buying season decisions matter.

If there was a simple thing that you could do that didn’t cost you anything except maybe a few extra minutes of your time, yet could have a big impact on the financial wellbeing of your community, would you consider it?

When you make out your list for gift giving this year do me a favor, do us all a favor and make it a point to buy at LEAST one gift that is made in here America. If every one of us took a brief little diversion from the mall to find one gift to purchase made by anyone here in the states the impact would be very noticeable.

I know that the whole buy US made is a tough proposition. We can’t compete with Walmart and Sears and Target and Kohls. The fact is that China, Indonesia, Korea, etc… wages are soooo low, their factories don’t have to follow humane labor practices or worry about responsible environmental practices, and cranking out hundreds and thousands of the exact same thing (quality be damned), keeps the costs so low that it is hard to rationalize the cost difference. And for much of the things you buy it is hard finding US made alternatives.

But there are options out there. Aside from local music (which I know you support), do you realize how many artisan jewelers there are in your area? If you plan to buy a piece of jewelry for someone, DON’T go to Jared! Stay away from the mall. Find an art show in your area (they are happening everywhere every week) and find a hand made custom piece of art that will be distinct and says something about the thought you put into buying this gift?

Check out your local artisan community, artist guild or art associations. Look for local businesses that make things. Here in my little town there is an iron worker / artist who set up shop and I would say that 80% of the town hasn’t even bothered to find out what he does. Need iron railings, a light fixture, a gate, plant stand, a piece of art for your wall? How hard would it be to stop by and check it out on your way to the mall? Who knows what you can find.

My brother in law has a company that makes boat covers and towers not 30 minutes from Boston. That’s right – made here! You probably know that Michelle is a stained glass artist. We do a lot of art and gift shows this time of year. At these shows you can find locally made items like; jewelry (a lot of that), clothing, furniture, glass art of all kinds, pottery, iron work, art work, and even things in that “cute little gift” category. Shouldn’t some of that hard earned money of yours end up back in the pockets of people in this area?

I haven’t explored all the possibilities and am not an expert. Feel free to share any ideas you have. In fact I encourage you to post here, facebook, tweet anything you find that you think is worthy of someone checking out. Let us know it’s US made and where to find it.

We let our government and our corporations run our economy into the ground, ship our jobs over seas and turn the American Dream into a fantasy from days past. But we still have a little bit of power left. Just a hint of discretion with the money we spend and this season it important for everyone. It can change a life. It can change many lives. So man-up so to speak. Do this one simple thing. You’ll feel better. Happy holidays.

Time to cast my vote…

My take on politics has been out of bounds for my blog, until now. It just doesn’t seem right not to speak out.

Tomorrow at the polls the democrats are supposed to get their butts kicked, and they deserve it. They aren’t  delivering as promised, fell short on health care, haven’t regulated the financial markets, caved in to that stupid bail out crap, not a word on campaign reform, are letting our cities fail at an alarming rate, not much on jobs or corporate controls…  But that still doesn’t make me happy about the onrush of Wall Street financed Republicans.

I don’t know if it’s my age, or the frustration of the economy and its impact on my ability to make a living or if I am just waking up to what’s been going on around me, but I am getting more sick of our government, the media and direction of our society every day.

There is so much wrong with our political and economic reality it is hard to pick one thing to rail against. But with this unprecedented corporate funded election coming up I am appalled at the amount of traction the Republicans are getting from their “greed is good” message and feel the need to spell out why wall street is a major factor for the piss poor job market and diminishing “middle class” as they like to call it.

This isn’t a long dissertation because you either get it or you don’t. Wall Street control over our corporate environment has been a disaster of the highest proportion. It rewards behavior that is bad for companies, bad for employees, bad for our economic structure and bad for America. Since the loosening of SEC regulations, the ONLY thing that matters to any public corporation is appeasing the markets, which means cutting costs, growing the bottom and line and improving stock prices and dividends.

If you have to ask, “What’s wrong with that” then here is the short of it. Operating costs are a natural part of doing business (operating costs by the way includes salaries paid to US citizens), and while cutting waste and running efficiently is all good there is no balance or limits on how companies achieve their goals of ebidta and stock ratios. And since the incentive is so great for major holders, corporate officers and board members to up stock prices and earnings, they have little ability or control (and I would suggest concern) for the people that work for them, the customers they serve or the communities they inhabit. In a heartbeat, they ship jobs overseas, do business with over sea manufacturers and service providers and will sell a company or drop any investment that could mean job growth in order to satisfy the financial markets and get their payout.

Wall Street is about the money guys. It is not about jobs, communities, paying for essential services, pensions or retirement funds (unless they’re skimming money out of your investments with fees and their screwball derivatives), the environment, the economy (except their own fake economy) or anything that can really benefit you in the long run – unless you’re made of money.   

Of course the government is a key conspirator, failing us on SEC regulations, misaligned corporate incentives, harmful trade agreements, and generally establishing a business and market environment that not only enables this behavior but drives it. And now corporations are allowed to contribute whatever they want to campaigns to more directly influence the legislation they need to line their pockets while raping our own future.

After “the great depression” there was a big movement to reign in corporate power and limit the harmful behavior of the huge monopolies in favor of a competitive market that would enable smaller business and local concerns to compete. This worked well for a time but now that environment and mindset is gone. And we’re once again in a grave economic crisis with an inordinately small population getting filthy rich and using their wealth and power in ways that is hurting the rest of us and hurting our own economic stability as a country.

We used to do business differently here in the US. It mattered that our neighbors (and ourselves) had jobs. It was a problem that communist countries and dictatorships violate the very idea of freedom, human rights, decent working conditions and opportunities for individuals to earn a living. And the government was the guardian of that principal, not allowing us to do business with a country where 12 year olds are housed in factory dorms working 12 and 16 hour days for next to nothing. It’s good that we can’t do that here in the US, so how is it good that we allow companies here in the US to finance countries, giving them our money and buying products from them? And how much of that profit is used to terrorize the US?

It used to matter that farmers, the care takers of our food supply at one time, could farm healthy food and real nutrition. Now, corporations figure out how to cut every corner in developing something that barely resembles real food, void of nutrition and full of chemicals and hormones, because this crap is cheaper to produce and improves their bottom line. Of course that has nothing to do with the poor health of our children, or major increase in allergies and diseases like autism.

It used to make a difference if you were good to your employees and created a local economy that supported our cities and towns. You could actually work for a company for many years and there was a sense of loyalty. A company would provide pensions and opportunities to grow. Now it is up or out, strip away benefits, raises, opportunity so that the corporation can improve its bottom line. This means we hire cheap labor both here and overseas and that you will eventually have to be let go to make the bottom line better.

So sure, let’s vote for a bunch of corporate bought republicans who plan to make our city/state/country more “business friendly”. Just remember what they mean by business friendly and who is getting the friends with benefits arrangement here.

btw… For Gov of MA I will be casting my vote for independent Tim Cahill. At bare minimum I hope the two major parties get the message that there are a lot of us out here who won’t put up their bs anymore and they need to begin to work for the people of this state.

new life for my Hammond B-3 sounds…

This post could be a little too music equipment speak for some of you, but enough people comment on the old school Hammond sounds I use on my CD’s and gigs that you might just appreciate this. Besides – I am excited.

I know I have pretty decent organ sounds happening on my gigs. A few people have even commented how they loved that I used the B3 on my last cd (which I didn’t – I used synths and effects to get that sound). But anyone who ever spent time sitting next to a B3/Leslie rig or listening to bands that use this instrument would know the difference, probably right away.

I miss using the B-3 and the 122 Leslie (I don’t miss moving them but… ) that sound and feeling of playing that instrument is something I spend a lot of energy striving to recreate.  

Yesterday the box came to my house with something called the neo ventilator – an effect box made in Germany that Hammond B3 enthusiasts are beginning to get really excited about. My wife was laughing at me because I was like a little kid at Christmas. My keys were packed for a gig so I had to go break them out and set everything up. I was sure the unit was sound pretty good, but I couldn’t really hope it would really make me let go of that secret desire to strap the dolly around the B-3 and Leslie and haul them to my next show.

I would have written this yesterday but I couldn’t break away from this thing long enough to type. I just kept stripping effects off of every organ patch I could find and trying it out. I am floored.

Now I haven’t done any blindfold tests comparison against a live 122, but that feeling I would get on gigs where I missed having those big boxes (not the one that comes after moving them, the one that comes when your performing with them)… it has been replaced with more anticipation for a performance than I have had in a long time. I can’t wait to get this on stage! It’s inspiring. It’s engaging. It’s the best thing since sliced bread! (I actually slice my own bread but…) It really is a phenomenal effect.

Also, I want to thank Bruce at Ashby Solutions for the nice work he did on the footswitch and the stereo bypass upgrade, as well as the time he took to walk me through the options so I was confortable I was getting the right configuration. Simple stuff but sometimes I feel the days when customer service meant providing a service to your customer is gone. It is refreshing to do business with someone that takes pride in what they do and is committed to making sure the person they are doing business with walks away feeling great about the experience. Thanks Bruce.

So you’ll get a chance to hear this at the next show! And on the next CD. And for a long time to come should you stay interested.

Ode to Tonamo

Apparently enjoying the sun, this black cat with white markings on its nose and paws stretched out on the lawn. There are a few cats that prowl our neighborhood, stalking imaginary prey from the garden or eyeing the birds that visit our birdbath.  I was working on the patio in the unseasonably warm early fall weekend and didn’t even notice the visitor. Cats are stealth like that.

Coming back to the patio from a trip to the basement for some tools, I notice the cat checking out the water in the basin of our broken birdbath sitting on the ground. Something about this scene is odd. The cat doesn’t take off when I walk past but instead very slowly lays down. There are flies swarming all around him and his fur is pretty messed up.

I sit down next to the ‘lil guy and pet his head and neck. Skin and bones and no collar. I can feel his collar bone sticking out with no meat on it. I go into the house and get some water and grab some tuna we have in the fridge. My new buddy drinks just a little of the water but won’t touch the fish. By now my wife, Michelle is involved and brings out some crackers that might be easier for our friend to eat, but still nothing.

What brought this troubled soul to us is uncertain, but now I notice he is passing out. I call the animal hospital for some advice while Michelle gets some more water and a towel so we can move him to a patio chair. The hospital won’t give us any advice over the phone and tell us that if we bring him in we have to be prepared to pay for any care or this little guy will be put to sleep.

Michelle asks, “What can we call him?” It’s a little awkward not having a name but our friend can’t even stand up so a name will have to wait. How did he make it to the bird bath in the first place? Didn’t we see him skulking around the neighbor’s yard last night when we were eating dinner outside? But he doesn’t seem to be staying awake and is not drinking anything.

We have dinner guests coming soon and the last minute preparations and repairs I was doing have taken a back seat. This guy is in big trouble. Michelle goes looking for something like an eye dropper so we can feed some water to “our” cat. We’ve only known this pathetic fur ball for about 10 to 15 minutes by now but we’re both all out trying to help him. We can only find a Turkey baster kind of thing to use to feed him and he’s barely responding at all to being picked up. I have to blow in his face to be certain his eyelids will react.

Michelle gets the car keys and I wrap him up in a blanket. We grab a bottle of water, the turkey baster, leave the door open for our guests with a bottle of wine and we’re off. It’s about 3:30 on a Saturday and the closest open animal hospital is a little over 30 minutes away. This is the longest 30 minutes I can remember. While Michelle Andretti does a masterful job of battling Saturday’s rush hour backups I am trying to keep our friend awake.

He stops responding and I take the Turkey baster and try to feed him some water. He turns its head and struggles to swallow. Whew! I thought I lost him. During our trip I have to resuscitate him by gently squeezing his stomach and ribs until he takes a breath. A couple of times I use the Turkey baster to get a reaction.

I say to Michelle that I think I’m water-boarding this poor guy. Maybe we should call him Cheney. Not being a fan of the former VP, neither one of us thought that was a good name.

We get to the animal hospital after reviving him about a half dozen times and quickly blurt out to the emergency room person the few facts we have – he’s in big trouble! While my friend is being whisked off into a doctor’s care the attendant starts the admission process, my name, my pet’s name…

At first I say I don’t have name for him but it doesn’t feel right. He should have a name. He’s in there struggling for his life and the attendant starts typing “no name” into this guy’s record. I just couldn’t let that happen. The whole Cheney thing comes to mind but I can’t do that… and then it comes to me. His name is Tonamo I announce, and I spell it.

The whole waterboarding joke, as sick as it was leads my warped mind to Guantanamo Bay, and so he goes on record as being Tonamo. Soon we’re speaking with the Doctor about Tonamo. She can’t believe this guy was walking around at all. What a fighter. But they’re having trouble stabilizing him. He has no pulse, he’s dehydrated, emaciated, and a bunch of other words that I can’t pronounce or remember.

He’s not going to make it and he’s suffering. They’ll need to do a blood transfusion. He is still not breathing well. His body temperature is extremely low…The doctor tells us “He has about a 5% chance of survival…even with all the money in the world” They checked for a chip but he didn’t have one.  What do want to do – it’s up to us?

We agree to give him the lethal dose of anesthetic.  It was such a tough decision but there was really no other option other than let him suffer and die on his own. We went into the ICU to be with Tonamo when he got the shot. He passed about 4:20 on Saturday, September 25. We don’t know where he came from, whose pet he might have been before taking what seemed to be an extended journey to get to us. We never even took a picture of him.

We’ll ask around. It would be nice to let the owner know what happened. Who knows how they would feel about it but after letting the whole event sit for a couple of days both Michelle and I are certain we did the right thing. And she said a few times that she misses Tonamo. Weird. We only knew him for about an hour but I miss him too.

Tonomo, you were the best cat we ever had, well the only one, but still the best.

help me out and you might win an iPad

You’ve already done a lot for me by listening to my music and becoming a follower of mine on my blog. Perhaps this can be a way I can repay you. I am involved in a number of music community websites and one of them (New Groove Music) is putting on a contest.

If you go to my webpage on NewGrooveMusic (http://www.newgroovemusic.com/bill-champitto) and click on the “Enter Here Banner” you will be counted as a visitor to my page and will be entered for chance to win an iPad. Feel free to check out the site while you’re there – free downloads and some great music.

I could really use your endorsement so thanks for considering it. And good luck! Thanks.

Bill C

Pictures from the Stork

Looks like Keith is tripping... he IS having fun.
Nez knows how to play this room...
Demetrius sat in with us for a few songs one night... turned into a whole set. He is one talented performer.
The club is so small you have to take eight pictures in order to prove we were all in the same room on the same night. Here's one of me and Keith - Zach and Nez are behind me... they're there - really.

Here are some pictures I have from some of the Stork gigs we did.

The Drummers
The Drummers... you have to love it.
Bill, Zach and Nez.
That's why I love working with these guys. Nobody gives more.
This is Zach kicking it for one of his solos.
Here's Keith cradling his baby - We did a whole bunch of sets with the upright. Very fun.

The Stork Club, Boston… closed!

I just received notice that The Stork Club in Boston is shut down indefinitely. There is some kind of license issue with the club owners and the company who leases them the building and licenses. So the first thing to make note of is that there will be no shows as originally scheduled. This includes this Sat June 5 and next Sat June 12.

Not that the details of their business is a topic for online discussion but the five owners of the business were leasing the space and it’s liquor and entertainment license from the previous owner. Somewhere along the chain of licensing boards, apartment dwellers, building owners and associations this fantastic club has been shut down.

I almost wrote something about how much I enjoy this club but it seemed a little self-serving. So now here’s my list of why I love this place:

The Stork is a great music club. At 9:30 when the music starts, this little 88 seat club with the band right smack in the middle comes to life. If you’re there, you’re there for the music. So musicians, bring your A game because people are listening. So if you got it, they’ll let you know how much they appreciate your efforts.  Yes the food is good and I know a LOT of people go for dinner. The chef and kitchen are great. But at 9:30…

Everyone that works there is nice to you, responsive and friendly. I can’t count how many “clubs” in Boston have rude door men / bouncers with earphones and an attitude bigger than their necks, a wait staff that treat you like you’re interrupting their texting time, and bartenders who work very hard at ignoring you and mixing bad drinks in slow motion. From the door, to the staff to the owners, everyone was here to make sure you got what you needed and enjoyed yourself.

Comfortable, no pretense, nice people (in the club), no problems or fights, actual tables and chairs, oh what else…

It’s been my experience that most clubs attract a fairly narrow demographic, in age, race and even job sector.  It seems to be the nature of things. There are college clubs, clubs for 50 year olds, all white or all black (or choose your race), all seven figure professionals or all blue collar, gay or straight, a meat market or a couple bar. But like the South End in general, the best word I can use to describe the mix of people at The Stork on a Saturday night is eclectic. With absolutely no pretense this was one of the few places I’ve performed where you would truly see the breadth of our wonderful city represented.

I hope that this club reopens soon, either at the current location or at bigger one, although I think it should stay in the South End somewhere.

the wait…

The guy was nice and took control of the matter getting on the phone with the bank, then his boss, then his sister in law to tell her he would be late for dinner, then the President …

I’m selling my car – or trying to. There’s someone interested and he makes an offer. Before we close the deal I go to my files to find my Title so we can make the exchange and it’s not there. The ensuing two hour search turns up nothing. The next day I head out to the Registry with the paperwork I downloaded from the web for a copy of my title, 90 minutes before I have to start giving lessons for the day .

After waiting as long as I can, I have to leave before my number is called. 90 minutes is not enough time to do anything at the Registry. Next day, after just over 2 hours of waiting I finally get called to window 4. That sucked but I’m happy to be getting this behind me so I can sell the car.

I find out when I get to the window that they cannot give me the title because there is a lien on it. WHAT? A lien, from a bank that I never ever did business with. HUH?

“You have to get a lien release letter from the bank and bring it back, there’s nothing I can do for you now.” BUT? I UH… HOW? I mean…  “Is there anything else I can help you with?” (Don’t you love that question?)

I call this bank I never heard of and they never heard of me or my car. So I call the bank I originally had the loan with and they don’t have a lien on the car so they can’t help me. Another four or five phone calls and finally, four days into this someone from the mystery bank agrees there isn’t a lien on the car they never had a lien on to begin with and sends me a letter by mail – because a fax wouldn’t suffice since the letter needs to be notarized.

Week 2 . OK, so now I’m all set and heading back to the Registry having carved out two and a half hours of my day. This time the wait is short, just a little over an hour. I get to window 7, (lucky number?)  and hand over the hard earned paperwork.

“I don’t know if anyone has told you this (what???), but this is an electronic record and I can’t do anything with this paperwork.” It took every ounce of my being not to lose it but I must have looked like one of those cartoon characters where the steam blows the top of his head off and his eye pop out of their sockets, because the guy took a couple of steps back and I think was reaching under the counter for the panic button. My response started “I don’t know if anyone told you this but… and I as calmly as possible explain the situation.

The guy was nice and took control of the matter getting on the phone with the bank, then his boss, then his sister in law to tell her he would be late for dinner, then the President  … ok, I don’t know who he called but after a few calls he is able to remove the electronic record and turns to me… “Ok, we’re all set. That will be $25 please.” I take out the cash and he starts typing away at the computer with a vengeance. After a handful of thought filled pauses followed by more rapid and vigorous typing he declared, “You’re all set, here’s your receipt. The title will be mailed to your address on file.” 

“You mean you don’t give me the title here?”

“No, we can’t hand out Titles here, they have to be mailed. At least we got that lien thing straightened out. Next…..”

So I still haven’t sold my car and I don’t know how much longer this guy can wait. I really wish there was a way to get back the time I have to spend on this kind of crap.

Feature on a new music site, the Stork Club

Bill C Live at The Stork

I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support with our newest and now favorite venue – The Stork Club, Boston. Also, for those of you who participated in our Haiti releif efforts (along with all the other appeals you get daily) thanks again. All of the supplies we collected for Partners in Development have been brought to Port au Prince and already been used to treat people. Don’t hesitate to throw your support their way in the future (http://www.pidonline.org).  

I am being featured a new music site on the web this month called NewGrooveMusic.com (http://www.newgroovemusic.com). The site is sponsor supported meaning that it is free for you to download. We get paid for the downloads so it would be great for you to go and pick up downloads of my CD “Bounce” for free (and any other band you happen to like). Feel free to spread the word.

New Groove Music is also putting together a compilation of their favorite artists which will include one of my songs. This compilation will be distrubuted at two huge music conferences/festivals – SXSW (South by South West in case you didn’t know) and The Red Gorilla Music Festival. I am going to try to score a few of them for myself so maybe I can share a couple.

Also, for those of you near Boston, MA things have been heating up with the Stork Club and they have invited us back for two dates in February. We will be there on Friday, Feb 12 (Valentines Day weekend – if you dare to celebrate early) and Friday Feb 26. If you haven’t been there yet you MUST come and check out this place. If you make reservations for dinner you can reserve a good table. If you’ve been there already I know you’ll be back.  

Ciao’
Bill Champitto
Soul, Funkified Jazz
www.billchampitto.com
follow me me on twitter: twitter.com/billcbos
become a fan on www.facebook.com/billchampitto

Friday, Feb 12 and Friday, Feb 26 9:30 pm. start
The Stork Club http://www.storkclubboston.com604
Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118
This is a “free” show – no tickets/cover; our version of a stimulus package. You can make reservations in advance by calling (617) 391-0256. 

A show and a chance for real impact in Haiti

This week I connected through my friends at Delta with Gail Hull from Partners in Development in Ipswich, MA. Her group has been doing work in the developing countries near our borders since 1990. Gail is headed to Haiti on Saturday to check on her team that was in Haiti during the quake, and over the next few weeks various medical teams and supplies will be heading to Haiti as well. And for this real world commitment and giving, they need medical supplies and airline miles.

Saturday night we will be joined by some Delta Airline employees (present and past) who will, we know from past experience, be donating their own passes to get people that can really make a difference into Haiti. Anyone who can join us for this show is encouraged to bring medical supplies (the list is below) and also vouchers for your frequent flier miles that we can give to Gail for her teams to get back and forth.

I know you’ve had plenty of exposure and opportunity to provide support to Haiti. In fact, I need to thank everyone who joined us for our group text at last week’s show. We all text-ed “Haiti” to 90999 together. Each text donated $10 to the Red Cross. And this is a unique opportunity to do something that will have an immediate and lasting impact on peoples lives and enable Gail to do the work we all wish we could do.

Even if you can’t make our show (BUT YOU SHOULD!)… please check out this wonderful organization at http://www.pidonline.org and see if there is something you can do to help.

Saturday night is looking like it will be an exciting evening, with great music, great people and the opportunity to do something exceptional. I hope you can make it. The show details and the list of supplies that will help PID in their mission are listed below. Be well.

Bill C

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010
9:30 pm.
The Stork Club
http://www.storkclubboston.com
604 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA 02118

This is a “free” show – no tickets/cover; our version of a stimulus package. You can make reservations in advance by calling (617) 391-0256. 

Supplies needed include:
bandages
gauze
splits
casting supplies
antibiotic creams
hydrocortizone cream
alcohol prep pads
topical pain relief creams
antibiotics
pain relief (Tylenol/ibuprophen, adults and children)
cough medicine
eye wash
Visine
vitamins
Ciao’ Bill Champitto
Soul, Funkified Jazz
www.billchampitto.com
follow me on twitter: twitter.com/billcbos
 
become a fan on www.facebook.com/billchampitto