Bottle Rockets/Jeff Tweedy & Neil

A short review of Friday nights Wilco show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley will be up soon. In the meantime, check out this gem:

California To Alter the "Electoral College"?

I disagree with the electoral college and firmly believe that the presidency should be handed to the winner of the popular vote. However, if this were to change, it needs to change NATIONALLY and not on a state-by-state basis. As you will see in the following article, there is a ballot initiative to have the Electoral College votes in the 2008 presidential election divided by districts.

Forget about this happening, even if it DOES make the ballot, democrats are going to have to waste millions fighting this. THIS CORRUPTION MUST STOP! I e-mailed our governor tonight; I hope that you will do the same. Like the 49 other states, let the winner of California take ALL electoral votes. If this even makes the ballot, my residency in the great state of California will likely come to an end.


Daniel Johnston @ Bimbos

Some nights just turn out perfectly. At about 545pm tonight, I was just about to turn off my computer at work, when I figured I'd check e-mail one more time. New message. From Craigslist. A girl named Jessica had an extra ticket for Daniel Johnston and was offering at face value. I replied immediately. For the next 30 minutes I sat starting at my phone. It finally rang and we decided to meet outside Bimbos at 830. Wow.

I arrived at Bimbos with my digital SLR in hand. I figured it was a longshot, and I was just going to ask the bouncer, to avoid the possibility of having it taken away from me during the show (my Nikon D80 is like a member of my family....I can NOT leave it at coat check). The bouncer was really nice, but said nope. He told me to leave it at coach check since leaving it in the car could be risky. I felt more comfortable leaving it in my car. I took about five steps and the gentleman tugged at my shirt. "Promise to keep the flash off?" I was in.

I watched the opener, The Oh Sees, who were quite good. But I was too distracted thinking about what I was about to see. I'll admit, I don't know Daniel Johnston's catalog *that* well, although I know about 40 or so songs. And no, I didn't discover him after the movie. I first learned of Daniel Johnston while hearing Wilco cover "True Love Will Find You in the End" in the mid-90s as well as the summer of '95 when I first heard Yo La Tengo's brilliant take on "Speeding Motorcycle".

But here's what really drew me to Daniel Johnston. And I'll preface this by saying that yes, many musicians and artists struggle with mental illness, and many are able to use that as a vehicle for their art. But there's something different about Daniel Johnston. There's an innocence. There's a true battle within that isn't fabricated, exploited or manipulated. It's who he is. His battles with various forms of mental illness leave him looking like a child in a genuis' body. That's a terrible description, but hopefully it makes some sense.

When Daniel Johnston took the stage a shiver went down my spine. He just looked like a child. He looked perfectly comfortable, but you could see his illness. He went for a drink of water and his hands were rattling around. It didn't appear to be nerves, but rather a manifestation of one of his illnesses. He said hello and picked up a tiny guitar. He sang about 7-8 folk songs. They were beautiful. He found a way to manage the shaking of his hands, although they continued to flail around. He told an absolutely hysterical yet jarring story about a dream he'd had last night. When he played "Grievances" I nearly lost it. See, Daniel Johnston holds nothing back. He openly talks about his disappointments. He doesn't hold back that he's had little attention from women. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. It was beautiful.

After a short break, the Oh Sees joined and backed him on about six songs. He sang "Speeding Motorcycle" with anger. You could see him pouring out his soul. There were no frills. He played a song in which he talked about his death. He yelled something like "And Daniel Johnston died tonight". Some laughed. I can't say that I found this funny. I found it sad. But I found it real.

The greatest part about the show is that Daniel Johnston seemed genuinely happy. He let a sold out audience into his soul and exposed his demons and insecurities without a moment of hesitation. It's very rare that ANY artist opens themselves up this much. Daniel Johnston is an absolute treasure. There's so much complexity to his art and his mind, but in the end, he just seems like a man expressing what's inside. We should be grateful to have him.

Daniel Johnston at Bimbo's (Pre-Show)

At the very last minute, a kind person hit me via Craigslist and offered a ticket at face value. In about 90 minutes I'll be seeing Daniel Johnston for the first time. Something tells me that this is going to be a special show.

Report later.

Mendocino Pt. 2 / Josh Ritter "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter"

Somehow these two seem tied to each other.


Noreen and I took a day/night trip up to Mendocino. The four-plus hour drive up there on Sunday was outstanding (though eclipsed by the return trip). The weather was sweet, the scenery on 101 into 128 into 1 was breathtaking. Almost the entire 160 or so miles was amazing. We headed over the Golden Gate and into the long stretch of 101. When we hit 128 we were met with trees that seemed to create short tunnels. The trees that hovered over the car and shot up into the sky were gorgeous. It's a cliche, but it made me think of the environment. It helped me to understand the true need to preserve such beautiful places.

When we arrived in Mendocino, we were greeted by the kind manager of the bed & breakfast and admired our room. We then trotted into town for massages. Hers was great, mine was a bit on the rough side. There were many comedy gold moments. Dinner was as good as one could imagine. We got back to the room and listened to the Rachel's record I'd recently bought on eMusic. It was perfect.

Monday was the kicker. I think I had the largest breakfast I've had in my life. I had about four cups of coffee. Noreen wanted to head 9 miles north to the Botanical Garden. It was well worth the trip. Noreen has opened up my eyes to flowers, plants, hell, even vegetables. It's all fascinating to me. It's home for her. She could've stayed there for a week straight. I think I could have as well.

As we left town, we headed onto 128 and were watching the clock. We wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. Then came the trees again. "Can we stop for five minutes?", she asked. With a little hesitation, I agreed. We grabbed our cameras and walked about 50 yards into the woods. We went our separate ways. I found myself lying on the dirt, looking up at the sun and the trees and feeling as though I were in a different world. There was very little sound. The trees were still. They were beasts. I was covered in dirt. I barely noticed. After about 15 minutes we met on a little path. Now, I didn't want to leave. And neither did she. We walked slowly to the car, looked back into the woods, shared a smile and got into the car. We were home in no time.


This has to be the album of the year. A good friend of mine has been a Ritter fanatic for years, but I never caught on. Until now. This is a songwriter and a band that's hit its peak. And it's not just a "good point" in his career. With "Historical Conquests" he's made a mark. The lyrics are fucking great, the singing is Dylan meets Springsteen meets Tweedy meets Costello. The band is ablaze. These are some of the best songs I've heard in years.

Dave: You were right. Ritter is an important artist. His new record is evidence that he's perhaps one of the most important artists right now. If you're reading this, buy this record. Today. Now.

"This orchestra is gigantic, this thing could sink the Titanic" --Josh Ritter "Rumors" (Noreen: I think you're right)



Daniel Johnston

I discovered Daniel Johnston about ten years ago when Wilco covered "True Love Will Find You In the End". Most folks now know him via the heartbreaking documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". He's playing in SF next week and I'm now doing everything possible to find a ticket. If you read this blog, and have an extra, please hit me up.

Here's a great little video I just found:

Dick Cheney Now vs. Then


Karl Rove's Departure

Ya know, when I heard that Rove was stepping away, I thought I'd be thrilled and filled with disgust at the things he's done to harm this great country. While I am happy to see him go away (thought I'm skeptical that he'll really be out of the picture), this man has ceased angering me. I'm finding that the time has come to move on from these despicable people. I mean, we're only a little over a year away from an end to this fiasco, so why not start looking at what may be a bright future.

I sincerely hope that a democrat grabs the presidential nod in 2008, but regardless of who wins the White House, nothing could be worse than Bush and co. (ok, maybe Guiliani could rival them). But this awful period in American history is just about over. And that's a good thing. Hopefully the Bush administration will for one second consider the damage they've done to this country and the world, and actually lighten up over the next year plus. I doubt it, but we can hope.

Karl Rove's legacy is clear. He was a political mastermind, but he was a terrible person for this country and for our democracy. He has to live with that, no one else. Maybe stepping aside from politics will afford him the time to realize that there's more to life than manipulation, greed, lying and suppressing the will of the country. Maybe he'll become a better person (I mean, you can't get much worse).

Today the country is better off. Let's hope that Mr. Rove stays away from the political arena for good. If he does, we'll all be better off.

The Local Coffee Shop

When I moved to Fillmore Street in January the first thing I needed to find was a local coffee shop. I would have settled for a Starbucks, I suppose, but I'm more inclined to find the independent shop. Much to my surprise, although I live on a pretty quiet part of Fillmore, just about 30 feet from my apartment sits Fillmore Grind. When I first visited, I was a bit turned off. The place is very unkempt, flies are usually buzzing around and the food and coffee are certainly not well organized. Then I met the owner, Mike. For the first six months or so of visiting Fillmore Grind, I didn't know his name was Mike. But I recently got the name.

Given the rush to get to work, I usually only visit Fillmore Grind on Saturday's and Sunday's. Whenever I walk in, Mike immediately knows what I want: large coffee and a bagel with cream cheese and tomatoes. It's $3.75 total, but Mike would likely let me pay whatever I had on me. The music's often pretty loud, and it's always unpredictable. One day he'll be playing the local rock station, while the next he'll be blasting strange but melodic Arabic music. He often dances a little bit.

Mike's probably in his early sixties, if not a bit older. The locals seem to love him. When he didn't show up a few Sunday's ago and the gates outside remained unlocked, the local convenience store owner seemed concerned. But Mike returned on Monday. I asked him if everything was alright, to which he replied, "I was just tired. I'm not making enough money." Less than five seconds later, he had turned up the music and was doing his little dance.

Yesterday I walked in and studied the place to try and think of some possible improvements. I told Mike to move the pastries to a more visible area. He agreed and let me move them beside the cash register. I also noticed that Mike had English Muffins and eggs sitting in refrigerator. "Hey Mike, you should offer egg sandwiches", I said cautiously. "Really? Do you think people would buy them? What should I charge?"

This morning I walked in and Mike was ready. "English muffin, egg, cheese and tomato", he said. Mike knows that I'm trying to cut down on meat. He proceeded to warm up an egg and toss a muffin with cheese and tomato into the toaster oven. While I sampled some of the newspapers, Mike asked me to come behind the counter. He opened up the toaster oven and asked, "Done?" "Yup, perfect", I replied.

As he handed me my breakfast he asked, "So....how much?" "Ummm, I'd charge $3.00 for this and $3.50 if they add meat." Mike didn't hesitate and took my money. "Will you write this on the board for me when I get chalk tomorrow?" Although I've never stopped in on a weekday, it looks like tomorrow will be an exception.

Mix Tape Saturday

For my buddy Joel...

twin killers DEERHOOF
loma prieta LIZ PAPPADEMAS
unless it's kicks OKKERVIL RIVER
jane, i still feel the same (demo) MATTHEW RYAN
have you forgotten RED HOUSE PAINTERS
it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry (alternate take) BOB DYLAN
the sniper at the gates of heaven THE BLACK ANGELS
girl BECK
the golden state JOHN DOE
hickory wind THE BYRDS

AT & T and Censorship

I've never been a huge Pearl Jam fan, but I've always respected the way they've handled their careers. They've never sold out, took on Ticketmaster and chose art over money. If you haven't heard, the AT & T Blue Room, which touts itself as a hip place to watch various music festivals (yes, they're just trying to rope in more of the 17-30 market), recently streamed the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. During Pearl Jam's set, Eddie Vedder made some pretty simple statements about George Bush. No, there weren't any f-bombs - just a simple change in the lyrics to make a point. AT & T censored the new lyrics. When the public went nuts and AT & T was fielding complaints from furious music fans, they capitulated and blamed the "gaffe" on the vendor. Now that's just hysterical. Ummmm, AT & T is one of the largest republican donors; they're Blue Room initiative is a huge priority at this mega-corp. and they just didn't notice this act of censorship? Rigggggggght. The fact that they blamed this on their vendor, speaks volumes about how they view the intellect of their subscribers. As AT & T continues to grow, and the telecom market continues to be consolidated, expect more of this. Maybe they're not as bad as say ExxonMobile, BlueCross/BlueShield, or BP, but they're definitely playing the same game. And they need to be stopped.

Here you go:

The New Yorker: Annals of Medicine

If you get a chance, read this week's Annals of Medicine article entitled "An Error In the Code". It doesn't appear to be online, but if you have the magazine, don't miss this article. It's about a very rare disorder called Lesch-Nyhan. I really can't say anymore because it's almost impossible to describe this syndrome, but the story really made me appreciative of what I've got.

Here's a little bit on the syndrome: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/lesch_nyhan/lesch_nyhan.htm

Albums of the Week



Drug Rug - Drug Rug
Brian Wilson - Smile
Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
Daniel Johnston - Welcome To My World
Dr. Dog - Easy Beat
MIA - Arular
Willie Nelson - The Complete Atlantic Sessions
John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness

Bush/Gonzales and the Pro-Life Movement

The Atlantic Monthly | July/August 2003

The Texas Clemency Memos

As the legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales—now the White House counsel, and widely regarded as a likely future Supreme Court nominee—prepared fifty-seven confidential death-penalty memoranda for Bush's review. Never before discussed publicly, the memoranda suggest that Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand

by Alan Berlow


On the morning of May 6, 1997, Governor George W. Bush signed his name to a confidential three-page memorandum from his legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, and placed a bold black check mark next to a single word: DENY. It was the twenty-ninth time a death-row inmate's plea for clemency had been denied in the twenty-eight months since Bush had been sworn in. In this case Bush's signature led, shortly after 6:00 P.M. on the very same day, to the execution of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded thirty-three-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old.

Washington's death was barely noted by the media, and the governor's office issued no statement about it. But the execution and the three-page memo that sealed Washington's fate—along with dozens of similar memoranda prepared for Bush—speak volumes about the way the clemency process was approached both by Bush and by Gonzales, the man most often mentioned as the President's choice for the next available seat on the Supreme Court.

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.

Entire article: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200307/berlow

The Truth About Pat Tillman

This post, written by RJ Eskow, originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Once again, the Administration is pulling the old magician's trick of misdirection, this time in the Pat Tillman case. And once again, the press is falling for it. Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers focused on "what they knew and when" -- to borrow the Watergate phrase -- rather than the core issue at the heart of the Pat Tillman matter, which is this:

Pat Tillman was almost certainly murdered, and fratricide is not "friendly fire."

Yet a Google News search on the terms "Tillman" and "friendly fire" yielded 1,044 hits today, all from the last 24 hours. That's after the facts behind the fratricide are widely known - and after a number of clues that suggest the entire command structure, from the White House on down, concealed a murder from the public and took no steps to investigate it.

There's your story.

Friendly fire is commonly understood to mean the accidental death of a U. S. soldier through weapons fired by U.S. or allied troops. (See this definition.) The facts in the Tillman case make friendly fire highly unlikely. He died from three bullet holes grouped together in his forehead, fired from a M-16 that was no more than ten yards away.

Three bullet holes. In the forehead. From a M-16. That was ten yards away.

That's not "friendly fire." That's murder. (Unless Cpl. Tillman stood up in the path of another soldier's fire, took three hits precisely in the forehead, then fell before being hit again.)

As abhorrent as it was for the Administration to delay telling the family, the handling of the fratricide question was even worse. A killer's trail went cold. Now we may never know the truth.

As for the narrative that Rumsfeld and Myers offered yesterday, let's look at it in detail - together with the known facts:

1. Pat Tillman dies. Medical examiners request a fratricide investigation sometime thereafter. Their request is denied.

2. Gen. McChrystal sends a cable to Gen. Abizaid and another general on April 22 urging them to notify the President of this probable fratricide "in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death becomes public."

3. Gen.Abizaid claims he didn't receive it for 10 or 12 days, because he was in Iraq. (They don't have email, or even secure pouches for urgent memos?) Defense Department records later show that Gen. Abizaid was not in Iraq, but was actually in Qatar and Afghanistan -where the killing occurred - during that 10 to 12 days.

4. Gen. Myers learns the true nature of Cpl. Tillman's death in late April, yet - according to his testimony - did not feel the need to inform either the Secretary of Defense or the President.

5. Military records show that dozens of officers knew of the true nature of the Lieutenant's death within days, yet senior officers and Pentagon officials still maintain they didn't know for weeks. (Surprisingly, they did not undertake a massive review of military procedures in order to determine how such a massive series of communications failures could occur - one that eerily affected every single senior officer with responsibility for this case simultaneously.)

6. The military continues to press the story that Tillman was killed while courageously leading a counterattack in an Afghan mountain pass. (Nice poetic touch, that "mountain pass" - good for recruitment.)

7. A national memorial service is held for Cpl Tillman several days later. The President and others talk about Cpl. Tillmans heroism in that mythical mountain pass - yet Gen. Myers, per his own testimony, still felt no need to inform either the SecDef or the President .

8. Rumsfeld says he was not told the truth until "some time after May 20," or approximately a month after Gen. Myers learned of the incident. Yet he seems strangely undisturbed to learn that the truth was known six weeks earlier and he wasn't informed.

9. Neither Rumsfeld nor the President felt the need to correct the record publicly upon learning the truth.

10. It wasn't until reporters filed a Freedom of Information Act that the following information became public on July 27: ""Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime."

Let's say it again, to be very clear: The White House and Pentagon withheld the facts about this killing until they were legally forced to reveal them months later by Freedom of Information laws. And they never ordered a criminal investigation.

As for the testimony by Myers and Rumsfeld: What they have described is a command structure that was brutally indifferent to the situation on the ground and uninterested in pursuing a murder. Gen. Myers, if he is to be believed, allowed the President and Secretary of Defense to pay tribute to a man as if he had died in combat, knowing full well their words were untrue.

Is that plausible, with everything we know about Rumsfeld? Remember, this is the micromanager who hectored generals on little details, arrogantly told them he knew more than they did about the military, and issued regular memos to a wide range of Pentagon personnel on a variety of topics, great and small.

We are also supposed to believe that Rumsfeld was so uninvolved in the human issues his troops faced that he wasn't informed of the facts on this case - and that once he found out, he was unconcerned about the delay in telling him the facts. And that the President wasn't disturbed enough to order an investigation into the killing. Nor did he or Rumsfeld inform the family, or the nation, that they had been misled - at a hero's funeral.

As the conservatives used to say in the 90's: Character matters. And that's if they're telling the truth ... Can you imagine what we could learn about their character if, as is very possible, they're still lying?

And make no mistake, the beat goes on:

"What doesn't make sense,'' (Rep) Waxman said, is that while there were hundreds of e-mails among 97 White House officials in the days after Tillman's death, there were none after the Pentagon announced he had been killed by friendly fire."

Waxman has concluded, reasonably enough, that it's very likely there is still an ongoing and systematic White House attempt to hide the truth about Cpl. Tillman's death. Nevertheless, the main media narrative appears to be "Rummy looked great and did well." And that Pat Tillman died from "friendly fire."

What else can anyone say? Except, of course, to thank Cpl. Tillman for his sacrifice - and promise to find the truth for his memory.

And Here's the List

The following democratic Senators voted YES on the wiretapping bill. Enjoy your vacations you sell-outs. While you're sitting on the beach, take some time and flip through the United States Constitution.

Evan Bayh (Indiana); Tom Carper (Delaware); Bob Casey (Pennsylvania); Kent Conrad (North Dakota); Dianne Feinstein (California); Daniel Inouye (Hawai‘i); Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota); Nancy Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Barbara Mikulski (Maryland); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Mark Pryor (Arkansas); Ken Salazar (Colorado); Jim Webb (Virginia).

Senate Passes Wiretapping Bill

That's right folks, the democrats have cowered to the president again. The vote was 60-28. I have not seen the roll call yet (and I've looked everywhere), but I am infuriated. Why did we vote in the democrats? What have they done for us? They've passed the funding bill. Now they've passed the unconstitutional wiretapping bill. Our democracy is caving before our eyes and the democrats are helping to make this happen. I am without words.

I MUST see which democrats voted in favor of this. When I do, I will post.

"Americans need to understand that there are coldblooded killers who want to come to our homeland for death" --George Bush, 9/3/07 (that might not be the *exact* quote as I'm translating from what I'm hearing on the TV behind me)

STOP WITH YOUR SCARE TACTICS YOU MORON! I can't believe that the democrats allowed this to happen. Let's hear what the presidential candidates have to say about this.


Top Ten Records of '07 (Through Today)

Oh, I'm sure it'll all change by years end, especially since I've yet to fully absorb some of the records on the following list (plus there's a lot still on the way), but here it goes:

1 WILCO - Sky Blue Sky
3 JOSH RITTER - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
4 ARCADE FIRE - Neon Bible
6 MARK OLSON - The Salvation Blues
7 OKKERVIL RIVER - The Stage Names
8 THE GOURDS - Noble Creatures
9 DOLOREAN - You Can't Win
10 LCD SOUNDSYSTEM - Sound of Silver

Senator John Edwards in SF

I was fortunate enought to see Senator Edwards speak in San Francisco today. He spoke at a medium-sized club during the lunch hour. The place was packed from wall-to-wall with about 300 people in attendance.

Although he seemed a bit rushed and only spoke for about 20 minutes total, Edwards' vision for America is almost precisely what I'm looking for. Sure, he didn't have the time to explain *how* all of his proposals will be carried out, but what he talked about had a strong impact on me.

Yes, he talked about the basics such as universal health care and ending the War In Iraq (obviously both HUGE issues, but we've heard this from all the candidates), but he hit on some new points that grabbed me. For instance, he proposed that the minimum wage should be hiked to $9.50. If you've ever read Barbara Ehrenreich's fantastic book "Nickle and Dimed", you'd probably agree with him in a heartbeat. With conviction and a slight hint of anger (which was perfect) he firmly stated that he'd close Guantanamo Bay before his first 24 hours in office ended. He also talked about the United States funding education programs in some of the more impoverished areas on the planet.

But most importantly, I did get the feeling that this man MEANS what he speaks. He didn't seem like a predictable and scripted candidate. He seemed real.

I haven't officially made my decision, but I went into today leaning towards Edwards. After seeing him speak for less than a half hour, I'm now more than just leaning.