Letters for January 13

Readers sound off on our best albums of the decade, the local music industry, and coffee's third wave.

“Surfing Coffee’s ‘Third Wave,'” News, 12/16

Don’t Forget Me

Great to see an article about the rise in coffee quality in the East Bay. It really is coming of age over here. I enjoyed your article.Would like to point out that a couple locations were omitted that could have been easily featured: Farley’s East (my shop) and Modern Coffee in the Tribune building. Just thought I would let you know about a couple others out there.

Thanks again for the story.

Chris Hillyard, Farley’s East, 33 Grand Ave, Oakland

“Top Ten Bay Area Albums of the Decade,” Music, 12/30

Where’s Benfield?

I read with great interest your Bay Area Albums of the Decade article. Yikes! I realize how subjective this is, but I can not imagine such a list without Garrin Benfield being included. I urge you to listen/re-listen to Benfield’s four albums to realize what a musical gem the man is. Now I guess I must put myself on the spot and suggest one for the list. I am most partial to his live CD, August Live ’03, but if a studio album must be chosen I guess I would go with Nowhere Is Brighter. But choosing either of these two omits his tribute to Matthew Shepard, “What You’re Hiding,” one of the most important human rights songs of any decade. The Bay Area is blessed to have such a dilemma of riches.

David Joseph, Berkeley

“More Bands Are Chasing Fewer Bucks,” Year in Review, 12/23

Who Controls the Local Music Scene

I am simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed at Downs’ article, because while it brings up some very important subjects, it also nearly completely misses the larger landscape of what is now going on in Bay Area arts and music, and how things came to be that way. And what it means for the future of Bay Area music for everyone.

Note: We deserve all this for sleeping through one of the biggest corporate takeovers in musical history. The Bay Area music scene is under financial, political, and religious attack, mostly from out of state, and we never saw it coming because we’re so dammed self-centered and un-unified. It is a lesson that hopefully will be learned.

Facts 1: The Fillmore, the Warfield, Guitar Center and all the local venues large enough to break an act regionally, all the radio stations that in better days would have played their music and promoted their gigs, all these business are now solidly in the hands of three or four men, all billionaires, and those men all happen to be far-right, Christian fundamentalists, who lobby against gay rights and have no love for liberals ideas, or free speech. This is all a matter of record.

The players involved and their holdings here in the Bay Area, and abroad are as follows.

Lowry and Mark Mays, (retired and present CEOs of Clear Channel Communications). The Mays are Texas Republican conservative powerhouses, heavy contributors to the past several Bush family political campaigns, and in 2006 they sold Clear Channel to Bain Capital and accepted a $18.7 billion takeover bid, but stayed on as CEOs and company executives while they spun off “Live Nation,” presumably to avoid some of the numerous antitrust suits against them.

The man they sold it to was Mitt Romney, of Bain Capital, which owns Live Nation, which in turn owns the Fillmore. In 2004, before his presidential bid, Romney stated on Chris Mather’s “Hardball” television show: “I don’t want civil unions or gay marriages.” Later, he was instrumental in setting up hundreds of “pride” “gay-oriented” radio shows on Clear Channel networks, and, also, he was a keynote speaker at the Council for National Policy’s Private four-day get together in September of 2007.

And, finally, Philip Anschutz (of Goldenvoice, which own the Warfield as well as Coachella), who is a longstanding member of the “Council for National Policy.” The Council for National Policy is a notoriously secretive right-wing think tank, with designs on governmental policy, schools, media, and gay rights issues, and the majority of their known members strongly support and underwrite Prop 8. More interesting are Anschutz’s (who now owns the SF Examiner) religious affiliations. He founded “The Discovery Institute,” an umbrella organization with strong ties to what is called the “Christian Reconstructionist Movement,” which was founded by R.J. Rushdoony after he authored “Institutes of Biblical Law.”

I suggest you see this link to get a better picture. Mapper.nndb.com/start/?map=1789

Christian Reconstructionism is a set of beliefs that include a theocracy in which dissenters, adulterers, sexually active homosexuals, some sexually active bisexuals, witches, sorcerers, and other undesirables would be exterminated.

While their motives here are more than just religious, since music is still a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States, the overtones are ominous, since they also have succeeded in crushing the local music scene. And some of our own helped them do it.

The companies of which I speak have colonized Bay Area music, completely blockaded local acts from getting radio play, blackballed people like the Dixie Chicks for being politically outspoken, jacked up ticket prices so high that locals can’t even see Les Claypool on New Year’s Eve, ($60 a ticket), and recently purchased the Guitar Center, all while flooding the airwaves and venues with garbage pre-fab pop, “bling rap” (does a disservice to even use the name hip-hop in the same sentence), “new country” (it is neither), and also sneaking in their “soft” Christian acts like the Jonas Brothers.

Yes. The fact that it is hard to make a living here musically is absolutely impacted by these things. Can’t get a larger gig to make a little more money and sell merch unless you are part of one of Live Nation’s 360 deals, or already signed to a major label that has an agreement with them, you can’t publicize your gig, or get your music played on radio, because their parent company Clear Channel owns all the popular “local” radio stations, and even if you just want to go to a concert these days, tickets are too high for most people to go to see bands they like at these venues.But they even did us one better: Now you can’t even go and buy a guitar to sing some rebel music without putting money directly in the pocket of some of music’s historically ideological and political arch enemies.I said it.

Far-right, fundamentalist billionaire Christians now own the majority of the Bay Area’s mainstream music industry, and they’re not stopping there.

Conservative elements, some of them overtly Christian in California Alcohol Control, are trying desperately to close down dozens of smaller venues where music has always had a chance, places I grew up around, and played in, like Cafe Du Nord, Slim’s , DNA Lounge, Great American Music Hall, Glass Kat, and Bottom of the Hill.

If you support the Fillmore, the Warfield, Guitar Center, KMEL, or anyone of the other dozens of radio stations Clear Channel owns here, you are putting money in the pockets of the Christian right.

In fact, why even bother going to the Fillmore, or Guitar Center?

Why not just send your money directly to the “Council for National Policy,” the secretive right-wing think tank that some of the men I mentioned are members of? Or just send it in to “Supporters of Prop 8 in California”? You’re doing the same thing each and every time you support any of these businesses corporations, by buying a ticket to the Warfield or a guitar amp from GC.

So, when your participation in a concert at the Fillmore or Warfield makes money for your enemies, or pours more cash into the coffers of Prop. 8, don’t complain as they grow fatter while local music dies. The fact that they even OWN the Fillmore in the first place is insane, really. I can’t even begin to draw a parallel except to say it would be like the KKK purchasing the ACLU. Seriously.

Solution: Boycott them all. Every one of them. All Clear Channel stations, Goldenvoice venues like the Warfield and Coachella, boycott mainstream radio like KMEL and ALICE, boycott Guitar Center, and also hold bands and artists accountable for who they work for and who they make money for. Meanwhile, go indie. Do your own gigs and your own promo, and take no prisoners.

There is something happening here that people need to wake up and see. We are under attack. Period

And before you make up your mind on this issue, I ask that you, the people, do some research.

I use the following search tools and relationship mappers.

1:  www.muckety.com

2: http://mapper.nndb.com/

3: http://www.viswiki.com/en/

4: www.Wikipedia.com

I think this is a wonderful time for anyone involved in the music industry, especially here in the Bay Area, to take a step back, take it all in, and see the big picture.

Piero Amadeo Infante, Berkeley


It’s a Big Deal

On February 2nd, 2010, I’m voting against Measure B, and I urge you to join me.

First, Measure B violates California state law. The reports and plans offered as the basis for Measure B aren’t signed by an engineer of any kind, licensed or unlicensed. We simply don’t know who performed the conceptual engineering nor who wrote the measure. SunCal’s Pat Kehiler claims the law requires an engineer to sign only the final engineering plans for construction bid documents, but that’s plain wrong. Mr. Kehiler should go back and read Section 6735 of the California Business and Professions Code, which clearly states: “All civil…engineering plans, calculations, specifications, and reports…shall be prepared by, or under the responsible charge of, a registered civil engineer and shall include his or her name and license number.”

This may seem unimportant, but it’s not. Measure B includes engineering concepts and plans for sewer systems, roadways and other infrastructure features. These plans delineate very specific widths and locations for pipes, and pumping stations concepts; road and ferry system concepts; right-of-way widths; and street widths. These types of specifications are crucial to environmentally sound sewage processing and safe efficient traffic flow.

Getting the details of these types of designs wrong could have catastrophic consequences for Alamedans. If the infrastructure for Measure B is not designed by an experienced, licensed civil engineer, nightmarish traffic congestion, increased roadway hazards, sewage overflows and the like could result. So when SunCal’s representatives try to tell you it’s “no big deal,” don’t believe them.

The Legislature’s original intent in passing the above Business and Professions statute was to ensure all parties investing in an engineering and construction project — banks, for instance — have solid, dependable data by which to base a realistic risk assessment. Alameda taxpayers, whose money could ultimately fund Measure B, deserve no less.

What we do know about Measure B is the engineering reports and other exhibits of almost 300 pages are voluminous and incomprehensible to a layperson. Even I, with 33 years’ experience as a licensed civil engineer, had difficulty deciphering them and am not an attorney to understand all the legalese components of the one side non negotiable Development Agreement. Clearly, the Measure contains major flaws. Just a quick check reveals designs a licensed civil engineer would never propose, such as key roadways that are too narrow so that trucks do not fit and don’t meet city design standards and no civil engineer would propose a ferry terminal without including the costs for cleaning and preparing the Seaplane lagoon for ferry service.

The major omissions in Measure B result in its unrealistic financial projections. Independent analysis by City Staff indicates the cost estimates for the eight public benefit projects are grossly understated: the cost is likely $375 million not the $200 million stated in the Measure. Where will the shortfall come from?

Furthermore, the cost of the public benefit projects including roads, ferry terminal, transit and offsite roadway improvements plus library etc. in Measure B is CAPPED at $200 million, and that’s 2009 dollars, with no consideration of inflation. Because Measure B allows the developer to build the projects until the year 2025 or even later, the purchasing power of that $200 million will decline over the next fifteen years to an estimated $138 million.

There is simply too much we don’t know about Measure B for voters to make an educated decision. It would be foolhardy to approve a vast, multimillion-dollar development with the potential to greatly impact the traffic and quality of life on Alameda Island without knowing its design is sound and its cost projections realistic. Alamedans should vote no” on Measure B.

Eugenie Thomson is a former board member of the State of California’s Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Eugenie P. Thomson, Alameda


Newsletter sign-up

eLert sign-up

clear sky
52.4 ° F
56 °
48 °
75 %
0 %
55 °
55 °
53 °
53 °
54 °