So let me get this straight. The Bush administration, the very people who religiously eliminated regulation and thwarted any attempts at oversight — in other words, the very policies that have brought us to the brink of financial disaster — want close to $1,000,000,000,000 of our money to fix it. No strings attached, no obligation to Congress, and absolutely no potential review by the courts.

I say No.

What do they propose to do with ONE TRILLION DOLLARS? Buy all the bad debt from the companies that benefitted most from this lax environment, which leaves them wholly intact to pursue the very same corrupt practices, allows the people criminally responsible to escape without penalty, and sweeps the entire mess under the proverbial rug before the election. No accountability, no meaningful examination of the policies behind the mess, and no chance of enacting new laws to prevent this from happening again.

I say No.

Just like oil revenues were supposed to pay for the War in Iraq, the Bush administration claims this deal will pay for itself, meaning that someday we’ll profit from the purchase of their currently worthless assets — if that’s the case, why are these financial companies so desperate to sell? I see this as nothing more than a short-term fix to prevent their worst fears from coming true: not the collapse of the economy, not the final death of the American dream, but the ultimate revelation that George W. Bush and his Republican party ruined America. They’ve bankrupted us, morally and financially, and now they not only want a “Get out of jail free” card, they want John McCain elected to serve Bush’s third term.

I say No.

And it was absolutely amazing. Watch for video in the morning, until then here’s the pics:

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

Animal Collective

UPDATE: Finally uploaded two videos.

On the growing masses of Apple iPhone fanatics, most of whom are ardent advocates eager to share its many virtues with you, and the lessons those of us in the music industry must apply to our business and bands, Bob Lefsetz saidbest:

So you’ve got to create something great. And it doesn’t have to sound like anything else, it’s just got to fire on all cylinders within its chosen genre. Hell, if Apple were a major label it wouldn’t have put out the iPhone because there was nothing else like it in the marketplace, there’d be no demand for it. But a great band creates its own demand. And, it takes a while for it to catch on.

We’ve been focusing on instant. Ever since we learned video can blow acts up.

But those acts crashed back to Earth just about as fast. Turns out if you want something to last, it’s got to grow slowly. You need early adopters, who believe and spread the word. You’ve got to let your act percolate in the marketplace. True riches come down the line. And they last, because you’ve got a legion of believers.

I live this every day, on both sides, with an iPhone and a small but promising music label. Believe me, the iPhone is a lot easier to share…

Earlier this summer, my good friend Stewart Brown created five exquisite organic electronic tracks for a project called Sky Observer’s Guide, and I put together the FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT website to present it to the world. Right now we’re seeing a handful of hits each day, with plenty of positive reaction, but very little growth momentum. At first I was disappointed, but over the past few weeks I realized that everything is proceeding as I expected, albeit much more slowly than originally planned.

We rightly recognized that putting a price tag on these songs is a barrier to entry, and so we designed the site to make the music immediately accessible. We simply want everyone to hear these songs, and if they like it they can share it with their friends. That’s why each and every song can be streamed in its entirety for FREE, downloaded for FREE, and purchased on the cheap (I know Bob will say lower the price!).

There is no field of dreams to speak of, and certainly no instant payoff, and that is why we have completely taken the money out of the experience. I do believe we will attract interest, given enough time we will develop fans with strong and lasting passions, and then and only then we will be able to reap the rewards, whatever they may be.

All of this is a round-about way of saying, “I hear you, Bob.” And I would love to hear what all of you think of the music, the strategy, the implementation, or anything else that strikes you as interesting or odd. I’m all ears.

The day was winding down and the fog was rolling in, but there was still plenty to see on our flight back to San Francisco. Here are just a few of the best pictures taken from the window of the airplane…

Almost over the Pacific Ocean

High above Mt. Tam, nearing the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco, as usual, is covered in fog. Everything else is untouched.

Golden Gate nearly covered in fog

The Golden Gate Bridge takes my breath away every time I see it, no matter the angle.

Fog only at the Golden Gate

The entrance to San Francisco Bay at the Golden Gate is a magnet for fog.

One last peek at the Golden Gate

Truly iconic. An amazing feat of creativity and engineering.

Look at the shadow on the bay from the Bay Bridge

That’s our neighborhood, SOMA, seldom covered in fog, and often the warmest part of town. And how cool is the curvature on the shadow of the Bay Bridge?!!

There’s 23 more pictures on flickr, including Lake Tahoe, Napa, Oakland, and San Francisco. I had so much fun on the last part of this flight, it was almost enough to wipe away the memory of a six hour delay at O’Hare and the realization that our two week vacation had finally come to an end…

More soon.

I met my caterpillar friend this morning in Bryant Park, which is this incredible public space directly across the street from our hotel in New York City. I sat down, looked up, and immediately saw this crazy furry monster crawling up the chair next to me. I grabbed my camera and took a couple of shots (all of which were as fuzzy as he was), then sat back down and went to work on my computer. I completely forgot about my new friend, until I saw him at my feet about ten minutes later.

I have always wanted to find a way to calm my initial reaction when I find a bug on me, but as with every other time before I freaked when I felt him crawling up my leg. I politely brushed him off, then moved him farther away from me, only to find him crawling up my table a few minutes later. He made it all the way to the top, and promptly went right for me again, coming up to the edge as though he wanted to jump into my lap. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before…

At this point, I grabbed a leaf and moved him to the ground cover behind me where I could watch him without fear of attack. I was mesmerized by the way his body moved, his five sets of antennae, and his tiny suction-cup feet. Whenever I got too close to him, he immediately stopped moving and pulled his brilliant red head into his yellow body. See Harry in action here:

I loved watching the way he surveyed the scene as he came to the edge of each leaf. He methodically but quickly examined his options, picked his path and moved forward, making the most of his caterpillar time on earth. I was especially surprised to see the strain he put on those leaves and the way they bounced back as such tiny creature shifted his weight to the next one. Truly, all of us, even the smallest living thing, leave a mark on earth with each and every step…

When I mentioned this story to my friend Sharon, she suggested that this experience was not a random accident but a gift from the universe. I could easily spend a lifetime reflecting on this very moment, dissecting each and every second in a million different ways, proposing any number of well-known and richly-detailed symbols to help make sense of it. But for tonight, I simply want to delight in the experience itself, and the account of it here.

So says Ask a Ninja in this hysterical, and incredibly important, riff on net neutrality. Don’t miss it:

Though admittedly late to the game on this one, I am now convinced that net neutrality is without a doubt the single most pressing issue of the moment. And yes, I believe it is even more fundamental than stopping the War in Iraq. I realize that sounds ridiculous, but please allow me to explain…

Duncan Black, as he so often does, perfectly frames the problem (my emphasis in bold):

I’d say that roughly speaking there are 4 kinds of people in this country when it comes to politics and current events (of course these are broad brush categories). There are the people who really don’t pay any attention at all, and whose only real knowledge comes from passive absorption of random things that they happen to hear. There are the people who get all of their information from Limbaugh and the rest of the conservative media. There are the people who imagine that they’re paying attention, and think that by listening to NPR and reading gullible idiots like Joe Klein they’re “very informed.” And then there are the readers of this blog who know what’s really going on (joke).

It’s the third category of people I worry most about how to reach. They’re the ones who absorb and regurgitate Maureen Dowd’s latest bon mot, or the latest bit of Washington “conventional wisdom,” and think they’re really on top of things. They aren’t necessarily stupid people, they just haven’t come to terms with the fact that the mainstream media is something to be treated with great skepticism.

Need proof? Compare the New York Times’ “Gonzales Denies Improper Pressure on Ashcroft” headline with Josh Marshall’s “Gonzales to Schumer: Blow Me” version. Watch the video at the end of Josh’s post, then read the NYT article. Not convinced? See this New York Times’ jewel “President Links Qaeda of Iraq to Qaeda of 9/11″ versus Dan Froomkin’s Bush Can’t Make the Sale. In both cases the NYT version is complete and utter bullshit, but you would never think so if you didn’t know where else to look.

Like it or not, America is still governed by the court of public opinion, and until very recently the ability to shape this narrative rested solely in the hands of the rich and powerful. We have only begun to challenge the status quo and the media machine that enforces it, but the difference is clear: they seek power, we seek the truth. We can only gain power by exposing more people to the truth, which is why Duncan’s third category is so critical to our cause.

The mass media triumvirate of television, newspapers, and magazines is dying, and what will replace it is a hybrid of all three and more, something that can only exist on the internet. In that regard, we are clearly a threat: we understand this brave new world better than they can, both today or tomorrow. By necessity, their game plan is to ignore, omit, and silence any viewpoint that does not match its own, but that plan works only when there is no other compelling venue in the market.

Net neutrality ensures that all of us have a voice in our nation’s destiny, and creates a marketplace where the best idea, and best expression of it, wins. It creates a productive discussion, a natural balance, a healthy tension. It yields a place where honesty and integrity matter, where lies have consequences, where injustices can be made right.

We can even end a corrupt and craven presidency, and along with it the war in Iraq, but before we project our voice we must first protect it. Come to think of it, they’re one in the same.

More soon.

I am not a musician. In spite of such a strong personal affinity to music, I lack even the most basic instincts among its instruments. Instead, I rely on my deep appreciation of it, one which admittedly borders on the obsessive at times, to bring me near to nirvana. To be sure, I am a helpless junkie, always looking for a new fix to tickle my ears and lift my head to the heavens…

I am fortunate to have met and become close friends with many extremely talented, and prolific, musicians in my life. We have, at various times, with various strategies, and with even more varying degrees of success, attempted to sell their wares on the open market. It was not an easy business to enter, let alone master, to say nothing of making a profit. Even with critical acclaim, the cost of doing business the old fashioned way (pressing vinyl, of course) was prohibitive.

Ultimately, we put those dreams on hold and went our separate ways. I was thrilled when Stewart Brown and I recently realized that we were living less than a mile apart in San Francisco, and finally reconnected after nearly ten years apart. We are older and wiser now, and while still foolish enough to dream that same dream, we are intent on finding new ways to fulfill it…

skyo-070707-smTo be perfectly honest, I never stopped thinking of how best to market music, and these thoughts only intensified as this “second life” of the internet and its free and easy tools of creation came to be. Brown’s music is infectious (in a very good way) and made to be spread far and wide, and it has long been clear to me that the ease of “spread-ability” is the key to success. So we set out to eliminate anything that inhibits the free flow of music, starting first with the cost to acquire it, so that everyone can hear it instantaneously. That is why you can stream every song in its entirety within the page itself, and even download good quality 128 kbps mp3s (no DRM!!) for free.

I was adamant that we spend as little money as humanly possible (I think our greatest expense so far was buying the domain name). Brown wrote and recorded the music, I designed and built the website, and Kristin tied it all together with her words. If I may say so, it looks and sounds like a million bucks!! Check it out at FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.

I want to point out and thank a few of the many people who helped make this happen…

To Hugh MacLoed and Fred Wilson, two guys who continually experiment and explore new ideas in real-time, right before our very eyes. Their passion and persuasion inspire me to no end. I had trouble finding a singularly illustrative quote from each one, but if you’re at all interested in reading more there’s a combined 71 posts tagged on my from Hugh and Fred.

To Bob Lefsetz, who sums it up best in a recent post entitled “The New Reality”, “You can’t reach them by asking them to buy first. Quite the contrary, it’s like catching a fish. You’ve got to drop quality bait and wait.” He continues, “You establish a beachhead. You try to get people to notice you. And the way you do this is not through endless cross-linking and widgets and all the tools of the helpless, hapless wannabes, but quality music. It’s the only way you can get recognized.” That’s the blueprint right there.

And lastly, to my beautiful wife Abby, who has lived through my countless great ideas and nonexistent execution, who nonetheless never once wavered in her support and always encouraged me to go for it. I could not have done it without you. I love you.

Wow, that was way more than I originally intended to write; still, I left so much out.

I think Brown’s music is poised to take off, and I believe our approach to doing business can help make it happen. I am so excited to see where this goes. I would love to hear what you think, so leave me a comment here or on FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.

As always, more soon.

my new iPhone

Without a doubt, this is the most awe inspiring thing I have ever held in my hand. And it is worth every dollar and every hour I spent waiting. Have a look at the pics from my afternoon waiting in line in San Francisco.