaten will play duets with trombonist Jeb Bishop, then a quartet set with Bishop, resourceful trumpeter (and former Chicagoan) Jacob Wick, and drummer Rosaly. On Thursday he turns up at Elastic for two sets--one with reedist Rempis and pianist Jim Baker and another with keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo and drummer Tim Daisy (plus a cameo from reedist Mars Williams). On Friday night he plays at the Charleston with Giallorenzo, Bishop, and Daisy. On Saturday he heads over to the Hideout to play in a quartet with Baker, drummer John Herndon, and guitarist Parker. And he closes out this stay on Sunday with two sets by the Outskirts--a trio with Rempis and Rosaly--at the Hungry Brain.

Today's playlist:

The Voices of Panola Co., Mississippi, Como Now (Daptone)
Briggan Krauss' H-Alpha, Red Sphere (Skirl)
Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol)
Dan Tyminski, Wheels (Rounder)
Toshi Ichiyanagi, Electronic Field (Omega Point)

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Paid more to manage less

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 02:28 PM

Yesterday I noted that as the city is cutting front-line staff and reducing service delivery to taxpayers, many of the top city leaders have received raises.

As several readers pointed out, some were promoted and got a salary boost to go with it. But that's not the story with most.

Of the top 67 earners on the city's payroll this month, 12 have received promotions since last August. The other 55 didn't--but 31 of them still received 3 percent raises, which worked out to between $4,320 and $5,160 each per year.

Most are leaders of departments that made multiple layoffs. A few examples:

NAME

TITLE

2008

2009

DEPT STAFFING CHANGE

MASON,  TERRY

HEALTH COMMISSIONER

 $  171,996

 $ 177,156

-121

GEORGES,  MARA S

CORPORATION COUNSEL

 $  168,600

 $ 173,664

-5

ANDOLINO,  ROSEMARIE S

EXECUTIVE DIR - O'HARE MODERNIZATION

 $  165,612

 $ 170,580

-10

GAYLES,  MONTEL M

CHIEF PROCUREMENT OFFICER

 $  164,100

 $ 169,020

-9

KAIDEN,  MARLA M

CITY COUNCIL CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER

 $  155,580

 $ 160,248

-43

DUNN,  JOHN F

DIR OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

 $  153,756

 $ 158,364

-5

BYRNE,  THOMAS G

TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONER

 $  152,520

 $ 157,092

-275

DEMPSEY,  MARY A

LIBRARY COMMISSIONER

 $  152,520

 $ 157,092

-67

PICARDI,  MICHAEL J

STREETS & SAN COMMISSIONER

 $  152,520

 $ 157,092

-308

SPATZ JR,  JOHN F

WATER MGMT COMMISSIONER

 $  152,520

 $ 157,092

-23

GOVIA,  CARLO M

FIRST DEPUTY HEALTH COMMISSIONER

 $  149,928

 $ 154,428

-121

LUX,  STEVE J

CITY COMPTROLLER

 $  147,156

 $ 151,572

-13

TRISTAN,  HOMERO

HUMAN RESOURCES COMMISSIONER

 $  147,156

 $ 151,572

-20

LADNER,  TRACEY R

DIRECTOR OF POLICE PERSONNEL

 $  146,016

 $ 150,396

-213

 

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MSTRKRFT in Bridgeport for free

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 01:45 PM

If you're not checking MySpace on the reg anymore, you may not have noticed that MySpace Secret Shows just announced that MSTRKRFT and Bird Peterson will be playing at the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport on Thursday. It's free and all ages, and it's going to be first-come, first-served. The concert starts at 8 PM, but you'll probably want to show up early to get in line, especially considering that MSTRKRFT's N.O.R.E. joint "Bounce" is blowing up in a serious way just now. Unless of course you're a "Citi Forward by MySpace" cardholder--I'm not sure exactly what flavor of credit card they're talking about, but the first 20 people who've got one get to skip the line.

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Bankruptcy -- now starring the Sun-Times

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 01:04 PM

The Sun-Times Media Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday, joining the Tribune Company, which is already there, and also Creative Loafing Inc., which owns the Reader. All the best newspapers...

Compared to the Tribune Company's $13 billion debt, the $600 million or so the STMG owes the Internal Revenue Service is chump change. The investment bankers that Creative Loafing owes $31 million to don't expect to ever see that money, and to make up for it, they've been trying to take over the Reader and the five other weeklies Creative Loafing controls; it would be interesting -- if perhaps unlikely -- to see the IRS go the same route. Imagine the Sun-Times and the other papers in the Media Group federalized, supported by tax dollars. They could end up the only newspapers still publishing in America. 

Might not happen that way. Here, from blogger Allison Hantschel, is a peroration against Conrad Black and David Radler, the former owners who left the company in this sorry state, that expresses how a lot of present and former STMG employees surely feel.

Here's a pdf of the STMG's bankruptcy petition.

UPDATE: From E&P's Fritz & Jen, who owes what (aside from the IRS):

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Money Back From Midway

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 12:46 PM

Good news, taxpayers--it looks like the Midway lease deal might be falling apart.

According to an article by Fran Spielman in today's Sun-Times, the company that wants to buy the airport needs extra time to raise money to complete the deal. If they can't come up with the funds, the city will keep control of the airport and--best of all--retain the $126 million that Midway Investment and Development has already paid, according to the Sun-Times.

Take a bow, Mayor Daley. You're at your best when your wacky deals collapse. Any chance you can work the same magic with your other privatization schemes

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Chicago-based shopping site Language is no more

Posted By on 03.31.09 at 12:27 PM

Late last week I got an e-mail announcing that Language, a shopping site that was once a bricks-and-mortar store in Wicker Park (I wrote about its transformation to an online-only business in February of last year), is now part of a shopping site called The Violet Hour (which, somewhat confusingly for Chicagoans, has the same name as the popular Wicker Park cocktail lounge).

Language owner Natalie Barber didn't return my messages, but I did talk to Camilla Basse, who co-owns the San Antonio-based Violet Hour site with her sister, Amber Long.  They opened the boutique about a year ago and launched the online business this past December. Long worked for Barber in Chicago, she told me, and when Barber decided to close up shop, she offered to sell the sisters her database. Camilla says their niche is a little different from Language's--Barber, she says, focused more on "global designers"--but still felt Language customers would find the Violet Hour's offerings attractive.

Meanwhile, another longtime retail presence in the Wicker Park area, the home-accessories shop Willow, is closing its storefront and going online only.

The Violet Hour is offering 20 percent off customers' first online purchase with the code WELCOME20 at checkout.

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