Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pu-erh Tea Markets hit hard...

Pu-erh tea is a joy for me, I drink it almost daily...and have for over ten this news was shocking, from The Scotsman:

Devastation left by Pu'er madness of green tea bubble

Published Date: 15 February 2009
By Andrew Jacobs in Menghai
SAUDI Arabia has its oil. South Africa has its diamonds. And here in China's temperate south-west, prosperity has come from the scrubby green tea trees that blanket the mountains of fabled Menghai County.

Over the past decade, as the nation went wild for the region's brand of tea, known as Pu'er, farmers bought minivans, manufacturers became millionaires and Chinese citizens ploughed their savings into black bricks of compacted Pu'er.

But that wasbefore the collapse of the tea market turned thousands of farmers and dealers into paupers and provided the nation with a very pungent lesson about gullibility, greed and the perils of the speculative bubble.

"Most of us are ruined," said Fu Wei, 43, one of the few tea traders to survive the implosion of the Pu'er market. "A lot of people behaved like idiots."

A pleasantly aromatic beverage that promoters claim reduces cholesterol and cures hangovers, Pu'er became the darling of the sipping classes in recent years as this nation's nouveaux riches embraced a distinctly Chinese way to display their wealth, and invest their savings. From 1999 to 2007, the price of Pu'er, a fermented brew invented by Tang Dynasty traders, increased tenfold, to a high of $150 a pound for the finest aged Pu'er, before tumbling far below its pre-boom levels.

For tens of thousands of wholesalers, farmers and other Chinese citizens who poured their money into tea leaves, the crash of the Pu'er market has been nothing short of disastrous. Many investors were led to believe that Pu'er prices could only go up.

"The saying around here was 'It's better to save Pu'er than to save money'," said Wang Ruoyu, a longtime dealer in the tea-growing region of Yunnan Province. "Everyone thought they were going to get rich."

In the mountainous Pu'er belt of Yunnan, a cabal of manipulative buyers cornered the tea market and drove prices to record levels, giving farmers and traders a heady taste of the country's bubble. Now they are experiencing its bitter aftermath.

At least a third of the 3,000 tea manufacturers and merchants have called it quits in recent months. Farmers have begun replacing newly planted tea trees with staples such as corn and rice. In Menghai, the newly opened six-storey emporium built to house hundreds of buyers and bundlers is a lonely place.

"Very few of us survived," said Fu, among the few tea traders brave enough to open a business in the complex, which is nearly empty. He sat in the concrete hull of his shop, which he cannot afford to complete, where cobwebs cover his shelf of treasured Pu'er cakes.

Among those most bruised by the crash are the farmers of Menghai County. Many had never experienced the kind of prosperity common in China's cities. Villagers built two-storey brick homes, equipped them with televisions and refrigerators and sent their children to schools in the district capital. Flush with cash, scores of elderly residents made their first trips to Beijing.

"Everyone was wearing designer labels," said Zhelu, 22, a farmer. "A lot of people bought cars, but now we can't afford gas so we just park them."

Back at Menghai's forlorn "tea city", Chen Li, surrounded by what he said was $580,000 worth of product he bought before the crash, described the manic days before Pu'er went bust. Out-of-towners packed hotels and restaurants. Local banks, besieged by customers, were forced to halve the maximum withdrawal limit.

"People had to stand in line for five hours to get the money from the bank, and you could often see people quarrelling," he said. "Even pedicab drivers were carrying tea samples and looking for clients on the street."

Despite the downturn, he remains one of the few optimists in town, confident that now so many farmers have stopped picking tea, prices will eventually rebound. "The best thing about Pu'er," he said with a showman's smile, "is that the longer you keep it, the more valuable it gets."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday, Feb 13...

Unfortunately I will be bowing out of the gig Friday night due to a horrid case of the flu...BUT you all should go and see it, what a great band....I'm really bummed to miss it,

13 February 2008:

Andrew Pask's Manu-Rau (at midnight)

Andrew Pask: woodwinds and technology
Jeff Kaiser: trumpet and technology
G.E. Stinson: guitar and technology
Wayne Peet: keyboards and technology
Steuart Liebig: bass guitar and technology
Christopher Allis: drums
Brad Dutz: percussion

with 9-Volt Snatch
Becca Mahalik: saxophones
Tom McNalley: guitar
Vincent Atkins: bass
Pancake: drums

show starts at 10:00 p.m.

looks like $4 cover charge

vlagrant space
3501 eagle rock blvd.
los angeles, CA 90065

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bad week for drinking and playing chess...

My friend, and fellow grad student, Przemyslaw Bosak and I went out to drink some beer and play chess last night (highlights: Pliny the Elder, Allegash Black, and Pizza Port's Hop 15 in cask). Luckily it didn't end as bad as these two games...

Man stabbed in face during Chess game
By Leslie Stratmoen
February 9, 2009 - 01:19 p.m. EST

RIVERTON- Two men were violently attacked with a broken whiskey bottle Sunday morning after a Chess game went bad. One of the men, a 54-year-old, was stabbed in the face leaving a wound that required 19 stitches. The other, a 49-year-old, received a slash to the back of his neck.

Riverton police Sgt. Bart Ringer released the information. He said 33-year-old Dustin Axtell of Riverton was charged in the incident, with two counts of aggravated assault. Ringer said the fight began over a Chess game the three were playing at a residence on South First Street.

Axtell was legally drunk. Ringer said he registered a blood alcohol content of .201, which is more than twice the presumptive drunk driving limit of .08.

and if you didn't think that was bad...

Police: Man killed friend with sword after chess game in Alameda
By Sean Maher
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 02/04/2009 10:46:48 AM PST

An evening that started with two friends playing chess and drinking beers ended with one man stabbed to death and another booked on murder charges Tuesday, Alameda police said.

Kelly Scott Kjersem, a 40-year-old Alameda man, arrived earlier in the evening at 1220 Park Avenue with a 12-pack of beer, police Lt. Bill Scott said.

Kjersem was visiting the home of his friend, Joseph W. Groom, 62, to drink and play chess. The two men played and drank for some time, and later a female friend of Groom's arrived and began cooking dinner for the two men.

While she was in the kitchen, she heard an argument break out between the two men, Scott said. She didn't know what it was about, but found the two men had started wrestling.

Groom stopped and retreated to his bedroom, Scott said. When he returned, he was brandishing a sword more than 2 feet long. Police said the sword was made in Pakistan.

Groom stabbed Kjersem once, and the woman fled the apartment to call for help, Scott said.

When police arrived shortly afterwards, around 9 p.m., they found Kjersem dead and Groom sitting next to him, with the sword to his side.

Groom admitted the killing almost immediately, but couldn't explain it, Scott said.

"He said he'd stabbed the guy but he didn't know why," Scott said. "All of them were drinking, though. We took him to a hospital and got a blood sample, and we're waiting on results for that." Neither man had a criminal record
of any significance, Scott said.

The killing was Alameda's second reported homicide for the year.

Groom was arrested on suspicion of murder and is presently in custody at Alameda Jail, being held until his first court hearing.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What's he got against zero-gravity chairs?

The list at the end of this post reminds me of the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge...I was reading a Lakoff text when I ran across mention of Borge's Celestial Emporium's taxonomy, that animals are categorized as:

"(a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) others; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies."

READ ON to see categories that a senator wants to see denied funding...

Senate Amendment to Bar Arts Centers from Any Economic Recovery Funds

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds in the economic stimulus bill from going to museums, theaters, or arts centers.

The language of the amendment, (Amendment No. 175, as filed) is, "None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Update: KaiBorg concert rider...

In followup to my post a few days ago, for KaiBorg's concert this weekend at UCSD, I added the following to our contract/tech rider:

1 Large bowl of blue M&Ms, vegan
2 Warm towels soaked in water from Lourdes

The vegan M&Ms were of course a nod to Van Halen, and the towels a riff on a request I received from an artist (who shall remain unnamed) for a concert at our series in Ventura City Hall.

The concert manager's reply to me included the following:

"btw, you didn't mention if you'd like your M&Ms de-shelled. I'll prepare both just in case."

I presume that means the towels are no problem...

Shark fin tea infuser...

Oh yes, I want one...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

ABC News: Top 10 Outrageous Celeb Contract Demands

Having produced concerts for as many years as I have, you see some pretty unusual riders for contracts...we are all familiar with the Van Halen brown M&Ms story from days of is an update on riders from stars today.

Which makes me think:

What riders should KaiBorg be getting for all our gigs coming up...?

ABC News: Top 10 Outrageous Celeb Contract Demands

Dec. 15, 2008

Mary J. Blige

At the top of germaphobe Mary J. Blige's list? "The queen of hip-hop-soul" – who checks into hotels as a Mrs. Jefferson – "demands that a brand new toilet seat be installed at any venue she plays," said Blender's Tyler Gray. "Now that's what being a star is all about."

Christina Aguilera

Health-conscious singer Christina Aguilera requests real coffee mugs for her java, along with soy milk, soy cheese, Echinacea, vitamin C and Flintstones chewable vitamins – guess she still hasn't outgrown them.

Paul McCartney

The very vegan former Beatle won't ride in a limo with leather seats or stand for leather or animal print furniture in his dressing room – not even the fake stuff. And while his meals are obviously vegan, too, the Smoking Gun site points out one major faux pas on Paul's part. The singer requests 24 bars of Ivory soap – which contain trace amounts of animal fats. Ooops.

Dustin Diamond

Actor-turned-amateur porn star Dustin Diamond demands that there be no references to his teen alter ego – "Saved By the Bell" icon Screech – at venues where he's performing his stand-up routine. In fact, each offending mention incurs a $100 penalty. "I don't know if he can really enforce that," Gray said. "Come on. What kind of contract is Screech getting? No one cares enough to worry about it."

John Mayer

Turns out that the celeb player has a penchant for perfect teeth. Along with his organic fruit and soy milk, on his 2005 tour, singer John Mayer requested four "soft head" toothbrushes, Listerine mouth wash and mint-flavored Sensodyne or Tom's of Maine toothpaste, plus Altoids. No word on what items groupie, uh, girlfriend Jennifer Aniston has added to Mayer's contract rider on his 2008 jaunt.


Brit hip-hop artist M.I.A. is particular about her cheese. She requests an organic cheese tray featuring cave-aged Gruyere, Swiss and sharp cheddar, along with organic berries, fresh – not canned – olives and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Belly full, she then pockets a $25-per-head dinner buyout from the promoter. "All in all, not a bad deal," said Blender's Gray. "But where do you get cave-aged Guyere?"

Ben Kweller

"Apparently, singer Ben Kweller is really into fishing," said Blender's Gray. "So he requests bait on all his riders. It's a bit odd when you're nowhere near the water, but it's his prerogative. And if he can get them to give it to him, more power to him."