HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - merchants slogan: "We don't have it but we can get it for you."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bon Iver - Bonnie Bear? WTF? Haters Keep On Hatin'

Kim and I watched the Grammys for the first time ever as we had to see if Justin Vernon, once our next door neighbor and the producer of both my CD's, would indeed, win a Grammy as Best New Artist of the Year.

We both cheered and applauded when the announcement came.

My personal history with Justin goes all the way back to the year 2000. Having just gotten out of the hospital from a quadruple bypass, I was unable to do the things necessary to implement upkeep on my little bungalow office.

So down the road (Justin's parents Gil and Justine lived scarcely a fourth of a mile from me on Highway I), armed with snow shovels, come both Gil and son Justin, to clear my roof of the huge snow fall recently received.

As I recall, Justin is a senior in high school at the time and just getting started as a guitarist and singer/songwriter. I show him my prize guitars and we talk music for a while before I thank them profusely and before they leave, I promise them pizza somewhere down the road .

For the next few years I follow Justin's guitar playing and am astounded at how he passes me in ability at light speed. It is truely uncanny how quickly the boy picks up the instrument! And not just guitar!

When I finally decide to record two CD's worth of my original songs, Justin and I discuss whether he would be interested in being my project manager and overall recording engineer, song arranger, and buddy.

Although our age difference chronologically is pretty astronomical, we are totally unaware of age when we are together working as a team and we spend glorious afternoons in the basement of his parents home, arranging and recording my "stuff".

I cook up large batches of ham and bean soup which I bring with me to recording sessions and by 3PM the recording session is joined by Mother Nature's Horn Section.

Throughout the recording session, Justin instinctively knows what I want and when I am not certain, he nails it with creative input of his own.

On a song I wrote for my wife, Kim, Justin plays everything but the rhythm guitar track that I lay down first. He lays some really tasty fills in on Gibson electric guitar, puts down a tasty bass line, and adds the exact drum line I was looking for.

His sabbatical to Ireland upon high school graduation pays off when we record a salute to my lost friend Gerald FitzGerald entitled "Irish Heart" and Justin plays Irish whistle with a depth of emotion that still brings me to the edge of tears when I listen to the track.

Justin is at my side for my CD release party, along with 16 other musicians who contributed to the CD's and that evening marks an all-time high for me as a musician.

To have someone as talented and grounded as Justin tell me after the show that he is so proud of me has me walking on air for months.

At this point, Justin, who has at times "house sat" my little office while I was away on vacation, start to lose track of one another as he has moved to Carolina with several of his band mates from DeYarmond Edison.

Kim and I do catch them in concert at the Mabel Tainter while they are home.

That band eventually breaks up, Justin comes home broken hearted in romance, and quite ill physically. But it is these two elements, coupled with lots of time alone at his dad's cabin in the woods, that brings out his first Bon Iver album - "For Emma - Forever Ago" and as it is said: "the rest is history".

The flurry that Bon Iver causes in the world of Tweet, to me, is both comical and pitiful. Who are these angry, angry fans who feel they must lash out because their favorite didn't win? Haters. There will always be haters. But I know Justin Vernon pretty well.

The fact that he told the academy to "stuff it" if his band would not be included in the spot they wanted him to do tells me that the Justin that I knew is still with us. Honest. Grounded. Making music for the right reasons. And you can bet that if Bon Iver garners no further awards, it will not stop Justin from making really good, honest music from today forward.

On your own terms, Justin -- on your own terms!


One of the saddest days of my life is the afternoon when we end up with the final mix and I give him a big hug and tell him that this is the best time I have ever had!



Wednesday, February 8, I was up, packed, and on my way south by southeast on Highway 94 - the first leg of a journey to Waukesha, Wisconsin, to obtain Donald Driver's autograph with and for my buddy, Tom Johnson. I took this first photo just as I got up to speed north of Osseo. Osseo would be my first stop for breakfast.
The Norske Nook is an obligatory stop anytime I travel east on 94 and this morning was no different.

I took a seat at the counter, right next to the tower of freshly baked pies and ordered my one egg, white toast, and coffee black. My stomach was giving me some trouble - some queasiness that I found would just not go away for the entire trip. I sat next to an old timer who was poring over the newspaper and complaining to the waitress about this "goddamn recall petition". He didn't look to be a man of extravagant wealth and it always astounds me when people take a political stand against their own interests.

Just the morning before as I was about to enter my car with the "Recall Walker" bumper sticker, I was confronted by yet another less than wealthy looking gimpy guy about my age who rasped: "ONE WALKER IS A DAMN SIGHT BETTER THAN FIFTEEN RUNNERS!"

For an instant, I didn't quite grasp the gist of his message so I merely said "okay" and went on my way. As I drove home I realized that the "15 runners" was a put down of the 15 Democrats that left the state in hopes that the public would look more closely at what Herr Walker's proposed "repair" budget contained.
So five minutes after leaving the parking lot, I had lots of good come backs, the best being: I would agree with you sir, if Mr Walker was indeed a straight walker, but as we are finding out, he appears to be a "Crooked Walker".

But I guess, in hind sight, "okay" probably pissed him off enough. I wouldn't want him coming after me with his one good leg. Although it would have been a pretty fair fight as I have a gimpy leg also.
I made it in safely to the Johnson's home in Windsor, Wisconsin, (just outside of Madison) and as both Tom and Stan were teaching evening courses that night, went out to dinner with Stan's lovely wife, Nancy, to a quaint little Italian restaurant.

Still my stomach would not let me get far into my spaghetti and meat ball and I brought home much food.
Thursday late afternoon, Tom and I piled into my scion xB and we drove down to Waukesha to get in line with many others who turned out to get Mr. Driver's autograph. Donald, as I expected, was most gracious to all who were in line and I got a chance to shake his hand and tell him that not only was he a great football player but also a great man who has done much for the community of Green Bay and as a living good example for the entire state of Wisconsin.

I returned home by Friday noon, still not feeling well. Today I am feeling somewhat better. I have more to blog about. But first a break!


Friday, February 3, 2012


Did you know that the words "race car" spelled backwards still spell "race car"?

And that "eat" is the only word that, if you take the first letter and move it to the last, spells its own past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the hell up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent hypocrites, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our current president is black, so suck it up and get over it."

Isn't that interesting?


A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.

The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.

The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, 'When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah'.

The teacher asked, 'What if Jonah went to hell?'

The little girl replied, 'Then you ask him'.

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work.

As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, 'I'm drawing God.'

The teacher paused and said, 'But no one knows what God looks like.'

Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, 'They will in a minute.'

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds.

After explaining the commandment to 'honour' thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, 'Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?'

From the back, one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, 'Thou shall not kill.'

One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head.

She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, 'Why are some of your hairs white, Mum?'

Her mother replied, 'Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.'

The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, 'Mummy, how come ALL of grandma's hairs are white?'

The children had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade them each to buy a copy of the group picture.

'Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, 'There's Jennifer, she's a lawyer,' or 'That's Michael, He's a doctor.'

A small voice at the back of the room rang out, 'And there's the teacher, she's dead.'

A teacher was giving a lesson on the circulation of the blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, she said, 'Now, class, if I stood on my head, the blood, as you know, would run into it, and I would turn red in the face.'

'Yes,' the class said.

'Then why is it that while I am standing upright in the ordinary position the blood doesn't run into my feet?'

A little fellow shouted,
'Cause your feet ain't empty.'

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray:

'Take only ONE . God is watching.'

Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies.

A child had written a note, 'Take all you want. God is watching the apples..'

At the wedding reception someone yelled,

"Would all the married men, please stand next to the one person who has made your life worth living."

The bartender was almost crushed to death.

A sweet grandmother telephoned St. Joseph 's Hospital. She timidly asked, "Is it possible to speak to someone who can tell me how a patient is doing?"

The operator said, "I'll be glad to help, dear. What's the name and room number of the patient?"

The grandmother in her weak, tremulous voice said, "Norma Findlay, Room 302."

The operator replied, "Let me put you on hold while I check with the nurse's station for that room."

After a few minutes, the operator returned to the phone and said, "I have good news. Her nurse just told me that Norma is doing well. Her blood pressure is fine; her blood work just came back normal and her physician, Dr. Cohen, has scheduled her to be discharged tomorrow."

The grandmother said, "Thank you. That's wonderful. I was so worried. God bless you for the good news."

The operator replied, "You're more than welcome.
Is Norma your daughter?"

The grandmother said, "No, I'm Norma Findlay in Room 302.
No one tells me shit."




Just hours after he delivered a State of the State address that he hoped would set the tone for his campaign to avert a recall election threat, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was hit with exactly the sort of news that embattled politicians fear most.
Two former aides to Walker — one of whom was in the employ of his campaign until just days ago — have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors in the ongoing John Doe investigation of wrongdoing by aides, political allies and campaign donors with links to the embattled governor.
These charges follow closely on the filing of felony charges against Tim Russell, a former Walker deputy chief of staff and one of the governor’s closest aides over the past decade.
The aides charged Thursday were, according to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, engaged in fundraising and other political activities during work hours while on the staff of Walker when he served as county executive.
Chisholm explains in a pair of detailed complaints that Russell and the newly indicted aides established a “secret email system available to and used by select ‘insider’ staffers for both official and unofficial business.” That system was built around a wireless router that was kept in an armoire in the office of Walker’s deputy chief of staff — just a few feet from Walker’s office. Its existence was “never disclosed to county employees outside a closely held group within the Walker administration.”
The complaint discusses the exchange of thousands — yes, thousands — of emails involving fundraising and political activity. Many of these email exchanges involve the deputy chief of staff who is now charged with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, Kelly Rindfleisch, and top political aides to Walker, including Keith Gilkes, who went on to serve as the governor’s chief of staff.
Walker admits that during the campaign he was in constant communication with Gilkes about fundraising and campaign strategy.
Rindfleisch was in constant communication with Gilkes and other campaign aides.
Despite the fact that it is illegal for county officials to use their offices for campaign work, Rindfleisch revealed in one email that “half” her taxpayer-funded work was “for the campaign.”
Another individual who appears to have been in email contact with the Walker aides was Reince Priebus, the former Republican Party of Wisconsin chair who now heads the Republican National Committee.
Additional emails went to the campaign of Brett Davis, a Walker ally who was running for lieutenant governor in a 2010 Republican primary. Davis lost that race, but now works in the Walker administration as a top appointee of the governor. The manager of the Davis campaign for lieutenant governor was Cullen Werwie, who exchanged emails with Rindfleisch.
Werwie, who now serves as Gov. Walker’s spokesman, has been granted immunity in the John Doe investigation.
For Rindfleisch, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, the charges are very serious — major felonies that carry with them the prospect of multiple years in jail. The 57-page complaint against her, and against a lower-level political operative named Darlene Wink (who has agreed to aid prosecutors), provides a rough outline for what political observers have begun to refer to as a classic “pay-to-play” political operation, where key government aides are involved in both policymaking and campaign fundraising from parties that are interested in those policies.
The added twist: Rarely if ever has an investigation into this sort of activity revealed that discussions about money and policy were mixed on a “secret email system.”
The investigation is ongoing. It continues to expand at an exponential rate, touching more and more of Walker’s inner circle, including aides in the county executive’s office, 2010 campaign aides and donors, and aides in the governor’s office and Walker’s current campaign. Notably, Rindfleisch, who was paid by Milwaukee County taxpayers during the 2010 Walker campaign, left county employment after Walker’s election to help organize the new governor’s inauguration. Rindfleisch then went to work as a top fundraising aide with the governor’s political operation, Friends of Scott Walker, with which she was employed until January 2012.
This John Doe investigation is still in the early stages of sorting through mountains of information obtained in FBI raids and related investigations of Walker aides and donors. Key players are cutting immunity deals and agreeing to talk. That means that the charges and complaints will continue through the recall campaign demanded by the 1 million Wisconsinites who petitioned for Walker’s ouster.
The potential that the John Doe inquiry will be a major political problem for Walker now seems a good deal greater than it did just days ago.
Here’s why.
The latest complaint ties wrongdoing to Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
This new complaint makes the connection to Walker’s current spokesman Cullen Werwie, who has requested immunity in the John Doe probe. The private email network in the county executive’s office was aiding both Walker’s campaign and the campaign of a Walker ally, Brett Davis, who was running for lieutenant governor. Werwie was Davis’ campaign spokesman. (In addition to Werwie, Davis is now a top Walker appointee.)
The complaint features a reference to an email from Walker showing at least some knowledge of problems with politicking in the office. He is primarily concerned that there be no media stories about political operations being run out of the county executive’s office — following the revelation in 2010 that one of the aides charged Thursday, Wink, was doing political work on county time. “We cannot afford another story like this one,” reads the email, which was included in the complaint. “No one can give them any reason to do another story.” The governor even counsels his political wingman about the use of laptops and websites during the workday.
The complaint released Thursday is the most detailed and serious yet directed at the official and political activities on behalf of Walker.
And few will debate that these charges are the most serious to arise thus far from the John Doe probe. They bring the investigation dramatically closer to the governor.
This does not mean that the governor is going to be indicted, or that he is guilty of wrongdoing.
But it does raise the classic question from the Watergate era inquiries into the misdeeds of aides to President Richard Nixon. Of Nixon it was asked: “What did he know and when did he know it?”
With the latest charges and the fresh complaint, it is now entirely reasonable to say with regard to Scott Walker: “What did he know and when did he know it?”
John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com