Eugeology #2 – Ratt’s Invasion of Your Privacy

The Eugeology Series is based on a list of hard rock albums that Eugene Sims has compiled and shared with me and Tim Beeman. (Read his description of the process here). We each write our own comments and then share them so that we can see where we agree, or just as likely, disagree. Compared to them I’m a know-nothing, which will be obvious with each review.

Eugene’s second pick was more familiar to me than his first, but I hadn’t heard any of these tracks in at least 20 years (yeah, I’m old) so it was definitely a blast from the past.

I wasn’t a big Ratt fan back in my mullet days, but they definitely had a few songs I got into and one of them was “Lay It Down” which is the third track on this album. Hearing it again all these years later I have to say it’s not as “hard” as I remember it. I really remembered it being more like Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood but it isn’t close to that song’s tempo or intensity. Still, it’s a solid tune and I was happy to hear it again.

“You’re In Love” was the other song I remembered and my opinion of that one hasn’t changed much. I kind of liked it back in the day, and I kind of liked it this time around.

A surprise was how much I liked the album’s 5th track, “Closer to My Heart.” I can almost guarantee you my younger self didn’t like it much – far too slow and melodic, but with my old man ears I really liked this one. There’s also a nice little guitar riff at the end that was a pleasant surprise.

Listening to the album a couple of times over the last week reminded me why I wasn’t a huge Ratt fan bag in the day: I just couldn’t get into Stephen Pearcy’s vocals. They always sounded whiny to me, and while it’s definitely a distinctive sound it just never did much for me. When you listen to a full album, versus one song here and there, it really comes through. The band is solid, but when the lead vocals don’t work for you it’s kind of hard to overcome.

Overall it’s a good album, and if you aren’t like me and like Pearcy’s vocals, then I think you’ll find it worth your time.I’ll be interested in reading Tim and Eugene’s take on this.

Now, I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next on Eugene’s list.

Links & Notes

Invasion of Your Privacy Wikipedia Page
Wheeler’s Dog (Eugene’s Blog)
Useless Things Need Love Too (Tim’s Blog)

Eugeology #1 – Mother Love Bone’s Apple

Over the last few years I’ve had the very good fortune of becoming friends with Tim Beeman and Eugene Sims, first as a guest on The Less Desirables podcast and then through the development of the Beer Dads Podcast. A little while back we were talking about music, our shared love of hard rock in particular, and Eugene offered to come up with a list of 50 albums that we could all listen to and share our opinions about. We’re calling it the Eugeology: Eugene’s List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems. Since both of them have more knowledge about this than I ever will, by at least a factor of 1,000, I feel very fortunate that they’ve allowed me to tag along for the ride.

Tim and Eugene both regularly review music, movies, TV shows and other forms of art on their respective blogs, so rather than try and write critiques as if I know what I’m doing I thought I’d take the only approach I really can: provide the unsophisticated opinions of a guy who always just listened to whatever was on the radio when he was growing up and whose vocabulary is limited to terms like, “Loved it”, “Really liked that guitar solo”, “That dude can really sing”, etc.

So without further ado here’s the first album Eugene served up: Mother Love Bone’s Apple.

First off I should say that before Eugene sent this I’d probably only heard a couple of tracks off of the album before, and I guarantee you I hadn’t heard any of them in at least 15 years. Thus this was a real treat for me because this is a helluva an album.

The band’s singer was a guy named Andrew Wood. Sadly, he died of a heroin overdose just before the album was released which is why anyone who’s not an aficionado (like yours truly) could be forgiven for not knowing about these guys. The album has 13 tracks, of which I’d guess the best known is Crown of Thorns– which makes sense to me because I think it’s the best track on the album. That’s not to say there aren’t other contenders though, because I think you could make an argument for Holy Roller and Star Gazer as well.

It truly is a tragedy that Wood passed away before he could enjoy what was surely going to be an extraordinary career. Some of his vocals reminded me of Axl Rose, others reminded me a bit of Chris Cornell. His voice was distinctive and I most enjoyed the tracks where he was able to show it off, including the three listed above.

The rest of the group were no slouches either, with two of them – Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament – going on to form Pearl Jam with Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready. If you’re a fan of the Seattle music scene, or really any of the early 90s rock scene, then you’ll love this album.

Honestly, it’s mind-blowing that I haven’t listened to this album until now, but I’m on my third pass through as I type this and it won’t be the last. I might be slow, but I work hard to catch up.

Can’t wait to see what Eugene serves up next.

Notes:
Mother Love Bone-Apple Wikipedia page
Useless Things Need Love Too (Tim’s Blog)
Wheeler’s Dog (Eugene’s Blog)

Family Feud

If you’ve been paying attention to North Carolina politics recently, and a lot of people around the country have, then you probably know that Democrat Roy Cooper narrowly beat incumbent Republican Pat McCrory in the governor’s race despite almost every other Republican who ran in a statewide race won handily, including PEOTUS Trump. You also probably know that Republicans continue to enjoy a super majority in the House and Senate. What that means is that the legislature should be able to overcome any veto that Governor-elect Cooper throws at them.

Given that backdrop it seemed strange that the legislature, and current Gov. McCrory would be so aggressive in stripping the office of significant amounts of power before Cooper entered the picture in January. Why risk alienating the many unaffiliated voters who voted Republican by making what appears to be a “sour grapes” power grab? After all, if you can do what you want without fear of a veto stopping you why not just let the man assume his office and beat him fair and square at every turn for the next four years?

The answer to that question is being made vividly clear at the special session that was called today with the stated purpose of repealing the controversial HB2 law that has negatively impacted the state in many ways, including economically. What’s being called a “rural faction” of the GOP is trying to prevent the repeal despite an apparent deal with the city of Charlotte to do just that if the city would in turn repeal its ordinance that instigated the push for the law in the first place. This rift within the Republican Party has existed since the party took control of the legislature a couple of sessions ago, but it’s been fairly well hidden from the general public. Until now.

In the past the rift within the NCGOP has been perceived as being between “culture conservatives” and “business conservatives” but in reality it’s as much about rural versus urban. Without a united front the GOP could struggle to overcome vetoes on any issues that aren’t slam dunks across the GOP ideological spectrum, thus it is in the party leadership’s best interests to limit the governor’s power as much as possible. That way even if they don’t get everything they want, they’ve severely curtailed his administrative powers and thus they don’t HAVE to get everything they want.

And then there’s the special election that the legislators face in 2017 once a court-mandated redistricting is complete. That could result in a decline in GOP-held seats which, in turn, could erode the party’s number of seats to the point where they lose the super-majority. That makes trimming the Governor elect’s feathers now a pretty logical thing to do from their standpoint.

The result of all this is that we are set up for a very aggressive agenda from the GOP for the 2017 long session. They will want to finish what they’ve started with this fall’s special sessions, particularly their education “reforms” and their push to curtail the power of the Department of Environmental Quality. With Cooper neutered they’ll have an easier path to getting that done if all they have to do is horse-trade within their own caucus. Things could be much more complicated for them in 2018, so they’re going to get going while the getting’s good.

Buckle up folks. 2017’s gonna be a wild ride.

The views and opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect the positions, or views, of my employer, my family or anyone else.

 

Gown Towns Thrive

Yesterday I was in a meeting with several people involved with local real estate development and they were asked what the top business priority is for their county (Guilford, NC) going into 2017. Their response, as has been the case for every year in recent memory, was that job growth will continue to be the most critical issue for their businesses. In the course of answering the question quite a few of these people referenced other cities in North Carolina that seem to be thriving – Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte and “even Wilmington” – were the names I remembered. What stuck out, to me, was that no one mentioned Winston-Salem.

Now let me state up front that I’m not prepared to offer any statistics that compare the jobs situation in Winston-Salem to those in Guilford County’s two cities, Greensboro and High Point. But I will say that if you were to poll most people who pay attention to business in the region, they will tell you that Winston-Salem’s economic recovery from the nuclear annihilation that has befallen this region’s traditional economy is further along than its neighbors to the east. For some reason, though, leaders in Greensboro and High Point seem to ignore what’s going on just 30 miles to their west (and in all fairness the reverse is also true), and as a result no one seems to know why there’s a difference between these two very similar neighbors.

A personal theory is that there are a lot of complex and interwoven factors at play here, but one big one is the presence of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The university, and in particular it’s medical school, has been a partner with the city and local companies as the city moved away from it’s traditional tobacco manufacturing base toward a “knowledge economy” with a niche in the area of medical research. Starting over 20 years ago Winston-Salem’s civic and business leaders recognized the need to re-position the city’s economy and Wake Forest played a significant role in those plans. The results are plain to see in the city’s Innovation Quarter, which is booming and is primed for exponential growth over the next 10-15 years.

30 miles to the east Greensboro actually has more schools, including NC A&T and UNCG, but they don’t seem to have had the same effect on the city’s economy. Yet. We’re starting to see much more activity there, including the Union Square Campus that recently opened and is already bearing economic fruit for the city and there’s PLENTY of potential for even more growth. As long as the city’s leaders continue to keep their eye on the ball there’s a very good chance this will happen, as it has in other college towns.

This article in the Wall Street Journal has a lot of data showing how cities in the US that have strong colleges, especially those with research programs, have recovered from the decline in the manufacturing sector over the last two decades. Here’s an excerpt:

A nationwide study by the Brookings Institution for The Wall Street Journal found 16 geographic areas where overall job growth was strong, even though manufacturing employment fell more sharply in those places from 2000 to 2014 than in the U.S. as a whole…

“Better educated places with colleges tend to be more productive and more able to shift out of declining industries into growing ones,” says Mark Muro, a Brookings urban specialist. “Ultimately, cities survive by continually adapting their economies to new technologies, and colleges are central to that.”…

Universities boost more than just highly educated people, says Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. The incomes of high-school dropouts in college towns increase by a bigger percentage than those of college graduates over time because demand rises sharply for restaurant workers, construction crews and other less-skilled jobs, he says.

And here’s the money quote as it relates to local economic development efforts:

Places where academics work closely with local employers and development officials can especially benefit. “Universities produce knowledge, and if they have professors who are into patenting and research, it’s like having a ready base of entrepreneurs in the area,” says Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser.

Let’s hope our local leaders take full advantage of what our colleges have to offer, for all of our benefit.

A Letter to Some of My Recently Smug Conservative Friends

Dear Recently Smug Conservative Friends,

I get it. You’re feeling pretty satisfied. After eight years under the reign of progressive terror that defined the Obama era your time has come. The progressive agenda, what with its political correctness, high taxation, misguided health care reform and redistribution of wealth to the seemingly lazy and undeserving is finally being confronted by reality. Almost as importantly, those friends and family who for almost a decade have smugly derided your conservative values as antiquated and out of touch now have to face the reality that there are a LOT of people out there who think like you do. Together you’ve elected the most improbable candidate ever, Donald Trump, to the office of the President of the United States, and on top of that have returned a Republican House and Senate and an almost unbelievable number of state legislatures and governors office to the red side of the aisle. Yep, your side has spoken and loudly proclaimed that conservatism is thriving in these United States.

You’re elated and, yes, feeling a little smug. After suffering through ten years of liberal policies and holier-than-thou attitude, the place you call home suddenly feels more like your own neighborhood. And honestly how can the liberals seem so surprised that Trump would win after putting forward a candidate who lies, deceives and acts so,so, so pompous? Yes, I get it. In fact I’m more than sympathetic because I too got tired of being told by progressives that they knew better than me, that their policies were the One Way to make our country great. I can only imagine how tempting it must be to turn up your nose at them and declare that this country has spoken and it’s gonna be run your way and they can just stick their ideas where the sun don’t shine.

But here’s the problem. Many of you are making a grievous mistake by thinking that the election of a highly flawed, and I would argue dangerous, candidate is a free pass to completely dismiss the more liberal citizens in our midst. I’m not talking about your Facebook posts deriding liberals for backing “Killary” (which by the way is pretty juvenile), or your insistence that liberals just accept Clinton’s loss and stop whining about it after you spent eight years whining about Obama, or your calls to put protesters in jail. Those displays of public disagreement are as American as apple pie and a cherished right we should always defend.

What I’m talking about is your knee jerk reaction to those who voted for Clinton. You call them socialists, free loaders, hippies and idiots. You seem to think they all belong to some monochromatic blob of citizens incapable of critical thought or having nuanced belief systems. That argument would hold much more water if it weren’t for the fact that so many people DID vote for Clinton. There’s just no way that many people can hold the same worldviews; there just aren’t that many people who are card-carrying members of the ACLU or other rights groups, attend the same community organizations or read the same magazines. But, it’s safe to say that all of those people had one thing in common  and that is that they felt that, for whatever reason, electing Donald Trump was the worst choice they could make to better our country.

And there lies the rub for you, my smug conservative friends. You can’t come to terms with the fact that so many people probably voted for Clinton not because they liked her, but because they really thought Trump would be the ruin of this country. You can’t seem to understand that they truly believe his rhetoric is inflaming already tense relations between people of different races and creeds, that his stated policy positions could assault our civil rights in previously unimaginable ways and that his temperament could threaten our international relations, and that for those reasons and more he is not the change agent we need in Washington. And, tragically, you fail to empathize with those people and instead judge them in a way that you rightfully reject when liberals judge and label your and your fellow conservatives.

So my request of you, my conservative friends, is this. Please harness your smugness and glee and use that energy to work towards effecting change that truly helps our society. Rather than sitting and passing judgment on those who voted for Clinton, in part because they weren’t offered a better choice by your side, try to understand why they voted for her and how you can work with them to find ways to address those issues. Please note that I’m not talking about the fringe elements who aren’t interested in dialogue, but rather the group of people who likely live right next door or are related to you.

So why am I writing to your my conservative friends, and not my liberal friends? I have a whole other set of arguments for them which I will make in a separate letter. So feel free to enjoy your win at the polls, but please be the bigger person by refraining from sitting in judgment and find a way to bridge the divide with the liberals in your life. That will be the first step in curing what ails us.

Best regards,
Jon

A Letter to Some of My Pissed Off Liberal Friends

Dear Pissed Off Liberal Friend,

I get it. You can’t believe your fellow citizens have somehow managed to elect Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States. Sure, you’ve been disappointed by their misguided decisions and beliefs in the past, but nothing on this scale. How could they do it? How could they not see what a morally depraved, narcissistic and dangerous man he is? How could they possibly think it’s a good idea to elect him to the most powerful office in the world? Put simply, how could they be so wrong?

You’re angry and scared, and understandably so. You feel like your country has been taken from you, that the place you call home has become dangerous and no longer reflects your values. Yes, I get it. In fact I’m more than sympathetic because I too believe we’ve elected the most unqualified and dangerous man for the office in my lifetime and probably the history of the country, but since I’m not a historian I can’t say that confidently.

But here’s the problem. Many of you are actually making the problem worse by not exhibiting any understanding for the views of those who voted for Trump. I’m not talking about protesting outside of Trump’s buildings, or booing our VP-elect at a play, or shining a “F*&k Trump” display on the side of a building (although I do think that’s sophomoric and counterproductive). Those displays of public disagreement are as American as apple pie and a cherished right we should always defend.

What I’m talking about is your knee jerk reaction to those who voted for Trump. You call them racist, misogynistic, homophobic and idiotic. You seem to think they all belong to some monochromatic blob of citizens incapable of critical thought or having nuanced belief systems. That argument would hold much more water if it weren’t for the fact that so many people DID vote for Trump.There’s just no way that many people can hold the exact same worldviews; there just aren’t that many people who are card-carrying members of the KKK or other hate groups, attend the same churches, or read the same magazines. But, it’s safe to say that all of those people had one thing in common and that is that they felt that, for whatever reason, electing Donald Trump was the best choice they could make to better our country.

And there lies the rub for you, my pissed off liberal friends. You can’t come to terms with the fact that so many people probably voted for Trump not because they liked him, but because they felt that despite his deplorable behavior he still offered the best chance to change a system they see as not addressing their needs. You can’t seem to understand that they believe he, a nasty, thin-skinned purported billionaire, is the closest thing we have to a populist candidate who can begin addressing the needs of the middle class. You refuse to accept that someone who voted for Trump isn’t a knuckle-dragging-white-supremacist-wife-beater, but is actually someone who wants to shake up the powers-that-be enough that they might do something to help them. And, tragically, you fail to empathize with those people and instead judge them in a way that you rightfully reject when conservatives judge and label you and your fellow liberals/progressives.

So my request of you, my liberal friends, is this. Please harness your anger and use that energy to work towards effecting change that truly helps our society. Rather than sitting and passing judgment on those who voted for Trump, in part because they weren’t offered a better choice by your side, try to understand why they voted for him and how you can work with them to find ways to address those issues. Please note that I’m not talking about the deplorables who are certainly part of his base – the racists, fascists, anti-Semites who have latched onto his campaign – but rather the very large group of people who likely live right next door or are related to you.

So why am I writing to you my liberal friends, and not my conservative friends? Well, for one I have a whole other set of arguments for them which I will make in a separate letter. For another I have listened to you preach acceptance, open mindedness and civility and so I implore you to practice that preaching. Feel free to be angry, but be the bigger person by refraining from sitting in judgment and find a way to begin to bridge the divide with the conservatives in your life. That will be the first step in curing what ails us.

Best regards,
Jon

 

Winston-Salem as a Case Study

Since moving here in 2004 I’ve found Winston-Salem to be a fascinating study in how to revive a city that had been hit by multiple economic tsunamis in recent decades. It seems that others have taken notice, including a writer who penned a piece for the Christian Science Monitor about how a few US cities can teach the country a little something about democracy (h/t to my Mom for sending me the article). You can find the full article here (second story down), but here’s the segment focused on Camel City:

Winston-Salem, N.C., lost 10,000 jobs in 18 months after R.J. Reynolds moved its headquarters to Atlanta and several other homegrown companies failed in the late 1980s. It was the first of several waves of job losses as the city’s manufacturing base collapsed. Civic leaders chipped in to create a $40 million fund to loan start-up capital to entrepreneurs, hire staff for a local development corporation, and fund signature projects. One of them was the renovation of a 1920s Art Deco office tower into downtown apartments.

This activity helped spur Wake Forest University’s medical school to undertake an ambitious project to create a research park in former R.J. Reynolds manufacturing buildings next to downtown. The school has filled 2 million square feet of empty factories with high-tech companies and world-class biomedical researchers. An adjacent African-American church has turned 15 acres in the area into lofts, senior housing, and businesses. Downtown has attracted $1.6 billion in investment since 2002.

Now people gather to sip coffee, attend concerts, or take yoga classes in a new park in the shadow of the looming chimneys of a former Reynolds power plant. The plant itself is being repurposed into a $40 million hub of restaurants, stores, laboratories, and office space. Students, researchers, and entrepreneurs mingle in the halls and atria of all the former factory buildings, creating the kind of synergetic environment the innovation industry now craves.

Our very own Jeff Smith, of Smitty’s Notes, provides the money quote:

“It wasn’t one person or thing that made it all happen; it was everyone from the grass roots to the corporate leaders coming together,” says Jeffrey Smith, who runs Smitty’s Notes, an influential community news site. “We realized it would take all of us to get this hog out of the ditch.”

Much of the foundation for this renewal had been laid by the time I moved here with my family in 2004, but community leaders have continued to do what’s necessary to keep building upon it. For my job I get to spend a significant amount of time in neighboring Greensboro, a city that is slightly larger but quite comparable to Winston-Salem, and it’s been interesting to see how the two cities have proceeded from their respective economic crises. Winston-Salem has a lot of momentum, and it’s redevelopment seems to be benefiting from consistent collaboration among its community leaders, including elected officials as well as corporate and civic leaders. Greensboro, on the other hand, is making progress but it seems to be in more fits and starts; its progress seems to occur in spite of local leaders’ lack of cooperation and collaboration.

Sure, Winston-Salem has its problems and leaders sometimes disagree on how to proceed, but for the most part its leaders have shown how to lead a community out of the ditch and back on the road. Hopefully we keep it going for decades to come.