Monday, August 19, 2013

Journalism - Always the Best Fallback

I’ve had a couple of journalism pieces hit in the past two weeks as I worked the promo for the book, Detroit Rock City, which has done much better than I expected. As I told someone before it came out, ‘I read it, liked it and maybe a couple dozen other people will.’  Appeal seems to be a little wider than that. I take that as a good sign, although I have no idea of what composes success in broad terms. Getting published is a success in some camps.  Acceptance has always dulled my senses, and staying in the outsider camp feels right at all times. It was a huge coup to me when I started work at the Dallas Morning News. It was as if the inmate was allowed to be part of the staff at the asylum.
The journalism I mentioned is a story I did out of Florida on the state House Speaker Will Weatherford, who didn’t disclose some business relationships because he didn’t have to. Now that sounds like a non-story, but it was prompted by a story earlier in the year I read about his finances, in which he was weirdly vague about what he did for a living, outside of his role in the part-time Florida legislature.
I began to dig about the same time another reporter did, as we both had a reader in our ear questioning Weatherford’s finances. His piece came first, in July.  It was good, but I read it several times and still didn’t think everything was out there.
Some close to the story think it was a tipster who steered me toward the story. But it was pure instinct after that second story that led me to search business filings in Texas – which is where Weatherford has some roots – and find he was connected to an insurance adjuster who did business with the state of Florida’s insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance.
Next was a story for the Fort Worth Weekly on the Tarrant Regional Water District, a government agency that gave me an amazingly hard time in spring 2012 when I asked to look over copies of the district’s campaign finance reports for the last few year. My suspicions were aroused and I filed an open records request for a number of items, including emails that indicated a lot of inside favor dealing among a power structure in Fort Worth. Much of those records formed the basis of this story.

For most readers, this is dull shop talk. But I dig it and there you go.  More books, I’m sure, will roll along and that’s what so many people are into. I enjoy writing the articles every bit as much as the books.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

These Bars Never Seem to Close, Although it Wouldn’t Be Bad if They Did

It’s not like you couldn’t see this one coming, but Black Flag founder and guitarist Greg Ginn has filed a lawsuit against a number of his former bandmates, including Henry Rollins and Keith Morris, seeking compensation and a restraining order to prevent a band of former Black Flaggers – and a drummer - from continuing their current tour.
The federal action alleges Rollins, noted in the filing by his legal name of Henry Garfield, and Morris have fraudulently applied for a trademark of the Black Flag logo, knowing that Ginn has full rights to use of the four black bars, referred to in the action as “marks,” among other things.
“Garfield and Morris falsely claimed they were the owners of the marks and had continuously used the marks since 1978,” Ginn claims in his petition, which also names former Flag members Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, and Bill Stephenson for various alleged copyright infringements.
Ginn accuses the current band that includes Morris, Cadena, Dukowski and Stephenson, touring under the name “Flag,” of willful trademark and service infringement. Ginn is touring with former Black Flag singer Ron Reyes as Black Flag. Both bands are playing songs written by Ginn for Black Flag.
On its face, it seems Ginn has a pretty good case; these other guys are swimming in the guitarist’s wake.
For the life of me I can’t see the merit in seeing either version of this band. Isn’t that how bands like Grand Funk or Great White got into each other’s shit, with this ridiculous name change game?
What is more interesting is that Rollins and Morris teamed up in September to get the Black Flag trademark, pointedly to sell clothing with the Black Flag logo, which is where the real money is if Urban Outfitters has anything to say about it.  If I were Ginn, I would be genuinely pissed.
“Garfield and Morris falsely claimed they were the owners of the marks and had made continuous use of the marks in commerce since 1978,” Ginn states in the suit, referring to the trademark filing.  Then there is this, which alleges that  that Rollins has or had a hand in the merch being sold by Flag.
“…Based upon statements made by counsel for Garfield and Morris in response to office counsel action [regarding their trademark application for the Black Flag bars], Garfield either intends to join in the infringing activities of the other defendants, or has already done so, with regard to the manufacture of items of clothing with the marks.”

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for picking up the court filing.