Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabaggers "are gonna need a Dick Armey"...

Let's see how many dick jokes one cable newsman can pepper into a story about a tea-tossing tempest against "tyranny". I counted 19, not including the banner reading "teabagging mouthpieces" or the two tea bags in the cup on the green screen.

And he is absolutely right. It is taxation with representation. While I completely support these people's right to assemble, I do take issue with their failed metaphor, and their logic, especially considering the Bush Admin. and their spend now ask questions later policies. This is what happens when History and Civics aren't emphasized in the public schools. There's only 250 years of US History to go through, people. It's not like this is Britain, Scandinavia, or the Mid East. How embarrassing.

Video via Cajun Boy in the City

Monday, March 30, 2009


I've become addicted to this podcast. It's fantastic, engrossing, and it makes cleaning so much more tolerable. This program is not on our NPR affiliate yet, but it is pledge week, maybe we all can make a request while making a pledge. Tim Holt, have you heard this program yet? It's right up your alley.

Because you know you're miserable...

Do you work in advertising? Do you hate your job with every last breath in your body? Would you rather eat dog shit than have to listen to another client say they "just don't get" your proposal? Have you developed a drug/alcohol problem because your CD is a moron who continually brings you last minute video projects that are due in five or six hours? Is your AD currently suing the City because his branding campaign not only incensed half of the city, but wasted over $200,000 tax payer dollars and so they rightly terminated their contract and shopped the work (and his slogan) out to the competition? "You have no idea"? Really? "Capitol of the Border"? Does that mean that we're capitol of violence, corruption, consumption, and Maquilla slave labor wages? Do you want to commit hari kari every time you see those Western Refining ads touting their environmental record because your involvement in that ad campaign assists that company in spewing dioxin into our air and directly onto the residents of the Ascaraté neighborhood? Are you the asshole with Glass Beach branding who can't sleep at night because you insulted every citizen in El Paso with your fucking racist branding presentation? Do you regret going to school for graphic design or video production only to work a shitty freelancing job that pays a fraction of a fraction of what the agency is charging their client?

Allow me to suggest a blogger who shares your deep disgust for the industry. Mark the Copyranter is a brilliant, bitter bastard, and I love his blog. Stroll through the archive and into a universe of stupidity, terrible taglines, and, occasional insightful dissection of the industry.

Full disclosure: Mark linked to my Medium is the Massage post from a couple weeks ago. He just loves shit like that, so if you have any eye popping local ads, send him tips.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The cheap will inherit the earth

In response to this fucking ridiculous article in the New York Times which perfectly outlines how years of prosperity make people completely incapable of fending for themselves and putting anyone elses' suffering into perspective, I have started a food blog. It contains recipes designed to feed a family of six with leftovers for less than $20 for the entire meal. Some meals are less than $10, some are $5. When the economy has finally completely sunk into the gutter and these foodies are foraging for Splenda packets and stray Cheetos, I plan on starting a survivalist themed blog, because even then, I'm sure they will find time and money to hang out at a café and bitch. Topics will include hanging and gutting a deer, what kind of compound bow is best for use on Elk, using ergot fungus on your rye crop to your advantage, and how to weave your own feminine napkins.

PS: An actual quote, "[Kim's meal] shouted 'fiesta,' tugging us south of the border..." Tomato soup with cilantro is not "South of the Border", asshole. Pozolé is. Throw some fucking hominy and chile colorado in there, and then we'll talk. How the hell did carnitas and tomato soup cost you that much, lady? Were the swine nursed by Swedish wet nurses until their first birthday? Were they fed a strict diet of creamed niblets once they were weaned? Christ.

Image via Flikr

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


FIrst you erect that disgusting testament to Xenophobia- "the Border Wall", now you're spraying a neurotoxic herbicide to get rid of an invasive species of water plant to improve your line of sight? Are you people nuts???!!! Line of sight my ass! How about some fucking FORESIGHT?! Here is data from an environmental factsheet regarding imazapyr, which will be sprayed on tall river grasses along Laredo and Nuevo Laredo via prop plane.

"The active ingredient, imazapyr, is marketed in compounds by the trade names,
Chopper, Arsenal, and Assault. Imazapyr is a non-selective broad-spectrum
systemic herbicide, absorbed by the foliage & roots, with rapid transfer to the
xylem & phloem to the meristematic regions, where it accumulates and causes
disruption of protein synthesis. This leads to interference in DNA synthesis and
cell growth of the plants. The result of exposure is death of new leaves.1 It was
first registered in the United States in 1984.

"Toxicity to Humans: The primary route of potential harm would occur during the
application process. If contact occurs, imazapyr is irritating to the eyes and can
cause rashes, redness and swelling at the site of exposure. The amount of the
product needed to produce an acute effect is relatively large (LD50= >5000 mg/kg
& LC50= <100. Imazapyr is not a carcinogen and has no known reproductive

"Risks to the Environment:
Imazapyr by its nature does not distinguish between the plants it kills. Thus, rare
and endangered plants are particularly at risk from exposure to the herbicide.
The EPA has stated that “jeopardy” will occur to terrestrial and aquatic plant
species from the use of Arsenal.2
In soils, imazapyr is persistent. The EPA reports that the half-life of imazapyr is
17 months.3 If applied to soil, imazapyr is expected to have very high mobility
and thus is likely to contaminate water. Studies have detected imazapyr in
surface as well as groundwater. If released into water or if the chemical moves
through soils and finds its way to water, imazapyr is not expected to adsorb to
suspended solids and sediment based upon the adsorption coefficient. Studies
on the effects of imazapyr to macroinvertebrate communities did not yield
effects.4 This chemical is not expected to have impacts to salmon species.

"Breakdown Products
One primary breakdown product of Imazapyr is quinolinic acid which is irritating
to the eyes, respiratory system, and skin. It is also a neurotoxin and can cause
symptoms similar to those in Huntington’s chorea such as loss of coordination
and trembling."

Poisoning the water supply. THAT'S THE WAY TO GET THEM MEZCANS! Oh, you forgot that most South Texans/Northern Mexicans get their drinking water from the RIo Grande? You forgot about the wildlife, farms and PEOPLE who could be sickened by this herbicide with the trade name "ARSENAL"??? And what about down stream run off? Couldn't you just MOW THE FUCKING PLANTS? Fuck you. Fuck you very much.

Image Via NPT/Frontera Norte Sur

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Sins we do, two by two, are paid for one by one...

This anonymous proverb comes up every time I think of Dick Cheney. Please, someone at the UN, or any other party nation to the statute- I pray of you to grow a pair and send this man to the International Criminal Court. Please, someone in Congress (Silvestre? Are you out there listening?), grow a pair and investigate this man. You didn't impeach him when it really counted- when Beelzebub himself was veep- but you just cannot ignore charges like THIS. Democrats- you have a majority in the House and the Senate. Do something with it for God's sake. Republicans in congress, especially you "good Christians" and fellow LDS members (Brother Hatch- I'm talking to you), here are a few scriptures to remind you of your Christian duties. Do I need to remind you that torturing detainees and state sponsored assassination makes Jesus cry?

I guess I do. Here are some passages about justice:

David reminds you: "Who shall ascend into the Hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul into vanity, nor sworn deceitfully..." [Psalm 24:3-4] Yeah, and David should know. This is good for a politician for so many reasons, but in this instance, will you walk into retirement with clean hands if you don't do something about this kind of blatant disregard for the law and human life?

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." [Matt 7:15-20] You were hired to be the protectors of the Law. You are LEGISLATORS. It is your JOB TO JUDGE THIS MAN. It is YOUR JOB to remove the sick tree from the orchard. Do your job. That is what a balance of power is all about.

And of course, for Brothers Hatch and Reid: "And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they are cut off; also by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever." {2 Nephi 2:5]

I could spend hours going through the Bible to point out passages which out Republicans as hypocrites, but I don't have time. And this is not a partisan issue. If you care about justice. If you are a protector of the weak. If you give a shit about YOUR OWN liberties. This man needs to be brought to account before the country whose laws he corroded and whose people he has shamed.

You have a job to do, ladies and gentlemen. You are supposed to protect this country from constitutional gangrene, and you have failed. If you want to redeem yourselves as the protectors of the law, do the job we elected you to do. You have let this man corrupt the system in a way Nixon only had wet dreams about. Please, redeem yourself by bringing this man to justice.

Oh, and CNN? How worthless are you? You all need to be sent back to basic High School Journalism 101 classes. You people are so unbelievably spineless.

CORRECTION: upon further inspection, the quote is attributed to Rudyard Kipling.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An old article- unedited, sort of

This was the original edited version of my interview with Al Jourgensen. You can read the published version here. I think you'll find the original a little better. It's a little more vulgar and keeps Al's round about train of thought intact. This version was the final, as approved by his exacting, totally overworked, and hopefully appreciated wife/manager/accountant, Angie.


In His Own Words:
Al Jourgensen
By Jenni Burton


Now that I got your attention…

I would like to introduce you to Al Jourgensen. For those of you who are Ministry fans, you know one Al: the crazy drug and alcohol fueled musician who made the 90’s a better time for us all. You know the Al who had the Depends endorsement (go to Uncle Pauly’s and buy him a drink and he MAY tell you that story). You know the Al with the liver of steel and the throat of bile. Okay, yeah, I know that Al, too, but anyway. To commemorate Ministry’s final US show, ever, in Chicago Sunday the 11th, I would like to introduce my readers to the Al that I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the last six years. As some of you may know, my husband has worked with Al professionally several times over the last seven years, and in doing so, I met Al, the band, and his wife Angie. I was able to sit down with him for a couple of hours right before they loaded up for tour and he’s full of surprises. Read: Al on parenting, Al on animal husbandry, Al on gardening, Al on incest, Al on strip clubs, Al on Real Estate, Al on tour, Al on El Paso, and of course Al on music. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

“[Rehearsal’s] been crazy. People quitting, one guy, our guitar tech, I think he’s dead now…

[Tour Manager: No, you didn’t hear? He called me. He made it to Phoenix. He was in the Hospital. He’s doing better. He had a bleeding ulcer. He just wasn’t ready for this tour…]

“We keep a diary, ‘Dear diary, Day 28…’ no today’s 29. No, every day there’s some kind of weird crap going on.

“You know, I’ve got my daughter living with me now…She’s 22, now, she lives in El Paso, right around the corner from us, we’ve got those two houses there. She’s banging this singer in a local band. It’s grossing me out, the whole thing. I told him, ‘If you guys fuck and you don’t wear a rubber I’m going to beat your ass. I don’t want some two-headed baby with rabies comin’ out of you guys. Put it in her ass, put it in her mouth, or wear a rubber…’ I sat them both down. That was like the ‘father talk’. Christ. They were horrified. They had eyes, like, [gestures] that big.

“She loves it here, yeah. [She moved here] a couple of months ago- a month ago. She’s watching our house while we’re gone. Taking care of the rest of the animals. We’re taking our dogs with us, but the rest: the cats and the birds and whatever the hell else we’ve got. I wanted to take home that white dog that was out there [in the front yard of a the new studio at Sonic Ranch]… ‘Angie…can I have this?’

“ ‘No! No more strays!’ Like an idiot, I’ve been feeding it and now I’m starting to like the thing. It just kind of freaks me out. It’s a great dog. But the last tour, Raven, when he was alive, brought home this emaciated bulldog. A white bulldog that was shitting blood out its ass, and blood was comin’ out its nose, and I felt horrible for it, so I brought it to the vet - it’s a week before tour- we’re scrambling around trying to find a place for it, so we just said, ‘Fine Raven. It’ll live at our house.’ Because Raven was like, ‘No, no. I’ve got people who will want this. It’s a pure bull dog.’ It was. So it wound up living at our house, but on tour, it ended up jumping the fence and bit somebody. Me and Angie had to pay a thousand bucks. It didn’t bite a person. It got in a fight with a pit bull and kicked its ass. So they charged us a thousand bucks for- their pit bull was dead or something. And we were like, Jesus, we can’t keep this thing, so we found it- I don’t even know how this happened. We were in LA after the tour…you’ve been down Melrose, right? You know the store Necromancer, it’s the voodoo punk rock shop. So I’m in there and the lady’s like, ‘Yeah, I had two bull dogs and one of them just died and I’m really looking for a bull dog.’ So now this thing’s gone from completely emaciated and shitting blood to being completely pampered, with a pink diamond collar, living on Melrose guarding the shop…

“Tommy [Victor] quit after I beat him with a dead skunk…Of course, I beat him with it, and then I threw it at his head. The day his girlfriend got here, the last day of rehearsals, both of them are sleepin’ and I just break in and hit them with this dead skunk. He got pissed. He went to Fabens and pouted for a while, and came back. I literally have it written down. I think it’s back at the house with Angie. ‘Day 12- ate a worm from the Mezcal bottle. Day 16- people quit, people died, people got hit with’- It’s been nuts man. But we sound good...

“That Europe trip [a long story involving a bus going through the Alps during a heat wave without air conditioning, breaking down, driving limos through Scotland while the entire band got car sick- Justin has it all on DV tape] was a nightmare. That was a fucking nightmare. That was FUBAR. That was the definition of FUBAR, but we survived it. So this isn’t bad. Tommy calls this Ministry Ultra-Lite, because there’s only been one death so far…the guy’s in the hospital- he had to be helicoptered out of here…”

I asked Al the question that I’m sure was on your minds: Why didn’t you book a gig in El Paso?

“This town is screwy. It’s like, you have the Coliseum, you’ve got the Haskin’s Center and 101 is the next thing down. [What about Club Blu?] That’s too small too. We’re right in this middle section between huge places and clubs, so the town has to have something to accommodate that. So…we’re doing the Sunshine again in Albuquerque- it’s the closest we’re getting here- and that’s like 1700 I think. We’re right in that 1700-2000 range. Some cities, like 2500.

“We called [Abraham Chavez] and they said no. We called them and they said, “No, we’ve never heard of you.” We tried to get a show here- we really did.

“You know Jenni, I’m actually happy that we’re not playing, only because I really like my anonymity here. Nobody knows who the hell I am. I mean, there’s a few of you guys that know I’m a maniac and all this stuff, but I basically just go to Uncle Pauly’s, or Lloyds, and go home. It’s close. It’s a few blocks away. Nobody really gives a shit that it’s Ministry or whatever. I’m pretty much left alone, ya know? I like that. I don’t need- God, if I lived in LA I’d be puking right now. It’s just like, everybody knows who I am or thinks they know who I am. I can’t walk down the street without seeing five people that look like me- exactly dressed and shit. I like El Paso and its anonymity…”

For the last three or so years, Al has been using his garage on the Westside as a recording studio, and has housed the bands who record their in their home. Al will soon be moving to La Mesa, NM where he has plans to build a studio complex to accommodate the acts who record under his label Thirteenth Planet.

“I have it- I have the pamphlet…Wait till you see the inside. The guy built it by hand- it’s this weird sculptor guy that got a job in Galveston working for Exxon to build sculptures for Exxon- all their major offices. And the guy hates corporations- and they’ve already paid him in full, so he’s building all these perverted-like a giant steel cock going into a mouth, and shit. They don’t even know…Me and Angie were just freaked out…It’s three acres. We’re building a band compound here with a full studio. I need to talk to Justin’s dad because I want him to build the live room like he did over there [at the Ranch]. I want it the exact same dimensions as Tony’s big room…

“We’re building a four-bedroom band compound with a live room- like their main room over there- like the back lot. And then the garage is going to be like my little mix studio. I’m buying another SSL board. I’m going to have two studios going, and this place is unbelievable. The guy built it like a Goudi place. There’s not a single square room on the entire premises- it’s all curved…it’s crazy- it’s a crazy place. It’s in New Mexico… It’s upper valley, basically…

“We’re stayin’. That’s it. Isa- this guy that works with the label- his dad built all those rock walls for the City. He’s been doing it for 30 years. The entire city. So he’s doin’ like a 14 foot wall around all three acres of the compound…That’s what I’m working for right now. I found my place. It’s my last tour. There’s no zoning out there. We can drill our own well. We can go solar. We can go wind. It’s a big deal. We’re completely off the grid…

“Right now, it’s completely a buyer’s market. In LA- if you can even find three acres- that’s a $7-10 million compound. It’s insane…

“You know the singer of The Cocks [The Revolting Cocks] moved here. The keyboard player is moving here. The guitar player is moving here. Billy Gibbons wants a ranch. In the next couple of years this place is going to be fun… I’ve traveled around the world man, and there’s only one other place else I’d move and it’s Southern Spain, which is very similar to this. It’s the same thing. It’s the same weather, the same topography… I love it here. I really do. I tell people that and everyone gets confused about that…

“I’m on a mission. I’m on a fuckin’ mission. I can’t believe this place. There’s only one other place that I’ve seen like this where people were really ashamed of where they’re from and that was Cleveland, when the lake caught on fire and shit in the 80’s. ‘Why did you move from Venice Beach?’ Because a) I didn’t have to pay some slumlord $5000 a month, b) I like the weather better, and it’s just cool. I like it here. When I’m in LA it’s not like I go out to all the trendy places. It’s like, God, this is a nightmare for me, because they know who I am. Here nobody knows who I am- they don’t give a fuck.

“That’s what I like about El Paso. It’s always been a city of outlaws where nobody asks questions, because everybody has issues. Green card issues, or murder issues, or crime issues- know what I’m saying… I think it’s perfect for me. You remember that guy from the Clash that lived here. Remember that guy-Paul Simonon? He knew what he was doing. I talked to Joe Strummer about it before he died, and it’s like- he was telling me about El Paso before I even moved here, and then he died. But, he’s all about it. This place is for outlaws. This is the place that you go to be quiet and not bother anybody.

“Man [Michael] I met you when you were smaller than her [Ari]. You don’t remember but, you were running around Zanaida’s kitchen at the studio- you barely could walk. I barely could walk too, but I was drunk. You had an excuse- you were a kid.

“We went up Redd Road, me and Angie, with this Real Estate agent and we were like, ‘Well, here’s the deal. We’re building a studio and a band house. And I want solar and wind and I want to be off the grid and drill my own well,’ and all that and she looked at me like I was from Mars. I’ve been talking about this for like three years. Three years Angie and I have been talking to Real Estate agents and we finally found the perfect place.”

Al and Angie weren’t able to book in El Paso, so they arranged a caravan from Uncle Pauly’s on Shadow Mountain to Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque.

“What we want to leave from Pauly’s parking lot [the ABQ bus]- we want the ‘special’ bus with the little stop sign and stuff, like they have for retards- the short bus. But we wanted it to leave from Pauly’s. We’re setting it up with Pauly’s to buy the tickets there, take a bus from there and then drive you there and back so you don’t have to worry about drunk driving and all that other stuff.”

If you have an experience on the Short Bus that you’d like to share, please submit a letter to the editor.

Justin and I really wanted to be in Chicago for the last show, but, as usual, Justin’s work schedule didn’t pan out. Chicago is Al’s hometown, and when I proposed the idea, his eyes lit up.

“I was just there, like, two weeks ago- me and Angie. The Chicago Blackhawks flew us up, put us at the Hard Rock Hotel, in the Penthouse Suite- $1500 bucks a night- you have to have your own key in the elevator to get up there- it’s your own elevator, it’s just like- the view of the city…I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ We were freaking out. It’s because we wrote the theme for the Blackhawks, their new hockey song. And they flew me up there to do press with ESPN and FOX and all this other stuff. They treated us like kings. Kings. We sat in the owner’s booth during the game. I’ve known the owner for 20 years. This kid used to be my personal assistant. He said he wanted to learn the music business from the ground up, so I go well, ‘I’ve got plenty of ground here. I don’t know about the up part.’ So he’s a billionare- these people are billionares, right? They own the biggest liquor distributors in the United States… Bismark. Anyways, he literally was like my butt-boy for two tours. And then he got a job in New York, moved to New York, and started from the ground up this publicity company. And then he moved to London and got a job running an independent label. I mean, this guy really has done it from the ground-up. He didn’t just want favors because he’s a rich kid. I love this kid for that. He was the best man at my wedding. I love this kid. So I’ve known the people who own the whole building- the United Center, so it was a natural fit. So the last thing that me and Raven worked on was this song that sounds like a Gary Glitter song. It sounds like a hockey song. So that’s the last thing that me and Raven did before he died. We went up there for Angie’s birthday just to go shopping- the Magnificent Mile. You’re going to love the city. If you’re going to do a road trip, that’s the one to do. And they just added a fourth night. We’re going to be there for, like, 6-7 days...

“You’ll fall in love. You’ll fall in love. And you know what else? We have a thousand balloons every night with Ministry logos coming down off a net. Then we play, ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ by Louie Armstrong. We’ve got a balloon drop every night… This is going to be fun. They added a third show in New York. We’ve got three in LA. Four in Chicago now. Two in San Francisco. They’re all sold out. Everything’s sold out. Literally the entire tour. It really makes me feel good after all these years, ‘cause people are really starting to realize that I’m serious- I’m over it. I won’t even leave my compound unless I’m in my scooter wheelchair going to Western Beverage. I could be a recluse.

“It’s just nice that everyone’s comin’ out. We’ve got Neil Young in London that’s going to play with us. Keith Richards in New York’s gonna play with us…We’re doing ‘Under My Thumb’ with him. Billy Gibbons in LA. Joey’s flying out from Slipknot to do the whole first encore with us in Chicago. Rick Neilson and Robin Zander from Cheap Trick. Everyone’s comin’ out of the woodwork. It’s awesome. It’s the way I wanted to go out-on my own terms…On top of that the band- we’ve got like four different roadies that have been with us for about five years or so- they’re listening to us rehearse, and they’re like, ‘Dude- this is the best you have ever sounded. Your band is stellar…’

“We got the Static X guy, Tony, he fits right in. There’s no learning curve or anything. He just fits right in personality wise. He’s awesome. New drummer, new bass player, the guitar player was seamless because he played on the record, because Mikey [Mike Scattia]- who knows he wigged out. Nobody knows where he’s at-

“He does that. Every two years he storms off, and freaks out and disappears for a year, only this time it’s been two years. We call him, we send texts…nothing back. Isa saw him at the airport in El Paso, apparently he’s playing with some members of Pantera- some ex-members. I assume he’s living in El Paso. I heard he moved to St. Louis for a while. He’s got three kids right now- plus two from a previous marriage.

“We’ve got these VIP tickets that Angie set up that are like $100 bucks and include meet and greets and get a drum head or a poster or something signed. It’s ridiculous, expensive tickets, but their all sold out. The whole tour. There’s still tickets left for general admission but the entire tour of 40 dates is sold out of all the VIP tickets- there’s a hundred VIP tickets a night. Angie did a great job. She kicked ass. I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory. It makes it all worth it…


{“We’re flying one of our assistants out, Kevin- that’s the guy that’s fucking my daughter [What’s Kevin’s last name?] Two-Headed Grandkid. [Why? Does he smoke a lot of dope?] He’s an idiot. [Is he at least good-looking?] Oh, yeah. He’s a singer in a band-he’s all hot. [To tour manager] Do you know the name of Kevin’s band?

[Tour manager: you’re kidding. I don’t know. Some stupid-]

“Jack’s Smirking Revenge.”[]…}

“I have this garage that I like to work in because I'm doin’ soundtracks now and mixing stuff in a garage. The exact same garage I have now. I’m moving that [mixing suite] into the new garage and then I’m getting a whole nother set of SSLs.

“I’ve gotta play you something…I’ve gotta play you some of the new Cocks record. The Prong album was recorded here [at Sonic Ranch] and mixed at my place. I did the Watcher’s record- which is Burton’s solo band…the soundtrack for this thing called ‘Wicked Lake’, this horror movie that was filmed in El Paso, and I did all the music score for it. ‘The Last Sucker’, the Ministry cover album, and I did a Revolting Cocks album- all in the last year… ‘Rio Grande Blood’ was [tracked in the garage] and mixed in Phoenix. That was [tracked] on that little Digitech board…Ever since then, that was the last thing that we ever had demo equipment with. Ever since then it’s all been SSL. We did seven albums once we got the studio up and running. Seven albums in less than 14 months…crazy…Angie’s a little stressed about it, all the promotion for the label…

“This Cocks record is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. [plays me some of the master] I don’t know, I finally did an album that I can listen to later, and I can’t say it sucks. Everything’s amazing on it. Every song’s a hit. Josh lives here. Clayton’s moving here. Sin’s moving here. It feels like a band. It’s unbelievable… We have ridiculous songs on here. We have a song about Josh getting caught fucking his cousin at summer camp when he was eight, and his dad beats his ass. Ridiculous stuff…sex robots, the Red Parrot…we’re doing a video for this [plays song about the Red Parrot] at the Red Parrot…just listen to that cowbell…It’s the first time in my life I had something sent back from mastering and I had nothing to bitch about…

“There’s this new place we’ve been going to. It’s called Extreme Fantasy. It’s the size of this kitchen. The father plays a Casio [keyboard]. The mother meets you at the door and serves you drinks and two of his daughters dance. It’s horrible. [Wow, I thought JB’s was the worst strip club in town] I did too! This is worse. This makes JB’s look like Vinny’s Place in Dallas…He’s playing, like, ‘Girl from Impanema’ while his daughters dance…[continues singing]

[song about the Banditos biker crew comes on] “I met the leader of the Banditos the other night. I drank with them at Pauly’s. I didn’t know who they were. I drank with them all night, and I said, ‘Don’t get mad at us. We wrote a song about you fucks, that we out-fuck you.’ They laughed their ass off. An entire table full of Banditos at Pauly’s.

“This is the cousin one. [sings] This is like Flock of Seagulls…I gave [the band] to these three guys: Clayton, Josh and Sin…I made them sign a contract that says that they have to give it away to three other idiots, cause it started with three people…I made them sign a contract that in five years, just find anyone else that you want I’ll produce them. I’m not in the band anymore. And then they have to give it to three idiots that they find…It’s like Menudo…Here it is, the dad catches him fucking his cousin and tells them, ‘This kid will be born with rabies,’ and beats his ass [sings ‘born with raabiiies’]. He’s Canadian, right, the singer of this band- he’s from Vancouver. Here’s what I found out from Angie. I go, ‘That’s the most ridiculous line I’ve ever heard. “Born with rabies”..’ She goes, ‘You don’t understand. In Canada we don’t have the birds and the bees. They tell us to go out and watch the dogs fuck.’ Born with rabies…I almost crapped my pants…

“[The Cocks are going on tour] in October. It’s coming out in October…They’re going without me. I’m not going. I make merch money.

“We’ve really worked our asses off to make sure that we can stay here- forever… I’m so happy- you have no idea. You’ve never seen me like this. This is the happy Al.”

Al and Company will be hitting the road again for Ministry’s final European tour. Al and Angie have some more plans in the works. They’re in negotiations right now with MTV for a reality show called, “Gardening With Evil” in which Al, who is an avid gardener, teaches gardening tips to other stars. It should be immensely entertaining.

I’d like to thank Al for taking two hours out of his day (terribly hung-over, by the way) to sit down and talk on tape. I wish I was able to be there in Chicago for the show (sniffle), but I know they had a great gig.

Word on the Street

Again, I warned you. Besides, everyone knows who the Mexican Army is REALLY allied with. As a good friend pointed out, the question is, who is doing the work for whom.

El Paso Times, where is your coverage of this? I know one tough ass mama on staff who makes it her job to put her rear on the line for journalism. There is no excuse for human rights abuses. NONE. At least NPT is reporting it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Because I think way too much about this stuff...

Remember that post about Walgreens and marital aides ? I'm sure you do. Well, I was helping a lawyer friend do some work for his SOB (that's "Sexually Oriented Business") clients, and the thought occurred to me that- hey! Texas has some of the strictest ordinances pertaining to the sale and distribution of marital aides in the United States. How is this shit going to fly?

For those of you unfamiliar with the law, it goes as follows:

They are illegal. It is illegal to sell any phallus shaped device used for vaginal or anal stimulation in Texas. Period. Dildos, vibrators, those egg shaped things they call "back massagers" in the Pyramid catalogue, all of them are technically illegal in Texas. You can read a short history of Texas vs. SCOTUS decisions on sexual privacy here.

For those purchasing a marital aid, five is the limit. More than five and you're considered a distributor.

Adult book stores generally get around the law via relabeling their product as "novelty" or for "medical use". Would Walgreens be able to use that argument considering the type of business normally conducted at a pharmacy? Or would they avoid the Texas market all together to avoid prosecution.

For the record, it must also be noted that cunni/ana-linguis and fellatio remained illegal in Texas until 1994, and sodomy laws weren't repealed until 2001. I'm pretty sure Texas must have a law against frottage and vaginal sex not concluding in pregnancy somewhere in the books, but what do I know.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Equestrian

I drew this cartoon after the unveiling of that ridiculous monument to genocide that we call The Equestrian. What a way to greet new visitors to El Paso, right? I know the Native Americans I drew were a little "Hollywood", but I had to make it clear that they were Native American, and hey, my son is 1/4 Yaqui, so don't give me any grief about racism.

David Sokolec, friend and blogger, is credited for the concept and copy.

Word on the Street

Two weeks ago at the Tap, a certain landlord who shall remain nameless, sported some shades (at the darkest bar in town, no less) and beckoned me over for a hug. I asked him if he was proceeding with his plans to turn one of his buildings into a Bowling Alley/Bar. His reply:

Grabbing his crotch, "I've got your bowling balls right here, Habibi."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

No Shit, Sherlock

I have a feeling that this will become another regular installment. Sigh.

You know, I've done a lot of stupid things in my life. We don't need to get into all of that, though the statute of limitations is well expired, but let's just say many of them involved Juárez.

Most people have known FOR DECADES that partying in Juárez involved a certain level of police interference. By that, I mean that a wise Paseño has always carried a little extra cash just in case the policia decide that you either a) look like a good mark, or b) are acting like a complete jackass.

I don't know if this dumbass just moved here or what, but in last month's Valentine's edition of What's Up, some guy found himself shocked, SHOCKED that after a night of partying in Juárez while a fucking WAR is going on, pobrécito, the cops shook him down for a bribe.


I absolutely do not condone that kind of behavior from any peace officer, but c'mon, dude. This has been going on for AGES. Don't act surprised. My husband has a story from 1992- that's 17 years ago- of being shook down by an officer after his idiot friend peed on the Bridge.

I have personally witnessed multiple shakedowns, myself included, for everything from taillights, to public intoxication, underage drinking, to just being white and partying in Juárez. I have not been to Juárez in more than a year because a) I do not have life insurance and b) I can't afford to have some cop hassle me.

If that was the state of things over ten years ago, one can imagine how bad it is now that there is a FUCKING DRUG WAR IN PROCESS, YOU MORON. You should not have been partying there, and you should thank God that the ONLY thing that happened was a traffic stop and shakedown. It is a police state down there right now. You could have had your car searched. You could have been found in possession of something that would have made your "courtesy fine" higher. Had you not had the money to bribe the officer, you could have spent the night in Cereso. Or you could have been shot at a nightclub in a drug fueled melée. Count your blessings, dumbass, and remember what hood you're in.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Word on the Street

Remember what I said about corrupt federal officers? Ahem. You don't need fucking tarot cards to surmise what's going to happen with all those Mexican Army troops in J-Town.

I think one of my synapses just exploded

My, my, my...look at what Walgreens stores across the country are now stocking. Somehow I don't see myself slipping one of these in my basket with a package of Pull Ups and a bottle of shampoo. Does this conform with Walgreen's brand image? No. Do I like the idea? Yes. Do I think the Walgreens across from my apartment will start stocking these? I doubt it. But then again, my Walgreens now stocks "Wet" brand lube- a brand once reserved for the classified section of gay porn magazines and cheap adult video stores. Come to think of it, Walgreens stocks many products which, if one were of a deviant persuasion, could be used during intercourse. Enema kits and rubber gloves come to mind. Wow. I wonder if they'll start stocking poppers in the incense/candle isle, too.

I'm assuming that they will carry these in the Pharmacy. Realistically- I just can't see people purchasing a dildo while an abuelita is standing behind them waiting to purchase her insulin needles, test strips, and blood pressure medication.

Via Fleshbot [WARNING: this link is NSFW]

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Medium is the Massage

I took this pic from my kitchen window a couple of years ago. Half of the sign fell during a windstorm last year, so I'm glad I took the pic. This is for "Lolita Bail Bonds". I'm assuming they specialized in sex offenders.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Medium is the Massage: Dirty limericks from our local advertisers

For ages I've been collecting photos and scans of local naughty advertising, questionable signage and hilarious double entendres for my own sick kicks and giggles. Today, folks I'd like to start sharing them with you. Let's start with the naughtiest business name this side of the Pink Taco (a restaurant in San Diego).

I'm friends with a performer who worked at Foxy's who could pick up quarters with her labia, but wow. Hauling a Chrysler takes some talent.

For the record, the layout is what I find offensive. Look at how cluttered that shit is. And what's with the desert fatigue "Kamel"? Is that supposed to appeal to the GI's just back from Iraq? I understand that local advertising has its own kitchy ouvre, but really...

CORRECTION: The Pink Taco is actually in Vegas. My bad.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Memoriam

I'm posting this publicly because it seems like everyone knew Cheezer. Cesar "Cheezer" Marquez, age 35, passed away last weekend. Viewing will be from 3-9pm at Martin/La Paz Funeral home on Montana Ave., with a prayer service beginning at 7:30. Viewing will continue Thursday from 9a-1p at Martin/La Paz concluding with a 1p Chapel Service and interment at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

There will be two shows benefiting the Marquez family:

Tonight Wednesday, February 25; 9:00 PM Uncle Paulie's
126 Shadow Mountain, 79912

Wednesday, March, 4 ; 7:00 PM @ Take 2
6315 N. Mesa, 79912

Rest in peace, Cheezer.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Art Space: How I learned to stop worrying and love the developers

So, yeah, I was at that Art Spaces meeting. And yeah, it took me a month to post this. I’ve become lazy in my writing, I know. I have a jealous toddler who wants ALL of mommy’s time, and I spent January and February working at a friend’s criminal law practice, who also wanted ALL of my time. Unlike certain Hindu deities, I do not have ten arms. So it goes.
Just to clarify, I did not attend the reception at the Community Foundation’s offices. I suspect that our building’s residents weren’t invited because we weren’t classy enough, or something. Instead, we were invited to the Public Meeting held at the Philanthropy Theatre. So what happened at this meeting? Well, myself and about 20 other people (some were artists, some were local bureaucrats, some were investors) listened to a presentation made by two very capable, successful, and well intentioned non-profit employees from Minnesota (Stacey Mickelson and Wendy Holmes) described how their non-profit, Art Spaces, was considering El Paso for artist live work space. That’s wonderful. I know many people who will be biting for first dibs at a residential application.

I have included a partial transcription of the meeting (excluding the detailed descriptions of some of their properties and Q & A), for you to pour over. If you are an artist, you will find it informative, but dry…okay horribly boring. If you work for a non-profit, you’ll find it…okay, you’ll still find it informative but dry. I also have included an audio track of the complete meeting, excluding the part where I had to excuse myself because my kids were absolutely bored to tears, and my two-year old daughter was on the verge of storming the podium.

You can read the basics of the plan here.

I’m just going to pick at a few things that I found questionable. After all, I don’t want to scare these people off. You’re welcome, Chris.

Will this building be marketed to the craftsmen already living in the neighborhood? Wendy mentioned "art hobbyists" in her presentation, so I would hope that seamstresses, carpenters, shoemakers, muralists and other crafts people from Segundo, Magoffin, and Rio Grande Heights would get the same memo that the painters and sculptors are getting.

Artists interested in applying for the building will be selected based on a body of work submitted to a committee of local artists and arts professionals. Wow, I don't see personal politics and matters of taste being a problem! Not. At. All. If Hal Marcus is put on this committee, I'm going to puke. But seriously, putting certain people on these kinds of committees is just ASKING for trouble. The art community here is so deeply plagued by personal intrigues, conceptual spats, and because it is a small community, everyone knows everyone else's business and there will be judgements based more on people's petty bullshit than the applicant's desire to create in an inexpensive space. All I'm saying is, be careful who you put on this committee.

Another consideration- the argument for a space like this is that it helps boost the rest of the commerce in the neighborhood. Per Stacey:

"We know anecdotally that when we put a project in- other development happens around us within five to ten years you can see complete changes and overhauls to neighborhoods. I witnessed it in Portland, Oregon- a place that I hadn’t been for five years. I was out there in 2002. We had a project out there- nothing was really going on around it- near the train station- if you’re familiar with Portland- near the train station and adjacent to the Pearl District. I went back just now this last April and there were no less than six twenty-five storey high-end condominiums buildings that kind of popped up all around the building that we had created with a lot of salons and spas and galleries and wine bars and restaurants and those kinds of things happening on the street level pedestrian level around our projects. We know that we can take some credit for that and not all the credit, but certainly some credit for providing that."

That's great, but A) El Paso doesn't have a large buyers market that would support all of those galleries. B) Let's say, hypothetically, that a bunch of people from LA and NYC move here because of the hard recession there and our cost of living and start opening up small businesses, or patronizing the arts, or opening up ad agencies, thereby supporting more professional artists, and things go as planned...will the City do their part to maintain a certain percentage of essential services (grocery stores not including Whole Foods [=Whole Paycheck], laundromat, shoe repair, etc.). I say this because in certain cities, their art districts have nothing BUT galleries, expensive restaurants and wine bars. And, in a way, that becomes another economic factor that drives artists out of the city center once it has been gentrified.

Another consideration: My husband and I rent about 3000 sqft (including his upstairs studio) for about $925 per month. Utilites included. I am assuming that your resident's will have to pay for their own electric and gas. The Merrick Building's two bedroom HUD subsidized apartments (1200 sqft) run at about $450 per month. The Oregon Place Apartments, which are Section 8 housing run $450 for a two bedroom. Two bedroom houses in Central and Sunset Heights average $550 a month (1200 sqft living space on 1/4 acre lot). My friend's 15 year fixed rate mortgage in Sunset is $700 per month, which includes homeowner's insurance and property taxes. You are proposing about $550 per month for a two bedroom, which is very reasonable, but still more expensive than the two HUD properties. I don't know if your rent is projected two years in the future and adjusted for inflation, but if you're basing your rental averages on the total of the City rather than Central (where artists tend to live) as prices range today, the rate is a little high for subsidized housing.

Oh, and to Stacey- yes, finished concrete floors are beautiful and utilitarian, but in this city, they are impossible to keep clean. The dust after a windstorm seeps deep into the pores of the concrete, and even after a serious mopping one can walk on the floors and their feet will still turn black. It is also nearly impossible to remove plastisol and paint from concrete without muriatic acid. I say this from personal experience. Opt for wood. They clean up well and when they get stained, you can sand them down. Just a suggestion.

Per Wendy: “if you’re trying to qualify to be a resident in the building then there are three different things that we look at: the credit check, previous rental history, and then obviously your typical criminal background check. “

Ha ha…ha ha ha ha ha! You’re kidding me, right? Show me an artist with good credit and I’ll call you a liar. Okay, we have decent credit, but most of the artists I know have horrible credit, which would explain why they would turn to HUD housing, instead of buying a house in Sunset Heights, right? In regards to the criminal background check, I completely understand the need to exclude sex offenders and violent offenders from the pool, but what about drug and alcohol related offenses? That takes about 90% of the potential artist pool out of consideration. I’m not sure what their standard of proof is, but consider this: Mister Grammy Winning husband o’ mine has had: two DUI’s, two paraphernalia offenses (one in NY, one from Austin), at least one PI, and I think a drunk and disorderly. Was he a stupid twenty year old? Definitely. Is he an upstanding citizen now? Yes. Are there a lot of artists in this town who have similar criminal records? Absolutely. Do I have a record? Damn straight. I can also think of a certain City Official who has a blemished record. Ahem. But I digress...

Now, some of the more upstanding members of our artist community may be appalled to hear these things (EPSO, Opera, EP Playhouse) but most of them have cushy teaching gigs and they’re not necessarily in this hypothetical building’s tax bracket. And then what about vandalism? What about our wanna-be Shepard Fairley’s and their wheat paste “public displays”? Will they be excluded because of vandalism charges? Just some food for thought.

I'm not trying to shit on the flowerbed. These were just some of my thoughts I had during the meeting and as I was typing the transcription. I think it's a great idea, and there would be tons of interest. One more thing I'd like to point out, though...

What I found especially amusing and enlightening was the moaning reported at the Community Foundation offices. Per Keith Spencer’s Blog :

“Reactions from the focus group were generally positive, although, some criticism was directed towards who would want to live in low-income housing. One artist stated he had no need to live in such a space for he far exceeds the income qualifications and already owns property. Others agreed, adding the tight buyers market for art in El Paso would make it difficult to adequately survive without working elsewhere. One attendee rebutted, acknowledging the living arrangements as a great incentive to keep local art graduates in town instead of fleeing off searching for similar arrangements.”

So, if I’m reading this correctly…someone at the reception got uppity because they felt that this project had nothing to do with them as they were doing just fine financially and didn’t need subsidized loft space. Dude, this isn’t about YOU. Great. You make a good living, own property, but you want to hang downtown? Go rent a loft in the former Union Fashion building. Rents start at a dollar per square foot. You’d like it there. This is about artists who work in the service industry who wouldn’t otherwise be able to remain in the “Arts District” once it’s gentrified and rents skyrocket. This is about students who want a space to create in. This is about low-income craftsmen. And it’s for those who do have an art degree but who are financially suffering. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s not much one can do with an art degree. There are two options for gainful employment- teaching or ad agency work, and maybe the occasional public works project. I’ve already said this before, but to reiterate, freelance work is a fucking joke in this city, and since every advertising agency on the face of the planet is in dire straits thanks to the economic crisis, there’s a good chance that these hypothetical artists who will need hypothetical housing will not be able to get good gigs (salary OR freelance) at ad agencies because of a virtual hiring freeze.

I don’t need an Art Space’s building either. I have rent control, a building where I already have space to create and a landlord and neighbors who I love like family, but there are plenty of people who need this, and any opportunity to salvage one of our Tony properties while creating low-income housing is a good idea. Now, if only something like this could be done for the rest of the enormous low-income community here- you know actually renovating an abandoned property instead of tearing down the whole fucking neighborhood- we’d have some real progress.

Word on the Street: Oh, Really?

Did this vigilante group stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, the Federal forces have been corrupted, too? It's not as if it's unheard of.
The Word on the Street: First hand accounts from friends living in Juárez paint a picture of Federal Agents standing aside and doing nothing while Carillo-Fuentes aligned dealers are shot.

Now, about that vigilanteism thing...I understand that when all else fails, it is the people's responsibility to protect themselves. Here's a little look into the future of Juárez if the vigilanteism is left as the only method of justice. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Technocrats for the Arts: a wholly boring but highly informative transcription of the Art Spaces Public Presentation

Commentary from yours truly coming soon...
In the meantime, this is their website

Disclaimer: I did not include the rather lengthy detailed description of the properties or the Q&A. You can look at pictures of completed properties and mockups of projects in development on the website.


Wendy: …How many of you are artists, and I don’t mean just full time working artists, I mean anyone is even who is even an art hobbyist. Who are you? Or a cultural worker? Do any of you have your own studio spaces? Separate from your living? Integrated into the living and then a few separate from…And do any of you make 100 percent of your income from your art? There’s a couple. That’s pretty rare too. We usually find that of all the artists that we survey, that about 10 percent make 100 percent of their income from their art. You’re in a small minority.
Stacey : We’re going to leave the presentation and then turn it over to my able colleague Wendy midway through- to walk you through the last portion of the presentation. Art Space’s mission is simply to create foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. The reason that I put it into italics is because I believe that while other developers have come into communities and promised that they can build you artist live work space there’s no guarantee at the back end that they will preserve it for artists and for their families. Art Space has been doing this now for 25 years, we have 23 projects in our portfolio, about 800 units of affordable live work space that we have protected for artists and their families.
We were created in 1979. We were created because in the warehouse district of Minneapolis- if you’re familiar with it- about 25 years ago it wasn’t exactly a place where you wanted to be. But artists like it because there are a lot of warehouses with high ceilings, lots of natural light, freight elevators, wide corridors, and it was affordable, and so we were connecting artists with those landlords, and what happened is that as the artists moved in, so did other entrepreneurs driving up rents and causing the artists to be forced out. So in 1986 we changed the mission of Art Space- tweaked it, I should say, that in addition to protecting artists that way we would become a real estate development company and we would build the buildings ourselves, and keep them in a portfolio. We are a 501 C(3) and own them in perpetuity so that we create some level of permanency of affordability for artists. As I said 800 plus units of public work that are affordable across the US and nearly half a million square feet that we own, operate and manage on behalf of arts-related industry and businesses, generally at reduced rates from market rate in their respective communities, and now looking into international work across the globe, thinking now that China will be our first experience- in Beijing, but Wendy and I were joking today that this is the closest we’ve come to doing something international, being so close to a- being a border town, so we might just call El Paso our first international experience.

At Art Space, we have three services. We have property development and asset management and then consulting. I’m going to lead you through the property development piece first. Property Development is a team at Art Space that actually takes over after Wendy and I at the National Consulting division have done our work. I put them in a little bit backwards because I want to talk a little bit in greater depth about National Consulting. So property development when we’re done with our work we take all of our portfolio that we’ve assembled we take our relationships we’ve created in the community and we hand them off to another division inside Art Space which then comes to this community or any community in the US that we’ve deemed ready to build an Art Space project and they begin the site selection. They begin the acquisition of the site. They create the conversations about putting the financing together. They fill out the loan capacity and tax credit application. They do all of that work and get it ready for certificate of occupancy. When we receive the certificate of occupancy, the Property Development team then hands off the portfolio off to the Asset Management team at Art Space and they assign an asset manager to the property to work locally with the community and with the artists here in the community. We then retain and foster the relationships that we’ve spent four and five years getting to know one another, hopefully getting to like one another at the end of it, and maintain those relationships as long as we have the building in our portfolio. I think that also makes us different than other developers is that we don’t just come and build it and leave- we build it and stay, and that’s the big difference. And then National Consulting which is what Wendy and I are doing today. We were invited here to assess your community. We never impose ourselves on a community. We are always present someplace because we’ve been invited. And I think that that does also make us unique. We don’t speculate because we are a 501 c(3) we don’t have the money to and certainly now that wouldn’t be the best economic time to run off and start speculating on a multi-use development.

What we’ve done this morning is we’ve identified and toured some candidate buildings. I think we’ve looked through eight or nine of them. We were given a list of sixteen potential candidates and then told that there are probably fifteen more at least somewhere in the downtown area. We just took a sampling of- there’s no need or reason for us to select a building today. We’re a long ways out from even having that conversation. It informs us though so we can go back and make the correct kind of judgments about what we think the next steps for El Paso should be. Part of these meetings today was to visit with local artists and some of the finance people in your community. Tomorrow I think we’re meeting with some of the elected officials and doing a wrap-up of our two days. Wendy and I will return to Minneapolis and write a report that will be submitted to the core group that brought us making our recommendations as far as next steps.

So the things that we’re looking for in this two-day assessment are these: Looking for local leadership. These projects don’t happen without elected officials and non-elected officials pushing them and making them a priority. Things just don’t happen unless that is in place. They also don’t happen if there is no available building or site. We can’t go into a community and say “We like that building,” and all of a sudden that building that was $700,000 goes to $7,000,000. Those kinds of things don’t work which is why we are very hush about what properties may or may not be working. Project concept- we’re very happy that the City has undergone a massive planning process and are inserting this as part of the process in the middle to the end of that as opposed to trying to build a plan around us. It just is a better fit, we think. One of the things we don’t have a true assessment of yet is the artist market. We have a gut feeling about what that may or may not be, but there are ways to test that if we do decide to go forward. And then another thing were looking at is the financial capability, not only support for low income housing tax credits but CDBG and home fund dedication but TIFF districts and renaissance zones, empowerment zone moneys- those kinds of things and certainly philanthropy, which includes corporate foundations and private individuals capable of helping us fill the gap at the back end of a project, which typically can tend to be 10 to 15 percent of the total of a project cost. It doesn’t show up very well on my screen. (8:23)

You can see where we’ve been working across the US. The red dots signify the buildings that are up in operation. The majority of our work is obviously in our home state of Minnesota. I think we have eight completed projects there to date. The yellow squares represent projects that are in some phase of pre-development, and that could be just having signed a pre-development agreement to trying to get that certificate of occupancy, and then the blue triangles represent the places where we have touched down most likely it’s Wendy and me or one of the two of us in the communities that you see.
So what do we accept? What are the things that happened, again- they’re there. They should be repeated because I think that they are so important. You have to have the strong community leadership. You have to have a viable artist community. A building is really important, but so is the plan to redevelop an area. It wouldn’t make very much sense to put one of these projects probably on the outskirts of town. It probably wouldn’t benefit very many people at all. We’re looking at how do we fit into the overall plan of the City. We’re really listening to what you and your representatives are telling us. We don’t impose our will on you. We want to work very much with you to get you the desired result that you should have. And then they can be historic buildings but often times- you’ll see in our portfolio that we do historic preservation work as a by-product of what we do, but we also have built new construction and have tried to replicate those warehouse spaces that way.
Some positives about our projects- they are positive cash flow and self-sustaining. They take typically 2 to 5 years from this visit to complete, and the reason they do is because they are fully-financed upon groundbreaking. We operate at about a 98-99 percent lease on our residential portfolio. I won’t lie to you that sometimes the commercial spaces have been a little bit more difficult to lease, particularly in more rural areas. One comes to mind in Furgis Falls, Minnesota. The project is about five years old and the commercial space- about 2500 sqft remains un-leased. But we think that we have a plan for that and so there are some things that don’t always work and that would be one of them. They do often have waiting lists. I know that in Seattle, we have two projects in Seattle and they are lists of about 1000 now on a waiting list to get in the building, and in Buffalo I think the list is about 400 and some and they’ve just stopped taking names. We know that there’s a market for the work that we do. They are owned, operated, and managed by Art Space, and I think most importantly for people- they do pay property taxes, so we’re not draining on your community- we’re actually contributing partners with you all. (11:30)
Our projects are different because they offer larger square footages that most market rates. Just using numbers as example- if a market rate one bedroom in this town is a 1000 sqft ours would probably be somewhere around 1200 to 1250. Because we do accommodate or allow for build out of a studio space or a separate space that can be used by the office for his or her craft. They are flexible floor plans with um- we try to keep the kitchens towards one wall like a galley kitchen- you’ll see some examples of it in some pictures here, and durable finishes. We love concrete floors or wood floors if they’re around. Because artists spill paint. They make messes. That’s the nature of our buildings and our projects and they kinda take on a life of their own, and we encourage that. So durable surfaces (inaudible mumble) well… Lots of natural light when we can get it. If we can’t get it we usually build it into the project. Freight elevators when they’re available, and wide hallways with corridors. And a large common space is always built into every project so that the residents can gather there. We encourage our residents to loosely gather as a condo association- if you will. They have no real power over the building. They have pretty much complete control over the programmatic aspects of their building, so if they want to have an art crawl of the first Thursdays of every month- they determine that- not Art Space. We don’t micromanage the buildings. If they- if there’s a gallery space that’s dedicated for the resident’s of the building, they determine if Joe’s photography exhibit from China gets it the month of February and then Joe is responsible for marketing it and drawing people into that gallery space. So we really allow it to kind of happen organically. They can be linked to transit corridors in Metropolitan areas. They have that unique floor plan. They can establish or preserve a community’s creative culture and identity. They do protect and nurture cottage industries and small business. A Lot of our residents also have jobs elsewhere in the community. The people who live in our buildings- I would say the vast majority of them- do not derive a majority of their income from their art work. They are bike messengers in New York City or pizza delivery people or waiters and waitresses in restaurants trying to do those jobs as little as possible to keep the lights and the heat on so they can spend the majority of their time doing the thing that they love which is their artwork. We provide for population growth and stabilization by rebuilding communities in neighborhoods, and we can serve as a catalyst for economic development through workforce development and other kinds of activities like to that attach themselves to our buildings. We know anecdotally that when we put a project in- other development happens around us within five to ten years you can see complete changes and overhauls to neighborhoods. I witnessed it in Portland, Oregon- a place that I hadn’t been for five years. I was out there in 2002. We had a project out there- nothing was really going on around it- near the train station- if you’re familiar with Portland- near the train station and adjacent to the Pearl District. I went back just now this last April and there were no less than six twenty-five storey high-end condominiums buildings that kind of popped up all around the building that we had created with a lot of salons and spas and galleries and wine bars and restaurants and those kinds of things happening on the street level pedestrian level around our projects. We know that we can take some credit for that and not all the credit, but certainly some credit for providing that.
I always put this slide in because I think this is really important for people to understand the impact of things like the Plaza Theatre and the symphony here in El Paso. It may seem that it’s an ancillary thing to your community, but it really is an important and integral part to it, as it is in every community. And these numbers are produced from a 2005 research done by the Americans for the Arts showing that nearly $170 billion in tax revenues from things like your Symphony like your Opera Company, your non-profit arts sector went back into local governments creating nearly six million jobs. And if you look down there in the last two numbers that $9.1 billion dollars went back to- divided amongst all the state capitols and then back to your local communities. $7.9 almost 8 billion dollars in generated revenues for your communities to spend back on important things for you.
So now I’m going to turn it over to Wendy to talk about how we select artists and determine that piece that will lead us to the end.

Wendy: We definitely feel that there is an artistic pulse here so you should know that we’ve been favorably impressed today that a lot of interesting and good things are happening in El Paso. You have some challenges but you also have some opportunities. We definitely saw both sides of that equation today. We’ll talk about that more at the end and answer your questions. Because most of you are artists you’re going to be interested in- well how do artists qualify to be in our buildings and what’s kind of the process? So there are three different things that artists must do to be in our live-work space. Obviously if you’re leasing gallery space or you’re leasing a coffee shop that doubles as a gallery, it’s a different kind of relationship, but if you’re trying to qualify to be a resident in the building then there are three different things that we look at: the credit check, previous rental history, and then obviously your typical criminal background check.
And then we’re looking and rent and income threshold. So we’re looking at artists- if we’re using low-income housing tax credits, which we typically do for our live-work spaces, then you must be at or below 60% of area median income for in this case it’s El Paso County that determines that income. For a single person in El Paso County that would be $18,300 dollars, approximately- for a single person. Obviously that differs for two people, three people, four people- different sized households will qualify at different income ranges. And then you must be engaged as an artist interms of having a passion for some form of art. We’re not judging on quality of the work. We have a selection committee that interviews each of the individual artists who will live and work in our buildings and it consists of you. So, we’re looking for artists with a diversity of backgrounds, and cultural experiences to actually interview each of the potential artists who will live in the building once they income qualify etcetera. So, why we do that is because we as the outsiders are not necessarily the best judges of who the authentic artists are. We’re not looking at quality again, we’re looking at some kind of body of work and some passion for what they do. It can be a craft, it can be birch bark canoe making, it can be dancing, it can be poetry, it can be anything. I like to use the example of in our Duluth, Minnesota project there are a lot of Ojibwe who originally occupied the building and they did not have a word for art because it was so much a part of their everyday world. So we view art in the same way. It’s a very personal and cultural kind of definition. So we don’t say performing artists out, visual artists in. It’s a culturally specific definition. So again don’t hold onto these numbers too highly because these are estimates and they are based on 2008 and these came from HUD, but because we use a lot of government subsidy programs that means that we have to abide by the rules from those programs. So, for example a one-bedroom live-work space if created today in El Paso- first of all it would be larger than a typical apartment. A typical apartment is 900 sqft, one bedroom is 900 sqft in El Paso, we would be creating 1100 sqft, so that there’s more space to do, have a studio plus you’re living space. And those rents would range from- at the top of the scale- between $352 and $515 dollars a month. So it’s usually well below what the market is for that size and space.

Some of the frequently asked questions is what- how do we finance these projects, and we won’t go into a lot of depth on that, but if you have questions about this we are happy to answer them. We use low-income housing tax credits- this is an example specifically from our Buffalo, New York project- we used community development block grant dollars, which come through either the county or the city depending on the municipality. We use HOME funds, which are specific to the housing portion of the projects. In this case we were able to get a line-item appropriation from Congress through Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton. Former Senator I should say. We also coupled with that support from the private sector, so foundations, corporations, individuals, they all contributed to this project as well. And this first mortgage we always try to keep very, very low so we don’t have a lot of debt on these buildings- they have to cash-flow positively. We’re not going back to the community to ask for additional resources once their up and operating, so there’s not a continued drain. We’re not a new non-profit coming into a community saying we need philanthropic support on an annual basis. No, it’s to get the projects off the ground, but not to maintain them over time. And so that’s another unique aspect of what we do. (22:10)
So how big is a building for 25 units of housing and commercial space? The reason we say 25 is because outside of Minnesota the smallest projects that we ever do are 25, and I think in a Metro area as large as yours you could probably support 50 or 60. That will be something that will need to be tested. It would take us to the next step. So that building dimension or size would be about 40-45,000 square feet, if you’re looking at 25 units plus some non residential space for a mixture of uses. So does an artist at an Art Space project have to be a profitable working artist? Well we already covered that. The majority of our tenants do not make the majority of their income from their art. We hope that over time that the income from the art begins to go up as they are able to be in a stable, sustainable, affordable space. And we have anecdotal information that that is the case. We find that our tenants stay for quite a long period of time. But we don’t know the answer to that in a scientific sort of way. We’re about to research that all across our portfolio because that would be the kind of information that would really be interesting for us and you to know. Stacey you’re the expert on this one. Do you mind?
Stacey: It’s actually really important for the State of Texas because we built a project in Galveston and then another one in Houston and the Texas Housing Finance Agency was interpreting the Federal law- the Federal Housing Law, section 42, which is where the low-income housing tax credit piece comes in- was interpreting that these projects could be in violation of the General Public Use requirement, that is that X person who income qualifies shouldn’t have an threshold put on them that they are also an artist. And then that application was also made, well- if you’re creating police and fire-fighter housing then the person who income qualifies should be able to live in the same place that’s dedicated for the police and firefighter and HUD said we were not in violation but the IRS said that they thought we were. So we went to Congress and changed the law so that it specifically said that we would not be in violation of the general public use requirement if we built projects- on line 21 you can see there that said- for persons involved in artistic and literary activities. So we spelled it out in the law that we can actually create these buildings for persons that are engaged in that artistic or creative endeavor. The law went a little bit further and there are other examples beyond this- it did also protect housing for unwed teen mothers, and for police and the firefighters and for first responders, so all of those groups that were in question were protected under this new law which was a housing stimulus law passed in July and August of this most recent summer. It’s a huge victory.
Wendy: Our project in Pittsburg was being audited by the IRS at about the same time that we were trying to occupy our Houston project so we had to go very much underground with our marketing efforts to make sure that 100% of our units were occupied by artists. At the same time Katrina hit. It was interesting because several- oh I don’t know, I think- six or seven jazz musicians from New Orleans ended up in that building for a temporary period of time as well, so it was an interesting perfect storm of activity that happened at the time we were doing our Houston project. So, we have made it work though. In Seattle for our second project we also couldn’t be discriminatory, if you will toward creating space specifically for artists, but the whole thing is artists find out about these projects way in advance of the general public because they’re interested in this kind of space and so they’re coming to meetings three to four to five years prior to these projects being created, and so they know and they tell their friends and so it goes, and so the artists are always the first to know.
This slide shows you the population change and shift that happened after a 118 units of live-work housing and 15,000 sqft of arts related commercial space were created in downtown St. Paul. The artists were pioneers moving into these giant warehouse buildings that we’ll show you pictures of in a moment, and the population changed exponentially and this neighborhood called Lower Town, as a result of these artists moving into this area. Now across the street there’s a farmer’s market, there’s market-rate condominiums, there’s other space for artists that we didn’t develop, so it really became a catalytic force for a density of activity in the arts that was both created by us and not created by us, but it became known as the sort of artistic center of St. Paul, and it was because these pioneering artists moved into these empty warehouse buildings.
So we did this really crazy things and we do this for kind of kicks and giggles because people think, “Wow, why did you do that?” We still wonder ourselves, but we own and operate this Masonic Temple in downtown Minneapolis that has 17 different performing arts organizations in it. This is not a residential project- this is a project only for performing arts organizations. And that’s what it looks like today, and we picked up this theatre, and it was about two blocks away, we picked it up and the city paid for us to move that theatre because it was sitting on a block that was slated for development that no one would develop with the theatre on the block. And if it was torn down the preservationists were going to sue the city. (28:39) So the city was either faced with being sued for $4-5 million dollars or pay $4.3 million dollars and move the theatre, and they thought well, “who could manage this theatre, do the capital campaign, figure out how to use the space?” Yes, it was done- figured out at a cocktail party. That shouldn’t surprise many of you. So we picked up this theatre that was in pretty rough shape. We could not move the stage house. We moved the main theatre itself. It was the largest building ever to be moved on rubber tires- 5.8 million pounds. It was in the Guinness Book of World Records. Here it goes moving across the street. It took two weeks to move the building two blocks. We would look out our windows and could hardly even perceive the movement itself. And it was in February, 1999, and when we finally moved it to what we hope is its final resting place, we were having a little civic celebration with the mayor and the City Counsel and it’s February in Minnesota, I know that’s hard for you all to imagine, but we tried to crack a bottle of champagne on the side of the building- it would not crack, because it was so cold. We had to hit it against the building about ten times before it would crack. So now that we’ve moved the theatre fifty feet away from the Masonic Temple that we showed you earlier, we’re creating this in-fill space that will be sort of the entry way into this new performing arts center that will serve these non-profit performing arts organizations in the Masonic Temple. So this will be a three building performing arts complex. We don’t typically do this kind of thing, but just to show you the diversity of the kinds of things that we do, depending on the situation. I’m going to go through a few specific profiles of our projects and then we’ll show you some pretty pictures and then we’ll open it up for questions.

Word on the Street

This is old chismé, but I thought you'd enjoy it for sheer visual amusement.

Which odd couple has been seen on multiple occasions drinking together at a Westside restaurant? Person A is a high standing City Officer. Person B is a shady slumlord with a reputation for drug and alcohol abuse. Wonder if B is giving A another of his whisky-inspired, "you should see what I have planned for my building" soliloquies. Wonder if A is trying to convince B to sell the building.

Hmm...didn't see this coming...

Should there be an office pool to see which Juárez political official will be next to resign?

I'm sorry- that was tasteless, but you know what? I would rather resign than have my colleagues (and possibly their families) murdered. Does that make him a coward?

Word on the Street

I'm going to start periodically posting little tidbits of local chismé gleaned from the seeder corners of Chuco. These are rumors bearing multiple, independent sources. If anyone has heard any contradictory gossip or would like to add a detail, it will be duly noted.

Once again, a disclaimer: this is gossip. It will be written in blind item fashion. As with all chismé, it could be fabricated, or the product of someone's coked-up, delusional diarrhea of the mouth. In any case:

Which narco is rumored to have won the war that's been plaguing Juárez? The word is that the latest spat of violence is the cartel "cleaning-up" the random kidnappers and petty crooks who took advantage of the anarchy, as well as assassinating any and all cops still loyal to the opposition.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rosca de Reyes

I know I've been bad about keeping up with this thing, but it's the holidays and my print shop has been busy, and I should thank God for that.

Speaking of God, I've been thinking a lot about religious pluralism lately. My mother was an Armenian from Palestine (RIP). She was born in the Old City several years before the 1948 war, lived in what was then called Transjordan (aka East Jerusalem) after the war, and moved to the states before 1967. I still have family in the Old City and the West Bank, in Bethlehem. Every Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter she would whip out the family album- photos of from the 30's to the 50's of the Old City- and tell me about what life was like as a child before the city was split in half, before the mass murders, riots, firebombs, and the abject racism took hold of the landscape forever. She would tell me every feast day of the processions to Bethlehem, the services at the Church of the Nativity where both Muslims and Christians would worship the virgin birth together (yes, that's right, Muslims AND Christians). She'd tell me of the Passover preparations in her mixed neighborhood, about the processions on Palm Sunday, and about the general atmosphere of a tolerant city. Isn't that nuts? I'll say that again: she called JERUSALEM- the tinderbox of Mideast conflict- a "tolerant" city. She also told me that deep down everyone: Mizrahim, Sephardim, Armenian, Greek or Arab was pretty sectarian, but that it was kept under wraps because people had to live together, and work together, and, in the case of my grandfather, make money together. She also told me when I started dating not to date Arabs or Greeks, but that's another story.

Obviously, times have changed. Religious tolerance is a joke, as evidenced by the "Separation Wall" or "Barrier Wall" (whatever pleasant euphemism for caged in misery the Israeli's want to tack on that thing) that cuts through a 900 year old cemetery where my some of my ancestors are buried. Yes, I do take that wall personally. The Armenian and Greek monks at the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity have taken to bludgeoning one another with broomsticks over square centimeters of encroachment in their shared pavillions, again and again. And again. That goes for Copts too).

Hasidim in Jerusalem have beaten women for "immodest dress" and have threatened to kill an openly gay city councilman (And you thought your job was bad, huh Beto?).

The West Bank and Gaza have been turned into two pseudo-independent "states" thanks to the fight between the wholly corrupt Fatah Party and the Islamist Militant Hamas Party. Hey guys, what ever happened to Pan Arabism?

Tomorrow, while Gazan's are being massacred and a few dipshits who got a hold of some outdated Soviet technology try to deflect the might of Israel's US funded armaments further antagonizing an already hostile neighbor, I will be spending Theophany with a Sunni Muslim from Tyre. We will eat balawa, drink aqui and we will mourn for the Graveyard that Gaza has turned into. We will mourn for the Holy Land, we will mourn for peace, with the thought that one day, maybe we can visit our families again. Later that night, I will visit my ailing aunt Sona, one of my last living immediate relatives, and we will talk about what an asshole Ehud Olmert is and wonder what ever happened to our family's reparation checks, and then I will go home and call my children's Godmother- an Ashkenazi Jew- and we'll have a good cry. I'll remember that day 2009 years ago when a Persian an Ethiopian and an Arab called a Jewish baby King and Son of God, and I'll pray for the babies of Gaza and Israel who, much like the ones massacred by Herod, suffered and died needlessly thanks to the egos and prejudice of adults.

On this the eve of Theophany, I'm thinking of Fairuz, and I'm thinking of tolerance and unity, and this song goes out to the refugees of this world.

Performed by Fairuz
Lyrics & music: Rahbani Brothers

Cartoon by: Mr. Fish
Videos via: BBC News, You Tube