Wednesday, June 30, 2004

‘There’s a warnin’ sign on the road ahead’

I’ll never listen to “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” the same way again.
It’s the perfect song to close out Fahrenheit 9/11, a film that’s thoughful, measured and powerful. But rather than enraged, I left the theater energized. A sold-out Sunday matinee that not only ended to great applause but was occasionally interrupted by cheers, my experience of F9/11 was definitely a communal one. And in that is the message: there’s cohesion in the opposition.
Aside from the most minor specifics, the facts in the film are nothing new to a news junkie. I don’t think Moore broke any ground aside from running a string through Bush’s past and his administration’s push for war.
As always, Moore plays the facts his own way, but he is no more guilty of misrepresentation or egregious spin than the Bush administration and their monkey boys over at Fox News.
There’s nothing anti-American or un-patriotic here, and I didn’t even think there’s much in the film worth being upset about, even for the staunchest Bush supporter.
All in all the film was a bit more tame than I expected. Moore’s documentary is really no more forceful than the average column by Molly Ivins or Paul Krugman. It had none of the sneer of “Masters of War,” none of the blatant dislike found in lines like “Idiot son of an asshole.”
The conservative critiques of F9/11 I’ve read have been horrendously off point. Their position on Bush’s leadership is nicely summed up in Moore’s film by none other than the world renowned intellectual, Britney Spears: “Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that.”
Did those who give implicit, unquestioning trust to our so-called “War President” ever question our “Greatest Economic Period in U.S. History President?”
This “support the president” crap from conservatives is the lamest line ever. Don’t put blinders on. Search out the truth, dammit, because you’re sure as hell not getting it from the Bush administration.
All in all, F9/11 boils down to real questions that need real answers.
Why is the United States engaged in a war in Iraq? Why are minority soldiers dying at the greatest rates? Why did Bush just sit there with little kids when told the nation was under attack? How did a businessman universally considered incompetent at best rise to lead the greatest nation in the world?
In the end, nobody walks out with any more answers. Instead the only question that now matters is crystal clear: How soon can we remove that man from office?

‘The good times are killing me’

Good times, great weekend.
From Fahrenheit 9/11 to Mike Doughty, from Coffee and Cigarettes to the Gourds.
Top to bottom great.

More detailed posts to come...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Online goofery

I don't have the faintest idea what this is, but it's hilarious.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Michael Powell, get your hands off my airwaves

This couldn’t be better news

New FCC media rules blocked
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court refused Thursday to allow loosened federal rules on media ownership to take effect, dealing a blow to large broadcasters like News Corp. and Tribune Co. looking to extend their reach.
"The Commission has not sufficiently justified its particular chosen numerical limits for local television ownership, local radio ownership, and cross-ownership of media within local markets," said the 218-page opinion by the appellate court in Philadelphia.
Opponents who waged a grass-roots campaign against the rules cheered the court's decision, saying it would now provide an opportunity to write rules that would slow industry consolidation.

Yes this is a crucial presidential election. Yes soldiers die every day in Iraq. Yes our dependence on foreign oil is frightening.
But I think media consolidation is potentially the largest single issue facing the American public precisely because it disrupts, degrades and mutates the very flow of information.
I’m just stunned that this hasn’t received bigger play, both in mainstream press and television and in the blog world. The hometown morning daily had it burried below the fold in the business page. Sure it’s business, but this is A1 material.

Those 70s Tunes

The uber-snobs over at Pitchforkmedia have published their list of the Top 100 albums of the 1970s. And honestly, music geekery and snobbery rarely is this fascinating. This is a much more respectable list than the ones Rolling Stone have been tossing out lately (including their shameful declaration of Sgt. Pepper’s as the best album of all time, which along with a Beatles-bloated top 10 reveals just how lame they are).
Just check out the top 10:
10. Brian Eno - Another Green World
9. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
8. Gang of Four - Entertainment!
7. Led Zeppelin - IV
6. Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express
5. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
4. Sly & The Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On
3. Television - Marquee Moon
2. The Clash - London Calling
1. David Bowie - Low

Alls I can say is thank god Bob Dylan came out on top of Kraftwerk. Otherwise I think I’d abandon Pitchforkmedia forever.
Others that jumped out at me: The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street at 11, the Modern Lovers at 40, Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True at 37, Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon at 70, and Randy Newman - Sail Away at 79.
You can also scan the lists of each writer and see that Blood on the Tracks and Dark Side of the Moon each come out on top twice.
It’s interesting to note who they consider “casualties” that didn’t make the cut: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Black Sabbath, Queen, Nina Simone, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Elton John and Willie Nelson, among many others.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


There are still some bugs to work out, but I'd like to invite anybody reading Catfish Vegas presents... on over to The Time & Space Lounge.
Joining myself in this endeavor are a crack team of writers, comics, former journalists, and various wandering souls, searching for who knows what.
The subject matter may be scattered, but I can guarantee each post is a nugget of tasty goodness.
The cast reads like the A Team, or Superfriends, or Oceans 11, or some other world class group of highly trained specialists, working to save the world or steal a shit ton of cash.
You all know Catfish Vegas, owner of sage wisdom, an almost psychic connection with the outer world. Then there's Mr. Chair, the nimble burglar whose feline quickness is matched only by his strength of rhetoric. And George Chomberson, a chef of stunning talent and razor wit. And Z, whose blindness only serves to enhance his other senses to superhuman levels. And other recruits are soon to follow.
Yes folks, The Time & Space Lounge is here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Detroit wins, convincingly. The only close game of the series involved a near-miracle three.
I'm absolutely thrilled the Lakers went down. Now if somebody can keep the Yankees out of the Series, I'll have survived the entire year without watching one of my most hated teams attain success. Excellent.
Two notes on the series: Kevin Garnett may have become the NBA's premiere player this year, but Ben Wallace is an absolute WARRIOR. And he may have been impressive in only one game, but damn it if Luke Walton isn't really starting to show what he can do.

“Inevitable consequence”

I have a hard time taking the pledge of allegiance debate too seriously. “Under God” doesn’t bother me any more than “In God We Trust” does, or opening Congress with a prayer. Sure, it probably shouldn’t be there (and wasn’t at one point), but I chalk that up to tradition more than anything else. Christmas is a federal holiday just because it’s a day that’s always been celebrated, not because we’re all Christians.
The whole “Under God” pledge argument seems to be one of those insignificant issues that certain people pick in a cause to make their point.
It’s all about noise, not results.
It’s no surprise the Supreme Court took the easy way out and decided they could not hear the case because the father doesn’t have custody.
But buried at the bottom of a concurring opinion, Sandra Day O’Connor made what may be the clearest statement about the whole mess:
Certain ceremonial references to God and religion in our Nation are the inevitable consequence of the religious history that gave birth to our founding principles of liberty.

Translation: It’s not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s there and it will be, so get over it and worry about things that really matter. Stop making noise and start getting results.
Some might say that O’Connor (whose hand I shook, years ago as a child dragged by his mother to see a famous historical figure) leaves the door open here for Ray Moore styled histrionics and evangical rape of common sense. Other than simply doubting it, I’d say that it is in explicit denial of such. The opinion recognizes that a nation founded by white protestants will, even hundreds of years later, inevitably hold on to little quirks here and there. Let’s not fight out every single one, it says, but worry about the big ones that actually matter.
I call it the pragmatic interpretation.

Catfish returns...

From a sold-out night game at Wrigley against the Cardinals (Cubs Win! - although the only reason I was rooting for the home team was to avoid a bunch of pissed off Cubs fans the rest of the nights) to Bennett’s Smut 'n Eggs in Madison, we’ll call the P-town and Midwest adventures a smashing success.
Watching the blood-red moon rise over a ridge in Highland Pines outside of Prescott, a fabulous Shins show, world class late night comedy at Chicago’s Improv Olympic, later night brats, frisbee golf and a dip in the pool on a muggy Madison afternoon, and of course, the Essen Haus. Plenty of beer and almost enough sleep. Wonderful head-clearing, soul-enriching adventure. Long talks with old friends. New sights, sounds and tastes.
Next up: The West Coast again, just as soon as I can swing it.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Roaming the Midwest

All right folks, Catfish is headin' out for a while. First it's off to P-Town for a couple days, then jettin' back for the Shins show, then off to Chicago and Madison for for visitin' Z-Jiggy and Ro-Dogg.
Keep it fresh and I'll be back wit ya on the 15th.


With a D’Backs-Dodgers contest on in the background and my thoughts naturally turning to baseball, I thought I’d chat for a while about the game.
I grew up loving every aspect of baseball. I was a card-collecting, catch-playing, game-watching fanatic. I’d have All-Star game at-bats in my head, while tossing rocks in the air and hitting them with a battered aluminum bat. I knew stats so minute they barely existed. Never artistic, I tried my hand at water-colors and sketching players, with little sucess (Roger Clemens unfortunately and unintentionally looked a lot like Kirby Puckett). I had the T-shirt of every World Series winner, stretching over nearly a decade.
The best, though, was winning the Little League championship. Eleven years old and that moment will always stack up among my best. I never made an All-Star team, and by the time I was 13, playing on a big field, my skills didn’t stack up so well. I was a runt, basically, and my eyesight started going right about the same time the other kids started throwing curveballs. I couldn’t hit, just field.
I quit playing at 15 and worked two summers scorekeeping and umpiring. My last game was behind the plate at the city championship, when I decided I hated the parents who took the game more seriously than their sons, who took the loss hard but still loved having played the game.
I was a Dodgers fan from the time I knew baseball. My grandma loved Mickey Hatcher and Tommy Lasorda. We traded cards and the grandfolks took me to Dodger Stadium for birthdays. I devoured books about the Dodgers, memorized their history from a videotape. In college I watched Stand By Me on video, taped from the television, and jumped up - goose-bumped and near tears - when one of the commercials had Orel Hershiser proclaiming he was going to Disneyland. Kirk Gibson’s heroic, mythical homerun still gives me the chills.
That 1988 series was the best, but 1995’s divsion title and 1996’s wild card still fired me up. I was amazed at the string of rookies to win the league’s top prize - Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, Nomo and Hollandsworth. I’ve seen them all play. I spent my 18th birthday at Dodger Stadium, on the downswing from a fanatic to a fan, but still thrilled to be at Chavez Ravine.
Like any teenager who doesn’t play anymore, baseball started meaning less and less to me. Denny’s, coffee and Letty Hanna mattered more. Calculus, English and newspaper classes took more time. We camped in the woods, drinking cheap beer.
For years I’d catch the Series, maybe. I saw McGwire’s 62nd on TV, but I stopped caring for the Dodgers. I don’t think I even noticed how they changed. But a bit of research shows that in just over three months, everything I’d come to hate about baseball had torn apart the only team I’d ever loved.
The O’Malley family sold the team to Fox Entertainment Group, aka News Corp. on March 19, 1998. That was travesty enough, and I didn’t then know anything about Rupert Murdock. The Piazza trade followed in May. And in June, Bill Russell - infielder extraordinaire and the man who was Lassorda’s heir, just the third manager since 1954 - was fired.
I didn’t revolt; I just stopped giving a damn. The strike in 1994 didn’t lose me; growing up did.
The Diamondbacks started in 1998. I was thrilled when Major League Baseball announced the franchise, but I was more or less indifferent when they started. It was cool, I suppose, to have a home team, but expansion clubs always suck and I wasn’t too impressed with the purple-turquoise combination. I followed the team a bit when they signed Randy Johnson (who along with Tony Gwynn was one of the few players I could still root for, no matter what). Then the 2001 season took off and I went with it. The playoff run was stunning. The Series had every single element necessary for greatness. I think I missed watching just a single inning.
Leaping from my chair after Gonzo’s limp single brought a week of anxiety to an amazing close, I felt practically the same thing I did as an 11-year-old shortstop jumping on teammates after we won the city. We won. WE. WON!
Maybe it was simply victory that relaunched my love for the game. Maybe I just had to have a reason to care again.
Paul LoDuca just squeaked a homer into the left-field bullpen off Casey Fossum to take a 4-2 lead and I gritted my teeth. Because this is going to be a long year. Because we’re on a three-game winning streak. Because I care.
Televised baseball and box scores are one thing. All-Star Game voting and webgems are one thing. Winning streaks and minor league call ups are one thing.
But the real baseball is walking into the park, heading straight across the concourse to get that first glimpse of the field. The real baseball captures you - sends your mind back in time. The real baseball surrounds you with sights, sounds and memories of everything about the game that’s ever made you smile, or wince. The real baseball is a game, not a sport, or a business.
The real baseball, strangely enough, is Field of Dreams. It’s The Rookie and Major League. It’s a pissed-off James Earl Jones calming down to announce “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.” It’s a Cinderella story and yeah, even Randy Newman and Wesley Snipes get to play.
Two years ago on a road trip I was lucky enough to catch games in Anaheim and Denver. I cheered with friends and spit sunflower seed shells. In Denver we sat in the first row out in the left-field corner. You know the spot, where all the foul balls go. We knew that, but no balls ever came near. So I heckled a bit. I couldn’t tell you who won the games, but I want to go back to both parks. Coors Field is as friendly as baseball’s past and Edison, fittingly, is filled with pure energy.
I saw a D’Backs game last month - inside the BOB, with the air-conditioning vents overhead only slightly obscuring the sounds of the ballpark. They nearly got shut out by the Expos, managing only a weak sacrifice fly and stranding the bases loaded in one inning. But I walked in and paid homage to the World Series trophy. I took off my cap and placed it over my heart, staring at Brenley’s lineup card, Randy’s uniform and crouching down, marveled at Gonzo’s bat and the game ball that he hit just far enough, sending Jay Bell home. I actually teared up, and I left the ballpark happy.
I went to the Sidewinders Monday, taking in the cool desert night and Sonoran sunset as much as the game. But in a minor league game, rooting for a team that’s sent all its stars 100 miles north to the bigs, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t standing for the last half inning, cursing the third base umpire who cost us the tying run and nearly holding my breath as a weak grounder ended a bases-loaded threat.
That’s baseball.
I may get to see a game at Wrigley next week. And the BOB is just up the road. My grandma died in March, but I bet I can talk my grandpa into a game. And I want to see the new San Diego park soon. And San Francisco and Denver and Anaheim and Seattle. And I can’t wait to get back to Dodger Stadium.

Cinema crap

I've already marvelled at Shrek 2, and while it will hit the big screen, a Michael Moore documentary doesn't truly count in the slate of summer movies.
Aside fro that, I challenge anybody out there to convince me to go see any movie that doesn't end in "man" this summer (Spider-Man 2, Anchorman).
Global warming changing the world in a matter of seconds? Futuristic cop Will Smith battling evil robots? Another surprise ending from the increasingly bad M. Night whatever? Kate Hudson in a movie that looks so awful it downright destroys her Almost Famous karma? Another Tom Cruise action flick? Lame, pointless remakes? Yet another Ben Stiller comedy? Wayans in drag and whiteface?
This slate of summer cinema looks like absolute worthless crap. Hollywood's wasteland off season (late winter, spring) offered much better fare with the Ladykillers, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Kill Bill vol. 2.
I guess I'll have to take solace in the Dukes of Hazzard and Northern Exposure dvds.

A zoning dispute turns zany

Every now and then a news story comes along that ranks with the most unusual things I have ever heard. Today we turn to Colorado, where an armed man in a fortified bulldozer has been going on a rampage.
What the hell?
A muffler shop owner reportedly angry at local government over a zoning dispute tore through town Friday in an armored bulldozer, smashing buildings and firing shots as police tried to stop the slow-motion rampage.

This guy sounds like an absolute nut. But apparently it's not out of the norm in small-town Colorado:
The scene was reminiscent of a 1998 rampage in Alma, another town in the Colorado Rockies. Authorities said Tom Leask shot a man to death, then used a town-owned front-end loader to heavily damage the post office, fire department, water department and town hall.

Have fun in your new home state Spills...

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Looks like a good summer

On the horizon...

Friday, Ron Sexsmith at Plush (sadly I’ll be out of town)
Sunday, Calexico and Tortise at Club Congress (sadly I’ll be out of town)
Monday, the Shins at the Rialto
June 24, the Decemberists at Plush
June 27, Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty at Solar Culture
June 28, The gourds at Plush
July 1, Reverend Horton Heat at City Limits
July 10, Mum at Solar Culture
July 23, Broken Social Scene at Club Congress
Aug. 7 the Flatlanders at City Limits
plus a handful of Greyhound Soul shows throughout