July 31, 2010

Not always as it appears.

Charlie Rose interview with financial heavyweight David Rubenstein, managing partner of the Carlisle Group. Rubenstein is a very wealthy man, pretty much self-made, and in this discussion he offers some very interesting assessments of where the world economies are... how we got here... and how we might find our way back.

July 26, 2010

New perspectives on the energy return on (energy) investment (EROI) of corn ethanol

This is the title of a new report published July 11, 2010 in the Journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability. The paper was written by David J. Murphy, Charles A. S. Hall and Bobby Powers of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse.

Over the past decade there has been considerable debate on corn ethanol, most focused on whether it is a net energy yielder. The argument is generally that “if the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of corn ethanol is positive then it should be pursued.

This report concludes that corn ethanol is not sustainable, requiring more resources than it produces.

“In light of this work, we conclude that production of corn ethanol within the United States is unsustainable and requires energy subsidies from the larger oil economy”

Read the abstract HERE.

Read the Readers Digest condensed version HERE. Be sure to read the comments.

Monday Music


Todd Rundgren was born in Philadelphia in 1948. Even as a youth Rundgren showed tremendous playing and songwriting abilities, and at the age of 18 he joined the local Woody’s Truck Stop, a band modeled after the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It proved to be not such a good fit and Rundgren moved on after less than a year.

In 1967, along with former Woody's bassist Carson Van Osten, Rundgren formed a garage band that would quickly become regionally popular. After a few months, keyboardist Robert "Stewkey" Antoni joined the duo, followed by drummer Thom Mooney. The band was good, and in less than six months from it’s inception, Nazz opened for Jim Morrison and the Doors in a July 1967 appearance at Philadelphia’s Town Hall.

The foursome signed with a label but cut only two albums together. Their eponymous 1968 album enjoyed very limited success, as did their first single, “Open My Eyes.” The flip side of that single, however, has become required fare on classic rock stations, and one of Todd Rundgren’s signature songs.

After the first album Nazz did a short tour in Britain before the release of the second, redundantly titled album, Nazz Nazz. This release contained more of the same uninteresting bopper music as their first, and suffered similar commercial failure.

Originally planned as a two-disk compilation with a good bit of experimental Rundgren – Van Osten work,manager, Michael Friedman and their label cut all of the creative work and reduced the album to single disk of Beatles-esque, Monkee-esque stuff - the kind of stuff that fit the image under which they were trying to market the group. 

This was not the direction Rundgren and Van Osten wanted to go, so the album and the lost works became the catalyst for the group’s breakup. Rundgren departed almost immediately with Van Osten not far behind. The band, with Stewkey now at the helm, continued and soon released yet another redundantly named album, Nazz III. There is nothing on that album worthy of remembering, and even though a group calling itself Nazz still tours and rehash CD's of old material still appears on store shelves, the band known as Nazz died in 1969, not long after their appearance at the October Texas International Pop Festival.

Van Osten continued playing, but never again with anything except informal groups. He became employed by Disney Studios as an artist, drawing and creating Mickey Mouse comics. Eventually Van Osten became the head of Disney Studios Comic Art Group, which is where he remains today. 

Rundgren went on to become a very well known musician and respected solo artist, writing hundreds of tunes and cutting many records. Last year he was invited to participate in a lecture series at DePauw University. Speaking to a sold out auditorium, Rundgren described his life in music.

Rundgren's work is a multi-course meal of musical style and shifting genre. He still performs. Hello, its me and Can we still be friends are still on his play list wherever he goes.

And he still breaks out some of the more experimental stuff from time to time.

It would have been very interesting to see the direction Nazz would have gone had Friedman and SGC Records not pulled the plug and tossed Rundgren's early stuff.

July 25, 2010

Sunday Funnies

July 19, 2010

Monday Music

Pretty regularly in this space I’ll detail some arcane group with which I've had some personal experience. This episode will detail a 60’s protest band that was a little better known... but still one with which I've  had some personal experience.

In the mid-60's, two rather nondescript California musicians from Berkley formed a new band. Joe McDonald and Barry Melton were early protesters of the war in Vietnam, often playing at on-campus protest events and area rallies. Over those early years they played under various names, not taking their now-famous name until 1966. 

In that year "Country" Joe and Barry "the Fish" started appearing under the name, Country Joe and the Fish.

The origins of that name are shrouded in revolutionary history. In the 40’s Joseph Stalin was popularly known as “Country Joe.” McDonald took the name as a symbol of his opposition to the war. Melton was late in taking his moniker, taken from writings attributed to Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse-tung, who once described the true revolutionary as moving “amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”

McDonald and Melton were the core of the band known popularly simply as Country Joe. They brought in support musicians as needed, including such notables as drummer Gary "Chicken" Hirsh, keyboardist David Cohen and bassist Bruce Barthol. It was this combination that toured with the band for three years from 1967 – 1969, performing regularly on both Fillmore stages and at the Avalon; never headlining but instead fronting for superstar bands like the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin.

When they played on stage at the Monterrey Pop Festival, they launched into chartdom.

By the time the band appeared at Woodstock in 1969, drummer Greg “Duke" Dewey, keyboardist Mark Kapner and bassist Doug Metzler had taken the places of the earlier regulars. One of the better remembered McDonald anthems is affectionately known as, the FUCK cheer. It made a national stage at Woodstock where McDonald used it to introduce his seminal 60’s Vietnam protest song, I Feel Like I'm Going to Die. The song was already popular, and thousands sang along with him.

As it did for so many of the 60’s artists, Woodstock launched Country Joe and the Fish into the realm of superstardom, but unfortunately it also began their rapid demise. 

McDonald and Melton split soon after Woodstock, with Melton joining former Quicksliver Messenger Service frontman John Cipollina, starting to the ill-fated band, the Dinosaurs

Life went on... so did Melton who eventually entered law school and became a public defender in California. He still plays and jams with well-known musicians.

McDonald also went back to California and toured for many years with a variety of lesser-known but never famous bands. In 2004 he reformed the old band with all of the original members, including Barthol, Cohen and Hirsh; but not Melton. They performed a brief 10-stop tour, including a performance at the Woodstock Reunion. In this clip, McDonald is playing, of all things, a trombone.

Feel Like remains Joe’s most recognizable tune, but McDonald wrote hundreds of songs and recorded an astonishing 33 albums over a 40-year career. The peaceful peacenik turned 68 on New Year’s day, and he continues to perform regularly.

Joe McDonald’s website is located HERE.

July 18, 2010

Sunday Funnies

July 13, 2010

I wonder if...

...anyone else sees the irony. Watch this video. Try to spot the oval-shapped decal on the side of the new BOP. If you can read it, I think you'll find it quite ironic.

Start watching about 59 seconds in. The decal is visible only briefly and it is difficult to read. There was better video on the TOOB last evening, but those don't seem to have made it to the web.

Underneath the Transocean logo on the decal, we find the words Think Twice, Act Once. Apparently some kind of safety slogan, and probably one that Transocean discovered in one of those "write our new safety slogan" contests they run to promote employee buy-in. 

Too bad it's just lip service. Transoceans safety culture is a sham.

Transocean is the drilling contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon. The drilling practices leading up to the Macondo blow-out are a product of BP policy, but compromising safety for the sake of expediency, going along with unsafe practices in order to please a client, and hiding a history of failed blow-out preventers apparently are Transocean policies. 

The product, as reflected in the Macondo blow-out, is 11 dead and the worst environmental disaster in the history of the industry. Transocean can now claim at least partial ownership in the two worst blow-outs in the history of Gulf of Mexico petroleum exploration (the other being the 1979 Transocean-owned Sedco 135 BOP failure, which caused the Ixtoc I spill.).

In fact, Transocean has a history of BOP issues, which have concerned regulatory bodies around the globe but for some reason failed to catch MMS notice.

Transocean not only doesn't think twice when it comes to safety... they don't think at all, and MMS turns a blind eye. BP isn't the only scoundrel in this disaster.

July 12, 2010

Stupidity on the left, stupidity on the right

The world of politics is infested with clowns and idiots - always has been and likely always will be. EBM has a few choice words for morons, be they red or blue.

From the left...
"The Second Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Right that a lot of liberals not only will not defend, but run away from. Dedication to liberties and civil rights seems to have its limits."

And for the right...
"However, the morons on the Right are far, far more dangerous to this country."

She has both nailed.

Monday Music

In Austin, Texas in the late 1960’s a small group of hippie types got together and opened a club. The Vulcan Gas Company was just three blocks from the Texas Capitol building, and in it’s brief three-year lifespan, hosted such notable acts as Johnny Winter, Moby Grape, Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker, Poco, Bubble Puppy, Lightnin Hopkins, Muddy Waters, The Steve Miller Band, and Freddie King.

The house band, locally popular but otherwise not-so-well-known, would go on to front for such famous acts as Spirit, Janis Joplin, Steppenwolf and ZZ Top. The band, called Shiva’s Headband, became the first act from the Austin music scene with a national presence, a recording contract, and a charted hit.

Shiva’s Headband was an early innovator in Texas style psychedelic rock, and they got a recording contract with Capital Records for that reason. The band members were loyal Austinites who continued playing at and trying to save the cash-strapped Vulcan until the club's final demise in 1970.

True to their home town, after the Vulcan closed, the band aided in the founding of the Armadillo World Headquarters. Their first manager, Eddie Wilson, spent the band’s first royalty check to help open the now legendary venue of Austin music, and Shiva's Headband was the first band to perform there.

Their first album, Take Me To The Mountains, never made it very high on the charts, but because of it, in 1973, the band caught a role playing the title song in the Ryan O’Neal - Jacqueline Bisset film, The Thief Who Came to Dinner

The first recording ever by an Austin artist to hit the charts was the 1968 tune, Kaleidoscopic/Song for Peace.

They played at Austin’s Ruta Maya in 2008.

In Hindu lore, Shiva was the destroyer; a harbinger of change. For the Austin Music scene, Shiva’s Headband fit that description well and every successful Austin musician should tip a hat to this great act. 

The band remains true to Austin, and in 1999 founding member and bandleader Spencer Perskin was voted "Austin's Old hippie” at the Eeyore's Birthday Party, an annual Austin rite of spring.

Although a grandfather, Perskin is still active and the band still performs in Austin under the name, the Shiva's Headband Experience.

July 11, 2010

Sunday Funnies