Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gabe Sullivan: Songwriting Machine!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 3:49 PM

"Dude, got a guitar pick and a shot of mezcal?" - CHRIS HINKLE
  • Chris Hinkle
  • "Dude, got a guitar pick and a shot of mezcal?"
At the beginning of 2017, as winds turned cold and Mercury moved into retrograde, Gabriel Sullivan, Tucson guitar-slinger (for XIXA and Howe Gelb), record producer and prolific songwriter, embarked on an insane project; to compose, record and post a song a day for a year. 
It's a challenge he imposed upon himself once before in ‘14, in a project called The Crucible, completing an impressive 365 songs (that's right, 365 songs). Sullivan decided to bring back the project this year under the name The Resurrectionist. A creative undertaking not quite on par with the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus—where the legendary king of Corinth is condemned to roll a heavy rock up a hill in Hades only to have it roll back down again as it nears the top repeatedly for all of eternity—but damn close.

The setting is often sparse; most vignettes find Sullivan’s throaty voice alone with a nylon string acoustic guitar. Lyrically, it's all there, Sullivan touches on time honored themes: Pain, loss, separation, love, hubris, sin, redemption. And listeners will discover instrumental skeletons and etchings that only the darkness of late night and shots of mezcal may inspire. We here at TW have to take our hats off at the sheer aspiration of the endeavour.

At the outset, this project is much the same as a greenhouse used for cultivation. For music geeks, the type that titillates the imagination with possibility. A creative form of Darwinism, if you will, wherein the most robust of the seeds will continue to germinate then bloom in various contexts; finding their place on albums and setlists. The other seeds will inevitably freeze in the cold or wither under the mercurial sun.

Check out Song A Day Project: The Resurrectionist here.

Here's the latest:

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Trump's Election Has Been Very Good For K12 Inc.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 2:10 PM

The impending demise of K12 Inc., the for-profit online school corporation, has been an occasional source of schadenfreude in my posts. Online education as the sole source of schooling for K-12 students is a bad idea for all but a few people, and K12 Inc. needs millions of students, which requires a regular infusion of new students, to make a profit. The corporation's schools are failures by nearly every standard you can apply to them, and its stock prices have fallen steadily as a result. It had all the earmarks of a failing corporation, and I watched expectantly for it to crash and burn.

That changed November 9, the day after Trump's election. As you can see on the stock report at the top of the post, K12 Inc.'s stock price has soared since that fateful day. The Trump-era market is bullish on for-profit privatization in all its forms, including education.

Now, along comes Betsy DeVos as Trump's pick for Secretary of Education. DeVos is a champion of school choice—charters, vouchers and homeschooling. So long as it helps dismantle the school district model of public education (and where possible, promotes religious education), she's for it. In Michigan, DeVos' home state where she spends millions of dollars buying pro-school-choice politicians and setting up nonprofit advocacy groups, 80 percent of the charter schools are for profit, and accountability is kept to an absolute minimum. Even charter advocates complain that the Wild West approach to charters allows too many low quality Michigan schools to remain open.

But charter schools don't do well in sparsely populated areas where distances work against them. That's one reason DeVos and other school choicers support online education, where your "school" is always as close as your computer. Distance is no obstacle for distance learning, so online schooling opens up rural education markets.

We know DeVos held an "investment interest" in K12 Inc. before it went public, but we have no way of knowing if that continued. We may find out if she makes a full financial disclosure during her confirmation hearings.

Continue reading »

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A Beloved Local Musician in Need: Local Music Superpowers Rally to Help

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 12:01 PM

As all of us T-town residents know, Tucson cares. I moved here from Brooklyn four years ago, after nearly a decade of touring the states as a musician. The perpetual travel of my 20s gave me the rather unique experience of getting to know every nook and corner of our country, coast to coast, border to border.

But in looking to live somewhere a bit more in line with my concept of home than the incessant hustle of New York City, I chose Tucson. It was an easy decision. This town hits on all levels. The quality of art and music is astounding. The natural beauty that surrounds us is both stunning and humbling. The culture is rich. And, more than anything, Tucson is home to the most compassionate and supportive musicians  I've ever experienced.
Travis Ray Dent
  • Travis Ray Dent

But this story is not about my love for Tucson. It's about a wonderful man, musician, and member of our community named Travis Ray Dent, Travi Ray to us. And, right now, he needs all the support and compassion we can muster.

I met Travis a year ago when Rey Murphy invited us to join a new band he was putting together called Street Blues Family. In the short time I have known Travis, he has become a dear friend, the sort you would do anything for. Travis is a radiant person. He has worked through and risen above some of the most difficult challenges anyone could imagine facing. He overflows with kindness, energy, love, and an excitement to create art and add a depth of richness to our musical community. He plays piano like none other, cascades of effortless melody flow through his hands. The calm, peace, and joy he exudes behind the keys is undeniable to anyone lucky enough to see him play.

Given the compassion of our community, it comes as no surprise that when hard times fall upon a local musician, Tucson represents. Travis has recently been faced with such times. As a result of a head injury and the concussion it caused, he spent a night in the ER at UMC last week. Rey Murphy and the entirety of the Street Blues Family came together to be Travis' advocates, staying at his side 24/7 and making sure the hospital conducted all scans and tests necessary. In a country with a healthcare system as difficult to navigate (and afford) as ours, many without such advocacy and support can fall through the cracks, causing the spiral of debt and hardship we all know too well.
Travi Ray
  • Travi Ray
Thankfully, the tests and scans showed that no permanent physical brain damage was caused by the head injury. But Travis' mental and emotional state has been compromised to the point that further medical and psychiatric care is necessary, in-patient treatment in the hope of ensuring his full recovery. Unfortunately, Travis does not currently have medical insurance. We have enrolled him in Obamacare, but the insurance plan will not become effective until Feb. 1. This means that none of the exorbitant medical costs incurred before that date will be covered.

So as his friends and family we took action, and Tucson followed. Within a day of Travis' hospital visit, Tucson musicians, artists, and community members started organizing a benefit and funding campaign to help cover Travis' immediate and eventual medical expenses. The Rialto Theatre Foundation offered their venue 191 Toole to host a benefit show on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and Calexico (via video from overseas), Steff Koeppen, Louise Le Hir and Annie Dolan, myself, and of course the Street Blues Family instantly jumped on board as performers for the event. And, with his trademark blend of wit, lyricism, and empathy, Howe proposed we end the benefit evening with a one-off collaborative performance of everyone involved, aptly named the "Affordable Care Act" ("act" as in a band and everything else the word's otherly meaning and political statement connotes).

Beyond those who can attend, many other artists from the community have donated autographed, collectible vinyl, CDs, tapes, art and anything else they could come up with to sell at the benefit and add their support to the cause. Here are just a few of those who have already donated their work: Sergio Mendoza of Calexico and Orkesta Mendoza, Dimitri Manos of Goldenboots, Carlos Arzate, and Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan of XIXA. I have thrown in a beautiful old Spanish guitar that everyone involved will autograph. We will have this guitar at the benefit, though will probably auction it off internationally for the widest reach possible. And if anyone would like to donate anything else to lend support, please contact me directly at

There is also a GoFundMe campaign for Travis' medical expenses here. We'll also be pursuing grants and funds from musicians' health alliances and foundations such as Sweet Relief and Tucson Artist's and Musician's Healthcare Alliance (TAMHA).

Lastly, thanks to the many other community members who have graciously lent their services and talents to this cause: Craig Schumacher of Wavelab Studios, Matt Milner and Duncan Hudson at KXCI, David Slutes of Hotel Congress and TAMHA, Rodger Cloud of Cloud Microphones, Brian
Smith of the Tucson Weekly, Dan Hernandez of 191 Toole, The Folk Shop ... there are too many to list.

Seeing this outpouring of support from our community warms my heart. Tucson truly does care for its artists, and that's why we're all here.

At 191 Toole, 191 Toole Ave., this Saturday, Jan. 21. 8 p.m.. $15-$20. All ages.

• Howe Gelb solo acoustic
• A solo acoustic video performance by Joey Burns of Calexico, as well as a message of support from the band via video overseas.
• Street Blues Family
• Steff Koeppen (of Steff and The Articles)
• Joe Novelli (of Orkesta Mendoza, Street Blues Family, The Cloud Walls, Marvin and the Cloud Wall, Nive and the Deer Children, Etc.)
• Louise Le Hir and Annie Dolan
• More to be announced.
• PLUS a one-time collaborative performance to end the evening including all musicians on the bill, aptly entitled "The Affordable Care Act"

In addition, collectible, autographed items donated by other local artists like Orkesta Mendoza, Goldenboots, Carlos Arzate, Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan of XIXA, and others will be available for purchase at the benefit through donation.

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Cinema Clips: Live By Night

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 9:21 AM

Director Ben Affleck’s latest is a period piece/costume drama that looks like a lot of work went into it, but never feels like a cohesive picture.

Affleck also stars as Joe Coughlin, one of those gangsters you just gotta love, fighting the gangster fight during Prohibition in sunny Florida. Joe rises to the top of the gangster field, despite being the son of a cop (Brendan Gleeson), and despite basically being an all around good guy.

The problem here is that Affleck fails to give his central character a true identity and emotional toolbox. The character feels stilted, and the movie around him feels like a costume party. It’s as if Affleck is afraid to make him the truly bad guy he should be. The fedoras and sweet suits all look good, but it’s in the service of a story that has been told before in far more powerful fashion. Sienna Miller is good as Joe’s early love, and Elle Fanning, who had a great year with The Neon Demon and 20th Century Woman, is also good as a disgraced actress who finds a new career in preaching.

Again, the movie looks good, and Affleck’s performance is okay, but the story feels like a rehash of every gangster movie ever made.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Dollar a Day, and Other Observations About Ducey's Education Funding Proposal

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 2:39 PM

Governor Ducey surprised me by proposing $114 million in new education funds for the upcoming state budget. That's $90 million more than I expected. According to Senator Steve Farley (D-Tucson), most of that comes from highway funds. Meaning, to paraphrase It's A Wonderful Life, every time a school bell rings, a roadway gets a pothole.

More than $100 million for education isn't nothing. It's not nearly enough (It moves us from 49th in per student spending all the way to . . . 49th), but it's a significant amount of money. Unlike last year when Ducey called money covering the increase in the number of students and inflation "new money"—that was a lie—this time, it's actually new money, above and beyond the required stay-even funding. We need to remember, however, this is only a proposed budget. The legislature passes the budget, not the governor. It's going to take some gubernatorial arm twisting to get the anti-"government schools" crowd to vote for all that new money. Don't be surprised if the final education budget comes in quite a bit lower. I hope no one is taking Ducey's money to the bank yet.

Let's take a look at how Ducey wants his proposed education funding to be spent.

His proposed teacher pay hike gets the most buzz, but it's only $13.6 million, compared to almost three times as much—$38 million—for "results-based funding." The pay raise comes to about a dollar a day, which is more of an insult to teachers than a pat on the back. It's wealthy, Cold Stone Stone Cold Doug Ducey saying, "Here's a crisp new dollar bill for each of you for the great work you're doing!" I hope he doesn't expect current teachers to go out of their way to thank him, or prospective new employees to flood school districts begging for one o' them high payin' teachin' jobs. Saying "I raised teacher salaries" makes for a great campaign pitch come reelection time, but a dollar a day doesn't put food on a teacher's table.

That $38 million for "results-based funding," on the other hand, is real money for those lucky schools that get a chunk of it. It's a third of Ducey's new money, and it will go to 10 percent of Arizona's schools. That comes to an average of more than $350 per student for each of the recipients, which is more than the $325 per student schools received from the Prop 123 money. All his other proposals are small ball stuff, but this one can have some big league consequences. It's enough for the schools to increase and improve their teaching supplies and technology and still have money left for significant teacher raises, all of which will make those schools more attractive to parents and teachers. And most of it will go to districts and charter schools educating the most privileged students. The main educational beneficiaries will be the current winners in the state's income inequality wars. To the victors go the "results-based funding" spoils.

Continue reading »

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Lando Chill Drops Latest Vid ('Early in the Morning') And it's Lovely, and it Kicks Ass.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Lando Chill's latest video is a sweet and temperate tour of Northern Arizona (Winslow, Flagstaff, and Kaibab National Forest), full of lover's joy (Chill and Laísa Laiia), without any dreaded maudlin overtones. The tune and video each effortlessly balance gentle flow and wide-eyed optimism for a deep appreciation of being alive, and unalone. Kudos to directors Malcolm Critcher and Symeon Platts for capturing the beauty. Also, it's a nice respite from the upcoming presidential inauguration where that old orange-pigmented mook gets his hideous day.  

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The Fake News Frenzy

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM

  • BigStock

The most recent presidential campaign has reignited many Americans' Facebook rants about "journalism these days," and how it's all turned into a biased, money-centered propaganda machine. No one could log into Facebook during the run up to the election without reading one or more lofty diatribes on why the candidate they support will be the next Messiah and how "the media" has a merciless vendetta against him or her.

Yes, news organizations all across the country missed an important mark while covering the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by writing that Trump's victory was a "shock." I'd bet good money that many hard-core Trump supporters didn't share that same sentiment, so why was it spreading like wildfire in election night coverage?

Regardless, a generalized hatred for media coverage is unjustified. After all, journalists are the ones who maintain your Fourth Estate and are ultimately the glue that keep your democracy intact. I recently saw a tweet by Sarah Jeong, a contributing editor to the online publication Motherboard, that said, "Audiences say 'journalism' when they liked it and 'media' when they don't," which in my experience so far could not be more accurate. Journalists are undoubtedly a public pain in the derriere, but we're also an undoubtedly necessary one.
As a budding journalist myself, I have seen these rants by my own peers and have taken them personally at times—even if it was aimed at a national outlet. While my youthful idealism is still somewhat intact (but diminishes a little more with every passing semester), I am not naive enough to deny that poorly-written and completely false reporting is still out there. It's out there more often than it should be.

The most recent outrage over the unvetted Russian dossier is a particularly painful controversy for those of us trying to save the reputation of reliable reporting. However, the overwhelming majority of news and journalism in the world is still fair and truthful, and it's a shame that the hysteria over fake news gets more spotlight time than the incredible, breakthrough work that reporters kill themselves for and sacrifice personal time and sleep for every single day.

For all the readers out there, I humbly ask you to hear my takeaway plea: keep an open mind about journalism and the news industry. Sure, it has flaws, but every other industry does too. How can the world expect improvements in our field if you don't even give us up-and-comers a chance to prove you wrong?

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Cinema Clips: Paterson

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 9:04 AM

Adam Driver plays the title character in writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s latest, a bus driver with a penchant for poetry.

His name is Paterson, he lives in Paterson, New Jersey, and he sets his folded clothes out every night so he’s good to go in the morning. His wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) aspires to be a country music singer, eagerly awaiting a new guitar the couple can barely afford (Also, it must be noted that she can’t play guitar).

The film offers no substantial plot; it’s simply a snapshot of a normal, pleasant life being led by two people who aspire to create art in their spare time. Jarmusch always does well with these sort of observational stories, and this is no exception.

Driver is terrific here, capping a great year that included Midnight Special and a great performance in the muddled Silence. It’s a funny, sweet performance without him really trying to be funny or sweet. The big events in this movie consist of Paterson taking his bulldog for a walk or meeting a fellow young poet who makes him feel insubstantial.

If you love Jarmusch, you will love this movie.

Staff Pick

Bernadette Peters

One of Broadway's brightest stars, Bernadette Peters has dazzled audiences and critics with her performances on stage… More

@ UA Centennial Hall Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. 1020 E. University Blvd.

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Popular Content

  1. A Beloved Local Musician in Need: Local Music Superpowers Rally to Help (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. Gabe Sullivan: Songwriting Machine! (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. Trump's Election Has Been Very Good For K12 Inc. (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. Lando Chill Drops Latest Vid ('Early in the Morning') And it's Lovely, and it Kicks Ass. (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. A Dollar a Day, and Other Observations About Ducey's Education Funding Proposal (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

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