Archive for October 8th, 2011
It was WC’s privilege to see the Brasil Guitar Duo on consecutive nights recently, once at an intimate house concert and once in a more formal, concert venue. Both times, they were outstanding, displaying the highest levels of musicianship, virtuosity and effortless skill.
Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora have been performing together for twelve years, and it shows. Even more impressively than the perfect synchronicity, they plainly enjoy each other’s company. They are very much a duo, not merely two artists performing together. Their evident delight in their music is obvious, and adds to the pleasure of their performance.
When you think of Brasil guitar music, for better or worse, you probably think of the late Antonio Carlos Jobin, who popularized the bossa nova rhythms, most famously “Girl from Impanena.” Notably, there was no bossa nova at either show, although there were sly references to “true Brasil music” a couple of times. But while Luiz and Lora performed no Jobin music, there were certainly songs with a Jobin influence, notably “Casa Forte” and “Zanzibar.”
WC personally found the choro music the most fun and the most interesting. Choro is to Brazillian music roughly what jazz is in America. A wildly variable, highly improvisational kind of music. Luiz and Lora performed wonderful interpretations of Jacob do Bandolim‘s ”Doce de Coco” and ”Noites Cariocas.” They passed the lead back and forth flawlessly, improvised around each other’s melodic leads and demonstrated incredible guitar skills.
Those skills go far beyond Brasil music traditions. They did a wonderful interpretation of Debussey’s “Children’s Corner.” The third movement, with its repeated stops and breaks, was delightful fun. And their thoughtful work on Villa-Lobos’s “Prelude” showed the crowd that guitars can be beautiful on slower pieces, as well.
It’s not common for outstanding artists to excel at the very different venues of a house concert and a crowd of over a thousand. It requires a very different approach. Props to these two young men for bringing both off so well.
Special thanks to Joao and Douglas for their extended work in Interior Alaska, as a part of Fairbanks Concert Associations outreach program.
Two wonderful evenings of music. Thanks to all who helped bring the concerts off.
WC has complained earlier about the decision by the Feds not to prosecute Ben Stevens. And has had unofficial communications from the State of Alaska that the statute of limitations – the time during which criminal charges can be brought – has expired as to all state charges while the Feds were deciding what to do. So we have the odd – but not unprecedented – situation in which Ben Stevens was never charged with receiving the bribe Bill Allen and Rick Smith of VECO were convicted of paying him. The gruesome details were neatly summarized recently by Cliff Groh in an Alaska Bar Rag article, picked up by Alaska Dispatch.
But there is still an option open for the adventuresome. And it stands a chance of paying off big time. It doesn’t involve out of pocket costs to you, and it offers better odds than your average state lottery. Ben Stevens may not be your friend afterwards, but that’s the price you’d pay.
WC is talking about the IRS Whistleblower – Informant Program.
Here’s the how it might work.
In 1996, Congress adopted and imposed something called Intermediate Sanctions. They are imposed upon charitable organizations and those who do business with them. They are also called “excess benefits rules.” They’re admittedly complicated. It is, after all, the tax code.
Simplifying a bit, it works roughly like this: if a charity pays someone more than a fair value for good or services – an excess benefit – the person who receives that excess benefit is liable for a penalty in the amount of 225% of the excess benefit received. And if the recipient of the excess benefit doesn’t pay the penalty on time, interest and further penalties pile up. And here’s the brilliant part: the statute of limitations – the time during which Ben Stevens might be liable for the penalties – probably doesn’t start to run until he files a tax return disclosing that he has received the excess benefits.
What WC is talking about, of course, is the $715,000 paid to Stevens for three years of part-time work as chief executive of the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games. WC suggests that might be a little bit more than your usual part-time CEO receives for working at a nonprofit. Especially given that for five months or so in each of those years Stevens was in Juneau serving – for a given definition of “serve” – the citizens of Alaska in the Alaska Legislature.
For purposes of illustration only, let’s assume the fair value of Ben Steven’s services as a figurehead CEO to Special Olympics was $100,000 a year. That means an excess benefit of $415,000. That, in turn, means a penalty of $933,750, plus oodles of interest and late filing penalties.
Now there are rules by which Stevens might have justified that exorbitant compensation, but the excess benefits transactions rules were pretty new back then and smart money might be that Stevens was unaware of them.
If your sense of indignation at Stevens getting off scot-free has you sufficiently worked up, then bust the rascal to the IRS. There’s an on-line form, there’s a modicum of anonimity and if the IRS collects taxes, 15% – 30% of what they recover could be yours. Detailed information on he Whistleblower – Informant Program is available on-line.
Strike a blow for justice. Maybe make some money. What’s not to like? Sure, it might have already happened. Or the IRS may decide that ten years is just too long. Or whatever Teflon™ armor Stevens has may work against the IRS, too. The IRS doesn’t tell.
Or maybe WC is just fantasizing.