June 30, 2011

No bike lanes to new sports superstore

Over the weekend I went to Scheels, the new sports superstore behemoth in Springfield. They have a large section of bicycles and riding gear. They did a good job putting bike racks out front. They even have a large statue of a bicycle rider.

And yet, there are no bike lanes on the newly built roads leading to this destination for cyclists. Another episode in city planning brilliance!

This repeats the huge blunder of not extending the bike lanes around UIS onto roads built for the new South 6th Street Wal-mart. It was the perfect opportunity to connect bike lanes on the south end of town to the city center. The opportunity was wasted. Now that the roads are built, we're likely to be stuck with these mistakes for years or decades.

I give credit to planners for redesigning the new MacAruthur I-72 interchange (after intense public pressure) so that it doesn't cut off a recreational bike path. But, cycling isn't just for recreational riders. Bicycle lanes should be included on every new road.

Bike lanes aren't a new, experimental idea to be viewed with skepticism. It should simply be done. There's no excuse for planing our infrastructure with a 1950's car-centric mindset.

I had to get that off my chest.

The store itself is impressively ginormous. They have higher quality gear than other outdoors stores in town. The clothing and shoe sections were nice. The prices seem comparable to REI.

We went on a fun/terrifying Ferris wheel ride inside the store.


They have a talking Abraham Lincoln that delivers the Gettysburg Address.


Seeing the guy in a wet suit feeding fish in their large aquarium was entertaining.

Their 100,000 donation to United Way is commendable. However, the local United Way doesn't support environmental causes. Perhaps Scheels will also give to area conservation and environmental organizations since some of their profits depend on those groups successfully protecting natural areas for people to recreate in. Yes, this hint is self-serving but it makes sense.

Anyway, the store is worth going to see at least once whether or not you buy anything. Just be careful if you try riding your bike there.

June 21, 2011

Bonnaroo 2011 Sunday

By day four of Bonnaroo the volunteers were saying "thank you" every time I threw something away. I suspect they were tired of picking up trash off the ground but they did a great job of clearing the place every night. I also appreciate that Bonnaroo makes the extra effort of helping people sort their trash into separate bins for landfill, compost, and recycling. Vendors are forced to use compostable plates and cups.

Planning a festival of this size is impressive and I don't expect everything to go perfectly. Sound problems, schedule conflicts, and putting bands on stages that anyone should have known would be too small are usually the most irritating issues. But the one big inexcusable problem this year was the Great Bonnaroo Dustbowl. The dry dust gave me major sinus and allergy problems all weekend. It never let up. A look at the Bonnaroo discussion board shows that it kept many people sick a week or more after they got home. Dealing with dust isn't rocket science. After 10 years the organizers should know how not to send thousands of people home with bronchitis.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can go on about the great day of music I heard Sunday. Friends raved about Railroad Earth and it turns out that my friends have good taste in music. I didn't see that many jam bands considering that Bonnaroo started out as a jam band fest so Railroad Earth filled the bill.

I went to see Mavis Staples on the big stage because I didn't want to pass up a chance to hear a living legend. Her performance was far beyond anything I expected. As she said, her gospel show was the closest thing to church service anyone at Bonnaroo was attending that Sunday.


After singing The Weight she let us know that her backup band was THE BAND. I had no idea they were at Bonnaroo! Then she brought out Patti Griffin and Buddy Miller who were there with Robert Plant's Band of Joy. If she had been the only main stage act that day I would have been happy.

On the Which stage, Amos Lee was very good. I loved Iron & Wine but my girlfriend got bored.


I couldn't miss seeing at least some of the set by Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. It's kind of funny to hear a pillar of British hard rock and metal sing traditional Americana music with a Nashville band.


It was even funnier to hear classic Led Zeppelin riffs done country-style on a pedal steel guitar. I loved it! Band of Joy is a good name. They had one of the most fun, joyful sounding sets this year.

The Strokes lived up to their name. I've wanted to see them for years and I liked what I heard. But they also started 15-20 minutes late and finished 15-20 minutes early. Can't handle playing for more than an hour, guys? I know having a hipster "too cool to care" attitude is part of their schtick but their near-contempt for the audience turned me off. It's Bonnaroo, fellas. Put in a little extra effort before going back to moping about being rich, famous and working a dream job.


Roger Waters seemed to enjoy them from backstage.

Widespread Panic were the visual and musical explosion I expected them to be.


The light show and non-stop jams are something you just have to see. I've never heard a recording that captures anything close to the incredible experience of seeing them live.


And after that I started waiting for next year.

Bonnaroo Day 3 - Saturday

It has been over a week and I'm finally getting around to writing down my experience. The first two days of Bonnaroo were amazing but Saturday turned it up to 11.

The day started off with a Nashville band called Cheer Up Charlie Daniels that won some kind of online vote to play at Bonnaroo. They may in fact be the most cheerful band I've ever seen.


They passed out fans with celebrity faces on them, had funny outfits, and there was some kind of robot in the background with Sarah Palin's face. The music was good too. Their polygamy song is hilarious. I only had a cell phone with me so the pics aren't so hot.


Next, I went to The Other Tent for a Mongolian folk/punk band I had never heard called Hanggai. They were without a doubt my favorite show of the festival. The throat singer and traditional instruments were unique and wild like nothing I've heard before (except for one traditional Mongolian hill song that sounded just like an Irish folk tune).


They had two singers. A throat singer seated on the right, plus a lead singer who fired up the crowd without speaking English. In between songs he would say something no one understood but with enough enthusiasm that everyone still shouted back.


Last year, the South Saharan band Tinarawin was one of the best shows of Bonnaroo. Expanding their world music bookings would be a better direction than some of the choices they made this year.


Allison Krauss and Union Station returned to Roo with another great show. A huge crowd went nuts for Mumford & Sons.

I was excited to see Loretta Lynn and she put on one of the best performances of the week. It felt good to see how enthusiastic and appreciative the crowd was for the Queen of Country. She said something about Jack White leaving her high and dry but she did fine without him. I never realized how many of her songs are about the struggles of working class women. You don't hear that much on the radio anymore.

The Black Keys were hard to enjoy while I fought my way back and forth between stages, but I got to hear them perform my favorite song of theirs, Ten Cent Pistol.

The Buffalo Springfield reunion was one of those "only chance in your life" shows and Neil Young even said that it was the largest crowd the band had ever played for. You couldn't tell that they don't play together all the time. Kind Woman was the highlight for me and they had a huge finish with Keep on Rockin in The Free World. How could I not love a band named after my hometown and my favorite mammal?

On the way back to camp I heard Eminem sing the chorus line of "Slim Shady will fucking kill you" while a giant, rotating machine gun graphic on screen shot bullets at the audience. I guess you could say it didn't fit in with the rest of the festival's positive vibe. Late in the set he did a medley with short clips of hits from older albums. I rested up to get ready for the late night shows.


Dr. John's hat topped the Bonnaroo gate this year, and he reunited with the original Meters to play the album Destively Bonnaroo. It was a fun, funky set.

I'm a little embarrassed that I wimped out and went back to camp after Dr. John without seeing Gogol Bordello. The day was exhausting in the best way possible.

June 17, 2011

Bonnaroo Day 1 & 2 highlights

Wow. My third Bonnaroo. I'll write a few thoughts for my own memories and maybe somebody will find it interesting.

I already wrote about Thursday's big highlight; Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking at the screening of The Last Mountain. Two people passed out from the heat while we were waiting in line. After that they moved the line faster and people got their first warning about Tennessee weather in June.

I had to miss a few bands to see the movie but I made it to Deerhunter. They sounded kind of like what I was expecting from My Morning Jacket, which was good.


Tammy and I both won stuffed Stewie's playing Plinko at the Adult Swim carnival!


One of the best things about Bonnaroo is discovering new bands and Friday started off with an excellent set by Sharon Van Etten, who I'd never heard of. My picture isn't very good but she played a few songs with some kind of tabletop accordion. I've never seen that before.

sharon van etten

I saw a long list of great performances Friday but Ray Lamontagne was probably my favorite. Besides his own songs, he knocked my socks off with covers of Momma Tried by Merle Haggard, plus a medley of Neil Young's Down by the River and Pink Floyd.

We caught Austin alt-country band Hayes Carll on the small Sonic stage. They were great but I was disappointed that they didn't play She Left Me for Jesus.

hayes carll

I saw enough of Lil Wayne to know I wasn't missing much. Arcade Fire impresses me more every time I hear them.

I was looking forward to the Black Angels late night show as much as any band and they didn't disappoint.

The crowd at Bonnaroo is always interesting. I noticed more public nudity from both genders than in previous years.

It's not the hippie jam band fest it was the first year or two. The hipsters, hippies, and various counterculture music lovers all get along well. The only group whose anti-social behavior makes them stick out in a negative way is the frat boy crowd that seemed larger this year.


For example, suppose you're standing or sitting while listening to a great band at one of the smaller stages. Someone stands in the middle of a group at the edge of the crowd, and after dropping a can of cheap beer on the ground, starts to obnoxiously yell over the band, "Josh! Josh! Where the fuck are you!" I guess he can't just look around like everyone else does. The proper response is to help him out by yelling, "Josh! Your douchebag friend is looking for you!"

Anyway, the first two days were a blast.

June 15, 2011

The Last Mountain at Bonnaroo

I went to Bonnaroo this year for the third time and made my first trip to the cinema tent for a screening of The Last Mountain. It was a thrill to have Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on hand to introduce the film and do a short Q&A after.


I've shown several movies on mountaintop removal mining at Liberty Brew & View so The Last Mountain covers familiar territory. It reviews a few of the same battles and scenes essential to the story that I've seen before. Two big factors set this documentary apart. One is high production value, especially the spectacular footage of mountaintop mining operations.

The second is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. himself. His charisma and enthusiasm give the movie unique energy. Rather than attempting to evenly show both sides, Mountain makes a clear argument and does so powerfully. The funnest scene is Kennedy having a lively conversation in a small cafe with the head of the West Virginia Coal Association.

The most interesting surprise was the film's argument in defense of outsiders getting involved. Other movies and activists focus on local West Virginians, which is understandable. The Last Mountain not only defended why outsiders like Kennedy have an obligation to intervene, but also highlights the courageous acts of civil disobedience by "outside agitators" with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice. It was refreshing to see the filmmakers tackle an issue that many avoid.


A young crowd of over 600 watched at Bonnaroo on June 9 and the response was wildly enthusiastic. There were plenty of laughs and shouts at the screen during the showing and a standing ovation at the end.

Only two questions were asked after the movie but they both lead to Kennedy's characteristic rants. He spoke about the important role documentary films have come to play as sources of news and information ignored by the corporate press. Documentaries like this one are absolutely essential when a compromised press chooses to push celebrity gossip rather than report relevant news that doesn't fit the agenda of their advertisers and owners. I couldn't agree more. Nothing makes media bias more obvious than following how coal issues are covered.

Be sure to see The Last Mountain if there's a screening in your town.

June 5, 2011

Visiting the Greenhouse Rebellion on WDBX

I'm passing through Southern Illinois Monday, so why not go on the radio to talk about the coal industry? I'll be on the first hour of Greenhouse Rebellion on Carbondale's WDBX Monday morning. Talking about coal is always more fun in the heart of Illinois coal country.

June 2, 2011

RFK Jr: The coal indsutry brings poverty and destroys jobs

It's as true in southern Illinois as it is in the Appalachian mountains.

If you missed it, watch Robert Kennedy Jr's interview with Stephen Colbert about a new movie, The Last Mountain.

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Best quotes from Senator Mike Jacobs' violent freak out

Business-friendly Democratic State Senator Mike Jacobs lost his shit and made some fun comments to reporters before calming down. I'm compiling the best quotes here so everyone can participate in the schadenfreude entertainment.

The setup: Jacobs was set off by Senator Kyle McCarter, who pointed out the obvious on the Senate floor by suggesting that there's a conflict of interest in Mike Jacobs' own father (former Senator Denny Jacobs) being employed as a corporate lobbyist on a major bill Mike is sponsoring. Mike allegedly responded by punching McCarter in the chest.

And then he started talking to reporters.

"You can look under my underwear," Jacobs said. "I don't care where you look. But the fact is I support this."

What? No thanks, Mike.

"I would say that the senator is full of shit," Jacobs said. "The one thing I will not allow to happen, is to let anyone question my integrity. Especially someone who couldn't even really polish my shoes."

"If I hurt his feelings, he should file a workers' comp claim."

Ok, that one cracked me up.

“In effect, what he’s saying is I’m a 50-year-old man that does whatever my father tells me, which is a bunch of crap.”

hmmm...someone sounds a little too defensive.

To be fair, it may not matter than Mike's father is a lobbyist for utilities. It may just be in his nature to do whatever Ameren asks and serve corporate special interests, much like his father did as a Senator.

Jacobs lives in the 17th Congressional district, which is currently held by a Republican, and was just redrawn to be even more Democratic. I'd say any talk of Jacobs being a serious candidate for that Congressional seat just died.

McCarter also spoke out against Tenaska's proposed coal plant in Taylorville. I'm impressed by anyone who's willing to stand up to Ameren, ComEd and the Illinois coal industry. Keep it up Kyle.

Former tea party talk radio host takes Obama-funded government job

A former conservative talk radio host who emceed Tea party rallies is now working a government job that's funded by Obama's Environmental Protection Agency.

The State Journal-Register writer was too polite to point out the hilarious irony, but I'm not. He'll be helping to enforce big government red tape at the State Fire Marshall's Office.

Yes, he emceed events for the same tea party that tells us "government doesn't create jobs." Of course, those events were in Springfield, Illinois where the top employers are: 1) State Government, 2) Hospitals that survive on government funding, 3) Public schools and colleges, and 4) Our publicly owned utility. Most people in Springfield wouldn't have jobs if it weren't for government.

springfield illinois tea party
(Liberty...and a job funded by an EPA grant)

In this economy, after Bush's recession, I can't blame someone for taking a government job that goes against their values, even after claiming on air that Obama's stimulus wouldn't work. At least Obama managed to create the job this tea party leader is working at now.

I listened to Dave Kelm's show occasionally and even called in twice. I wish him luck in his new job. I also wish him luck at reconciling his conservative ideological fantasies with the hard reality of his new position as a big government bureaucrat.

June 1, 2011

Heartland Coalfield Alliance

This is a good thing to check out.

There's a lot of work already being done on air emissions from coal power plants. Heartland Coalfield Alliance is a group forming to be a resource for those combating all the impacts of coal, including mining and coal ash waste sites.

They're focused on the Illinois coal basin. As mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia is banned, several companies are looking to expand mining in Illinois. Residents should be prepared to defend themselves against the worst impacts of coal operations by those companies who don't respect the communities they operate in.

You can check out their website and the brand new facebook page.

Heartland Coalfield Alliance

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