Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Artist, A bank, A withdrawal

I hope more artists start standing up to banks.


$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills
Irate bank customer hits back
By LAURA BASHAM - The Nelson Mail
Last updated 13:02 23/07/2009

Defiant Mapua artist Roger Griffiths today made a stand against Westpac by withdrawing his $190,000 savings in $20 notes.

The bank provided a red-and-black carry bag to take away the cash after meticulously counting it in front of Mr Griffiths at its Nelson branch.

Mr Griffiths, a loyal Westpac customer for 25 years, decided to withdraw his money after the bank rejected his application for an $80,000 mortgage. "It's about time normal people took a stand."

He said the bank turned down his application because he did not have a regular income as an artist. However, he was a successful artist, exhibiting his paintings at the World of Wearable Art complex, in Christchurch and New York, he said.

He wanted to buy a $385,000 property in Mapua, had $200,000 in cash and was going to sell his $110,000 campervan.

That more than met the bank's criteria for a 20 per cent deposit, and the property which included a home and commercial premises would have returned $500 a week, he said.

He was disappointed when his loan application was rejected, but it was Westpac losing $111 million to Lane Walker Rudkin Industries that tipped his decision to withdraw his money.

"They can lose $110 million with LWR but turn down a normal customer who has never missed a loan payment," he said. "If they don't have the trust in me after 25 years, there's a problem for Westpac."

Having decided to withdraw his money, he then decided to make it hard for the bank by requesting payment in $20 bills.

He said the Nelson branch told him it did not have that amount and he would have to also go to other branches at Stoke, Richmond and Motueka. However, he insisted the bank have the money ready to collect at 9am today. He then took it to the Nelson Building Society, saying he would rather deal with NBS because it was part of the community.

His message to Westpac: "If you don't support the community, the community won't support you."

Mr Griffiths' protest comes after a series of embarrassments for Westpac. On Tuesday its former Alexandra bank manager admitted defrauding the bank of more than $400,000, and it has been left red-faced over the slip-up that allowed $10 million to be wrongly credited to a Rotorua service station co-owner who had since fled to China.

Westpac media relations manager Craig Dowling said today that when the bank lent money it required certain information to be provided to enable that lending to be done prudently.

"It's about providing evidence of an ability to meet regular repayments."

In Mr Griffiths' case that information was not provided for it to be assessed, he said. Mr Griffiths' withdrawal was disappointing.

"We would like to welcome Mr Griffiths back. We just need the confidence regular repayments can be met."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Evils of Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Cancels Credit Card of Responsible Citizen who Pays Bills on Time and Doesn’t Carry Debt

I’ve always loved Wells Fargo.

The glory of the red and yellow beacon of kiosk-light shining out in the dark, beckoning me to its wondrous ATM convenience.

Wells Fargo had been there for me for ten years providing reasonably priced business banking, and their delightful customer service phone center always helpful: until now. I just found out, while on the road as a musician, via my online banking, that they cancelled my business credit card. I have used this particular card since 2002 for business travel, business emergencies and overdraft protection of my business checking account. I always pay it on time, barring once over a year ago, when I did not see a two-dollar finance charge on a checking overdraft fee (a fee on a fee, yes they can do that!) and I missed that it was due. But they took care of it. I paid it, everything was cool.

So let me run down the score: My credit rating is over 800 (!), I have made a decent living as a musician and even currently while being a student, I pay my bills on time. And they cancel me. For not using the credit card enough.

When it seems all we hear is the bad news of the economy, about the troubles of people mired in debt they can’t pay, all while banks are taking large payouts from the government. (According to my search of the news, Wells Fargo has taken $25 Billion in TARP “investments” that they have not paid back.) And what do these banks do? CANCEL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PAYING THEIR BILLS!?

I’ve made the phone calls to Wells Fargo, all very nice, well-spoken gentlemen who were not at all helpful. Jose, Marco, and Scott: You guys are great at phone service, delightful people. Just powerless employees protecting the real decision makers from any direct contact with customers. In fact: You cannot speak to a person with true power at Wells Fargo on the phone. You cannot email a person with true power at Wells Fargo. I asked, and they told me, "you have to write a letter." A letter?

I was able to find out that, according to the gentlemen on the Wells Fargo phone service, there are six people working the credit card cancellation lines at the center I called, each handling around thirty calls a day. Approximately 180 upset cancelled customers a day, and again according to my source, this line was set up one year ago. That is a lot of unhappy customers being cancelled because of “risk assessment” which seems to include, in my case, not using my card enough. So let’s presume that some of these people are delinquent with their accounts, maybe even most, but what about the rest of us swept up in this frenzy of Wells Fargo’s attempt to clean up their house, we all need credit as a backup for unseen emergencies. Why not just lower my card limit if you wanted to decrease exposure to debt? (Which is, I mean was, very generous, due to my high credit rating.)

The continued hypocrisy of the banking system, and the gross support of this hypocrisy by our elected officials is really getting old. Why am I upset? Because I did what I thought was responsible, what people in power tell us to do (limit debt, only use when necessary!) and my credit card was cancelled for it.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going to go write a “letter” to Wells Fargo. If I can only find a pen. I’ll keep you posted.

And please, if you’ve experienced similar treatment by a bank, don’t let them get away with it. Keep on them, call them, email them, and even write letters.

Responsible banks should keep and nurture responsible customers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Prehistoric Horse, Sabrina Siegel and Oolong at J-Tea

Lucio Menegon, Valerie Kuehne, David Grollman and Jeff Kaiser

Hanging with Prehistoric Horse at The Wandering Goat
(Click any photo to enlarge.)

The day after my gig with Sabrina Siegel and Prehistoric Horse (smoking gig, at The Jazz Station in Eugene, OR-Thanks to Douglas Detrick for booking, I'll be back next week performing with Cooper Baker) I went to meet Lucio Menegon, Valerie Kuehne and David Grollman (pictured above) for breakfast at the always wonderful Morning Glory Cafe (not much of a website at this date), vegetarian and vegan awesome breakfast food. When the Horse packed up and left for Seattle, I was desiring some tea, and I remembered that my tea guru, Jonathan Sielaff had told me about an oolong dealer in Eugene and that my parents had sent me a newspaper article on the owner, Josh Chamberlain. And San Diego tea shop owners Ronald and Emily (Infusions of Tea) had also mention him. So I decided to finally stop by, and I am so glad I did: a top-notch selection of Oolong teas. Josh himself travels twice a year to Taiwan to select them. Lucky for me, he was open, and since I had called ahead he had waiting for me a table of oolongs to try out. I cannot overstate the deliciousness of these teas. When we had worked through a variety, Josh (recovering from a bicycle accident-hence the cast on his arm and his jaw was wired) had narrowed my taste preference: the clue being that I liked smokier single malt whisky. I ended up purchasing Dong Ding Fine (sometimes "Tung Ting"), Wen Shan Bao Zhong and Gui Fei Mei Ren Jin Xuan Varietal. Also tasted, among others, the Li Shan Early Winter 07/08 and Dong Pian Winter 08/09, all fantastic teas. I thoroughly recommend exploring his site and ordering tea. Due to his hands on, individual owner/operator approach combined with his passion for tea, you are guaranteed to have the finest leaf sent your way.

Josh Chamberlain at

Josh Chamberlain at
Josh Chamberlain, owner of JTea International, prepares several Oolongs for me to taste.
Several of the Pu-erh raw cakes available and assorted Teaware.
More tea and teaware...
The shop...
Pure Yixing clay, which makes the best teaware in the world...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Muddy Waters, Zoey's and Metro Galleries with Steuart Liebig

Steuart Liebig and I recently had a wonderful mini-tour: Santa Barbara, Ventura and Bakersfield...

In Santa Barbara, we played at the Santa Barbara New Music series (run by the contagiously effervescent Colter Frazier) at Muddy Waters Coffee House ...the owner, Bill, is always delightful to hang out with and Steuart, Bill and I spent the hour set-up period trying to stump each other with off beat pop music trivia...

The first performance of the evening was Alicia Mangan, who somehow escaped my camera!

Here are some pics of Steuart and myself:

The next two nights we shared the bill with Kris Tiner and Chris Schlarb who, both nights, turned in an exquisitely chill set of improvised music for electronics and trumpet and electronics and guitar. Pics at Zoey's (Ventura):

We followed with a noisey, groove thing that was a blast...the house was packed, and that was inspiring...a pic by Kris Tiner (thanks!)

Afterwards, a group of us (Sam Bolle, Kim Renee Hanna, Carolyn Friend, Steuart Liebig, Ed Lansing and Gwen Alley) went to Cafe Bella, and then I went to the Treehouse Club (?) which was formerly the smoking area of California 66 (Ventura) with my friends Gwen, Carolyn, Kim and Ed.

Carolyn, Kim and I at the Tree House

The next day, Steuart and I got to Bakersfield a bit early to work on some Max/MSP patches at Dagny's Coffee (the best!) and spotted a poster....

Taking over a corner of Dagny's while working...

That night at Metro Galleries:

Chris and Kris

The following pics by Kris Tiner:

A great tour, the second in a row at this time of the year for Steuart and I. One of these days we'll get an album out of it...

Garth Brooks In the Court of the Crimson King

After a gig in Bakersfield the other day, Kris Tiner, James Sproul, Chris Schlarb and Adriana Lucero-Schlarb went to Buck Owen's AWESOME Crystal Palace to unwind and listen to some smoking country music (great stuff by John Harrell or Harold...?)...While in the lobby taking this pic of Kris and I with Elvis:

I noticed Garth Brooks in the sea of bronze statues with a very familiar look on his face:

Where had I seen this before....? Oh yeah, the famous King Crimson album cover...

Some other pics while there at Buck's:

Adriana and Chris

The band...

and the empty club (we had more people at our show!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Monks....

My friend Johnny Brewton just posted this

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

KaiBorg enters the studio...

David Borgo and I (KaiBorg, btw, audio file now on the website) have entered the studio...Studio A, that is, at the University of California, San Diego campus...accompanied by the wonderful audio/software engineer Tom Erbe (be sure to check out his discography as engineer, and also, if you use music software you should use his).

We spent about six hours there today, and will spend another eight tomorrow. Tom is getting some wonderful sounds, using the Royer 121 as the main trumpet mic, going into a Grace pre-amp, then heading into my Max/MSP rig. He has also set up a Mojave mic to pick up my valves and other extraneous sounds. Just the opposite with David, he is using a Mojave as the main, Royer for the extra sounds.

It is a big room, and with all the sound curtains pulled, the reflections are at a minimum. We set up close (so any bleed will not have a lot of delay) and Tom created these Dilbert like cubicles to help isolate our mics, and they are doing a very good job.

My cubicle

David's cubicle

More tomorrow...