Neutron Voting Guide – November 2014

Well now! The time has come, the time has come once again to choose mostly between diminished expectations and hard choices and impending evil. It must be… yup… Election season. Time to lock myself in the office with a healthy dose of righteous indignation and drop some science.

So let’s get right down to it boppers. Please remember, that I know that of which I speak… but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good decision.

Cliff’s notes, then the full deal:

Oakland Mayor –  first because it is most important: It’s ranked choice so in this order:

1) Kaplan

2) Seigel

3) Schaaf

NOT QUAN!!

Oakland, District 2:

1) Abel Guillen

2) Nonsense

3) Not Dana King

City Auditor:

1) Len Raphael

2) Nonsense

3) Brenda Roberts

STATE 

Governor – Jerry Brown

Lt. Governor – Gavin Newsom

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla

Controller - Betty Yee

Treasurer - John Chiang

Attorney General - Kamala Harris

Insurance Commissioner - Dave Jones

Superintendent of Public Instruction - Tom Torlakson

Board of Equalization, District 2, -LEAVE IT BLANK!

13th Congressional district – Barbara Lee

18th Assembly District – None!

 Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, 1st Appellate district, Division 1 – Jim Humes

 Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal 1st Appellate District, Division 2 - J. Anthony Kline

1st Appellate district, Division 3 - Stuart Pollak

 County Superintendent of Schools – Helen Foster

 Proposition 1 - Water Bond – YES

Proposition 2 - stabilize the budget – YES

Proposition 45 – Health care insurance cost control – YES

Proposition 46 – Drug Test Doctors  – NO

Proposition 47 – Reform sentencing – YES

Proposition 48 – Indian Gaming – YES

-

Measure J in SF – Minimum Wage Hike – YES, YES, YES!

Measure D in Berkeley – Soda Tax – YES

 

 Governor – Jerry Brown

I was having this conversation with a conservative coworker the other day, I said something along the lines of: “If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would not only be endorsing Jerry Brown for Governor, but ENTHUSIASTICALLY doing so, I would call you a liar.”. But here I am, doing it again.

He’s good. He’s really, really good. He’s not the best, but he is good. Prisons and fraking he ain’t right on, but man does the guy get disaster leadership.

It’s jarring since we’ve been run by noodniks, maniacs and incompetents for years.. What is there to say? The guy proved me wrong. I like being proven wrong when I’m being cynical.

 

Neel Kashkari is a jackass

Lt. Governor – Gavin Newsom

I’m much more leery of the Smiler. But the man can speak, oh yes… oh yes. He’s also right on drug policy reform, despite being a Richie Rich. History has proven the bro VERY correct on gay marriage and good on him for it. He is a very handsome “waiting in the wings” dude.  Not my favorite guy, but he’s ok.

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla

I advocated for Cressman in the primary, because the dude was into electoral reform. But I’ve got nothing against Padilla. He’s just fine. He’s for the voting rights act, and will be good in the role. And if I can’t have Debra Bowen again, I guess he’ll do.

Controller, Betty Yee

She turned down contributions from tobacco and fought for equity between same sex couples. The controller watches the money. You could do much, much worse. I full expect her opponent Ashley to get some misguided votes because her last name is Swearengin, like one of the best characters in TV, the dude from Deadwood. Trust me you aren’t voting for Al Swearengin.

Treasurer, John Chiang

He was a good controller, he’ll be a good treasurer. Dude is good on fiscal stability.

Attorney General, Kamala Harris

An attorney general who is against the Death Penalty. Yes! Still pisses me off she has taken little action against the Federal stomping on the Marijuana trade, but she is a dece AG. I wish she would take a stronger stance against the death penalty and for legalization of the weed. But, she has her eyes on bigger things. That’s fine. She’ll be good at that too.

Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones

Smart dude, was on Uber and Lyft and others before most were. Solid progressive who has good sense about the ACA.

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson

Yeah, Torlakson is good. He’s a former teacher. Always nice to have somebody that has been in the role in the big boss job.

Board of Equalization, District 2, -LEAVE IT BLANK!

Fiona Ma sucks. Flat out, not explanation needed.

Leave this blank or write in Mickey Mouse or something. Do you really want some dope trying to ban raves in this office you barely understand?

No! you do not.

She sucks, her opponent sucks. Top 2 screwed us here… leave it blank.

13th Congressional district – Barbara Lee

One of my favorite congress people in the whole wide delegation. We are damn lucky.

18th Assembly District – None!

I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know a damn thing about this Rob Bonta character. At least what he’s done in his current role. I’m sure he’s managed to collect his salary. I forget who I advocated for when he ran. This dude is my assemblyman though… and I barely know he is, and I pay attention to this stuff.

Ugh, the assembly can be important. Why do we have a dude in there who I immediately forget exists when I’m done typing about him? All I know about his opponent is that he’s an electrician that likes dams, and he knows he is doomed to lose. Great.  Democracy in action. Vote for this dude or don’t… I don’t know. I can’t advocate either way.

I’m going to be honest with you, I’d rather give myself a good, hard punch in the dick than go through all of the data that you have to do to speak authoritatively about these damn judges. It’s what keeps this thing from coming out in early October…

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court – Mariano-Florentino Cuellar

Dude just got appointed in August, who knows what he’s going to be up to… but let’s see..

Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, 1st Appellate district, Division 1 - Jim Humes

First openly gay justice on the California court of appeals. Do I need to say more?

I’m not super into identity politics or anything, but yeah…

Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal – 1st Appellate District, Division 2 –  J. Anthony Kline

1st Appellate district, Division 3 – Stuart Pollak

1st Appellate district, Division 4

just one dude running unopposed, so…. No vote. G

 1st Appellate district, Division 5

no endorsement.

County Superintendent of Schools – Helen Foster

Either of them are fine. Man, these are the worst to write about… you do the research and you really can’t find yourself giving a damn much way or the other.

Perlata Community College District Trustee, Area 5

I couldn’t give a damn about this if I tried… and I did.

I left it blank. Both are pretty wordy. Beats me.

Oakland Mayor – It’s ranked choice so in this order:

Kaplan

Seigel

Schaaf

Flat out: Rebecca Kaplan is the best, brightest and most vibrant politician that this city has seen. She’s whip smart, a huge advocate for smart growth and a transit activist.  I believed in her enough to work for her campaign last time, and that belief has NOT changed at all. A whole bunch of things that Quan was given credit for were indeed great ideas. And I liked them better when they came from Kaplan. Point of fact: she’s an smart, pragmatic politician who can build coalitions. She’s also into hiring locally for the Police, which is super smart and is zeroed in on unemployment. Also very smart.

It breaks my heart to admit it, but it has not been a very good campaign this time. She’s somehow been defined by concern trolls and the line of attack seems to be that she’s lazy? Insanity. Absolute insanity.  The trash talk all offered by political enemies are all being repeated as truth? Uh. Ok.

Allegations that she doesn’t get anything done is completely absurd. Again: point to some of the better things Quan has done and you can trace them back to Kaplan. While you cannot trace the idoicy (like police layoffs).

Look: Oakland you got it wrong last time, because we were all worried about Don Perata. Let’s not dick this up again. I hate to use: “trust me” as a justification…. But you really should just trust me on this.

Dan Seigel:

He’s a fine progressive, a civil rights attorney who has fought for poor people in the face of massive tech displacement and has a long track record of social justice. I like the dude. He’s right on a lot of stuff, he isn’t focused on the housing shortage though. With all of the influx of people being priced out of SF that is a pretty damn big deal.

And a distant, DISTANT third:

Libby Schaaf.

I just don’t think that councilmember Schaaf is that awesome.  She’s right on some issues and just worries me on others. The Express opines about her good government reforms, but it’s all seems very pandering to me.  Maybe it is that she worked for De La Fuente…

As for the other contenders:

Joe Tuman is a fine candidate, but would not make a good mayor. He has a few ok policies, but he would not make for a good mayor.  Sorry Joe, feel free to give me the evil eye in your bike outfit when I see you next at Peet’s, but I didn’t think you were a good candidate 4 years ago and I don’t think you are a good candidate now. No matter how long you were on the news.

Bryan Parker seems fine.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANY RIGHT THINKING INDIVIDUAL VOTE FOR MAYOR QUAN. How on earth this is even being considered by anybody is utterly beyond me, I can speak from personal experience when I say she is arrogant, entitled, and just terrible at the job. The Eastbay Express actually mentioned her before Kaplan which surprised the living hell out of me, but they are flat out wrong. She is exactly as awful as she has been portrayed and should be NOBODY’s first , second or third choice. Do not reward mediocrity. Do not do it.

Oakland has survived in SPITE of her, not because of her. Do not forget Occupy Oakland, do not forget Chief Batts.

Seriously if you willingly vote for Quan at this point… I’m not sure I want to know you. I’ve never voted for once, and I don’t intend to start. She is terrible. If she somehow manages to win… I don’t know man. I think that’s the last nail in the coffin for me living here.

District 2: Abel Guillen.

I should care about this race, I really should. It is my district… but I don’t care.  A couple times people jokingly suggested I should run. Some suggested it and weren’t kidding. I thought about it. An open seat would have been my chance, and we need more people that come from punk rock in office. Where punk rock = critical thinking. I could have run, and I would have probably done ok. What would I be giving up… touring? Big deal. Hell: I’ve lived in the district for 9 years and I already work in a city hall (just not my town’s), to say nothing of intimate knowledge of public safety.  I’m more qualified then most, and I know how to listen. But no, I didn’t.  It’s casual arrogance to think that because you pay attention to politics, you’d be good at it.  I can’t talk trash about Tuman and turn around and be a hypocrite myself just because we have a different base and mine has more tattoos and piercings (and a better record collection!).

Anyway, Abel… Abel is smart. He’ll do just great.  Game recognize game. Vote for Guillen. Cool.

Just Don’t vote for Dana King, she was on the news… I get it. Doesn’t make her qualified for council.

I went Guillen, nonsense, Park.. but it could have just as easily been Blackburn.

City Auditor: Len Raphael

Dysfunction is not acceptable. Dude is plucky, I like plucky. Vote Raphael. Brenda Roberts changed registration and is angling for the nice salary ($140K a yr).

Do you know what the city auditor does? Probably not. I do. It’s who makes sure the city’s money is spent properly. Anyway, I’m on some dumpy e-mail list with this guy, and while he does prattle on… he’s the best kind of dude you want in this kind of role. I’m for the guy.

 

Second choice: nonsense

Third Choice: Brenda Roberts

 AC Transit Director at Large

I don’t like any of ‘em.

I voted for Ryan Christopher Parks. God help us all.

Bart Director, District 4:  Robert Raburn

Man does a good job.

Ask me at a bar about BART and my long history with them sometime, I’ll let you know.

Straight up, although… I love seeing Larry Lionel Young Jr. Running. “vote LL and Oakland will be well.”  Make that dude the assemblyman, he’d get stuff done and look good doing it.

One of my favorite people from my time “on the inside” of mayoral politics. Him and Don Macleay for very different reasons.

 

Measures:

N-afterschool programs – YES

Oh, how I hate how everything that is decent is funded by damn parcel taxes. But our state is insane with it’s anti-tax rules.  Maybe if we legalized and taxed marijuana we would have some income to kick around… hmm?!?! Back on point: This helps kids for college prep, it’s damn worthwhile. Yes, some would go to charter schools, not all charter schools are the devil. Do it.

Z- Continue Measure Y public safety bill

I voted yes, but it is with the thinnest support possible. I could get more into it… but I won’t. I’m a soft Yes on it.

BB- BART to Livermore – NO

Dude, what? This adds more sales tax, and we already have so much. BART to Livermore would rule… but there’s already the half cent transportation tax that is in place until 2022. I know I should like this… I don’t.  yeah, yeah… it does all kinds of neat stuff. Try again.

Good Government pair

CC – Yes

Give the Oakland Public Ethics commission the money it needs to do it’s job

DD- Yes

Council and school district lines drawn objectively. There is some gerrymandering that would be hilarious if it wasn’t such a bummer. This is smart.

EE.- Yes

Reduce costs for  the city’s retirement system. Should be a no brainer.

FF – Raise Minimum Wage – YES YES YES!

YES! This would raise minimum wage in Oakland to $12.25.

If you’ve ever tried to live on the minimum wage (been a long time for me) it absolutely sucks. Cost of living is through the roof and everybody is broke. GET ON IT. Raise it

Statewide Props

Proposition 1: Water Bond – YES

This one hurts. It’s not that good of a prop. It’ll lead to more damn dams. It’ll probably hurt the Delta even more. But we’ve completely screwed our environment and if we don’t want total collapse we have to go to war with what we have. It’d be great to have the luxury to say: “Try again.” We don’t have that.

Proposition 2: stabilize the budget – YES

This creates a general fund in boom periods that can be used when needed, like say: for disaster services or education. It’s just smart, it will hurt local schools in the short term, but we will come out the other side stronger for it.

Proposition 45 – Health care insurance cost control – YES

If you don’t work for the people profiting from it, I don’t see the argument against really. Health care costs are nutso high.  The CNA is for it and so am I.

Proposition 46 – Drug Test Doctors  – NO

I didn’t understand this one at first. I heard it on the TV and thought it was a comedy bit. But there isn’t too much to get. Drug testing for Doctors. Ok: well… I’m against drug testing for all professions. And while I know how this came to pass (terrible story!) it is a wild outlier. Statewide prescription drug database would be good… but no. I’m against drug tests. Period. Vote no on this.

Proposition 47 – Reform sentencing – YES

Personal use of illegal drugs shouldn’t equal prison sentences, and I don’t sleep better at night because check kiters are locked up with the rapists and murderers. Use this money for some ding dang rehabilitation. Screw the prison industrial complex!

Proposition 48 – Indian Gaming – YES

I don’t care about gambling. Everybody can gamble away all they want. Give the North Fork and Wiyot tribes theirs.

not my district but on my mind:

Measure J in SF – Minimum Wage Hike – YES, YES, YES!

Same reasons as outlined for Oakland, cost of living is through the roof

 Measure D in Berkeley – Soda Tax – YES

It’s a pretty soft yes, but soft drinks are atrocious for you.

Neutron voting guide 06/03/2014

Governor – Luis Rodriguez

Lt. Governor – Jena Goodman

Attorney General – Kamala Harris

Controller – John Perez

Secretary of State – Derek Cressman

Insurance Commissioner – Nathalie Hrizi

Treasurer – John Chiang

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tom Torlakson

Board of Equalization, District 2 - nobody or write in.

US, House of Representatives, district 13 – Barbara Lee

US, House of Representatives, district 14 – Jackie Speier

SF Judges (all are fine)

Prop 41: $600 million bond to provide multifamily housing to veterans - YES (soft)

Prop 42: Force counties to comply with the California Public Records Act — Yes (soft)

Measure AA: Healthcare Safety Net Reauthorization — Alameda County – YES

 

Governor – Luis Rodriguez

In the general, I will vote for Jerry Brown. For sure, no waffles. He does some frustrating things but the guy is a good governer for a practically ungovernable state. I’m voting for Luis Rodriguez largely because we the general will be the “top two vote getters” one will be Jerry Brown, and because people vote on party lines the other one will be one of the Republicans. Almost certainly Neel Kashkari, who will lose. I’d love for it to be an actual debate of ideas though…. so! My vote goes third party.

 

Lt. governor – Jena Goodman

Exactly the same thing as Governor. You think Gavin Newsom doesn’t take this? You’re tripping. It’ll be him and one of these Republicans though. So again: third party.

 

Attorney General – Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is an Attorney General who is against the death penalty, and pro medical marijuana (at least on paper.) sounds ok to me! She hasn’t really stepped it up on the latter, letting the US Justice department walk all over the dispenseries and growers (which, HINT! HINT! *WAS* one of the primary sources or revenue for Oakland). She has been exactly as brave as you would expect somebody that could “GO ALL THE WAY(tm)” higher office style, but she is a good AG. And remember people, she got in on a very small margin before.

 

Controller – John Perez

He’s the first openly gay speaker in the CA assembly and he would be the first LGBT person elected to statewide office. He’s really smart about pension fund investment and local tax laws… Betty Yee would also be fine, but Perez is better.

 

Secretary of State – Derek Cressman

That Alex Padilla character isn’t bad either, but it is annoying that so many people use SoS as a jumping off board for other offices. Cressman is a voting rights advocate that works for a non-profit that focuses on electoral reform. OK!

 

Insurance Commissioner – Nathalie Hrizi

Dave Jones will win this in a walk. Which is fine, but yeah… voting third partu on this one. Nathalie is a sassy public school teacher with a (literal) megaphone.

 

Treasurer – John Chiang

John Chiang was a pretty darn good Controller, he’ll be a pretty darn good Treasurer.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tom Torlakson

I’m honestly a little conflicted about this one, but Torlakson is a former teacher and the incumbent has done ok. His opponent is really into charter schools and private schools, and while it may sound counterintuitive having worked for a charter school system. Many of them are bad (not all! many)

 

Board of Equalization, District 2 - nobody or write in.

Fiona Ma kind of sucks as does her opponent. Disappointing that somebody good didn’t run for this.

 

US, House of Representatives, district 13 – Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee speaks for me. She is getting on in years, but she is a damn fine representative.

 

US, House of Representatives, district 14 – Jackie Speier

 

SF Judges (all are fine)

 

There are a bunch of people running unopposed in Alameda county… whic his always annoying. But none of them are that odious. Still, what the heck man? I hate unopposed elections.

 

County Superintendent of Schools; Alameda County Board of Education – Naomi Eason

Relatively tough choice, but again… a teacher, principal and then district administrator.

good by me!

 

Prop 41: $600 million bond to provide multifamily housing to veterans - YES (soft)

I came *THIS CLOSE* to voting NO on this, because i’m sick of seeing all of these feel good propositions but in front of the people who don’t understand the ramifications of what these votes mean.

That said, we treat our veterans terribly in this country. So if there is a chance to rectify that. I’m for it. I totally understand if others aren’t willing to support this though,.

 

Prop 42: Force counties to comply with the California Public Records Act — Yes (soft)

Again, you’d think this would be a no brainer right? Transparency is always good right? Weeeeeeeell… it also invalidates a law that says the state has to imburse municipalities for their expenses. This may not sound like much, and in fact some places already do that. But some of the smaller communities may well suffer. I’ve *SEEN* this law, in action get in the way of otherwise helpful projects because some busy body decided to throw a wrench in the works because of some personal axe to grind. That said, that is more rare than not.

so Yes… but a soft yes.

 

Man, I get sick of saying that, give me something to vote *FOR* people!

 

Measure AA: Healthcare Safety Net Reauthorization — Alameda County – YES

vote no and sales tax drops half a cent. If it is that important to you, fine… otherwise that money goes to essential health services to provide trauma and emergency medical services for low-income and uninsured familes, kids and seniors. Have you been to an ER lately? Yeah, if you have you know that this has to be yes.

Protonic Reversal on Radio Valencia

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Supreme Allied Commander of Rock Conan Neutron is on the air and ready, are you?

The very best of post-punk, punk rock, noisy stuff and indie rock that doesn’t forget to actually rock. Rock ‘n roll lifer Conan Neutron guides you through mornings of amusing anecdotes, interesting interviews, killer tunes, rocker ennui and other assorted hijinx.

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Conan Neutron's Protonic Reversal

Conan Neutron’s best of 2013 | Hey, look: I like the rock music!

After what was largely a year of crippling self doubt and lack of enthusiasm in regards to writing anything, I managed to complete a list of some of my favorite records for the year 2013.

It was easy, it was a great year for music. I encourage everybody to check out this list I did for 2013′s best records on Collapse Board:

Hey, look: I like the rock music. I get it, a lot of you don’t. You like this sort of “indie rock” that sounds like background music to designing your new recombobulating widget. I get it. I do. But let’s suspend disbelief and say that you want to get beyond the nonsense.

Let’s say that you even don’t feel it’s necessary to have an opinion on Miley Cyrus or Beyonce. Let’s say the idea of talking about Kanye West or Vampire Weekend makes you sick. LET’S SUSPEND DISBELIEF HERE AND SAY THAT… MAYBE.. JUST MAYBE… THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN THE ARCADE FUCKING FIRE.

WELL THEN! Come on over and sit a spell and let me break down what I liked about this year in no particular order:

The Rutabega – Brother The Lights Don’t Work

Look, I called this one and I called it early. You are welcome. Exhibit A To quote myself: “This is some music folks. Turn off that tepid fourth generation Crosby, Stills And Nash crap and turn on THIS.

Look: here’s the problem, earnestness has been hijacked by utter idiots and fools, wastoids and shameless marketeers. That isn’t the fault of sincerity; it’s just a systemic problem. The Rutabega singlehandedly states the case for sincerity itself in such a clear and cogent way the only reaction is to softly smile, bob your head a little bit and give into the tidal wave of sad, simple, beauty that issues forth.”

Way to go past me! I agree with you. Now, check out this band, they are worth your time and will pay you dividends.

Federation X – We Do What We Must

Federation X has been around 16 years. SIXTEEN YEARS! Granted they were semi broken up/on hiatus for some of those years, but it’s worth mentioning that albums like American Folk Horror and X-Patriot are two of the finest records of the 00s. Just remarkable music. tribal, driven and relentless. Informed from classic rock, but owing almost nothing to it. I’d be lying to you if I said We Do What We Must is anything less than one of the finest rock albums of the entire year, the Deaf Nephews production (Toshi Kasai and Dale Crover of the Melvins) is so incredible, and so brilliantly encapsulates what they do it’s like hearing them for the first time. That said: I adore their back catalog. Much like Patrick Bateman, I celebrate it… but if you were only to listen to We Do What We Must you would be pretty stoked. It had a quiet release, but if it’s a competition? It kicks the hell out of most other records out there. Get into it, because this is some special stuff. Cool? Cool.

Oh yeah, ‘Anna Mist’ and ‘So Tired’ rank among the best songs in this band’s kickass timespan. Most bands can’t even say that about their second record. This is their fourth… do yourself a favor and check it out ok?

The Night Marchers – Allez! Allez!

It is almost possible to speak of The Night Marchers without the cult/culture of John Reis being involved. Which is a shame, since they are a hell ass rock band of their own. Yes, yes. 3/4 of this band was Hot Snakes which were one of the most fantastic rock/punk bands of the last 14 years or so. But don’t let the resume be all that you think of with this very, very sharp rock’n’roll band. There is homage to Greg Sage and The Wipers, there is common cause with the members other bands… but Allez! Allez! is a pretty great little rock record. ‘All Hits’ is exactly the kind of braggadocio I wish more rock music had (with the skills to back it up, ‘Pain’ and ’2 Guitars Sing’ show some interesting experimentation and vulnerability that I really love. It’s good man. And I would tell people that this record kicked ass even if the one guy had never been in the one thing. It’s just damn good rock’n’roll. Is that the kind of thing you are into? Well, are you?

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

What? What? A record that might have some overlap to some other lists out there? Well, for good reason. QOTSA have consistently been making interesting mainstream rock music heavily informed by the genres of the underground for some time. A lot of people hated on Era Vulgaris, their last outing. Those people are wrong, but either way… this is a much different affair, vulnerable and open. Almost David Bowie like in some ways (but far better than Bowie’s “totally ok” The Next Day) this is a QOTSA that isn’t quite going for the throat but is using everything in it’s arsenal to make a hell of a record. I think it’s a damn shame that most people have already made their decision on this band as to whether they like or not, because they are probably the most creative and interesting band operating in the mainstream right now. A record about tribulation, actually near loss of life and feeling alone in a crowded room. You have my attention Josh Homme and company. And this is a far better record than most people in the underground will give credit to it. Sorry about that.

Marnie Stern – The Chronicles Of Marnia

Oh Marnie! Marnie, Marnie, Marnie… how you make me smile. I love how you take the frantic punk prog thing and marry it to your interesting songs. What would be a lot of “saw you up there… rockin’!” technique in lesser hands is solid gold for you. I came in way too late to fly the flag for your last record, the S/T one. Sorry! But damn if this isn’t a hot album too. Nothing is easy? Ain’t it the truth. I like that you can really hear your vocals on this one. They are really great. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise either! Look man: This has a specialized audience, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope there was a whole generation of little girl shredders coming up writing some cool ass songs like this. Frantic, sexy, cool. Probably the best album title of the year too. Go for the gold Marnie. Win “Marnie” Win.

This Neutron is solidly on board.

Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident

The fourth record by this incredible adventurous and interesting post-punk, pseudo-noise rock act can be a challenging listen to some. Full disclosure, I am not into the first song very much at all and some of it leaves me flat. That said: Can we just celebrate a band that fucking GOES FOR IT for a minute? Why the fuck does every band need to be the Ramones? Constantly remaking that first record or recreating past glories. No stone unturned with these ones, BURN THE PAST FOR FUEL. and what you end up with is some of the best music you will hear this year. ‘Singing Of The Bonesaws’ and ‘How To Spot A Record Company’, smart as hell and mean in a very fresh and unique way. Visconti-isms and all. Future Of The Left is not a perfect band, but they’re brilliant as hell… they do things full force and they deserve a damn sight more respect than they get. As a catalog band they may be one of the best live acts going right now too. In a slightly more fair world they would be given the credence and respect of those half trick ponies Daft Punk or something and we’d all be sitting pretty with our solar panels and social justice. But… crap, we’re totally in this world aren’t we? Well, so are Future Of The Left, so let’s observe and laugh together.

The Thermals – Desperate Ground

The Thermals, in a total business time aspect. Down and dirty, sharp and concise. In some ways it feels like they don’t get as much credit as they should. They write very catchy and immediate songs that doesn’t cling embarrassingly to trends. Long may they run. This record is good. Do you need more? Hell of a band, great record. Get into it. Cool? Cool!

Obits – Bed & Bugs

Ahhh… Obits! The sensible adult punk rockers at the party. On this Bed & Bugs affair you finally get out of the Nuggets camp and the “punk rock Yardbirds” territory and move into some weird, cool territory that just sounds like you. I can’t lie, Rick Froberg’s alluring alley cat whine is a huge appeal to this band, but one cannot short-sell drummer Alexis Fleisig (Girls Against Boys) energy and ideas that take this very interesting band in another direction. I can’t like, watching guitarist Sohrab Habibion rip it up live is one of my favorite things, he’s like the CPA that can can shred hard but still do your taxes on time. And Greg Simpson just delivers the rock bass like he was born to do it. It’s a crack A-Team of critical thinking rock ‘n roll badasses in this piece. This stuff sounds way younger than it has any right too, and to be clear: I mean that as a compliment. I like rock music and I like Obits. Relevancy doesn’t cease at 30, and Obits are a clear case study for some smart and wildly creative. I hope to be smiling and shaking my head at their audacity as they blow my mind years from now. Because I think they can.

Roomrunner – Ideal Cities

Well! Well… well… well! Baltimore huh. Interesting. Ok, so these cats take everything I loved about In Utero era Nirvana and mix it with golden era KARP. This is heavy, hooky rock. They get the Nirvana thing a lot, so much so that I almost didn’t mention it…. I guess it’s “a thing”. but it’s a good starting point and nothing to bum about. They’re just a little more unhinged and wild.What is there to say? This record gets me pumped. That’s a good thing. It’s on my list isn’t it? Oh yeah, there are parts that remind me of the more immediate and meaner bits of Brainiac. In a good way. I loved Brainiac. I dig Roomrunner too. This band isn’t “Nirvana, I get it”. but they worth checking out. Get into it boppers.

Bottomless Pit – Shade Perennial

Look man: this opening song, ‘Fleece’? This might be one of the best Bottomless Pit songs and that’s saying a lot. Did you know Silkworm? You should have.. maybe you saw the excellent documentary. Or remembered them the first time? Well This is the band that grew out of the tragedy that was that band. It is beautiful, they do amazing things and it can almost be considered a master class in guitar as well. Look man: I ain’t a part of this cult, but I know good music when I hear it… it’s also great to hear a band that takes New Order as an influence and doesn’t sound like a seventh generation synthoid rip off. This record sneaks up on you, like… you think it’s going to pick your pocket or give you a punch, but it just put it’s hand on your shoulder and hands you a beer instead. Fascinating band. Thoughtful and wonderful.

EPs:

Thoughts Detecting Machines – Forget

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the EP from the incredible Rick Valentin of Poster Children under his TDM alias. Going Home is probably one of my favorite songs of the year. Check out the interactive video, Damn!

The whole EP rules. Inspiring and vital.

SEMINARS – Human Kid EP

Downstrokes, Chowdy, Easy Cuz it Is

Nonagon – The Last Hydronaut

Meaner and a little darker than their last ones, there are few bands that do what they do as well as Nonagon. What is there to say? If you ever loved bands like fugazi, Jawbox or Mission of Burma, this band is your new favorite thing and your new best friends. I don’t know what to tell you, it’s F’ing great. They also did an incredible PJ Harvey cover this year. Wotta band!

their label

Honorable mentions: Mudhoney – Vanishing Point (damn fine!). Waxeater – Baltimore Record (concept record about the Wire!), Minutes – Roland, the Bismarck – Wild Prairie Rose, Man…or Astro-man? – Defcon 54321, The Book-Burners – People’s Songs, Like Like The The The Death – Cave Jenny, The Cell Phones – Get You Alone, Risk/Reward – II: The Deuce, The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (bold, but purposefully obtuse…), Sebadoh – Defend Yourself, Porch – Walking Boss, The Paver – Trust

NOT on the list
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away. More like: Push the zzzzzs away, amirite? Love you so much Nick and co. but this one was a bummer compared to the last two. Still on your side, though.
Dude, I love you… but Grinderman ruled, and DIG, LAZARUS!!! DIG!!! was so killer… this one put me to sleep. I know you can keep it vital, get it at would you.

Victory and Associates – Better Luck Next Life

I am part of a rock band, we just released out second record. I put my heart and soul into it, as did my fellow bandmates. There are some people who seem to think it’s worth listening to. If that kind of thing interests you, check it out here:

You Can’t Stop The Signal

Hi folks, i’m doing a podcast with my very good friends/bandmates called You Can’t Stop The Signal. You can download it on mp3 at the links before or subscribe at the iTunes store.

Click that link there or just search for “You Can’t Stop The Signal” in the itunes store.

There’s music, mirth and misery. There’s a lot of tom foolery and quips, but some in depth coverage on things as well. We interview musicians we like and generally put on the kind of podcast we would like to listen to.

If that kind of thing interests you, please check it out!

Thanks!

Neutron Voting Guide 2012

Living in non-swing state California makes for a boring disconnected election decided mostly by people far away. But there’s an upside! You also get to vote on a bunch of dumb propositions every year. So let’s slap on a fake smile and deconstruct this shall we?

President: Obama.
Don’t talk to me about the lesser of two evils. Seriously, just don’t. I don’t believe the guy is evil.
Sorry everybody didn’t get their unicorn and decided to pick up their ball and go home. That isn’t a tacit endorsement of drone bombing or Guantanamo, or the rest of his policies. He’s my president and I’d like to see him finish the job. It’d be great if we lived in an ivory tower wonderland where Jill Stein could be president (despite a foreign policy that doesn’t go much beyond “wage peace” ) We don’t. This isn’t mayor of the bay area here. It is a binary decision for the most part. Mitt “the Smiler” Romney could actually win this, and if you think things suck now… Vote for anybody you want, just remember if it’s Romney, I will find you and punch you. People interested in party building or send a message, go ahead and vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or (*vomit*) Rosanne Barr. You just had better make DAMN sure to vote on propositions and your local measures too or you are an ass.

Senate: NO VOTE
*gasp* I have never voted for Dianne Feinstein and I never will. She’s pro-corporate, all about PIPA and basically a snake. I am horribly disappointed that she has no progressive challenger. I briefly considered running myself just to remind people that there are choices. Obviously I did not, but my assumption is that SOMEBODY who is better would. I guess we know what assuming does. Screw Diane Feinstein. She is awful. I cannot and will not endorse her. I’m sure she will win handily. I truly hope this is her last election.

Oakland At Large City Council: Rebecca Kaplan
Keeping it local here. Rebecca Kaplan is one of the finest public servants Oakland has ever seen. Ignacio De La Fuente one of the sleaziest and the worst. Ignacio is challenging Rebecca for Oakland At-Large city council, a citywide position. Ostensibly this is to better prepare him to run for mayor. He SUCKS. This is, put simply: The Empire vs. The Rebel Alliance. Machine politics at their worst vs. pragmatic progressivism. De La Fuente isn’t fit to be elected dogcatcher, he is a liar, corrupt and generally awful. AW-FUL. Rebecca should have been elected mayor, but she’s still in a powerful position to help the city of Oakland. A city I love very much and that needs it. She deserves to be re-elected. That’s it. I run into an alarming amount of people that aren’t even aware she’s being challenged. She is, and it’s a for serious challenge. Please vote for Rebecca Kaplan if you are an Oakland voter. Ignacio De La Fuente is awful, plain and simple, Rebecca Kaplan is wonderful.

(There are other local races, but those are the important ones to me and I do tend to ramble!)
Now the important stuff, the abject failure of the direct democracy system yet again rears its ugly head as a bevy of mostly worthless/dangerous propositions are presented to a jaded, disengaged and very angry electorate. Why do we have a bicameral legislature? SEARCH ME!

Propositions:
Proposition 30: YES.
Raises income taxes on top 2% for schools and vital services, quarter cent sales tax.
We love not paying for things in California! Schools are boned right now, I mean really boned. Sales tax is regressive, which I don’t care for. And I think the top 2% spend a lot of money NOT paying their taxes for the most part. But what the hell dude? State is broke. Sure could use those billions Enron defrauded California for ten years ago now, eh? Raise it. ¼ cent over 4 years is worth it.

Proposition 31: NO
Ham-fisted attempt at reform that kind of bones Environmental laws and puts all kind of weird spending caps on things. Nah brah.

Proposition 32: HELL NO!
Do you think corporations should have more power on elections? Do you think Super PACs are the best idea ever? Than this is the prop. for you! If, however… you are a sane human being vote H-E-L-L no on this. If you are Karl Rove, vote yes. This might be the worst thing on the ballot and that is saying a lot.

Proposition 33: NO!
This same stupid Mercury insurance initiative that was on the ballot in 2008. This thing is harder to kill than Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th! Insurance companies can raise rates on you. Period. That’s what this does. Even if the gap in coverage you have is because you do not own a car. Lame. Vote this business down. I’m sure we’ll be doing so again in four years.

Proposition 34:YES, YES, YES
Eliminate the death penalty. The death penalty is backwards and barbaric. Period. This is the first thing worth voting *FOR* on the ballot for me. It’s important. Only if you think our judicial system has never made a mistake should you vote no on this. If you are against abortion you absolutely have no reason not to, unless you are a hypocrite. Vote yes on this, please. It also requires killers to work while in prison and directs their earnings to their victims, but really… let’s just stop executing people.

Proposition 35: NO
This is the human trafficking prop. That doesn’t mean I’m for human trafficking, but I think this proposition kind of sucks. It’s borderline unconstitutional, poorly written and could catch a lot of people up in the system that don’t deserve to be. That is a drag. It seems reasonable at first glance, I’d say vote no on it. And since this is one of those issues like protecting child molester’s rights that everybody makes snap decisions on I think it could actually pass… and would be another tool to get people caught in the system that maybe aren’t involved in trafficking at all.

Proposition 36: YES
Reforming the three strikes law to impose life only when the felony is serious or violent. Considering how often “three strikes” has put away drug offenders, this should be on the mind of every voter. This law was passed to keep murderers and rapists locked up. Not non-violent offenders. We need to stop locking people up as the solution for everything.

Proposition 37: YES, YES, YES!
This is mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. This would be the first law of it’s kind in the nation requiring CLEAR labels of when foods are genetically modified. This needs to happen. Lots of misinformation flying around about this. It doesn’t raise food costs or taxes, there’s a lot of scaremongering by Monsanto, DuPont, Kraft and a bunch of other big corporate types are against it. Screw them; we have a right to know. This is an awesome, awesome thing to vote FOR. Don’t get caught up in any scaremongering… this will be huge if it passes.

Proposition 38: NO
Income tax increase to support public education. I think this needs to happen, but I think this prop isn’t the way to do it. This money goes to a way unaccountable state bureaucracy and more importantly it can’t be changed for TWELVE years. Including instances of fraud and waste. This is a big ol’ 2% jump in taxes for anybody making over $8000 a year too that kind of sucks. Schools need to be funded, but I don’t think this is the answer… I think prop 30 is better.

Proposition 39: YES
Green jobs tax on multi state businesses. Closes a corporate tax loophole that has corporations getting off the hook for years. Dedicates $550 million annually for five years for energy efficiency and energy related jobs. Gotta say yes on this one. We’ve got to do this kind of stuff, and even corporations must pay their fair share.

Proposition 40: YES
Referendum on the State Senate redistricting plan. Remember that state senate redistricting plan that I was against a couple years ago? It passed and the map was created, it just needs to be implemented. The Republicans aren’t for it anymore because it wasn’t in time for the 2012 elections. Which I guess leads some credence to the “it’s a partisan” thing. Whatever… we paid for the maps, let’s use ‘em. Let the congress critters gnash their teeth.

So there you go, that’s how I voted. I don’t expect everybody to do the same, but I do try to do as much research as possible before I make a decision. Over the years people have said that they like seeing how I vote on things as a way to help them make a decision themselves. Hence the guide. Please: don’t forget to vote. It’s a privilege and a duty and if you don’t… well, the jerks usually do, let’s not let the jerks win this time.

Music is too important to be relegated to the background – Conan Neutron’s Best of 2011 in Music

Music is far too important to be relegated to the background. And while many “Best of” or “Top 10” lists are full of background music for background people, I reject that wholesale. We live in a world overburdened and surrounded by tawdry flacks and cheap howling sideshow men yelping for your attention at every level. All demanding that they and ONLY they have found the NEXT.BIG.THING. Finding a filter for this isn’t just a nice thing, it’s nearly a requirement.

In any case, it’s a world gone topsy turvy when certain other sites of “music writing”, never to be confused with actual music criticism, FAMOUS for being a closed system are suddenly soliciting a reader’s poll. What do you think, is this progress?

In any case, just because something is popular means that it is good, it just means that it is popular. However, certain powerful forces that have dominated the majority of the music world have been awash in pushing forward a certain branded identity. Whether they admit it or not, there is culpability and an aesthetic that favors the Starbucks variety of sensitivity and vaguely inoffensive background melody and music. So therefore, let us all give thanks that there is a place on the Internet that you can read and INTERACT with actual music criticism. A place where people who truly LOVE music will both tell you when they see miserable failure, but can present to you what they love. Sometimes in an easy list form.

2011 was an incredible year for music and here are some of the things that made it even more incredible for me, as a fan of rock music in no particular order

Look at the list here.

Lou Reed and Metallica – “A cavalcade of indulgence and half-formed ideas. Why wasn’t anybody around to tell them ‘NO’”

Regular readers of my work (hahahahah!) know that I always prefer to represent something I love, rather than bag on something I hate. That said, sometimes something so odious, so indulgent, so absolutely TERRIBLE comes around that you just have to come down off the mountain and give it what for. That is what I did for Lulu the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration. And lo! What a stinky turd on the coffee table it is folks.

I direct and all interested parties to check out the piece I wrote
Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu (Son Of Kurtz)

on the incredibly prestigious Collapse Board. Pretty much one of the only sites that has true music criticism on the internet, run by the cantankerous but lovable Everett True. How the likes of yours truly got involved with such a renowned establishment is a seriously interesting story in and of itself, but i’d be remiss if I didn’t say that this review speaks for itself. Please check it out and consider sharing it on the appropriate shareable social networking sites.

Shorthand review: This is the indulgent sound of the angst of millionaires.

V&A tour – “The secret to success is just as simple as this, you just hang tough and have fun with it.”

I’m about to go on tour. You probably don’t know me, you probably don’t know my band. We’re not famous, hell we’re not even quasi famous. But that’s ok, it’s still once more into the breech and it’s still totally worth it.

I’ve done this a lot. If you count all three of my bands, it’s been 11 years now. Hundreds of shows playing to hundreds of people and to nearly nobody, almost certainly more of the latter than the former. And here I come for more with my 3 brothers from another mother, 3 monsters of rock so rad I still get a little surprised I was able to talk them into associating with me. We’re storming the northwest and getting in the van like thousands of bands before us. Still, it’s not so bad. For 20 or so days out of the year I get to be this guy:

Do not ask this man to fix your computer, he is too busy assailing you with the full force of "the power of rock".

instead of this guy:

Much like the DMV, I was not aware we were taking pictures that day, not my finest hour!

Not bad at all.

Yet, after a certain point careening against the brick wall stops being a laudable expression of perseverance, and more of a sign of mental illness. As my peers and friends settle into domestic living, bearing and raising children. Advancing in their careers. I’m somewhere in between, I live, breathe and exude rock, but I have a day job and “career” that pays me a living wage. I’m luckier than most, compared to many other folks who play music I have it soft. Honestly, if not for some a few costly bad calls in my personal history and some bad happenstance (including a lengthy and costly stint of unemployment) I’d actually probably be comfortable. I don’t think you have to give up music to do “real life”, but it can be difficult sometimes.

The only time I was even reasonably striking distance for getting out to the musical “next level of success” or whatever. I fucked up, pushed way too hard, too fast and I ended up hurting some people that didn’t deserve it and breaking the whole thing apart. That sucks, and it’s something that I have to live with every day. I’ve tried to take ownership of that without letting it rule me completely, all of the also ran, near miss and “almost got him” stories in the world doesn’t amount to much but the appearance of pettiness if you aren’t careful. It’s humbling to start over. Yes, humbling.

This was the best image I got from a random google search for "humble", that is a humble looking egg there.

To most people I do not appear like a very humble kind of guy, but believe me, I’ve taken some punches and taken some kicks. I have been knocked down off my high horse and trampled by it too. I just refuse to wallow in it and tend to answer pain and failure with more action. Because of that I can sometimes come off like some domineering runaway id, or like an Asperger’s stricken raving lunatic. I promise you that is not the case. If you prick me, I bleed. Sometimes clarity of purpose is easily mistaken for pomposity and irritation at overexposure can give way to outright annoyance. I’m not a an easy guy to be around sometimes, even those closest to me will say so. Nonetheless, I do try to bring the Awexome.

Hence, Victory and Associates. And our record These Things are Facts… which tend to be almost relentlessly positive and earnest (even when it’s being smart assed) because: That’s what I need to hear right now myself and what we think the world needs to hear. It’s a about finding what you love in life and doing it and loving it as hard as you can. Which is what we try to do. We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’ve improved as a band, as players. And I think what we’re doing is worthwhile, some other people agree. Obviously, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of leaving your comfortable home to try and bring that out into the world. And even so, there’s always the thought, “I’m wasting my time, I’m wasting my life” But then you realize that it’s a fine line between idiocy and awexomeness, and you get ok with it. And it makes a difference, whether you’re making music for 3 people or 3,000. A changed or bettered life is a changed or bettered life. Plain and simple. Even if there are 53452912878972342 crappy bands with no purpose, direction, function or competing for the space and attention as yours, I still believe music makes a difference. Hell, I know it does.

I’m always astounded by famous people that talk about the hassles and hardships of the road, people that earn a living from it and still complain. “Oh, you’re just jealous”. You’re god damn right I am. They don’t have to save money to tour, they don’t need to worry if anybody will show up. They maybe have to deal with the strain it puts on their relationships, but also: Fuck them. Anybody in the upper class of music should strongly considering shutting the hell up, a minimum wage janitor that busts his ass 10 hours a night on the swing shift doesn’t think you should be complaining and neither do I. Being able to present your art to a willing audience and be paid from it is such an incredible thing. Breaking even is usually the best that a band at our level can hope for. To be honest though, these huge bands are a whole lot of not my thing anyway. It’s not my oeuvre. I’m comfortable where I am at: You probably don’t know me, you probably don’t know my band. But if you listen to our album or see a show we play, you just might love it. Maybe not too, and that’s fine. It’s not for everybody. But it does matter. Just because it isn’t known by everybody doesn’t mean it holds less merit, just that it’s known by less people. We’ve been fooled to equate fame with value, and it’s good to be able to to divorce those from each other.

For me, the way the world has changed touring has become more like strike team missions than entrenched campaigns. This tour consists of three shows in 2 states, hardly a tour at all to some of the road warriors I am peers and friends with, but they are shows with great bands. Some of my favorite bands actually, Police Teeth, Virgin Islands, X’s For I’s, great bands that aren’t famous…. but are really good, and it’s going to push us to play as hard as we can and be the best that we can be. And we’ll sell a few records or cds, a few t-shirts, spend an obscene amount of money on gas, have some laughs and do something that matters(tm). Even if it’s just too a few people. I’m going to heave up my soul, take every frustration born of politics, the world, injustice, aggravation at my own personal shortcomings and foibles, mix it with all of the joy, love, idealism and downright elation the world can bring and do my thing as hard as I can. With three other guys that completely bring it, it will look something like this:

Victory and Associates

Victory and Associates - bringin' it. Pic by Shannon Corr

It’s such a rarified treat. So few people ever get to make music at all, and those that do, don’t always form bands. Those bands may never record, or release a record, or have people like it. And the ability to tour at all is an even greater level. It’s not something to be taken for granted. I truly try not to. Or as I said in the song lyrics on the ratty piece of paper I just cleaned out of the tour van:

“So here’s a kiss for the last ones picked, who soldier on no matter who gets it.
Why would you do something if you can’t profit?
Why waste your time on something so foolish?
The secret to success is just as simple as this, you just hang tough and have fun with it.
So waste our time on something so foolish?
Well if you have to ask, you’ll never… know.”

So here we go.
My name is: Conan Neutron
My band is: Victory and Associates
There are others stories, but this one’s ours.

http://www.thesethingsarefacts.com

Victory and Associates - These Things are Facts Tour poster by Adam T. Davis