Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Gaza Strip Massacre

In 2006, Presdent Bush pressured the Israeli government, as well as the President of the Palestinian National Authority - Mahmoud Abbas - to hold democratic elections in the Gaza Strip. Both sides reluctantly agreed. The result was a resounding defeat of Abbas' Fatah party by Hamas - a group listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. The Bush administration was stunned by the results.

Many in Gaza viewed the ruling Fatah party as corrupt and inefficient while Hamas had established its popularity throughout Gaza by creating schools, hospitals, and various other services for its citizens. And, yet, the Bush administration, who is in charge of major foreign policy decisions that impact the world we live in, failed to anticipate this.

When you allow people to have their voices heard through voting - a process known as DEMOCRACY - you must accept and recognize the ruling party that was elected by the people in free and fair elections whether you agree with it or not. Not Bush. He pushed for elections and, when the pro-Western party that he expected to win failed, he funded and backed the Fatah party in its attempt to overthrow Hamas' control in the Gaza Strip. When that failed, the Israeli government along with Egypt, instituted a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, allowing almost no goods to leave Gaza and only limited food supplies to enter; electricity and water supplies have been sporadic since Israel bombed the main power station; and industry in Gaza is basically nonexistant all leading to a very desperate situation for the 1.4 million who populate this region.

This seige, aimed at weakening Hamas, has been going on now for nearly two years, resulting in a collective punishment for all the citizens of Gaza, not just Hamas. In RETALIATION of this blockade, Hamas has fired missles into Israel with little or no damage. Yesterday, in "retaliation" for the missle attacks launched by Hamas, Israel engaged in a deadly attack on Gaza which resulted in the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians and the wounding of nearly 400 more. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, blamed the current situation on Hamas for breaking a ceasefire with Israel. Of course. This administration is completely clueless and inept. If they are looking to pass out blame, they should start first by looking in the mirror.

As far as Obama is concerned, you are no longer running for office. You will be the president on January 20. You can stop with the rhetoric about Israel's need to defend itself while illegally occupying other people's land. You know it's wrong. You've said so yourself. So do what's right instead of what will get you elected to a second term.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

I'm not much for love stories, so you better bring your "A-Game" if you are going to win me over in the romantic movie department. I saw "Slumdog Millionaire" last night and I would have to say that I was impressed, even if the "love" involved in this story was more subtle than the adventure aspect of this film.

And, if you're feeling down about the current economic climate we are facing, nothing will make you realize that things aren't so bad as watching the abject poverty that the main characters face growing up amid the slums of Mumbai, India. Sprinkle in a few songs by M.I.A. for good measure and I would have to say that "Slumdog Millionaire" was well worth the nine bucks I spent last night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nite Jewel

Last week, I saw Deerhunter at Emo's and it was an excellent show. I had no idea, however, that there was an opening band by the name of Nite Jewel who had this sort of lo-fi disco sound going. As is the case with putting out a "best of" list before the year is actually up, you usually end up excluding something that you discover late as I did with Nite Jewel. They were excellent live and thier new album - My CD - should have definitely been included as one of my favorite albums of this year. I pulled the same exclusionary thing last year with the Chromatics and Health who put out deserving albums as well. Sorry Nite Jewel.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ian MacKaye

Last night, I attended a Q&A with Ian MacKaye at St. Edwards University here in Austin. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MacKaye, he is the lead singer of the highly influential 80's punk band, Minor Threat, as well as a member of the equally influential band, Fugazi. He also owns the Dischord record label.

I saw Fugazi several years back at Tipitinas Uptown in New Orleans and it was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I have ever witnessed. Fugazi, though no longer in existance, always charged five bucks a ticket for their live shows despite the fact that they could have easily charged twenty to twenty-five bucks. They refused to play venues that didn't allow access for all ages. The integrity of Ian MacKaye is second to none and anyone starting a band today should seriously study the path that this guy has carved out in the musical landscape. Here is a brief recap of some of the questions posed to MacKaye last night:

When asked about a possible Minor Threat reunion, MacKaye had this to say - "That would be absurd. We were reacting to the world around us at that particular time which would be totally irrelevant today." I, personally, have always had mixed feelings regarding band reunions because it is, more often than not, an opportunity to cash in on nostalgia rather than a burning passion to create, which is why music should be played in the first place. A few years back, one of my all-time favorite bands, Gang of Four, reunited and went on tour eventually making their way to Austin. I couldn't bring myself to see a group of people who were now well established in the corporate work world, singing their brilliant anti-corporate songs of twenty plus years ago. I don't have a problem with people doing whatever it is that makes them happy, but you shouldn't try to ignite a fire that no longer burns inside of you for the sake of making a buck - it's phony.

When asked about his feelings regarding piracy, he simply said that he made music with the sole intention of it being heard and anything that restricts people from hearing his music, he's against. I think that's quite a noble statement coming from someone who owns a record label. I can't tell you how many kids I have come across who tell me that their main goal is to be able to pay their bills and make some money with their music, as though you can't make music without it being economically feasible That saddens me. Whatever happened to passion?

MacKaye also addressed an issue regarding a song he wrote while in Minor Threat entitled "Straight Edge," a song(lyrics below) that still dogs him to this day...

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need

I've got the straight edge

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I've got the straight edge

...anyway, it spawned the "straight edge" movement that still exists today, some twenty odd years after it was written, complete with gangs who will beat you up(seriously) for drinking, smoking, etc., and MacKaye has been unfairly attributed as the leader of this movement. The "straight edge" question was posed to him last night and he said that the song was written not about how he feels people should live their lives but, rather, the freedom to live your life how you want to and that was how he chose to live his. He insists that he wasn't trying to preach or start a movement because, as he said, movements often care more about the cause than they do the individuals they claim to represent.

Overall, the Q&A session was inspiring and, even though the place was packed, I sincerely wish more people could have listened to the wisdom of Ian MacKaye.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Favorite Music of 2008

When punk rock was born the day the Ramones hit the stage, it was clear that this genre of music was made for the freaks and the misfits of society and music has been the better for it. Fast forward to 2008 and the heir to this throne is Deerhunter's lead singer - Bradford Cox. Gay and afflicted with Marfan's Syndrome, there is not a better misfit in the music world than this guy and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Though his music doesn't have the typical "punk sound" that people associate with three chords, it is clear that he is a descendant of this genre in the "DIY" sense.

Refreshingly humble, Cox is also one of the more enthusiastic champions of music today. If there is a better frontman for a band alive right now, please let me know. For the last four years, women have dominated my favorite album of the year(2004 - Loretta Lynn; 2005 - M.I.A.; 2006 - Cat Power; 2007 - M.I.A.), but the female dynamic has finally been broken by the "solo" project of Bradford Cox, known as Atlas Sound, whose album - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel - is my album of the year for 2008. I love, love, love this guy and I love, love, love this album.

The Evening Descends - Evangelicals
This is an extremely underrated album. Why the Evangelicals aren't bigger than they are is beyond me.

What Does It All Mean? - Steinski

Two Men With The Blues - Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis

Offend Maggie - Deerhoof

A Place To Bury Strangers - S/T

The Renaissance - Q-Tip

Shapeshifters - Invincible
The best rapper alive today.

Promises Promises - Die! Die! Die!

The Slip - Nine Inch Nails
The best music of Trent Reznor's career.

That Lonesome Song - Jamey Johnson
The Country Music Awards SUCK. Thankfully, there are artists like Jamey Johnson who are keeping it real.

The Odd Couple - Gnarls Barkley

Favorite Songs of 2008:

1 - "Skeleton Man" - Evangelicals
2 - "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" - Gnarls Barkley
3 - "Electrical Feel" - MGMT
4 - "Golden Age" - TV on the Radio
5 - "Sideways Here We Come" - Die! Die! Die!
6 - "Gettin' Up" - Q-Tip
7 - "Agoraphobia" - Deerhunter
8 - "To Fix The Gash In Your Head" - A Place To Bury Strangers
9 - "Problems" - Mahjongg
10- "Tell The Police The Truth" - Mahjongg

Favorite Video of 2008:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Was Thankfully Wrong

As a (former)southern Baptist son of the Deep South where the utterance of the name Martin Luther King, Jr., was the equivalent of saying a curse word in church, I can honestly say that I didn't see this coming. I never thought that a black man could ever possibly win the presidency, much less one with an Arabic name in this post 9/11 climate. And he won it honestly. The youth vote failed once again and Black voter turnout was only slightly higher than in previous presidential elections. Barack Obama defeated John McCain because of white working class voters and that is a HUGE turning point for this country. I was WAY OFF. He unofficially won 72 percent to 28 percent of the electoral votes. When the youth speak of old people not knowing what they are talking about, this could certainly apply to me regarding this campaign and I couldn't be more pleased. Does this signal the death of racism? Of course not. However, whether you're conservative or liberal or whether you agree or disagree with Obama's political beliefs, you have to be impressed with the fact that, within the short span of forty years, we've gone from blacks not having the right to a black man winning the presidency of this country. Amazing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


It's no secret that I am an Obama supporter, but I've never seen a candidate get his ass kissed by the mainstream media as much as Obama has. It only lends credibility to the notion, claimed by the ridiculously right-winged news operation known as Fox as well as other conservatives, that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Add to the fact that Oprah refuses to have Palin on her show; everyone makes fun of McCain/Palin, but has handled Obama with kid gloves; the entertainment world's obsession with Obama...and you have what I would call a classic case of elitism. Regardless of who wins, I am sick of this campaign. I'm ready for it to be done with.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Amid the presidential debates, I keep hearing over and over again about the necessity of protecting Israel from Iran because Iran's president - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Israel is about the size of New Jersey and within Israel is Palestine. Palestinians are the most sympathized group of individuals within the Arab world. If Iran were to lob a nuke at Israel, it would most certainly wipe out Palestine as well, and no matter how much hatred the leaders of Iran have for Israel, they simply would NEVER entertain the thought of wiping out Palestine.

Secondly, Israel already has "the bomb" and I'm quite certain that Iran is fully aware that they would be "wiped off the map" as well, in retaliation. It's a lose/lose situation for Iran.

If Bin-Ladin, himself, had nukes, I seriously doubt that he would lob them at Israel because of Palestine. If anything, the United States should open up diplomatic relations with Iran because Iran and Al-Qaida hate one another. Strategically, it would benefit us. The common misconception, unfortunately, is that Muslims are united in their support for Bin-Ladin and other such terrorists. Nothing could be further from the truth. Is it too much to ask of politicians to make an attempt to study the various cultures of the world before they decide to make policies that affect us all?

Monday, October 6, 2008


This Saturday night, I will see for the first time, Wayne Coyne's(lead singer of the Flaming Lips) movie - Christmas On Mars. I have been waiting for this movie FOREVER. It was supposed to be released last year and the year before and so on and so on. If you are not familiar with the Flaming Lips' music, let me just say that Wayne Coyne is the closest thing to being a rock star without actually being well known...he will be in attendance at the screening at the Alamo Drafthouse and I am absolutely stoked...

This past weekend, I saw Bill Maher's Religulous which I thought was pretty terrible and I'm an atheist. Do you really need to be condescending when trying to make a point?? If people are Christian than so be it. I don't care. I disagree with many things regarding Christianity...yet all Bill Maher can do is point out how smart he is and how stupid everyone else is because they believe in a higher power?? You can't enlighten people by being an asshole, Bill.

OJ. Stop being so obsessed with OJ. JESUS CHRIST. It bothers me more that child molesters are allowed back into society to live in neighborhoods where children play. OJ??? I could give a shit about him. What absolutely baffles me about OJ is that he was convicted of KIDNAPPING charges.
kidnap |ˈkidˌnap|
verb ( -napped , -napping ; also -naped, -naping) [ trans. ]
take (someone) away illegally by force, typically to obtain a ransom.
OJ DID NOT KIDNAP ANYONE. What's going on here?
Lastly, if we passed a bill to bail out the economy, which I might add, cost taxpayers 7 billion dollars, why did the Dow drop below 10,000 for the first time in four years?? I thought this bill was supposed to stabilize the economy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Authenticity Matters

When you are young, "authority" and the "establishment" are vile words reserved for those who reside in a different age bracket and many of us vow - no matter how old we get - to never end up in that mindset. The sad reality, however, is that we in the industrialized world are participants in the very "machine" that we rage against. This "machine" can't run without consumers and we are all, for the most part, major consumers. It is a symbiotic relationship that we can't escape which is why many of us long for the proverbial "exception to the rule" - that rare intellectual and/or creative soul who exists on the fringes of society.

Would 2Pac's music have been taken seriously had he grown up in the suburbs? I doubt it. Why? Because authenticity matters. Amy Winehouse's neo-soul classic - Back To Black - is not an amazing album solely based on her talent alone, though talented she is, but because of the self-destructive nature that coexists with her talent which screams authenticity. It's a double-edged sword that seems more and more likely to consume her with each passing day and rather than wish her well, we simply ask for more.

And why did this particular photo of Metallica lead singer, James Hetfield, coming out of Armani cause such an uproar?

Because twenty some odd years ago the people in Armani would have called the cops on him the second he walked through the door and Metallica's music, at the time, reflected that. However fair or unfair you may think that is to Mr. Hetfield, once again the issue boils down to one of authenticity.

Yet nothing stirs more debate in regards to authenticity than the strange bedfellows that are commerce and art. I assure you that there's not one admirer of the Sex Pistols who aren't cringing at Johnny Rotten's latest foray which premiered last night on the BBC...

And why shouldn't they? The lead singer of the Sex Pistols - a band that sent shockwaves across England and thumbed it's nose at the "establishment" - is now a spokesperson for butter?? Very few people in this world can build a legacy similar to that of the Sex Pistols and yet he's managed to destroy it with a thirty second spot. Johnny Rotten's explanation?

I for one am proud to be British and I'm proud to get behind a proper British brand. That's why I'm supporting Country Life butter. People know I only do things that I want to or that I believe in and I have to do it in my own way. I've never done anything like this before and never thought I would but this Country Life ad was made for me and I couldn't resist the opportunity.

This can only be translated one way - he wanted the money. Just say so. Why do artists often backpedal when called out for taking the almighty advertising dollar? Because they know that authenticity matters.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grumpy Old Man Monday

Grumpy Old Man Monday, Act 1
Last night, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go see a band called Cut Copy at Emo's. I wasn't really that familiar with their music, but I had heard of them as they are currently a pretty hyped band. As I drove towards Emo's, I found a nice parking spot and what do you know? - a homeless guy steps forward and guides me into the parking spot as though I'd never done this a billion times before. "I don't have any money," I instantly exclaim as I get out of my car. "Just give me fifty cents or something," he replies.
"For what?!"
"For parking your car."
Grrrrrrr. Can I find one fucking parking spot in this town without a homeless guy taking credit for it? Why don't I just hire someone to tell me where my kitchen is whenever I get hungry.

Grumpy Old Man Monday, Act 2
Cut Copy. As I get older, I have come to realize that just because I don't like someone's music, it doesn't necessarily mean that it sucks. It's just a difference of opinion. Having said that, I tried with Cut Copy...I really did, but heavily 80's influenced dance music just isn't my cup of tea. And sweat drenched kids dancing is one thing, but a towering guy thrusting his man sausage towards my stomach was the breaking point. Not to mention the fact that I thought I was going to get beat up by the dance nazis for not dancing.
Double grrrrrr.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chinese Democracy Indeed

Five FBI agents recently arrested blogger Kevin Cogill(aka Skwerl) at his Culver City, California apartment for posting on his blog - - nine leaked songs from the never-ending saga that is Chinese Democracy - the Guns N' Roses album which is roughly fifteen years(and counting) in the making.

As a piracy advocate and participant, you would think that I would have little sympathy for GNR frontman, Axl Rose, in this case, but I do. Cogill contends that if the album is good - which he believes it is - it would do well financially, in spite of any leaks. The financial aspect, however, is irrelevant to me. I just simply believe that the artist should be able to, at least, have control over their work before it is released.

Do I want Cogill to "rot in jail" as former Guns N' Roses guitarist, Slash, has advocated? Of course not. Is it really necessary for five FBI agents to take Cogill down? I mean, come on. Regardless, if Axl feels he needs twenty more years to complete his "masterpiece in progress" without it being released, I believe he should ultimately have control over that decision.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Loudest Bands

I saw the band - A Place To Bury Strangers - tonight at Emo's and it got me to thinking about the loudest bands I've ever seen live. Yes, it's list time and this list is in no particular order except for numero uno.
1)Mogwai - Somewhat mellow on record, yet anything but mellow live in concert. This is absolutely the loudest band I've ever seen. With a huge wall of amps stacked on top of each other, I'm surprised the band didn't blow themselves off stage. Everyone in the audience seemed to be in pain.
2)Jucifer - Tiny, tiny club...tons and tons of amps. The husband/wife duo that is Jucifer brought more amps than there were people at the show.
3)A Place To Bury Strangers - feedback...distortion...smoke from smoke machine...repeat.
4)Mission of Burma - The best band out of Boston. Don't let the old guys fool you - they are not for the faint of heart.
5)Comets on Fire - An absolute sonic assault with a couple of guitarists on stage seemingly trying to out-loud the other.

P.S. There's not a video out there that I could possibly post that would do any of these bands'll just have to take my word for it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I never had much respect for djs and dj culture until DJ Shadow hit the scene with his 1996 breakthrough album - Entroducing.... I simply failed to see the importance of someone exclusively using other people's music as a viable art form. With Shadow, however, it became clear to me that using sound bites and samples from various albums was simply an audio form of collage and, if done right, could be every bit as original and entertaining as any other format or genre of music around. Not to mention the fact that djs, like Shadow, are some of the most knowledgeable music geeks in the world because they meticulously sift through tons of albums spanning every genre and musical era known to man in order to find that perfect sound.

The latest "collage" album released this year is What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective. The majority of it was created in the early days of hip hop by a Jewish white kid(Steve Stein, AKA Steinski) and yet it is just now getting an "official" release because of the obvious copyright infringements in his use of samples.

It was only a few months ago that I had even heard of Steinski and I imagined in my mind that this album would be a crude, outdated sound of the beginning stages of collage as a musical art form. At most, I thought it would be interesting, but far from great. What I heard, however, blew me away and it is, without question, one of my favorite albums of 2008. Steinski's use of sound bites and samples fits perfectly to create a fun record that sounds as fresh today as I'm sure it did in its bootleg form in the 80's. If you like DJ Shadow or modern collage progenitor, Girl Talk - I assure you that you will most certainly love this album.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Man On Wire

I saw Man On Wire yesterday and it is an amazing documentary that chronicles not only the life of highwire extraordinaire, Philippe Petit, but the preparations, as well, for his ultimate dream - to run a wire between the two World Trade Center buildings and walk across. At a distance of approximately a quarter mile(1,353 ft) above ground, I can honestly say that the culmination of Petit's dream is probably the most insane act achieved by a human being. I mean, walking across a wire at that distance is crazy enough, but walking across a wire between two enormous buildings that have been known to sway because of wind gusts?! This guy weighs 135 pounds! Absolutely nuts. I have a healthy fear of heights and my nerves were wrenched just watching it. Being that the act itself was illegal, director James Marsh does a brilliant job in setting up the film as though you are watching a bank heist movie. The hijinks that ensue in attainment of this daring feat is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole film which is recounted by its fascinating protagonist - Philippe Petit. And there are many terms you could use to describe the man himself. Mad? Crazy? Insane? Perhaps. But whatever adjectives you throw out there, one thing is certain - the world needs more characters like Philippe Petit.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Los Angeles

I've been hyping the Austin music scene a lot lately, but there's an equally incredible scene in a city that, for years, I have derided as culturally vacant. Yes, Los Angeles is making a comeback, at least as far as music is concerned.

The punk explosion born out of the New York City/CBGB's scene in the mid to late 70's was a much needed cultural shift in the musical landscape that eventually made its way to Los Angeles, infecting its youth and thus creating a thriving underground scene that birthed some of the most influential bands of the modern musical era including Black Flag, The Germs, Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, The Weirdos, X, The Circle Jerks, The Descendants, Fear, Suicidal Tendencies, etc., etc. It was also home to the greatest, in my opinion, underground label ever - SST Records - which was founded by Black Flag guitarist, Greg Ginn, and responsible for an array of 80's classic albums such as:
Bad Brains - I Against I
Black Flag - Damaged, My War
Sonic Youth - Confusion Is Sex, EVOL, Sister
Dinosaur Jr - You're Living All Over Me
Descendants - Milo Goes To College
Meat Puppets - II, Up On The Sun
Husker Du - Zen Arcade, New Day Rising
Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime

Yet, since the grunge era of the early 90's, the underground music scene in L.A. seemed pretty dormant until now, as a new crop of bands are once again putting Los Angeles back on the map. Young and experimental, these bands which include No Age, Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, and my personal favorites - Health and Ariel Pink - are not only making great albums, but their live shows are some of the most talked about in music circles today. I saw Health for the second time last week and they are absolutely amazing live. Health further impressed me with a recent blog they posted on their myspace page:


And just when I thought the youth of today were getting away from the punk ethos...anywho, if you haven't heard of these bands, go check them out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The New Yorker Uproar

Satire is defined as the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I must say that I loved the recent satirical, yet controversial, cover of the New Yorker magazine the second I saw it because it mocks the absurd and exaggerated attempt by Fox News, in particular, to play off of people's fears by painting the Obamas as extremists. I have personally received emails from people I know informing me that Barack Hussein Obama attended a jihadist school in Indonesia as a child and would I please forward this email to as many friends as possible to prevent this radical from reaching the White House.

Is it the New Yorker magazine's fault that some people in our society choose not to filter out what the media and others feed them? When you refuse to question the environment around you, interpretation is easily manipulated. This is exactly the reason why the parents of JonBenet Ramsey, who were cleared last week of any wrong doing in the death of their daughter through DNA evidence, were convicted in the court of public opinion; and this is exactly why I feel that Barack Obama doesn't have a chance in hell of winning the presidency. Sound bites are accepted as fact; demagoguery is the new truth; and common sense, apparently, is the new code word for uppity, sophistication.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Loose Logic

Conspiracy theories often thrive for years because all that is necessary to keep them going is reasonable doubt. For years, I was absolutely captivated by the "doubt" cast upon the JFK assassination - the undisputed king of conspiracy theories. Each year, as the anniversary of the events of November 22, 1963 approached, I would sit transfixed in front of the tv as the annual JFK conspiracy theory documentaries were rolled out, usually around the Thanksgiving holidays, as I remember. I also remember thinking to myself, at the time, that that blurry image, which looks like nothing more than a Rorschach test to me now, was actually the second shooter lurking behind the grassy knoll. And I was convinced, as well, that Lee Harvey Oswald was nothing more than a "patsy" when ballistics experts would declare that it was absolutely impossible for Oswald, a former Marine, to shoot the President in a moving vehicle, regardless of the fact that it was a slow-moving vehicle, from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. When I personally visited the site of the assassination for the first time last year, I was stunned, as I gazed upon the window where Oswald is alleged to have taken that fateful shot, to realize that you could have thrown a rock from the sixth floor of that building and hit the president and, yet, expert after expert has, for years, convinced people that Oswald, a man whom I'm quite sure had weapons training while in the military, couldn't have possibly shot the president from that distance. Yet, for all the flaws in the conspiracy case of the Kennedy assassination, it doesn't even come close to the inaccuracies involved in the latest conspiracy craze known as 9/11.

The basic theories behind that fateful day include:
(a) the collapse of the World Trade Center was the result of a controlled demolition
(b) United Airlines Flight 93 was shot down where it crashed in an open field in Pennsylvania. In the popular conspiracy film, Loose Change, there is even speculation that Flight 93 safely landed in Ohio, and a substituted plane was involved in the crash in Pennsylvania.
(c) The Pentagon was not hit by American Airlines Flight 77, but a missile launched by the American military. Loose Change bolsters this theory by asserting that there were no discernible pieces of debris from Flight 77.

And the insinuation that the events of September 11 were an "inside job" by the US government is supported by many high profile individuals such as film directors David Lynch and Michael Moore; actors Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Charlie Sheen; as well as many others including that icon of American icons, Willie Nelson...

As to Willie Nelson's concerns regarding the demolition-style manner in which the towers fell, what precedent is there to know how buildings fall once commercial airliners hit them? The fact that no steel-framed building structures had ever collapsed due to fire before or since 9/11 is often used as an argument in favor of the "controlled demolitions" theory but, again, how many of these steel-framed building structures were struck by a commercial airliner that weighs several tons and travels at a high rate of speed? It's a very rare occurrence and it needs to be taken into consideration when debating the science of collapsing buildings. And while the designers of the World Trade Center buildings created the towers to withstand the impact of a commercial airliner, it's still difficult to know how your design will succeed until you actually fly a plane into it to test the structural integrity of the buildings you created. The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology of its day to create what many believed was an unsinkable ship and look what happened.

And yet, the biggest question I have in regards to this whole 9/11 conspiracy nonsense is this - why would you need to detonate explosives in the World Trade Centers or fly a missile into the Pentagon when the justification to start a war was already validated once those two planes hit the twin towers? We're talking about the first foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. You don't need to bring the towers down or fire a missile at the Pentagon; American public opinion would have fully supported retaliation against the perpetrators of this disaster regardless of whether the buildings fell or not. Almost every infamous tragedy is usually followed by a conspiracy theory. If only common sense could follow alongside it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Fan Under The Influence

The Hole In Wall is a bar on Guadalupe around the University of Texas' campus that quite literally is a "hole in the wall." It's also the bar where the late, legendary musician, Townes Van Zandt, played on occasion. Everytime I pass by that bar, I think about how amazing it must have been to see a legend like Van Zandt play in such a small dive. Why didn't more people go out and see him while he was alive, you might ask? Well, the simple answer to that is that legends never truly become legendary and mythical until after they die. Johnny Cash was, of course, famous in his day, but the wheels of the Johnny Cash bandwagon are about to collapse from the weight of his new found fan base since his death.

In the current internet age, however, it's nearly impossible to keep an underground superstar from being...well, underground. Yet, here in Austin, it exists. What Townes Van Zandt was to the Hole In The Wall, Alejandro Escovedo is, currently, the underground troubadour of Austin's Continental Club. And I have seen Escovedo live more than any other band or artist in Austin for the simple fact that I am relishing the moment of seeing a living legend perform in such a small, intimate setting as the Continental Club. Of course, I wouldn't go see him at all if the music weren't great, which it is, but the possibility of Escovedo obtaining mainstream success grows more and more plausible with each release and the threat of me losing "intimate" Escovedo to "mainstream" Escovedo is always in the back of my mind.

I have secretly prayed to the music gods in hopes that the popular music website - - will either not review Escovedo's new album - Real Animal - or that they will give it a really bad review so as not to "hipsterize" my little slice of heaven that is Alejandro Escovedo's residency at the Continental Club. I know that sounds incredibly petty, but those who truly worship music the way that I do will understand. The more and more you come to love something, the more snobbish you become towards it and I'm not willing to part with Escovedo just yet. He is a legend. Period.

As a kid in California, he would regularly watch The Stooges practice. In the 70's, he formed a punk band called "The Nuns" which opened up for the Sex Pistols on their infamous last show in San Francisco. He then moved on to New York City and lived in the notorious Chelsea Hotel at the time when Sid Vicious killed his then girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. From there, he made his way to Austin and adopted a more country/roots rock sound and, musically speaking, he is creating the best work of his career, aging like a fine wine. His newest album, Real Animal(which I have yet to hear), is being hailed as his best work yet, which is all the more amazing considering that he almost died five years ago of complications from Hepatitis C.

In his 57 years on this planet, Escovedo has lived a full life and he is talented enough to create a unique brand of music that expresses it. Aside from my simple-minded, selfish outlook, if anyone deserves the mainstream success that has eluded him for so long, it's Escovedo. With his new release and a concert film in the planning stages by Silence of the Lambs director, Jonathan Demme, it very well could be right around the corner. Mainstream success, however, is of little consequence to the man himself as Escovedo has said before that he has always had a soft spot in his heart for the musician's musician - artists who have lived for the music rather than the myth. Escovedo is the quintessential musician's musician and perhaps that is why he continues to dwell in the underground. As a result, we - his fans - are the beneficiaries.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Austin Invasion

Is there a better music scene right now in the United States than Austin, Texas? I often hear Austinites who have been here longer than me(I've been here a grand total of five years) say that the music scene in Austin isn't what it used to be. Well someday, someone will look back on 2008 and speak of a music scene in Austin that was pretty untouchable. With solid releases by the Black Angels and Shearwater, as well as the anticipated upcoming releases by White Denim and the criminally underrated Alejandro Escovedo, Austin is poised to invade many year-end top ten lists of best albums. And if Spoon - if not this decade's best band, then certainly it's most consistent - were to release an album this year, it would indeed be a coup for the "live music capital of the world." It's good to be the king.

07/13/2008 - I just obtained the new Willie Nelson album, Two Men With The Blues, which was in collaboration with jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis, and it is one of the best albums of Willie's career. It's the perfect blend of genres and, I assure you, it will be considered a classic in the future. Chalk up another victory in 2008 for an Austin musician.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Loretta Lynn

Before I went to the Loretta Lynn concert Friday night at Stubb's, someone made a comment to me that "the only reason Loretta Lynn can even play Stubb's is because Jack White revived her career and that the crowd at Stubb's would be nothing more than a sea of hipsters anticipating a possible guest appearance on stage by White himself."

While Jack White certainly introduced Lynn to a whole new audience with his work on her highly acclaimed 2004 album, Van Lear Rose, the core constituency of country music listeners needed no introduction whatsoever. With a career that includes 17 Number 1 albums and 27 Number 1 singles on the country charts as well as an Oscar-winning movie about her life, Loretta Lynn needs little, if any, help from Jack White.

And while many misinformed individuals continue to believe that country artists are nothing more than conservative, Christian hillbillies; Loretta Lynn wrote songs that were banned from many radio stations including her song "The Pill," about the sexual liberation brought about by the introduction of birth control pills, as well as a protest song against the Vietnam War entitled "Dear Uncle Sam." In the current climate of manufactured country pop stars, Loretta Lynn is one of the few who talks it like she walks it. In my opinion, she is the undisputed queen of country.

As for this "sea of hipsters" that I was supposedly wading through Friday night, they did a good job of disguising themselves as blue-collar, rednecked Texans who adore Loretta Lynn, a country music icon who did not sing one, solitary song from Van Lear Rose. Hey, when you've got 27 Number 1 singles under your belt, how much help do you really need from a White Stripe anyway?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Obama and Israel

I've never been more excited about a presidential candidate as I am about Barack Obama, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he is black - it's because his views on foreign policy are in sharp contrast to any other presidential candidate before him. In an earlier campaign stop in Iowa, Obama said, "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." This was an unprecedented comment to be made by a presidential candidate because it can be political suicide to not only speak out against Israel, but to stand up for anyone in the Middle East and, yet, here was Barack Obama doing just that - standing up for an unpopular cause.

The current system of apartheid in Palestine by the Israeli government is one of the greatest injustices in the world today and because Israel is an ally of the U.S., we have turned a blind eye to it. Our hypocrisy towards the Middle East does more to promote terrorism than it does to suppress it and, yet, we continue blindly down the path of our own destruction because of our misguided policies.

However, in a speech on Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC), Obama pledged his full support for Israel and insisted that any peace deal between Israel and Palestine must preserve Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital, despite the fact that Jerusalem is not recognised internationally as the capital of the Jewish state because the east side was captured by Israel in violation of international law. This has upset many Palestinians and rightly so, but you have to realize that Obama faces an uphill battle in his bid for the presidency because, first and foremost, he is black and this country's history of race relations hasn't been a smooth one. I think reality has finally set in for Obama and he realizes that he is going to have to say some things that he doesn't agree with ideologically in order to win the presidency. In Abraham Lincoln's bid for the presidency, he often spouted racist rhetoric and, had he not, the greatest president this country has ever known would have simply become a minor footnote in history. The reality of politics is that you need votes to get elected and in order to obtain those votes, you have to sometimes say things that you don't agree with. Despite his recent comments, I have full faith that, if he is elected president, Barack Obama will do his best to undo the mess created in the Middle East by U.S. foreign policy. If, however, is the first hurdle.