Filling the Gaps

I've been on a bit of a rampage lately with purchases of music, books, etc. Here are some of the things I'm listening to, reading and about to dive into.

Mark Olson "The Salvation Blues" -- One listen and this record sounds fantastic. Maybe his best work since "My Own Jo Ellen"

Matthew Ryan "Jane, I Feel the Same" (single) -- Absolutely beautiful. Only available at

Okkervil River "The Stage Names" -- "Unless It's Kicks" on repeat over-and-over.

Joe Strummer Mix -- A friend made this and I'm a lovin' it.

Dr. Dog "Easy Beat" -- still need to listen.

Elvis Costello "Live at Macambo" -- Wow!

Josh Ritter "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" -- new contender for album of the year. Watch out "Sky Blue Sky".

More: The For Carnation "The For Carnation", The Go-Betweens "Oceans Apart", The Gourds "Noble Creatures", Pajo "Pajo", Rachel's "Music for Egon Schiele"

Al Gore "The Assault on Reason" -- Just about done. Inspiring read.

Next: Haruki Murakami "Underground", Phillip Gourevitch "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda"

*ONLINE* (listserver)
The Mobtown Shank (

The New Yorker
My Camera
John Edwards in SF

All Around Town

Noreen at home.

In what was a very memorable day spent in various parts of San Francisco, the most most moving period was a story I learned about someone finding the road to recovery through singing Old 97s songs. No, it wasn't because I've always been a fan of the 97s, but it once again revealed the power of music. Thanks for sharing, NC.

Slobberbone: A Retrospective


The day I learned that the band Slobberbone were calling it quits was one of the biggest musical letdowns of my life. I discovered this fantastic foursome from Denton, Texas at some point in the late 90s. Their show at Club De Ville in Austin during SXSW 1999 still stands as the greatest show I've ever seen in my life. Yes, in my life. I've probably seen close to 1,000 live shows, but this one still stands as the best.

Slobberbone were a band that played with utter ferocity. They mixed this jarring rock n' roll with spellbinding lyrics and a stage presence that just epitomized rock n' roll. Whether they were playing before 400 people or four, it never mattered to Slobberbone. They played their hearts out every night.

Over the course of a few years, I got to hang out with lead singer/songwriter Brent Best. Hanging out with Brent was just like hanging out with a good friend. We'd talk about Uncle Tupelo, baseball, politics, guitars (I pretended to know what I was talking about), Texas and many other topics. Brent was a pure class act. Despite not making much money, Brent and the rest of Slobberbone dedicated their lives to music. It was what they had to do.

In late-2004 Slobberbone called it quits. They ended up making a few changes to the band and reforming as The Drams (with three members, including Brent, still in tact). They released their first record, "Jubilee Dive", in 2006. Once again, Brent and company released a great record, but it's just not Slobberbone. I've seen The Drams a number of times live and will continue to follow them. The spirit's still there, but there was something special about Slobberbone. From 1996-2002, they released only four records, three of which are absolutely fantastic. They're a band that never got their due. They're a band whose music stands the test of time. They're a band that meant the world to me.

A friend recently heard some Slobberbone while hanging out at my apartment. I agreed to make him a mix. And here it is.

Slobberbone - A Retrospective
Barrel Chested
Pinball Song
Trust Jesus
Your Excuse
Find the Out
Whiskey Glass Eye
Engine Joe
Front Porch
To Love Somebody
Lazy Guy
Sister Beams
I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning
Springfield, IL
Some New Town
One Rung

The Sporting Life

Although I'd consider myself a pretty big sports fan, rarely do I write about sports on this here blog. I've followed just about every major sport at some point in my life. I gave up on college basketball when all the stars started skipping early for the pros. I lost interest in college football for no other reason than losing interest. Hockey's always kinda bored me. I still follow the majors in golf and tennis.

Of the three major sports, my interest has always been in the following order: 1. baseball (Yankees) 2. basketball (Knicks) 3. football (Steelers). I've followed all pretty closely, but baseball and basketball have always taken the cake. I followed the Knicks during the terrible years (1980s) through to the glory years (1990s). I've recently lost a bit of interest in the Knicks not because they've sucked for so many years, but because I'm disgusted by James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. They have ruined the organization with their greed and mismanagement.

I've never left the Yankees. I grew up with them and have followed them game-by-game for over 25 years. It's extremely rare that I miss a box score. With today's easy access to updates, it's rare that an inning goes by and I don't know the score. The Yankees are in my blood. Yeah, they've got the highest payroll in all of sports, and I completely agree that baseball is unfair, but it doesn't matter, the Yankees are my team.

The last week or so has felt like a massive blow to the stomach. And that blow has come from three (and a half) people across all three sports: Michael Vick (football), Tim Donaghy (basketball) and Barry Bonds/Bud Selig (baseball).

Michael Vick: The allegations against him with respect to his dogfighting ring have angered me beyond words. The brutality that he and his scumbags leveled on these defenseless animals is beyond comprehension. And to add insult to injury, I've heard countless NFL players defend Vick, while *joking* about the charges against him. If the allegations are proven true, Michael Vick should never player another game in the NFL, he should serve jail time, and his massive contract should be donated to the ASPCA or a similar organization.

Tim Donaghy: I was already down on the NBA following the Pistons/Pacers brawl, the arrogance and stupidity of stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant and the disaster that is the New York Knicks. Now we know that Donaghy bet on games and likely did his best to FIX games. I don't think that I will ever look at the NBA the same way, or any sport for that matter. Could umpires be doing the same in baseball?

Barry Bonds/Bud Selig: Barry Bonds is days away from breaking arguably the most sacred record in sports. And he's about to take it away from Hammerin' Hank, a man who was pure class. Barry Bonds has scoffed at the media his entire career and likely illegally improved his body and output by pouring drugs into his body for a good percentage of his career. That said, I don't entirely blame Bonds. Baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, was KEENLY aware that this was going on during his tenure. He road the coattails of the McGwire/Sosa/Bonds era because of the revenue that it was bringing baseball. He knew that they were cheating and turned a blind eye. He is equally, if not more responsible for the steroid era. Many argue that *nothing* has been proven. I ask you this: When's the last time you heard from or saw Mark McGwire? Why do you think he's gone into hiding? If Barry Bonds is innocent, don't you think (given his brash personality) that he'd be VEHEMENTLY denying these allegations and suing everyone who's written about his drug use for slander. Yet he's done nothing. Why? Because he's guilty.

Why do these incidents which may be isolated to a few individuals eat at me? Because it's corruption. For some reason, it seems to mirror what's going on in our government right now. Some folks who gain power will grasp onto that power with such ferocity that they lose sight of everything else. And this is a part of American life that absolutely disgusts me.

Sports has always been very dear to me. When Louisville basketball won the NCAA Championship in 1986 I was in tears. When I witnessed Tino Martinez's unthinkable home run against the Diamandbacks in the 2001 World Series, I felt euphoria that was previously foreign to me. When Patrick Ewing stood on the scorers table after beating the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and finally bringing the Knicks back to the NBA Finals, I felt such joy that I called almost everyone I knew, whether they were sports fans or not.

I miss those days. I miss those moments. Given the state of sports these days, I wonder if I'll ever experience those feelings again. I hope I do.

SLINT @ Bimbos

This was probably the best show I've seen since moving to San Francisco, and one of the best shows I've seen in a decade. "Spiderland" front-to-back 17 years after it was recorded. This is a show that I won't soon forget.

This clip isn't from last night, but it still rules. (The last minute-plus is cut, but it's still great.)

The Road To Guantanamo

Like many Americans, I've often wondered about what's going on down at Guantanamo Bay. Who's there? How is one determined to be enough of a threat to be sent there and stripped of all rights? What are the conditions? Are we abiding by the Geneva Conventions?

Tonight I watched the docudrama "The Road To Guantanamo". I will preface what I'm about to say by stating that I have no clue how much of this film is true. I don't know if there was a bias. I don't know if the three main characters in the film are telling the truth.

All that being said, this movie struck a MAJOR chord with me. I'm fully aware and no longer question the fact that George Bush and his cabinet are a bunch of lying crooks. They've basically admitted to torture. They've hidden so much from the American public that it's absolutely despicable. They lied about Iraq. Then again, they lie every single day.

"The Road To Guantanamo" is the story of three British men who were wrongly sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were friends on their way to a wedding in Pakistan when things turned terribly wrong. Their curiosity brought them to Afghanistan. When they tried to return to Pakistan for their friends' wedding, they were caught in Afghanistan right when the American bombings were at an apex. They tried to get out, but they couldn't. They were eventually sent to Guantanamo and spent over two years there. They were tortured. They weren't allowed lawyers, contact with their families or any of the rights that are supposedly the tenets of the American justice system.

After 24 plus months in horrid conditions, they were finally cleared and released. They were changed men, but apparently void of anger. They grew stronger. They wanted to move on with their lives. If the majority (or all) of this film is true, I can't imagine how these men aren't seething with rage and anti-American sentiments. And if these men truly aren't, there are many out there who are. And many of these folks sympathized and stood alongside us after September 11th. But no longer. And we can thank Mr. Bush for that.


Afghanistan: Complete failure. The Taliban are back and Al Qaeda's back to pre-9/11 strength.

Iraq: Need I say anything? This is an endless war based on nothing but lies and deception.

And now:,,2127115,00.html



The New York Yankees

One of the fondest memories of my childhood was going to Yankee Stadium. When I was five years old or so, my father took me my first Yankee game. I can't say that I knew exactly what was going on, but there was something about the park, the smell, the players and the atmosphere that grabbed me. Whenever the Yankees ran out of the dugout to take the field, I would sit in awe. What was this amazing thing that took three-plus hours to complete? There was so much complexity. "What does ERA mean", I recall asking my father. He tried to explain, but I didn't understand. But there was something about Yankee Stadium that I did understand, and that was that it was special. There was no other place like it. Whenever we went to games, my dad would often drink too much, but I was too young to understand.

The first time I felt true euphoria for the Yankees was on July 4, 1983. I was nine years old at the time and I clearly recall being fixated on the television as Dave "Rags" Righetti attempted to throw a no-hitter against the hated Red Sox. I remember that we were headed to a 4th of July party and I was mildly enraged (for a nine year old) that I was going to miss an entire inning as we traveled across town for the party. While my father sat outside drinking beer, I was inside watching my heroes. I remember being slightly disappointed that my dad wasn't experiencing this with me, but I didn't care that much. I mean, Dave Righetti was on the verge of throwing a no-hitter. I'll never forget that final strike to Wade Boggs and the chill that ran up my back. I ran outside to the back porch to find my dad. He was probably on his tenth beer or so at the time, but I had to tell him. Despite all of his failures as a father, he gave me the New York Yankees and I had to share this moment with him. I recall being somewhat letdown when he didn't share my enthusiasm. As he turned to talk to his friend and light up another cigarette, I ran back into the house to watch the postgame. I had to see Righetti interviewed. I had to see the line score. I needed more.

Throughout the 1980s the Yankees were generally awful. They went through manager after manager with the only bright spot being a young kid from Indiana named Don Mattingly. He played with class. He had the sweetest swing. He became my favorite player. Every year when I suited up for little league, I demanded that I get #23 because that was Mattingly's number. I learned to hit lefty to try and mimic Mattingly. When I wasn't pitching, I was playing first base, because that's where Mattingly played.

During my junior high school days, I became a pretty good baseball player. I couldn't hit worth a damn (sure didn't live up to Mattingly there), but I could pitch. I started five of ten games for my 8th grade school team. I made the All-Star team and traveled around Northern New Jersey pitching to teams from all over the place. My father rarely made the games, and when he did, he was usually drunk. But that didn't matter, he gave me the Yankees. He would tell great stories about Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.

In the mid-90s, the Yankees were back. In 1995, Don Mattingly FINALLY made the postseason. And despite going out in the first round, I believe Mattingly hit about .450. At the end of the '95 season, Mattingly's back just couldn't take the day-in day-out tear, and he called it quits. But he made the postseason.

As luck would have it, the following year the Yankees won the World Series. It was their first World Series victory in 18 years. When Charlie Hayes caught the final pop up, I was standing right next to the left field foul pole. I was actually there to see the Yankees win the World Series. My father had bought two tickets for my brother and I. For some reason, he couldn't make the game, but once again, he gave us the Yankees. I will never forget peering back at my brother when the last out was made and seeing a tear streaming down his face. That one tear turned into near sobbing. When I reflect on that night, I don't think he was crying solely because the Yankees had finally won another World Series. There was more to it. Despite our ongoing years of disappointment and turmoil surrounding our relationship with our dad, he gave us the Yankees. And this night was special. He wasn't there with us, but we were there because of him. Not just because he had the money to buy the tickets, but because he instilled in us this love for the pinstripes. He instilled in us a passion that still exists to this day and this may stand as his greatest accomplishment as a father.

Remember Al Qaeda?

You know, the folks who actually attacked us in 2001? Remember, they're the group led by that fella Osama bin Laden? You've probably forgotten them since Mr. "President" spent a few hours going after them before turning his eyes on Iraq. Well, Mr. Bush promised us that he'd hunt them down and defeat them. Remember that? Well, it doesn't look like our dear president has lived up to that promise.

Michael Moore's "Sicko"


Amongst the many causes that really hit home with me, the deplorable state of the United States health care system is right near the top. No, I'm not among the 45 million or so uninsured Americans who go through their days knowing that a potential health problem could doom them financially, or even cost them their lives. I'm one of the fortunate ones. Since graduating college in 1996, I've had health care coverage for all but about four months. In the late 90s I had a few health scares and, for the most part, these maladies were covered in large part.

That said, around 2000 or so I started to see the darker side of the health industry. I'm not sure if it was my new health care provider(s), or the conditions that I was suffering from, but obtaining reimbursements became increasingly difficult. Most recently, I had to see a doctor for repeated visits. Before doing so, I received pre-approval from my health care provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I was assured that once I met my deductible ($500), I would receive 80% back. After about a year of treatment for this condition, I've now surpassed $2,000 in doctor's bills and I have not received a penny from Blue Cross. I've submitted my claims, yet each time I call I'm given a different reason. This is what I've heard thus far:

"The diagnosis number was wrong." (I double-checked and it was correct.)
"You have not met your deductible." (Lie.)
"This is not covered under your policy." (It was pre-approved.)
"You've been using an out-of-network doctor." (I told Blue Cross this in advance and was told that the the above conditions for being repaid were accurate for out-of-network.)

This list could go on and on. See, this is what the insurance companies do: They hope that you finally give up. And I'm certain that most people do. I didn't. Last week I went to my HR rep. and told her about the difficulties that I was having with Blue Cross. She immediately called our rep. and I've been told that all of my claims are being reprocessed and that I'll be receiving payment soon. Why did they finally cave? Because they don't want to lose our company. These people are the lowest of the low. No wonder they threw so much money to Bush.

Since this is a very important issue to me, I decided to go see Moore's take on the US health care system, "Sicko". I think Moore's previous two films are both solid, especially the well thought-out and balanced "Bowling For Columbine". With "Fahrenheit 911" I also agreed with much of what he was saying, but it was becoming clear that he was telling less of the full picture (whether the other side had any valid rebuttals or not). With "Sicko", he's become more of a case-by-case storyteller than a true documentary filmmaker.

Almost the entire film is spent with downtrodden people who have had terrible experiences with their health care providers. Although my conditions weren't as serious as some of those in the film. I could certainly empathize. Their stories were heartwarming, while at the same time heartbreaking. You had to feel for these people and how this country has failed them. However, Moore left out two keys elements to making this an effective film: 1) There wasn't ONE interview with the other side. He didn't even say that he attempted to speak with executives at the top insurance companies, which leads the viewer to believe that he didn't try and 2) He offered no solutions. Sure, he talked about how great health care is in France, but he didn't for one second draw out how this could be applied in the United States.

I honestly think that Michael Moore is a man of heart and compassion. But with "Sicko" he's lost his focus. He had the perfect opportunity to expose an area of American society that is absolutely despicable. And, for the most part, he failed. Nevertheless, this film is causing people to talk, debate and look at a system that is utterly broken. Although the film failed in many respects, at the very least, it will open up the eyes of Americans, and we can hope, the so-called leaders of this land.

"Shoot Out the Lights"

It's a Friday night and I've now listened to this record three times consecutively. After work, instead of the usual trip to a bar, I went to a new record store on Market Street (yes, there's a *new* record store) and picked up the following (all on vinyl):

Richard & Linda Thompson "Shoot Out the Lights" $18
Bangles "All Over the Place" $3
J. Geils Band "Best of...." $3
Folkways: Vision Shared "A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly" $7
David Bowie "Station To Station" $8

I'm psyched to listen to them all, but it'll probably be days before "Shoot Out the Lights" makes its way off the turntable. I mean, Richard and Linda wrote and recorded this record *while* going through a divorce. And despite the tension and lost love, they created this masterpiece. "Wall of Death" stands as one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Let me take my chances....

Iraq and Music


The End of a Presidency?

Not a chance, but it should be

Music as Life - Nick Drake


I stumbled upon this bio of Drake and man did it sum up a lot. Not just for Drake...

With every passing year, it becomes a little less accurate to say that Nick Drake has a cult following. Cults, by their very nature, tend to exist on the margins, the subject of their admiration unknown or even unloved by the vast majority of people. Mention Nick Drake to a certain generation of music fan and chances are you wont have to explain yourself. Latterly, Drakes name has become a byword for a certain kind of acoustic music. Gentility, melancholia and a seemingly casual mastery of the fretboard in the minds of many listeners, any combination of these traits warrants comparison to Nick Drake. As a result, Drake is perpetually referenced across the reviews sections of every music title. That quite often the records in question bear no meaningful resemblance to Drakes music speaks volumes. His legacy may, in one sense, be huge. But theres painfully little of it: just three complete albums Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972) and a final quartet of songs recorded shortly before his death. As his relevance increases, so does an insatiable communal yearning for their source to yield more. Hence the constant namechecks. Hence the constant repackaging and remixing of the same old bootleg recordings. Somehow we cannot quite accept the fact that this was all he left behind.

Such a turn of events isnt without a certain irony. Towards the end of his life, Drake appeared to long for the vindication that comes with commercial success. And yet he seemed incapable of compromising himself to the pursuit of recognition. His shyness made interviews difficult. Live performances became increasingly rare. When recording music, the only compass he used was his own intuition. For Five Leaves left, he asserted himself when he needed to dispensing with the arranger suggested by Island and replacing him with his old Cambridge associate Robert Kirby. Pink Moon was just Drake and a guitar, an exercise in intricate desolation, no less perfect for its stark brevity. Commercial success may not have vindicated him, but the intervening years certainly have. Five years ago, he entered the Billboard 100 (and the Amazon Top Five) for the first time. Thirty seconds of Pink Moon used in a Volkswagen advert alerted America to the otherworldly magic of Drakes hushed English tones. His friend and label-mate Linda Thompson recalls recently hearing the song in LA over a supermarket tannoy: I couldnt believe how amazing, how right it sounded. How did he know? Writing about Drake, the late Ian McDonald attempted to put into words why Drakes music should have achieved such a relevance in the century after its creator brought it into being. In a celebrated essay, McDonald posited the suggestion that songs such as River Man and Way To Blue reconnect us with a part of our selves that modern life has all but eroded away. Certainly, much of his music is endowed with a peculiar prescience. Over arrangements that seem to mimic the bustle of a world moving too fast, the prescient Hazey Jane II sees Drake impishly enquiring, And what will happen in the morning when the world it gets/So crowded that you cant look out the window in the morning.

The manner in which Drakes life ended has inevitably coloured the way his songs are perceived: among them, the haunting Black-Eyed Dog and the self-mocking Poor Boy. Dont you worry, he sings on Fruit Tree, Theyll stand and stare when youre gone. In the liner notes to 1994s Way To Blue compilation, Drakes producer and mentor Joe Boyd commented that, listening to his lyrics he may have planned it all this way. His point that the best music will always invite conjecture and speculation about its authors is well made. But at the same time, it should be added that the sadness in Nick Drakes songs was frequently the corollary of an all-consuming joy. As often as not, both extremes are to be found within the same song: the autumnal languor of I Was Made To Love Magic; the life-affirming brush-strokes of Northern Sky (Ive never felt magic as crazy as this). Records born exclusively of misery and catharsis can do little other than depress their listeners. Their candour may garner critical bouquets but they rarely return to the CD tray. Drake certainly suffered from depression most notably in the latter two years of his life but his music was not a function of that depression. Richard Thompson who played on Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later remembers a quiet character, though not a miserable one: I remember long silences, but they were never oppressive. With Nick, you sensed [that] very little needed to be said that couldnt be said with a guitar in his hand. As Drake puts it on Hazey Jane II, If songs were lines/In a conversation/The situation would be fine.

Thirty years have now passed since Nick Drakes death. Original pressings of his records change hands for around £200. Dedicated fanzines and websites continue to interpret and second-guess every note and utterance. The bucolic village of Tanworth-In-Arden, where Drake grew up, attracts a steady trickle of visitors somehow seeking to climb further inside the music. And yet as his father Rodney recalled, And I remember in one of his reports towards the end of the time at his first school, the headmaster said at the end that none of us seemed to know him very well. And I think that was it. All the way through with Nick. People didn't know him very much. Its impossible to keep count of the contemporary artists who cite Drake as an inspiration, but a cursory round-up includes R.E.M., Paul Weller, Travis, Portishead, The Coral, Coldplay, David Gray, Super Furry Animals and Beth Orton. Along with household names of his creative lifetime the Stones, The Beatles, Marley, Hendrix his albums have become an unofficial set text for anyone passionate about music. In 2004, he has become so much more than the sum total of his work. The greater our fascination with him, the more we reveal about ourselves. In this sense, maybe Ian McDonald was right. Perhaps his music allows us to feel a little less like, as Drake put it, a remnant of something thats passed.

Years Beside the Shore


A Weekend in Politics

First the Supreme Court basically overturns one of the greatest decisions for civil rights in American history, and today W. commutes a convicted criminal.

W is really making a concerted effort to go down as the worst president in American history. Almost on a daily basis, he delivers a decision, speech, etc. that only add to his laundry list of activities that prove that he's nothing short of a selfish crook. This man should not only be removed of his role as president, but he should be locked up. He has knowingly committed so many egregious acts that it's becoming almost laughable.

As I'm typing this, I hear Joseph Wilson in reference to W, "He's just not a decent individual." That's really what it comes down to. This man is such a lying, deceitful and manipulate jerk that I almost have to stop following. I realize that that will be throwing in the towel, so I refuse to take this course.

WHEN WILL THE AMERICAN PUBLIC START SHOWING SOME OUTRAGE? EVER? WHAT WILL IT TAKE? Oh right, the majority of us are too busy TIVO'ing Paris Hilton's interview with Larry King.

Pescadero, CA

More later on one of the more memorable days I've had in ages. In the meantime....

Mix Tape Sunday

La Dame et la Lincorne - Shearwater
Twin Killers - Deerhoof
Girl in the War - Josh Ritter
Intervention - Arcade Fire
Tiger Lily - Luna
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Bob Dylan
A Goodbye Rye - Richard Buckner
Blinking Lights (For Me) - Eels
One More Mistake - Swales
If I Needed You - Townes Van Zandt
Trapped (Live) - Bruce Springsteen
I Don't Want To Get Over You - The Magnetic Fields
Thirteen - Big Star
Sky'd Out - Varnaline
From Blown Speakers - The New Pornographers
PCH One - Pernice Brothers
Kissed a Girl - Star City
Hospital Beds - Cold War Kids
Rise - Josh Rouse