Thursday, September 28, 2006

Not Paranoid…Just Bummed

I’m not the most political guy to be sure, but I like to think that I am at least awake and paying a bit of attention. Here’s what’s got me wondering; why is the media focused on John Karr or Paris Hilton or steroid use in professional sports or immigration and the Mexican border, etc. and why should any of us even care about such issues? Well, for starters I live in a state were Arnold Freakin’ Schwarzenegger was elected governor. To me that speaks volumes! Here’s a guy that is an actor in Hollywood films and a piss poor actor on top of that, yet enough voting Californians felt he was the choice for governor! The Terminator for governor! The presidential elections aren’t any better I mean 26 years ago another piss-poor actor was elected, twice! Let’s face it, you don’t really get many choices for elections and even less good choices on top of that. Every election I feel like I have to choose between three piles of horrible, reeking sweat socks and I have to choose which pile smells least! Serves us right, I suppose. We, as a society on a whole don't really seem to think too deeply and part of this is probably due to living in a fast food, dot-com, commercial, plastic, dumber-than-a-bag-a-hammers society where we let things be done for us and it has me really bummed.
I really believe that the populace of the U.S. at this very moment are being hoodwinked into believing that the Jon Benet Ramsey case is truly much more important than the war in Iraq, or the unrest between Palestine and Israel or the strife in the Sudan, or jobs being shipped off to other countries, the people in Louisiana and Mississippi a year after Katrina are still in dispare, do you think for one second that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 and that the government didn't have prior knowledge? Come on and wake up! It seems that most of the people I come in contact with lately are more bent out of shape because, “ …the fucking Oakland Raiders are so shitty this year!” Big freaking deal, man! Those millionaire athletes couldn’t care less about you, me or anyone else so why should you care so much about them?! Hey, Oakland, California is up to 114 homisides already this year! I'm much more pissed off about that than the Raiders win-loss record.
I could go on and on. The sad part is that no one would really care if I did. Besides, it seems that not many people have any ability what-so-ever to think about this because I am truly convinced we live in a society of non-thinkers. Yep. A society of dolts who couldn’t be bothered to read (and I don’t mean the news paper here people) or question and seek out the truth. We are being set up in a very Machivellian way and not many folks see it or even seem to care while the Bush Cartel are running off with the store.
We are being spoon fed fear in dogmatic ways every-single-day while at the same time being sold the latest SUV, cell phone and down loads as the rest of the planet is circling the drain. “Relax man and have a beer.” Sound paranoid? Well, maybe so but it has been said that the paranoid individual is the one with all of the facts at their disposal. Look around a bit and see what I mean. Oh, and not only will the revolution be televised but so will the end of the world…and it will probably sponsored by McDonald’s and Budweiser.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Jeff Lehman Heart of Gold

I received an email this morning from my friend, Amy Bingamon informing me of the passing of Junkyard Buddha’s front man Jeff Lehman. I knew Jeff casually through my record shop that I used to own and operate. Jeff was one of those customers you were always happy to see. He had a warm approach and was easy to talk with and he was very intelligent and funny.
A couple of months ago Jeff and I were playing email tag in regarding artwork for the Buddha’s. Jeff felt that my art style and understanding of music was a perfect fit for what he (they) were looking for and I couldn’t of agreed more.
We took a week or so of phone conversations to try and work out what the Buddha’s were looking for and then it was off to the races…almost. I was having a bit of trouble tuning in my head to what I wanted my hands to produce. I also have another, outside project that has absolutely nothing to do with my art work or music, but it is a commitment I signed onto last year and I have about 9 more weeks left of (who’s counting?) and it really takes up a huge chunk of my personal as well as professional life. Jeff understood this and told me to take my time and I told him I’d have it in a couple of weeks (ironically that was this week). Jeff was kind enough and big enough to cut a brother some slack and that, my dear friends goes a lot father than any diamonds, money or gold.
Jeff will be missed and all of us other musicians get to move up one spot and feably atempt to fill a huge place that was left by Jeff. Velocidad de dios, mi hermano.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Beauty from East Los

I really seem to be getting the hang of this blog thing because here I am with yet another music recommendation and I’m sure just about everyone who buys this album will love it! The brand new Los Lobos album The Town and the City is simply one of the most realized albums Los Lobos has done since Kiko. I am totally serious here. There was a period not too long ago where the boys were going from what seemed to be record label after record label and putting out 35 minute gems but not what most would consider total albums (Colossal Head and This Time being great records but far too short). When Good Morning Aztlan came out I thought, “Alright then! Here we go!” …Aztlan is a solid album that seemed to mix old Los Lobos, or pre-Kiko Lobos with Post-Kiko Lobos very well (My friend, musician/music collector and fellow Los Lobos fan Tony Palmer cites Los Lobos as quite possibly the Beatles of the 1980’s and 90’s. We both figured that Kiko was Los Lobos’ Rubber Soul album).
A couple of years later they released The Ride which was nice with some great cuts, but it was one of those albums where there seemed to be too many guest artists and not enough Los Lobos. They then released a few weeks later a companion EP Ride This which was a covers album of Los Lobos doing the guest artist’s music from The Ride Another must have if you already don't. Are you with me so far? Whoo! I don’t want to go on and on about it too much(too late?), so I’ll keep this blog short but I just wanted to tell the two or three of you who actually waste your time reading this that this album is an extremely beautiful, dreamy Chicano masterpiece. The album was produced by Los Lobos themselves which I don’t think they have done before. I have been playing this album since its release this past Tuesday at work, El Rancho de Skybunker around 4 to 6 times a day! Yes, it’s just that good. Also, great cover art by fellow Chicano cartoonist Jaime Hernandez (of the comic book Love & Rockets fame).
I recommend that you go out and buy this album right now….preferably at a local, independent CD/book store! My favorite cut so far is Little Things….WOW!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Once Was Isn’t Anymore

Remember when tattoos were a stigma? I do. When and where I grew up usually only two types of people had a tattoo or multiple tattoos, a) you were either in the service or b) you were in the joint. In some cases in my family it was both. The war tattoos were something that every member of my family that got one eventually regretted getting. The prison tattoos, well let’s just say that those individuals (who are still alive anyway) are still “living the life” that those tattoos carry and each and every one on their bodies means something in the sub-cultural society that they inhabit within the confines of prison and the subsequent prison gangs for which they are representational.
However, on the streets in suburban America where I now reside there are small armies of men and women with their bodies covered entirely in tattoos. I’ve noticed a huge number of these neo-rockabilly types with pompadour hair-do’s, black primered hot rods and Betty Page look-a-like girl friends (with just as many tattoos) bopping around Marin county and I almost always smile to myself and wonder what they’ll be doing in ten to fifteen years when the party is over, but not all of the costume comes off.
Now, I don’t have anything against tattoos (I have some myself…well concealed), nor do I have anything against rockabilly or hot rods and I sure as hell don’t have a thing against Betty Page! I guess it just seems that the days of when something as personal (and artistic) as a tattoo held a lot more weight and was, for lack of a better term much more underground and individual. Now tattoos seem as common and commercial as a Nike swoosh across someone’s t-shirt, which brings me to certain t-shirts. CBGB’s t-shirts and Ramones t-shirts, twenty five plus years ago were an almost underground phenomenon to let other hipsters know you were in on the joke. Now the jokes on the consumer as these same two t-shirts are sold online as well as in most major department stores in any mall across America. In the past two years I have noticed that 9-out-of-10 people who wear a Ramones shirt or a CBGB’s shirt are usually male and under the age of fourteen. The last part of my rant is the middle aged guys who dress like they are still in junior high school. What with the grey (long) soul patch under the lip, a few silver earrings in each ear and the obligatory baseball cap worn backward. Yep, I’m sure they have the tattoos and are the 10th person (from the 9-out-of-10) who wears a Ramones/CBGB’s shirt. “Dude.” It’s not like I feel everyone at a certain age should wear a tie, work in a corporate office and play golf because, hey they’re already dead so…! No, but Jesus there are whole armies of idiots who think they’re “thinking” and they are not, well at least not for themselves.
I really have no answers and I certainly hope that I am not coming off as self-righteous or the like. These remarks are me merely wondering aloud. I still wear tennis shoes (mostly skate shoes for that matter) most of the time. I’m no different really. I wear t-shirts and jeans primarily in the winter and I still surf whenever there is a swell and on occasion I skateboard (I skated today to get a small coffee this morning before I settled in to work). Perhaps we are experiencing a sort of arrested development/adolescence in the cultural mainstream? Maybe it’s a need from a populace that is feeling even more disenfranchised and is crying out for attention, or maybe just maybe I’m reading way too into this and it’s far more basic. Maybe people just think that their new tattoo and Ramones shirt looks pretty damn cool. Period.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

El Space Vato and the Poetry Reading

HIJOLE! Yet another rant! C’mon I have to make use of this blog thing so bare with me…I went out last night (which is almost worthy to report itself being somewhat of a shut-in) to see my dear friend poet/writer Josiah Luis Alderete as well as writer/poet Jon Longhi read at a club here in Marin. I, along with several other revelers were treated to a classic evening of reading as well as music (check out the local group Airport Sexy if you get the chance. Great hook-filled tunes).
Josiah is a great story teller and poet telling stories of junkies, saints and other urban street heroes as the unseen that plod along in life late at night through the shadows and alley ways of any city or in your mind. I would refer to Josiah as a Chicano Tom Waits, if you will but with a bit more grit. His stories are filled with imagery and references sprinkled with Calo (or Spanglish) or straight-up Spanish that are poignant as well as hilariously humor filled. I was extremely happy to hear my favorite, the tale of El Chengon dishwasher; Don Miguel! The only down side to Josiah’s work, if there is any down side to be had at all, is that his work is sadly under published.
Jon Longhi opened, if you will for Josiah with hilarious tales of his exploits with his fellow east coast transplant, a guy that goes by the name Dada Trash. The stories this night featured Jon and Dada from LSD dosed doormen to my favorite of the 10” fleshy dildo bong! Jon’s latest book; Wake Up and Smell the Beer is out now from Manic D Press as well as his others. These are excellent books you should get a hold of because, let’s face it, you can only watch so much T.V. so get out there and read fer chrissakes!

Friday, September 01, 2006

It’s time for me to rant about music just a bit. Those of you who already know me you are pretty used to (or sick of) this behavior from me.
I just want to throw down some words of admiration for a group that is new to me, but probably very familiar to you others (much thanks to Curtis “BPM” Cirillo for the tip). The Bad Plus is the name of the group and they are a three piece outfit featuring all acoustic instruments (very different for the youngsters these days) with piano, up-right bass and drums respectively.
It’s no secret that I am a huge jazz fan and to find something musical in any genre to get excited about these days is definitely a great thing so let me tell ya: these guys can really swing. The only thing that makes me wince a bit is that they seem to get lumped in with the “jam band” moniker a lot, but I don’t see/hear that in the sense that they are not another Medenski, Martin and Wood. No. They play songs in somewhat more of a jazz idiom where the songs actually have a head, a middle section and so on. They also do some interesting covers of Nirvana and Blondie. They definitely have a good sense of humor and have freakin’ chops to spare without it being over the top. In other words they play with fire and taste. The music is very dense and texural at times which I like (see: the Lounge Lizards Voice of Chunk).
Now how they play live may be a whole other issue and perhaps that is where they get the jam band thing tossed in there. I haven’t seen them live as of yet but plan to this November. I’ll let you know then….unless I see you there. You might not dig jazz and that’s cool, but you should give these guys a listen and maybe you’ll expand your musical horizons just a little more….and that’s a good thing. Free your mind and your ass will surely follow. Go buy their albums now.

Oh, apologies to my sister for the “worthless” statement in my last blog. Sorry, sis.