Thursday, 11 September 2008

Black September at Big Brick

A Bee Business story on this week's buy-outs was long on numbers, but it didn't mention a single name of the very real people who are leaving The Bee this fall. So I'm going to drop the commentary and just list those who are leaving.

Read the names, remember the people - and the stories. These are the people who made The Bee what it is...was. And the names say it all.

Wow. What a loss. (OK, a little editorializing...)

Mike Dunne
Janet Fullwood
Pat Rubin
Dorothy Korber
Deb Kollars
Bruce Dancis
Sarah Williams
Dan Vierria
David Favrot
Lori Richardson
Bob Sylva
Greg Endicott
Kevin McKenna
Gwen Schoen
Barbara Stubbs
Art Campos
Lakiesha McGhee
Milt Whaley
Ramon Coronado
Edgar Sanchez
Lisa Elizondo
Matt Carroll
Angie Pappas
Mark Billingsley
Matt Boudourian
Gerri Boutrarye
Janice Coleman

(NB: Though the last seven are from Special Sections, a separate editorial section, this focuses on the newsroom. Many other departments - in fact, whole departments - are disappearing. Please let me know of anyone I've forgotten, and if any of these people are NOT leaving - the news is just trickling out - please let me know ASAP. Also note: Mike Dunne is taking the buyout, but will be staying on for a couple of months.)

Those people join the following, who left in (roughly) the last few years, many under duress. Again, the cumulative talent - and community knowledge - lost is just phenomenal:

Fahizah Alim
Mareva Brown
Alison ApRoberts
Ralph Montano
Lisa Heyamoto
Dan Nguyen
Cameron Jahn
Christina Jewett
Edie Lau
Jon Williams
Kevin German
Thuy-Doan Le
Todd Milbourn
Erica Chavez
Steve Terry
Jay Mather
John Hughes
Dorsey Griffith
Elizabeth Hume
Crystal Carreon
Nancy Weaver Teichert
Jocelyn Weiner
Erhardt Krause
Laura Mecoy
Dick Schmidt
Walt Wiley
Steve Gibson
Herbert Sample
Claire Cooper
Pamela Martineau
Cynthia Craft
Judy Lin
Tom Philp
Gwendolyn Crump
Pauline Haynes
Mark Kreidler
Stuart Drown
R.E. Graswich
Becky Boyd
Patricia Beach Smith
Gary Delsohn
Amy Eckert
Jewel Reilly
Alexa Bluth
Clint Swett
Rick Rodriguez
...and yours truly.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Bo Diddley, RIP

Damn! In this day and age, with rock so establishment, it's easy to forget how absolutely, transcendently primal rock and roll was in its heyday. This is just pure rhythm and showmanship - check those moves! - with very little in the way of what we've come to think of as virtuosity. And yet, so very, deeply, virtuous!

Rest in peace, big guy. One of the giants, and he stayed true all the way to 79...

From the New York Times...

"Bo Diddley, a singer and guitarist who invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself, died Monday at his home in Archer, Fla. He was 79. The cause was heart failure, a spokeswoman, Susan Clary, said. Mr. Diddley had a heart attack last August, only months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa.In the 1950s, as a founder of rock ’n’ roll, Mr. Diddley — along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a few others — helped reshape the sound of popular music worldwide, building it on the templates of blues, Southern gospel, R&B and postwar black American vernacular culture.

His original style of rhythm and blues influenced generations of musicians. And his Bo Diddley syncopated beat — three strokes/rest/two strokes — became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll.

It can be found in Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” Johnny Otis’s “Willie and the Hand Jive,” the Who’s “Magic Bus,” Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One” and U2’s “Desire,” among hundreds of other songs.

Yet the rhythm was only one element of his best records. In songs like “Bo Diddley,” “Who Do You Love,” “Mona,” “Crackin’ Up,” “Say, Man,” “Ride On Josephine” and “Road Runner,” his booming voice was loaded up with echo and his guitar work came with distortion and a novel bubbling tremelo. The songs were knowing, wisecracking and full of slang, mother wit and sexual cockiness. They were both playful and radical."

Friday, 16 November 2007

Men Who Dance Will Save the World!

So, after my interview with Ozomatli on KXJZ Thursday afternoon, I had to go check them out. I saw them several years ago at the Crest, but that was it, so it was time. And while I really hate the hotel ballroom that is the CSUS Student Union venue - it's cold, it's boring, and it sounds awful, and Unique Productions seems to do nothing much to make the place interesting to look at - but it was OZO, so what the hell. And they didn't let me down.
OK, so the photos ain't much, but perhaps they communicate the joy and energy of the band, which loves this venue (with a caveat about the sound), and declared Sactown "our second hometown," which is pretty damned cool, considering that these guys played Nepal, India, Egypt and other exotic locales this year.

The show was opened by SambaDa, who play excellent Brazilian music, heavy on the percussion, and who joined Ozo by the show's end, when the Ozos jumped off the stage and gathered in the center of the room, pounding out rhythms that the crowd answered with chants of "oh-zo-mat=li" over and over. It was fantastic. And it was fantastic despite lame sound and a half- or slightly-better-than-half capacity of 900 or so. It was fantastic because it was what the best "rock" shows (what does that mean anymore?) are fantastic: They create a sense of community.

This is what Springsteen and U2 and the other great bands do. They let us know that we are not alone. They free us. They get us out of the little boxes we call "home" - damn, people, get out of your fucking houses! - and remind us that we're part of a community, and that we are all the same in our myriad differences, especially if we can dance.

Dancing. I love to dance, and I do it as often as I can. And I watch people who DON'T dance, and I wonder why. How can they not? Is it about being so self-conscious, or so out of touch with the boo-tay, that you can't just feel that basic, primal, human THANG? Are you afraid you're going to look too silly? Or GAY?

And as Mike and I watched people, we agreed: Men Who Dance Will Save the World.
George Bush doesn't dance (I bet). Dick Cheney does NOT dance. Rick Rodriguez is very unlikely to dance (I'd be happy to be surprised). People who dance aren't afraid to look foolish, or uncool, or "gay." People who dance feel what it is like to be a human being (right down to the aching knees and lower back, doh!), and they can look at each other and smile and not be AFRAID that someone is going to a) hit on them; b) mock them, or c) ask them for money.

And it's not about the women in this case. Women are so much freer to dance than men are. Women are EXPECTED to dance, almost. A women who's having a good time can shake her booty; and man who does so is, well, suspect. Fuck that. MEN WHO DANCE WILL SAVE THE WORLD.

Because they aren't afraid to FEEL, and they're not always on guard, to make sure that they can kick someone's ass, just in case. And they're not always THINKING. Or judging.

MEN WHO DANCE WILL SAVE THE WORLD, because they are in touch. That's why God made gay men - to give everyone else permission to stop worrying about how they look, or if they're masculine enough. Straight men need gay men.

And that's why OZO rocks: They are a bunch of unassailably macho/straight/"real" men who dance their asses off. Bassist Wil-Dog would not be called a "pussy" by even the dumbest frat boy, yet he dances his ass off all show long...these guys shake it HARD, and they have a sense of humor about themselves, which the Dance also encourages. After all, you dance, you take a risk of falling on your ass.

OK, end of rant. I love OZO, and I love seeing people - especially men - dancing. It gives me hope. And God knows we need that now...

Saturday, 27 October 2007

On The Troubles Inside the Beeheemoth

I have restrained myself from writing about Rick Rodriguez' "resignation" as Executive Editor from Sacramento's 19th Century Media Center because I didn't want to pile-on. From everything I have heard from people in the room - and I know a LOT of them - Rick was devastated. Unlike me, he wasn't eager to leave, and it was clear that his differences with Bee management went a lot deeper than mine. Though I think he had it coming, it's no fun to see another human being suffer.

Still, I feel the need to say something about that situation. People have asked me if I would go back now that Rick's gone, as if that was even an option for me (for the record: No! Sure do miss that paycheck, though). That's because the problem there is deeper than Rick, and deeper than a revenue drop. The problem is in the very style of the place.

Bee management needs to wake up and smell the millennium. The days of ordering people about like foot-soldiers, treating them like interchangeable widgets (the old, mechanical kind) and above all, of refusing to speak plainly to their own employees, are over. Or should be.

I say that because from everything I've heard and read in the paper - from Dale Kasler's press-release announcing Rick's departure, to the public editor's column hailing Rick's contributions to the paper (while avoiding any mention of mistakes) - say, basically...nothing. And as anyone except for Bee management can tell you, where there is an absence of information, there will be rumors and speculation. So it is at The Bee.

From what I hear, people over there are freaked-out, and I feel for them. If they aren't freaked out, it's because they've got retirement safely in their sights. They were counting the months and years till retirement when I was there. The news of Rick's departure hasn't changed that.

I've spoken to a lot of people there, and they relate all sorts of theories: Rick left because he didn't want to start firing people, and publisher Janis Heaphy is going to bring someone in from corporate to do just that (Joyce Terhaar, Rick's No. 2, having been passed over for the job). Another theory is that Rick and mastermind Ed Canale went head to head over who controls online content, and Rick lost.

But then, no one wins with!

There are other theories, all of them worth precisely squat. Janis is not saying a thing. No one else KNOWS a thing. Except that this is NOT good, and that contrary to management hype, nothing is going to change. At least, not in a good way.

And so the place continues to roil. The people who rose on Rick's patronage are most likely VERY uncomfortable, and that's reasonable (and, some would say, just). Some younger reporters, who still have the fire and passion for the work, have told me how upsetting this is. They wonder if there will BE journalism jobs 10 years from now. The '80s and '90s are starting to look to them, as well as to those of us who were there, like the Golden Age. Ahead lies darkness.

As a now-independent contractor of sorts, I feel their pain. The internet is amazing, and I'm partly casting my small lot on it. But as John McCrae of Cake once said (I paraphrase), "Information may want to be free, but the rent wants to be paid." No shit.

Most Bee people I know keep their heads down and hope someone is going to figure out how to lead them somewhere they want to go. They have ideas, but they're not heard. Mama and Papa know best at The Bee.

(I have, however, heard that The Bee will soon (December) be launching a website much like I've long suggested, focusing on the downtown/midtown Grid as an entertainment destination. I can't help feeling a bit wistful that that would have been interesting to try helping out on, and that I would have been happy to contribute to that. Rick had other ideas.)

On balance, I think that Rick is a good guy who was in a job that didn't suit him. I told Janis Heaphy that a year ago, which may have been my undoing (I have a big mouth). But the problems with the place go a lot deeper than Rick's (and Joyce's) rather awkward and harsh management style, or the happy-face treacheries of middle management.

The rub is this: Working for an information company that doesn't communicate with itself - especially with the people who make it work - is painful for the people who still have to do it. It's cognitive dissonance. That shit will make you crazy.

Bee employees are getting paid, and many are still doing good work that we as a community NEED - but they're working in the dark at a company that appears to be heading right down the drain. They're working at a company where individuals are not honored, or even seen. This may just be a bump in the road - newspapers make VERY good profits - but no one seems to really believe that. More common is the sense that the end of newspapering as we've known it is very, very near. And no one is happy about that.

But the least Bee management can do is be straight with its employees, and treat them well. LEAD them. Inspire them. Rick couldn't do that, for a variety of reasons. Whoever takes over next - even if he or she is being brought in to give the staff a major haircut - needs to lead, not just "manage."

The employees of The Sacramento Bee deserve better than that.

Is self-promotion is the new New Journalism?

Well, no. Probably not.
But hey, I've been promoting other people my whole life, how's about a bit of sugar for Daddy?
That's right, my sensitive (or not-so) singer-songwriter side is going to get more of a workout than he's had in some time when I start six weeks as an "Artist You Should Know" at Marilyn's. Also known as, the guy who plays and sings during happy hour. Hey, it pays better than blogging!
I'll be on the stage between 5 and 7 p.m. every Thursday starting Nov. 1, through December 6. I'm off on Thanksgiving Thursday - that's the day of the big bike ride (more about THAT later).
I hope to have a few friends up to sing and play, so that it's not just me on my lonesome up there - though that is appropriate to a lot of the songs. So come down (The K Street Mall is NOT that scary!), buy a beer (you'll need something to cry in), buy ME a beer (ditto), and listen to me pour my heart out. Good times!