Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The ponds not totally dead

Before & After

This is what the pond looked like on the 27th of May.

This is what it looks like today 29 May.

So sad about 200 fishes gobbled by one Egret

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Ultravox - Slipaway German TV 1978

Gorgonas "Un dia en texas (paralisis cover) Live at International Mexico City Festival. Zocalo 2007

red red wine by UB40

MACBETH - Crepuscularia_Live in Guadalajara, MEXICO 2005

Ministry - No W (Live)

Viña Rock 2006 Skizoo

Jayne County "TIME MACHINE"

Visage - Fade To Gray

studio rehearsals - Coming in from the cold - Bob Marley

Cock Sparrer - Take'Em All

Seo Taiji & Boys - Pil Seung

Christian Death "Romeo's Distress"

XIII stoleti - Macbeth

Magazine - The Light Pours Out Of Me


Skinny Puppy - Smothered Hope

"Schutzengel" by Unheilig [Live, 2005]

Ziggy Marley Justice

The Vision Bleak - The Lone Night Rider Live

Revolting Cocks - TV Mind (Live sept'87)

PIL - Interview - John & Keith Vs Tom Snyder (Tomorrow Show)

PIL - Public Image

Boy Toys: No longer under the shadow of their sisters, Japan’s hosts have taken center stage

By Brett Bull
Photos by Martin Hladik

In a club on the fifth floor of a building in the Kabukicho entertainment district, four ladies are whisked from their booth to the stage. Early ’90s-era techno pumps from the sound system as no less than 20 “hosts”—young gentlemen whose sole duty is to entertain women—hit the dance floor immediately in front of them.

The boys, outfitted in upturned collars, pointy shoes, sleek suits and practically trademarked spiky hair, shift laterally, clap, spin and swing their arms in unison as the glass chandelier above reflects the house lights. The club’s owner, Yuga, sits between the girls, facing his boogieing charges, who now are taking turns singing into microphones.

Then, just as quickly as it came to life, the party freezes to allow for a cork from a Dom Perignon bottle (white) to be popped in silence. As the performers huddle around the four guests, a boisterous shout of “Kampai!” breaks the quiet. With the ladies, glasses in hand, absolutely beaming, an escalating vocal roar from the troupe signals the resumption of the pulsing music.

It’s just another evening at Club Prince.

“This is an original space,” says host Ageha, 21, who is dressed in a velvet coat, curly black bow and lip ring. “Providing a dreamlike environment, as with the champagne toast, is something special. That is the most important thing. You can’t do this at an izakaya.”

Back in the vinyl booth after the floor show has finished, the hosts sit opposite the four ladies to gently feed them compliments about their personality, dress and demeanor. Fanned out in all directions, other young women giggle as they receive similar treatment from their doting attendants.
While this might sound like pure female fantasy, the nationwide host industry is often viewed as a vulture preying upon innocent girls who wind up entrenched in debt. Also not boosting public relations are assumed ties to organized crime. Yuga, who once fronted the pop trio Kids Alive, hopes to change that perception through the release this month of the CD single “Love Dokkyun” (Heartbeat of Love) by his new band—not coincidentally named Club Prince—on pop label Avex. His desire is to take the glamour and nonstop pace of the host lifestyle around the globe.

“I want to create an image similar to that of an amusement park, like Disneyland, for the host world,” says the 22-year-old of the group’s single, which is a high-tempo dance number that starts off with a call for free-flowing alcohol. “Since music is a worldwide language, I decided to use
a song to convey this message to as many people as possible.”

Inside Club Prince, each table has a standard setup: ice bucket, mineral water, glasses, ashtray and coaster. (Hosts will also be equipped with lighters in their pockets for quick draws on unlit cigarettes.) Small circular tables are bunched in single rows to allow the customer and her male admirer to sit directly opposite one another—but never next to each other, an important point so as not to appear too aggressive. Should a lady, however, request a little closeness, curved tables pushed into corners allow for easier side-by-side seating.

Basic rules at the club, in which flower arrangements in the corners give a romantic flair, require that a host not ask a guest her occupation because she is likely there to forget work-related stress. But once she passes through the front door and onto the red carpet that splits the room, any of the 150 svelte hosts on the rolls will typically be able to deduce her means of employ quite quickly. (Two thirds of all customers are involved in some kind of sex or hostess trade, with the remainder being office ladies or company presidents.) This knowledge is critical because a good host will always need to be conscious of the perceived needs of his target so he can adjust his approach.

“There are so many different kinds of ladies coming here,” Ageha says. “It is very difficult for my character to be flexible to each type.” Deciphering which customers would prefer an over-the-top personality versus those who want subtle sweet talk is necessary. But the overall theme, no matter the lady, is that simple flattery will get you everywhere.

“Even if the customer is not good-looking,” says Yuga, who like most hosts goes by his genjina (performing name), “the host will heap praise upon her. She should be like an idol. Hosts must treat the lady like a princess.”

The video for “Love Dokkyun,” whose cover features a pyramid of filled champagne glasses, is a staple on the club’s monitors. Vocalist Yuga and the other four members (all hosts) are flanked by a multitude of curvy, hip-shaking female dancers as the word “Love” is splashed on the screen repeatedly, which is perhaps ironic in that very little about the host experience is centered on sincere emotion—much less full-blown l-o-v-e.

It is not real, admits Kanako, who at one point in her on-again-off-again hostess career visited host clubs in Kabukicho once every few months. But the hosts are so smooth that it is easy to get lost in the whirlwind.

“If I am spending a lot of time in the club with these guys in what is a virtual world, the next thing I know I am out the door and on my way home,” explains the 26-year-old. “Then the next night I am working at my club. Events go from one to the next so easily that the virtual world starts to blend with reality.”

One of her entertainers, she relates, suggested marriage, which she partially believed to be a legitimate offer only to find out later that this was simply his standard sales technique.

Yuga, however, believes that true success for a host requires more than merely a golden tongue, saying that what lies beneath that shiny suit is most important. “If your heart is poor,” he explains, clutching his chest, “you are worth nothing.”

But to keep up expectations, he adds, a stylist comes to the club to shape the manes of Club Prince’s hosts into the stringy, scarecrow-like coiffure that has become the trade’s standard.

Other essentials include the shimeisha system, whereby a customer can reserve a particular boy-toy for her private use, and the dohan, which is a dinner date. Both services have a single rationale: developing a pseudo-relationship that will keep the lady coming back to the club.

Since a host’s ranking is based on the income he brings to the club, Kanako believes, this faux bond creates an obligation for the customer to faithfully support her man.

A stroll through the crusty alleys of Kabukicho will reveal numbers assigned to host mug shots plastered outside the windows of most establishments. Club Ai, an empire of venues generally credited with being the best in all of Japan, is known for its top-ranked hosts jumping ship to start their own businesses. When Kids Alive broke up in 2003, Yuga started hosting at Raphael, a Kabukicho club where he managed to ascend to the number one spot in three months.

“If I like a particular host, I want to see his stature increase,” explains Kanako. “So I will keep buying drinks. My feeling is that it almost becomes my duty.”

It is here that things can get dangerous very quickly. The price of that bottle of Dom Perignon from the dance number? ¥80,000. Other, more select varieties are ten times that figure. Even generic white and red wines that might be priced at less than ¥1,000 at a Tokyo liquor store sell for ¥8,000.
The go-go club environment further inflates the bills, almost exponentially.

“I might see one customer at another table buy an expensive bottle,” says Kanako, who often ran up tabs of around ¥40,000 yen. “And then invariably there will be another. I don’t want to be a loser. So it is like a challenge to keep up.”

Factor in an entry fee of ¥3,000, kick in a shimeisha charge of ¥2,000, and sing a dozen tunes in the executive karaoke room (¥15,000 per hour), and it is not surprising to hear reports of nightly tallies amounting to hundreds of thousands of yen.

Of course, any customer will be matched one-for-one in drinking by her trusty sweetheart—after all, his compensation is mainly a 50 percent commission of total sales. This leads to, Yuga estimates, an average host downing a staggering 30 glasses of various booze throughout one evening of entertaining multiple customers.

Offsetting this intestinal strain somewhat are the handsome pay packets hosts receive. Though a rookie just cutting his teeth might only pocket ¥150,000 a month, it is not unusual for a veteran of as little as six months to be taking home ¥3 or ¥4 million. Likewise, top-earners will be expected to look the part, dolling out a few hundred thousand yen a month on fancy threads and accessories, perhaps fancy rings or a sparkling necklace.

While legendary in host circles as a standard perk, lavish gifts (Armani suits and Bulgari watches, for example) are not permitted at Club Prince. “This is the case because otherwise hosts will not be motivated to generate more sales at the club,” explains Yuga, who sports a ¥3.5 million gold watch that he says he purchased himself.

The profession depicted in the lyrics of “Love Dokkyun” is that of a charismatic, virile gentleman who possesses superhuman skills to drink into the wee hours. But make no mistake: these boys take their lumps. Rookies are assigned to scrub toilets—heavy drinking often necessitates forced vomiting in the bathroom in order to indulge again for subsequent patrons—and the continual promotion process necessitates that dozens of phone calls be placed and hundreds of emails be sent each afternoon to prospective or steady clients, all the while nursing a cloudy head.

Then there is sex. Even though it is not on the menu and a legal element needs to be navigated as to protocol—what’s done in private without direct payment is not the police’s business—succumbing to a request for physical favors might be a last resort in getting a customer to return.

“Once it happens, she will want it to continue,” says Yuga of the type of customer referred to in host slang as a makura (pillow). “Of course, the host will then request that she make a return visit to the club. Otherwise it won’t happen again. It is a part of the service necessary to meet the customer’s demand.”

Further complicating customer recruitment are recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government regulations that prohibit hosts from trolling the streets to snag clientele and a mandate that clubs shut their doors between 1 and 5am. (Club Prince reopens at around the latter hour to service hostesses getting off work.)

These measures were set in place following continued instances of girls accruing mind-boggling bills, for which they were forced to secure high-interest sarakin loans or—worse—pushed into fuzoku (sex service). Hostess Kanako has a friend who, in spite of not having visited a host club for over a year, is still in the hock for approximately ¥1.5 million.

Yuga does not deny these shady elements exist in the industry. But he feels it is time for a change. “We have to stop painting a picture of violence and dirty behavior,” he says.

He even will go so far as to claim that his club is in defiance of yakuza gangsters, who traditionally extort money from business operators by requiring the purchase of mundane goods like ice and towels at outrageous prices in exchange for “protection.” Yuga says quite simply: “They are not welcome.”

Today Yuga possesses a collection of a half-dozen businesses that reach as far as Hokkaido and include an Akihabara maid café. This summer will see an expansion into Kyushu. “My dream is to be tops in Kabukicho in two years,” he says of his lofty goal to surpass Club Ai.

Though he is now primarily involved in the business side of things, Yuga still can’t resist the need to serve. “If I sit here in this seat,” he says from the edge of a table opposite one of the original four women, “it is my mission, my habit, and part of my personality to make sure that each lady enjoys herself.”

Club Prince. 5F-1-2-7 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-3232-7776. Nearest stn: Shinjuku, east exit. www.club-prince.com For more info about the Club Prince music group, see http://avexnet.or.jp/clubprince/index.html.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp or discuss it in our forum.

The Primal Roots of Red Hair Revealed

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 24 May 2007 06:36 pm ET

Primatologists know humans, apes and monkeys can see red, but have quarreled over what initially locked the adaptation into place. Did it first help primates find meals, or was the ability to see a red-headed, red-skinned mate from a mile away the first benefit of full-color vision?

A new study shows that apes first evolved color vision to help them forage food, after which nature made red the sexiest color around and spiked apes’ evolutionary tree with red hair and skin. The findings are detailed in this week’s issue of the American Naturalist.

André Fernandez, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio University and co-author of the paper, explained that neuroscientists have already found animals are highly attracted to brilliant colors. “So, it is reasonable for primates with trichromatic color vision to respond more when they see bright colors” like red, he said.

To discover the true origin of red hair, Fernandez collected data on the hair and skin color, color vision and sexual habits of 203 different primate species. He then plugged the data into the primate evolutionary tree

According to the tree, or phylogeny, color vision arose first, followed by the appearance of red hair, skin and advanced mating systems.

“It looks like red skin and hair became a sexual preference,” said evolutionary biologist Molly Morris, the other study’s author. “So while the benefits in terms of eating may not apply anymore,” she said, it’s still socially—and sexually—relevant for an ape to see red.

Beyond PunkVoter "Fat" Mike Burkett built a legitimate interest in politics among apolitical punk listeners, but who'll carry that torch in 2008?

San Francisco Chronicle

Beyond PunkVoter

"Fat" Mike Burkett built a legitimate interest in politics among apolitical punk listeners, but who'll carry that torch in 2008?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Fat" Mike Burkett never was a typical political organizer. Not many Beltway types refer to themselves as "a drunk." Or rain as many f-bombs into casual conversation. Or say they never voted until 2000. Or, perhaps most galling of all, try to politically organize a constituency that not only mistrusts politicians but also mistrusts organizing.

Yet four years ago, the San Francisco resident was sitting in a 500-seat auditorium in New York City, a few seats away from the provocateur filmmaker Michael Moore and near "An Inconvenient Truth" co-producer Laurie David. Nobody was dressed like Burkett, in a powder blue suit and spiked hair.

But in that room of liberal organizers, power-brokers and opinion makers, few were more in touch with their core constituencies than the 40-year-old "Fat" Mike, who is really more of a Slightly Zaftig Mike. And few commanded as much respect in their communities.

During the previous two decades he had made a healthy living from Fat Wreck Chords, his punk rock record label that's housed in a dingy South of Market office. Burkett himself has produced 30 punk records, and his label has 40 bands under contract, including two of his own: NOFX, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

While his bands' record sales are modest compared with those of mainstream chart-toppers, he has made enough as an independent label chief to afford a home for his wife and young daughter in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood (that he requests remain unnamed). Despite most of Fat Wreck's bands getting next to zero coverage in the mainstream media and no major radio airplay, their shows cater to an intensely loyal crowd of young punk fans who pack 500- to 2,000-seat venues and festivals around the world. NOFX, which has sold 6 million records in its 24-year history, earned a gold record for 1994's "Punk in Drublic," but has never been interviewed on MTV; the network said a couple of NOFX videos were briefly in a limited rotation.

As described the band's journey on his label's Web site, www.fatwreck.com, NOFX didn't make more than $200 for a show until 1989.

But "10 records, and about 15 world tours later, we're still here, and happier now than ever," Burkett wrote. "Now we can afford the best drugs and booze, and we get comped on tons of great golf courses all over the country. We don't make videos, we don't do interviews, and we only play shows in warm months, (good golf weather)."

With that spirit, Burkett had garnered two lifetime's worth of credibility in a subculture that politicians don't just ignore, they never even consider. Punk rock fans don't vote, much less write checks to political campaigns, the feeling went, so why even try to reach out to them?

That was why Burkett was sitting in that New York auditorium. He was there representing the then newly formed PunkVoter, an attempt to get the people in his community -- punk rockers and their fans -- to pay attention and vote.

The suits in the room were certainly paying attention to him, at least visually.

"People were surprised to see me there," said Burkett, flashing a knowing grin. But few approached until Harold Ickes, the former Clinton White House aide, "came over to me and said, 'This is what we need -- people like you to get into this.' "

And so he did. PunkVoter eventually raised more than a $1 million in the 2004 election cycle. Burkett broke an eight-year vow of mainstream media silence and talked with everybody. He appeared on Howard Stern's nationally syndicated radio show and sparred with Dennis Miller on his since-canceled TV program. His band opened for some of Moore's speaking tour engagements. He attended Democratic National Committee meetings and even met the Democratic nominee himself, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

More important, he recruited more than 200 punk bands to perform in multiple Rock Against Bush tours across the country and created two Bush-bashing punk compilation CDs that sold more than 650,000 copies -- thanks to Burkett asking for original material from chart-topping bands like Green Day and other punkers he had cultivated relationships with over the years. The organization was blessed and partially funded by Andy Rappaport, the Silicon Valley mogul who has used his wealth to fund progressive and youth voter participation efforts.

At its peak, punkvoter.com was getting 15 million hits a month, and even the most dubious Washington cynic couldn't help but notice that Burkett had tapped into an audience that had never heard someone it trusted -- a fellow punk -- talk about the need to get involved in politics. Sure, punk had always been political. The Clash was railing against police brutality and U.S. foreign policy 30 years ago, and former Dead Kennedys' front man Jello Biafra is still an incendiary spoken-word artist -- 28 years after he got 3 percent of the vote when he ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979.

But few have connected punk's lyrical passion to the stodgy world of national electoral politics like Burkett.

"In 2004, "Fat" Mike played an important role not just in inspiring his fans to get involved, but in making it OK for a lot of people in his genre to speak out about politics," said Molly Moon Neitzel, president of the board of Music for America, a progressive organization that tried to connect political activism with music fans of all genres. "There's a feeling within the punk rock community that's anti-establishment and against the political system.

"What "Fat" Mike said in 2004 was that you can be anti-establishment and still be involved," Neitzel said.

Now the 2008 presidential campaign is underway, and young voters are connecting through online social networks such as Facebook and video-sharing sites such as YouTube in ways that were untested in 2004. So with all of the political capital Burkett built four years ago -- in both the punk and electoral circles -- what does he plan to do in 2008?

"I would say we're on a vacation now," Burkett said in a subterranean room at the South of Market club Slim's before a San Francisco concert earlier this year. "I want to keep PunkVoter going. Put news stories up there. I will always be politically active, but not like I was in 2002 to 2004."


"I don't really enjoy politics," he said. "I was flying across the country going to different radio stations, different DNC meetings. I met (wealthy liberal funder) George Soros. I met John Kerry. I did Dennis Miller, I did Howard Stern, I was really active. And you know, it's not fun.

"I'm a musician, I'm not used to hard work," he said and laughed.

"I think this country is going in the right direction now," Burkett said, referring to Democrats winning both houses of Congress last fall. Well, he said, it is going in a better direction than before the November election. "I mean, to some extent (it is). Democrats are not the dream party.

"I did my work. I did my job. But politics is not my career. I have a record label, a recording studio, a magazine, two bands, a daughter. And a poker and golf habit. And maybe a TV show (a reality program he's pitching based on the band's current world tour). I definitely don't need to be taking on any other responsibilities."

He says this without a hint of malice -- just fatigue.

The story of Burkett's rising and waning interest in being at the forefront of the politicization of America's punks is a personal one that has larger implications. It is illustrative of how political movements, especially youth-oriented ones, surge and ebb with the presidential cycles. Part of the challenge is keeping the momentum going in the non-presidential election years when funding sources -- and interest -- dip.

Yet before there was MySpace and Facebook, there was Burkett. He became the human hub of a social network for the politically anti-social.

Four years ago, thanks to efforts of organizations like PunkVoter and Music for America, which talked to young voters in clubs and bars and at music festivals where they hung out, the number of voters between 18 and 29 years old increased 9 percent from 2000. That's 2 1/2 times the increase in the number of people older than 30 who voted.

While candidates are reaching out to young voters through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, studies done after the 2004 campaign said that what young voters responded to most was an old-school political tool: a personal appeal.

"I really hope someone picks up where he left off," said Joseph Patel, a producer at MTV News, which covers a mix of politics and music. The network's Choose or Lose voter-education campaign has long tried to use major-label pop stars to goose young people into political participation. But Sheryl Crow isn't going to get punk rock fans or hip-hop fans to register to vote. She's too mainstream.

"With subcultures as divided as they are now, you need someone to lead these niche movements who has the trust of the people in those movements. And he (Burkett) was definitely the right person for that," Patel said.

Burkett didn't start out to be a political activist, much less a political leader. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area by his mother, he moved to San Francisco in 1985 to attend San Francisco State University. He earned his degree in social science while playing music on the side. In 1987, he began putting out early NOFX efforts. After graduating, he went to real estate school and thought about returning to Los Angeles until the market collapsed.

"I wasn't going to quit my band," Burkett said. "But being in a punk rock band in the 1980s wasn't a career option. It was a hobby. Finally, when Nirvana broke (in the early 1990s), that changed."

He started his record label in 1991. "It was an easy opportunity" is how he describes it. He had been distributing NOFX records for years, "so I knew how to do it. And we'd be on tour, and I'd see a lot of cool bands, and there weren't a lot of labels in 1991. We'd do a six- or seven-month tour and started producing bands along the way."

NOFX cultivated a reputation as a fun, good-time party band. But in the late 1990s, Burkett started getting upset by human rights violations and the power of the gun lobby and conservative fundamental religious activists. In 1999, two months after the Columbine High School shootings, NOFX recorded "The Decline," an 18-minute opus that was not only a departure from the flippant tone the band had mined for years but also a sonic marathon in the punk world of three-minute sprints.

On the back of the CD cover is written, "I pledge a grievance to the flag of the United States and to the blah blah blah." The song's lyrics address a growing cynicism Burkett wanted to turn around:

And so we go on with our lives

We know the truth but we prefer lies

Lies are simple

Lies are bliss

Why go against tradition when we can admit defeat

Live in decline

Be the victim of our own design.

What further transformed Burkett's growing rage into political activism was the disputed Florida vote count that decided the 2000 presidential election. If only every NOFX fan -- every punk fan -- in Florida had voted for Vice President Al Gore, he thought, this election wouldn't have been that close. At the age of 33, the 2000 election was the first time Burkett voted, and he knew he wasn't the only nonvoter in the punk community. Three years later, when the next presidential cycle got rolling, Burkett birthed PunkVoter.

"I just thought somebody in my music scene, the punk rock music scene, had to step up," he said. "There's too many people in rock 'n' roll bands who don't want to go out on a limb, because they'll get Dixie Chicked. You might say something and lose a lot of your audience," Burkett said.

He hired Scott Goodstein to help him navigate the completely foreign world of political organizing. The onetime musician had kicked around the Washington, D.C., music scene as a performer and promoter in his early 20s, and had spent the past several running grassroots and Congressional campaigns. Most important, he was a Burkett and NOFX fan.

"The credibility that Fat has in the punk community, people in the political community could only dream about," said Goodstein, who left Punk Voter a few months ago on good terms with Burkett to join Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign. He stressed that his comments were his own and was speaking in retrospect on PunkVoter and not on behalf of his current employer.

In hindsight, Goodstein acknowledged that there were some awkward moments in trying to blend punk ideals with those of the political world. There was the breakfast fundraising event where the host neglected to put out two chairs -- the ones assigned to Burkett and a bandmate who were patiently waiting nearby. Political insiders frequently asked Goodstein if Burkett was for real.

After the meeting of liberal players in New York, Burkett and Goodstein visited several record labels to ask for contributions to their cause. Nobody gave. (Although eventually a member of the Offspring gave $10,000.) The process made Burkett very uncomfortable, as it was contrary to punk's core ethic: DIY -- do it yourself.

"My political adviser (Goodstein), he went with me, and he said, 'This is what we do. We go out and try to raise money.' I always felt, I have money. And we're going to raise money by doing these compilations. I don't want to go begging people for money. It was always weird to me. I'm not that kind of a salesman.

"After doing that, I realized I'm not going to ask bands for money," Burkett said. "I'm going to ask bands like Green Day for a song -- which is worth a lot of money. Green Day gave me an original song. That's how bands can relate. They don't like to part with their money. Because they don't really understand why they're making so much and -- it's weird -- it's almost like not making an honest living. You work an hour and half a night and you get paid so much. Musicians don't know what to do with their money."

Once Burkett put the call out for songs and bands to tour, the offers came forward. After 20 years of touring and producing punk bands, his credibility was strong.

"He's like the godfather to a lot of bands," said Tim McIlrath, a member of the 7-year-old punk band Rise Against, which is one of the more politically outspoken. Burkett asked McIlrath to go to the 2004 Iowa caucus with three other musicians to represent PunkVoter; McIlrath had voted only once before. After meeting Kerry, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, McIlrath saw that "these guys were just human beings. They were not just some faceless Big Brother people telling us what to do."

Soon other bands jumped on the political bandwagon.

"Mike was always the goofy punk rocker, hilarious onstage, telling fart jokes and stuff," McIlrath said. "When people saw that Mike was serious about this stuff, that he was cutting into his fart joke time to talk about politics, then people got serious, too. He wasn't above anybody. He said to his audience, 'I am just like you. I was clueless about this stuff. But now I'm learning about it and it's time to get involved.' "

Some of Burkett's bandmates in NOFX, longtime apolitical types, felt re-energized.

"For a long time, even though it wasn't necessarily true, we were kind of known as a goof-around band, have a good time, yada yada yada," said drummer Eric "Smelly" Sandin. "But there was always a lot of serious business behind what Mike had to say in his lyrics. So this just kind of gave him a serious platform on the stage to talk about the f -- hypocrisy that was going on.

"I'm just the stupid drummer, and I just show up and hit things when I'm supposed to hit things, but (PunkVoter) gave me a sense of awareness that I wouldn't have had if it hadn't been for him. And it gave me a sense of purpose. I'm telling you this, it worked for me, because I never voted prior to that," Sandin said. "And I have voted in every f -- thing ever since that."

Burkett looks on, surprised at how his longtime bandmate felt. He adds, "I felt like we were doing something besides entertaining kids."

Yet he felt a backlash from other punkers. They'd ask, "Why should I listen to you? You're just a drunk." Burkett said he'd respond, "Yeah, I'm a musician. I'm a drunk. I'm a golfer. I'm a father. I'm a regular person.

"You need to listen to house painters and waitresses and people at bars and everyone who has a f -- opinion. If you leave political discussion to politicians we're all screwed," Burkett said.

The media swarmed, as it swarms over a fresh face -- fresh to them at least. Especially Burkett, who doesn't speak in over-rehearsed sound bites.

"It was perfect," Burkett said. "I hadn't done an interview in eight years, and a lot of these bigger magazines and newspapers wanted to do interviews with NOFX, and I had a reason to do interviews. I had a political agenda and it was perfect timing. S -- , I can use all of this punk rock ... what word is it ... it's a word George Bush uses ... capital ... punk rock capital."

But it was draining. The interviews, especially. Musicians aren't wired to wake up at 4:30 a.m. -- shortly after bedtime -- to do a round of morning shows on the East Coast. And a few moments of light stage banter is one thing, but talking about politics onstage is another.

"We had Jello Biafra on tour with us on the Rock Against Bush tour, and the guy definitely knows his s -- ," Burkett said. "He'd talk for a half hour between bands. One night he couldn't show up and I had to fill in for him. Whew, that was hard. I didn't have anything written. I just riffed for 15 minutes."

Thus was born Burkett's "Animal House" political analogy.

"I was kind of making comparisons between how the Bush administration was Omega House and Donald Rumsfeld was Neidermeyer," Burkett said. "Jello Biafra wouldn't take it that way. He starts telling stories about Walter Mondale and Dianne Feinstein and the audience is like, 'Who the f -- is he talking about?"

Despite Kerry losing, Burkett felt satisfied that he made a difference in his corner of the world.

"I feel it is the most important thing I did in my life. I also never tried to do anything so hard, either. I'll spend some time trying to write songs or whatever, but everything is at my speed. I really pushed myself for about a year and a half.

"I really, really made a huge effort and I'll never make that effort for anything that hard again in my life, probably.

"I feel that we made it OK to talk about politics again in the music scene. A lot of bands were doing it. Bruce Springsteen. Dixie Chicks. But our music scene, which had always been political, hadn't been in the last 10 years. Now Green Day is political. Blink 182, the most pop band ever, was stumping for John Kerry. A lot of bands were scared at first, but a lot of bands joined forces. That was the most important thing that we did. We got a few hundred punk bands to make the same stand against the Bush administration.

"We got the ball rolling and that's all I wanted to do in the first place. Organize all the bands I knew to take a stand. And now everybody is. So what's my job now? I believe I accomplished everything I set out to do."

Now he's off on a new project, one born of band members turning 40 and realizing they can't be touring punkers for the rest of their lives. So for much of the next year, the band is trying to play all the countries in the world where they can get a gig, no matter how small, no matter where. Tours in South Africa, Israel and Russia are planned.

In April they were touring Bali and Jakarta and a recent posting on NOFX's Web site said, "They totally let us into China, f -- !" A film crew is along to document the ensuing chaos -- there were two riots at the 10 shows they played in South America recently -- and the result may be pitched as either a reality show or a feature film.

The political elements Burkett includes in shows these days are through his songs. He often ends shows with "The Decline." It's much easier that way.

"It's a lot more poignant, too, when people figure out what you're saying, instead of saying it to them directly," he said. "It kind of ruins the vibe of a fun show when you're preaching at people."

He answered his critics in a 2006 song called "You're Wrong."

You're wrong about virtues of Christianity

And you're wrong if you agree with Sean Hannity

If you think that pride is about nationality, you're wrong

You're wrong when you imprison people turning tricks

And you're wrong about trickle down economics

If you think that punk rock doesn't mix with politics, you're wrong

As for politics, Burkett is confident that the seeds he planted three years ago will germinate. Burkett likes to tell the story of a 15-year-old he saw during a PunkVoter tour. The kid worked at KFC, and even though he couldn't vote, he told Burkett that he got 16 of his co-workers to vote.

If PunkVoter did its job, that teenager will be voting this year. And bringing his friends.

And at least one of the musicians involved in PunkVoter is getting ready for the presidential campaign.

"Mike took on a lot -- I don't even know if he realized what he took on," said Rise Against's McIlrath. "He got the ball rolling. But what a lot of us realized is that it doesn't take a lot to get the ball rolling. Even if he's not around to lead it, there are people around now who know what it takes.

"We just started talking about that now: What are we going to do next year?" McIlrath said. "We've got some ideas."

E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page CM - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, May 25, 2007

Interview: Brain Failure’s punk success

Interview: Brain Failure’s punk success
25 May 2007 - Tom - Link - Comments (0) - diggdigg


Xiao Rong, vocalist/guitarist of Beijing punk rock stalwarts Brain Failure (脑浊), has played punk music long enough to know what makes a great live show. For him, it's all about the communication and interaction between the band and the audience.

"You see, we're playing punk rock and punk rock is very simple and popular. It's not only about your own personality, it's about making all the young people unite together and have fun. Our band and the people listening to us are entertaining each other. That's what's important: communication by music. And we're a band that wants to communicate. We're not going to go up there and say, 'Hey, this is me and you have to watch.'"

The band, composed of vocalist/guitarist Xiao Rong, bassist Ma Jiliang, guitarist/vocalist Wang Jian and drummer Xu Lin, put on an energetic and tight show last night at Speakeasy Bar for a crowd of more than 300. The band tore through dozens of catchy, anthemic songs while sweaty local youth danced and moshed - a few even attempted to crowd surf.

Brain Failure proved itself capable of getting the audience into the act, getting nearly everyone present clapping to the beat or yelling back in call-and-response sessions. His hair dyed in leopard spots, Xiao Rong was a blur on stage as he jumped around and switched places with the equally energetic Ma. More than half way through their nearly two-hour set, he yelled to the crowd several times:

"Are you tired?"

The crowd roared back louder each time.


We talked with a soft-spoken, polite Xiao Rong prior to the show to ask him about the changing music scene in China and Brain Failure's experiences as the first Chinese punk band to tour extensively in the US.

GoKunming: Is this your first time in Kunming?

Xiao Rong: Actually, it's the second time I've been here with a band. The last time was about ten years ago. I love this city because of the weather.

GK: It's changed a lot…

Xiao Rong: Yeah. Coming here, I thought I would at least recognize Jianshe Lu and Wenlin Jie, but I couldn't even recognize it.

GK: Now you're touring in China. How long will the tour be?

Xiao Rong: This tour is happening in three rounds, each about two or three weeks. We're on the last round now. Shanghai, Nanchang, Changsha, Guiyang, Xi'an, and then we went back to Beijing for the Midi Music Festival on May first through the fourth.

GK: How has it been touring this time? Do you think the music scenes have changed in these places?

Xiao Rong: I feel many places have changed. For example, in Shanghai, now the market is getting bigger and the people are really choosing which bands they want to see. One or two years ago, it was like "Oh, there's something happening this weekend!" but now it's much more common. People are actually coming to see you, not just coming for something to do.

GK: What are some of your favorite places to play in China?

Xiao Rong: Basically all the big cities. Shanghai, Wuhan, Xi'an. With those places we can sell out the place, about 300 people per show.

GK: How did you get the opportunity to tour outside of China, especially in the US?

Xiao Rong: We got the opportunity because we were lucky. We worked hard and accepted all the opportunities that came to us. We've toured the whole U.S. about six or seven times now. We've played probably 500 shows.
We were very lucky to get to know some people. For example, the Dropkick Murphys who then produced our record and took us on tour and introduced a lot of good bands to us. [Dropkick Murphys bassist] Ken Casey likes foreign cultures and Asian culture very much and we got a lot of help from him.

GK: How did audiences receive you in the States?

Xiao Rong: Actually, it all happened step by step. We played at South By Southwest and then CMJ [CMJ Music Marathon in New York City], these kinds of music industry promotions. At the beginning, [laughs] it was like a cultural exchange, called like Asian Night. And people would come wanting to listen to "Chinese music," but we weren't really playing that kind of music. We didn't want people coming to the show because they wanted to see some Chinese people. But, as we played more local venues it went really well.

GK: Was touring in the US more challenging than touring in China?

Xiao Rong: Compared to touring in China, I think it's much easier in the States because in the States or Europe or Japan there's already an industry, so everything's pretty professional. You have a booking agent and they're making money, the promoters are making money, the clubs are making money and finally the bands are making money. So I think that's a good circle to do business.

GK: Do you think China's rock scene is going to develop in the same way?

Xiao Rong: I believe one day it's going to happen, but it's going to take a lot of people working. In China, I think it would be great if there was a bigger rock music industry. It could give a lot of young people jobs. There are many things a person could do in the music industry besides just being a musician.

GK: This February you and Big D and the Kids Table got together and released a split album called "Boston to Beijing", how did this come about?

Xiao Rong: We met them in 2005 in Boston. We played a big Halloween show with them and we've know them ever since. On the album the first six tracks are us and the last six are them. Also, Dicky Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones sings on some songs.

GK: Lastly, where are you going next?

Xiao Rong: Chengdu. We're taking trains all the way. It's a little dangerous, you're always afraid you won't get to the show on time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What are your punk memories?

What are your memories of the 70s era of rebellion and raw music?

It's 30 years since the Sex Pistols released a song proclaiming, 'God save the Queen, and her fascist regime.'

It was banned by the BBC but the record hit number two in the charts - taking a bite out of the Queen's 25-year jubilee.

Three decades on, we want to hear your memories of that time.

Were you a punk in the 70s? Did you see the Sex Pistols, the Clash or any other punk outfit? What do you remember about the era of rebellion? Send us your experiences.

You can also send us your punk pictures from the era to: yourpics@bbc.co.uk.

See right-hand side for terms and conditions.

Published: Wednesday, 23 May, 2007, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK

Jrock Revolution: Two Nights Of Cutting Edge Talent From The Japanese Rock Scene

Jrock Revolution (website), the first multi-artist music festival in North America to exclusively showcase Japanese Rock Music, will kick off with two shows at the Wiltern Friday, May 25th and Saturday May 26th. Each night will feature a different line up of bands but both shows will boast several artists that have performed and released albums in the U.S. and Europe in addition to their native Japan.

The Jrock Revolution Festival is the brainchild of Jrock superstar Yoshiki, best know for creating the landmark rock band, X Japan. The festival overall illustrates their burgeoning underground scene that is starting to flourish globally, thanks to daring artistry, a devoted fan base and 21st century communication. Jrock Revolution will also be managed by the event production company 4 Fini, Inc. that produces the Vans Warped Tour and the Rockstar Taste Of Chaos tour. 4 Fini director Kevin Lyman says, ?It?s exciting to have 4 Fini involved with Jrock Revolution. We have always tried to involve the company with cutting edge products and this is one of them.

Get tickets at LiveNation.com. Tickets also available at Ticketmaster outlets including Ritmo Latino and Wherehouse Music locations, via charge by phone: (213) 480-3232 * (714) 740-2000 * (805) 583-8700, and at ticketmaster.com. All dates, acts and ticket prices subject to change without notice, A service charge is added wit h each ticket price.

The man who saw the world

By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Geoff MacCormack gained a rare insight into life on the road with an international rock star as a backing singer and percussionist for David Bowie during the 1970s.

David Bowie and Geoff MacCormack
David Jones, as he was then, and Geoff MacCormack met at school
They were childhood friends, listening to 78rpm records together as nine-year-olds.

And during his three years with his schoolmate's band, The Spiders, life for MacCormack really was on the road - or on trains or boats - because Bowie refused to fly.

Now he has published a plush coffee-table book, a photographic record of the extended periods they spent together from 1973 to 1976.

"It was kind of a huge leap but it was like being invited to a party. The party went on for three years. Sometimes you'd go home and wash - and then go back to the party.

"Being a naive kind of person, I didn't ask what it was going to be like. I just went and did it," he says.

"They were wild times but the point of it was not just being invited to go on the road, but getting to these places by ship or whatever. That was a complete bonus."

'Devil's music'

He had come from a musical family, with a jazz-loving brother and a sister who was into pop.

I used to drive down in the Emperor Rosko roadshow truck to see David in concert
Geoff MacCormack on the early 1970s

His mother preferred classical music and could not understand the appeal of the hits of the day, he says.

"David and I listened to Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. I played that at home and my mother asked me to take it off. She actually thought it was the devil's music. But I knew better!"

After school, he and Bowie went their separate ways but continued to "slip in and out of each other's lives".

"For a while I was working for a wonderful DJ called Emperor Rosko. He thought I was a great singer, because I used to sing his jingles for him on the radio, and he wanted to manage me.

"I used to drive down in the Emperor Rosko roadshow truck to see David in concert.

'Totally surreal'

David Bowie
Young Americans was among the albums recorded during this period
"My girlfriend at the time used to take armfuls of clothes down, with ideas for the band, and so we got back together at the time of The Man Who Sold the World."

The rock star lifestyle meant he would also regularly bump into stars such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen or Elizabeth Taylor, but they were "just other people at the party, really", he insists.

"When you consider that the whole of Bowie's management staff were taken from Andy Warhol's troup of actors, it was totally surreal. Just about everything was a fantasy."

He describes Bowie as "a really fabulous guy" who has always been "great value, very funny".

I'd be photographing out of boredom. And I like the fact that some of them look a little scrappy
Geoff MacCormack on his pictures of life on the road

And touring around countries such as the United States, Japan and the USSR gave him plenty of opportunities to record their friendship with his camera, although he concedes this was done "in more of a holiday-snap way, not because I thought it was something historic".

"I'd be photographing out of boredom. And I like the fact that some of them look a little scrappy," he says of the images.

These document events as diverse as Bowie wearing only his underwear while playing to adoring fans in Tokyo, meeting Russian villagers after stepping off the Trans-Siberian Railway or the filming The Man Who Fell to Earth in New Mexico.

A chest at his mother's house held these memories for 30 years. "I'm not much of a hoarder - I'm always being told off by my wife for throwing things out - so I'm really delighted that I decided to keep those things."

Favourite song

Playing with Bowie - "a gift" which made him a "much more adventurous" young man, he says - came to an end in 1976 when the star heralded a new era with a new band.

The pair have stayed in touch, however.

David Bowie and Geoff MacCormack
Bowie wore painful "alien" eyes to film The Man Who Fell to Earth
"He would come to my house and have Sunday lunch or he would phone - he rang a few weeks ago to say how lovely the book was. I did a reading at his wedding, which was scary!"

And McCormack's favourite Bowie song?

"I really don't know - I've thought about that one. I mean, I loved Heroes, which is a wonderful track.

"But then he came out on stage last time I saw him with just [pianist] Mike Garson and he sang Life on Mars, which was a 'tingles down the back' moment."

As that song goes, McCormack's three years with Bowie seem to have been "the freakiest show" - but it's clear that he had the time of his life.

Geoff McCormack's book, Station to Station: Travels with Bowie 1973-76, is on sale now via Genesis Publications.

Fans Boycott "A Dream of Red Mansion" Remake

Related: Lin Daiyu Actress Dies

The sudden death of Chen Xiaoxu--the actress famous for her role as Lin Daiyu in the hit TV series, "A Dream of Red Mansion"--has triggered a boycott on a remake of the TV series.

Guangzhou-based New Express reports that a fan of Chen Xiaoxu, on May 19 posted a "letter to the new crew" on several websites. He asserted in the letter that it's meaningless to remake a TV series that was so successful and can never be outweighed.

Within a few days, the letter has already received some 400 feedbacks, 95 percent of which voiced support to the claim. In the supporters' eyes, Chen's vivid portrayal of Lin Daiyu, or Sister Lin, has become a classical image that no other actor can come close to. Especially not those women vying for the opportunity in a recent competition.

Beijing Television Station launched a contest last summer to find actors for the three leading roles in the remake of the TV series, including the role of Lin Daiyu. Pretty girls from across the country competed with each other for the precious opportunity. Up to now, three lucky girls have outshined all other candidates, and are waiting for the final selection.

However, even the director of the new version found it hard to say "yes" to any one of the three young beauties. Hu Mei, director in chief of the remake, said the ideal actress for Sister Lin has not appeared.

Zhou Ling, the screenwriter for the old version and head of the organizing committee for the competition, agreed that it's a tough mission to choose the actress for the heroine even though the candidates are no less beautiful than those in the old version.

Zhang Qiang, who is in charge of the competition, said the final cast announcement is scheduled for June 3bod.

Tracks suggest dinos could swim

Tracks suggest dinos could swim
Sets of scratch marks from the theropod swimming trackway
The shape of the scratch marks suggested the beast was swimming
Ancient footprints have provided compelling evidence that some dinosaurs were able to swim, scientists report.

The 15m (50ft) trackway that reveals one animal's underwater odyssey was discovered in the Cameros Basin in Spain, once a vast lake.

The S-shaped prints suggest the beast clawed at sediment on the lake floor as it swam in about 3m (10ft) of water.

The marks are about 125 million years old, dating to the Early Cretaceous, the team writes in the journal Geology.

They were left by a large, bipedal, carnivorous dinosaur.

"We came across them about three or four years ago," explained Dr Loic Costeur, a palaeontologist at the University of Nantes, France, and a co-author of the paper.

"The Cameros Basin has thousands of walking footprints from diverse dinosaur fauna, but when we saw these it was obvious straightaway that this was a swimming dinosaur."

Immediately obvious

The underwater trackway, which is well-preserved in sandstone, is made up of 12 consecutive prints each consisting of two to three scratch marks.

"The footprints are really peculiar in their shape and morphology - they are not at all like walking footprints," Dr Costeur told the BBC News website.

"In walking footprints, you can recognise the shape of the foot; but here it is not at all the case: it is sets of grooves on the sediment surface.

Sketch of a swimming theropod dinosaur (Guillaume Suan, University Lyon)
The marks were made about 125 million years ago

"You get the idea that the animals' body was supported by water as it was scratching the sediment."

Ripple marks around the track suggested the dinosaur was swimming against a current, attempting to keep a straight path, the team said.

Further investigation of the well-preserved track revealed more about the beast's swimming style.

"The dinosaur swam with alternating movements of the two hind limbs: a pelvic paddle swimming motion," said Dr Costeur.

"It is a swimming style of amplified walking with movements similar to those used by modern bipeds, including aquatic birds."

For many years, the question of whether dinosaurs were able to swim remained unanswered.

Investigations into dinosaur anatomy and ecology suggested it was possible, but very little hard evidence existed documenting this behaviour.

But Dr Costeur described the find as "extremely exciting" and said it provided the first compelling evidence that dinosaurs were able to swim.

"The trackway at La Virgen del Campo opens the door to several new areas of research," said Costeur.

"New biomechanical modelling will increase our understanding of dinosaur physiology and physical capabilities, as well as our view of the ecological niches in which they lived."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Stalin - Dekiai (Live 2001)

Bullied girl alone no more

Bullied girl alone no more

She finds comfort in letters from hundreds of strangers, a campaign begun by Mill Valley sisters

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sitting in her living room amid stacks of handwritten letters from all over the nation and the world, 14-year-old Olivia Gardner of Novato said she no longer feels alone.

A victim of extreme bullying that spanned two years and three schools, Olivia said she has been pulled from the depths of depression by a letter-writing campaign started by two sisters at Tamalpais High in Marin County after they read in The Chronicle in March about Olivia's ordeal.

At least 1,000 strangers have sent her letters and e-mails of support, and there's talk of a book deal, Web sites and letter campaigns for other children who are bullied, and the three girls have received countless interview requests.

Whether Olivia likes it or not, she helped bring attention to the widespread and tenacious problem of bullying in school hallways, on cell phones and in cyberspace.

"I like all the support, but I don't like all the attention and that people recognize me as a victim," said Olivia, who dyed her brown hair darker and streaked it with blond as a sort of disguise.

Olivia has rarely left home during the past year, and her mother is homeschooling her. Still, her mother, Kathleen Gardner, said Olivia has made amazing progress in the last few weeks and is accepting some requests to speak to students. On Tuesday, she and the two sisters talked with fifth-grade girls in San Rafael at a program called Midway Cafe, which prepares them for the social rigors of middle school and the effects of bullying. She also is getting excited about starting high school next year -- outside Novato.

Sisters Emily, 17, and Sarah Buder, 14, of Mill Valley are stunned by the response to their effort to ask fellow high school students write to Olivia so she would feel better and know she is not alone in being bullied.

"I felt what was happening to her was so horrible, and she didn't deserve to be treated this way, even though I had never met her," Sarah said.

As word spread through the media and internet, letters flooded in from far beyond the Bay Area.

"I was expecting an immediate response just from the community around me," Emily said. "But then it was so incredible to see letters from Oregon, Australia and all these places."

Children sent drawings of hearts or stick figures of themselves holding hands with Olivia. They also wrote:

"Dear Olivia, I think you are very brave ..."

"Dear Olivia, Don't let the bullies get inside your head ..."

"Dear Olivia, It goes to show that for every bully that puts us down, there are a hundred loving people to pick us up ..."

Adults wrote of their own past pain:

"Dear Olivia, I'm 60 years old and have lived in Marin County my whole life. When I was in the 5th grade I arrived at school and found a note in my desk signed by every girl in my class, except for my 2 closest friends, saying the most horrible things about me. ... Olivia, I hope it helps to know that others are thinking about you and have been through what you went through. Stay strong."

Rochelle Sides of Texas wrote of her daughter, Corinne Wilson, who fatally shot herself in the forehead one day after school when she was 13. It was the culmination of nearly a year of bullying by two girls who once were her best friends, Sides said in an interview.

"Every day they told her she was ugly and fat and couldn't sing and her hair was frizzy," said Sides, now active in anti-bully campaigns such as Bully Police U.S.A. Then, Sides said, the girls started telling Corinne she should just die. Corinne wrote about her problems in her English class journal but never spoke about them with her parents. Corinne must have felt terribly alone, her mother said.

"In talking to victims and reading surveys, the overriding theme is they feel alone," Sides said. "We as adults can say you are beautiful, the bullies are wrong. But it really doesn't hold a lot of weight in this peer group. So a lot of positive feedback from their peers could be just the thing to save their lives."

Patti Agatston, an author and counselor who specializes in bully prevention for the Cobb County School District in Atlanta, also wrote a letter to Olivia and hopes to launch an "Olivia's Letters" link on her Web site, www.cyberbullyhelp.com. The idea is to gather the names of bully victims who could use some support and launch students on letter-writing campaigns.

"We've been talking about how important it is for students and bystanders to do something positive to help victims of bullying. Olivia's letters are a great example," Agatston said.

The Buders and Olivia also are talking about finding someone to publish a book mixing excerpts from the letters with advice from teachers, parents and bully experts.

Nationwide, more than 4 in 10 teens have been victims of taunts and threats via social network Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, instant messages and text messages from cell phones, according to a survey by the National Crime Prevention Council. One in 8 reported feeling scared enough to stay home from school, according to the survey. In the Bay Area, teens in Danville and San Francisco, as well as Novato, have been involved in publicized cases.

In Olivia's case, even persistent attention to the problem by her mother didn't resolve it. Her bullying started in sixth grade when Olivia, who has epilepsy, had a seizure and classmates called her "retard" and dragged her backpack through mud. Then came an "Olivia Haters" Web page. After she switched schools, kids there heard about how her old classmates had treated her and started in again, Kathleen Gardner said.

She was happy for about a year at a third middle school, but then the mother and daughter were called on to help a classmate who said her parents abused her. During the Child Protective Services investigation, word got out that the Gardners were involved, and tables turned on them. The girl allegedly changed her story and told classmates that Olivia had tried to break up her family. Rumors spread again, and Olivia was bombarded with calls and e-mails. Students started wearing plastic bracelets declaring their hatred for Olivia, Kathleen Gardner said.

Officials at Olivia's past schools have declined to comment on the Gardners' story.

"Olivia was really isolated," Gardner said. "She spiraled down further and further until I felt I lost my daughter."

Olivia's scars aren't physical. But she rarely looks up while she speaks, preferring to fiddle with her hands or a silver heart necklace sent recently by an anonymous supporter. From behind a curtain of her hair, she answers questions about her interests -- guitar, keyboards, karate and drama. She wants to be an actress when she grows up.

The letters help her believe she might reach her goals some day.

"It makes me feel I have support," she said. "I just wish it was from someone I knew."

The story so far

Olivia switched schools twice before her mother resorted to homeschooling her to stop other kids from bullying her in person and online, her mother said. It all started when Olivia, who is epileptic, had a seizure one day in sixth grade, and several classmates called her "retard" and dragged her backpack through mud. It escalated online with a page on MySpace, continued at her second school, and resumed at the third when mother and daughter helped state investigators look into child abuse allegations in a family they knew, Kathleen Gardner said.

-- You can mail encouraging letters to

Olivia's Letters, c/o Janet Buder,

775 East Blithedale Ave. #106, Mill Valley, CA 94941 or e-mail janetbuder@aol.com.

E-mail Ilene Lelchuk at ilelchuk@sfchronicle.com.


This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Fishbone isn't what it used to be

Fishbone isn't what it used to be

Chris Lee
Los Angeles Times
May. 23, 2007 12:00 AM
LOS ANGELES - It was late on a recent Tuesday night in a remote precinct of downtown Los Angeles. Angelo Moore, flamboyant frontman for the pioneering punk-ska-metal band Fishbone, had jumped and wailed his way through a hyperkinetic 75-minute set for a small, lethargic crowd. The singer, a native Angeleno, paused for a moment outside a small venue called E. 3rd, shivering and shirtless and drenched in sweat. Running a hand along a tattoo that traverses his shaven head like a Mohawk, Moore contemplated what it meant to be home.

"I've been feeling kind of displaced," he said quietly. "From Los Angeles, but also from America as a whole."

But there were deeper issues.

"America hasn't been (anything) for a while and hasn't helped out Fishbone," Moore said. "I've given up on America - and Los Angeles."

The bitterness in his voice was unmistakable but also shocking. L.A. bashing might be the last thing anyone expects from the leader of a group that ranks among the most influential bands the city has produced in the past 25 years. Even if the group is a bigger deal in the Eastern and Southern hemispheres than in Southern California.

Along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction, the six members of Fishbone were crown princes of Angeleno "alternative music" in the mid-'80s to early '90s and also among its few Black scene makers. But only two original bandmates - Moore and bassist-vocalist John Norwood Fisher - remain, having withstood decades of infighting and relentless touring, many lineup changes and commercial misfires.

For that persistence, Fishbone has become a sentimental favorite of rock cognoscenti and re-entered the cultural landscape on a number of fronts.

Last year, the group was featured as the house band in Idlewild, a period musical starring the hip-hop duo OutKast, whose members are longtime fans as it turns out. Fishbone wrote and performed the soundtrack for David Arquette's directorial debut, The Tripper, which hit theaters last month. And Still Stuck in Your Throat, the group's first new studio album in six years and eighth overall, came out in the U.S. in April.

Now headlining a U.S. club tour, Fishbone is scheduled to perform on the Warped Tour this summer, unofficially serving as the traveling rock fest's elder statesmen along with punk band Bad Religion.

Moore's post-show blues might have been exacerbated by the seven-piece band's breakneck touring schedule. Leading up to the downtown gig - a poorly publicized release party for Still Stuck in Your Throat co-hosted by My Name Is Earl star Jason Lee - Fishbone had clocked tens of thousands of miles performing at music festivals in the former Soviet bloc, club dates across Canada and in Australia, where members of the group caught up with two of their oldest musical pals: Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Chili Peppers.

"My head is spinning," said Moore, who still lives in the Los Angeles area. "It ain't been on straight, and I'm leaving again tomorrow."

Although Fishbone's most successful album, 1991's The Reality of My Surroundings, peaked at No. 49 in Billboard, the band's fusion punk-funk and Madball energy created the template on which other bands forged their sound, in many cases to the tune of platinum sales.

Among those who owe Fishbone a sonic debt: No Doubt, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish (all, incidentally, have opened for Fishbone in the past), 311, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake and Sublime.

Fisher, stoic behind a pair of white wraparound sunglasses and with a giant dreadlock bursting from his backward baseball cap, recalled the group's early days, in the mid-'70s, when the band members bonded over Parliament/Funkadelic and Bad Brains.

"We were messing around with some reggae rhythms, and out of our youthful experimentation, we played it as fast as we could get," Fisher said. "Then we stopped and went, 'We invented something new! Punk-rock reggae!' "

From the early '80s onward, the band's sound became vital within action-sports culture. Actor Lee, 36, co-owns Stereo Skateboards and made his living as a pro skater before acting. He unveiled a signature Fishbone skateboard at the event.

"This was just a huge band in terms of being a part of our culture - skateboarding," Lee said before the band's performance. "We used to carry a little boom box around and play music while skateboarding. For me, it was always Fishbone."

Not so, apparently, for some aloof hipsters at the disorganized E. 3rd performance. Onstage, Moore chided the audience for its listlessness - "Wake yo (selves) up, you knuckle cluckers!" - and at one point he went into the crowd to physically facilitate more moshing and skanking. They wanted to hear the group's hits, it seemed, but there would be none.

Can this group be Fishbone with two-thirds of its original members gone? (Hint: The new album isn't called Still Stuck in Your Throat for nothing.)

"At this point, it's still Fishbone, because Angelo and me can still access that original energy," Fisher said. "We got a band of hard-riding brothers that seem to love what it means to be in Fishbone."

Smiling, he added: "I'm still having fun. I'm riding the horse all the way to the glue factory, daddy-o!"


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Snake Cults Dominated Early Arabia

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Dan Potts

"Hostile Spirit"
This photo shows a closeup of a 3rd century A.D. relief from Iran. The "hostile spirit" Ahriman is depicted as having a crown in the shape of a snake.

May 17, 2007 — Pre-Islamic Middle Eastern regions were home to mysterious snake cults, according to two papers published in this month's Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy journal.

From at least 1250 B.C. until around 550 A.D., residents of what is now the Persian Gulf worshipped snakes in elaborate temple complexes that appear to have been built for this purpose, the studies reveal.

The first paper, by archaeologist Dan Potts of the University of Sydney, describes architecture and relics dating to 500 B.C. from Qalat al-Bahrain in Bahrain.

Two rooms in what is now known as the Late Dilmun Palace each contain 39 pits, some of which surround what appears to have been an altar. At least 32 of the pits housed ceramic vessels containing bones from rat snakes and sea snakes.

The remains showed no signs of mutilation.

"They were in cloth bags, now badly decomposed, and that might suggest that they had been buried alive, i.e. put into a bag, placed in a bowl, and then buried in the ground," Potts told Discovery News.

Some bowls found at the site have been identified as "wine-drinking" cups. Potts, however, does not necessarily think that wine consumption accompanied the snake rituals, which he speculates were meant to confer protection and good luck.

He described pottery decorated with snakes, snake artwork and even ancient oral traditions, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, which originated at early Arabic sites and paid homage to snakes.

In the second paper, archaeologist Anne Benoist of the Eastern Archaeology Laboratory at the National Center for Scientific Research in France describes yet another Iron Age temple complex linked to snake cults.

Excavation of the site, at Al Bithnah in the United Arab Emirates, revealed both indoor and open-air altars, chapel-like structures, incense burners, man-made pools of water and numerous vessels and objects decorated with snakes.

Most of the snakes were depicted with triangular heads and scales, which Benoist said suggests "a viper species, which is striking, as they are venomous and therefore dangerous."

Benoist said early Middle Eastern traditions held that snake venom was viewed as "a source of power over life." Snakes are prevalent in Persian Gulf regions.

She pointed out that the association of snakes with power over life even carried over into the Old Testament. One passage describes Moses placing a bronze snake on a pole so that anyone who had been bitten by a snake would be healed upon seeing it.

The seasonal shedding of skin linked the reptile to cycles of death and rebirth, so snakes were probably also connected to fertility.

Potts thinks snake worship originated in India and spread throughout the Middle East. There is evidence for extensive trade and travel between the two areas.

As for the fate of snake cults, Benoist said later religions likely deemed them "superstitious," causing followers to practice snake veneration in secret. Eventually, she said, the cults were "overtaken by the official monotheist religion."

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