Monday, December 16, 2013

Arlo Guthrie Recollects About His Old Touring Buses

In Arlo Guthrie's own words:

On The Road - from long ago. Once the snow starts falling, it'll bury everything on the ground for months. So it's a good idea to clean up everything that you don't to run over with snow plows and tractors.

These old relics - these busses from former decades of touring are fairly safe from that. There's so many memories within them - Years and years of family and friends rolling throughout the continental USA. They've seen every nook and cranny of this country from the highest peaks to the lowest swamps and deserts. 

We all grew up in these rolling tin cans. And there's others scattered around the farm - other decades, other tours. I saved 'em all because they weren't worth selling after we got thru with 'em. Well, that's not entirely true. I may part with some of the later ones, but not these two. 

Someday, after I win the lottery (or something) I hope to restore these, along with the Checker Marathon sitting out in the cold behind the barn. But for now, they're like sculptures - reminders of what we do and where we've been. There's stories yet to tell. But not quite yet. 

The bus in the foreground is a favorite - a 1954 GMC Scenic Cruiser. Behind it is a 1972 Silver Eagle.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

BFD Interview with Gumby from Battlecross

On Wednesday night Metal Blade recording artist Battlecross came to town as part of the Divinity of Purpose Fall Tour in support of the Acacia Strain, Shadows Fall and Hatebreed. After soundcheck and a quick sandwich at Zombie Burger, lead singer Gumby sat down with me for a street side interview. Greg Waldrop of Dangerous Music Inc. was gracious enough to take time from doing his own thing to film and produce this video. 

One of the coolest moments came directly after we stopped filming the interview. A young fan, obviously on his way to the concert which was just around the corner, walked by and spotted Gumby. He stopped dead in his tracks and he says, "Wait a minute... Are you the lead singer for Battlecross?" Gumby smiles and in a joking manner says, "Nah." The kid says, "Oh... Sorry." Then Gumby, with his face lighting up says "Yes, I am!" The kid immediately starts fumbling around his pockets for a pen, paper, anything to capture his idol's autograph. The kid was literally shaking as he did so... A nice little conversation ensued, and he and Gumby ended up walking together down the sidewalk towards Wooly's where the show was to be played. 

It clearly made this young man's day to have spotted Gumby and had a chance to personally interact with him. It was definitely cool of Gumby to spend more than just a fleeting moment with this kid.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Five Questions with Terry Banks of Dot Dash

Dot Dash is a band from Washington DC that consists of musicians that have found success at one time or another in previous bands. Somehow a conglomeration of pop, classic rock, psychedelia and punk has found it's way into Dot Dash's punch bowl, and the music they create is a reflection of each these influences.

Together, the band sports an impressive resume. At one time or another, these fellas have played with Julie, Ocean, The Saturday People, The Youth Brigade, Velocity Girl, St. Christopher, Tree for Angst, Weatherhead, High Black Chairs and Swervedriver. They have gathered to combine their talents in this latest incarnation and have released an album in each of the past three years.

Their latest release, Half-Remembered Dream (Label: The Beautiful Music, Ottawa) is available now. The album is available as a download via iTunes, Bandcamp, eMusic, and Amazon. (See links below.) It's a psychedelic mixture of  pop music and punk that creates an eerie dreamscape of far-reaching melodies. It's the perfect soundtrack for saying goodbye to Summer. 

Five questions with Terry Banks:


What exactly is "Post Punk Pop?"

It’s somewhere between Polka Blues and Country Jazz.

Dot Dash refers to the letter A in Morse Code. What does it refer to as the name of your band?

We took it from the Wire song of the same name. It just seemed like a good name: concise, kind of abstract, but also something in the vernacular…

How would you describe the local music scene in Washington DC? What are its highlights, quirks and annoyances? 

It’s really quite good – can’t think of any quirks or annoyances, to be honest.   Just in the - for lack of a better term - “indie rock” world alone, there are 6 or 7 clubs doing live music almost every night of the week, tons of touring bands of varying styles coming through, lots of interesting local bands – it’s pretty good.

You've got a bevy of different influences in your sound, obviously spawned by the fact that Dot Dash is a collaboration of many different bands. What would you name as the driving force behind your sound, and who are your major influences? 

I think the songs are going for this kind of very poppy, melodic, sort of poetic thing but they’re conveyed in a fairly direct, kind of intense way.

As far as individual musical inspirations, some of the major ones include:

Terry (guitar/vocals) – The Byrds, The Jam, Joy Division
Jim (guitar) – Husker Du, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones
Hunter (bass) РMoțrhead, The Descendents, Burt Bacharach
Danny (drums) -- The Beatles, The Clash, Jimi Hendrix

Dot Dash: Jim Spellman, Danny Ingram, Hunter Bennett, Terry Banks

Finish this sentence: Dot Dash would make an excellent soundtrack to ___________. 

Doing “jazz hands” all over the place.  24/7 Jazz Hands.  Jazz Hands to the point of alarm/arrest/sedation.

What's the strangest thing you have ever seen on the streets of Washington DC? 

Please see above.



Dot Dash on Facebook

Dot Dash on Bandcamp: (Buy the album digitally)

The Beautiful Music website (Buy the CD)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grant's Tomb: An Open Letter to Trent Reznor

Dearest Trent Reznor,

You don't know me, nor do you care who I am or what my thoughts of your art are. However, we need to sit down and have a serious chat. In 2008 when you announced you were putting Nine Inch Nails on hiatus, I was sad, but was also able to recognize that you were going out on a high note, not leaving a tarnished legacy. 

Now, I'm sure we all saw this coming (ie, new NIN material), but imagine the shock I experienced when you announced Columbia would be releasing your new album! I thought labels were bad? Right? You said they were. So, because I'm an idiot I shelled out the cash to buy your new album, and it is probably the worst piece of garbage this side of a Chocolate Starfish and bottled Hotdog Water. 

In short I want my money back, but what I really want is an angry, angsty Trent back. Look, I'm happy you got married, I'm happy you're sober, that's good, but that doesn't make good NIN music. Please, don't release anymore music until you get divorced and/or fall off the wagon. 

With "all the love in the world," 


Friday, August 9, 2013

Memoirs of a Hippie: Jerry Garcia on the Eel

Today is the anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death. He died in 1995.

Jerry Garcia
I remember what I was doing when I heard the news. I was cooking in a small cafe in Newton, Iowa going through the regular process of gearing up for a busy lunch rush. The radio was playing; every day we listened to the same channel, a local classic rock station called KGGO. Usually I ignored it, or at least relegated it as background noise, but my ears perked up when "Sugar Magnolia," came on. I thought was peculiar, as it seemed a strange song for this heavily formatted radio station to play. I'd heard them play "Truckin'" and "Casey Jones" before, but had never known them to dig that deep into the Grateful Dead vault.

The next song was "Brokedown Palace." This really had me spinning... And I knew then that something was amiss. I got a weird feeling, and even considered for a moment that somebody had turned the radio off and put a tape in. But that made no sense. Nobody else in the kitchen would have played the Dead, as it was just me and an older lady who clearly had no interest in the psychedelia genre, or the lifestyle of a hippie. She extolled the virtues of clean living to me on a daily basis, and probably considered the classic rock station to be be borderline acceptable at best. I was pretty confident that she didn't put a tape in, or change the station, or even recognize that the radio was playing...

After "Brokedown," the DJ came on and said that they would be playing Grateful Dead songs all through the lunch hour in honor of Jerry Garcia, "who passed away this morning."

I stopped what I was doing and stared straight ahead. Did I really hear what I thought I did?

About then a waiter walked into the kitchen, and not even really knowing him, I said to him, "I think I just heard that Jerry Garcia died.

"Yeah," he answered. "I heard that on the radio this morning as I came to work."

I was in disbelief. I had always figured that this day would come, but I kinda pictured myself being in the company of my buddies, sitting around on a patio somewhere with guitars and booze, mourning his life through celebration. But here I was in Newton, Iowa, away from all my friends literally without a single person close by that I could call or reach out to.

Completely zombiefied, I took off my apron, put down the knife in my hand, and left work. I drove it to my parent's house because I figured my mother would be home from work for her lunch hour. I remember walking into the house and seeing my mother in the kitchen. I walked to her, and gave her a giant hug. I cried like a baby.

I don't think that until that point, she had any idea how much his music had meant to me.


Ironically, my favorite Jerry Garcia moment happened on tomorrow's date, August 10th, in 1991.

I was 23 years old. I had driven with my buddy Nick out to California to see some shows at the Cal Expo in Sacramento and the Shoreline Amplitheater in Mountain View. After a shenanigan-filled road trip to the west coast, we made it to the San Fransisco, with a few days ahead of us before the shows at Cal Expo. We had time to kill and explored the coastal life of mid-California. San Fran was an absolute blast.

We lingered around the Haight-Ashbury district like any good young hippies would, and spent a couple of nights in Golden Gate Park on a sleeping bag under a giant evergreen. It was there that we met a group of homeless California hippies who told us about the Jerry Garcia Band playing up north on the Eel River that following weekend. It wasn't on our agenda, but we had nothing but time. The Cal Expo shows were to start early the next week, and perhaps a trip up north was in order to get us primed. We decided to go for it.

Our morning view in Golden Gate Park
We drove up north a day early, and spent a few minutes at the Point Reyes lighthouse that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. We arrived at French's Camp by early afternoon, and pulled into the entrance.

There was one problem. We didn't have a ticket to the show, and in order to get into the parking lot, you had to provide a ticket. To make matters worse, this show was sold out, and there was none available. We were forced to turn around and re-evaluate our situation.

Slightly distraught, we decided to drive north to the next town, and come up with a plan. When we got to Garberville, we pulled into a small cafe parking lot where we instantly saw some other heads. They didn't have tickets to the show either, but they had a plan. They were going to park their vehicle at the cafe and hitchhike down to the show. Then they were going to take their chances and climb the mountain that surrounded the venue, and drop into the Eel, and swim to the sacred concert grounds.

It seemed perfect. What the heck, Nick and I decided. We'd do it too.

We parked our car and walked out to the highway to thumb a ride. The other group had left, so it was just Nick and I. We had just gotten to the highway with our thumbs out when a white Chevy Blazer pulled up next to us. It was the Sheriff of Humboldt County.

"Going to the show at the Eel?" he asked us.

"Um... Yeah." was our reply. I expected to be scolded for hitchhiking on a public highway thus ruining our entire plan. But that didn't happen.

"Get in. I'm driving right past there!"

It was unbelievable. The sheriff was giving us a ride. In the back of the blazer was part of a drum set, which he said was his.

"I used to go to these shows all the time." He told us.

When we got to the road that led to French's Camp, he pulled over and let us out.

"Thanks for the ride, Sheriff!" we said.

"No problem! Enjoy the concert!"

We got out of the Sheriff's Blazer and made our way down the road towards French's Camp. It's a very mountainous area, and the road led through a pass that basically took you to the backside of the mountain. At that spot was where you had to reveal a ticket, or be forced to turn around. Several paths led off of the road up into the hills, and when we found one that offered sufficient cover, we took it. It wound itself around the hill, and slowly, we travelled up the mountain. We had our back packs with us, our sleeping bags, and just a bit of food. We derived a plan to get to the summit, and see which direction we needed to go to get to French's Camp. We would then set up camp and in the morning make our way down to the river, drop in, and swim to shore.

Amazingly, it worked just like that.

Aireal view of French's Camp on the Eel River
It was dark when we made camp that night in a secluded spot at the top of the mountain. We had spent most of the afternoon and evening climbing to that point, and we were tired and hungry. The next morning, we packed our gear and headed down a path. There we met some of the people who were in the group that we talked to in Garberville. There was hippie hugs and laughter, and just an overwhelming feeling of euphoria.

One of the guys, who regularly attended shows on the Eel, told us what to expect. "If you see somebody wearing a yellow shirt, go the other direction." he warned us. "That's security. Sometimes they are cool, but most will kick you out of here. We are at a point now where it's not public land anymore. We are basically trespassing, and they do have security up here to stop freeloaders like us from getting into the show."

They were still laying around their campsite with all of their gear unpacked. They didn't seem to be in any hurry, but Nick and I decided to keep on moving. We started back on the trail.

After an hour or so of walking, we came to a fork in the path, and we had to make a decision. Should we go right or left? By now we could hear the festivities in the campground below us (we couldn't see it at this point) so we knew we were close. Then suddenly, our worst fear happened. A guy in a yellow shirt was walking towards us up the path and he saw us. We kind of stumbled for a second or two, and then we froze. The man approached us. We were caught.

"Hey guys," he said to us. "You better keep moving. If you go right, there's a spot you can leap into the river and swim to the shore without being seen. If you go left the guy will stop will stop you and escort you off of the mountain."

He was one of the good guys!

"Thanks, man!" we took the path to the right towards the river. The friendly security guy was correct. There was a nice level spot which sat on a cliff overlooking the Eel River. We were about 15 feet above the water and it was just narrow enough that from our height, we could lob our gear across it without landing it in the slow-moving water. It made a cloud of dust as it thudded onto the sandy shore. We could see people, but no security. There was a hell of a party going on across the river. People were waving at us, and being cool.

"The water's deep enough!" one assured us. "Jump!"

We leaped, and with a thunderous splash, we landed in the cold mountain water. It was incredible. We swam to shore, and sure enough we were in the venue. Everything else was now just a formality. We had made it to the Promised Land,  French's Camp on the Eel River. In a few hours we'd be watching the Jerry Garcia Band play.

I was in Hippie Utopia.

French's Camp on the Eel River in Humboldt County California
(Photo by Kim Salloway, courtesy of The Jerry Site)
This venue is unlike any I have ever been to, before or since. There was basically no security inside. Everybody was so righteous, and it must have come to be expected, and they must have deemed security unnecessary. The crowd was extremely friendly, very cool, laid back and full of life. People were climbing to various heights on the cliff wall and leaping into the water. The sound of drums and electric music filled the air, as did the smell of incense and other exotic aromas.Tye dyed flags were flown, and fires raged, despite the heat of the California sun. Strange shadows seemed to beckon us. There were no strangers, we had all arrived to this place in peace and unity.

It was in my young Iowa mind, the epitome of California.

We walked into the fenced in area where the stage was set up. This was a Bill Graham production, one of his last. He died in a helicopter crash just a couple of months later. A band from the San Fran area named Klan Dyken was playing, and they were to be followed by Paul Kantner, of Jefferson Airplane fame. Then, it was Jerry's turn to take the stage.

Getting into the concert area wasn't a problem. A ticket to the parking lot meant a  ticket to the concert, and if you were there, nobody was asking questions. I think I saw Ken Kesey hanging out, and also Wavy Gravy, to whom I introduced myself. The crowd inside the fenced area was extremely laid back, and I was able to walk up to the stage and hang out with out being pushed or leaned on.

Which leads me to my favorite Jerry moment...

He and his band were playing a blistering version of "Lay Down Sally." I walked up to the stage until  was standing about 5 feet from Jerry (no security). He was lost in a solo, and I wanted to hang around just long enough to make eye contact. As he started to sing the second verse, he looked down, saw me and smiled. He must have seen my beaming face, because he then winked. I felt a sensational rush move through my body (no joke) and I just stood there and stared at him until the song ended.

Jerry playing French's Camp at the Eel River in 1991
(Photo by Kim Salloway, courtesy of The Jerry Site.)
I had seen him play about 25 times prior to this encounter, but never at close range. It was odd to watch him in person from that close. He is a human, but yet I found myself considering otherwise. His presence was enormous, and his aura was as bright as the sun. Completely fulfilled, I left the stage area and joined Nick back a bit further in the crowd.

That is my favorite memory of Jerry Garcia. Sometimes I am surprised at how badly I miss him.


Pertinent link: The Jerry Site

Jerry Garcia Died 18 Years Ago Today

Eighteen years ago today, on August 9th, 1995 Jerry Garcia died at age 53. 

Here are a couple of commemorative videos - the first being his death as reported by Ted Koppel on ABC's Nightline, and the second - the audio of one of the greatest drum circles that has ever happened (French's Camp on the Eel River near Garberville, California).  

It's hard to believe that Jerry's death happened 18 years ago already. That's three years past the half-way point of the Grateful Dead's entire musical career. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bigfoot Diaries Live - The Final Episode (For Now)

Here is the video of what will be our final broadcast for awhile as we re-group and plan our next venture. Airing live on July 28th, the show features local legends Ned Rood and Dirk William Newton along with musical guest Jeff Banks.

It was a pleasure working with these guys (and all of the studio guests who entertained us along the way). If you get a chance, please support your local music scene, wherever it is you may be!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Don Larkin Prepared To Defend Unique Beard Title

The Iowa State Fair being right around the corner means one thing. It means that Don Larkin is reaching into his bottomless bag of tricks. The three time defending champion in the Unique Beard category is primed and ready for this year's competition. "I got together with the team last night Troy, and we did a practice run," he told me over a lunch time telephone call today. "The person who wins this year is going to have to work extremely hard to take home the prize. Let me just say that I have been working extremely hard!"

Last week Don sat down with Pete Hussman, the editor of the Newton Independent. With Pete's permission, I am sharing the interview that took place.

Don has tricks up his sleeve. 


Newton Independent

Don Larkin of Newton has been wowing Iowa State Fair audiences at the Most Unique Beard Contest since bursting on the scene in his "Corn on a Hick" shtick getup three years ago and has continued his reign as champion with his Butter Beard tribute to the 100th anniversary of the fair's legendary Butter Cow and last year's triple-decker ice cream cone beard.

Larkin is planning to defend his title at next month's State Fair contest so the Newton Independent sat down to talk with the king of creative beard displays to gain some insight as to what drives this growing State Fair legend.

N.I.: What got you interested in participating in the Unique Beard Contest in the first place?

Larkin: Well, back as a boy from the south side of Ottumwa, my family would camp at the State Fair each summer. Having free roam of the grounds - and having more free time than money - I started attending the free shows. That's when I ran across the Beard Contest. As an adult I continued to go to the Fair each year and I always wanted to win a Blue Ribbon. I knew that animal husbandry or baking were out, but I knew hair, especially beards - they're the thing now you know. I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and entered the contest and here we are today.

N.I.: You've come up with some pretty original designs. Where do you get your ideas?

Larkin: I have got to give all the credit to Lori McNew and all her staff at the e-Clips salon here in Newton. Without Lori and her staff, I couldn't have accomplished all that's been done in the past three years. She's given me the backing to be able to take the competitive beard design profession to a whole new level. Nothing compares with what we've been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. It's exciting to see the team come together as we prepare to defend out title.

N.I.: So what do you do to your beard throughout the year to ready it for competition?

Larkin: A lot of people don't know this but beards need two things - air and rest. You've got to allow the beard to breath throughout the year to gain its full composure. And rest is very important, too. Oh, and don't shave.

N.I.: So where do you see competitive beard design moving in the future?

Larkin: It's growing. It's getting bigger and bigger. I can't tell you all the details but I have been approached by producers of a possible new cable TV show modeled after Iron Chef. The plan would be to pit unique beard champions like myself against a series of challengers in timed competitions where teams would be required to assemble a design based on a theme and using items that the competitors wouldn't know beforehand. You know, like Gilligan's Island where you'd have to incorporate coconuts into your beard along with the Skipper's cap. I think it's going to come together. I'm excited.

N.I.: So what's your greatest moment as a State Fair Beard Champion?

Larkin: I've been amazed at the number of people who have stopped me to take a photo with them. That is very gratifying to be recognized as a beard champion. But I'd have to say spending my $5 winnings at the Bud tent has been the best.

N.I.: So, are you dropping any hints what might be in store for this year's beard design?

Larkin: That, my friend, is a well-guarded secret. I won't even tell myself. But I will tell you one thing. I'm not going over there to lose!

The Iowa State Fair Beard Contest is slated for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Pioneer Hall.

Author Pete Hussman is the editor of the Newton Independent.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bryan's List of Musical Happenings 8/5/13

Monday, August 5

Findlay Family Fun Fest at Greenwood 7:00
Ben Wantland, Luke Fox, Brian Wheat Band, The High Crest at Gas Lamp 9:00
Oleander, Pets With Human Names at vaudeville Mews 9:00

Tuesday, August 6

Asphalt and Stained Glass at Beaverdale Farmer's Market 4:30
Blues Traveler w/ James Biehn Trio at Nitefall on the River, Simon Estes 7:00
Steve Kowbel at El Bait 8:00
The Highroller Express at Greenwood 9:00

Wednesday, August 7 

Reeferseed Express at Hull Avenue Tavern 6:00 ($1.00 Beers)
Gimmik at Ladies Brew Take Two, Zoo Brew 6:00
Eric Jeraldi at Cadillac Jacks's Bike Night, Baxter 6:00
The HIgh Crest at Fire Creek, WDM 6:30
Bob Pace and the Dangerous Band at Zimm's 7:00
Max Wellman Trio w/ Gary Walters at Turner Jazz Center 8:00
Brother Trucker at El Bait 8:00
Double Penetration at Greenwood 8:00
Whitey Morgan & the 78s at Gas Lamp 9:00
Parranderos Latin Combo at Star Bar 9:15

Thursday, August 8

Troubled Lights, Annaliberra at House of Bricks 5:00
Brian Holtz Band at Valley Junction, WDM 6:00
Spencer Brown at Coda Lounge, Savery Hotel 6:00
Ben Wantland at Confluence Brewery 7:00
Iowa State Fair  - Budweiser Stage: Blue Oyster Cult 8:00 (Free)
Iowa State Fair Grandstand: Casting Crowns 8:00
Soul Searchers at Greenwood 9:00

Friday, August 9

Work Release party with Bob Pace & the Dangerous Band at Gas Lamp 4:30
Urbandale's Friday Fest: Throwing Toast at walker Johnston Complex, Urbandale 5:00
unWiNEd: Freestyle at Gray's Lake South Terrace 5:30
Exit 113 at Snus Hill Winery, Madrid 6:30
Matt Woods at Penoch Winery, Adel 7:00
Ron Burchett at Fire Creek, WDM 7:00
After Hours Band at Madison County Winery, St. Charles 7:00
Iowa State Fair - Budweiser Stage: Skid Row 8:00 (Free)
Iowa State Fair Grandstand: Happy Together Tour 8:00 
Owl City w/ Echosmith  at Nitefall on the River, Simon Estes 8:00
Evergreen Grass Band at Mullets (out behind) 8:00
The Malah w/ Kinfolk at Wooly's 9:00
JJ Express at 1st Avenue Speakeasy, Newton 9:00
Rick Burke at Greenwood 9:00
David Zollo at West Towne Pub, Ames 9:00

Van & the Movers play Byron's in Pomeroy Sunday 5:00

Saturday, August 10

Des Moines Farmer's Market 7AM-11AM
The Maniacs, Taih, Eden Stokka at House of Bricks 5:00
1st Annual Reggae Festival at Wooly's 6:00
Jerry Daze at the Briar Patch feat: Dark Royals, Truth Be Told, JB and the Smoothsayers 7:00 
Bill Matykowski at Smokey Row 7:00
C.W. Smith & The Word Green at Chocolaterie Stam 7:00
Iowa State Fair - Budweiser Stage: Blackhawk 8:00 (Free)
Iowa State Fair Grandstand: Dana Carvey, Dennis Nealon and Dennis Miller 8:00
A Scot Sutherland Production at Greenwood 9:00
Diet Folk with Kuke Fox at Star Bar 9:00
Crooked Mile at Gramercy Tap 9:00
Christopher the Conquered w/ Mike Borgia & the Problems at Gas Lamp 9:00
Item 9 and the Mad Hatters, Fuzzy Logic at Underground 9:00
Matt Woods at Mother's Pub, Ames 9:00
Steve Robinson & the Foundation at House of Bricks 9:30

Sunday, August 10

Caribbean Party feat: The Tropical Steel Band at Snus Hill Winery, Madrid 2:00
Flipside at Summerset Winery, Indianola 3:00
Van and the Movers at Byron's, Pomeroy 5:00
Iowa State Fair Budweiser Stage: The Outlaws 8:00 (Free)
Iowa State Fair Grandstand: Dierks Bentley 8:00

Sunday, August 4, 2013

BD Cartoonist Bob Patton: "...Eye Smell a Rat"

Drawn exclusively for the Bigfoot Diaries.
(Click to enlarge) 

Guest Commentary by Gavin Aronsen: Conclusion

The Cityview Conspiracy Files: History Lessons

Amber Williams’ cover story this week in Cityview is a rambling, typo-riddled “essay explaining why government-run traffic cameras must be banned now.” It takes a look at efforts by state and local lawmakers to curb the practice and raises legitimate concerns about increasingly overbearing surveillance policies. But it’s couched in the sort of over-the-top rhetoric reflective of the conspiracy theories the newspaper has flirted with over the past two years, applauding the patriotism of city councilmen Williams compared to Martin Luther King, Jr. and lauding the founding fathers and the “sacred doctrine” of the US Constitution.

“People who aren’t outraged about being monitored by the government that we elect and fund are dangerously naive,” writes Williams, who five months ago authored a cover story promoting the myth that vaccines cause autism.

Comparing the pushback against Iowa traffic cameras to the civil rights movement, Williams writes, “Here applies one of American history’s greatest quotes, said grandly and with clenched fist by the revered Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We need more Dr. Kings in this world.”

That (mis)quote is from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote after being arrested for protesting racial segregation in 1963 at the height of the movement. The gravest injustice Williams mentions in her story is how a car dealer was forced to pay $1,500 in fines accrued by customers running red lights during test drives. One of her “Dr. Kings” is state Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), whom she approvingly quotes saying that the use of traffic cameras “goes against the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ idea this country was founded on.” Never mind that Cityview routinely mocks the mugshots of people arrested, but not convicted, for crimes as insignificant as public intoxication and pot possession in its “Rap Sheet” feature.

Williams begins her story with an even deeper dive into the past. “In primitive times, people of some cultures believed that the camera steals the soul,” she writes. “Some say that belief stemmed from the superstition that revealing identifying things, such as your name or likeness, gives the ill-intended all they need to work their voodoo on you.”

Photographic cameras didn’t exist until the 19th century, so Williams presumably meant to refer to the relatively modern belief in some societies that photographs can capture a person’s soul. (The belief does have roots in ancient cultures.) Whatever the case, referring to cultures as primitive is generally considered to be racist, if only accidental in Williams’ story.*

At least Williams’ story this week covers an important public policy issue. That’s a big step up from, for example, her June cover story promoting the paper’s Fine Spirits Festival, which was little more than a transcript of her conversation with Cityview publisher Shane Goodman about drinking liquor.

It’s still nowhere close to the quality journalism Cityview used to regularly publish several years ago, although the paper does still have its occasional moments — the most recent example, Michael Gartner’s reminiscence of his experiences at the Des Moines Register’s old building at 715 Locust, is a compelling read.

If nothing else, Williams could learn a lesson from a cover story she wrote in March 2011 if she’s tempted to revisit conspiracy theories, as her traffic camera story hints. The story was about astrology, a pseudoscience that academics haven’t taken seriously since Isaac Newton published his laws of motion in the 17th century. “Astrology is an empirical science,” a “spiritual healer” at a Des Moines new age shop told Williams. But at least then, Williams bothered to share the views of experts who explained why that couldn't be further from the truth. She later neglected to do so in her stories that extensively quoted a 9/11 truther and a vaccine denialist.

As Williams points out in her new cover story, “They say history repeats. It does.”

* Speaking of racism, here’s an excerpt from a letter to the editor published in Cityview last week complaining about the paper’s swimsuit edition: “Really!? You could not find any women of color or diversity to include in your Swimsuit Edition? Every single woman highlighted in the issue was Caucasian. Des Moines has plenty of attractive African-American, Hispanic and Asian women from which to choose, but you chose not to feature anyone who wasn't Caucasian women [sic].”

It’s fair to scrutinize Cityview for the racist nature of its sexism, but here’s a better question: why does the paper even have a swimsuit edition? It’s an alternative weekly, not a lads’ mag, and according to a recent survey, the majority of the paper’s readers are women.

-Authored by Gavin Aronsen. 


Gavin Aronsen graduated from Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism after interning at the Village Voice, the nation's first alternative weekly. He has worked as a reporter for Mother Jones magazine and edits, the website of the zine he used to publish in college. He tells the Bigfoot Diaries that he doesn't want to "go scorched-earth on (Cityview) unless it's really warranted," and that these articles are meant "to improve the quality of central Iowa alternative media." He adds, "Maybe my memory's just hazy but I remember Cityview being pretty solid back in the day."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Commentary by Gavin Aronsen: 9/11 Truth

The Cityview Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Truth 

Last week, the Ames Progressive detailed how Cityview managing editor Amber Williams promoted the myth that vaccines cause autism and cited the work of quack anti-science authors. It turns out those aren’t the only conspiracies she’s fond of. In 2011, she devoted nearly half of a 9/11 anniversary cover story to a truther who explained how he tried to convince everyone he knew that the government was behind the attack.

This means that Cityview publisher Shane Goodman, an accomplished 23-year veteran of the newspaper industry, has allowed one of his paper’s main writers to promote conspiracy theories off and on for nearly two years. Goodman also co-owns Big Green Umbrella Media, the Des Moines company that publishes Cityview (circulation 28,000), with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Iowa Board of Regents president Michael Gartner.

In her 9/11 story, Williams profiled three locals who shared stories of where they were when the attack happened and their subsequent reflections. The first two gave conventional accounts of the anger and shock they felt. Williams told their stories in eight and 11 paragraphs, respectively. But after that, she told the story of a 9/11 truther in 14 larger paragraphs.

“I started looking into the events of what happened — the details — instead of sitting idly by and letting the media tell me what happened,” the truther said. “I started reading and researching on the Internet. I literally watched hundreds of documentaries. It changed my whole view on everything.” That gives him roughly the same credentials as the mother whose expertise Williams touted because she got an A on a community college class paper supportive of anti-vaccine myths.

As in the vaccine story, Williams didn’t explicitly endorse any position herself. But the amount of coverage she gave to people in both stories who clearly didn’t know what they were talking about, without any acknowledgment that their views had been long debunked, is evidence enough that she sympathizes with conspiracy theories.

Williams also explained how the truther found it suspicious that the media ignored 7 World Trade Center (aka Building 7), which predictably collapsed several hours after it was pummeled with debris from one of the Twin Towers. The truther said, “In the beginning, everyone just wrote it off. But the way 7 came down, the official story doesn’t mention it, and the media don’t touch it — they barely even admit the building exists. But the physics, the geometry and the mathematics, it just doesn’t add up.”

That’s false. Two months after the Cityview 9/11 story came out, the Progressive, which was not aware of the story at the time, published a lengthy article debunking 9/11 myths voiced by a leader of the truther movement on the Fallon Forum. It included an explanation of the Building 7 conspiracy.

To summarize: truthers claim that, because it wasn’t hit by a plane, Building 7 is the “smoking gun” proving that the government wired the towers with explosives for controlled demolitions. There is no evidence of this outside of a paid-to-publish paper falsely passed off as peer-reviewed research. Truthers claim that the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth has proven the theory true. One of the group’s main experts is a former high school physics teacher whose theories contradict the law of gravity. Truthers claim that Building 7 fell at a speed only possible with a controlled demolition, which has been disproven both by exhaustive research by actual experts and, more simply, by a video that shows its collapse from a different angle.

This year, Cityview returned to the Building 7 conspiracy. In the same issue as Williams’ anti-vaccine cover story, the newspaper ran a guest commentary by 9/11 truther Steve Stone, an “anti-gun pacifist” who argued that gun enthusiasts had a valid point: that the gun control debate was a “smoky diversion” to distract the American people from a police-state takeover.

“Four dead in Ohio [at the 1970 Kent State massacre] taught us that it is very, very possible to be at war with your own government,” he wrote. “We don’t see it in the mainstream media, but the Internet — even discounting the crackpots — gives enough plausible information to show us the question is valid. (Google the words ‘Building 7′ if you doubt this.)”

It’s one thing to to provide a forum for these bogus theories when you’re Ed Fallon, a former state lawmaker whose progressive views cut against the establishment grain and have always attracted conspiracy theorists on the fringes. But Cityview is the only major alternative weekly in the entire state of Iowa, and Goodman and Gartner ought to know better than to tarnish its credibility with such nonsense.

Author: Gavin Aronsen of Ames Progressive (Original article

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Last Webcast (for awhile) Will Be Sunday Night

Tonight will mark the last webcast we do for awhile as we regroup and figure out which direction to go next. Des Moines rock veterans Ned Rood and Dirk Newton will be joining us to talk about the good ol' days of Des Moines music... Plus anywhere else the conversation takes us. It's bound to get a bit zany! Jeff Banks will be performing magic on his guitar live in the studio. You can tune in here - a live stream link will be set up. 

Artwork by Cveckian

Thanks to everybody who has supported us, and continues to do so! We appreciate it more than you could ever know! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Guest Commentary: Gavin Aronsen of Ames Prog

Cityview’s Irresponsible Flirtation with Autism and Vaccine Myths

Last week’s cover of Cityview, Iowa’s flagship alternative weekly, promoted a self-serving story about the newspaper’s own beer festival in Des Moines. The author, managing editor Amber Williams, wrote that beer, “when consumed moderately, provides more than nine essential nutrients and six distinct health benefits, according to natural foods authors Larry and Oksana Ostrovsky.”

Research published in respected medical journals and by the federal government has confirmed that beer can be good for you. So it’s strange that Williams instead cited information from the Ostrovskys’ self-published e-book, which falsely claims that gluten has been shown to cause autism and repeatedly references, a conspiracy website that rejects modern medicine and believes the government is responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.

Williams doesn’t advance any of those theories in her story, but this isn’t the first time she’s flirted with junk science. In February, she wrote a cover story questioning the merits of the flu vaccine. After falsely suggesting that a flu shot can cause the flu, the story shifts its focus to a mother whose Des Moines Area Community College class research paper convinced her not to vaccinate her kids. Her doctor “told me his own daughter had been injured by a vaccine, and now she’s full-on autistic,” the mother said.

But there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. Those who believe there is rely on lingering falsehoods from a fraudulent study published in a medical journal 15 years ago that has been thoroughly debunked and retracted. The autism vaccine myth has resulted in the deaths of several children around the world. It has stricken many more people with preventable diseases including mumps, whooping cough, and, this year in Brooklyn and Wales, measles.

Failing to get vaccinated against such diseases also has a high economic toll. In 2004, an Iowa college student studying in India came home infected with measles. The two-month effort to prevent the spread of the disease was estimated to cost more than $140,000.

Williams never mentioned any of this, and, using a quote from the mother in her story, actually suggested the opposite: “I found a lot of reports of vaccine failures that linked vaccinations to things like meningitis and measles.”

A week after the vaccine story, Cityview published a letter from a reader who slammed the story’s poor sourcing. The paper dismissed his complaints at the same time in a snarky editor’s note explaining that the mother’s research paper “received a 97 percent,” that “she passed the class with a 98 percent overall,” and that the reader’s “line of work, by the way, is pharmaceutical sales.”

Williams’ vaccine story remains relevant now that Jenny McCarthy, a leading proponent of the autism vaccine myth, has joined ABC’s popular daytime talk show The View. The show averages more than three million viewers for every episode and airs five days a week. Many journalists have written about fears that McCarthy will use her new soapbox to promote dangerous junk science. Williams, on the other hand, never corrected her own story.

By treating the Ostrovskys as a credible source in her latest cover story, Williams, in the words of the letter criticizing her vaccine story, demonstrated that she still doesn’t “fully understand the power of the press and the responsibilities that come with being a steward of it."

Author: Gavin Aronsen - Ames Progressive (Original article)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bryan's List of Musical Happenings 7/22/13

Monday, July 22

Chad Elliott & Bonita Crowe at Soumas Court (behind) Big Chair Coffee, Perry 5:00
Findlay Family Fun Fest at Greenwood 7:00
Chad Elliott & Bonita Crowe at La Post, Perry 8:00
David Zollo & Body Electric at La Post, Perry 8:30

Tuesday, July 23

Abby Normal, Comfort Zone, Fahrenheit at Valley Junction 10AM-5PM
Des Moines RAGBRAI music at various stages 11AM-10PM
Eddie Andorfer at beaverdale Farmer's Market 4:30
Ryne Doughty, Brother Trucker, Fruition at El Bait 5:00
Steve Pellow Trio w/ Geoffrey Jr. at Wooly's 6:00
Summerland Tour 2013 at Court Avenue Bridge 7:00
Party party Karoke, Blu Simon at Mullets 8:00
Lindgren and Lewis at Greenwood 8:00
River Monks, Terriers, Mr. Nasti at Vaudeville Mews 10:00

Wednesday, July 24

Chasing Shade at Fairgrounds 8:00AM
Knoxville RAGBRAI music at Knoxville 10AM-11:30PM
Rebel Road at Country Night, Zoo Brew 6:00
Bob Pace & The Dangerous band at Zimm's 7:00
Mary McAdams at Raccoon River Brewery 7:00
Fancy Pants at El Bait 8:00
Chris Muhlbauer at Greenwood 8:00
Ryne Doughty and the River rats at Gas Lamp 9:00
Matthew Sweet and Bonnie Finken at Wooly's 9:00
World Music Wednesdays at Star Bar 9:00

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Poet Don Larkin: Skittles


In this land of the free and home of the brave
There’s a young black kid dead in his grave
A hoodie and skittles and dark skin at night
How can this cause such incredible fright

What the hell is he doing, yeah what’s he up to 
Be the judge and the jury, it’s all up to you
Walking and talking and heading to Dad’s
Tell me now Georgie, does that sound so bad

What could you see as he walked in your ‘hood
How could you tell he was up to no good
Courage in a holster and no balls in your pants
Judge and the jury and no second chance

Call 911 but do not back down
Be a big man, yeah clean up your town
They always get away, you gotta keep them in their place
So holster your courage then start on the chase

Call him suspicious but never mention a crime
Be the judge and the jury armed with a nine
Georgie the watchman, he’s just keepin’ it real
Like Batman and Robin and the man of steel

The neighbors rest easy when he’s on the job
He’s got their back, and says it’s no prob
Shit doesn’t happen on old Georgie’s watch
He’s the judge and the jury and his nine has a notch