Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Mystery of Woodstock 2009 - West Coast

Ok, we have what appears to be a serious proposal for something called "Woodstock reBirth" that would be a 40th Anniversary version of the original. (See post immediately below.) Supposedly it is tied to producer Michael Lang, one of those involved in. and the production face of, the original Woodstock. He has a Wikipedia entry.

Indeed Lang has been talking about a New York and Berlin celebration. But we haven't heard from Lang about Willits.

On the other hand, months ago a well-known Bay Area group - Musicians and Artists for Peace - on their web site indicated they have "formed a coordinating committee to help organize and promote 40th Anniversary Woodstock events in 2009." I received information today that no changes have been made in their plans for a Woodstock 40th Anniversary event in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on October 25th.

The problem with the person announcing the Willits event in August is that neither he, Roscoe Smith, nor his company, Monsoon Entertainment of Tempe, Arizona, have any web presence. A Roscoe Smith associated with the Navajo Nation, does show up in a Google search narrowed to that region. And a Monsoon Entertainment Magazine is referenced in two items on the web.

Until we hear from Lang, no reason exists to rearrange our August plans here in Willits.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Woodstock 2009 August Event Proposed for Willits, California

A serious plan has emerged to hold one of possibly three 40th Anniversary Woodstock concerts in August in the small Mendocino County town of Willits, California.

According to a Ukiah Daily Journal report, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors was having a special meeting focused on some development permit issues and a court building proposal when Roscoe Smith, of Monsoon Entertainment in Tempe, Arizona, announced that he represented a group of investors from both Florida and New York who were interested in staging a concert in August in Willits that could draw "around a million" attendees for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

Smith indicated he is working with Michael Lang, one of the co-founders of the original Woodstock, who discussed the status of the plans for the 40th Anniversary celebrations with a Billboard Magazine reporter this past week. Lang was in Austin, Texas, as part of a South By Southwest panel discussion entitled WOODSTOCK: Untold Stories.

Michael Lang described his plans for a 40th anniversary Woodstock concert as "all speculative ideas" for now, but he hopes to bring them to reality this summer. Venue ideas discussed were those reported earlier in the year - New York City and Berlin, Germany. Smith told the Daily Journal the event is being planned by original Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang to be simulcast concurrently with the possible sister venues in New York and Berlin. The Willits site is the only one on the Pacific Rim.

Both have indicated that the plan is to have the events be "green." "We want to have as small a carbon imprint as we can and use as many green techniques as we can," Lang indicated. Apparently the theme or title will be "reBirth."

"It's called reBirth because the event promotes sustainability," Smith said. "Each day has a different themed event. Our goal is to preach and educate in this event and people can walk away and make it a rebirth for themselves."

"We started researching this about two and a half years ago," Smith explained. "We looked at three spots in Louisiana, four or five in Texas, a few in Wyoming, Illinois, Missouri befpre settling on Willits. We could do a bigger impact on the community if we were to do one of those areas ... Up here it might bring more innovation. We would like to get any and every service in the community involved. The less amount of corporate sponsorship the better."

The local economy could use a boost and the "green" focus is logical for Willits and Mendocino County, home to a number of innovative "green" industries.

The critical question is: "Can they avoid the disasters of Woodstock 1999?" Lang appears to be acutely aware of this. It is not 1999. The Obama Generation of college-age folks is different. So is the original Woodstock generation, who also would be attracted by the talent being discussed, different from who they were in the '90s and the '60's.

Previous concerts in other areas of the nation in 1994 and 1999 marking the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the original Woodstock had significant security and public utility problems among others. Critics deplored the 1999 use of the Woodstock brand name as that event was labeled crass commercialization. Concert organizers were said to have gouged the kids with grossly overpriced water, beer, and food. Tickets for that event were priced at $150 plus service charges.

According to Lang, the 2009 concerts will be free. Smith said the mistakes of the past, such as price gouging for basic amenities, would stand as lessons for the future of the event.

"94 was a disaster," he said. "With every ticket that we sell we'll send that out we'll send a Nalgene (water) bottle. When people are there they'll be able fill up for free. Water won't cost people."

Smith said security would be alerted to potential problems by trained medical staff who would walk the grounds and alert security when they found out about problems.

"This will be its own event," he indicated. "We're still trying to plan how we want it to go on; if it will be open doors so people can stay in the community. As an option some families might say 'We'll bring somebody in.' They do that in certain events around the country. It gets the community more involved and lets people see what the community offers. They might just say, Hey instead of buying organic carnie food we might want to go out into the town and see what the community offers' and do things like ride the Skunk Train."

"We are trying to make it as little (impact) as possible," he said. "Any kind of offsets we are doing we are trying to balance them out on the other end. Whatever property we choose obviously we're going to have to prepare the site. We're going to have some brush and trees removed, however all those trees will be used on the property. Any rocks we remove will be used for fences. Any trees will be used for walkways. Most of the water being used will be collected from the springs."

Smith said that once the site selection was complete his office would set up a communications base that would be open to the public so that those seeking more information would have a point of contact.

"We're about two to four weeks from finalizing that," he said.

As of Friday no documentation had yet been filed with the County according to Nash Gonzales, Mendocino County Building and Planning Services director. Monday Smith indicated he would be submitting paperwork to the county "by the end of the week".

On Friday Smith told the Ukiah Daily Journal in a phone interview: "We're still working on that and we are planning on having something in by mid-April. The way we look at it we want to do everything right the first time and make sure we cross our t's and dot our i's."

Cindy Lindgren, of Century 21 Realty, accompanied Smith during his presentation on Monday and said on Friday that she would have an announcement on the search for a property by "next week."

Gonzales commented: "It's overwhelming for this county. It would be a very large undertaking. There would have to be an EIR because of the magnitude. We would have to throw everything at this event," he said. "It's not just the planning department; there's law enforcement, environmental health, etc. You're also talking about outside agencies. Caltrans, the city of Willits, Regional Water Quality Control, Highway Patrol. There's lots of state agencies that would have to be involved."

Chris Brown, Mendocino County air pollution control officer, said no one had contacted his office about the event either.

"I would have very serious concerns," he said. "Frankly, it's inconceivable...There's road access, transportation, generators to power musical equipment, vehicles, truck traffic. Everything in terms of air quality is serious. What if there is a wildfire? Then I have a million more people that could be exposed to smoke."

Brown said the number of agencies involved in the planning of such a large-scale event would be prohibitive given the less than five-month window before the slated opening.

"The first thing I would look at is the location," he said. "Is there naturally occurring asbestos? We have that in this county. You can't have an outdoor event on that. Diesel equipment has to meet pretty strict standards. You also have to think about vehicle traffic and campfires from a million people."

Brown said air pollution from traffic congestion on the area's major arteries would be unprecedented for the area.

"That alone on 101 would be a significant concern," he said. "Let's say you have two people a vehicle. That's 500,000 vehicles. To me this event is just not realistic. I may review a plan and have a different opinion, but I don't see how you could get that many people in an area near Willits without having severe impacts...My feeling is there would be significant air quality impacts, and I'm not sure how they would mitigate them. They could be significant and non-mitigatable."

As a locale, compared to Rome, NY, population 35,000±, located in Oneida County, population 240,000±, where Woodstock 1999 was held, Willits population of 5,032 and Mendocino County's population of 90,163 is more akin to the location of the original Woodstock. It's probably an advantage to be more rural, but where advance permitting is involved an April application getting approval before August might be a challenge.

Whether or not this proposal actually comes to fruition, one Willits area resident noted: "We can provide a more relaxing choice than alcohol in order to avoid a riot like in 1999." In 2000, Mendocino County voters approved a measure decriminalizing marijuana when used and cultivated for personal use.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why Don't We Call It the "Panic of 2008"

While watching the talking heads try to explain why this isn't a "depression" but just a "recession", I was wondering what happened to the word "Panic" which was used to described economic conditions. Wikipedia has entries for:
  • Panic of 1819 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; culmination of U.S.'s 1st boom-to-bust economic cycle
  • Panic of 1825 - pervasive British economic recession in which many British banks failed, & Bank of England nearly failed
  • Panic of 1837 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; a 5 yr. depression ensued.
  • Panic of 1857 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures
  • Panic of 1873 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures; a 4 yr. depression ensued.
  • Panic of 1893 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures
  • Panic of 1901 - limited to crashing of the New York Stock Exchange
  • Panic of 1907 - pervasive USA economic recession w/ bank failures
To me, "panic" is a word that completely described the situation. People go through a cycle in modern economic times - (1) fair ordinary returns on investments, (2) greedy extraordinary returns on investments, (3) karmic extraordinary losses on investments exacerbated by panic.

I wonder why we stopped using the word "panic". The entry in Wikipedia for the current situation is entitled "Financial crisis of 2007–2009". It is such a meaningless heading compared to "Panic of 2008".

Meanwhile, the government has to tells us to stop our panicked behavior. If folks thought of it as a "panic" maybe the would get over it sooner.