Path To the Left - Vol 1

I've recently been asked by a few friends and colleagues, "What led to your unwavering support for the causes of the left?" At the outset, I honestly didn't have a succinct answer. I said something about my communal outlook on life and my interest in helping those less fortunate. I know, pretty facile.

Over the past few weeks I started to think about this question more. With the 08 election a mere two months away, I can't say that I've ever felt this passionately about a political race. When I hear that McCain has crept up on Obama or even surpassed him, my stomach literally spins in cycles. There have been countless times over the past few weeks where I burn out on election coverage. Not because I don't care, but because I care too much. At my deepest core, I can not fathom a McCain victory. As my girlfriend said to me this morning, "If McCain wins, I really fear that you'll be inconsolable." She may be right.

But what brought me here? For some odd reason, one seemingly forgettable event in my childhood keeps coming to the surface. But first, a little background. My parents divorced when I was only four years old. Following their separation, my father's career began to blossom, yet we heard very little from him, and my mother worked as a crossing guard to support my brother and I. We lived in a two-family house in the upper-class town of Allendale, New Jersey. Despite our location, we weren't part of the elite, far from it. My father paid the absolute minimum in child support, and my mother struggled to put food on our table. I can vividly recall trips to the grocery store and the front of the shopping cart loaded high with coupon after coupon. If something wasn't on sale, my mom wasn't buying it.

I ended up going to school in Allendale, surrounded by kids raised in middle to upper class families. When my friends were picked up after school, they usually jumped into a cozy BMW or Mercedes, while I walked the few blocks to my home. By this time, my mother had married a police officer in the town. We moved into his quaint home and we all began to build a life together. But we still scraped by.

As it turns out, my closest friend growing up (and still a close friend), was certainly part of the elite. The son of a well-respected lawyer, we did just about everything together, but there was always an unspoken rift given our family's vastly different economic situations. And this led to that memory that keeps returning. On a weekend trip to the mall, my friend's mother wanted to take him shopping for new clothes at the Polo Shop. I clearly recall feeling anxiety at the mere mention of this store. I never felt at home at such places and always felt a bit of shame upon entering. As we stepped inside the store, my buddy immediately went from rack to rack grabbing at shirts, pants and other highly-priced items. The two men working immediately moved over to assist, and I will never forget the one man passing by my side and giving a surly look. Perhaps it was my ragged clothes or maybe he was just being a jackass, but I will never forget the feeling that it planted in my gut. I knew that I didn't belong in a place like this, and this man's one-second glance stapled that belief in me and I never let it go.

As the years moved on, I always had a great sense of unease around the wealthy. This was especially the case when my father's career took off, and on our occasional visits, we'd once again be forced amongst the elite. And then I'd return to school, and I'd be standing amongst the same. But every day that I returned home, I walked into a world that had little or nothing to do with lives of those well-off.

I saw my mother struggle to raise us. I saw her sweat on a streetcorner as she walked children from one side to the other. I saw her scrape change from her Pinto console. But in the end, these experiences shaped who I am now. And these experiences gave me a view into what it's like to struggle day in and day out. It's created an empathy in me for others who don't have that financial cushion. See, many of my friends from grammar and high school, did have it pretty easy. Their parents sent them to the best schools, they paid their Manhattan or Boston rents upon graduation and they landed in cushy, yet dull, jobs; and in many ways, turned out just like their folks.

But this was never me. And it never will be me. I can't sit by day after day and focus solely on my path. I see people around me and I know that many of them are far worse off than I ever was. There are single mothers trying to feed their children. There are people forced to let a chronic illness get worse due to their inability to pay insanely high medical bills. There are teenagers heading off to war because it's their only window to a better life. I see people discriminated against because of race or sexual identity, and can't imagine the pain that this brings on.

All of these people should matter to us all. Yes, we are all responsible for ourselves and we shouldn't expect assistance from anyone, but we can all do our best to help. Through my set of eyes, it's the way things should be. And it's why I've landed here.

I plan on posting more examples leading up to the election

Hillary's Return

With the selection of Palin, McCain is clearly trying to exploit Hillary's voters. Every quote out of his mouth today has made this abundantly clear. The real question here is how does Hillary handle this. Although most disagree with me, I am a firm believer that Senator Clinton, deep down, wants Obama to lose. I have little doubt that she already has her eyes set on 2012, knowing full well that 2016 will put her at the age of 68.

Hillary absolutely must make it clear that she stands behind Barack and must repeat to her core that they should vote for Barack. That said, initial signs, as I expected, are not promising. Once again, it's all about Hillary:

From NY Times
Update | 4:20 p.m.: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has just issued this statement: “We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin’s historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”

McCain / Palin....Seriously?


It may have been a good strategic move, but if you watched her acceptance speech, you'd likely agree that this solidifies this ticket as the weakest in World history. This has nothing to do with her sex, but imagine her in a room with Vladamir Putin.

If they win, not only will I depart the US, but I'm moving to the Moon.

McCain Space = Comedy Genius


Obama's Message

Just a few hours prior to Obama's speech tonight, my mother phoned. She didn't call to talk politics or inquire about my excitement preceding Obama's biggest moment, but she called to talk about simple things. My mother has always had very little to say politically, focusing rather on her three children, my stepfather and the people close to her. Her only close voice on the political front comes from my stepfather, a retired New Jersey police officer and ardent republican. Since he's within distance every day, she's always sided with him. And he is not one even open to discussion. He loved Reagan, Bush I, and remains a staunch supporter of Bush II.

As we were about to hang up, I asked my mother one more time to tune in tonight. She said that she was tired and was off to bed. Before letting her go, I inquired, "Hasn't anything he's said influenced you?" and to my absolute astonishment, she uttered, "I do think he's for the middle class. I think he's for the workers." I nearly dropped the phone.

For the first time in 12 years, the democratic message is sinking into the folks who's lives are most positively impacted by the democratic agenda, yet, as we all know, these are the folks who almost unanimously vote for the right. The wonderful book What's the Matter with Kansas? highlighted this mystery of American politics. The party of the elite and privileged has somehow literally owned the middle class for decades. This massive chunk of society has been duped by the right and led to believe time-and-again that their interests lie in the voice of the republican party.

This one line from my mother speaks volumes. And although all of Obama's advisers and supporters will be glued to the media's reaction to his 60-plus minute speech, it was my mother's minor awakening that is likely most important to Obama's chances of winning the presidency. Neither Gore nor Kerry could reach this audience, the audience that will ultimately decide the election. But Barack Obama has not only made a dent, but he's opening up the eyes of the biggest skeptics. This is change indeed.

The Independent on Sunday


The Independent holds a mere 500 folks and after announcing yesterday and selling out within seconds, I was able to land a ticket via a gracious friend. I am a lucky man.

Strolling Amoeba with Jason Isbell


After finishing up Beck's Modern Guilt, I turned once again to Jason Isbell's fantastic debut Sirens of the Ditch and midway through the first track, I clicked on Blurt and see a feature with Isbell. And not a profile on the artist, but rather a walk with him down the aisles of Amoeba. These are often my favorite features. But c'mon Jason, Bryter Layter is inarguably better than Pink Moon.

Looting the Bins With Jason Isbell

Chicago Promenade - Jason Isbell

Moving Past Hillary

Thanks, Bill. Fantastic speech.

Hes A Mighty Good Leader - Beck

Best of Golden Smog Coming 9.23


I'm not sure why Ryko would put together a Best of for Golden Smog, since they've only released three records (two great, one terrible), but nevertheless, it's on the way. And no compilation with the word "Best" in the title should include the abomination that is "If I Only Had a Car".

Stay Golden, Smog: The Best of Golden Smog
Until You Came Along
Looking Forward To Seeing You
Ill Fated
Lost Love
Jennifer Save Me
Making Waves
Glad & Sorry
To Call My Own
Pecan Pie
Won't Be Coming Home
Red Headed Stepchild
He's a Dick
Radio King
Please Tell My Brother
If I Only Had a Car
Until You Came Along '97
Love and Mercy

it's hard enough soaking up billboard signs

Reminder: Show of the Year

If you live in San Francisco and do not go to this show, you clearly hate all that is great in life.

Centro-matic & South San Gabriel
Rickshaw Stop
Sept 3

Whiskeytown's "Strangers Almanac"

If you're not familiar with Blurt Online, well, it's the new site helmed by the former publishers of Harp Magazine. They're just getting started, but I've already uncovered a trove of great videos, features and reviews. It's now the first music site I land on each morning.

This morning, they are featuring Whiskeytown's fantastic 1997 release Strangers Almanac. As some know, Whiskeytown was fronted by Ryan Adams, but it was the contributions of guitarist Phil Wandscher and fiddle player/backing vocalist Caitlin Cary, that made Whiskeytown one of the best bands of the mid-to-late 90's. Though they only released 3 full-lengths, their undeniable masterstroke was Strangers Almanac. At the time, this was Whiskeytown's make-or-break album, and despite lackluster sales (label repositioning played a huge part), this stands as one of the greatest country-rock records ever released. The lyrics are impeccable, the harmonies are stunning and the band is in full stride.

Inn Town - Whiskeytown

And now head over to Blurt.

Noun, Verb, 5 1/2 Years


we may walk 'til the morning light

Defining Obama

After coming to the realization that John McCain has absolutely nothing to run on, similar to Bush in 2004, McCain's operatives moved their strategy to Obama. Aside from his absurd position on offshore drilling, John McCain has completely avoided talking about the issues, any issues. They have set their sights on one thing: destroying Obama. And it's working.

In 2004, Bush turned a highly-decorated veteran into a complete coward. As disgusting as this charge was, it was effective. Bush made a mockery of all those who serve this country, especially those who serve with distinction. Yet the democrats were too slow and too weak to quickly deflect this charge and turn it on Bush. They needed to, in turn, label him, yet they didnt'. And the democrats lost.

This all seems to happening all over again. Barack Obama's main strength, inspiring people at home and abroad, and bringing millions of Americans off the sidelines and into the fray, is exactly what the republicans have used against him. This is their age-old tactic, yet amazingly, the Obama camp appears to have been blindsided.

On Thursday night, Barack Obama will speak before some 75,000 people on the 45th anniversary of perhaps the greatest speech in American history, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. But how will this night be remembered? There's little question that McCain's mafia will immediately roll out ads of Obama speaking before a sea of people, and once again, immediately mold the moment into a Coldplay concert.

How could the left have answered this repeated slam at the Obama camp? Well, they could have rolled out ads showing McCain speaking before empty VFW halls, and highlighting the positive fact that Obama is bringing out tens of thousands of people in city after city who want a change from the Bush policy. Howard Dean et al should've charged McCain with mocking these people. It could've quickly turned. I mean, imagine if Kerry responded to the Swift Boat ads by aligning himself with all veterans, and making it clear that Bush, Rove, etc. were mocking all those who serve this country. They were equating honor with weakness and disloyalty. Just imagine how quickly the right would've abandoned the one fabricated storyline that ultimately buried the Kerry campaign.

Unfortunately, Obama and the rest of the democratic party have little time to imagine. They need to not only respond to McCain's attacks, but they need to build on them. They need to take his ludicrous claims, collect them, build a response, and forcefully hit back. And hit back again. And begin to define John Mcain. Again. And again. If they don't, well, we all know the repercussions.

Wilco @ Outside Lands


One thing is certain: my cell phone takes terrible pictures.

I passed on day's one and two of Outside Lands, but a good friend offered up a freebie today, and given that Wilco were on the bill, well, ya know. I arrived in time to grab a $7 beer and head over to see the Drive-By Truckers. The last time I caught the DBT's was in LA about two years ago. The show in LA was fantastic. The show today was not. With the exception of one or two songs, this was just a loud noodlefest.

I then moved across the park to land a good spot for Wilco. We arrived in time to catch the entire Broken Social Scene set. I've never liked this band on record, and live they were just as tedious. When they introduced Spiral Stairs, formerly of Pavement and Preston School of Industry, I think I was one of maybe nine people who recognized the name. My age was showing.

Wilco opened with "Remember the Mountain Bed" which was absolutely stunning. The rest of the set was solid, but they appeared ready to pack up and get offstage as soon as possible. And who could really blame them? For $110/day, this three-day lineup was pretty dreadful. Once again, perhaps my age is showing.

Wilco's set:
Remember the Mountain Bed
Company in My Back
You are My Face
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Handshake Drugs
Jesus, etc.
Impossible Germany
Via Chicago
California Stars
Hate it Here
I'm the Man Who Loves You

Remember The Mountain Bed - Billy Bragg & Wilco

The Time Is Now


With the selection of Joseph Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama has made it clear to his supporters and the nation as a whole that if elected, the Barack Obama administration will likely be the most progressive White House in this country's history. Let's forget what a target this sets for the right, and just consider what this means to those on the left. Since I consider myself part of that latter collection, here's what it means to me.

In 1994, while a sophomore in college, I enrolled in the class "Eyes on the Prize". The class focused on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and was taught by a young African-American graduate of Georgetown, whose bi-weekly lectures were raw, honest and at times, heart-wrenching. Never in my life has a class meant more to me. I would sit in class absolutely horrified at black and white films from Selma, Montgomery and other racially torn cities and small towns in the South. Having been raised in a nearly all-white suburb in Northern New Jersey, this was all new to me. Oh, I'd heard of King and Malcolm X, but I'd never been exposed to this brutality in such a real form.

I went on to read Charles Johnson, Richard Wright, and ultimately switched majors from English to Sociology (with a focus on Black Studies). I read Marx and Engel, Adam Smith and Camus. I rushed to my capital punishment class. I joined Amnesty International. My entire being was being shaped from 1994-1996, influenced by books and professors such as David Karp and Henry Blackwell. I left college in 1996 with a clear understanding of not only who'd I'd become, but who I'd always been.

Prior to the 2000 election, I recall a profile of Al Gore in the New York Times. My memory's a bit hazy, but the article covered a fundraiser on Long Island that was a who's-who of big business and big money. Evidently, when it was time for Gore to address the room, he was nowhere to be found. About 30 minutes later, one of his staffers located him on a hill about 100 yards from the banquet. Gore was lying on a hill by himself, staring up at the sky. He had to be pulled back to the event. It's a minor story, but I remember how much I could relate.

In 2004, I abandoned my job for eight months to volunteer for the Kerry campaign. Almost every day, I felt amongst like-minded folks. I felt a part of something that I'd always searched for. I saw Kerry speak once in Queens, New York, and unlike most, I found him to be genuine, stalwart and ready. Despite the loss in November, once again, this experience only furthered my self-growth.

And now 2008. With over a decade of maturation behind me, Barack Obama and Joe Biden is the dream ticket. Two progressives who've fought for the issues that are central to the democratic cause. Over the next two months, we'll likely experience some shifts towards the center, but make no mistake, if elected, this administration is it. This is the absolute antithesis of Bush and Reagan. This is deeper than Clinton or Carter. A victory remains a near coin toss, but if Obama/Biden are anointed on 11.4.08, it will be the greatest political victory of my lifetime. Everything that resides inside will finally have more than just a voice; it will have a fighting chance.

Patterson Hood Covering Darkness


Head over to Southern Shelter to hear/download the Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood covering six songs from Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Our Lives & The Causes We Join

What I'm about to write will certainly put off many folks. But since only about 50 folks a day read my blog, I guess I won't be putting off too many. For reasons I will attempt to explain, I have always been somewhat, and I stress the word somewhat, put off by folks who leap full-on into a cause only when it directly impacts their lives, whether it be an illness to themselves or a loved one. I agree that folks should be applauded for championing a cause regardless of what brought them to that place. But I guess I'm more impressed by the people who take a more unselfish approach to causes. Perhaps they're struck by a story, a news piece or they're simply pulled into something that has no impact on their inner circle.

The point of this post is to finally come to the realization that I am one of the "selfish" ones that I vituperate above. There are certainly causes that I am vocal about that have yet to play an immediate and tangible role in my life, notably my unwavering opposition to the death penalty and my utter disgust with bigotry based on race, sexual preference, or any personal trait that is a part of one's makeup. And my interest in national politics is something that will likely never dissipate. But the issues that I've gone beyond just speaking about, and actually volunteered, donated money and actively taken part in affecting, are those causes that have touched my life. In the mid-to-late 90s, I did some work in the mental health arena, and despite always believing that mental health is greatly underfunded and carries ludicrous stigmas, I was finally prompted to dive into the cause when mental health issues surfaced within my family. Once this happened, I felt no choice but to make time.

Another recent cause that's continued to pull at my heartstrings is the situation in Burma. And just like my plunge into mental health care, this was spurred because a person very close to me was born in Burma. To see the sorrow in this person's eyes following the failed protests of 2007 and the cyclone that ravaged an already suffering country, threw a fuel inside me to donate, learn and do my tiny part. I'm not claiming to have done much. That's not really the point of what I'm getting at here. It's simply how much we're impacted by larger suffering once it hits us directly. It amazes me how a jolt to someone close to us can lead us down such a massive road.

In this weeks New Yorker, we can all catch a glimpse of the state of affairs in this torn country. The moment I opened my apartment door this evening, I sat down and plowed through the article. After finishing, what struck me most was how much the state of Burma grabs at me. And I wondered why, had it not been for a loved one having been born there, I'd likely have tossed it on the backburner once the media bid farewell.

Feels Like Home


Every time I listen to Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall 1971, I can't help but feel wrapped up in one of the greatest recordings of all-time. Neil's voice is as clear and passionate as its ever been and the song selection is just stunning. This is a record that I listen to about once a week, and today I've come to realize that it's likely the best live recording in my collection.

I'm Embarassed To Say...

...but today is the first time I've ever listened to this record, and oh my lord is it good. Costello meets Brian Wilson meets possibly better than both.

Newman & Sheff "Lost Coastlines" Video


at least i don't hide it

Wilco To Open For Neil Young


Sat 11/29 - Halifax, NS Halifax Metro Centre
Mon 12/01 - Montreal, QC Bell Centre
Tue 12/02 - Ottawa, ON Scotiabank Place
Thu 12/04 - Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Sun 12/07 - Auburn Hills, MI The Palace Of Auburn Hills
Tue 12/09 - Rosemont, IL Allstate Arena
Fri 12/12 - Philadelphia, PA The Wachovia Spectrum
Mon 12/15 - New York, NY Madison Square Garden Arena

This America


Why on Earth must Obama spend a night with Rick Warren to increase his hopes of being elected? I can understand McCain having to do so since he's courting the American moron, but Obama?

The division of church and state is no longer just blurred, it's been removed. This is just sickening. This country just continues to take step after step backwards.

Song of the Year (Thru August 18)

The Guardian on McCain

I mean, can anyone argue his points?

Does Being a Jerk Work?
by Michael Tomasky of the UK's The Guardian
John McCain is a liar and flip-flopper and panderer and bully and whiner. And it seems to be working

When people start running to be president, we learn new things about them. The amount and intensity of exposure – the fact that suddenly we are subjected to their thinking on every conceivable issue and non-issue – makes this inevitable. As a result of this our opinions change. We either like them more or less than at the beginning, but rarely in just the same measure.

I've been surprised at how much less I like John McCain than I did a year ago. Granted, I think the Republican party is an affliction and, as I've made clear for a long time, I want Barack Obama to be the next president. But even given that, the political analyst part of my brain can put all that aside and see other strengths and weaknesses (and we'll circle back to this point).

John McCain is a jerk. Alternately a bully and a whiner, and a bald-faced liar to perhaps a greater degree than even George Bush and Dick Cheney, McCain is running a stupid and mephitic campaign that insults even Americans of average intelligence virtually every day.

He has pandered to the right-wing to a degree that the word "shameless" can't possibly begin to describe. He has flip-flopped repeatedly, on taxes and abortion and many other matters. And he quite obviously changed his position on offshore drilling in order to raise pots of money from oil interests. Period.

He lies with abandon. He's not an idiot, so he has to know very well, for example, that offshore drilling won't affect the price of gasoline (petrol) for many years to come. Yet he repeatedly implies or says outright to audiences that if we just opened up the coasts to drilling, prices would start to come down.

Most surprisingly of all to me, he has demonstrated over and over his lack of a grasp of, and in many cases even a passing interest in, the details of policy. Here is a man who's been a national legislator for a quarter-century. He has clearly been interested in a few things, mostly having to do with military and foreign policy, and to a certain extent energy policy. But there are dozens more realms with which responsible Solons ought to have acquainted themselves over 25 years. McCain seems to have glided through the Senate without even bothering to learn very much at all about fiscal and economic policy, healthcare, social policy (which is an umbrella rubric covering a dozen different things) and a lot of other topics. His campaign, and his partisans, accuse Obama of being a lightweight. But in truth, McCain is the policy lightweight.

And finally, on his area of supposed expertise, he's demonstrated that he would uphold the Dick Cheney tradition. He talks very tough on Iran and gives disquieting indications that he'd seriously consider a preemptive strike on their nuclear facilities, even though experts repeatedly stress that a massive strike would be required to penetrate even a small percentage of Iran's processing and storage facilities. And on Russia, his policies – force them out of the G8, are you serious? – would rekindle a new cold war with a nation that still, lest we forget, sits on upwards of 12,000 nuclear warheads (by comparison, China has 400).

And on top of all this, he runs ads featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, and far worse, and then lies and denies he's running a negative campaign. He's just a joke of a candidate.

And yet, the analytical side of my brain knows that McCain has won the pre-convention summer phase of the campaign. He's cut into Obama's lead. Obama's win percentage at – that is, the likelihood in their estimation that he's going to win the election – has been above 60% most of the campaign. This morning it's at 56.9%. State-by-state, Obama still looks good, but enough states are close enough to make Obama partisans nervous.

More than that, the McCain campaign has established a negative story line about Obama – that he's shallow, just a celebrity, and so on – that is sticking, a little. It's a blustery lie. But blustery lies often work.

In the meantime, the Obama campaign hasn't established a negative story line about McCain. It's not an easy thing to do. His reputation, thanks to years of fawning media, is so ingrained and so at odds with the man we've seen on the trail thus far that arguing to voters that McCain is in fact a superficial flip-flopping panderer would just make no sense. And the McCain campaign would just respond, as it has, by saying, "How dare they say that about a former prisoner of war". And then the media will just talk about that all over again.

So Obama has a challenge here. An election about his alleged superficiality is a tough one for him to win. An election about what the Republicans have done to the country, and why McCain will be more of the same, is a lot easier to win. He's still ahead, but his campaign should have spent its summer vacation establishing the latter contest more forcefully.

Passions Collide #2

First Wilco and Obama, and now Centro-matic and ping pong.

Obama Visits San Francisco

We didn't catch a glimpse of the Senator, but we did hang with a lot of pumped-up supporters.

ExxonMobil and the Presidency

Right around the time that CNN canned Aaron Brown in favor of non-stop Anderson Cooper, I knew the station was heading right down the FOX path. It's no secret that CNN, just like the dolts at FOX, chooses financial gain and sensationalism over the truth and in-depth reporting. I mean, when three of your top anchors are buffoons such as Rick Sanchez, Lou Dobbs and Tony Harris, well, you've lost all credibility.

And now this. Of all the potential sponsors of the conventions, CNN has opted for the big payout and gone with the lobbyist of all lobbyists, ExxonMobil. This move deems this network void of any credibility. A network simply can not "report" on the news when its in bed with one of the most destructive big business' in the World. I am done with this tabloid news network. They could air an exclusive ping pong match between Bruce Springsteen and Jeff Tweedy and I'd pass.

The Archives: Star City's "Inside the Other Days" (2001)

This new so-called "feature" tentatively entitled The Archives will look at records that never got their due praise. Perhaps they only sold 10,000 copies, but in most cases, I'd imagine that these selections had a tough time exceeding 2,500 in sales. There's a good chance that many of the bands may not ring a bell, and a good portion were making records in the mid-to-late 90s, which still stands as the greatest music period of my life.

Star City was founded by West Virginia native Jason Lewis. The band gained a solid following in New York City in the late 90s and early 00s, playing regularly at The Mercury Lounge, The Rodeo Bar, and just about any place that'd book them. They weren't a fantastic live band, but their shows were always about the fans as much as they were about the band. Most Star City shows were full-night events, often carrying on to the Lakeside Lounge until the wee hours of the morning. Guitarist David Chernis (now in The Damnwells) was the Nils Lofgren of the scene, and keyboardist Kevin Karg was always there for a laugh or an ice cream onstage.

Jason Lewis at the Lakeside Lounge, NYC

Star City had aspirations but never caught enough steam to grab a foothold outside of Manhattan. After only two records, members started to explore other opportunities and a "hiatus" soon become the end of Star City. Lewis has moved to Iowa to study, write a novel and teach. I believe Chernis is still in The Damnwells, while bassist Scott Yoder, keyboardist Kevin Karg and drummer Nancy Polstein appear to have moved on to other things.

Despite their short time together, 2001's Inside the Other Days remains one of my favorite records of that period. And here it is in its entirety:

Star City

some have made mistakes for us

$15 Saved

I had planned on buying the new Neil Halstead record this weekend, and then I stumbled upon the below picture. Simply put, any artist who follows this absurd hipster-dong look can't be taken seriously. Sorry Neil, the shades and suck t-shirt just cost you a record sale.

Juana Molina @ Yoshi's, SF 8.13.08

I can't remember the last time that I was glued into an artist's performance for more than twenty straight minutes. Tonight at Yoshi's, I barely recall the last thirty minutes of Juana Molina's performance.

After dealing with some weak table service and adjusting to this new venue, once I settled in and turned to the artist, I experienced complete tunnel vision. Pardon the cliche(s), but all the worries of the day were swept away and I was experiencing something beyond just music. Oh, it may sound odd, but during one stunning song, I kept seeing the ocean. During another, I saw hills and fields. The music coming from this one woman and some looped recordings wrapped around me and I couldn't poke through. And boy was it an amazing feeling.

I usually experience this maybe once a year, if I'm lucky. I've covered the most memorable shows in previous blogs, and tonight's performance doesn't stand with the best of them all, but it certainly was special. I can't recall a better show this year. Juana Molina. Who knew? What a beautiful voice. What elegant delivery and presence. And most importantly, what a nice step away from today's weight.

....Coming Sept 9....

Today's Films

The Ice Storm, 1997

In an effort to cut back on some subscriptions and other things that seem to clutter my every day, this afternoon I nearly canceled my Netflix account. Just prior to making the move, I came to the realization that I haven't lost interest in films as a whole; I've lost interest in today's films. Realizing this, I held onto my subscription for the time being.

In the 90s and even into the early 2000s it seemed as if every year had tens of great films to choose from. While living in New York in the late 90s, I used to visit the local cinema at least 2-3 times a month. And more often than not, I left the theatre pleased. I wasted away many Sunday afternoons watching such fantastic films as The Sweet Hereafter, You Can Count On Me, Safe, Rushmore, Leaving Las Vegas, Magnolia, Dead Man Walking, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Short Cuts and many, many more. There seemed to be so many great films that I simply couldn't keep up.

Over the past few years, such films seem few and far between. "Indie" darlings such as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine simply do not hold a candle to any of the aforementioned classics. These two films represent everything that's wrong with the current crop of independent films. They're watered-down, thoughtless scripts that attempt to be cute and low budget, while aiming to reach a wide audience. And the only reward for such films are in revenues. Unfortunately, the art is completely lost.

It's now early-August and I can't recall one trip to the cinema this year. The Batman hysteria nearly caused me to vomit, and I honestly can't recall another movie released this year. I'm sure there's one or two with that fatass from Knocked Up and Ben Stiller must have 4-5 atrocious films out, but where have the good movies gone? Whenever I think it's all a wrap, I remember that Laura Linney is still in her prime. And I believe she has something on the way. If it's a bomb, my movie-going days could be gone for good. If it's good, maybe I'll watch You Can Count On Me for the 28th time.

Book Wish List

If you've read any of these and have any thoughts, good or bad, please let me know. I will probably place an order over the weekend.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Cruising Paradise by Sam Shepard
Northline by Willy Vlautin
The World Made Straight by Ron Rash
Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass
Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Album of Week 31


Neil Young : Tonight's the Night
Reprise, 1975

Jason Isbell "Dress Blues" Video


Neil Young's First Released Song

Okkervil River's "Lost Coastlines"


Offshore Drilling and the American Mind

Barack Obama's biggest challenge over the next few months will be his ability to use his limitless intelligence to be, well, dumb. Most Americans must consider the Senator to be a man of extreme intelligence, curiosity and open-mindedness. However, as 2000 and 2004 showed, this does not win the presidency. And John McCain is well aware of this.

The offshore drilling debate is exactly what John McCain has been seeking. It's a ludicrous idea, but it plays directly to the millions of morons that inhabit this country. And Barack Obama has little choice but to sidestep reality and play the game. If he speaks the truth, it could cost him the election.

Economists the country over have repeatedly stated that offshore drilling will 1) take at least a decade to suck even a drop of oil and 2) once this minimal oil hits the surface, it will likely have zero impact on the state of gas prices. These are two very simple conclusions that most American will not hear, and even if they do, they simply can't comprehend. In their minds, American oil = no oil from bad terrorists = lower prices = fire up the SUV!

This is the lowest form of political pandering. There's no question that John McCain knows this, yet he realizes that this could be his path to the White House. In the past two elections such tactics worked, and look at the consequences. In less than three months, the public will be tested once again. We can only hope that this record will stop skipping.

Top 5 Live Acts Today

#1 Centro-matic / South San Gabriel

#2 The Drams

#3 Wilco

#4 Josh Ritter

#5 Apollo Sunshine

the officers & prostitutes in line

Sony BMG Music Entertainment

A mere four years into their partnership, Sony has bought out BMG for an estimated $900 million. But the big story here? Jason Giambi shedding the mustache got more press. In other words, no one cares.

The Neverending Race


I never expected to completely burn out on this election, let alone in early August. But the time has come: I have completely run out of gas. I turn on Olbermann, Anderson News Network, Meet the Press or even PBS, and I simply can't stomach it anymore.

Honestly, what's left? Have the candidates, especially on the democratic side, not been vetted enough? Are we really now left with three months of multi-million-dollar attack ads from the hillbilly right? Based on the latest Paris/Britney garbage, it certain appears so.

I remember the anticipation of going to see John Edwards speak in San Francisco. That 20-minute event literally seems like eight years ago, despite being only about eight months ago. But man, enough is enough. The Barack/Hillary marathon exhausted not only their respective supporters, but just about the entire country, regardless of party or interest-level.

And now we're plodding through McCain vs. Obama. And anyone on this planet who truly believes that McCain is better suited for #44 is absolutely delusional. The only folks who support this guy are either doing so out of utter self-interest (taxes) or lack of education (we will be beatin' them terrorists and gay marriage is bad I tell ya). This has gone on far too long and any forthcoming campaign reform legislation needs to curb the primaries and general in half.

Can we all just close this book and spare us all the garbage over the next three months? Let's let Barack go spend a few months in Germany, while McCain can go hang with the troops on the Iraq/Pakistan "border". And then we can all wake up on November 4th, head to the polls, and watch the American public once again choose the pandering war monger.

Outside Lands Pricing


I should've been skeptical when organizers chose Jack Johnson as the Sunday headliner over Wilco. I mean, whoever made that decision must still be listening to Kansas records. (I admit, I own two Kansas records). But I just took a look at the pricing and I can't claim to have ever seen such absurd numbers.

I will admit that they have put together a pretty solid lineup. Well, they have Radiohead and Wilco. Beck is clearly past his prime and Tom Petty at the age of 96 doesn't do that much for me. A small number of the lesser-known acts excite me, including Drive-By Truckers, Black Mountain, Little Brother, and well, that about wraps it.

I was considering heading out Sunday simply to see the DBT's and Wilco, but after looking at the total cost, I simply can't justify the expense. Don't be fooled by the listed prices, the following is what you're looking at for just one ticket:

One Day: $109.90
Three Day: $273.90

These numbers are almost comical. Despite the knowledge that the DBTs, Wilco and Radiohead will be performing a few blocks from my home, I'll be sitting in my living room chair listening to records and flossing.

Apollo Sunshine "Breeze" Video

Apollo Sunshine "Shall Noise Upon" Full-Album Stream

Sivers Bids Farewell


Sold To:

Album of Week 30


The Kinks : Misfits
Arista, 1978

A Rock N Roll Fantasy - The Kinks


The following acts need to permanently retire from the festival circuit:

The Raconteurs

Modest Mouse


And more than any artist on Earth:

M. Ward

Now Playing

Perhaps the greatest live recording of all-time...

Rooky Ricardo's


For some unexplainable reason, in the near two-plus years that I've lived on Fillmore, I've only stopped into Rooky Ricardo's once. While wrapping up a short run this afternoon, I stopped in for a second time.

As I stepped inside I was immediately greeted by a table of middle-aged guys playing some sort of card game. They told me to ask if I needed anything, and they proceeded to flip back to their leisurely game. I scoured the 7"s and found a number of ELO singles that I've wanted for some time. I then found a Springsteen 7" of "Incident on 57th Street" LIVE! What on Earth is this? Well, it's mine now.

As I was about to leave for the day, I became a bit immersed in the 50's soul that was playing at a perfect volume throughout the store. Like any record collector, the gentleman manning the register could sense my interest. He popped the CD out of the CD player and explained, "These are songs that never made it to CD. I copied them from vinyl." Add that to my 7"s. I explained how this music brought me straight back to riding around in my mother's Pinto in the late 70s/early 80s. Whenever we'd go to the laundromat or the grocery store, my mom would play CBS 101.5 in NY/NJ. Her love for this period of music is very similar to my love of music today. No matter her mood or the trials of the day, she'd always sing along to soul music of the 50s and 60s. The man suggested that I phone my mom and ask her to list off a few of her favorite bands from that time. Once I had that list, I should return to the store and he'd guide me.

It would be impossible to convey this little experience. Not only did it bring me back to my childhood, but the sincerity and good-natured attitude inside of Rooky Ricardo's represents everything I cherish about mom and pop stores. Unlike most tedious record stores in San Francisco, there is absolutely no attitude inside these walls. There's simply music, a few fellow music-lovers and a casual game of cards.

Obama on the Defensive

I'm starting to sense a glimmer of John Kerry in 04. The past few weeks, the Obama camp has fallen victim to McCain's playbook, and if it continues, I fear that the democratic party will once again suffer a devastating loss.

A few months ago, Obama's team would quickly squash attacks launched by Hillary Clinton and his fellow democratic-nominee hopefuls. But lately, Obama has opted to respond to every single absurd claim tossed its way by McCain's dirtbags. I mean, did he really need to take time to publicly address and defend himself following the Britney/Paris ad? Could he not have just laughed it off and turned it all on McCain? Instead, he's come off as defensive which has obviously been effective. Obama needs to remember that the majority of Americans are not well-informed, and such ads can drastically alter the electorate's mood and direction. The more time he spends "explaining" these ads, the more the public turns on him.

He must go on the offensive. John McCain has made it clear that he has zero platform, and just like W in 00 and 04, fully understands that Rove-like punches are the only way to fool the public and garner enough support to win the presidency. If Obama doesn't swing back and quickly discredit McCain's ludicrous allegations, then it's 4-8 more years of devastating leadership.

Jeff Tweedy Performs w Former UT-drummer Bill Belzer


Perhaps this is the closest we'll ever see to an Uncle Tupelo reunion. Short-lived Tupelo drummer Bill Belzer joined Tweedy on the kids stage at Lollapalooza yesterday.

Belzer served as middleman between the original UT drummer Mike Heidorn and the final UT drummer Ken Coomer. Belzer did not appear on any Tupelo records, but played a number of shows with Jay and Jeff around the recording of March 16-20, 1992

The Silent Criminal


Who is this man? My guess is that nine out of ten people reading this entry have no idea. Aside from the presidency, he may hold the most critical leadership role in the United States.

If you've opened a newspaper in the past eight years, you're well aware of the world crisis that is climate change. Most, if not all, scientists now conclude that we have passed the breaking point. In other words, the United States along with China, India, and well, most of the world, have caused irreparable harm to this planet; harm that will soon throw us into an unimaginable world crisis. Although we can't reverse the damage done, we can begin to minimize further damage, and ultimate slow the forthcoming rise in sea levels, spread of disease and massive food shortage. If our leaders show us the way, we can perhaps add a few generations to our time here on Earth.

I realize that this may sound extremely grim and fatalistic, but there are few scientists who disagree with such an assessment. There is little argument that within a century, millions, if not billions, of people will be wiped off this planet, and wiped off too soon.

Back to the man above. His name is Stephen L. Johnson. On January 26 of 2005, he was named Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. It has been almost four years and he is universally unknown to the American population as well as the rest of the World. As this crisis becomes more and more dire, the lead environmental spokesman for the premiere world power is absolutely invisible. Given George Bush's alignment with big oil and big business, this man was appointed to do, well, nothing. How on Earth he is able to sleep at night is a mystery to me.

When climate change truly begins to level parts of this world, this man, Stephen L. Johnson, will be remembered. He will be remembered as a man who could have helped. Yet he did nothing. Absolutely nothing. This man should not hold one of this country's more important leadership roles. He should be answering to the World in the Hague.

New Contender for #1 of 08


Thao still holds the top spot, but the new Apollo Sunshine record, Shall Noise Upon, out Tuesday on Headless Heroes, is certainly making a charge.

More on this one later...

Bruce Springsteen's "Tracks"


Columbia released Springsteen's collection of outtakes, b-sides and rarities titled Tracks in 1998 to little fanfare. Springsteen enthusiasts had been waiting for such a collection for years and a decade has proven that this collection stacks up there with Bruce's best records. 66 tracks deep, Tracks obviously has a few tracks that could've been purged, but the solid songs far outweigh the clunkers. Songs like "I Wanna Be With You", "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own" and "Where The Bands Are" are just a few tracks that make up an absolutely stellar collection.

When considering Springsteen's greatest achievements, namely Born To Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town and Nebraska, this fantastic set would probably settle just a step behind. Near perfect albums such as Born in the USA and The River would rest perfectly beside this collection. It's a shame that few fans cite Tracks as one of Bruce's top releases, but sit down for a few hours with it, and you'll certainly change your tune.

Shut Out the Light - Bruce Springsteen