OKTOBERFEST, THE PEOPLE’S FAIR

The meaning of the annual celebration, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

German-American Festival, Chicago

German-American Festival, Chicago

It seems every community wants to have an Oktoberfest.  It doesn’t matter if they have any idea what the Oktoberfest actually is.  They just want to have one.  Perhaps some think if they have enough music and beer, then they have a Fest.  Our community is no exception.  Chicago’s largest ethnic group is German-American so we think we know how to have a Fest.  As street festivals go, it is pretty good.  It is not an Oktoberfest like you would find in Germany.

Some of my friends have the Oktoberfest in Munich on their Bucket List.  They think I should want to be a party to this too.  The older I get, the worse this idea actually sounds.  For those who don’t know, around six million visitors show up for the 17 to 19 day festival.  If you do not have a reservation in advance, you are not likely to get into one of the crowded beer halls.  In fact, huge crowds of beer drinkers can get rather unhappy if you run out of beer, as happened at the 200th anniversary in 2010.

The Bavarian festival began in October 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig got married and invited the people of Bavaria to join in the celebration on the field in front of the city gate at Munich.  The celebration was held somewhat annually and eventually lengthened.  It’s beginning was moved into September and ended with the first weekend in October.  So in many ways this “Volksfest” is more of a September event.  If the 3rd (German Unity Day) falls on a Monday or Tuesday, the event gets extended to include that date.

Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart, Germany

Contrary to what many may now think, the event was not always held.  Twenty four fall seasons saw no festival because of cholera, or war, or hard economic times.  But most years the autumnal celebrations go on around Germany and tourists flock to the carnival like events.  For those who like to wander the grounds or can not get into a hall, the outside areas now include carnival rides, food booths and beer booths.  You might find a seat outside, but the fall weather is not always accommodating.

Cannstatter Volksfest

Cannstatter Volksfest

In 2010 a friend who lives in France tried to organize a trip to Oktoberfest, but the reality is you must plan a year in advance in order to get in.  So we made the best decision we could have made.  Together we went to the second largest German Fest which is held in Stuttgart, Cannstatter Volksfest.  Yes, it was crowded and the weather was not the best, but we got into beer halls, drank and ate with people from around the world, stood on our benches and sang songs we barely knew.  It could not have been better.  Perhaps the best part was sharing in the fun with one of my best friends.  Yes, we seem to have fun wherever our adventures take us, but we would not have found an atmosphere quite like that anywhere else in the world.

Note:  Click on the Stuttgart picture for a larger version of the fair grounds.  We did walk around in the rain, just like everyone else.

CHICAGO “NOW”

AKA Chicago XXXVI, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Chicago, the band, has done something most older bands are reluctant to do.  They have put out a new studio album of original music entitled “Chicago NOW.” Legendary bands with staying power such as Chicago make their living off their faithful fans at live performances and sales of older albums.  They know that only a select handful of older bands can actually sell new singles and albums.  The buying public for new music is mainly in the 13 to 34 age bracket and many of them tend to stream music rather than actually buy it.  The main buyers of CDs are in the 45 and over crowd but they are buying “catalog” music, or that is to say, classics from their favorite artists of the past.

Studio time can be expensive, both in terms of the studio cost and the lost concert performance time.  A touring band like Chicago, who spends most of the year on the road, does not like the idea of stopping for an extended length of time.  But Chicago is not ready to stop composing and recording, so how do they tour and record?  The answer came with a new recording system they call “The Rig.”  They have pushed the technology forward with a portable system so good, they record as they travel.  Much of Chicago NOW was done in hotel rooms across the country and around the world.

Founding member and trumpet player, Lee Loughnane, took charge of the project to put out a new album without stopping the show, so to speak.  Each composer of a song got to act as producer for his entry to the album and various band members helped with arrangements as well as select musicians from outside the group.  The group not only recorded on the move, they did not all have to be there at once.  Members would record their parts at different times.  Hank Linderman, a long time studio engineer, was the coordinating producer.  A “collaboration portal” was set up and tracks were sent at all times, from Chicago and contributing musicians.  The result is a stunning contribution to the Chicago catalog and worthy of their best early efforts.

The title track, released as a download prior to the album début, has now worked it way into the current tour performances.  Written by Greg Barnhill and Chicago band member Jason Scheff, the number was produced and arranged by Scheff.  It is an energetic start to the album.  Scheff also contributed “Love Lives On” and is co-composer to founding member Robert Lamm’s  song, “Crazy Happy.”

While the horns section technically remains in tact with founding members Lee Loughnane on trumpet and James Pankow on trombone, founding member and woodwind player Walt Parazaider appears in the videos but in fact only played on three of the recordings.  Now at age 69, a variety of health issues in recent years has limited Parazaider’s time on the road.  Long time fill-in Ray Herrmann is also credited on three of the songs, though he is not listed as a band member.  While Herrmannn is now a frequent performer, the audience does not always realize it.  From a distance he somewhat resembles Walt.  Other sax players contributed to the album as well.

Guitar player Keith Howland sings the song he composed with Scheff and drummer Tris Imboden, “Nice Girl.”  He also contributes, along with Imboden to Lamm’s “Free at Last.”  As expected, Lamm leads the way on this album, being credited with lead vocals on six of the songs and background vocals on others.

Previously, I wrote about “America” released last fall. It appears on this album.  Lou Pardini drives home the song and the social commentary on lead vocal and keyboards.  Also on percussion for the band is Walfredo Reyes, Jr., a more recent addition to the Chicago lineup, a talented nine guys.

Chicago

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

AMERICA – Rich Paschall

A view from Chicago, the band

Chicago has been around a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career.  After threat of legal action by the home town transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.

Their pop, rock, jazz infused sound was ground breaking.  In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and a drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone lead the way.  It was a sound that led to more groups backed by horns.

As with many bands of the time period, they had their share of songs with social messages.  A war protest song (It Better End Soon), a song following the moon-landing (Where Do We Go From Here?) and a political commentary (Dialogue, Part I & II).  They certainly did not rely on this type of song, but they were not afraid of them either.

As the decades rolled on they just may have relied a little more heavily on ballads and soft rock.  That’s why it is interesting to find that Chicago is back with another album, Chicago Now, aka Chicago XXXVI, with a heavy reliance on the type of horn sounds of their early years and a commentary on the American scene.

America, America is free!
America!
America is you and me!

America, the third track on the newly released album, was actually available for download last fall.  With music and lyrics by founding member Lee Loughnane, it is not a throwback to another era, but a push forward for a band that has done something older bands are reluctant to do.  That is, put out an album of new material.

The dream was fading before our eyes
Take some time to revive it.
‘We the people’ must start right now
Don’t expect our leaders to show us how
They don’t have a clue what to do
If they knew how to stop this slide
We’d have seen some signs by now
To turn back the tide.

Lou Pardini provides keyboards and lead vocals for this anthem.  The beauty of the chorus and its tight harmony is in contrast to the attack of Pardini on the verses.  At times he is almost at a growling pace as he delivers his lines and the song’s message.

We can’t keep havin’ you make our rules
When you treat us common folk like fools
It’s time to stand up for our rights
Put congress in our political sights.
Make them pass laws that help us all
The Founding Fathers echo
Will be heard in the hall
By the people, for the people, everyone equal.

If you thought Chicago was gone, even though they tour every year and have periodically released new music, they are “NOW” back and they mean business. Watch the video below for the lyrics and yes, that is the Chicago skyline at the opening.  What did you expect?

Criminals and Gun Violence – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG, Richard Paschall

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News – Sunday Night Blog – Richard Paschall

Despite news stories that would suggest the opposite, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are fond of pointing out that the city has endured less shootings than in recent years.  If that is truly the case, then the shootings in past years was under reported by local media.  You can believe that they are all over it now. Local news in most big cities follow the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and shootings have become the lead stories all too often in the Windy City and around America. Chicago has become the topic of national newscasts and unfortunate late night talk show jokes.

Mayor Emanuel and his predecessor, long time mayor Rich Daley, have worked hard to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.  They worked to restrict gun sales, limit concealed carry and ban guns at certain locations.  In light of gun violence, it seems logical that city leaders would lead the charge to get guns out of the hands of the type of people who would shoot up a city park.  Unfortunately their efforts have met the fight to let criminals have their guns.  “Who would be against the efforts of our elected officials to make the city streets safer?” you may ask.  Is it just the gangs?  Are the gangs using their drug profits to oppose the city in court?  Is it the Mafia and their high-priced attorneys?  Is it some Tea Party extremist?  No, it is none of those although the last might be close.  It is the National Rifle Association that is working hard to let criminals have guns and keep violence on main street America.  They have money.  They have lawyers and they like taking Chicago to court.

Yes, one of the roadblocks to taking guns away from criminals is the NRA.  They will now point to recent shootings as proof that we can not have gun control.  They will again try to force feed us the argument that gun control will mean that only criminals will have guns  and we will all be at their mercy, as if we are not now.  The NRA will use their usual scare tactics to defend their extreme position that actually allows criminals to get more and more guns.  They will then attempt to sell us on the idea that all of those guns in the hands of criminals means we can not have gun control laws.  Somehow they seem to think that arming the bad guys is proof that the good guys should not have to face any sort of restrictions on buying guns.  If you think this philosophy is a bit twisted, you are right (or perhaps I meant left).

The “slippery slope” argument is at the top of the NRA’s philosophy about gun control laws.  They seem to think that if there are any restrictions to buying guns, soon there will be more and more restrictions to follow and eventually  all the good guys will have to give up their guns to the federal, state and local governments.  It does not matter that this argument make no sense and the Second Amendment will protect them.  They continue to fight the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago through misleading pronouncements and court challenges.  Consider the common sense ideas of the state and city along with the extremist, Wild West position of the NRA.

Attempts at restricting private sale or transfer of guns to criminals have been challenged.  Reporting lost or stolen guns has been challenged.  Restricting concealed carry in certain public places has been challenged.  The NRA has won a battle against the State of Illinois in Moore v. Madigan.  That would be Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for the State of Illinois.  They claimed that the State efforts to enforce its laws left people “defenseless” outside their own homes.  They also backed McDonald v. Chicago in a fight against Chicago hand guns laws.  Their direct fight in NRA v. Chicago was later consolidated with the McDonald case.  While the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the Chicago law, the fight went to the Supreme Court where the much of the Chicago ordinance was struck down, leaving the city to attempt a less restrictive ban in 2010.

The State of Illinois was forced in July to adopt a concealed weapons laws, which angered city officials.  The law forced changes on the City of Chicago.  City officials, however, refuse to roll over to the wishes of the NRA.  They are now attempting to ban guns in bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.  They feel guns and booze don’t mix.  They expect the NRA to back the Dodge City mentality and challenge them in court.  Apparently, there should be no checking of hand guns at the door, but Marshal Dillon is not around to toss the bad guys in jail like an episode of Gunsmoke so this may not go well.  Perhaps all disputes will be settled by a duel in the street rather than shooting up Chicago saloons.

If Al Capone were still alive he would be proud of the efforts of the NRA to let Capone and Frank Nitti keep guns on the streets of Chicago.  As for Eliot Ness, the NRA would keep him and the Untouchables busy in court with challenges over any attempts to enforce the law, even common sense laws.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Despite all the palaver that the availability of guns does not affect crime levels, this is so obviously ridiculous and self-serving by gun enthusiasts that it really isn’t worth arguing. I think everyone who hunts, competes in shooting sports and has some kind of genuine reason to own a weapon should be allowed to do so. I also think that all guns should be better regulated, insured, and kept track of.  Here is an opinion from Richard Paschall, SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG. Well worth reading.

See on rjptalk.wordpress.com

Pride

Marilyn Armstrong:

Well done!

Originally posted on Sunday Night Blog:

When I posted the following last year I purposely chose Gay Pride week in Chicago.  I also purposely did not mention “gay” anywhere.  I would rather let everyone decide which part of themselves they were most proud of being, and hope they could see everyone wants to have pride.  Also, to be proud of one thing in your life is not license to hate all of the other groups in your community.  Diversity is our strength, not our weakness.  Also note, at the time of this writing Benedict XVI was Pope. 

Everyone wants to feel like they belong, and they want to feel proud. One of the neighborhoods where I grew up was very Irish American. Indeed our parish was run by an Irish American bishop and there were always priests of Irish descent there. The Irish friends and families we knew seemed to enjoy life so much and were so proud of their…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change – Beginning To End

As I live my life here in the country, amidst trees, weeds, rocks and creatures that make their home in the woods surrounding us, I have become attuned to seasonal changes and the things which mark the ending of one and the start of the next.

The end of winter is heralded by the brave crocuses who battle their through the last of winter’s snow and debris.  Each picture in this gallery shows both a start and a finish, parts of the cycle. Embedded in every end is a beginning. Change is eternal.

Roger Ebert, RIP – Whatever

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

I can’t say that I ever spoke to Roger Ebert, but I can say I was once in the same room with him — specifically, the critics’ screening room in Chicago, where as the entertainment editor for my college newspaper I watched a terrible movie called Farewell to the King, and he and Gene Siskel were there as well, sitting, if I remember correctly, in the back of the little theater. Other critics were snarking and catcalling the screen (I mentioned it wasn’t a very good film), and either Siskel or Ebert (it was dark and I was facing the screen) told them to shut it. They shut it. After the movie was done I rode down in the elevator with him. And that was my brush with greatness, film critic style.

For all that I consider Ebert to be one of my most important writing teachers. He was my teacher in a real and practical sense — I was hired at age 22 to be a newspaper film critic, with very little direct practical experience in film criticism (not withstanding Farewell to the King, I mostly reviewed music for my college paper). I was hired in May of 1991, but wouldn’t start until September, which left me the summer to get up to speed. I did it by watching three classic movies a night (to the delight of my then-roommates), and by buying every single review book Roger Ebert had out and reading every single review in them.

He was a great teacher. He was passionate about film — not just knowledgeable about films and directors and actors, but in love with the form, in a way that came through in every review. Even when a movie was bad, you could tell that at least part of the reason Ebert was annoyed was because the film failed its medium, which could achieve amazing things. But as passionate as he was about film, he wasn’t precious about it. Ebert loved film, but what I think he loved most of all was the fact that it entertained him so. He loved being entertained, and he loved telling people, in language which was direct and to the point (he worked for the Sun-Times, the blue-collar paper in town) what about the films was so entertaining. What he taught me about film criticism is that film criticism isn’t about showing off what you know about film, it was about sharing what made you love film.

I saw how much Roger Ebert loved film that summer, through his reviews and his words. By the end of the summer, I loved film too. And I wanted to do what he did: Share that love and make people excited about going to the movies, sitting there with their popcorn, waiting to be entertained in the way only film can entertain you.

I left newspaper film criticism — not entirely voluntarily — but even after I left that grind I still loved writing about film and went back to it when I could. I wrote freelance reviews for newspapers, magazines and online sites; I’ve published two books about film. Every year I make predictions about the Oscars here on the site. And I can tell you (roughly) the domestic box office of just about every studio film since 1991. All of that flows back to sitting there with Roger Ebert’s words, catching the film bug from him. There are other great film critics, of course (I also have a soft spot for Pauline Kael, which is not entirely surprising), but Ebert was the one I related to the most, and learned the most from.

In these later years and after everything that he’d been through with cancer and with losing the ability to physically speak, I read and was contemplative about the essays and pieces he put up on his Web site. Much of that had nothing to do with film criticism, but was a matter of him writing… well, whatever. Which meant it was something I could identify with to a significant degree, since that is what I do here. It would be foolish to say that Ebert losing his physical voice freed him to find his voice elsewhere. What I think may be more accurate was that losing his physical voice reminded Ebert that he still had things he wanted to say before he ran out of time to say them.

His Web essays have a sharp, bright but autumnal quality to them; the leaves were still on the trees but the colors were changing and the snap was in the air. It seemed to me Ebert wrote them with the joy of living while there is still life left. I loved these essays but they also made me sad. I knew as a reader they couldn’t last. And of course they didn’t.

I had always meant to send Ebert a copy of Old Man’s War, for no other reason than as a token of appreciation. I knew he was a science fiction geek through and through (he had a penchant for giving science fiction films an extra star if they were especially groovy in the departments of effects and atmosphere). I wanted to sign the book to him and let him know how much his work meant to me — and for him to have the experience of the book before the movie, whenever that might be. I tried getting in touch with one of his editors at the Sun-Times, who I used to freelance for in college, to get it to him, but never heard back from her. Later it would turn out he and I had the same film/tv agent, who offered to forward on the book for me. I kept meaning to send off the book. I never did. I regret it now.

Although he can’t know it now, I still think it’s worth saying: Thank you, Roger Ebert, for being my teacher and for being such a good writer, critic and observer of the world. You made a difference in my life, and it is richer for having your words in it.

See on whatever.scalzi.com

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