Another Season Upon Us

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Although rain pushed the Yankees' opener back one day, the 2008 baseball season is upon us. I'm the first to admit that many things about Major League Baseball turn me off: steroids, high ticket prices, greed, and imbalance amongst the teams, to name a few. However, no matter how hard I try to shake it, baseball is the one professional sport that I just can't see myself ever walking away from.

I've been attending games at Yankee Stadium for close to 34 years. Of those years, I'd say that I've seen at least one game in probably 30 of 34 seasons. I've seen some historic games/events first-hand, including David Wells' perfect game, Tom Seaver's 300th win, the 1996 World Series finale, Game 4 of the 2001 Series against Arizona (Tino's HR) and many others. There's nothing like this game. The nuances. The intelligence that goes into it all. The statistics. The seemingly endless season. The luck. The grass. A sunny Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. The debates throughout the stands.

The Yankees begin another season tomorrow. And in about two weeks I'll be at Yankee Stadium once again, talking stats, sizing up the pitching staff, predicting the summer's haul, and praying that they beat up on that hated team four hours north of the Bronx.

Record Store Day

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Get involved ya pricks: www.recordstoreday.com

Album of Week 13

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The Traveling Wilburys : The Traveling Wilburys (Deluxe Edition)
Rhino, 2007

Please Be Good

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Hillary Clinton

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If Senator Clinton wins the nomination, I am fairly certain that I will not vote in the 2008 presidential election. One of the main reasons I've been proud to be a democrat, in addition to siding with them on about 95% of the issues, has been the way that they've carried themselves over the years. Since the republican electorate generally has a much lower IQ than that of the democrats, it's deplorable, yet understandable, that the republicans often resort to dirty and moronic campaign tactics. That said, I have never seen a democratic candidate turn to such despicable tactics.

Today Hillary Clinton, in a move of severe desperation, turned the conversation back to Reverend Wright. Barack Obama confronted his relationship with last week and delivered a very honest and powerful speech. Right when we thought that the party would finally turn back to the issues, Senator Clinton wouldn't let go. This is unforgiveable.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton agree on about 99% of policy issues. However, given her unflinching narcissism, Hillary Clinton is doing everything imaginable to not only tear apart the democratic party, but to cost the party the election this year. Don't be fooled, for Senator Clinton, this election is not about the American people; it's about Hillary Clinton. She's made it very clear that she's much more concerned with her hunger for power than she is for the welfare of the American people.

Barack Obama has run an honest, intelligent and respectful campaign. His campaign has proven which candidate is truly ready to be the next leader of the free world.

On Repeat Tonight

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Thanks, Matt.

Jens Lekman @ Bimbo's

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Fantastic set last night. Lekman is very similar to Josh Rouse live: great grooves/spirit, captivating stories, songs that just make you happy. His storytelling around the song "A Postcard To Nina" will likely end up being a major highlight of '08.

It took me about a year to finally *get* Jens, but now that I do, I doubt that I'll ever miss another one of his stops through SF. Thanks, AM.

Album of Week 12

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Robert Plant & Alison Krauss : Raising Sand
Rounder, 2007

March 08 Mix

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Barack Obama and Rev. Wright

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Pundits, pollsters and policy wonks agreed that Reverend Wright's YouTube videos revealed a side of Barack Obama that could level his run for the presidency. As someone who has been quite skeptical of Senator Obama, this story ended up being a major reason why I now fully believe that this man is ready.

With the weight of millions of people, dollars and dreams on his shoulders today, Barack Obama stood at the podium with what may have been the most important speech of his political career. Very few thought it possible that Obama could scurry his way out of this mess. Instead, Obama let us see what kind of person he really is. With videos of his friend and Reverend flying around the internet, Obama shocked us all by doing what no one expected: remaining truthful to his conviction and loyal to a man who has clearly played a positive role in his life. In a rare moment in the political arena, I felt as if the Senator were speaking to us with complete and utter honesty. I cannot remember the last time I saw a political figure rise above the pressure and remain true to his or her ideals and beliefs with so much at stake.

Today may have been Senator Obama's most impressive moment throughout this campaign. Instead of running away from the Reverend in typical political fashion, Obama eloquently dug into the issue and spoke to the American public like a true leader.

What he may lack in years of leadership were erased today by a move that not even the Clinton's could pull off. For evidence of this, simply recall how Hillary reacted to Geraldine Ferraro's controversial comments. Obama made this bigger than a few sound bites. And the American public should be grateful and humbled.

SXSW 08

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This year marked my sixth trip to Austin for SXSW, and once again, these five days in the middle of March will likely be remembered forever. Since 2005 I've been fortunate enough to take the trip gratis, given that I work in the "music business". The past few years, I had to listen to one person after another declaring the music business dead, which ultimately put a minor damper on the events. This year I steered clear of the panels and focused on the music. This was a very good decision.

Ya know what folks: The music industry is indeed in major trouble and it will likely never reap the financial rewards that it has in the past. Well, at least for the people working in the business. And this is a shame for the folks who got into the business due to a true love for the art. On the flipside, the bigwigs at the majors responsible for attempting to slow progress can all finally go away. They were never good for music in the first place.

The South By Southwest Music Conference is ultimately about the music. And enjoying such a plethora of music with your friends and fellow music lovers. Each year, three of my closest friends from New York make the trip, and we usually spend a large portion of the festival together. I won't forget Scott's look when The Drams closed their set with "Pinball Song". The moment Sue and I spotted Miami walking towards us has me laughing as I type. Shana's adoration for rock n'roll log had us all hysterical.

Today the four of us made a commitment to keep going, not just next year, but many years to come. Music is what initially introduced us. SXSW now brings us together every year.

See you in March 09, Austin...

Album of Week 11

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The Kinks : Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
Reprise, 1969

SXSW in Pics

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SXSW Legend Brent Best

Vintage Clark

The Site of Many a Great Show

Perplexed by The Drams' Brent Best (around 4am)

Old 97s @ Club De Ville

SXSW - More Bands

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A full wrap-up report tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are the rest of the bands I caught, followed by brief reviews.

Earlimart - Quite boring
Blue Mountain - Quite great. They've barely lost a step after not playing together for almost a decade.
Tim Easton - Solid, as always.
The Redwalls - Very impressive...one hell of a band.
Chris Mills - I've been listening to Mills for well over a decade. It was finally time that I saw him live. Well worth it.
Duffy - Atrocious. So bad that I feel bad for the word atrocious.
Okkervil River - Looked tired early but came on strong. "For Real" was the highlight of SXSW.
Jeff Hanson - This was not good.
Bobby Bare Jr. - I love his records but he's always shaky live. He was shaky again.
The Drams - After a somewhat disappointing gig at the New West party, they tore it up at their hotel showcase. "Pinball Song" had a chorus of about 25 of us singing along.
Roky Erickson - Closing out SXSW with the High Fidelity theme song. Perfection.

I'm sure I'm missing a few acts. They'll come to me once I exit the post-SXSW fog.

More tomorrow....

SXSW - Days 1/2

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Thus far I've seen Jens Lekman, Buddy Miller, Old 97s, Glossary, The Drams, Centro-matic and a few others. The highlight through day two, by far, were The Drams. Their day show yesterday was a bit sluggish, but their 1am hotel gig last night was the most passionate and inspiring show I've seen in a long time. We then hung out until about 4am talking Wilco, Springsteen and rock n' roll with Drams lead singer Brent Best. This man should be a superstar.

Best quote:
Me: "Brent: Your catalog is far more impressive than Paul Westerberg's"
Brent: "What?"

Tonight: Kill Rock Stars showcase, Him & Her....

Favorite Photo (taken by me)...or at least top ten

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Stuck on Book Five

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I finished "Post Office" by Charles Bukowski well over two weeks ago. Since then, I made it about 90 pages into "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell before completely losing interest and about 75 pages into "Why I Write" by George Orwell before having to force myself to turn another page. The latter is a great read, but I'm just not in the mindset right now. Oh, I also read two pages of "Mystery Train" by Greil Marcus.

Whenever I reach these repeated impasses, I recall an article I read in the NY Times many years ago about this very topic. The writer concluded that if you're not into it, simply put it away; there's no need to force yourself to finish. With that advice in mind, I am putting these three books back on the shelf.

Tonight I will start "Dance Dance Dance" by Haruki Murakami. I'd like to finish it by the time I land in Austin on Wed. night.

Not a shot.

iTunes To Pay $400M for Beatles Catalog

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Is Steve Jobs serious? I imagine that he'll recoup this $400,000,000 in, say, 2084.

Album of Week 10

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Willie Nelson: The Complete Atlantic Sessions
Atlantic/Rhino, 2006

I Feel Alright

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Essential Steve Earle
I Feel Alright
The Kind
Someday
Christmas in Washington
Billy and Bonnie
Pilgrim
The Devil's Right Hand
Tecumseh Valley
Copperhead Road
Ft. Worth Blues
Ben McCullough
Jerusalem

President Bush Endorses Torture

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And the American public barely blinks....

From the BBC:

US President George Bush says he has vetoed legislation that would stop the CIA using interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or "water-boarding".

He said he rejected the intelligence bill, passed by Senate and Congress, as it took "away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror".

The president said the CIA needed "specialised interrogation procedures" that the military did not.

Water-boarding is condemned as torture by rights groups and many governments.

It is an interrogation method that puts the detainee in fear of drowning.

Track record

Speaking in his weekly radio address, Mr Bush did not mention water-boarding specifically.

"The bill Congress sent me would not simply ban one particular interrogation method, as some have implied," he said.


CIA 'ENHANCED INTERROGATION' TECHNIQUES
Water-boarding: prisoner bound to a board with feet raised, and cellophane wrapped round his head. Water is poured onto his face and is said to produce a fear of drowning
Cold cell: prisoner made to stand naked in a cold, though not freezing, cell and doused with water
Standing: Prisoners stand for 40 hours and more, shackled to the floor
Belly slap: a hard slap to the stomach with an open hand. This is designed to be painful but not to cause injury
Source: Described to ABC News by un-named CIA agents in 2005

The water-boarding debate

"Instead, it would eliminate all the alternative procedures we've developed to question the world's most dangerous and violent terrorists."

He added: "This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe."

Correspondents say the slim margin by which the bill was passed means it is unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Congress could gather enough votes to overturn Mr Bush's veto.

The bill would have restricted Central Intelligence Agency officials to using the 19 interrogation techniques outlined by the US army field manual.

It would ban the CIA from using not only water-boarding, but sensory deprivation and other harsh coercive methods on prisoners.

The CIA recently publicly admitted using water-boarding on three people, including high-profile al-Qaeda detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but not for the past five years.

Picking Up the Signal

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Essential Son Volt
Windfall
Driving the View
Atmosphere
Too Early
Medicine Hat
Creosote
Hanging Blue Side
Picking Up the Signal
Tear Stained Eye
Question
Back Into Your World
World Waits For You

Coming Soon....100 Songs

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This weekend I will collect my favorite 100 songs in my iTunes library and put them in a playlist. My library currently stands at 13,816 songs. This will be the greatest playlist known to mankind.

Wilco on SNL

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"Walken"
On Record: Kinda Terrible
Live: Hot Tub Amazing

Pre-SXSW

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This year will mark my sixth trip to Austin for South by Southwest (99-00, 05-08). Although 1999 and 2000 will be hard to ever surpass (The Jayhawks, Elliott Smith, The Backsliders, Joe Henry, Slobberbone, Bottle Rockets....), this year's New West Records day party, at first glance, looks like it could be an all-time highlight. And it's at Club de Ville, which hosted the greatest show I've ever seen: Slobberbone/The Gourds, SXSW, 1999.

Three of my favorite artists of the past ten years will appear on the same bill.

The Drams (Denton, TX)


Tim Easton (Joshua Tree, CA/Anchorage, AK)


Old 97s (Dallas, TX)

American Media

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After tonight, I am done. For the past few years I've been an MSNBC junkie. I've never watched Fox and I can't stand the Anderson Cooper network. Why have I gone with MSNBC? Because like all networks, there's a clear slant, and MSNBC happens to hang out on my side of the fence. I may like Keith Olberman but he's hardly an unbiased reporter. Just like those bafoons on Fox, he doesn't cover the news, but rather feeds us with his views.

Here's what finally did me in. As we all know, Barack Obama has been on a roll, having won the last 11 primaries. Following his last victory, both Clinton and Obama set their eyes on Texas and Ohio. With two weeks until those contests, Clinton had a commanding lead in both states; most polls having her up by at least 20 points. As the days went by and Obama spent more time in both states, Clinton's leads began to shrink. And shrink. With a day before each primary, most polls had them deadlocked in both states. Sure sounds like Obama momentum to me.

But what has the media been reporting? Exactly the opposite. Despite winning 11 straight contests and stripping away Hillary's leads in both Ohio and Texas, for some odd reason, the media has been abuzz about Hillary's comeback? Comeback? Huh? There is simply one answer to this: ratings. If Obama wraps up the nomination tonight, the three aforementioned crap networks will lose their most precious story. If they can keep Hillary around, the ratings continue to soar.

Folks, this is not a free and unbiased media. This is all about ratings and corporate self-interest. I realize that this shouldn't come as a surprise, but I'm utterly disgusted by it. I've had enough. Maybe I'll make Keith's silly "Worst Person In the World" as a result.

Essential Damien Jurado

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Essential Damien Jurado
Fuel
Honey Baby
Medication
Window
Night Out For the Downer
Hoquiam
Tether
Ohio
Big Decision
Matinee
Northbound
Rosewood Casket

HiIllary's Rove

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I think I found the culprit. Clinton's Communications Director, Howard Wolfson, appeared on MSNBC this morning and clearly had the Karl Rove playbook resting on his lap. He mentioned Tony Rezko 3-4 times, referred to Obama's stance on NAFTA as NAFTA-gate and pretty much annointed Hillary the nominee, the head of the UN and the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln. First the pathetic 3am red phone ad and now this moron.

When the campaign started, I was with John Edwards. When Edwards stepped aside, I moved to Obama but knew that I'd support whomever won the nomination. Given Hillary's tactics of late, this is no longer the case. If she miraculously comes back and takes the nomination, I will give serious consideration to Ralph.

Essential Beck

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Essential Beck
Nitemare Hippy Girl
Hollow Log
Dead Melodies
Lord Only Knows
The Golden Age
Pay No Mind (Snoozer)
Send a Message To Her
Canceled Check
Jack-Ass
Beercan
He's a Mighty Good Leader
Lost Cause

Hillary Injects a Little Karl Rove

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It's become quite clear that Hillary's in desperation mode, but this is just going too far. I've always considered democrats to be above this sort of right-wing crap. Why? Because, for the most part, if you look across both parties, democrats are just smarter. The folks who vote democratic (major urban areas = more educated), don't fall for this kind of crap. It's the middle of the country that fall for such foolish ads. Well, good work Hillary. You've proven yourself to be just as despicable as those fools on the other side.

If you do get the nomination, I may go with the consumer advocate.

Closing Out the Weekend

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Finished it out with Springsteen and Seeger Sessions Band Live in Dublin DVD.

This isn't from the DVD, but here's Bruce's tribute to the folks in New Orleans.

It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive

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I go on a Springsteen run about twice a year. And when I say "run", I mean nothing but Springsteen. In the past 4-5 days, I've watched about 20 YouTube videos, listened to about 150 Springsteen songs, just wrapped up the Live in Barcelona DVD and I may read 5-6 biographies tonight.

As I was watching the Live in Barcelona DVD I was hit with that feeling that Springsteen's music often elicits. As the crowd of about 20,000 joined for the opening lines of "Thunder Road", evoking a huge smile on Bruce's face, I had that feeling that only Springsteen's music brings on. Everything was swept away and I felt the euphoria that is rock n' roll. No pill, drink or drug can trigger such a pure feeling of joy. There's something about Springsteen's spirit that just grabs hold, sinks deep and makes it all seem worthwhile. Whenever he belows, "I know it's late, but we can make it if we run", I want to rifle my computer at the wall, get in the VW and drive about 2,000 miles. Why? Cuz "tonight will be free, all our promises will be broken."

Springsteen and the E Street Band are playing San Jose in a few months. I can not believe that I've yet to order a set of tickets. I've seen Springsteen about 45x and every single time I've departed the venue, I walked away feeling something, well, religious. I've felt saved. I've felt all my problems wash away in a moment. I've felt community. I felt something more important than myself.

As I type this, the rough guitar-part to "Backstreets" started blasting through my headphones and I felt it again.

Album of Week 9

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Bruce Springsteen: Tracks
Columbia, 1998