Dune Messiah
The last thing I expected to be doing on Thanksgiving was riding a snowboard straight down the dunes of Lake Michigan. I got a couple good little runs in on my afternoon in Sawyer, even dropping in to some bowl-like areas. Sand plus snow equals soft landing if you manage to avoid the trees and we were just riding this short bindingless board so it was really slow. Drinking white ale definitely brought my latent skate skills to the fore. I'm really jazzed to do some snowboarding this season.


Saturation Point, Courtesy of Trader Joe's Wine Department
Years ago, finding worthwhile music and art was an escape and a passion that took me away from the day-to-day stresses of maintaining a viable straight world life in the status conscious, prep school to private university, trying to get a leg up careerwise grind. I have been conscious lately of how much reading the Washington City Paper as a high schooler affected me and turned me on to the underground culture of the city. I certainly wasn't the only one. I remember a Model UN meet at the Washington Hilton in '89 or so when I met a bunch of guys that were dealing with their highly disciplined Catholic high school years with a steady diet of No Trend. 9353 and Rites of Spring. We couldn't get the Madeira girls to sleep with us, but we had fun trying. I hardly ever compare DC and Chicago anymore but having lived in both cities a good long time, I feel more entitled to make some personal observations. One thing that's quite different about Chicago is the feeling that there is so much going on that you could never really know the best thing to do on a Friday night. And if you don't show up, it's probably not a big deal. There's a ton of stuff going on. In DC, things were more manageable if sometimes predictable and cozy, and I often had the feeling that I needed to go do things and see things that were going on just to be there. I had much more of a "support the scene" mentality. And people certainly let me know if I had missed out on something special. It had many rewards. Chicago certainly is different but I have definitely had a bit more of the seeing the same faces in various places experience lately. That's what happens when you are home.

I have no idea what I am talking about but I hate to see wine go to waste. I also have to note that I watched way too many movies this weekend, and found "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" and "Mean Girls" just decent not that great. Tina Fey is massively overrated in my book. And while I liked "The Croupier," and I understand the point of the class violence in "I'll Sleep" I found the movie almost totally uneventful, like a extended expositional opening scene that never ends. I'm almost tempted to point out that there is no real conflict in the film. Totally a bummer.


Shameless Self-Promotion Part 36
So a colleague tried to order my CD EP from Insound and he discovered that they were out of stock. I emailed with good sir Patrick of Insoundfordshire and he managed to re-stock the CDs from one of your reliable indie distros within a few days. Patrick, you're my online MVP of the week. In other words, my very limited edition, released in 2000 on a Swedish label called Her Magic Field that is now defunct, three song CD EP is still available! I play electric piano, I make my lead vocal debut, I forgot to put bass on one song and the engineer erased my guitar solo on another and never apologized, always a good sign. While I'm on the subject, read a review, and another review (middle of the page) and yet another and then buy, buy and buy again.

And then consider this odd coincidence.


I've had this Honey Cone two-disc compilation floating around my pile o' music for a while but have been studying up on it a bit during the last fifteen minutes and came across this Douglas Wolk piece. If you are a fan of Holland-Dozier-Holland, you should get to know this stuff. Also on my desk today, Gold Chains & Sue Cie "When the World Was Our Friend" (Kill Rock Stars), "Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label" (Numero Group)
and Devendra Banhart "Rejoicing in the Hands" (Young God). I can't wait to get the hell out of here today, I'm so bored.


My amiable senior editor is south of the border for a couple weeks, which doesn’t mean I can blow off my day job work exactly, just be a bit more flexible, shall we say. I’m planning a trip up to Devon Street to eat at Bahbi’s Kitchen, and organize some other lunch hour hangs with friends downtown. I will exercise my freedom to lunch.

One thing that’s been occurring to me lately in a lot of discussions with friends is that I’m noticing people are completely clueless when it comes to various levels of politics and “being political.” People don’t seem to have any idea that there are huge differences between being interested in politics and international affairs and being informed, being politically active, being an activist, believing in an alternative political system or significant reform of our own, being hardcore dedicated to radical politics and being an out there on the fringe total wacko. Being a political artist in its pure, romantic idealistic form, is quite wonderful I’m sure (“this one really makes a statement about where we are at,” yeah dude) but it’s more about the style of politics than the actual politics, isn’t it? And it’s also a bit like walking into a mine-field if you don’t really have your act together. Everyone wants to be Bobby Dylan, but what exactly is the answer blowing in the wind and how does it relate to NAFTA, nuclear proliferation and The Dharfour region of Sudan? Get me, Mr. Jones?

Fugazi often pulled it off because there stuff is/was arty and generally about a worldview and personal politics. Their stuff is inspired, but not didactic, or reasonably so. They came from a time (the ‘80s) when (much like now), it appeared the country was being taken over by social conservatives and jingoism and a inspired response was not only needed, but required for any intelligent creative member of the youth culture. That band had an effect on who I am today and in general I felt like they had it right most of the time and were tremendously successful in raising a certain kind of awareness.

But I think the internet’s alternative news sources have further confused people a bit. For example, a newly politicized friend sent me some links to a news website a few years ago that was pretty radical, kind of interesting but at the same disturbing in little ways. They were standing up for Slobodan Milosevic as some kind of anti-imperialist hero, which showed the whole enterprise to be a bit more knee-jerk than I was comfortable with. I was left wondering, does my friend think Milosevic is a hero, to anyone really?

Standing up with a very significant minority, the anti-war, anti-Bush crowd, etc. is not in the least a radical stance, and that’s okay, good in fact. You don’t need to be advocating democratic socialism to take those positions, or even know or care much about how the country is really run. In fact, you can take those positions from such old-school isolationist points-of-view, which I’m sure is quite tempting for many.

A lot of this uneasiness about rock politics comes from my experience of rubbing shoulders with and seeing punk rockers play benefits for some fairly radical organizations (none advocating violence of course) when I was a teenager. There were a lot of out-there lefty, anti-war, anti-war machine groups in the DC area growing up. The mid to late ‘80s probably saw a dramatic increase in politic radical activism in reaction to Reaganism. Lots of people got involved with causes through benefits that they only had a passing interest in, but hell, they were fun shows. There were plenty of worthy endeavors to get behind – anti-Apartheid, environmental movement, Sane-Freeze, women’s shelters, homeless activists that got proper benefits. I must note that lots of young fans were uncomfortable with the pro-choice benefits back in the day. For me, what was educational, was seeing bands play a benefit for conscientious objectors or something like that and see another benefit for a group opposed to nuclear power (a kind of questionable in my point of view when you consider that burning coal is polluting the atmosphere and killing people right this minute, isn’t it?). I learned a heck of a lot about under-funded interest groups. Anyway, all these little organizations on the left would come together or get lumped together because they represented an alternative viewpoint, even though in many ways they didn’t have a whole lot in common. It was romantic and inspiring to think that they did, that there was a social movement blossoming. It was an innocent time, it was “Meese is a Pig” posters when the left didn’t have a chance in hell of affecting anything on the national stage.

I watched this documentary “Horns and Halos” this weekend which features the story of a high school and college friend now indie publisher, Sander Hicks as he was re-issuing the controversial Bush biography “Fortunate Son” on his Soft Skull Press in 1999-2000. It’s an incredible story, unfortunately told somewhat slowly and with too much detail by Mike Galinsky and Suki Hawley, who probably could have edited it down to something electrifying. I won’t spoil it for you or bore you with the story. But I couldn’t help thinking that Hicks reliance on tying his high school idealism with politicized punk rock was a bit of a nostalgia trip. There are a few moments when Hicks is talking to interviewers when he just sounds like he’s not thinking about what is actually happening, but relying a bit too much on radical punk-rock publisher rhetoric. It's like being given a chance to fight the big dogs and sort of blowing it because you're stuck in rut. I like the guy, but I really wished he was ready to go to battle when he knew he was charging into it. Supposedly, he’s been working on a biography of Karl Rove.

Perhaps what we have seen with the electoral results is that the alternative political world that has grown in recent years is still holding on to some of the romanticism of the apst but not the hard lessons of organization. We still love our individuality, our freedom to vote or not for whomever we want, but when it comes to electoral politics, exercising you individuality doesn’t mean much. What the left or the opposition really needs is the means to exercise some loyalty and some people that can spread a very simple message on a few issues and get people to vote accordingly. The Democrats used to be able to call on certain constituencies to vote with them every time, folks had the New Deal in their political memory and they knew who was looking after their interests. These days, Evangelicals (somewhat mistakenly according to Tom Frank in his Kansas book), have been activated and will be loyal to the bad guys as long as they believe their agenda is being forwarded that way. To start beating these guys, it may be necessary to lose the “vote your conscience” or “just vote” crap (I know it’s all about non-profit status) and do the long, tedious, boring task of building coalitions of people that live in the cultural-vacuum parts of the country and hitting them with simple but powerful truths about the future of the country and then marching them to the polls en masse.

These coalitions might not involve as many groups of nubile college age women giving each other henna tattoos and griping about the man during pre-protest slumber parties (though that sounds great for sure), but more groups of soccer dads and NASCAR moms wondering about their social security, their kids health care and education and the economic and social welfare of their fellow Americans rather than carrying out the will of literalist Bible-thumpers. It’s gonna be a bitch to get that coalition together.

I’ve heard some incredible stories from people arrested in protests in NYC during the concention, mind-blowing stuff about how the cops are treating people and violating our rights. But at the same time, I can’t help wondering if making the most creative sign or effigies of Bush and Rumsfeld is really worth a lot of attention. Does that alternative spirit really translate into political awareness? After all, the political legacy of the ‘60s, street-fighting man was ultimately apathy, a weakened Democratic party and eventually mainstream assimilation, and you can bet that lots of hippies are now born-agains voting the wrong way. Politics are somewhat fashionable right now, but for how long when it’s clear that the pink-haired vote doesn’t tip the scales? And also, is it possible that folks may get swept up in the anti-war fervor that really have not internalized a progressive viewpoint?

Here’s an example. Do you have a vociferously anti-war friend? Now, say that friend always seems to find ways out of paying any taxes, year after year. Anything fishy there? Think about it, it doesn’t matter how controversial the copy on your t-shirt reads, if you pride yourself on excuses for not paying taxes (I’ve yet to hear a good one), you’re one of them, you’re a Republican, on one issue at least, in terms of how you live your life.

And so it’s about values, there’s a value, a civic pride in paying your taxes and seeing them in action, doing good to hold society together, getting things right, nice roads, good schools, social safety net, the things we want our society to have. That’s a real value, a real alternative to the “values” being foisted on us by the right which are about controlling the personal decisions that reasonable adults should be able to make on their own. But why couldn’t the left make a mainstream case for these values during this campaign?

Of course what I would like to see has even less chance of working. Give folks an honest offer. Can you really sell the message that higher taxes are worth it for a government that can take care of the disenfranchised before it does favors for profitable corporations? That our society is better off if we hold on to a lot of the skilled manufacturing sector jobs that produced our middle-class last century? That our country should have a foreign policy that fights oppression rather than one that just fights to keep markets open? It sounds like fantasy, I know.

The gist of my rambling is that we progressives really want our political change to be organic and come in the form of spontaneous social movements (we love us some grass roots), but I’m certainly not the first to notice that that’s kind of (academic-inspired) romanticism that leaves you a loser when the election results (however flawed) roll in. We’re desperately in need of a strong party with a strategy that’s about winning.


The Modfather
Has it really been a year since I did this interview with Paul Weller? I'm feeling the "dad rock" vibes on his new "Studio 150" (V2) album and loving them. Maybe it's time to father some offspring and own property. His latest is a covers album and it's growing on me more and more. The strings are particularly gorgeous. He does a nice job with Gil-Scott's "The Bottle" and has the audacity to lay down a version of "Close to You," you know the one. Last time he was in town, we were supposed to have a drink but he suddenly and unfortunately cancelled his second night and flew home.


"We got nowhere to be, nothing to do....except be here."
It must be break-up season, not only are Luna and Guided By Voices hanging it up, but my brother Mike's very fine band Thee Snuff Project is calling it a day. It's a shame considering what a smokin' live act they've become. I believe that 3/4s of the band, including my brother are continuing on with a new name. They're playing their last show next week in DC and then self-releasing a final four-song EP.
I Contact
Better Drugs


Get Folky
If you are not already hip to it, the Devendra Banhart "Nino Rojo" record is a must-have. His stuff is kind of early T. Rex with psych touches, at times recalling Jeff Buckley or Billie Holiday vocally. I'm really psyched for his upcoming Logan Squre auditorium gig.

Kiss Me, Stupid
Caught a screening of this Dino flick at a friend's loft (he lives with an expert projectionist), and laughed all the way through. An is it subversive or sexist? Billy Wilder sex comedy, it was way too racy for '64 America and was only released in censored version in "art" house theatres, while it was almost a hit in Europe.


Make a friend
Add Perfect Panther to your My Space friends and let the hits flow into you.


One down
Ashcroft is leaving, thank the stars. Maybe he's knows something that we don't? Get ready for all the fat cats in the Bush administration to hightail it out in the next year or so, lining up their next jobs in the corporate world before this house of cards collapses on them. I'm not kidding, second terms are almost always a disaster and these guys know better than to get shit-stained by standing too close to the volcano of crap that is at the core of Dubya criminal syndicate.

Taken By Surprise
Popped down the road last night with an umbrella in my jacket and wandered into the Sondre Lerche show at the Double Door. It was shockingly good. Sondre played about 45 minutes solo with just his Gretsch hollowbody. Dude is a tremendous singer, somehow finding ways to make his songs sound plenty rich and detailed without a backing band. He's got the stage banter down too. I can't get enough of those jazzy chords he plays. For the last 4 or 5 songs, he brought on a backing band which was fine. I swear the drummer played the snare at below knee-cap level, looked weird but sounded good enough. As for singer/songwriter fellow type gigs, this was possibly the most satisfying I've seen all year. I walked home in the rain yet I remained dry. Magic.


The goons won the election, so what's next?
Yeah, I'm talking thinking outside the box that surrounds the box. Can we do anything about converting these nutty Evangelicals to rationality? Go door to door and force them to read about the Enlightenment, evolution and the history of the United States? Or are we doomed to live in a country with millions of Jesus-freak zombies for the rest of our lives? And note to the "morally virtuous" voter that might stumble on this. The jerks you just elected care little for your social agenda, and even less for your economic future and your children's health care and job security.

If you need to take a hit of brilliance and eloquence to get the bad news out of your system or just want a historical perspective on where the country is at, listen to Gore Vidal.


Palisades MP3s (Exclusive Downloads)
When I Start Jogging
Giant Pandas
The Anthropologist

Instructions: Click to download and add MP3 extension to the filename.

eric davis - guitar, synth, vocals, david wehr - bass, john dugan - drums.
recorded 2003-2004 by the agency at butcher shop and musiczone chicago, il. engineered by john dugan, mastered by joel kriske.


Night Before Election
This is the best graphic I've seen for understanding how close the election is going to be. The New York Times is giving the edge to Kerry right now. If I wasn't feeling like hell, I'd been at a rally somewhere like the Obama thing at the Allegro Hotel. Maybe tomorrow night?

This is a bit late, but if you are not in Chicago, you might not know that the charismatic and articulate Barack Obama is having to run against right-wing zealot Alan Keyes, who was flown in by the hapless Illinois Republicans from Maryland to run. Obama is a law professor who's been in Chicago for years. Carpetbagger Keyes has been good for entertainment value at least. He called Dick Cheney's daughter "a selfish hedonist" on the radio which was interesting considering that Keyes himself has a 19-year old gay daughter named Maya. Keyes also believes in conscription (mandatory military service) and called Obama a "socialist and a liar." Keyes will probably scare some moderates away from the Republicans (and possibly away from Bush). Does that mean the Dems can consider Illinois safe territory for years to come?

The last minute suburban race attack ads running tonight are too funny.

Net Detective
Googling your old band names is fun, n'est pas? Well not fun, but at least interesting. I came across photos of myself that I'd never seen before. Freaky. I also learned there's a Japanese Chisel rip-off band called Twinkle. Does anyone know anything about them?