Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Music · Challenge your ears with Orthrelm
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Challenge your ears with Orthrelm

Kristi Kates - March 9th, 2006
Orthrelm is what music aficionados would call “a challenging listen.”
Blending near over-th-top metal sensibilities with churning, shredding
guitar lines, underground prog-rock wiht a hint of jazz and technically
baffling drum patterns, Orthrelm - made up of the Washington, D.C. duo
of Josh Blair on drums and Mick Barr on guitar - is both confusing and
mesmerizing audiences across the country.
There’s not a lot of flash to Orthrelm - what impresses is the music,
not the stage setup or costumes.  But that very quality adds to
their appeal, especially when you realize that the two men on
stage are remarkably skilled musicians who devote an equally remarkable
amount of time to getting their compositions exactly right, whether
it’s as a series of one-to-two minute songs that entirely avoid
repetition of any kind, or as the one long track of their current
album, OV, a listen that spans 45 minutes straight and dabbles in
genres from the aforementioned metal to Middle Eastern influences. 
If you’re tired of pop, soured on rock, or bored of the usual metal,
Orthrelm will definitely be a new experience for your ears. 
Blair and Barr started playing music in high school, experimenting with
different sounds.  “Neither of us have been in too many straight-ahead
bands,” Blair thinks back.  Even now, when they’re not working with
Orthrelm, they both frequently veer off to participate in a wide
variety of other musical ventures - Barr plays with Crom-Tech, Octis,
and QuixOTic, and Blair, who has also worked with ABCS and WWIII, cites
his current “other” band, Supersystem, as more than a side project. “It
takes up far too much time to be a side project,” he laughs. “Let’s
call it the other half of my musical existence.” 
But for now, at least, it’s Orthrelm that’s drawing the most
attention.   Different, abrasive, detailed, impressive, and
uncategorizable, Orthrelm is making their own way, defiant of genres
and slowly finding a core audience. 
“It’s hard to define music,” Blair ponders, “especially now.  I feel
like everyone listens to everything now - it’s so easy to just go
online and download a little of this, a little of that.  It seems like
everyone’s heard everything, and, as a result, genres are really
When Blair and Barr began working as Orthrelm, they had, as Blair puts
it, “short attention spans,” so most of their songs were extremely
short indeed - written, over, and done before there was time for either
musician to get bored. 
“Those short songs were just kind of where our heads were at when we
were making those first records,” Blair explains “They were sort of
roller coaster rides, where you’d get in and things would roll through
and fall back on top of themselves.  The first couple of albums were
stuff that Mick had written, and I’d write drum parts over what he
did.  Later on, our records became more and more collaborative.  The
current album grew more on its own, and actually had more room to
Which explains, perhaps, why Orthrelm has embarked on a national tour.
They’re in the middle of a fairly extensive tour schedule, with their
people sending these two eclectically reckless musicians out to play in
front of crowds that, so far, are either loving ‘em or hating
‘em. They’re definitely experiencing some growing pains, but they’re
approaching it all with a good attitude. 
“This tour is our first since OV came out,” Blair says, “so it’s really
an older album to us, but it’s the bulk of our live set on this tour. 
We also throw in a few new things, but it’s mostly stuff from OV.  It’s
been so long since we’ve been out on the road - and we’re playing
mostly bars and smaller venues - so I’m really kind of shocked at how
many people are excited that we’re out - that’s really nice.”
Blair is also probably a little shocked at how some of the bar
audiences are reacting to their music, which obviously doesn’t fall
into the usual category of “fun music to listen to while you’re
drinking.”  But it’s all just par for the course. 
“Well, to reach the smaller towns, sometimes the only option you have
is to play a bar,” Blair points out. “It’s kind of difficult at times -
in addition to the giant cloud of cigarette smoke at bars, it’s harder
for us to play our music, because you’re kind of being forced into this
role of Beer Soundtrack or Beer Salesman.  And people often just aren’t
into what we do.  There have been several shows where people were
yelling at us and throwing ashtrays and things, but while I do fear for
my safety at times,” he chuckles, “not everyone spends a lot of time
seeking out new music or wanting to be challenged by it.  So I do
understand their confusion.”
Hopefully, interest in Orthrelm will continue to rise, so that the duo
can be packaged into more welcoming venues.  But it’s not all bad. 
“Nah, we’re okay,” Blair confirms “It’s actually nice to switch up our
surroundings. We really do like playing for people who are interested
in what we do.  And we’ve played with a lot of interesting local bands,
as well - sometimes we get stuck on indie-rock bills that we don’t
really fit into, but overall, we’ve been pleased with who we’ve been
getting paired up with for shows.  It’s inspiring to me to see the
other musicians that are out there doing their thing.  We’ve been
enjoying visiting all the different cities.  Now if it just wasn’t so
cold in the Midwest!” he laughs. 
They’re nearing the end of their current schedule, and they’ll be
appearing on March 11 at the Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City, a
winter-chilled but art-friendly town that, nonetheless, is full of
musicians and others who will surely be intrigued by what Orthrelm has
to offer. 
Named by Pitchfork Media as one of the Top 50 Records of 2005, and
recently nominated for a Plug Award for Best Avant Garde Album, they’ve
got a good foundation going, and they’ll be staying on the road through
March 19 in order to draw more listeners into the Orthrelm camp.  And
then it’s back to the drawing board to make more of this music
that challenges the listener and asks for receptive - and respectful
- ears. 
“After the tour, we’ll be working on some new stuff that we hope to
record this spring and put out later this year,” Blair says. “It takes
us a long time to write and record.  Sometimes we distill things down
to nothing, sometimes we come back around and change things.  We’re
also working on a lot of things individually, and that’s exciting too -
then we’ll get together and see what sticks.”
See Orthelm at the Inside Out Gallery this Saturday, March 11, 229
Garland Street in the downtown TC Warehouse District.

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